Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 6


Amazingly, even the largest companies in the world still receive more than 50 percent of their business by word-of-mouth recommendation. That’s quite astounding when you think about $1 million 30-second Super Bowl ads.

At Polyface, we’ve built our customer base on rewarded customers. Whenever we get a new customer, our first question is not: “What would you like to buy?”, but rather: “Where did you hear about us?” We reward our evangelists with free product. Our culture is starved for appreciation. If we would shower our good customers with gratitude, they will hand pick our next patron base, prescreened and motivated.

Word of mouth may not be flash-in-the-pan patron building, but it always gets the best quality customer. Only good customers are good for business; bad customers are a drain. If new customers aren’t coming, I don’t assume advertising is the answer. I assume my product or service aren’t where they ought to be; they aren’t compelling another wave to join us. I assume if we’re in a slump, our marketing offense is probably poor quality and service, not an anemic advertising budget.

By now, some of you may be either livid with these ideas or taking on air in disbelief that somebody this radical would dare address you—especially if you run an ad agency. Not to worry. Only 1-3 percent of businesses are on the lunatic fringe—that’s me. And only 10 percent innovate, so your future is assured serving the 90 percent of businesses who will dismiss me as a lunatic. To those 90 percent, I simply say: thanks for giving me niche and value security.

To be continued...

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