Cleanliness isn’t “Mickey Mouse!”… a Winning Marketing Strategy

If you have ever listened to friends just back from a vacation at a Disney Theme Park, you have heard them exclaim about how clean and spotless everything is. “You never see even a piece of paper on the ground!” “They must have an army of “litter-picker-uppers!” It didn’t just “happen by chance.”

Cleanliness is part of the Disney plan to make their customers (“Guests” in Disneyspeak) enjoy a perfect experience. Super-Cleanliness is a hallmark of that perfect experience. It is the embodiment of the Disney Culture and shows that the staff is ever vigilant against litter. There is also the implication that the vigilant staff also makes the park safer and more secure.

Most companies can use super-Cleanliness as a marketing tool:
• Real Estate brokers find a Super-Clean home easier to sell and will usually attract a higher price, not only because it is more attractive, it gives the impression that the home is well maintained.
• Restaurant patrons feel that spotless washrooms are indicative of sanitary kitchens (since one rarely gets a peek in the kitchen).
• A tidy auto garage gives the feeling that extra care is taken in repairing the car.
• Clean retail display windows impress, dirty display windows detract.
• Manufacturing plants, distribution centers, packagers that are clean and orderly are more likely to have a better safety record and produce higher quality and / or more accurate output.
• Clean and shiny company vehicles, especially if the company name and logo are on display, are attractive, impressive moving billboards.

Disney and others that embrace the Super-Cleanliness / Orderliness culture feel they have one more marketing tool to impress their “guests” and customers. It is evident that there is a plan to keep the physical surroundings of the company attractive, orderly, and safe and that everyone within these surroundings takes care to keep it that way.

Interestingly, one’s perception of a dirty disorderly looking company is that no one really cares much about the company’s image and that their products and services might be and probably are not as good, not cared for, not as enjoyable, not as safe, not as durable and not worth as much. That may not be the case in actual fact, but as always, perception is reality.

Cleanliness and orderliness are not “Mickey Mouse.” Disney and other high-quality businesses that embrace this culture are very serious about it. Think of a Squeaky Super-Clean Disney experience when you are looking for your next advantage and you won’t be “Goofy!”

Super Companies – How Do They Do It?

Every industry has them… The Super Companies. They seem to do everything right, grow faster and out of proportion to their industry and their competitors.

I could name names here like Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Southwest Airlines Netflix, and many more, but those household names, the ones that dominate the pages of business newspapers, magazines, and blogs are just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands and thousands more in smaller marketplaces – regional and local businesses that are equally “Super” but on a smaller scale and it is these that I’m discussing here.

Their staff is courteous and helpful. Their advertising and promotions are interesting, engaging, and successful. Their physical plant is attractive, neat, and businesslike. They have a positive view on events. They grow and prosper in good times and don’t seem to suffer (much) in downturns… how do they do that?

So, let’s say that you have the ambition and the commitment to transform your business into one of these smaller, Super Companies. Where do you start? How do you get from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?

The answer is that, in most of these Super Companies, there is someone with a vision leading the way. The vision includes how the company treats people (customers and staff), how the company positions itself in the marketplace and identifies itself (logos, style, media usage), how it demonstrates quality (packaging, warrantees, return policies, customer service and customer experience, making good on promises, etc.). The vision describes what that company can become and also maps the way to get there. They also know the company has to prove their commitment and quality every day to every person – client, prospect, staff, and vendor.

In your business, you need to become the visionary. Everything you do needs to be focused on that vision of the future. You will need to articulate and demonstrate that vision in a manner that inspires those around you to believe in and embrace the possibility that the vision is achievable so that every thing they do in the business is also focused on turning that possibility into reality. So, for a moment, close your eyes and create that dream. Ask two questions: “What would be possible if we were focused on committed to becoming a Super Company? What will we have to do today and every day in order to achieve it in the future?”

Super Companies have the vision, the will to do it, and they get the job done – that’s how they do it! Can you do it?

Can You Compete Against a “Pinky-Ring-Wearing-Salesperson?”

