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Every time I attend a seminar or pick up a book on marketing I find myself fighting the urge to go down one rabbit trail after another. While it’s good to keep an open mind and check out lots of different ideas and viewpoints, I think a much wiser approach is to peek through the forest and be sure you see the trees. Focus on what is most important.

In marketing, the most important thing is the customer! Your customer!

If the latest and greatest idea, whether it be related to big data or social media or any of the other new buzzwords out there, seems like something that would enhance your relationships with your customers or help you get more of your ideal customers, then it’s probably worth pursuing. If you’re not sure whether it would enhance those relationships, ASK your customers. And if you’re still not sure, try whatever it is (if it’s not too costly or risky to your brand) and study whether or not it enhances customer relationships. Whatever it is. Focus on what matters most: Your customer!

A similar strategy could be employed in life, too. Rather than chasing after the wind (Thank you King Solomon), figure out what is MOST important to you and be sure that becomes your main focus.

It may not be easy, but it is that simple.

Go get ‘em!

“Starve your distractions, feed your focus.” – Unknown

Yes, I run this this story every year. I love this story more and more every year. I have yet to research whether or not it is true, because I really don’t care whether or not it is true! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! – Dr. Burt

A fellow named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?” Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Being small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember.

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl.

But it was all short-lived. Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined a make one – a storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn’t end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn’t end there either. Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.” The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing!

It’s choice–not chance–that determines your destiny. – Jean Nidetch, entrepreneur & founder of Weight Watchers”

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Christmas lights have come a long way since I was a kid. In the days of old, Christmas lights were all on one circuit, so if one bulb…one itty bitty bulb… burned out, the whole strand of lights would stop working and you’d have to check each bulb to figure out which one to replace to get the strand of lights to light up again. I’m not kidding. Ask your grandparents if this isn’t true!

They fixed that problem several years ago and today there are a lot of really beautiful, high quality, durable, affordable Christmas lights to choose from. In fact,a person could probably make a nominal investment in one set of Christmas lights and basically be set for life thanks to the quality that is now engineered into even the least expensive ones. But, alas, for most of us, that won’t be the case.

What happens is that the makers of Christmas lights come out with newer, better, nicer, fancier versions of lights every year, causing us to look at the lights we used last year and wonder how in the world we could stand to adorn our house with that old stuff when a better, more eye-catching choice exists for just a few dollars more. This year I was rather amazed at how many Christmas lights came with apps you could use to control not only the timing of when your lights came on and went off from your smartphone, but the apps also let you choose various combinations of displays to appear at various times. What a world!

This is precisely the kind of innovation Drucker said every organization should practice. The organization should deliver a quality product offering for the customer, and constantly be working on ways to improve that product offering. Indeed, the lights most of us already have probably fit the bill in terms of functionality but the manufacturers of Christmas lights offer us more and better choices in terms of style each year, thus creating new demand. The customer gets more value, the organization has the opportunity to grow its bottom line via share of customer and additional market share, competitors are kept at bay, employees who are helping contribute to the innovation earn a degree of job security, and so on.

Marketing is all about facilitating a mutually-beneficial value exchange with the customer. Innovation is a way to continually enhance the value offered to the customer and enhance profits for the organization.

There is no such thing as an ‘average fighter pilot.’ You’re either an ace, or you’re a target.” – Guiding Principle used by the Army Air Corps in WWII

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Oklahoma 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 right back. You can get the whole story here.

While some might consider this 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 time to speak up and let you know they’re unhappy with something, 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!

It also reminds us precisely When We Should Change A Strategy.

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Thanksgiving 2016

By Dr. Burt Smith November 22nd, 2016

Thanks for welcoming me into your inbox every week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Election day is this week and by the time you read this we may have a new president. Extremely important and there is a lot riding on the outcome.

But election day isn’t the most important thing we should be talking about this week.

You and I have the opportunity to vote for whoever we want and disagree with one another all day long if we choose to. We can publish our opinions or shout them from the rooftops if we want to. And we can do that because we have the FREEDOM to do so.

