How to avoid a message detour

March 6th, 2012

The minute I stepped into the fishmonger’s shop I could sense what was about to happen. It was the last day to redeem a 50% discount offered by a popular daily-deal website. Customers lined up, coupons in hand. A stack of coupons processed throughout the day was sitting on the counter. The business owner hustled to fill orders. His usually pleasant demeanor was strained, his tone terse.

“You all love the deals. So, what will you do when the local fish market closes and all you have is the supermarkets?”

No one said a word. As I paid for my purchase, the owner pushed further.

“So where do you usually buy your fish?”

My response of “here” and the nearby grocer cued a ready response. “Oh sure, that market may have been good in the past, but not now,” the owner said, shaking his head.

I felt a tinge of resentment. Missing were the conversational niceties with loyal customers. Gone was the chance to rebuild a relationship with a sporadic customer. Our conversation had taken a detour.  It felt like a dead-end.

In his frustration with the crush of last-day coupon redemptions, the owner missed the opportunity to reinforce his brand.  He could have delivered a memorable marketing message. Instead, he expressed his irritation with the web promotion.

In spite of the economics at stake that day, the owner had committed long ago to the marketing promotion. How could our normally friendly fishmonger have stayed on track?  In fact, how do any of us stay on message when the day’s events threaten to take us off course?  Here are two ways:

  • Focus on your strengths — The owner lost touch with the very strengths that differentiate his business. The store is known for its superior product quality and normally congenial service. Daily-deal day is as good a day as any to reinforce those strengths through positive messages that keep customers coming back.
  • Remain true to your intentions – That daily-deal promotion sounded like a good idea at some point. It would have served the owner well to revisit his intentions behind the promotion, perhaps to build sales, renew old customer relationships.  Staying true to original goals helps buffer emotional reactions to challenges as they arise.

The promotion attracted customers old and new. Every transaction was an opportunity to create or restore a customer relationship. Odds are this business owner will have plenty of chances to redeem himself. His fish, after all, is the best in town!

Posted March 6th, 2012

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