Do you know a stereotypical salesperson?  They go by various names like the “Gladhander,” The “Pinky-Ring-Fast-Talker,” the “Would-you-buy-a-used-car-from-that-person”.  Sure, everyone knows a few people that fit these descriptions and usually attempt to avoid them.  Brashness and persistence are not enough to succeed in sales.

With the advent of internet marketing, we’ve seen brashness and persistence taken to new heights.  That stereotypical salesperson has morphed and cloned, into a new, virtual, digital version that uses the net’s many tools – smarmy personal-looking emails and e-blasts, distracting banners, hijacking links, annoying guru-experts (I sure hope you don’t put me in this category), the “stereotypical” sales and too many other “secret strategies and tactics.”)

How do you compete against that never-ending electronic cascade of hype?

Products and services are complex and becoming more complicated every day.  Competition is larger, faster, smarter, and better.  It takes a new breed of salesperson to get the job done.  The “Salesperson-as-Consultant” can win confidence and sell more effectively than the “How ‘bout Those Bears” approach.

The “Salesperson-as-Consultant” approaches each prospect with a problem-solving attitude, asks “probing questions,” and listens actively to understand goals, concerns, attitudes, and needs.  After gathering that data, the “Salesperson-as-Consultant” works with the prospect, offering solutions (often arrived at with the prospect) rather than just fast-talking to shove a sale down the prospects’ throat.

Consultative selling requires that salespeople are knowledgeable about the services and / or products they sell, but also know and understand the needs, wants, concerns, fears of their targeted customer so they can actually answer technical questions, recommend options, and properly represent to vendor, the products, and the services being sold.  Those salespeople give great personal service also.  They follow up to insure their customers are satisfied.  They track shipments and production schedules if appropriate.  They understand that most things are, at some level, a commodity and that one of the key differentiators is confidence and trust they can earn by providing that level of service.  And, if something goes wrong, as it inevitably will some time, they take quick action to make it as right as possible.

The result is that the prospect is served betterand becomes more confident of the choices they make.  The salesperson makes more sales, but more importantly builds for the future based on the results of increased sales from a growing number of satisfied clients, ongoing relationships, and referrals.

 

Technobabble – the Nerd’s Revenge

Every industry, every product, every service has its’ own jargon or buzz words, it other words its’ own vocabulary. These industry specific words are usually appropriate shorthand for use among those within their industry, but when used to communicate with a (usually naïve) customer or prospect, the vocabulary becomes Technobabble… word usage of the conversationally impaired.

It is easy, of course, to pick on the computer or Information Technology industries in this regard, but if you think about it, people in most industries need to talk to in somewhat technical terms to customers and prospects to explain the features and benefits of their product. Those who are good communicators have thought about ways to develop a virtual “Technobabble-to-English-Dictionary” so the customer or prospect can comprehend the message in easily understood language!

Who hasn’t heard a banker talking about ROI, an investment advisor bringing up the topic of P/E ratios, a medical profession discussing the results of an MRI, I could go on and on here but you get the message, or if you don’t, I don’t think you ever will.

I recently received proposals from two competing firms. One was so filled with buzzwords and acronyms I had to phone twice for translations. The second was easy to read and comprehend. I understood what I would be getting, how and when the work would be done, and what the project would cost. I had confidence they would be easy to communicate with as the project progressed and, of course, that is the company I chose.

Even if you don’t sell a technology based product or service, your customers and prospects probably don’t know much about whatever it is they want or need to purchase (or they wouldn’t need an expert like you!) so make it easy for them to buy. Explain what you are selling as if you are selling to an eight-year old. Use simple language or, if you must use more complex language, translate it by using phrases like, “what I mean by [whatever the technical term is]…” and then explain it in terms they will easily understand. This gives them information they can use to make decisions, builds confidence and trust.

In an age when products in every industry are more sophisticated and complex, clear and concise communication increases understanding and builds confidence on the part of the prospect. Inspect your own advertising, packaging, brochures, and spoken communications. See if someone who knows nothing about your products or industry can understand the benefits. If they can, then you are a great communicator and marketer!

Eliminate Overwhelm: Eat an Elephant Correctly! (A Personal Productivity Quandary)

There is an old joke about the technique to use when dining on an elephant.  If you manage a business, supervise a group or team, you are probably dealing with an overwhelming and overflowing in-box, multiple projects, and a series of last-minute surprises and you’ve asked the question, “How do you eat an elephant?”

