"We need your help getting the word out. We only have a few days left (3) to reach the deadline for a May 1st activation date, which will help people avoid that nasty tax penalty. So 85 more is the magic number to make this happen. Can you please share this via your channels?"Read More
“Purple Cow Automotive”
Finding the wow factor through Seth Godin’s “Edgecrafting”
People love to be experts. We all have opinions and we love to share them. The old axiom of please one customer and they’ll tell 1 person, make them angry and they will tell ten, may still hold true, but with the explosion of social networking sites we have seen a much greater willingness to share the good than anyone could have imagined.
This is NOT an article about facebook, myspace or linkedin social networking. (I too am tired of the rah rah there)
This is an article that I hope will remind you to think about your company and services through the eyes of your consumers as a way to influence what their mouths may say and what their fingers may type about you, your business and services.
My favorite business author of all time is a man named Seth Godin. He has written a number of basic, tell it like it is works that I love. Purple Cow (hence my title. In his book he uses the idea of seeing a purple cow as something that would be so unique it would lirterally become remarkable – as in people seeing it would feel compelled to remark on it to there friends and family.) Permission Marketing, and my favorite Free Prize Inside.
In the latter book Seth talks about something he calls “Edgecraft.” (According to Godin, Edgecraft is " ... a methodical, measurable process that allows individuals and teams to inexorably identify the soft innovations that live on the edges of what already exists.")
My overly simplified summation of this concept is this… you don’t have to swing for the fences with one or two major, sea change innovations to really move the needle with your business. You may do better to simply work on looking at what and how you do what you do and tweaking those offers and processes enough to add value and improved perception in a way that moves your customer to think of you as something more than a place to get their car fixed.
Tweaking the “edges” of a service or product can be fun and surprisingly impactful to your bottom line and company culture and most importantly get your customers talking about you to their friends and family.
Personal experience. I ALWAYS try to use small business and independently owned service companies when I can. I'm wired that way because my dad was one of these “little” guys too and I get how hard it is to compete.
Anywho, recently I used a automotive service shop to take care of a bunch of maintenance and repair issues that had been nagging my vehicle for a while. Every time I picked my car up from this garage, it had been washed and vacuumed. Even if no work was done. Wow. It’s not that I couldn't simply pay $10 bucks somewhere for the same service. What really moved the needle for me as a consumer is how I felt better about my car every time I drove away from that facility.
My car is getting up in years and mileage and I’m kind of rough on it in general. BUT – when I have driven away from the garage, at least 4 times now over these past months, I LIKE my car again. I hadn't felt that way about it for a long time. Its a small thing, I know, but the emotional bond that shop has created with me feels like… wait for it… LOYALTY. Not because they fixed my car (they actually couldn't fix one of the issues) but because they figured out how to make me feel good about having my car fixed. HUGE difference there.
Of course, I have told friends and family that this is the shop I’d go to if I were them. I never say its because they wash my car. I do it because I feel good about that shop. Edge crafting is a way of describing similar pursuits.
Some examples of Edgecraft concepts…(More can be found here www.freeprizeinside.com)
- Build-A-Bear Workshop sells Teddy Bears and stuffed animals. So do 10,000 other stores. However… they charge people to make them themselves, and get them to pay more for the privilege! (Wow, I wonder if you could offer a fix it yourself series of classes for simple tasks… oil change, wipers, etc.? I bet if you did, you'd earn customers for the more expensive repairs that are not DIY operations)
- Hershey is has created a experiential boutique in Times Square. There’s a machine there where people wait 20 minutes to press a button and watch machine gravity feed various Hershey candies into a bag—for twice the price of the same candy on “regular” store shelves.
- One of my best friends, Jason Marrone, is the online marketing hot-shot for Jelly Belly. One of his most successful innovations there has been to simply allow customers to upload pictures or photos of their choosing to have imprinted on the container that is used to hold the jelly beans sent to loved ones as gifts.
“Yeah, but this is just car repair / pool cleaning / house cleaning / a bakery / a dry cleaner / name it”
Really? Is that all you really do? I don't think that’s how we consumers feel about it. We don’t care that you replaced our rotor, cap, wires and plugs so much as we care that you made it possible to get our kids to school on time.
You make it possible for me to take my wife on a date night (not often enough by the way – can you find us a good sitter too?)
You get me to work every day. (I won't hold that one against you.)
