Seth Godin is coming to Utah!

It appears to be official! According to Seth Godin’s blog, he is coming to Utah on May 24th from 1 PM – 4PM. Here are details:

Seth Godin, the Marketing Guru will share his latest insight in marketing & talk about his latest book “The Dip”.

The cost is $50 per person, which includes 5 free copies of his latest book. Or you can buy 5 copies of his book for $50 and hear him speak for free (you decide).

Come early to network with others. See you there!

Be a Johnny

I ran across this simple, yet effective video about how everyone in your company can make a difference.

Great service comes from the heart.

I’m back

I was in Disneyland the past week on vacation. The kids loved it and we had a blast. (A side note, when your kids come along I think it’s called a “trip” and when it is just you and your spouse it is called a “vacation”). Anyway, it will be good to get back to blogging.

AT&T ‘s vision of the future (circa 1993)

I ran across these 1993 AT&T TV commercials on YouTube. This series of ads was called “You Will”. Maybe you remember them (like I do). Take a look:

According to AT&T (circa 1993), in the future “you will” be able to:

  • Borrow a book from thousands of miles away
  • Cross the country without stopping for directions
  • Send someone a fax from the beach
  • Pay a toll without slowing down
  • Buy concert tickets from a cash machine
  • Tuck your baby in from a phone booth
  • Open doors with the sound of your voice
  • Carry your medical history in your wallet
  • Attend a meeting in your bare feet
  • Watch a movie you wanted to the minute you wanted to
  • Learn special things from far away places

In 2007, I believe that all of these technologies are either available or could be done. However, and correct me if I am wrong, I don’t believe that AT&T brought us any of these ideas. Why is that? Why did AT&T have the vision of the future and yet was unable create any of it?

Here’s my take. First, I believe that no single company (or at least one single brand) could have developed all of these future current technologies. Consumers want brands that stand for something unique and not one company to deliver everything. Today, consumers look to TomTom for GPS navigation systems, Tivo to watch a movie the minute they want to, and TicketMaster for their concert tickets.

So, why isn’t AT&T a leader in any of these technologies? I think Mack Collier from The Viral Garden said it best:

When you think of AT&T, you think of landlines, rotary dials, and the Reagan administration.

In other words, the “future” can not come from an old, tired brand like AT&T. The future can only come from brands that bring to mind innovation, differentiation and pushing the limits (think Apple).

Why do you think AT&T (or any company for that matter) can have a clear vision of the future but not play a part in it?

Searching the web for feedback

If you don’t regularly search the blogosphere and web for customer feedback, you should. Many times customers are having conversations online with other customers (or potential customers) instead of giving you the feedback directly. Take for example this feedback I found at ThisIsBroken.Com:

I love Arizona Green tea, but every single bottle I buy has the exact same problem – there is just slightly too much tea in every bottle.

So much that there is actually tea inside the cap on the top; there’s not even any air bubbles inside the bottles at all! When the cap is removed, of course the excess tea spills out, and I’ve never had this not happen.
Arizona Tea

This also makes it difficult to pour the first glass of tea without spilling even more!

If their tea wasn’t so good, I wouldn’t buy it anymore.

Search our online what consumers are saying about your product or service and respond when necessary. Listening to customers in this manner is inexpensive and very productive.

$50 to hear the top marketer alive?

Got Godin?If you live in Utah (or if you can fly to Utah within 3 to 5 hours), please support the effort to get the most brilliant marketing mind to speak in Utah on May 24th. For $50 you will not only get to hear Seth Godin but you’ll also receive 5 copies of his new book The Dip. But wait, there’s more! If Seth were here personally, I bet he would guarantee that you would come away with Three C’s (and maybe more) after hearing him speak:

  1. Change – Seth is an “Agent of Change”. You will see your business, your industry and yourself in a whole new light. Once you’ve have tasted this change, there will be no going back to your old ways (you will not want to anyway).
  2. Clarity – Seth will enlighten the path of remarkableness for yourself and your company.
  3. Quitting – (okay this isn’t a “C” but it does start with the same phonemic sound, does that count?) “What really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.”

Come and join us if you can. I promise that you will not be disappointed!

What you sell

Lets imagine that your oldest daughter is getting married soon and she asks your help in finding the right photographer for her wedding. Being the proud parent that you are, you want to help her in any way possible. After a full day of searching for the right photographer, a sign at the end of a dimly lit alley catches your eye. It reads: “Wedding Photos – Half Off”. One half of your heart (the non-sentimental, cheap part) leaps.

You quickly discover that for half as much as “the other guys”, you can get beautiful wedding photographs for your daughter. There is only one catch – a photographer does not actually come and capture the wedding. Instead, the “photographer” Photoshops your daughter into a wedding picture template.

The “photographer” agues that “once the wedding is all said and done, all you are left with is the photographs anyway. So who cares how you got them?” You leave disappointed.

Just like photographs are much more than paper and ink, what you sell is much more than your product. Think of your business and the entire experience that you provide your customers. I’m talking everything from the things that you normally think of (your actual products and your packaging) all the way to the things that we don’t always consider (your letterhead, the look of your employee parking lot, the courteousness of your receptionist, your hours of operation, the thickness of your customer policy manual) – anything and everything that interacts with your customers – that is what you sell.

They like me! They really, really like me!

In business, it is not about “you”. Its all about “them” – your customers. Tom, over at A Clear Eye, has so brillantly put it many times:

It doesn’t matter what people think about you or your organization. What matters is how you make them feel about themselves – and their decisions – in your presence.

To quote Carly Simon (loosely), “You’re so vain. You probably think this buisness is about you.” It’s not. Get over it. Focus on your customers and help them to feel good about themselves.

Every business is a commodity

That is until your customers can easily distinguish your business from the rest of the market and experience for themselves some added value. If your customers can not detect any distinguishing features from your business and the rest of the market, they are left to themselves to differentiate your product on something we all understand – price. Then you truly are a commodity (unless you are Wal-mart. Their distinguishing feature is price!).

You might think that coffee and web hosting are commodities. However, I know of at least two companies that think otherwise:

Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee. Starbucks thinks of their local stores as a “third place” (besides home and work) where people can go to build a sense of community. This focus on people and the customer experience is what lead Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, to say, “we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee”.

Rackspace is a web hosting company. However, they do not see themselves as just a web hosting company. They see themselves as a world class service company that just so happens to be in the managed web hosting industry. Rackspace’s distinguishing feature they call “Fanatical Service.” In a nutshell they describe it as, “our drive to do more than what our Contracts, Service Level Agreements and guarantees say we will. It’s our need to make a difference every day to you and every customer.”

If we learn from Starbucks and Rackspace, the best way to get out of being in the commodity business is to never put yourself in it. In other words, make your product stand out. Just because your product may be purchased elsewhere does not mean that your potential is limited by the inflexible boundaries of a commodity. For the most part, commodities are built from the mind set from within a company. If you think you are a commodity, you probably are!

Feel vs. Do

Seth Godin once again has a provocative post about our feelings vs. actions.

How’s this for a 98% rule: By a factor of three, what you do is not nearly as important as how it makes people feel.

The customer experience is all about how the customer feels while experiencing your company (and not just the product or service). Experiences are made up of feelings. That is why I think we keep photos around – not to reminder of us necessarily of the actual rides at Disneyland or the actual Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
– we keep photos to remind us how we felt at that moment. Feelings are more powerful.