• January 1, 2009
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Holiday Revisits

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Memo from the desk of Marshall Lager, January’s Chief Resolution-Keeping Officer:

I have struggled and struggled with a topic for this month, O Loyal Reader, because I don't want to let you down. After fruitlessly flailing against a writer's block of Brobdingnagian proportions, I remembered the calendar is my friend. [Except where deadlines are concerned. –Ed.] Its cyclical nature lets me periodically rehash tired writing concepts based on what time of year it is, and for that I'm truly thankful.

I last touched on the concept of New Year's resolutions for businesses way back in January 2006. I was aiming for silly, but unfortunately some businesses must have thought I was writing an advice column. (That's understandable; at least one earlier installment of Pint of View, after all, had been an actual advice column.)

Looking back at those resolutions, I found a few examples that some sarcasm-challenged people apparently took seriously:

"We promise to design our IVR menu so that even Magellan couldn't navigate it."
It's been done. There is at least one company out there that doesn't allow access to key functions—like technical support—from the main contact number. I don't need to name the company-you probably know a few yourself.

"We promise to collect every scrap of data we can on our customers and the things they've bought from us to help us understand them better. We also promise to pretend not to have this information if they ever contact us."
When's the last time a business had any idea who you were when you called it? I get better data integration from my local Chinese takeout than from my utilities company. Seriously.

"Our company will never sell or lease customer information. We will, instead, trade it like baseball cards with other businesses worldwide."
I go out of my way to stay off of email lists, and prefer to only do business with companies that say they won't give out my information. Yet somehow I wind up on more mailing lists every week. Somebody out there is lying.

"Henceforth, we no longer have products or services. We have ‘solutions.' This does not mean that we solve anything for our customers, it just means that we have dissolved our products into our services, so we are correct in a chemical sense."
Solution-selling is about more than merely calling your product a solution; it's about identifying a customer's need and crafting a way to fill it. I now start to zone out whenever "solution" appears in a press release, and sometimes the entire announcement mysteriously vanishes from my mind. You get me?

"We promise to put each customer's first name at the top of our email campaigns and call it our one-to-one marketing strategy."
It never fails to amaze me how often businesses get this wrong. Not only do I receive countless blunders ("Dear Lager..." or "Hello, Mr. Shall..." or even, in a Word attachment, "Hi, Carol Marshall...") but not a single day goes by without some vendor mistaking me for a prospect and pitching me as a customer instead of as an editor. Shotgun marketing is alive and well.

"This year we'll start a company blog that provides the same exact information as our press releases."
You've all seen vendor blogs that do this or, worse, serve as nothing more than additional outlets for propaganda. Soapboxes aren't social, and for those companies that haven't gotten the message...well, I'm warming myself this winter with thoughts of those companies catching their death of recession.

Got any resolutions you think businesses—perhaps even your own—have failed to keep? Drop me a note and let me know. Meanwhile, I'll be doing my best to keep February's column from being a Valentine's Day hash. I promise nothing.

Resolve to contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com.

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

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