I went to the barbershop this morning at 9:30. The gal who normally cuts my hair wasn’t there so I went to another guy, who did a better job and earned a $10 tip. While I was in his chair, my regular gal came in – I presume late. I couldn’t help but think her late arrival cost her $31. I was also reminded of the first rule of good marketing, which I taught to all of my employees over the years:
The first rule of good marketing is to intercept 100% of the interest that exists for one’s products and services. The second is to take the customer out of the marketplace before he/she can change his/her mind. The third and most important rule is to provide so much satisfaction that the customer will come back to you the next time. Lastly, one should always make it quick, easy and fun to do business with you and your company.
When I got home, I phoned a guy I wanted to do business with. He didn’t answer and I was automatically referred to his recorder, which informed me that his mailbox was full. I still haven’t heard from him and have now gone to his competitor (who answered his phone).
This reminded me of my selling days – 1962 through 1971. It was a different ballgame back then. There was no Internet, no cell phones, no telephone recorders, etc. I had hired a high-school student to mail out 60 promotional flyers every afternoon ― soliciting interest in our new products and urging prospects to call me for more information. When I was out of the office, I had to rely on a personal answering service to field any inquiries.
I called my answering service before and after every call – and immediately returned any inquiries via a public payphone. I remember the ladies at my answering service were amazed at how frequently I called them. They said most of their customers called in two or three times a week – never more than once a day. That seemed ridiculous to me. It seemed illogical to be on the road, knocking on doors, trying to drum up business, while ignoring interested, potential customers who wanted to talk to me? I can also remember how amazed customers were by my quick and knowledgeable response to their calls.
When I moved into management, I required our employees to answer their phone by the third ring when they were in the office, and to call into our answering service at least once every hour and to return customer calls immediately.
Frankly, I’m amazed at the number of businesses that do not answer their phones and/or do not return calls in minutes, rather than hours or days. And then they complain about their lousy business and their inferior income. They obviously just don’t get it!
Answering the phone – and in this day and age that also means emails, text messages, and other electronic communications – is the key to implementing the first rule of marketing. You can’t just talk about the first rule of marketing – or do it once in a while. Rather, you’ve got to do it every day – every hour of every day – seven days a week – if you want to be an excellent performer and enjoy a superior income – if you want to get customers in the habit of calling you first – if you want to take prospects out of the market before they can discover an alternative source.
Well, enough of my sentimentality. My days of building great customer-oriented businesses are behind me. I can only share these lessons and experiences with those I would like to help – who I hope will be wise enough to put them into practice.
Image: Courtesy of: http://stgeorges-victorians.wikispaces.com/Alexander+Graham+Bell