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Five Ways to Fail at Attracting and Retaining Customers in 2009

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Want to really impress your boss, your board, your employees, or your mom? Want to drive your customers to the competition? Then simply fall flat on your face in your attempt to get your business to stand for something in the marketplace in 2009. That will really make an impact—and fill you with warm fuzzy feelings of non-accomplishment.

So, if you're ready to fail, buckle your seatbelt and engage the air bag, because we're getting ready to crash and burn.

First, ignore what your current customers and supporters are saying

Go with your gut and forget what the feedback says. Customers don't understand or appreciate one of your offerings? Too bad. They're just going to have to live with it.

In fact, practice this: When customers try to share their opinion with you, stick an index finger in each ear and say loudly, "Blah, blah, blah…I can't HEAR you!" When their attitudes, perceptions, and concerns land on deaf ears, they'll simply find another avenue for their dollars, and you will have succeeded.

And prospective customers? You're sure to turn them away with your demonstrated lack of caring and understanding of real customer needs and wants.

Next, have apathy about your brand and your business

To ensure failure, show indifference and lazy attitudes about your business—and your brand—and you'll be well on your way. Because when you don't love your brand, what it stands for, and why it matter... others will begin to feel the same way.

In fact, for quicker results, proactively share your negativity with your customers and prospects through your inconsistent messaging, customer disservice, and irrelevance in the marketplace.

There's a now-apocryphal story of Quaker's acquisition of Snapple. You might remember when the Snapple brand was super-popular, its commercials were edgy and memorable, and the grassroots owners were clinging to a shooting star.

After Quaker bought the brand, it stopped listening to consumer feedback, the commercials got dull and predictable, and Quaker started using Gatorade-like distribution and packaging methods, all of which flew in the face of the established promises of the once-humble brand.

That episode has been described as a classic case of brand managers' simply not loving the brand they were entrusted to steward. After having invested billions, Quaker ended up spinning off Snapple at a huge loss.

Then, crank in some pessimism

This is where it gets fun, which is important because managing your company's brand is complex and multifaceted. In other words, it's an ongoing, demanding series of tasks. You'll have to stay on top of consistent messaging, unwavering voice and tone, and dozens of other intricate parameters. It'll never work, so get used to the idea.

Take British novelist, Thomas Hardy's advice: ", in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as they may, life becomes child's play."

Hope you have a short-term perspective—you'll need it to fail

Building a successful brand takes time. But we'll have none of that. We're driving down the dead-end road to guaranteed failure, so a short-term perspective will be just fine, thank you.

Forget the fact that change takes time to "take," and that brands are continually evolving. Not only that, but target markets transform, audiences age, and their needs vary. But a short-term perspective will work just fine. Move on to the next thing before you grow stale.

Finally, stay inside the box

Don't forge a new path. Copy what your competition is doing. Differentiation? Overrated. Developing creative solutions to brand strategy and tactics is a colossal waste of time. Don't get prospects attention by leveraging creativity. Blend in. Conform and be dull.

It's been said that dictators often see creativity as a subversive activity because it leads to knowledge—possibly the most revolutionary insight of all.

Stay inside the box and you'll join the ranks of the world's dullards.

* * *

My apologies if this article was a little rough. I'll just do what some teachers—who believe the term "fail" is too harsh for impressionable students—have begun doing. They've come to embrace the term "deferred success."

So follow the myopic advice in this article, and you'll be sure to defer success in 2009.

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Michael DiFrisco is the founder of and the author of How to Craft a R.A.D.I.C.A.L. Brand for your Small Business or Organization, the do-it-yourself manual for building your brand strategy.

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