Lip Service to the Voice of the Customer

Companies need to stay fit and healthy to improve their game. Brands need to “exercise” regularly (run a new ad campaign), “stretch” (to extend the brand franchise) and change their “routine” (introduce a new product.)

The best companies achieve results in these key areas by making a commitment to talking with their own people and listening to the Voice of the Customer.

Maybe not, you say. But if people in companies stop talking to each other, if they are not really listening to their customers and prospects, they start to fall behind, they fail more often. Almost all companies agree in principle. Many pay lip service to it. Few dedicate themselves to it.

Why is that? For some, it is because they use it the wrong way and get a bad taste in their mouth. Many don’t set measurable interim goals that lead to an increase in sales. While others chicken out entirely because it is not for the faint of heart.

Having the right mind set is the key. If you think of these opinions, viewpoints and criticism as the advice of a coach you will win.

Think about it, all of the best athletes in the world have coaches. Tiger Woods consults with his caddy? Michael Phelps trains with a swim coach? The New York Yankees are guided by a manager who used to be a player? Companies, like teams and athletes, can always do better. Break records.  Win more often.  How did you take it to the next level in your life? Have you ever had a tennis coach or hired a fitness trainer? Have you ever attended a cooking school? Tried to learn a foreign language? Taken a piano lesson?

Do you research a company before you buy a stock? Do you have a financial advisor to get the most out of your hard earned money? I’m sure the answer is yes. Then why would you speculate with your company’s money–and your career–without advice?

Do you know all you need to know from the people on your team? Do you think sales and marketing people agree on what your customers and prospects are thinking and feeling? Do they really?

Stop the guesswork. Stop the destructive thinking that investing in coaches is discretionary spending. It is not. That is like skipping check ups at the dentist and avoiding your annual physical. Companies need check ups and coaches just like championship teams and world class athletes.

Stop thinking “when things turn around, then we’ll spend the money” or “we’re doing great, there’s no need to listen”. If you’re trying to stay in first place or struggling to get back into the game, you have to be listening. So have that conversation with your people, customers and prospects and really listen to what they have to say.

Can you hear me now?!


Are You Good To Go?

Make sure you know if you have the capability (skills and experience) and capacity (time) to successfully launch a new product, penetrate a market segment or to start a new sales or advertising campaign. Answering the following resource needs assessment questions will give you a clear, quick and insightful look at your current status.

Capability: Skills & Experience

1. Do you have strategic thinkers around you?

2. Do you need help with discovering and communicating value?

3. Are you in the habit of looking for hidden revenue opportunities?

4. Do your people and your colleagues show initiative?

5. Are your people in constant need of direction?

6. Do you have the people on staff you need for the tasks at hand?

7. Can you identify all of the bridges and barriers to new business?

8. Are you saying the right things to the right people at the right time?

Capacity: Time

1. Are there projects that are just not getting started?

2. Are there projects that are not getting finished?

3. Are you or your people missing deadlines because of work load?

4. Are time constraints putting you at risk for costly mistakes?

5. Have the time to determine whether your team is in alignment?

6. Ever been too busy to do a “deep dive” for consumer insights?

7. Is there enough time to eliminate all obstacles to new business?

8. Do you have the time to maximize your competitive advantage?

The more people who complete these 16 questions the better.  We have a companion 2×2 matrix that will plot everyone’s score on your capability and capacity. It works for any organization. Large or small. Private, public or non-profit. Try it. It works.


Sister Sarah: Republican Action Figure

When Govenor Sarah Palin came swooping down from her northern nest in the wee hours of an early Friday morning, bursting over a groggy electorate like a bright morning sun, I immediately went to school on her like she was a competitive new product designed to steal market share; a killer app that must be respected.

It soon became clear to this marketing strategist that her mission, her raison d’etre for running mate, was to solidify the base by attracting three key market segments seeminglyunenthusiastic to Senator John McCain: socially conservative mothers, religious fundamentalists and Reagan democrats.

(Not mutually exclusive groups, to say the least.)

A lackluster McCain campaign looking dull in light of the sparks squeezing out of the telegenic Senator from Illinois, now had an overnight sensation: a magnet drawing the media, news junkies and rabid rally rah rahs. Based on the latest polls this strategy gets a resounding “so far so good” as the campaign now appears to be in a dead heat. 

Right now she is the product phenom, literally., a maker of satiric action figures, has just released a Sarah Connor, I mean Sarah Palin; a Barbie like doll with no less than three outfits? (You can’t make this stuff up folks.)

