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From our family to yours, thank you very, very much for a great 2008!

Merry Christmas! 

P.S. – Pretty clever for a 22-month-old, eh? He not only came up with the copy, he knows HTML, too!

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gift_w_hands.jpgIt’s basic human nature to bristle at any kind of criticism. Dale Carnegie taught us in his 1937 classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, not to criticize, condemn or complain if we want to appeal to others. But when it’s our customers who are complaining, we’d sure be well advised to LISTEN! By ignoring them, we could be handing a strategic plan to a competitor who could simply solve that problem and win the favor of the entire market!

Consider these examples:

Southwest Airlines was met with open arms in the marketplace because they cared about passengers when the other guys didn’t. Disneyland was an instant success because Walt Disney was appalled by the conditions he and his family met when visiting the average amusement park. Kemmons Wilson didn’t like how most hotels charged extra for kids to stay with him and his wife on vacation, so he promptly started the Holiday Inn with the value proposition that “Kids stay free!” These now legendary organizations would never have come into being had the existing competitors just listened to the customers’ issues and then went about fixing them.

According to research conducted by Albrecht & Zemke, between 54 and 70 percent of customers who complain would keep doing business with the organization if they would only address and work to resolve the complaint. Just hear them out, in other words! When a customer “complains,” think of what they’re offering not as unjust criticism, but as a suggestion on how you could keep their business! If we’re targeting the most profitable customers, they deserve our attention! As Harry Beckwith suggested in Selling the Invisible, we’d a whole lot rather them tell us they’re unhappy than to go down the street and advise a competitor how to earn and keep their business.

So the next time you hear a “complaint,” consider it an early Christmas present!

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Did The Grinch Do This?

By Dr. Burt Smith December 12th, 2008

No, your monitor isn’t showing the picture upside down.Upside Down Christmas Tree_1.jpg

This is a real Christmas Tree, real people do buy it, and they eagerly pay a premium for it, too! You can be the first on your block to have one of these babies for an investment of anywhere from $150 to over $700 bucks. Some even come pre-lit!

The “benefit” of this tree is that, because it’s narrow at the bottom instead of the top, there’s more room for presents underneath! That’s the supposed value proposition. At some level, that actually has a fair amount of practicality and suggests that this should be how all Christmas trees should be designed.

I think we all know this kind of tree will never become the “standard,” but that’s not to say that there isn’t a decent, if not respectable-sized market, for it! There are consumers who think this is a neat idea and one worth paying a premium for. And what they’re buying isn’t the utility of being able to put more presents under the tree, but the bragging rights associated with having something different from their neighbors. The real value they’re buying is the “buzz” of beating the Joneses not by keeping up, but by being different!

A very important marketing lesson we need to remember is that when seeking a target market for our product, we don’t necessarily have to seek the biggest market segment to have a very lucrative business. What we need is a profitable market segment. If you have even one customer you can serve profitably with your offering, you have everything you need to be successful.

Sometimes there’s great value in taking so-called “conventional wisdom” and turning it upside down!

   I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas…I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage

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red_jeweled_heart.jpgOklahoma City Jeweler, BC Clark, used the same jingle for their Christmas promotion year after year. Then a few years ago, they got to thinking that maybe the market was tired of this jingle, because they were getting tired of it, so they decided to change it. They quickly learned it was a big mistake because their customers let them know! They very quickly changed it back. You can get the whole story here.

While some might consider this at least a “strategic hiccup,” it’s actually quite a story in the power of their brand, and a profitable lesson for us all. If a customer is so attached to any aspect of your business they’d miss it if you changed it, you know you’ve got a loyal following. Any time your customers will take their time to speak up and let you know they’re unhappy, that’s a golden opportunity to fix it. You’ll likely keep and grow a customer relationship, and you may even impress them so much with your handling of the situation that they’ll tell all their friends about it and your net result will be even MORE customers and more profit! Keep in mind that customers you get from referrals have no acquisition costs attached to them, so the margins are that much better! Strong customer service is a critical component of effective branding, and owning a solid brand is like being able to print your own money!

It also reminds us precisely When We Should Change A Strategy

And if that catchy tune isn’t stuck in your head yet this holiday season, Click Here.

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