Monthly Archives: May 2009

Preventing the Costly Divorce.

Companies that don’t make an effort to keep us faithful – to keep us from straying – have a hard time keeping customers.  And, at the risk of saying something so simple that it sounds insulting, it is far more economical to keep a customer than to get a new one.  Of course, there are some companies that either have a distinct niche product or big heavy switching costs (akin to those of a divorce) that keep the timid or risk averse staying put. 

Maybe not fulfilled—but staying put.

I have coveted an iPhone now for months.  I have watched people I know gracefully touch the screen to bring up photos, enlarge emails so that even my mother could read them—a friend even went as far as to have her iPhone listen to a snippet of a song none of us could identify on someone else’s voicemail and come back with the name and artist.  Impressive.  But, alas, I remain faithful to Verizon sans iPhone.

Why do I reward Verizon by remaining a loyal customer? 

Because, in my opinion, they are doing it right.  Time and time again, among the myriad customer touch points, my experience has been consistently fabulous. They are the company that called me, unsolicited, to inform me that my texting habits were starting to get to the junkie-level and that they could ‘help me out’ with their $5/month all-the-texts-you-can-handle-plan.  And, then to really make me swoon, they retro-actively reimbursed my substance abuse.

The point of all this? 

It’s back to my soap box on the importance of a branding strategy that is unified and consistent.  When we lead a company through our Branding Strategy SpringboardTM, a critical component of the outcome is a unified position and understanding that the customer’s experience must be managed from the first receptionist greeting to the after-sale pillow talk.

It’s not rocket science, but it takes acknowledging the importance of customer service and committing the organization to consistently perform in a particular way. The costs of a misstep could be that one customer – and the chances of a reconciliation….well, you do the math.  

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Breadth vs Depth – A Vote for Smarts and Chemistry.

I’ve thought about this question a great deal, mostly from the perspective of Summit’s positioning.  Finally, I threw the question out to my LinkedIn network – a savvy group of people – and just as I expected, I received a flurry of answers touting the benefits of one over the other or going for the Holy Grail, as defined by McKinsey’s Concept of T, and demanding both.

It seems that I am not the only one struggling with this question.

Recently we have been in talks with a bio-tech firm about helping them penetrate a new market.  Their legitimate concern is how they will trust that we can guide them if we aren’t deep experts in their vertical.

Now mind you, this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this hesitation.  It’s tricky to address your prospects’ concerns about your level of expertise in their industry. 

Clearly, if you view Summit’s client list, you’ll see breadth. But we also have very deep marketing and PR knowledge.  And more importantly, I believe smarts and chemistry are far more critical success factors than either breadth or depth.  It’s hard to accomplish great things with someone who doesn’t inspire you.

So ask if your marketing partner is smart enough and experienced enough to access the minds of the experts in the targeted industry.  And, is the chemistry between you one that breeds success?

You, as the company, know your industry better than anyone else, save analysts. If you hire someone with deep industry knowledge, you get that same knowledge, but may run the risk of getting a bit of “group think”.  If you have someone smart who can ask the tough questions, you may discover what you don’t know or find that ‘testing’ your resolve is an additional benefit – right along with that really effective lead generation campaign you requested.

My network generously pointed out that arguments can be made for either and/or both. But no matter what you believe, never settle for anything less than smarts and great chemistry.

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Dating vs. Networking – turns out they’re more alike than not.

How do you get noticed?  How do you get mindshare?  And most importantly how do you get chosen?

I’m an avid networker.  I try to spend time with at least eight new people a month AND re-connect with five.  It’s something I enjoy – and let’s face it – it helps keep Summit on people’s minds.

Individual one-on-ones take time, energy and effort to maintain.  It’s not unlike dating. (Of course, not everyone agrees.) There are other strategies that would allow me to get my message out to many at once (and clearly I employ some of those as well – like this blog and Summit’s FaceBook Page).  But in my experience the individual relationships I foster and maintain are what keeps my company’s pipeline full.

Here are my very strict rules of engagement:

  1. Always find a way to be introduced by someone they know
  2. Always ask personal and professional questions (the personal information helps me ‘remember’ people better)
  3. Always ask what you can do for them (and follow-through)
  4. NEVER sell your services

Let me re-state that – I NEVER sell my services at one of these meetings.

Last summer, three-quarters of the way through a ‘get to know you’ meeting, my colleague began asking specific questions about how Summit might be able to help his company.  What specific services might I recommend and why?  I very politely refused to engage in the conversation.  I told him that I wasn’t there to sell him services. “But what if I want to talk about your services?” was his response.  I told him I’d be happy to set-up a subsequent meeting to have that discussion.

At 9 a.m. the next morning an email came over with the subject line – “Now, can we talk about your services?”  He’s been a client ever since.

Of course, not every meeting turns out like that, but enough ‘first dates’ turn into relationships to keep Summit humming along.

Let us know about your relationship with work. Tell us how you get picked up. And leave the one stand talk out of it!

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