Is she stealing the show and possibly market share from Senator Barack Obama? At the very least she may have frozen some purchase decisions. Can he regain his super star status from today’s “It Girl”?

The next phase has started as the happy Republican “Odd Couple” from the West must go off to work separately; like a Blue Monday after a great weekend of parties where they were the center of attention, inseparable in their collective charm, calm and confidence. Fearless!

The starting gun has gone off on the race up to the first debates, another key test where this new political hydra must stand alone.

Will McCain pale without Palin around? Can Cindy pick up the slack? (You remember Ms. McCain, John’s attractive wife and previous standard bearer for the long time pol from Arizona.) Will he stay cool as things heat up? Or will there be no heat at all without the firebrand from Alaska at his side?

And what of Governor Sarah Palin going solo when she begins her first rounds of interviews? And how will the basketball barracuda fare in the glare of playing one-on-one with the “The Smile” Senator Joe Biden?

Will the perception of new product perfection lose out to the bright lights of marketing reality as the imperfections of her Americana record start unfolding?

Will a cynical electorate care about questionable per diem expenses for a stay at home hockey Governor, “Trooper Gate” and “The Bridge To Flip Flop”?

Does this action figure wear Kevlar and Reagan Teflon too? Is Sister Sarah too good to be true? And, as if all of this was not enough, we are now consumed with a sideshow on the use of the expression, “lipstick on a pig” juxtaposed with the solemn anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country.

Don’t touch that dial, this reality show, a new version of “Northern Exposure”, has less than two months to go.


POST PATTERNS Post Game Post: Super Bowl Ads

First of all, congratulations to the New York Giants and Most Valuable Player Eli Manning. Here are a few highlights from the game; that is to say the Super Bowl spots. First up, here were my ground rules. The spots had to be, quote unquote, Super Bowl ads: Ads imbued with a creativity that would get you to want to watch them again and would stand on their own for pure entertainment value. Being shown for the first time, clock stoppers, buzz creators. And they had to either build the brand, create memorable awareness or introduce a new product in an engaging way.

Kicking off with the last criteria first: Pepsi MAX, LEXUS GS, Amp and especially, TIDE to GO, all passed the test.

COKE scored twice on two tries. (A shout out to ADWEEK’s Barbara Lippert.) Although, I have a warm spot in my heart for the MACY’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Charlie Brown, I thought the second entry of the day for COKE was spot on. Keeping completely true to one of its enduring brand attributes of connecting people, it featured the odd couple of James Carville and Bill Frist bonding and bounding about in D.C. (I guess the Ragin’ Cajun excels at the Odd Couple thing.) Money well spent here, as this topical commercial will play well throughout the rest of this politically charged year.

Tackling almost all of my criteria for a great Super bowl ad was this hard hitting spot for Doritos. I have to admit I laughed out loud. BTW: Was that “cheesy” mouse on steroids?

Possibly the best spot for directing people to a Website was from the folks at . (I know Donny Deutsch would agree.) The spot was on the money for this relatively new strategy of being produced primarily to drive traffic to a site a/s/a/p. (As of this post they had over a million and a half hits.)

The GoDaddy spot was the only one I watched prior to the game. Otherwise, I avoided previewing ads on You Tube and other sites so as not to watch them out of context. I wanted to experience them with the full impact of seeing the spots for the first time in all of the communal anxious anticipation of a Super Bowl commercial break.

Honorable mentions go to BUD Light, Amp and Logitech’s HARMONY, a universal remote. (Congratulations to Logitech’s Tom Henry.)

Several commercials, too many in fact, were Super Bowl-esque but missed the up rights. They wasted at least $2.7 million in air time, to say nothing for production costs. Without sacking the teams of people who undoubtedly labored long and hard (or maybe not), penalty flags for Toyota, FedEx, E*Trade,, Sobe’s Lifewater, Career and Arguably the worst one of the day: Planters . I’m not sure when I’ll be able to eat cashews again.

Having said all of that, let’s end on a high note. If spots could kill and speaking of super, nothing stopped the clock in the 4th quarter like Brazilian super super model Adriana Lima, pigskin in hand, for Victoria’s Secret . (I was observed to be drooling during the spot, although I could have sworn it was beads of sweat.)

Obviously produced to play late in the game, more than any other spot, it met my criteria for being tailor made for the Super Bowl. To top it all off, they concluded this brand builder with a call to action by planting a seed to buy lingerie for Valentine’s Day, only a week and a half away. Kudos to CMO Jill Beraud. It was a perfect 10.