Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Company will be a Team

I have been teaching myself marketing recently. Apparently, you don't have to go to business school anymore. You can read in the blogoshpere everything you need to know. However, if you want one site to tell you what you need to know about marketing go to SpotlightIdeas. That particular post has 250 articles from the greats like Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and many more.

So I am trying to learn about marketing. After reading well over 100 blog posts I realized something: people want to be part of a team. There is room on the team for almost everybody. There are leaders, there are followers, there are lone wolves, there are bench warmers, the aggressive people, the slackers, and so on. Instead of trying to just sell stuff and make money, get people to be on the team.

Okay, bear with me as I try to explain this. First there needs to be an idea, a product, a service, whatever that people want. Not need, but want. This is 2009 people aren't spending money on what they need but what they want. Case in point: I slept on the floor at my new apartment for a week and a friend's couch the week before but I still went to the Bean Counter several times each week to get a mocha or latte. Now I'm borrowing a day bed from a friend for free.

Second, now that you have someone that bought something, you want to keep them around. In the future they will most likely buy more from you, tell their friends, suggest a new product or an improvement to an existing product, write a positive review on the internet, and not create more hassle in your life. Why are they going to do all of this for you? Because you gave them something they wanted and it was everything they had hoped for or better. But how do you keep them around? I mean when you are selling durable goods that could last for ten or twenty years how do you insure that people come back?

Well, inviting people to be part of the process gives them a sense of ownership. Case in point: the benchwarmer on the basketball team. He works out with the team, puts in the time and effort yet only gets two minutes of playing time in a good game. His stats for the year will be less than one of the star players gets in one game. Yet, he is still part of the team. The team would not be the same without him. Most likely, he brings something to the table that no one else does. I know for a fact, having been on the bench and a star player, that there is a lot of value to the "worst" player. To some people a given sport comes very naturally but to others we have to work a little harder. Seeing the slowest runner show up to practice every day and put in the work is inspiring. They work so hard and no one outside of their friends in the sport ever know.

That's great but how does this apply to the corporate world, web 2.0, 2010, and making money? It's open source business. A team links the coach to the benchwarmer. Forget the fans in the stands. Every customer becomes part of the marketing department, the product testing department, and the team. That doesn't mean they need another username and password to clutter their lives. It means that you two will remember each other. The customer spends time with "you" and if it was a good experience they will be back. You then reward them in some way when they come back.

I like to tell the freshman and underclassmen in my sport after several months when they are still showing up: "Thank you". It sounds so simple but how often do people say "thank you"? Spending several seconds to just say "thank you", and perhaps why you are saying thank you will encourage them to work harder and keep returning. Why do I say "thank you"? I care about the team. If members of the team perform better the team as a whole performs better.

This is a metaphor for rewarding customers. It doesn't necessarily have to be saying "thank you" although that is nice. It could be saving them money on future purchases, alerting them to new products or letting them know when their old products are getting worn out. Case in point: I'm from a smaller town in Wisconsin. We have a shoe store on main street with two or three employees total. It is the old fashioned kind of shoe store and looks like something out of the Andy Griffith show. All of the shoes in the back are piled in boxes 12 feet high and 95% of the shoes in the store are brown or black. The owner keeps track of when my dad buys shoes and after several months when that particular brand of shoes is starting to wear out she will call him and let him know that his shoes are wearing out. So he always goes back and buys more shoes. Less than two minutes on the phone generates a visit that makes a sure sale.

So that's it:
1. Have something people want.
2. Get them to come back.

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