The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Volume 17 | # 407
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I would always rather be happy than dignified. » Charlotte Bronte

Not Very Attendant

As I took my seat on my umpteenth flight this year, the gentleman next to me struck up a conversation.

He asked the obligatory, “Where ya from? Where ya going?” We began to chat, and without prompting, he offered, “How about this merger, huh? These guys are worse than ever.”

He was referring to the “merged” airline we were flying on. The topic struck a nerve with me, and I began offering my opinions on just how poorly this merger had been carried out. I spoke specifically about the awful morale I had been witnessing.

As we commiserated, the flight attendant walked up to me with a smile/smirk on her face. She told me, “Sir, just so you know, your seat doesn’t have a tray table. And maintenance isn’t going to fix it.”

As my row mate and I smiled at each other, she sarcastically chirped, “Welcome to ____ airlines!”

I asked if she had heard our conversation before walking up. She said, “No, were you talking about your tray?” I said, “No…but this helps make my point.”

I shared with her how it seemed they weren’t the happiest bunch of folks lately. She didn’t take that as any kind of insult. She became almost giddy, telling us how miserable she and her coworkers were working for the airline.

I fought off pointing out to her that, in reality, she doesn’t work for the airline. She works for customers. It’s customers who pay her employer, who, in turn, pays her. It’s funny how that economic reality is so often forgotten or ignored.

After she left, the guy next to me laughed and said, “Notice that she never actually said, ‘Hey, sorry about your tray’.”

I’m not silly enough to think that there are not times in which folks are less than thrilled with their work situation– for legitimate (and some illegitimate) reasons. But when we lose track of the fact that it’s the folks called “customers” who actually pay our salaries, we tend to spread our frustrations to them.

How often have you been in a place of business and found yourself privy to employees’ commiserations about how terrible/frustrating/stupid their coworkers/bosses/companies are?

It doesn’t exactly leave you with a positive feeling about their company in general… or them specifically.

Sure, we all have days in which the urge to vent and blow-off steam is strong.

But make sure our customers aren’t getting burned in the process.

Making the Pitch

My adopted home town of Sugar Land, TX welcomed its own minor league baseball team last week.

And while baseball isn’t my family’s favorite sport, we’ve found ourselves fully decked-out in “Skeeters” garb and cheering like we have money on the games. (I can’t be sure my 11 year-old doesn’t.)

Sports entertainment aside, I’m most entertained by the marketing that takes place in minor league parks. While the price of food is at major league levels - another subject altogether - it’s apparent that smaller companies are able to afford marketing in the park.

And I love it.

I get a big kick out of seeing billboards in the outfield for an A/C repair company, a plumbing company, and a restaurant whose owners we know and live in local neighborhoods. I joked that I’m afraid their prices are about to go up now that they are “going corporate” with their advertising.

But the things that have most impressed me are the simple, hands-on marketing many businesses are conducting. The ballpark seats 7,500 folks and has been sold out for all games thus far. That’s likely 2 to 3 thousand households streaming through the front doors and regularly walking about the place.

Several businesses have tables set up with games, free chotskies, registrations for prizes, etc.

Walking into Saturday’s game, one of the mega-banks had a portable canopy set up outside the front door. They were giving away piggy banks and were likely having more conversations with folks than they have had all of this year in their branches. I give them credit for that.

When my younger son showed me a Skeeters-logo drawstring backpack with an insurance agent’s name on it, I asked where he got it. My wife said she filled out a form to allow them to call her later to analyze our insurance needs.

I asked, “Seriously? You’re gonna do that?” She told me, “Sure. It’s probably a good idea. Plus, they were nice, and Abe really wanted the bag.”

I sat there and thought, “Perfect.” (And I was not thinking it sarcastically.)

A simple face-to-face interaction and nice gesture generated a potential lead for that agent that it is doubtful any typical marketing could have.

Whether your branch is in a retail store or on a street corner, remember that nobody scores from the dugout.

Are you going to take the field this week?

Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is." » Albert Camus

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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Dave Martin has become one of the most prolific writers in the banking industry. His columns and newsletters are read in thousands of financial institutions each month. His keynote presentations, seminars, and podcasts have an authenticity and humor that brings teams of all sizes and seniority levels together.

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