Everyone who manages any facet of a business or institution is faced with elephants.  Elephants are the massive tasks and challenges we encounter, seemingly every day (or the astonishing number of tasks and details that somehow lands on your desk:

              That mountain of paperwork to go through!

              The seemingly impossible quotas!

The customers demanding ever higher levels of speed, service, and quality.

Staff that has questions, ideas, due-dates, and requests

Vendors to keep on top of

The endless details of managing our business and personal life!

It’s a whole herd of elephants!

So how do we convert our daily elephants into something of manageable size? 

  1. Determine the end results and focus on key points.
  2. Prioritize those key points (most important / easiest to accomplish / highest return-on-investment / etc.)
  3. Delegate as many tasks as possible to people who have the skills and the time to do them correctly and on time (and if they are dealing with elephants themselves, help them by showing them this list)
  4. Develop a time-line – blend the time needed and the time allotted with checkpoints to insure adherence to the timetable.
  5. Break the project into digestible, manageable, and tasty chunks.
  6. Get started on task #1 and continue to move forward.
  7. Revise and reprioritize the list as new tasks arrive

If you don’t take this methodical approach then every day is chaos, constantly behind and out of breath with a result that some tasks either don’t get done at all or they get finished in a sloppy, low-quality manner which means that they will show up on your desk again to be done or redone which means you’ve wasted the time and effort the first time which produces more chaos, more angst, more overwhelm.  Better to get on with eating the elephant.

When the task is an elephant (and aren’t they all?) break that big guy into manageable parts that are focused towards a timely result.  In other words, “One Bite at A Time!”

Soon you will be ready for dessert!

 

There’s Gold In Them ‘Thar Hills!

Remember the old Western movies where the grizzled prospector goes out into the wilderness with a burro, pickaxe, and bags of beans looking to strike gold?  He knows there is gold just under his feet somewhere, but doesn’t know exactly where to dig.

Unlike the prospector, you know where to dig.  You have a gold-mine right there in front of you.  It’s your customer list.  No matter what busines  you are in, what products or services you offer, digging for gold in your customer list can produce a bonanza of increased sales, but you have to dig carefully.  Just like the gold miner you then need to sift the tiny flakes of gold (and the occasional nuggets) from the soil and rocks.

A starting point for separating the gold from everything that isn’t gold is to sift for demographics by discovering groups of frequent buyers and segment them into appropriate “buckets” based on the products and services they purchase, the time of year they buy, the size of their orders, the age-related reasons they buy, the geography they inhabit.  You will find many commonalities and, from that information you should find a mother-load of data which you can use to design offers that will cause different segments to run to their phones, computers, or vehicles to rush to you web site or call you or drive to your brick and mortar location.

A couple examples:

    Let’s say you sell stuff for kids.  You can have an offer for parents, another one for grandparents.  Both might buy the same stuff, but for different reasons.  If you appeal to the right segment (parents or grandparents) with the right message, I’ll bet you will increase your sales when compared to an offer that you hope will attract both segments.

Your sifting process can discover a small group of your most frequent customers, people who need what you sell more than others or that like what you sell far more than others.  These are people who you should strategize to enroll them into a “frequent flyer” type club, offer special deals or “freebies” to enlist them into a tribe of raving fans so they never leave (think Amazon Prime).

The prospector goes over hill and dale, digging… digging… digging while your mineshaft of satisfied customers is already dug.  Now you have to just dig a little farther and a little harder to get the gold (more repeat purchases) out of the mine!

Technobabble – The Nerd’s Revenge

 

Every industry, every product, every service has its’ own jargon or buzz words, it other words its’ own vocabulary.  These industry specific words are usually appropriate shorthand for use among those within their industry, but when used to communicate with a (usually naïve) customer or prospect, the vocabulary becomes Technobabble… word usage of the conversationally impaired.

 

It is easy, of course, to pick on the computer or Information Technology industries in this regard, but if you think about it, people in most industries need to talk to in somewhat technical terms to customers and prospects to explain the features and benefits of their product.  Those who are good communicators have thought about ways to develop a virtual “Technobabble-to-English-Dictionary” so the customer or prospect can comprehend the message in easily understood language!

