Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Niche is in the "Name"

Well it's sort of in the name, in this case it is in the title. While this post is about the imporance of a title it also lets you realize how important a "headline" is.

I found this book in the Public Domain "Sustaining Grassroots Community-Based Programs:
A Toolkit for Community- and Faith-Based Service Providers" , that's not how or why I found it. It reminded me of this true story about E. Haldeman-Julius. E, Haldeman-Julius was a book publisher in the 1920's, and he would take authors books that were not selling and edit them for length and retitle them with a marketable title. I can't remember how short he required the title but it had to grab the readers attention from a one page ad in a magazine where there were, I believe 100 other titles listed.

Here is a better description straight from Gary Halbert's newsletter about the Little Blue Books: "The story of the Little Blue Books offers up a treasure trove of marketing insights that is pure gold. Here are the details: Once upon a time, way back in the 1920's, the Little Blue Books were born. They were, all in all, a collection of some 2,000 titles. All the books had a blue cover and measured 3-1/2 by 5 inches. Most often they contained 64 pages, although sometimes they went up to 128 pages. The content of the Little Blue Books was wide and varied. They covered everything from Shakespeare to the Debate on Birth Control. Many of them were self-help books of the "How To" genre. They were sold in large ads that appeared in many of the major newspapers and other publications such as Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post. They sold for a nickel (5 cents) and you had to buy at least 20 of them with every order.

Now listen: Do you remember when Playboy magazine first hit the newsstands? Remember the technique of how to buy it? Remember how you'd go to a newsstand and grab copies of Life and Look and maybe the National Geographic and a couple of others and then you'd pick up a Playboy and hide it in the middle of all those others when you went up to the cash register?

You do remember all that? Geez, time sure passes, doesn't it? Well, since a person had to buy 20 Little Blue Books at a time, that meant he could anonymously sandwich in an order for what he really wanted to read or learn about with all that stuff society was telling him he was supposed to be interested in." Gary Halbert

After E. Haldeman-Julius had sold over 100 million of these little books, then he wrote a book titled "The First Hundred Million". The late great Gary Halbert talks about it in his newsletter Now when Gary wrote he didn't use a filter on the metaphors, the sexism of that era comes through loud and clear. I used to love whistling at the girls, now I have heard it is considered a form of sexual harassment, so much for that compliment method. Gary was a brilliant copywriter and Dan Kennedy says this about Gary, "When he would focus, he was so much better than me it aint even funny." Dan Kennedy, if you could hire him to write a sales letter, would start with a $25000 dollar fee and 3 to 15% of the gross.

The book I mentioned earlier is in the public domain, although I did not read all of it, merely skimmed it, it has good marketing advice and I wonder what Haldeman-Julius would have called it. "How to Be Successful as a Non-Profit" comes to mind.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Customer Service as a Niche

Probably anyone reading this could give boat-loads of personal examples of their own on why "they too think this is a niche". We've all felt the sting of bad service, shoddy merchandise and under-performing products.

We(my wife and I) used to go to Hollywood Video all the time, normally renting 3-4 videos per week. Two things happened, 1.We got stuck with a late charge... twice for the same dam video that we inadvertently had put off watching, then returning. 2. We watched a movie that was so bad that I had asked for a credit, the movie really sucked. They said, "Tough bounce, they only rent the movies, they don't make them. Well between the two events we sort of got a "chip on our shoulder" about renting movies from them. So we went from spending $9-12 per week(40 weeks per year at $9 = $360) to ordering them off cable or just buying a dvd. I think "indifference and smugness" in retailers or just the failure to allow individual clerks a bit of leeway by management costs businesses many customers. How could Hollywood Video have kept us as a customer and maybe even boosted their bottomline? How about looking at our past history of renting when we are right there in front of them? "Oh geez these guys are really good customers, how about giving them a break and not only forgiving half a dozen late charges but that video they thought sucked, how about giving them a two movie credit?"

Have you ever done this dumb move? It's really dumb and I am guilty of it.
For a long time I was going to the deli at various grocery stores and buying sliced turkey, chicken or whatever. Every once-in-awhile I would get some meat that must have been 'bad' when I brought it home, at $8 or $9 bucks a pound and usually two pounds per week that added up. Well on one occasion I took it to Customer Service and they acted like I was the first person that had ever gotten bad meat from them... 'So I must be lying.' They refunded my money but grudgingly. This second one was "the dumb move that I spoke of earlier, that I was guilty of", I got some bad turkey and brought it to the deli and the guy pointed out that I had bought it at another store... which was true. I felt so stupid, so small, so dumb. But guess what? That was a Customer Service moment, not only did I end up going to the other store I refrained from going to that store for two months. I don't know about you but I spend quite a bit for our family of three each month on groceries. If that customer service person would have realized, "This guy's an idiot but we like his money and we don't want to alienate them from our store so we can donate some meat at 'our cost' and keep a steady customer..." Simple. Easy. We spend thousands and thousands each week on store ads, how about a few dollars to keep this guy from "losing face".

Starbucks, when we first started stopping they would automatically put whip cream on top of our drinks, or at least ask. Then they stopped atomatically doing it. Did they stop because of 'their employees forgetting to ask?' Or did most customers not want the whip cream? I don't know but big business's like them have success from 'systems' and one of them should be what to ask every customer every time. Burger King, Whataburger and McDonalds are made up of systems but they all have low-end of the totempole employees, kids just starting out, first time job candidates. They are failable as we all are. What I love though is getting a sack full of condiments (ketchup, salt, pepper, etc.) and ZERO napkins. "I wonder if when they make the various size sacks at the sack manufacturer if they could throw in one napkin for the tiny sacks and two for the mid-size sacks and 4 for the larger sacks if that would be a new smart system?" I would like it.

Well if you have some great or not so great customer service moments please throw them in the comments below.

Mike Feddersen