When things go wrong . . .

when things go wrong
thinboyfatter/Sherrilyn Kenyon via Flickr

It’s an interesting morning. I should put “interesting” in quotes, because I’m tempted to use some explicatives to describe the story. I don’t think it is wise to air the dirty details in public yet, but can say that two separate issues have arisen that have forced me to rethink some of this businesses’ policies and directions. And if we cannot solve the issues reasonably quickly, the business may have an existential crisis.

So the story here becomes: “How do we understand and then resolve the problems?” They relate to the core elements of a viable business. You need to reliably have a marketing model that attracts and retains profitable repeat and recurring business and if your marketing model is based on “one-off” concepts, then you had better be ready to have a valid replacement/conversion program in place or you will fail in the long-term.

Here, without being detailed about our specific circumstances, is an explanation of the process and challenges.

Our top salesperson has developed a marketing piece that plays to the emotions of potential clients; purporting to offer membership in an exclusive and positive group. The suggestion is that somehow this status is based on merit; but in fact the list is a mass list and the method of recruiting potential clients verges on spam.

Some “bite” and then the challenge begins: The story suggests that there are several other “winners” and even if we only get one order, we need to find a way to recognize the others in the group. If we do, the “others’ get a free ride; but it takes a fair amount of editorial planning and effort to pull off the work. If we just publicize the one “winner” who bought the paid deal, then that client rightfully feels left out in left field. Was the offer he thought he was accepting what he really thought it to be?

There’s a balance between finesse and misrepresentation; between puffery and false promise; between marketing “creativity” and marketing integrity. I held my nose about my concerns about this marketing practice — toning down some of the way-too-positive attributes but believing that no one really suffers fundamental harm because we certainly provided the editorial publicity and recognition promised to the advertisers.

But the client complaint today brought this stuff to a head — and I thought about the other part of the equation.

If someone through finesse signs up, is happy, and repeats, and becomes a valuable sustainable client, then, sure, it may be reasonably sensible to give it a chance and accept that the marketing creativity is justified.

But if we get a one-time customer who will never return, what have we achieved for all of our stress and effort?

I’d like to say I have the answers I need to have now, but I don’t. However, I expect the solution will be to can the overly aggressive idea and redefine how we offer our products/services so that we can sleep comfortably at night knowing that everyone truly gets what they expect, and that they?will find enough value in the offer to want to continue doing business with us in the future.

If we cannot, we cannot continue.

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