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Every so often, I'm hired by a company to develop a marketing plan for its business. Yet after conducting my initial assessment, I discover that the company's lack of a marketing plan isn't the problem. The real problem is the company's poor service. For these companies, spending any money at all on marketing is like pouring fine wine down a sinkhole.

If your company's service stinks, fix that first. Then worry about promoting your company.

The Pillars of Service Cool

Without great service, your company is doomed from the start. But what exactly constitutes great service? There are three basic elements—my Pillars of Service Cool:

1. Timeliness

2. Follow through

3. Integrity

1. Timeliness

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Jay Lipe is the president of Emerge Marketing LLC (, a firm that helps growing companies develop marketing plans. He is the author of the books The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses (Chammerson Press, 2002) and Stand Out from the Crowd: Secrets to Crafting a Winning Company Identity (Kaplan Publishing, fall 2006).