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Some People Succeed in Spite of Themselves

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It amazes me how some people and organizations succeed even when they screw up. Many of us at MarketingProfs have discussed the need for consistency in building a solid brand. When we exceed customer expectations, we score. But what about those who don't walk the talk. How do they stay in business?


Case in point - a CPA I know. He's very good at marketing his business: sending regular e-newsletters, hosting social events, advising clients of tax changes, deadlines, etc. Yet, I'm in the market for a new accountant. Why? He doesn't get back to me in a timely fashion and sometimes needs a second contact before following up. His e-mail responses are ambiguous. I feel like an imposition. I even referred a friend who experienced the same thing. What good is the informative newsletter and the after work food if the service sucks?
Case #2. I went to www.meetup.com to find a local tennis league I could join. I found something promising and e-mailed a question. The reply came in the same day, but here's what it says:
We group players of similiar skill levels by their zip codes in order to limit drives as much as possible. Our goal is to make the league as convenient and fun as possible. Thanks.
Best regards,
Administrator
XXXXX Tennis League
Sponsored by [major sports company]

The first thing I noticed is that the administrator didn't use his/her name in the e-mail signature. Does that sound fun and welcoming to you? Seems very distant and unfriendly to me. Secondly, where's the "thank you" for contacting them? How about a call to action or a link to the registration page or a simple, "I hope you join us. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have other questions."
Almost every week, I encounter missed opportunities on the part of businesses, people and organizations. They succeed in spite of themselves. Maybe I'm just tuned into this stuff as a marketer, but it just seems like common sense is often lost.
What do you think? Is it me?


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A Canadian who relocated to the U.S., Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of SOLUTIONS Marketing & Consulting LLC, a boutique marketing and communications agency located in Scottsdale, Arizona. During her career, Elaine has worked for, and with, many organizations, associations, and businesses, across North America, on marketing strategy and communications tactics.

From her earlier agency career assignments freelance copywriting Procter & Gamble, Nestlé Carnation, and Kraft materials, to “inside” senior-level marketing positions, Elaine’s passion for marketing has evolved to helping clients reach new heights through strategic brand-building, integrated marketing communications, and customer orientation.

She has been a contributing writer for The Business Journal and her articles have appeared in many publications, including the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Marketing News, The Arizona Republic, Advancing Philanthropy, and several association publications. She has been interviewed by CNN, Connect Magazine, and The Capitol Times, and her content was included in Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits by Jay Conrad Levinson, Frank Adkins, and Chris Forbes. Nonprofit Consulting Essentials by Penelope Cagney. and Share of Mind, Share of Heart by Sybil F. Stershic.

Elaine is a Faculty Associate at the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation and a professional member of the National Speakers Association – she does keynotes and presentations on business and nonprofit marketing, branding, customer orientation, and cause marketing at conferences and meetings.

Elaine’s career has also included stints as a cookbook author, teacher, singer, and television show host. A golf and tennis enthusiast, Elaine is enjoying life in the sunny Sonoran Desert while serving clients across North America.

Solutions Marketing & Consulting: solutionsmc.net

Speaking: elainefogel.com

Elaine's Blog: http://elainefogel.net

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Comments

  • by Brett Bisbe Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    I don't think it's you. I wonder if this comes back to the same old issue of time vs money?. I would suspect that the CPA is to busy because of the good marketing and does not want to hire anyone to keep the customer service up because he is making "good money".

  • by Barbara LIng Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    Nope, it's not you - it's a case of people NOT banning complacency when they do business. So many times, the most commonsensical things are just plain ignored. Sad to see. Best wishes, Barbara

  • by Alison Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    Oh, no. It's not just you. I had two experiences this week that made me wonder who was paying attention. 1) A major league baseball team--I tried to buy a gift certificate online & they were "out of stock". Neither their ticket agent nor their team store could take a phone order for a gift certificate 2) One of the big three office supply stores--I was told not to put my white board on the customer service counter (particularly hilarious to me)--that I had to step two feet around the corner and put it on the check-out counter It may be peculiar to marketers though. Before I was put in charge of our customer experience at the point of delivery, I'm not sure I would have noticed all the opportunities other companies miss.

  • by Paul Barsch Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    Elaine, you bring up an interesting point as to how the brand promise sometimes differs from the brand experience. I think it's comical that companies spend millions every year building their brands and communicating their brand promises, and then (for example) fall down on those promises due to shoddy hiring or training practices. The brand is the whole package, the whole lifecycle of service or product from start to finish. That's the lesson that most companies just don't get.

  • by Ted Mininni Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    I agree with Paul, Elaine. Bad customer experiences will negate all the marketing efforts and spends companies make to get consumers to the point of sale. . .only to have their expectations ruined. Unfortunately, these days, there are many more ways to damage companies that just don't deliver on their promises besides talking to their friends and families. They get on the Internet and spread the word far and wide. What would companies rather manage: their employees or damage control?

