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Off and on over the years I’ve taken a few jabs at Wal-Mart. You might think it’s because I grew up in a family owned business and that family-owned business was a little grocery store and that I have such dislike because Wal-Mart is often accused of running the “little guy” out of business.

Nope, what set me off at Wal-Mart was the lousy service I was getting, particularly at the Neighborhood Market near where we live. I mean it was pathetic. Complaining didn’t do a lot of good so I decided to boycott them and drive a couple more miles to CVS and pay a few dollars more where I knew my business would be appreciated.

But I happened to be in my Neighborhood Market some time ago – sorry, I can’t recall exactly why I decided to give them another chance – and it was, literally, a different place. It was a different place because all those grouchy, loafing sour pusses had been replaced with a whole new customer-oriented leadership team that would make ole Sam Walton proud.

But I’m still not a Wal-Mart customer…

I consider myself a customer of Tyrone, Glenn, Zach, Carol, Tim, George, Shea, and Barb and all the other nice folks on the team at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market who now take care of me.

I could give you all kinds of stories from my recent experiences to back up my renewed endorsement and why they’re now referral-worthy, but the common denominator is SERVICE!

Incidentally, the lesson is that no matter what size your business is or what sector you’re in, service is how you differentiate yourself. Service is how you get and keep customers for life. And that lifetime customer value is the cash flow that keeps you in business…And ahead of your competition!

 

The first question we should always ask when entering any situation that could be a networking situation, and you’ll likely find that ANY situation CAN become a networking situation (done tastefully and tactfully, of course) is….

Who here can I help?

I got this idea from Dr. Robert Cialdini, who is considered by many to be the world’s foremost expert on influence and persuasion. He says that if you really want to be influential, start with that simple question.

Our concern should not be “How do I look,” or “How can I make some money today,” or even, “Who do I most want to talk to,” but should instead be, “Who can I help?”

If we go into a networking situation with that as our focus, we’ll not only endear ourselves to our fellow networkers as a nice person, but as a valuable RESOURCE that delivers VALUE for them. That’s the kind of professional all of us want to add to our networks!

How do you get ahead? Ask “Who can I help?”

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – Martin Luther King

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I often hear decision-makers talk about how they need a new logo, a new brand identity, a new website, or they need to “do more social media” or any other number of things that may indeed be worth looking at, but may not be the real problem or the best place for their attention.

One of the best books I ever received was Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith. Perhaps not coincidentally, the book contained one of the best pieces of marketing advice I ever read, too.

Mr. Beckwith urged the reader to first fix your service! Make sure your customers are getting first class service as a priority all of the time. The best marketing in the world can’t make up for a lousy customer experience.

If you want to test this advice, put your consumer hat on and think about how you spend your money and you’ll probably agree.

 

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Something I like to help clients do is maximize every resource. When that maximization also offers some potentially high ROI activity, all the better. It should come as no surprise that Amazon provides us with a fine example of this very concept in action.

I ordered some stuff from Amazon and it arrived in the box shown in the pic to the left.

As you can see, the box features promotional copy for the movie, “The Greatest Showman” starring Hugh Jackman.

The industry term for this is “printed packaging” and not only is it something Amazon is using, it’s become another profit center for them because vendors pay Amazon for the privilege of using that space to get their messaging in front of the eyeballs of Amazon customers.

Once again, Amazon, BRILLIANT!

 

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Need to write some ad copy? A flyer? A cover letter? An e-mail? Copy for your website?

Here’s a time-honored formula that’s sure to work for you. An oldie but a goodie.

AIDA – Attention, interest, desire, action. Those four hallowed words reverently dictate how you can write persuasive copy. It’s a formula that’s been around for nearly a century and whose usage still echoes in much of the messages you experience today across all media platforms. Here’s a short discussion of the steps involved in the AIDA formula.

Attention – Before any persuasive communication can take place, the attention of the audience has to be captured. This is often referred to as “disruption” because in addition to having many other things on their minds, your audience today is being bombarded with over 3,000 advertising messages every day.