Friday, November 11th is Veteran’s day. Let’s be sure we don’t take that freedom for granted, and let’s be sure we don’t take for granted those who made it so.

Veterans, THANK YOU!

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What a crazy, uncertain time we live in.

I realize that just about any generation could say that, but you’ve gotta admit, things are pretty nuts right now and without getting even the least bit political here, we’re venturing into some uncharted waters this election year. Uncertainty always plays havoc with the stock market and the economy in general, so don’t be surprised if we have some rough waters in the near future. Possibly globally, from what I’m hearing. 

My source on this is “they,” by the way. As in, “They say…” 

Seriously, though…

A downturn usually results in downsizing. That is never something any decent leadership team looks forward to doing, though,granted, it is sometimes a necessity.

If you find yourself using the term “downsize” as part of your strategic vocabulary in the next few months, just keep a couple of things in mind. 

First, though downsizing looks good on paper, downsizing often results in a workforce with very low morale which  in turn results in a workforce that delivers lousy customer service. The net result of that can be lost revenues.

Second, don’t forget that what you are after with your ideal customers is a lifelong relationship. So if lousy customer service results in the loss of a customer, you’re also potentially losing a whole lot more in terms of the lifetime value of that customer. 

Hasty downsizing can be like cutting off your arm to cure a hangnail. Its “savings,” may not always save you what you think they will. 

In the words of Tom Peters, you can’t shrink your way to greatness! 

 

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Do I think we’re headed for an economic downturn?

Yes. Absolutely. Definitely.

Why do I say that?

And for that matter, why would I say such a thing when it’s usually my goal to offer you mostly positive stuff when you visit here?

I say yes, we absolutely, definitely are headed for an economic downturn. And it could be rough.

I say that with such confidence because that’s what economies do. They go through periods of prosperity, recession, depression, and recovery. 

You can take that to the bank, friends. 

When can we expect the next downturn? How bad will it be? How long will it last? 

Beats me. Knowing how economies work and what to expect is one thing. Knowing all the particulars and specifics is something else. And I’ll also say, I’ve read the works of many authors and trend spotters over the years to it’s pretty clear that nobody knows nothin’ for sure when it comes to timing predictions in the economy. 

You may not be able to time predictions exactly, but knowing that what goes up also comes down can help you make better decisions in terms of planning ahead. Store up a little something for the winter, in other words.

That way, you don’t have to worry so much about the economy, you can focus on your economy.

Our old friend SWOT the PEST may be of use to you in that regard. 

It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” – Harry S. Truman

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We enjoy so much abundant choice when it comes to all the affordable things that are so readily available to us in the free market. I often find myself feeling a bit guilty because all that abundant choice is indeed so affordably, readily available that I forget that it happens because at some point, an entrepreneur had the guts to take a risk and put in all the hard work into giving me the value I take for granted.

How about we all make a point of at least acknowledging, if not outright, deliberately thanking, the entrepreneurs for doing what they do?

And if you’re an entrepreneur reading this, thanks! 

The risk of losing their house, prized possessions, and life savings is a risk that many backyard inventors are ready to take in order to launch a fledgling enterprise. These people with grit and gumption, willing to wander into uncharted territory just like the pioneers of old. In starting a new business, they choose excitement over the security of a regular paycheck. It’s not enough that they invest all their money in the project. They must also work long hours and invest most of their time.” – Peter Lynch, Learn to Earn

 

 

A while back a little crisis erupted when a local fuel vendor announced that a few batches of its gasoline had too high an ethanol content. High enough to potentially cause engine damage. Several Oklahoma City metro convenience store locations were affected, and they of course had to notify the public of the unfortunate news.

Fortunately for OnCue and its customers, the recall didn’t affect them. Or, more accurately, as a loyal On-Cue customer, I should say it didn’t affect us. OnCue made a point of making sure their customers knew it, too, by placing signs that prominently shared that important message on the front doors of its Oklahoma City locations.

If your value offers a competitive advantage, even if it’s a short-term advantage, showcase it. Let the world know about it.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it, baby!

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