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Posts by Elaine Walsh

Storytelling Car Company Takes on Giants

By on Jul 29, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Silvercar was launched in 2012 by a couple of entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity in the car rental business, where price had become the only point of competition. With a fleet composed solely of tech-loaded silver Audi A4s, smart phone enabled rentals and simple pricing, their app is being downloaded a thousand times a day and they are already in five out of the six biggest U.S. airports. How did they do it?  As Inc. magazine points out, “At its core, Silvercar allows customers to tell a more attractive story about themselves than their larger competitors do. While someone using a traditional rent-a-car doesn’t know whether he’ll be a minivan guy or a sedan guy, a Silvercar user knows he can see himself as an Audi guy…by default. Whereas a traditional rental customer may be stuck with little more than a pair of windshield wipers and a roadmap, Silvercar users know they will be able to show up to the world as tech-savvy travelers.” Every decision they make, according to their marketing guru, Russ Lemmer, is done to position Silvercar as a lifestyle brand, similar to their partner, Virgin America.  Create a product that matches the customer’s view of themselves – their story – and they will become your best salesperson. Ask yourself: Do you know your customer’s story – how they view themselves? Do they see themselves as grand adventurers, rebels, caretakers or something else? If customers love your company, congratulations?  Do you know why? Have you asked them what they don’t like about dealing with your company? They may think it’s “just how things need to be” and you may be missing out on a product or sales opportunity. Take a look at the customers who use your competition. Are they a particular personality...

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What Alzheimer’s Has Taught Me

By on Jul 7, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Healthy but with her memory ransacked by late stage Alzheimer’s, my mother recently celebrated her 96th birthday. I was born on her birthday, and when I showed up on our shared birthday with cake and presents, she told me that I looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t quite place me.  She asked for my name. When I told her, she shook her head and said, “No, I don’t know anybody by that name, sorry.”  At this stage, I’m more bemused by the irony of that response coming from the person who actually named me and relieved that she is, overall, quite happy, than I am saddened by the fact that she doesn’t know me anymore. She’s taken to very different behaviors recently, which I know is caused by the disease.  However, they are rather charming behaviors.  Her strict religious upbringing meant she spent a lifetime with short, no-fuss hair, rarely wore makeup and definitely not nail polish, and she eschewed all ornamentation and most jewelry.  These days, she wears bright pink nail polish on her carefully manicured fingernails, lets me dress her very long and elaborately styled hair with crystal encrusted bobby pins and favors bright clothing decorated with jaunty pins.  Her demeanor has changed, too. After a lifetime of being pessimistic and critical, she has a refreshingly joyful and guileless attitude these days. So, when I’m with her, I wonder, for myself and, by extension, to my own company, what choices do I make out of habit?  Without memory, who would I be?  Do I behave out of a lifetime of decisions that I made once, remember clearly and never revisit?   Do I avoid the new in favor of the known? Am I consistent or merely entrenched?  If I change the identity of my company and do something different, do I look like I’m wavering, or like I’m...

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The Most Important Question to Ask a Customer

By on Jun 15, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We’re often asked to put together marketing plans.  It’s not a difficult task.  Goals and objectives, strategies and tactics.  Calculate the desired specific, measurable results and apply a budget, link it all to a time line and ensure sales and operational support to back it.  That’s in extremely broad strokes and there is considerable detail behind each activity. But there’s always one question we always ask and most companies can’t answer it:  Why do your best customers buy from your company? If you don’t know that, the marketing plan may work. But it may not and you might not even know why. This applies to even the most technologically complex products, in our experience.  What can you learn from this exercise? Here are three examples from successful companies we’ve worked with on marketing in the past: A company thought their strength was in innovation. Customers said that they would rate that company about mid-range on innovation but incredibly high on customer service. Confident that they didn’t need outside salespeople, a company decided to bring all sales in-house. Before they did, they asked us to talk to customers and we found out that the main differentiator between them and their competition was…you guessed it…their outside salespeople. Convinced that it was their product’s price that kept customers loyal, we did some research with customers and found out that, while the low price was appreciated, it was the high quality that consistently kept customers devoted to their brand. Talk to your customers. Ask them why they like working with your company. Ask them what they would do if your company went away (always a revealing question!) Be sure to be open-ended and let them talk, don’t give them a multiple choice list.  If you can, find an outside company to do the questioning.  People will be more candid if they know their answers are anonymous and that’s not always about negative impressions, they’ll share more positive opinions, too, to an outside, objective questioner. You’ll form a more accurate picture of your company.  More importantly, you will understand your customers in much more...

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Give and Take. And Comedy.

By on Jun 1, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Comedians talk about how much they enjoy “getting laughs”.  While we all appreciate the opportunity to laugh, and we could even say that it’s a gift, this short video from comedian Michael Jr. is the first time I’d ever heard a comedian talk about comedy as truly being a gift. Early in his career, he shifted from wanting to get laughs from people to wanting to give the audience an opportunity to laugh.  “Now I’m not looking to take,” Michael says, “I’m looking for an opportunity to give.” When we think about our customers as being on a journey, which is their own journey, living their own story, then it’s easy to see that we are privileged if they invite us to join them. That is major shift from believing that we “get” their business.  We are here to give. Once invited, we have the the opportunity to give them what they want – whether it’s tranquility, confidence, security, increased savvy, knowledge or an easier way to do their job. As Michael Jr. says, “If we could just stop asking the question ‘What could I get for myself?’ and start asking the question, ‘What could I give from myself?” I think people would learn that you don’t have to be a comedian to deliver a punch...

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Why this dancing guy is my hero

By on Mar 4, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

You’ve probably seen the video of the agile – some would say, surprisingly agile – and largish Russian man, breaking out some amazing dance moves in his black Speedo. He appears to be having a great time and to be totally at ease. It seems to me that he doesn’t care what anyone may think – he’s just being himself. I love this video.  It reminded me of an essay, “Unreal World”, by writer and actor Andrew McCarthy. In it, he mused about Hollywood stars’, the nature of attraction and why people decide to have plastic surgery.  Specifically, he tried to figure out why he was saddened at the news that one of his rock star idols, a man, admitted to having Botox treatments, leading him to this observation, “Have you ever seen a fat man dance well? It’s a gorgeous thing—somehow even more dazzling than seeing a thin man dance just as well. I think the reason is it boasts a certain joyful confidence born of self-acceptance, which is undeniably attractive. And it’s just that lack of self-acceptance that I see broadcast across my rock star hero’s forehead— when what I know I’m meant to see is a smooth and chiseled polish.” Great branding is, essentially, totally at ease, in that it’s not striving to be anything other than its utter, core self.  Bravely unique.  Whether the brand message is intended to comfort, delight, provoke, intrigue or inspire confidence, if you dilute your marketing message in order to appeal to everyone, you lose a huge advantage, the advantage of being “undeniably attractive” to your target customers.  Even “dazzling”...

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