Nessie and You

What does the Loch Ness Monster have to do with running a small business? Everything.

You see, nobody really knows if the beast is real or not. Many people have claimed to see her through the years. Even today, new videos are emerging claiming that Nessie is real. But none of that really matters. That’s right…it makes no difference if there’s really an animal there or not…what matters is the buzz.

Business owners are constantly talking about the power of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. Truth is, there’s no such things as word of mouth marketing. Why? By definition, “marketing” is a controlled communication. Sure WOM communication exists and that is surely very powerful. But, marketing’s role is to seed individuals with the tools they need to effectively communicate through WOM. Do that right, and you’ll be on your way.

How to Treat Your Clients Well

Ok, so I’ve posted about bad customer service…but what level of customer service should we expect (or provide if you own a business)? Here are two examples:

Old Navy

My wife used to work at Old Navy. They had a store policy (I’m not sure if it’s everywhere or just in our store) that they can’t tell customers that the store is closing. That’s right, it could be 11:30 at night and if you’re in there shopping, the most they can do is approach you and ask, “Can I help you find anything today?” There are no announcements over the P.A. system reminding you that they appreciate your business but only when it’s convenient for them. “Now wait a minute, isn’t that lame for the employees?” Yes. But Old Navy isn’t in business to serve themselves, they’re in business to serve their customers. Any company that forgets that, has another thing coming.

Lands’ End

I bought a messenger bag from Lands’ End. After about 3 months of carrying books in it (imagine that), it tore. More specifically, the fabric began to tear where the strap joins it. I checked out the Lands’ End website and it said all their products are “Guaranteed. Period.” So, I called them up. A woman answered (not a computer). I explained my situation and asked what options I had.

She explained that I had three options. (1) I could return the bag for a full refund, (2) I could exchange the bag for a product of equal or lesser value, or (3) I could return the bag for credit. Now these were all great options but I still really liked my bag. I asked if there was an option to have it repaired. After about 5 seconds of researching, she told me, “Sure, we can repair it if you’d like.” She then emailed me a label that I could use to ship my bag back to them (at their cost). They repaired the back and returned it to me (again at their cost) in no time.

What did all of this cost them? Shipping both directions, and the time for someone to repair my bag. What did they get out of it? A customer for life.


Companies spend inordinate amounts of money trying to differentiate themselves. They come up with unique logos, crazy television commercials. Viral internet videos. But they don’t do something very basic…astound their existing customers. Do this and your customers will do your marketing for you.

How to Treat Your Clients Like Crap

My wife and I are pretty patient people. We don’t easily get upset. We aren’t picky eaters. We seldom argue. But we have decided that we will never go back to Blockbuster Video.

“Why” you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because they treat their customers like crap. You’re thinking, “Wait a minute, I’ve been in there plenty of times and I never noticed anything wrong.” Here’s why…because you’re used to getting treated like that gum on the bottom of your shoe. We’ve become so used to mediocre service, that it has become acceptable…even normal. We’ve become so used to shopping at WalMart that we don’t remember what it’s like to go into a store that actually has helpful salespeople.

A Bad Example

Here’s what irked me. A couple of summers ago, my wife and I were temporarily living across the country. We didn’t have family or friends nearby so we often resorted to renting movies. The problem was that I didn’t usually get home from working until about 10 PM and the local store closed at 11 so by the time we chatted about our day, decided what to do, and then made it to the store, it was about 10:40.

We would walk into the store excited to find just the right movie only to be reminded by the associate at the cash register that, “We’re closing in 20 minutes!” (As if I had somehow missed the big sign right next to the door handle that said, “Open ‘till 11 PM”). This wouldn’t have been too bad except that every two minutes, another associate would approach us and repeat, “We’re closing in 18 minutes.” I’d think to myself, “Wow, really? How weird, that’s the same time the girl at the cash register said you’d be closing.” To add to this frustration, if we happened to arrive at 10:55, the doors would already be closed. “Wait I thought the store was open ‘till 11. Maybe you should change the sign to read, ‘Open ‘till 10:55’.”

After two or three nights of this, we got fed up. We decided that we’d go somewhere where we were appreciated as customers. Hollywood video was just another block away, open ‘till midnight and we never once heard anyone say, “We’re closing in X minutes.”

Getting Customers

Every now and then we get into a rut. Business is slow and we can’t seem to think of a way to break free. But, to paraphrase my friend Carolyn, “at the end of the day…the only thing that matters is getting new customers.”

It’s true, you can spend entire days ordering inventory, sending invoices, calling suppliers and customers, organizing your desk, and putting out various brushfires but if you haven’t generated any more business, you’re not really making any progress.

This is not by any means intended to be a comprehensive post about how to get new clients. Instead, I just wanted to point out a valuable post that Carolyn made over at the Hundred Dollar Business blog called, “42 Ways To Get Customers!

Her list offers some ideas that might spark your creativity again. It’ll remind you of things you could be doing but aren’t. So go on, check it out. Then come back here and tell me your thoughts.