leadership dot #2648: referral

Sometimes it makes good business sense to refer your customers to another, similar business. I was recently in a boutique market that sells coffee in beans and she sent customers looking for brewed coffee across the street. But rarely do you see one business advertise for another offering a very similar service.

Such is the case at the Celebrity Car Wash in Oakville, MO. At the end of their wash bay, they have a sign advertising another car wash less than a mile away. At their core, they are the same business providing the same service, but Celebrity uses this advertisement to highlight the distinctions between the two operations. Those seeing the sign should register that if they want a normal outside wash, Celebrity is the right place; if they want the inside down or detailing, then AutoSpa down the street should be their choice.

Celebrity uses the sign to gain advertising revenue and differentiate themselves from others. It owns its traditional express service model and is happy to refer those who want more than just an outside wash to go elsewhere. How may you be as confident about who you are – and aren’t?

Thanks, Brian!

leadership dot #2634: flourish

In a tourist town full of little boutiques, one clothing store begins to look like all the others. The location is essentially the same, the merchandise is similar and even the inside décor tends to become monotonous.

One creative retailer found a way to create a distinction by hand-making her hangars. Beyond their obvious function, the hangars served as works of art and a way to make this boutique stand apart from the others. Every hangar in the store was unique and a collection of them was featured prominently in the window display. I remembered that the jeans I was looking at were at that store because of how they were hung.

What is a small touch that you can add to your organization or service to make it just a tad different from the others? Chewy (used to) include a dog treat in their shipments. Hallmark gives a Gold Crown seal with each card. Dairy Queen puts a curl on the top of its cones.

Think of the flourish you can add to help your organization’s brand flourish in a crowded marketplace.

leadership dot #2613: related

Continuing with the theme from yesterday’s dot, Staples has taken their teacher campaign one step further by encouraging people not only to sign up for the Teacher Rewards program but to link teachers with Staples on social media. If you write on a Post-it how a teacher has made a difference for you and share it with the required hashtags, your favorite teacher could win $10,000 for their classroom. If you love your teacher enough to write about them, of course, you want them to win so you’ll likely take a picture and post it.

Instead of just asking your clients to buy something or join a program so others can reap rewards, it is strategically smart to engage them in a related (but not direct sales) activity. It generates involvement and goodwill – often two precursors to purchasing! How can you woo your clients into participation?


leadership dot #2597: automation

One of the big fears of those who work on the operational side of college admissions was that they would inadvertently send out admit letters to the wrong batch of students. It seems inconceivable, but it happens with surprising regularity. It’s a vivid reminder that behind “automatic” technology is a human who sometimes makes mistakes.

This week I received two notices about electronic rewards which were not sent correctly. A fast-food chain sent me an “oops we forgot your birthday” ice cream cone – fully admitting that they made an omission rather than picking up on my sentiment from yesterday’s dot that they were “extending my birthday celebration.”

Then I received notice from a department store that the five bonus dollars they sent to me were in fact sent in error and they were deactivating them! Seriously!? Why admit a mistake, disappoint a customer, and spend the time/energy/expense to rescind five bucks – the whole point of which is to get you in the store to spend more than five bucks in return?

Technology is a wonderful tool – when the people operating it do so correctly. It’s easy to automate on rote but far more effective to add a human element of review to the program. Take that extra step of caution to ensure you’re using automation to advance your brand instead of apologizing for it.


leadership dot #2581: cow-like

If you want to see an example of a company that does branding right, look no further than ChickFilA. Yesterday was Cow Appreciation Day at our local restaurant – a gimmick to give a free entrée to anyone who “wore anything cow-like.”

The entire dining area was full of people who got into the spirit. People wore white garbage bags with pieces of black garbage bags cut into cow spots; black t-shirts with cut-up paper plates as spots; printed cow pictures made into headbands or necklaces, cowbells, and my personal favorite, a piece of paper made into a cow tag for the ear.

ChickFilA did their part with the mascot cow outside taking photos, giveaways for the kids, a red carpet greeting guests, cow balloon arches and cow-patterned material covering the counter. It was festive from the moment you walked in but what really made it special were the costumes.

The restaurant could have easily generated an audience by giving away free sandwiches but by requiring people to dress up it added to everyone’s engagement and fun. “Anything cow-like” was liberally interpreted making it an incentive rather than a barrier and it allowed whole families to come in wearing handmade bovine attire.

The next time you host a promotion find a way to get your audience involved in creating the festivities. Instead of just a sale, make it an event to be remembered.

leadership dot #2574: bandwagon

There’s nothing like a holiday to create a bandwagon for marketers to jump on and the Fourth of July is no exception. It seems that the weeks between Memorial Day and Independence Day have become one big promotional marathon with stores and their products decked out in red, white and blue – hoping that it makes consumers spend green.

It’s one thing to promote the blueberries and strawberries that would be sold anyway but this year I was struck at the number of pre-packaged products that came out with a holiday edition. Cereals, chips, candies, cookies, beverages and snacks offered their foods dyed with the colors of our nation. Paper products, clothing, decorations and flowers all feature stars or stripes. If there was a way to tie something to the holiday retailers have done it.

On a personal level, you still have today to rush out and deck your halls and buffet table with red, white and blue. Organizationally, take a moment to process the frenzy around you. Did you waste time and energy by participating, or did your additional efforts pay off? If you sat out, could you have benefitted from being part of the wave?

The calendar is packed with mass merchandising opportunities: back-to-school, Pumpkin Spice, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos are all on deck. Jump on the bandwagon or stay off – but do either with intentionality.

leadership dot #2571: exit process

I have experienced some really poor service lately but was pleasantly surprised as I left the United Center. There, at all the entrances, were employees holding up a “Thank you for attending” sign. It served a dual purpose: a) to offer a moment of appreciation in an industry usually devoid of it and b) to easily identify the staff members who could answer questions, provide directions, etc. It seemed to work beautifully.

Kudos to the person who thought through the fan experience and took the small step to make the exit process just that much easier.

Take a moment to see your organization’s service from the consumer perspective – start to finish – and see if you can provide a few small enhancements to the experience. Often all the attention goes to the main event, but it’s what happens on the way out that leaves a lasting impression.