How can you reinforce these facts in a way that make me/us feel better about your product and service? Maybe its not so much “total car care” as “total life freedom”.
Take a clue from Southwest… “You are now free to roam about the country…” Are they selling airline travel with long delays, security checks and high sneezing large people flowing into your seat? Nope. They are selling the feeling of escape, adventure and wonderlust.
How can you redefine what you do to a point that influences how we feel about you as a company? Write me and let me know…
Today we announced that Intuit is purchasing our company, CustomerLink.com. Its not quite a done deal yet, but closing is expected by 15th of April.
What an education. 5 years, to the day, I signed on to make this happen.
It was my MBA by fire my friends, I can tell you that. A five-year sprint.
To take a company through this rapid IP expansion, sales growth and then to actually find compatible acquirers is a gift, and a gut-wrenching, amazing, adventure. I hope you can all share in something like this one day.
"Inspector John "Black Jack" A. Bonfield was Chicago’s most famous police officer in the 1880s and 1890s. He brought new technology and greater brutality to the Chicago Police Department, along the way becoming a bugbear for labor and a cause célèbre for the Right. At the peak of his career, he was Inspector at the Desplaines street stationhouse, located at Desplaines and W. Court Place, one block south of Randolph (location pictured above)."
"PremierGuide’s effort is similar to an effort started in spring 2006 by Sacramento-based EyeBall Farm. Eyeball partners with Intelligent Direct Marketing to provide microsites for auto dealers. The sites not only include the dealer’s marketing-oriented media, but in some cases, their car inventory..."
"Hello Peter and thanks for the thoughtful comments. Premier Guide’s Malcolm Lewis and I partnered with Surewest Telephone to launch Sacramento.com years ago (while I was still at The Sacramento Bee. I believe it is a Planet Discover project now however…).
My then, youthful enthusiasm and excitement at the prospect of local advertisers using our new local directory site’s self-serve advertising tools (similar to Google’s Sponsored Links) was soon tempered by the cold reality that a local pizza restaurant owner not only doesn’t easily warm to the idea of building his own ad message, but he/she may not even understand why they should even care. It was confusing. “I already have a web site Jim…” They just want to sell more pizza.
Another project I launched with Travidia and a large regional shopping center here, Sunrise Market Place, hit a similar wall by way of cutting edge tools being offered, AT NO FEE, to over 500 merchants that made up a 501c6 Business Improvement District in Citrus Heights, Ca.
We provided many weeks of training. But we still had to beg these merchants to log-in to our self-serve Adscripter and post text about sales and special events, etc. to the microsite we had built for them.
Once again, we were reminded that the pizza guy just wants to make pizza. He “already has a web site” and didn’t understand what the big deal is about, vis a vis our efforts to have his online communications actually seen.
Local directories will work. Many are working well now. However, I remain convinced that as Peter stated, the confusion that this approach causes adds to the mix in a HUGE and unanswered way. Most small business folks are just now accepting they need a web site and along comes someone like me or Malcolm and suggests in ADDITION to that, they may need to consider my call to action platform or Malcolm’s microsite. Oh yeah, let’s add a Blog, a Podcasts, and some streaming video.
“Hey pizza-maker, Can you FTP your .FLVs, .MP3s and .Wavs so I can stream them via Flash players, YouTube, Google Video, MySpace and Flicker?”
This is why we have decided to build a service in combination WITH the platform. The tech is incredible and DOES allow the pizza guy to do it themselves, but they don’t. So, we do it for them. WE aggregate their TV spots, Radio Ads, Print Ads, Direct mail pieces. WE convert them. We post them and buy THE RIGHT keyword ads on the search engines and deliver them a report at he end of the month that says “You spent $XX and made $YY.”
It is not easy. It is not a high margin business and finding people to make this work every day is kicking me in the head. BUT this approach works. The ROI is clear, easy to replicate and hard to argue with. The full-service approach ultimately serves to greatly increase client retention because in the end they get what they wanted all along…they sell more pizza! We have a LOT of learning curve ahead. “Keep it simple stupid” just isn’t going to cut it any longer. Thanks for the forum Pete.
"The link below, I posted last night after giggling myself silly. Some of you may "get" the comedy in these randomly produced phrases and some may not. Below, are some of my favorites produced last night..."
"Is this a boy which I see before me, the road-map toward my Pac-Man arcade machine? Come, let me write a song about thee".
"I wish Hong Kong Phooey wouldn't carve little figurines of me"!
