Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hoop Dreams...

My son, PJ, bought an indoor basketball hoop a few weeks back.

The promotional copy on the package proclaimed "Assembles in minutes."

"You'll have to put it together," Beth said. "I can't figure it out"

That should have been my first clue.

I snapped the hoop in place and screwed on the door-hanging brackets. "Halfway there," I thought. Wrong.

"Can we play with it dad?" asked PJ impatiently.

"In a minute," I said. "I just need to put on the net."

The instructions stopped short of attaching the net. Not a word. Not a picture.

"How hard can it be?" I thought.

Hard. Really hard.

I looped the net. It fell off. I squinted at the photo. Then tried to thread it, but some holes were not fully formed. I created a makeshift needle. It was a slow, tedious process and I quickly became impatient.

"Listen PJ," I said. "Let's just play with the hoop and I'll put on the net later."

When he was sleeping, I worked on it. The net was too small. I snapped off a couple eyes. After thirty minutes of easy-to-assemble this is all I had:

The ball didn't even fit through the net.

Frustrated, I emailed the company complaining that I expected more from an NBA-licensed product from a division of Russell. Three days later: No response. A week later. Nothing.

After 10 business days, I decided to call the 800# and complain.

My voice was tense. I was ready for a fight.

But I didn't need to be. The customer service rep patiently listened and offered to send me another kit. No questions asked. But they were out of stock so it could take about two or three weeks before I'd get the replacement. No problem. As long as it was on order.

Less than a week later, I got the replacement. It was much easier to assemble. And PJ was delighted. He even beat me in a couple games of one-on-one.

So, now I'm considering an outdoor hoop so I can show PJ some real moves. And I'll gladly consider a Huffy or Russell product.

Take Away: 1.) If you publish a corporate email address, check it faithfully and respond immediately.

2.) If a product doesn't "Assemble in minutes", don't pretend it does.

3.) When a customer calls to complain, your response could win or lose a customer for life. The more responsive you are, the better chance of keeping a customer's loyalty.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


You've heard it before. Persistence pays. Sometimes.

Other times, you just become an annoyance. Or a noodge -- "One who persistently pesters, annoys, or complains."

According to some mysterious source I found cited all over the Internet:

2% of sales are made on the first contact

3% of sales are made on the second contact

5% of sales are made on the third contact

10% of sales are made on the fourth contact

80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

I don't know the source. And I haven't been able to validate it. But it rings true. Some of my best clients took close to a dozen contacts to turn into one sale. Once I made that first sale, the rest was easy.

So, if you want to close more sales, don't push harder. And don't sit back and hope they'll call you. Just keep in touch.

Takeaway: Never ever ever give up.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Permission Slip: Seth Godin & The Permission Revolution...

Seth Godin's manifesto Permission Marketing was first published 10 years ago this week.

The book's premise is simple: traditional ads interrupt our lives. Permission Marketing asks your customers to opt-in to your ads. By getting their permission, you get their attention -- and that's more effective. (He tends to emphasize Internet marketing.)

Seth's work tends to be polarizing. This, his first book, was no exception.

If you subscribe to his premise, then traditional advertising is a waste.

I get him. But I don't buy into his argument. Sometimes we still need to be sold:

Example 1: I want to try KFC's new grilled chicken. I didn't opt-in. I just saw it on TV and started salivating.

Example 2: I get too much email from Eddie Bauer. I opted in to their list -- but it's still annoying.

Example 3: I skimmed my political mail before the April election. Most people didn't even know there was an election.

Example 4: I have life insurance because someone interrupted me to sell it. (Otherwise, I might still be uninsured.)

So, although I agree Permission Marketing is a powerful tool, without traditional sales and marketing, it falls far short of the mark.

Takeaway: Build opt-in databases. Use them. Just don't expect that to take the place of traditional branding.