Christopher Whitson

We make customers (and money) grow on trees!

Marketing Isn't Advertising Isn't Selling - Part 2

The hard part about marketing and advertising...

In a previous post explaining the differences between marketing and advertising, we cleared up some of the confusion that gets business owners mixed up about what those words mean. Now we move on to part 2 and discuss what we mean when we want to distance marketing and advertising from selling. Selling is when money is given to your business by a consumer and, in exchange, you provide them with a product or service. It sounds simple enough, but it's actually the hardest task a business must face when it comes to having long-term success as a company.

What is selling and why is it hard?

Selling is everything else that happens after marketing and advertising have had their effect on your customer. And we mean everything. From the way your employees answer the phone, to what point of sale system your business uses, even the layout of your store. Whether online or in a brick-and-mortar retail store, your customers are immediately and irreparably forming an opinion about your marketing and advertising. M&A got them there and if your company doesn't deliver on a perceived promise that you made to them, they are gone; oftentimes for good!

There are a thousand big and little things that can be done to increase selling. The buying process has to be smooth, seamless, and able to work forwards and backwards. Every duck must be in its row and the customer needs to walk away with a big smile on their face. This is where an outside professional can do a lot of good for a business owner. See, business owners are pretty good at figuring out a decent marketing and advertising strategy. And it's not too hard or expensive to find someone who can give you some pointers if M&A is not your cup of tea.

But business owners are notoriously bad at spotting the selling mistakes. The little (and usually), simple things that eat away at the customer experience. A tell-tale sign of this is a business that has good sales, but very low repeat customers. The repeat customer is the easiest one to reel in. Since there are a lot of things that can be included under selling, it's too much to post in one article. But to give you an idea of what we are talking about, here are a few real-life stories about how businesses were able to out-sell their competitors:

  • A hotel that makes it a point to clean the snow off of every single car in the parking lot no matter how much it snowed. Imagine the guests getting in their cars and passing by the cars at other hotels that had not gotten the same treatment.
  • Making sure that all of the pens(or pencils) used at your establishment have ink (or are sharpened), work, and look the same.
  • Make sure somebody (anybody) greets every person with a smile within seconds. We see so many customers at so many businesses left alone to their own devices so long it makes us sick!
  • A restaurant that gives diners water, tea, or soda while they wait for a busy bartender to play catch-up
  • A website owner that directs a user from an online ad directly to the relative product page. Unless you have a one-page website, your ad should NEVER go to your home page.

These are simple, low-cost things that other businesses have done to increase the sales experience. As stated earlier, there is too much involved in selling to cover here. We will touch on more detailed topics in the future. But we recommend you find someone who can, as an outsider, evaluate the customer experience. Most businesses are lacking in this area and it is something that business owners rarely have a pulse on. The most successful business owners we know are the ones that will readily admit they don't know everything about their business and are always trying to get feedback from others. We are all biased when it comes to our own management skills and the way we look at our companies...all of us are!

Why a hotel manager fired a frequent guest

Firing a customer or client may just save your business...

You've heard this one:

  1. The customer is always right.
  2. If the customer is wrong, see #1

Well, we think it's the dumbest philosophy that any business would ascribe to adhere to. If you've been in business for more than a few months, you probably know that both 1 and 2 are dead wrong. We will admit that there are certain situations that business owners face where they have to suck it up and play the game, giving in to a difficult customer. But they should not be the only way to deal with difficult clients.

I was once a spectator to a situation at a hotel where we were working on increasing business guests and customer satisfaction. This hotel was part of a large portfolio of a chain that you have heard of that has a loyalty program of which you might have been a member of at some point. This hotel was not in the best part of town, but the staff was working hard to turn it around and took ownership in the successes and failures of the hotel.To improve guest satisfaction and bookings, the hotel had a guaranteed refund policy that if a guest was unhappy with any part of their stay, they would refund every cent of that nights stay, no questions asked.

A guest who had earned the highest loyalty level that could be had in the hotel brand had taken a #2 in his bed. The housekeeping manager had found it and reported it to management. The guest called the hotel later in the day after checking out and told the desk employee over the phone that his room was messy and he wanted his room rate refunded. He tried to make it seem like the hotel did not clean it's beds. It didn't take her long to realize that the "caca guy" and the man on the phone were one and the same. A manager quickly took over the call and explained to the guest that he would be glad to refund his money, but that he would never be able to stay at the hotel again. The guest became furious and threatened to file a complaint as a high-level loyalty member. The manager calmly told the guest to do whatever he thought was necessary, but that he was standing by his decision.

It took a lot of guts for this manager to do as he did. This guest was not a random guest. He was there almost every week. In his own embarrassment, he made a mistake in thinking that the hotel would just cower down into submission. But the hotel manager knew that his staff would not leave a bed with human feces in it. He earned a lot of respect from the hotel staff for that move. The guest also returned later that afternoon and formally apologized to the manager and the desk clerk for his behavior. The guest continued to stay at the hotel and a healthy business relationship continued.

This story is true. I was there. Will every customer that gets fired stay a customer? Of course not. But some of them will. And bad customers take up so much time and energy from you and your staff that more businesses should be firing more customers more often. The business world would be a much better place and so would your bottom line. So fire the bad customers that make you hate your job and allow a nice, fluffy, happy customer take their place!

EDITORS NOTE: Sorry for the poo references. We couldn't not tell this story...and we had to tell it accurately!