I’m a big hockey fan (from the ratings, it appears there aren’t many of us). Being from Washington, DC; I’m Washington Capitals fan. The Capitals just announced that they are changing their uniforms to be a modernized version of their original uniform.
As a fan, I think it’s great. I never liked the new uniforms or the fact they went away from their red, white and blue color scheme. As a growth executive, I’m concerned they are missing the point. The Washington Post reported the news, and I was fascinated by what Tim McDermott, the team’s chief marketing officer said. Apparently he is referring to it as an “identity change” and a “brand awakening.” One which he hopes will strengthen the organization’s bond with current fans, while helping to attract new ones.
I’ve got news for the Capitals – if you want to strengthen your ties with current fans and attract new ones you only have to do one thing – PUT A BETTER PRODUCT ON THE ICE. Make the game more entertaining and build a team that has a chance to win a championship. The uniform is merely window dressing.
I have to admit, when I hear the word “brand” these days, I just want to explode. The idea that changing uniform colors will have any impact is crazy, and worse – insulting. It’s like saying, “Hey fans, don’t worry about the fact that we’ve finished LAST FOR THREE STRAIGHT YEARS, because we’ve got new uniforms.”
And this doesn’t apply to just hockey – it applies to every business. Always remember – and never forget – the reason that people are buying from you. Keep the focus on that and you will build a strong brand. Focus on ‘the brand’ and the likelihood is you’ll never have a good one. Businesses no longer ‘control’ their brands and colors don’t drive brands – customers do.
My advice to the Capitals (and every other business): Give us (your customers) a good offering and we’ll take care of the rest.
I was recently interviewing a potential VP Sales candidate for a client of mine. We were small talking and he mentioned that when he was a boy he ran a lawn mowing service. It started out with just him and grew. He mentioned how foundational that “business” had been to his success (he’d run several businesses in his life). We agreed that the four areas critical to success in building a lawn mowing business are critical to any fast growth business – no matter the size.
No big “a-ha” here – but something worth remembering.
Readers of this blog probably know that I’m a big fan of Dan Sullivan, and his company, The Strategic Coach. Dan has always had an uncanny ability to understand what’s going on in the world and to translate that into actions for entrepreneurs. He just wrote an article that everyone should read, Simplifying Complexity. He refers to this talent (and I agree with him) as “the single most important skill any entrepreneur can have in the 21st century. Check it out.
I just finished booking our family vacation. We’ll be spending a week at a fabulous resort on the beautiful island of St. John in the Virgin Islands. We’re all looking forward to it.
I bring this up now because I just got the receipt for my final payment – and that’s all I got. What a missed opportunity for my travel agency! There are few industries under more intense fire from commoditization as the leisure travel agency industry – and all my agency sent me was a receipt. There was not even a note! I felt I had just bought something significant (I certainly paid a significant amount for it) and I had nothing to show for it. I wanted to tell my friends about this ‘new thing’ I just bought, but I had nothing to show them.
What could my travel agency have done? I don’t know precisely (it’s their job to figure out what their client experience objectives should be) but here are some ideas:
- A pre-trip photo album of things to see and do on St. John,
- A nicely printed list of scenic attractions and events so my family and I could start discussing what we want to do, or not do (and also talk to our friends further spreading the word about the destination and our travel agent),
- Some beach items for the kids
Don’t get me wrong. My travel agency is very good and they were terrific when it came to helping us decide where to go. The problem is that my ‘buying experience’ ended the moment I gave them my credit card number. I feel like I’m missing something.
Travel agents (and virtually every other service business) face the challenge of selling intangibles – like service, selection and expertise. The best thing someone can do when selling intangibles is to create deliverable that make the intangibles more tangible (this is why Disney World sells Mouse Ears).
I don’t mean to pick on travel agencies. Businesses of all types regularly miss critical opportunities to enhance the client experience. Too often companies try to come up with something big to prove how much they care about their customers when a small touches like these can make the difference between a good experience and a great one.
A great time for a company to remind customers of all the wonderful things they’ve done for them and how much they appreciate their business is at the critical touch point of sending them the invoice. Had my travel agency done this, my focus would have been on the number of things I was looking forward to on my vacation instead of the numbers preceding the comma on the final bill.