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    Brett, Barbara and Alison, thanks for absolving me of my doubt! :) Paul and Ted, isn't it amazing that the simple notion of providing an amazing brand experience evades so many people and organizations? It's particularly questionable for small business owners like the CPA, who does have an assistant and still messes things up. Just today, he admitted that he neglected to advise my friend of something he should have been told. As a result, there will be penalties to pay to the IRS.

  • by Brendan Jarvis Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    Elaine, it's definitely not just you. People are however willing to accept poor experiences such as yours because they've have so many of them. I'd shoot the tennis league admin some feedback. It might fall on deaf ears or it might be accepted, cause them to think about their approach and hopefully change for the better.

  • by Abhi Vyas Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    Elaine, its not you at all. These days, most organizations try to be as faceless as they can get. It is up to us which ones to ignore and spread the word around of their facelessness.

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Jun 11, 2008 via blog

    Thanks, Brendan and Abhi. I'm feeling better that it's not me, but worse that the problem is so pervasive! :)

  • by Lewis Green Thu Jun 12, 2008 via blog

    Elaine, I hear you. Why do so many business people not get that customers are looking for great experiences. We don't have trouble finding good accountants and fun places to play tennis. We have trouble finding great experiences.

  • by patricia Thu Jun 12, 2008 via blog

    heck, most people don't even thank me when I hold a door open for them. The deterioration of common courtesy is hardly exclusive to the business sector.

  • by Leslie Fri Jun 13, 2008 via blog

    Agreed! I have this experience quite often. On the flip side, I was recently wowed by WNYC's Listener Services team. I'd love to learn more about how their department is organized and who's in charge to give them proper kudos. Private companies can learn a lot from how member-based organizations interact with their constituents.

  • by Elaine Fogel Fri Jun 13, 2008 via blog

    Patricia, I agree that common courtesy seems lost on many people. But then, when courteous people do something nice, faith is restored. Lewis, having such a poor experience with the accountant makes me doubt his skills. Although he may be good at his job, how would I know that? I've lost confidence. Leslie, if you find out more abut WNYC's secrets, let us know!

  • by oddpodz Fri Jun 13, 2008 via blog

    It's not you. I recently wrote about an experience that I had. Long story short, I needed to employ the help of a moving company to assist me in my 8th move in eleven years. I have experienced all kinds of moves - from down the street to down the Eastern seaboard. A friend of mine handed me a card and said that this moving company was unparalleled. So, here I was, a decided customer with MONEY TO SPEND. I didn't need the sales song and dance, I had pre-vetted this company and wanted to buy from them. I called and was told that the sales manager was busy, but that someone would get right back to me. For two days, no one did! I thought, if this is how they treat a potential sale, maybe I don't want to buy the service. So, I contacted a second recommended company and was accommodated beautifully. We all get our share of lukewarm prospects, but we should back up our brand promises, and try our best to be responsive - and whatever other adjectives we supposedly live by. We're not perfect, either, but we try!

  • by Zenobia Hurley Fri Jun 13, 2008 via blog

    Elaine, your title says it all. Some people seem to succeed in spite of themselves. A contractor to whom I had paid nearly $40K for landscaping promised that he fully guarantees his work. When I contacted him a few months later to repair a gate he had installed, he promised to come but never showed up. After calling numerous times and waiting for months, I finally insisted that he show up. He very rudely informed me that I shouldn't expect him to fix it. It would be nice if great service was rewarded and poor service was not -- unfortunately, that's not always the case -- this contractor has plenty of work.

  • by Glen Fri Jun 13, 2008 via blog

    There's just too many customers out there. Yes, that's right. I said it. There's too many customers out there. It's not about how well you do your job anymore. It's about who you can reach. There's too many outlets to reach people and "Word of mouth" has depreciated rapidly over the past 10-15 years (thank you world wide web). Some companies grow so rapidly that they are putting out fires instead of preventing them. "Why return this potential or past customer's call when I have this current customer to finish with and collect my check?" Not how I prefer to do business, but I've seen it happen time and again. It's frustrating.

  • by Eni Fri Jun 13, 2008 via blog

    If you're B to B, and you work with others who are tuned in to branding, you have no choice but to be very attentive with your business. Your target segment is predisposed to having higher expectations. They know the difference.

  • by kyle Fri Jun 13, 2008 via blog

    Businesses fail to understand how their products/services are really sold. When management 'sees' all that goes into the transaction, they get it. When they don't, the experience is less than ideal. We all have to trained to look for and 'see' everything that is happening. Every bit of it is important.

  • by Elaine Fogel Fri Jun 13, 2008 via blog

    Excellent comments here. Thank you all! Oddpodz, what would you have preferred the first comapny do if it was overwhelmed with business? Do you think someone should have called and explained the situation, asking if you wanted to wait or seek another company? Do you think honesty works in these cases? Zenobia, it appears that tradespeople are notorious for poor follow-up once a job is done. Glen, in ths economy, can businesses afford to do this? Eni and Kyle - I agree.

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