Lessons From Retail: It’s The Service That Makes The Difference

My business is a service business. I could argue that most businesses, whether or not they offer “products” for sale, are service businesses. As the proprietor of a service business, I can tell you it’s not easy. It is human beings who provide the service, and human beings are, well, human. They make mistakes sometimes. And it can be hard to keep your morale up. You do things 98 percent perfect, and all you hear about is that two percent. But that’s the nature of a service industry. And it is imperative that you keep trying for that 100 percent.

Trying to differentiate yourself on the basis of the quality of your work product is hopeless. Differentiating yourself with outstanding customer service is a great opportunity.

Studies show that success in retailing depends largely on the training and comportment of the sales staff, and much less to do with product, price, location and other factors commonly believed to be most important.

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The Yellow Plague?

For many of my clients the decision about whether or not to advertise in the Yellow Pages is an important one. For some, that Yellow Pages expenditure is the largest single line item in their marketing budget. And for some, particularly those in fields like personal injury or bankruptcy, those ads are still a good investment that pays off for them. But increasingly, the needs once filled by the Yellow Pages directories are being served by Internet search engines, and advertisers who formerly considered a Yellow Pages ad a necessity now see it as an option. They are cutting down or eliminating their Yellow Pages budget and spending it instead on pay-per-click advertising on search engines and other “new media.”

As noted in an article in today’s Boston Globe, the problem with Yellow Pages is not just a question of their effectiveness as an advertising vehicle. Many see the piles of directories littering apartment building lobbies and filling dumpsters and resent the litter and the waste. They see the mountain of directories printed and distributed to an increasingly uncaring public as an environmental faux pas, at the very least.

It’s hard to predict how the Internet will affect different industries and products. Newspapers seem to have been hit hard. On the other hand, people who predicted the demise of the printed book have been astonished to see book sales go up, not down, in the Internet era. But it’s hard not to think the Yellow Pages may be destined to go the way of the dodo.

Marketing Lesson From A Hook— I Mean, Escort

I spend a lot of time with my clients on the subject of pricing. Most of them underprice their services. The reasons for this are many, but are mostly psychological. They have less to do with geography or experience or competition than with the attorney’s own inner belief about what he or she is worth. However, when a product is invisible (like legal services) then value is conveyed only by packaging and price. From reading an article in yesterday’s New York Times, it seems that the legal profession could learn something from the world’s oldest profession. Here is the key quote:

And when it comes to price, Ms. Xi’an [a high-priced call girl] shared a secret. When someone pays her $1,250 an hour, he gets exactly what he would for $200, her rate when she started out. The difference is psychological, she explained: “The more somebody pays for you, the more they’ll respect you.”

“Tell a guy you’re $100 and they’ll treat you one way — tell them you’re $1,500 and they’ll treat you better,” Ms. Xi’an said in a telephone interview from her home on Long Island. “I’ve heard a lot of girls saying, ‘Is this girl getting $5,500 an hour because she’s more beautiful? Is she doing something I don’t?’ The answer is no. But that girl is able to look a guy in the eye and say, ‘This is what I’m worth, and this is what you have to pay if you want me.’ And you have to be able to do that, and believe it.”

(Tip of the cap to Lisa Solomon for alerting me to the article.)

In A Nutshell

Recently, members of a marketing listserv to which I belong were posed the following question by a “newbie” attorney: “Now I know plenty about the law and am ready to open my office. How do I get a client?”

That’s an extremely broad question but various listserv participants took a whack at it. Here was my advice:

I think the shortest answer may be Woody Allen’s: Eighty percent of success is showing up. You need to show up in meatspace at networking events, seminars (even if you do your own), speaking engagements, association meetings, etc. etc. And you need to show up in cyberspace: blogging, participating on listservs, commenting on others’ blogs, writing articles and press releases, posting video, using social media, and so on.

If I had to give you client-getting advice standing on one leg, I’d say:

Get a great image.
Get in front of the public.
Build a referral network.
Get all over this Internet thing.

Oh, and do not price yourself low, hoping to obtain work by undercutting the competition.

But I also loved this extremely concise and valuable advice from estate planning attorney Laurie Kadair of Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

In a nutshell:
1) Fake it till you make it
2) Suit up and show up
3) Believe it’ll be greater later

If You Want Me To Stop Sending You These Blog Posts, It’ll Cost You Two Bucks

Well, that’s how it works at Comcast anyway. If you want them to stop sending you junk mail, you’ll be hit with a $2 “change of service” fee. These wonderful folks (and they are my cable provider, so don’t get me started) are working hard to earn their designation as Worst Company In America. Early voting results: Comcast 21%, Best Buy 8%, Bank of America 5%, Fox News 5%, Walmart 5%, Countrywide 4%, Verizon 3%, AT&T 3%.