You may (or more likely, may not) know that the College World Series in going on right now. On Sunday, the NCAA kicked a reporter out of a game, because he was posting live updates on his blog on the newspaper’s site. The NCAA claims it is because they sell the rights to live broadcasts and that blogging is considered a “live representation of the game” and blogs containing action photos or game reports are prohibited until the game is over.
While newspapers (and the reporter) are claiming that this is a first amendment issue, I question it on an economic basis. To be blunt, this was a stupid economic decision by the NCAA. You’d have thought that the recent internet-fueled turmoil in the entertainment industry would have provided a clear lesson for the NCAA.
For those that still need to learn a lesson, here it is: DON’T FIGHT YOUR DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS.
I guess we need to go back to the basics. Here are the basics:
- When I first started in sales, I learned that the fastest way to increase sales was to make it easy for customers to buy.
- Recently in a radio interview, I was asked if business had changed. I said that while aspects of business have changed – the fundamentals have not. Business is, was – and probably always will be – about matching content to distribution. The key, by the way, is distribution. The greater and smoother the distribution, the better the chances of business success.
- Finally, you must embrace what is, not what was or what you wish would be.
Record companies, to their detriment, have been fighting distribution “as it is” for years. Only grudgingly have they even ‘allowed’ digital distribution to take hold. Had they embraced it, they would have energized a new, easier form of distribution – then they could have hired a bunch of MBA grad students to monetize that distribution.
Back to the NCAA. They should be happy that someone thinks the College World Series is worthy enough to be a blog topic. The only thing a blog – or a group of bloggers – could do to the College World Series is increase its relevancy and make more people aware of it. While I am not a media consultant, there is one thing I know – if the event is more meaningful and relevant, the fees for everything from sponsorships to broadcast rights go up. Instead of embracing distribution AS IT IS, the NCAA is fighting to keep things as they were. They are falling victim to the “Illusion of Control.”
Today, Katha, one of my coaches was working on some sales strategies with one our our clients who is a financial advisor. She finished her conversation with a warning that everyone should be aware of. I’d like to share it with you:
“Whatever you do, don’t fall into the ‘We do’ trap.”
What is the ‘we do’ trap, you ask? Whenever you find yourself telling prospects or clients what ‘we do’, instead of collaborating with them or leading the conversation, you are in the ‘we do’ trap. This is a direct path into ‘the commoditization trap.’ When you are telling people what you do, you are making three critical mistakes:
- You are speaking a language your client probably doesn’t understand,
- You are not focusing on uncovering the key results that your client wants to achieve, and
- You are failing to focus the conversation on your compelling difference.
Instead of spending time telling prospects all of your ‘we do’s’; focus on enabling them to understand the problems they have and what they must do to solve them. Then, the only ‘we do’ you’ll need to share is: “We do that.”
Growing up, my mom often told me, “too much of a good thing can be bad for you.” As a child, I didn’t particularly like this advice. As a business development strategist, I understand and appreciate it.
Nowhere is this more true than messaging. One of the biggest obstacles to getting a message to ‘stick’ is that people try to generate too many potentially sticky messages and customers get confused. Recently, I was working with a client to help them communicate an important concept. We came up with an acronym that conveyed a key part of their brand promise. They liked the idea so much, they started coming up with other acronyms to explain other ideas – after all, if one acronym is good, two must be twice as good, and three…well you get the idea.
I advised my client that one acronym might in fact be a good idea. But, once you chose one, choosing another isn’t just a bad idea, it’s an idea that reduces or negates all the efforts that they were putting into creating their overall messaging. I reminded my client that their customers had no interest in understanding their business – they were only concerned with solving their problems. The one acronym we came up with enabled them to capture a complex idea in a ‘sticky’ way. If they introduced another, instead of simplifying the complicated, they would compete with their own message.
This is a trap we all fall into in some way or other. Dan & Chip Heath write about the ‘Curse of Knowledge’. We all want people to understand what we do – even if they don’t want to. As a result, we tend to introduce too many things – we try to make too many things memorable. Here’s what I’d recommend – Get a prospect or client to remember one and only one compelling idea about you. It is all you need to achieve growth. Keep it simple.