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Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Volume 14 | # 333
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A man's accomplishments in life are the cumulative effect of his attention to detail. » John Foster Dulles

Exquisite Inattention to Detail

I received a “personal” letter in the mail this week from the car salesman from whom I purchased a vehicle almost two years ago. Normally, I would be pointing out how much I agree with the practice of staying “on the radar” of customers.

 But this wasn’t a normal letter. No, this letter was a cringe-inducing example of what happens when companies go through the motions and put their brains on idle. (On the bright side, I think they’ve provided a new slide for my customer service presentations. So I guess I owe them that.)

I had actually received a letter previously from these guys. As I recall, that letter had smeared ink and several grammatical errors. The good news is that they’ve upgraded their printer and even use spell-check these days. The bad news is that it is apparent that no one reads these gems before having them folded, stuffed, stamped, and mailed.

The first hint was at the top right corner of the letter. The line read, “Page 559 of 568.” Ah, nothing personalizes a letter like knowing you’re “Number 559!” Just in case that didn’t catch my attention, the bottom of the page actually had the “https://” web-identifier of the sales program that these guys use.

Out of curiosity, I entered the address into my browser and found their login page. I’m thinking of suggesting that if they give me their password, I’ll log in every 6 months and print my own letter. It would save them on printing and postage and convey about the same level of personal attention.

And it’s not like no one handled it before it was mailed. The salesman signed the letter and wrote his cell phone number on it. I enjoyed the line in the first paragraph that read, “It has been a while since we last spoke and my schedule often does not allow me to stay in touch as often as I would like.”

Apparently, his schedule does not allow him to actually look at the letters he signs, either. For that matter, I suppose the sales manager is too busy to notice something as trivial as their sales program website at the bottom of letters they are mailing to their one-of-a-kind, special customers.

The frustrating thing to me is to see folks spending time and money to do a smart thing and then losing the possible benefits from it by showing a stunning inattention to details. In gift giving, it may be “the thought” that counts. In business, it’s about the execution. Are you sweating the details today?

An 800 LB Gorilla

While driving on a repaved highway today, I smiled when I observed the most effective marketing piece I’ve seen this week. It was surely the result of much research and analytics. I wouldn’t be surprised if the concept had been extensively “focus-grouped.”  Or then again, maybe the dude just decided that a 6-foot concrete gorilla looked cool in front of his “Muffler and Quick Lube” shop.

This particular stretch of road has been greatly altered since the last time I drove on it. The four lanes that were there before are now six lanes, plus a turning lane. While motorists are likely excited about the expanded road, I’m not so sure the businesses that abut that road are as pleased.

Yes, it’s likely that there are more cars traveling that route on a daily basis than before. That’s a good thing. However, the expanded roadway has taken up practically all of what once was the shoulder between the road and the parking lots of these businesses. Where once were many “pylon” signs, there is now only pavement.

Large stretches of businesses along that roadway now blend into an uninteresting, industrial park-looking backdrop. I actually drove right by the place I was looking for even though I had been there several times before.

After making a U-turn and heading back, I noticed the gorilla on the opposite side of the highway. It caught my eye from about ¼ mile away. It stuck out like, well… an 800 lb gorilla in a parking lot. It made me curious to see what the heck it was for. I almost missed my turn again while I was figuring out what the gorilla was about. (Oh, that shop has a great price on oil changes, by the way.)

Now, I’m not suggesting that concrete animal statues are the answer to branch awareness. My point is simply that this incongruent lawn-ornament-on-steroids is helping that shop accomplish what its neighbors are not. It’s getting that business noticed.

It’s easy to see traffic and assume that it sees you as well. That is as true for a brick and mortar branch as it is for an in-store branch with thousands of shoppers going about their business every day.

Step back and ask yourself if your branch is getting its unfair share of attention. (Hint: If nothing has changed in ages, you can bet that it’s not.) Remember that what stays static becomes ignored. Who’s the 800 lb marketing gorilla on your block?

If you don't get noticed, you don't have anything. » Leo Burnett

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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