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Build a Better Mousetrap Experience

A journalist asked me an intriguing question the other day and the more I thought about it the more I felt compelled to add these thoughts.

The question, two-part really, was – can a bad product do well with good marketing and, the flip side, can a good product survive with bad marketing.

There was a time when, indeed, a not so great product could do well with superior marketing while the better mousetrap languished due to lackluster marketing.

I do believe that, to a degree, the Internet has turned the tables on this notion. Social media, user generated content, and rating and review sites have made it much easier for word of a good or bad product to spread and take on a marketing life of its own.

However, the thing that always seems to ignite word-of-mouth is a good product or service, coupled with a great experience. A great product teamed with a fun, glamorous, or entertaining experience can overcome many a marketing faux pas.

An inferior product, armed with a super bowl ad, wrapped in a boring, irksome and friction laden experience is generally doomed to fail.

And one last categorization – an okay product or service partnered with an above average process and experience will beat out its nearest competitors.

It’s okay to try and build a better mousetrap, but the sure money is on a better mousetrap experience.

I Didn’t Know You Did That

So, honestly now, have you ever heard the words in the title to this post from a long-time customer? We all have, I’m afraid, and shame on us.

When a customer becomes a customer, it’s usually to purchase a specific product or solve a specific problem. When we solve that problem or ship that product the job is done, right? To build true marketing momentum the job has just begun.

I often talk about part of the lead conversion or selling process containing what I call a “new customer kit.” This is simply a set of orientation materials that provides your new customer with all the information they need to successfully work with your organization.

One of the elements of this kit should be an introduction to all the products and services your company has to offer. That’s a good start of course, but you must do much more than that to drive this information home. When a customer is new to your organization they may only have one simple need so your must commit to a long-term process of education as well.

My advice is to create a monthly process of introduction to some aspect of your business and offer this information in several forms. For example, a monthly mailing to your entire customer base, a lunch and learn with your referral sources, a telesession open to the public, an autoresponder series for newsletter subscribers, and post on the company blog.

Keeping all of your products and services featured and top of mind is one of the best ways to do more business with your existing customers and partners. Build this education system and put it on auto-pilot and you may start hearing, I’m glad you offer that!

I don’t say this enough, but the images I use on this blog and in my workshop presentations are from my favorite stock photo site iStockphoto. It rocks, just go check it out.

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Do You Hold Your Customers Accountable?

I’m in training meetings this week with Duct Tape Marketing Coaches and every time I conduct these sessions interesting ideas bubble up.

Service providers often offer to provide accountability to the customers they serve – at least that’s the promise of the relationship going in. Your customers often hire you to come in and help, or maybe force, them to do the things they know they should. In fact, in some cases they may actually know how to do what they are asking of you, but they need that shove provided by the fact that you are there working with them.

So the question I would like to explore is this – at what point are there consequences if customers don’t live up to their part of the bargain? At what point do you stop inspiring, cajoling and yelling and just start backing off or disengaging all together? What about building monetary penalties into service agreements that kick in when a customer does not complete assignments they agreed to?

I know this may run counter to the “customer is always right” line of thinking, but I wonder if a customer who won’t allow you to do what you were hired to do contributes to devaluing your service? At some point they will disengage anyway and conclude that your service didn’t really help them. Is that any way to build a business?

I was once asked in an interview on this subject about the biggest mistake service providers could make and I answered – “caring more about results than our customers do.” Again, perhaps a bit cold sounding, but few things will drag you down faster than tethering yourself to a ship this is either sinking or permanently moored.

The point is, if you are putting yourself out there as a resource to help hold your customers accountable for reaching their goals, achieving a certain level of growth, or reaching a stated objective, then I think you must set very clear expectations that you are going to kick them in butt or kick them to the curb.

Their success and your reputation may both be at stake if you don’t.

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