Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marketing: FAIL

For years in the area of one of our homes I've admired the work of a certain landscaping company. (I won't even say which home, to grant said company further anonymity.) I will call this company A.L. for Artistic Landscape, for indeed that is what they do. I've never seen a local TV or newspaper ad for A.L. Instead the only marketing I've noticed is their tasteful, small signs in the yards of homes that they've landscaped. These front yards are testaments to the great work A.L. does. Their landscapes are works of art.

Which is why, when my husband and I wanted to do some changing of our plants in our front and back yards, we decided to call A.L.

Actually, Mark picked up the phone. I later wished I had. At A.L. Mark reached an assistant. "Hi, we're interested in some landscaping. Could someone from your company come out and see what's needed?"

"Okay. How much do you want to spend?"

"Uh. I don't know."

"Because if you spend $7000 or so, I'll come out. But if you spend over $15,000, the owner himself will come out."

Oookay. Mark thanked the assistant and hung up.

When he reported the conversation to me, I was astounded. Landscaping is expensive, I know that. It wasn't the prices that surprised me. It was the way in which A.L.'s design service was presented. If I'd been the one to call, I'd have pressed with further questions--like this:

"Are you serious? Do you have any idea how this spiel of yours comes across? You're telling me unless I spend top dollar at your company, I will receive less than your best design. You've just erased years of positive marketing in sixty seconds."

I can understand a company's policy of giving higher end service to higher paying customers. Maybe that's not all that unusual. But surely there's a better way to talk to the customer. The conversation left me wondering if all the beautiful front yards I'd seen were the design of the "owner himself." What would I be getting with the mere "assistant?"

Sad, isn't it, to see how quickly all those years of positive thoughts about this company went in the tank. And then it got me thinking. With all of my own marketing, people may have positive reactions to what I do. They may read this blog, visit my Web site, receive my Sneak Pique newsletter, visit my Facebook page. I often give away books because I believe if a new reader is exposed to my work, he/she will like it. But, mercy, I want to be just as good at presenting myself when someone actually contacts me.

One negative connection can wipe out a lot of previous positive reactions.


Pam Halter said...

ohmygosh ~ it almost made me laugh. Then I thought, they're weeding through clients. Only the most rich and snobby people will be okay with that sort of marketing line.

You are generous with your time and giveaways, Brandilyn. I'm looking forward to doing the same thing when my novel gets published!

Susan Skitt said...

So true. One area I need to work on is thankfulness. It's easy to get trapped in the "what's in it for me mindset", especially as a contributing author to devotionals & anthologies. My friends and I have given away books and gifts out of our pocket at book signing events where we represented various books.

I remember how one CRM at a large bookstore was astounded to learn we were doing this without compensation or book royalties. (Should I even say this? Probably not.)

However, God knows our needs and supplies. I need to leave it with Him. I've been reading lately in Genesis about people who want to make a name for themselves vs. how God will take care of those who call on His name. What a difference!

May each of us learn to have a spirit of humble gratitude for all our Savior Jesus has done for us and to speak to people with love and care so the words of our mouth and the thoughts of our heart are acceptable in God's sight.

Looks can be deceiving, just like with "A.L." :)

Mocha with Linda said...

Reminds me of the pick-up truck I saw at the gas station once. Belonged to a trim carpenter. I was tempted to ask him who he thought would hire him to do trim work when the sign was on his truck crooked!

Elaina M. Avalos said...

As for the landscaping company, I would hope that if the owner of the company heard what his or her employee said, they'd go high and to the right. I would be shocked (oh what, maybe I wouldn't?) if that was considered an acceptable way to speak to a potential customer. Then again, I'm shocked by a lot of things I see these days in terms of customer service.

In terms of authors and the desire or lack of desire to buy books based on negative interaction of some kind, I do think this is a valid and important point. In much the same way as the landscaping company. The truth is, if I'm personally insulted by something a public figure says, and I didn't start the ball rolling, then you're darn tootin' I'm less likely to pick up something that author has written.

In two instances, I have had to do that. This is a free country and we all have a right to say or write what we want, to some degree. But when we pick controversial subjects to write about, or make light of other's situations or show no regard for those in less privileged positions than us, we run the risk of losing people who might previously have respected us.

In one of these two instances, I had to finally tell, my once favorite author, that I couldn't buy her books anymore based on things she had said to me and others who commented on a series of her blog posts. Her comments were insulting at best. I read one last blog post in which she stated that her publicist told her she needed to stop posting such things. But she didn't know if she was going to listen. I felt vindicated that the publicist agreed and understood how damaging that whole rigmarole was.

We don't have to agree with everyone, all the time. But I'm not sure people in the public eye always realize how what they say comes across. I don't like political correctness. But that doesn't mean we need to be outright rude, thoughtless or unfeeling in our public statements.

And yes, one negative connection can undo the positive.

Rich said...

Wow. Made all the more timely as I just talked to a landscaper about work not 10 minutes ago!! Not the same one as you, I'm sure. And I got the boss, so I must at least look like I have money!!

Cara Putman said...

what a great reminder, Brandilyn!