Friday, February 04, 2011


About 21" of snowfall here in Chicago has eaten into my work schedule. Shoveling out has left me no time to create a new tip for this week. So, I've created a remix of a tip from my 2006 blog archives:


My first car was a1972 Chevy Chevelle.

It was gold and primer gray. I lovingly tried to restore the decaying car with fibre glass repair and Bondo until the rust hole in the back floorboard became big enough to lose a passenger. I continued to drive that car, as I put myself through my second year of college.

One summer, the muffler fell off in the middle of traffic. I stopped, jumped out, threw the muffler in my trunk and drove on.

The next day, I visited the local "Rick's Quick Stop Muffler Shop"  It's slogan vowed: "We'll only replace what's needed."

At the counter I met Rick, the shop owner. He welcomed me, gave his tech my keys and offered me a cup of coffee. After a few minutes the tech called me into the bay to look at things.

"You need a whole new exhaust system," he said. "Look at that hole there, the thing is falling apart. I don't want you breathing all that carbon monoxide."

I took my key and firmly tapped at the area around the pin hole he showed me. It was solid. I continued tapping my way up and down the exhaust system. It was solid.

I quietly walked back into the waiting room. 

"So, should I write up an order for you?" he asked. 

I brought him back and tapped along the area from front to back.

"Your tech said I need a whole new system," I said. "This looks like it will last longer than the car to me. What do you think?"

"Well, I want my guys to sell stuff, you know," he replied.

"Sorry. Not to me," I replied. "I want you to "Only replace what's needed." This car isn't worth a new system. If it lasts me to the end of summer I'm happy."

Rick begrudging did as I asked. The car lasted another year and I lived.

There's sometimes a conflict between "selling stuff" and "serving customers". And that tension often can destroy long-term gains for a quick sale. 

Perhaps the book "The Ultimate Question", puts it best: "Bad profits are about extracting value from customers, not creating value" for them.

Creating value creates fanatically loyal customers.

I know at least a dozen people who, without being asked, rave about Costco (a hero in the "Ultimate" book). You'd think they were paid to shop there. "High quality, low price," is the retailer's mantra.

But providing value isn't always about low prices. My fellow Apple Computer fans pay a premium for what we feel is an unparalleled user experience. The value outweighs the price tag. Apple has created the kind of value that builds loyal customers at a premium price. And they are consistently profitable.

In the new economy of 2011, customers are demanding more for their dollar. They don't want to get "snowed". And if you take advantage of today's connected customer, it will end up on social media review sites, like 

Rick's muffler shop is no longer in business. In fact, I think my old Chevy lasted longer than his shop did. Sad. He made a good cup of coffee.

Takeaway: How can you increase the value of your brand? What sales or marketing techniques do you need to change? Are you being 100% forthright to earn 100% of your customer's loyalty?

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