Why Not Make a List?

Posted February 26th, 2019 in blog, marketing, strategy, thoughts by Gary

I have come to the conclusion that I hate features. Not feature films, mind you. But those annoying things that are supposed to make a product or service better. If I am going to buy a television, I would like it to be big and have a really good picture. Do I need it to levitate? Or serve dinner?

Those qualities would be nice, of course, as I wouldn’t have to hire someone to hang the plasma on my wall and I could finally fire my butler. Seriously, though, by features, I am talking about the clutter that gets in the way of understanding why people make decisions. More importantly, this clutter gets in the way of companies defining the human value of what they do.

I am not saying that the various, specific qualities of a given product are not important, but they often get in the way of what should be the underlying theme driving your marketing message. As a colleague once said about silk underwear: if you have gotten to the romantic point where you are in your undergarments in the presence of another human being, you really should be able to close the deal.

Even in briefs.

Once you begin enumerating the various qualities of your product, you have basically said that there aren’t any substantial differences between you and your competition. You have admitted that your brand isn’t a brand at all, just a list of various qualities that no one has figured out how to explain in a way that would make someone care.

Too many times have I met with companies that explain what they do by explaining what they do. I would like to know why they do it, or at least get the feeling that they understand the role that they are playing in the great human comedy: It’s how they define that role that makes them special.

And then your brand can become my brand, from California to the New York Island.

Woody Guthrie would kill me.

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Promises, Promises

Posted February 5th, 2019 in blog, marketing, strategy, thoughts by Gary

I came across an article recently that focused on a study about check lists and the impact that they can have in hospitals. The study proved that the lists help prevent the transmission of diseases inside the hospital and reduce the number of infections caused by an overlooked step like neglecting to swab an area before inserting a needle. One example that struck me as counterintuitive but screamingly obvious after the fact: doctors should not wear ties because the article of clothing collects and transmits germs as doctors move from patient to patient during their rounds.

The most shocking detail in the article: there are doctors and nurses who don’t want to use these lists. In spite of overwhelming evidence that these lists make them better at their jobs, they felt that they aren’t necessary and would add another layer of bureaucracy to the onerous amount of paperwork that they are already required to do. When I thought about it, the detail didn’t shock me at all.

People, especially professionals, do not like to be told what to do. Much less how to do it.

Which brings me to the challenge of the brand promise.

How do we ensure that companies, and the people who work there, fulfill the expectations of the client and customer?

The first step, of course, is to identify what those expectations are. It is then a good idea, if you have the resources, to do a touch point analysis and determine how your company is interacting with the client at each stage. And then comes the hard part: how do you improve each of these interactions to ensure that the brand promise is fulfilled.

Creating a check list so that doctors and nurses focus on certain basic aspects of their jobs seems like something that would have been put together in the 1920s, if not earlier. It is a low tech, simple solution that helps people make sure that they don’t miss the little things. The customer expectation in a hospital – that institution’s brand promise – is that the patient will be made well again. These check lists help achieve that promise.

And still, there is resistance when the stakes are as high as human health. In some cases, life and death.

The fact of the matter is that when people are good at doing their job, as most doctors and nurses are, there is a tendency to take certain things for granted and the little things fall by the wayside. But the devil is in the details, as some like to say.

If something as simple as a check list can help your business, wouldn’t it make sense to create one? Are you thinking about ways to interact better with your clients? Has your company articulated its brand promise to the extent that you can follow either of the two previous suggestions?

Once you figure out what that promise is, it becomes possible to fulfill it better. But it isn’t easy, as the hospital example shows.

Professionals don’t like to be told what to do. Or that they can do their jobs better.