"Oh, how I wish I was butterscotch..."
"Candles and bugs - I wish they'd ponder me".
"I am a rhythmical rapscallion".
"I'm a level 5 Little boy, in motor boat-world! I've got a magic apple pie and everything"! (This one reminds me of my good friend, Mike Testa. He is the protector of bears.)
"How dare you attract my rotating hammer"!
"I wish you wouldn't smile at those bowls".
"Your mother was a calendar and your father smelled of shrubs".
"Why isn't my merry-go-round vibrating"?
"Ooh, I could taint a clock"!
"I wish Godzilla wouldn't attach electrodes to me".
About to go on a ride. I'll let you know how that goes...
Posted By: Darrell Kunken
As demonstrated, the past few years have been a perfect storm, combining a deep recession with incredible advancements in technology and consumer adoption.
The result is a consumer that is more value/price sensitive and more technologically connected and savvy, and businesses that understand there is value in understanding their customers.
We know that small business operations may continue to change significantly as they learn how to take advantage of customer data and evolving consumer marketing channels.
Within the changing B2C world, the common denominator, the variable of greatest interest, remains the buying consumer. But, while every customer is important, not every customer has the same value.
Interest and requests are rising for insight on how to better understand and how to connect with consumers in today’s fragmented economy. We hear daily about the virtues and pitfalls of “big data,” the latest buzz phrase related to the vast amount of information being generated today.
Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) will take note if you can show them how to gain their own customer insights from their own data. These are insights that most think are only available to the big boys in retail.
We can put real power behind our marketing proposals if we have done our homework by completing a thorough needs assessment and delivering a plan that connects consumers through channels that will build sales.
More and more local businesses are compiling basic information on their customers, like a U.S. Postal Service street address, zip code, and possibly volumetric amount spent data. With this, we can offer an SMB an easy and fast way to quickly learn more about:
- Who their most valuable customers are.
- Where they can find more of them.
- And how they can develop programmes and processes to keep bringing them back to buy more.
Through our relationship with CustomerLink, a local technology provider that has set up a co-branded site with The Sacramento Bee/sacbee.com, we are beginning to offer local businesses this opportunity. This free, self-serve, online customer analysis and reporting tool delivers powerful insights into who their best customers are.
Reports can aid the business in designing stronger marketing programmes that focus on consumer segments with the greatest return.
Jim Bonfield, vice president of product development and business strategy for CustomerLink (and former online business development manager for The Sacramento Bee) has developed this programme that is also featured in Small Business Marketing Kit for Dummies, by Barbara Findlay Schenck.
An SMB can establish their contact, business type, and upload your own customer file:
The business receives access to online dashboard reports from its CustomerLink analysis. These simple reports illustrate where customers are coming from and what type of customers (segment) exist in the business’ file.
The current customer section of the report summarises the major lifestyle segments contained in the customer file and a more detailed description of each customer type.
Also, for those who do not yet collect this data or can’t be bothered to upload it, there is a “do it yourself” area that asks the owner what his best clients “look like” and then applies that data to the segments and makes a recommendation based on the educated guesswork of the SMB. Emotionally engaging, to be sure, and actionable from a purchase standpoint.
What does The Sacramento Bee want out of this relationship?
The opportunity to have a conversation with the business decision-maker about how to connect the dots between the report on their most valuable customers and the local media channels that can be best leveraged to drive business. We want to deliver a proposal, based on the results of the data.
For added conversation value, we have access to lifestyle segmentation through Scarborough Research, so we can tie the retailer’s segment of highest value back to Scarborough information to illustrate tendencies to use particular media channels (national study level for sample stability).
- This is a complimentary approach to the real successes we’ve realised with customer file segmentation analysis at The Bee with larger local accounts (see my November blog, “Sacramento Bee delivers to struggling advertiser”) But individual offline projects are time-intensive and, for that reason, cannot scale.
- The CustomerLink/Sacramento Bee self-serve approach opens the door to more possibility to scale:
- The business can very easily upload its file online (in Excel csv format).
- Resulting reports present the opportunity for more SMBs to take advantage of easily and quickly learning from a great resource, their own customers.
- By requiring less time from a Bee analyst to do the work, he or she can spend more time interpreting results for meaningful sale proposals.
- A conversation about different customer segments that use various media channels lends itself to why we have a diverse portfolio of market-leading digital and print options.
It’s the kind of conversation that can help build business, theirs and ours.