Interest – Gaining attention is one thing, but it’s another to actually secure the audience members interest in your message. This step engages the reader by showing how your offer solves his or her problem or how their life could be better with your solution.

Desire – Once the audience’s interest is established, because they see the value of your offer, the next step is to build their desire by getting them to imagine themselves experiencing the value of “owning” your offer. The benefits. Get them to imagine that better future your product can deliver.

Action – They’re interested, and they want it, so don’t leave them in suspense! Show them how they can get it! The call to action gives the audience member the way to act upon their desire to own what you’re offering, so a good idea is to make is as easy on them as possible. “Click here to order” or “Call now” or “Visit your local showroom today” are examples of calls to action.

Next time you’re listening to the radio, watching TV, browsing the web or your favorite magazine, look closely and you’ll see that adaptations of this formula are still heavily used for a simple reason – they work!

Every writer I know has trouble writing.” – Joseph Heller, Catch 22

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There are a lot of fine points to networking, and you can find a lot of good tips all over the place from a lot of authors, but to me, here’s one big secret you need to know if you want to be successful at networking.

Here it is:

You gotta do it!

Like exercise, networking isn’t a spectator sport and it isn’t a passive activity. You’ve got to consciously be practicing professional networking all the time with the goal of growing the number of people who are willing to help you, and they’re willing to help you because they know you’d do the same for them.

Yes, this may get old. Yes, it may often seem difficult. And yes, it may require monumental effort on your part.

So on the days you might not feel so much like networking what should you do? Do it anyway! Push yourself! You’ll be glad you did not only because you can celebrate that feeling of accomplishment that comes from meeting a personal challenge, but also because you’ll be moving one step closer to the results you’re looking for.

Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway!” – Emory Austin

 

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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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If there is an opportunity to get in front of an audience, you can bet marketers will find it. The picture to the left illustrates one such example.

The good folks at Coca Cola determined that those concrete poles that serve as safety/security barriers to the entrance to such places as Wal-Mart were not being used to their full potential. So they came up with a cardboard overlay that featured their latest promotion. Hard to miss as you walk through the main entrance, and I offer them a tip of my marketing hat for their creativity.

A while back we talked about how Amazon did something similar.

A good idea is to look for “underutlized real estate” where you might be able to get your message out there. The more unique, and the more clever, the better.

Doing business without advertising is like winking in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” – Unknown

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I’ll get right to two important points:

1 – Super classy golf tournament at Coffee Creek.

2 – Support of the tournament helps fund Max Dobson’s “Teaching the Disabled Child” class and the Oklahoma Christian University chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Here’s a link to the registration form: AMA Golf Brochure 2016.

Find me at the tournament and I’ll treat you to an ice cream sandwich!

 

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The great investing website, Seeking Alpha, ran this article about a lawsuit Procter and Gamble  has filed against a competitor in the razor category for patent infringement, deceptive practices, and a whole bunch of other stuff. You can read the article here if you like. 

What struck me as interesting was how they phrased their rationale for the lawsuit.

P&G’s chief legal officer, Deborah Mojoras, had this to say:

We invest heavily in innovation – and our scientists work tirelessly to provide men with one of the best, most reliable shaving experiences in the world. When a competitor makes false and misleading claims against one of our products and infringes our patents, it’s unfair to consumers, and to our employees and shareholders, and we will challenge those violations.”

 

I think some of this wording may be P&G’s attempt to avoid looking like Goliath picking on David. We all like to root for the underdog, after all, and competition is the thing that makes our beloved free market system work. But all that emotion aside, their point is logical and accurate. And justified. Companies of all size invest  lots of resources working to give their customers (that’s you and me!)  value, and they are rewarded with something of value in return. If companies can’t profitably serve customers, customers can’t be served for very long. The “win-win” of “value-for-value” turns to “lose-lose” pretty quickly. As Dr. Steven Covey liked to say, “No margin, no mission.” 

So in a way, P&G is just looking out for the customer. And no, I’m not being sarcastic!

 

 

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