 

Who hasn’t heard a banker talking about ROI, an investment advisor bringing up the topic of P/E ratios, a medical profession discussing the results of an MRI, I could go on and on here but you get the message, or if you don’t, I don’t think you ever will.

 

I recently received proposals from two competing firms.  One was so filled with buzzwords and acronyms I had to phone twice for translations.  The second was easy to read and comprehend.  I understood what I would be getting, how and when the work would be done, and what the project would cost.  I had confidence they would be easy to communicate with as the project progressed and, of course, that is the company I chose.

 

Even if you don’t sell a technology based product or service, your customers and prospects probably don’t know much about whatever it is they want or need to purchase (or they wouldn’t need an expert like you!) so make it easy for them to buy.  Explain what you are selling as if you are selling to an eight-year old.  Use simple language or, if you must use more complex language, translate it by using phrases like, “what I mean by [whatever the technical term is]…” and then explain it in terms they will easily understand.  This gives them information they can use to make decisions, builds confidence and trust.

 

In an age when products in every industry are more sophisticated and complex, clear and concise communication increases understanding and builds confidence on the part of the prospect.  Inspect your own advertising, packaging, brochures, and spoken communications.  See if someone who knows nothing about your products or industry can understand the benefits.  If they can, then you are a great communicator and marketer!

 

Win The Battle… and Win The War!

The dissatisfied customer called to complain about a late delivery, “You said the delivery would be here by noon, I took off from work to be here!  It’s 2pm and it’s still not here and I haven’t heard anything from anyone!  I’ve lost a day’s pay and I still don’t have it.  When is it going to get here?” 

This conversation can go any number of ways from here but clearly the business has an irate customer on the line and the person who is getting an earful can make things better or far worse.  Getting into an argument with a dissatisfied customer, no matter what the reason, is a lose – lose – lose proposition!

  1. You lose the profit on the sale!
  2. You can lose the Customer and all the future business that customer represents!
  3. You lose the people the Customer talks to, and if they are angry enough they will tell everyone they know and write scathing reviews on social media also!

It’s possible you might get that customer to calm down and might even feel like you won the battle – this argument, but, in all likelihood, you really lost the war – long term profits from this customer and all those who hear the story!

Studies have shown that dissatisfied customers will tell eleven people about their experience.  Even worse, when they tell their story, they incorporate enough dramatic devices (voice inflection, facial and hand gestures, etc.) to make their old high school drama teacher proud.   On top of that, they get to tell the whole story from their perspective because you aren’t there to defend your point of view.

Rather than lose everything when confronted with a dissatisfied customer, no matter who is right or wrong, STOP!   Remember your long-term goal.  If your goal is to grow a successful business, winning a little skirmish with a dissatisfied customer is counterproductive. 

If you do not have a Customer Satisfaction Policy, it will be in your best interest to develop one and train those who deal with customers to administer it.  Realize that losing profit on one sale may hurt, but you’ve probably lost profit by now that anyhow.  If you are able to smooth this over in some manner satisfactory to your customer there is a good chance you can win them back and earn profit over time, and if you able to satisfy them enough to not publish their dissatisfaction to the whole world, your reputation will not be trashed.

You will win the battle by creating satisfied customers.  You will win the war from the profits you’ve earned when they return!

K.I.T. and They Won’t Forget You!

If you are like most people you don’t remember where you:

 

    • Bought your last mattress

    • Filled your car up with gasoline

    • Bought your last set of tires

    • Had your carpet cleaned

    • Had your roof repaired

    • Had your furnace cleaned

And I’ll bet the owners of those companies are complaining that customers are not loyal anymore.

If it is you who are complaining, please don’t complain to me about those mythical loyal customers because they don’t exist. A significant percentage of businesses and professional practices lose their customers because those customers just forget about the company and the person(s) who served them yet current customers and prospects can be a never-ending source of continuing business… if you Keep In Touch.

