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How to Not Suck…

November 13, 2009

Let’s start with a disclaimer. I’m not a business guru. Nor am I a social media expert, or a consultant. But I do have something like ten years of experience in advertising and marketing, most recently in social media and content marketing, which is awesome because I don’t feel the need to take a shower after I get home from work every day. I also buy goods and services, watch TV and use the Facebooks and the Twitter, so I like to pretend I’ve got a pretty good idea of what goes on from the consumer’s perspective.

So based on my years of experience selling crap, researching what kind of crap people buy and how to sell more of it to them, and buying crap myself, I feel, if not qualified, at least entitled to spout off for a bit about how to not suck at this whole “selling goods and services” thing.

Here are a few ideas, just to get us started:

1. Make Sure Your Products Don’t Suck

Marketing can help propel a good product into the stratosphere by, you know, making people aware it exists.

But no amount of marketing can overcome a bad product. You may fool people once, but once they have the product in their hands and realize your ad campaign was basically a web of lies and deceit, they won’t come back.

(exception: all reality television)

2. Don’t Be a Dick

Offer a good product and do business in good faith. Don’t try to nickel and dime your customers with bogus fees, or arrange things in such a way that you can bend them over the barrel. Because they will come to hate you and take their business elsewhere.

(exception: local monopolies such as power companies)

3. Stop Doing Annoying Things

You know what I love? Being asked if I want to save 10% today by signing up for a store credit card at every store I go to. Or being asked if I want to try the random new unappealing product at every fast food drive thru I hit, even when I already know what I want.

Stop it.

4. Get Over Yourself

You know those people who, when they screw up, they always have a perfectly valid excuse? Or worse yet, refuse to even acknowledge that they screwed up (cough…Sarah Palin…)?

Those people are douchebags. And yet so many companies act just like that every single day. Learn contrition. Have the courage to admit when you screwed up, or when a product wasn’t quite the runaway success you were hoping? Most people are pretty willing to forgive mistakes, as long as you own up to them.

Want proof? Look at Ford. They admitted a while back that things had kind of gone off the rails, and started taking drastic measures before the economy hit the wall. The result? They had their ducks in enough of a row to avoid having to take federal bailouts and subsequent bankruptcy, and now they’re poised to kick all kinds of ass as the economy gets moving again.

5. Don’t Confuse Social Media With Another Press Release Vehicle

You know why I’m active on Facebook and Twitter? To keep up with people, to interact with them. To talk with them. Yet so many companies seem to see these tools as just another way to talk AT people. That’s not interacting. It’s the same crap in a different wrapper. And it’s the reason I hide and unfollow brands that don’t get it.

6. Do Something Cool and Unexpected Every So Often

Consider Zappos, and their penchant for randomly upgrading people to free overnight shipping. That’s cool, and it makes people feel a little special. Which in turn makes them like Zappos more, and makes them more likely to return there to order their next pair of shoes.

Or consider Google, which every so often will just drop a bomb of a new product announcement. Or Apple and its “one more thing”.

It’s the old idea of underpromise and overdeliver. It’s simple, and it works.

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