The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Monday, June 15, 2009
Volume 15 | # 338
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It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all. » Edward De Bono

Keep on Trucking

A bank recently opened a gargantuan branch on an expensive corner of real estate in our city. When construction started, I wondered if it were going to be an office complex or medical facility. Yes, it’s that big. And the parking lot size rivals local retailers. Only when the telltale drive-up windows appeared did I figure it was going to be a bank.

The branch is now finished and is architecturally impressive. About the only thing conspicuously missing are customers’ cars in the parking lot. I probably drove by a dozen times or so without even realizing it was open.

It wasn’t until they placed a “Now Open” banner on the front lawn that I noticed. Several million dollars are invested in this branch, and the only reason many folks even know that it has opened is because of a $50 banner.

I have no doubt that the folks working in that Taj Mahal figure they are getting tremendous exposure on that corner. Not to burst their bubble, but I’d suggest that the branch is quickly becoming a majestic, ignored backdrop.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a tiny “do it yourself” pest control company a few miles away that is creating more awareness of their hole-in-the-wall store than that massive bank branch.  Actually, calling this store a “hole-in-the-wall” may be a discredit to holes.

It is tucked into a non-descript strip mall near a highway overpass. When driving that road, your eyes are pulled everywhere but to that row of small businesses.

But you can’t miss these guys’ truck. It’s basically a movable billboard, with a life-sized mannequin in a bee handler’s suit standing on it. They park the truck at the very front of their parking lot, and it is next-to-impossible to not pay attention to it.

I realized how well it works recently when I mentioned to my wife that I needed to buy something to reclaim our detached garage from the insects and animals indigenous to the jungles of Houston. She instantly suggested, “Check out that place with the crazy truck in front of it.” (I did. And $60 later, I think I’ve battled the garage wildlife to a draw.)

I’m not suggesting that we start tricking-out our vehicles. But I return to my mantra, “That which remains static becomes ignored.” Look for easy opportunities to create funny and/or incongruent visuals for drivers (or walkers) by this week. It doesn’t take big bucks to really bug the competition.

Call My Agent

In a year in which property values everywhere have plummeted, I was floored to see that our county assessor raised the appraised value of our home by 10%. The thought of challenging a tax appraisal ranks up there with a root canal for things I’d enjoy. I considered sending the letter back with a note saying, “If this is your offer, I’ll sell it to you today.” Instead, I’m learning the challenge process.

The only positive in this episode is that I have been reminded of how some really smart folks keep customer relationships alive through the years. In this case, it’s our real estate agent, Kristin.

The fact that my wife and I would say we have an agent is pretty impressive. We’ve not bought or sold a home in six years. Most folks who haven’t used an agent in years would have trouble even remembering the name of the agent they used.

We met Kristin 8 years ago. She happened to be the listing agent on a house we were interested in. After a few weeks of negotiating, and after we had all but closed the deal, we got cold feet. But instead of being put-off, Kristin was as gracious and understanding as she could be. The way she handled not getting our business cemented her in our minds as the kind of person we’d want to hire in the future. We have since used her to buy and sell a home, and we have recommended her to friends.

She has continuously kept up with us through real-estate related letters and email through the years. Kristin doesn’t simply send “remember me” postcards. She sends her past customers relevant city and neighborhood news that most of us would not otherwise be aware of. There is actual value in the information she sends. By making the effort to stay connected with past customers, she is always top-of-mind when the thought of a realtor comes up.

In this case, we received an email from her offering (for free) to provide relevant “comp sales” to her past customers wishing to challenge their tax assessments. She sensed there were many folks in our area thinking the same thing and took the opportunity (again) to become a valuable resource.

How many of your current or past customers would instantly think of you if asked who their banker is? Do customers have “accounts” with you or relationships? Take time this week to reach out and remind folks of why they chose you in the first place. They’ll be far more likely to do it again in the future.

The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means and the exercise of ordinary qualities. These may for the most part be summed-up by these two: common-sense and perseverance. » Owen Feltham

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