A K.I.T. (Keep In Touch) program can be your most personal, least expensive, and most rewarding marketing tool. K.I.T. is a system of calling and sending notes or e-mails to customers and prospects. It is a method of keeping your name and your services in their memory bank with minimal cost and effort. If done properly, it will separate you from your competitors and will reap real dividends in repeat business, word-of-mouth advertising, and referrals.

What can you send out?

Depending upon the business you are in, the list is almost endless but here are a few idea generators to get your creativity flowing:

    • Tips on how to get more satisfaction from your product or service (make it last longer, clean it, use it to enhance your life, repair or maintain it, find different                ways of using it, make it work faster or slower, put a smile on your face.

    • Success stories told to you by very satisfied clients.

    • Announcement of new product, a line extension, an expansion of the business, new product line you are offering, new service, new staff.

    • Seasonal opportunities and information.

    • Special, limited-time offers.

    • Local community or industry activities your company participated in.

Since it costs so little, takes so little time, and is so easy to implement, it is amazing that so few companies work at actively building long-term relationships using K.I.T. Here is a K.I.T. program that will work for you:

      1. Go through your customer and prospect lists. Mark those you and / or your staff will Keep In Touch with.

      2. Decide your K.I.T. method then write phone scripts, design e-mail pages, or have notepaper printed.

      3. Commit to Keeping In Touch with each of these contacts and determine how often you should communicate with them depending upon the products / services           you sell. Obviously, there is a far different frequency of purchasing cycles if you are a roofing company with a 20+ year cycle or a pizza parlor where customers             get hungry three times a day.

      4. Schedule time every week to call or write… then do it! In surveys, companies that have an active K.I.T. program show increased customer satisfaction and                      loyalty.

It works for them and it will work for you too. K.I.T. is good business and it will pay off! Just “Keep In Touch” and you will be remembered the next time your client or prospect is in the market for the products and services you sell.

I’m A Cowboy!!! Not A Farmer!!!

Cattle Ranchers and Dairy Farmers have similar job descriptions… they care for, and market cattle products.  Yet as consumers, we have decidedly different images of them both.  These images carry over into our imagination, into our fantasies, into our self-image.  These images carry over into marketing which translate into the products we purchase and the decisions we make that define the purchase.

Our image of the Cattle Rancher or Cowboy is that of a daring individualist; a rugged outdoors type of person with a steely gaze, weather-beaten leathery complexion, slow to anger yet fast on the draw… a man of action, a romantic figure cut out of the same cloth as the heroes of the Old West.

Dairy Farmers, on the other hand, are thought to be placid, family oriented, kindly, laconic and dull.

Marketers have always used the image of the Cowboy as a handle to sell darn near anything and the public has been standing in line to buy it since the days of Buffalo Bill and his Cowboy and Indian Shows about 100 years ago. It’s no accident that rough, tough, macho pickup trucks and SUV’s are named after Cowboy and Western themes like Longhorn… Cheyenne… Laramie.  Note that no one has named a truck after the Guernsey or Holstein (breeds of dairy cattle) or towns in Minnesota or Wisconsin (imagine driving a Eau Claire).  The Marlboro Man still squints into the dust thrown up by the bulls in the herd as he is lighting another cigarette… note that he is wearing a ten-gallon hat, boots, and chaps, not bib overalls while gazing at the milking machine with a windmill in the background.

Young boys play “cowboys” as part of their fantasy adventure games because of the image… and that fantasy of adventure stays with them when they grow up and become consumers.  They make purchases to satisfy their self-image, not what they are in reality!!!

No matter what you sell, part of that sale hinges on the fantasies of the purchaser – the part of one’s persona that asks… “How do I want to be perceived?”  That expression of one’s self-image is subconsciously brought to the conscious part of the brain when purchasing just about everything from paper clips to jewelry, for personal use or gifts, for one’s business or home life.

General Motors and Phillip Morris understand who they are selling to.  They carefully craft their messages to their targeted audience.  They know not to substitute Guernseys for Longhorns. 

No matter what you are selling, you must take the same care in crafting your message to your targeted audience.  In order to do it, you must understand their self-image and how that image can be better expressed by your product or service.  Translate that self-image into words and pictures, typefaces and language, graphics, sound, and visuals.  Once you get inside their head they will understand your message because you will be talking their language by calling them “Tex” instead of Elmer.