Push vs. Pull

A friend recently ask my opinion on how he could spread the word about a new service. He was considering emailing people and posting notes on Facebook, among other things. After offering some suggestions for posting content to various online outlets (flickr, website, twitter, vimeo, linkedin, etc.), I thought about push vs. pull. Most people want to go out and tell (or yell) about what they have to offer...understandably, they're excited about sharing something new. And, while you can generate some results pushing your message with email, unsolicited ecards, etc., it's not the most effective way to get the word to spread. The best way is to allow yourself some time and create a bucket load of fabulous content that will garner some attention. Then, leak it out to some close friends, give some of your product away for free and give people access on as many relevant outlets as possible. Once you have a fan base, ask them if they would care for an occasional email update of your goings on. Repeat.

While it's far easier to hit send on an email blast, the harder stuff almost always works better and longer. 

Breaking Tradition

People change. Expectations change. The market forces us to get better and constantly improve. Hospitality offerings today are much different (and mostly better) than they used to trumps old. Tradition evolves.

Most of us care enough to adjust practices to adapt to ever changing service expectations. Generally, we understand that if we don't change, someone new is going to come along and take our place. But, as you venture away from center...away from the core group delivering the experience...this comprehension depreciates. And sometimes, quite rapidly.

I recently sat in on some property management software training, specifically the "front desk" module. The very first thing I the check-out screen, the cursor begins in the "room number" field. So, I asked the trainer..."can we change it so the cursor begins in the name field?"..."no, can't do it without rewriting the program code." Great, so we've been asking our front line employees to use guest names instead of room numbers for as long as I can remember, but the software can't be changed to accommodate that. Ridiculous. Obviously, the software company isn't selling hospitality, they're selling program code, check-out efficiency, i.e., software. They're stuck on traditional means and methods. And, that's a huge problem.

What's the biggest obstacle to delivering restaurant quality meals in a banquet setting? Probably moving the food from a central kitchen to the meeting room, and holding it until the group is ready to eat. So, why not design a mini kitchen at or near each meeting room allowing food to go from oven to plate to guest along an uninterrupted path? That would eliminate hot carts and allow you to cook to order (not from scratch). Too expensive? Not when you factor in how many people are going to leave your events completely underwhelmed...having experienced yet another mediocre banquet meal. Is the kitchen consultant selling hospitality...or kitchen equipment? Is the chef pushing you to deliver a meaningful dining experience? Or, are these people stuck in tradition?

If building strong relationships with your current customers is the key to finding new ones, why isn't your marketing firm pushing you to find ways of developing a permission asset? Why aren't they requiring you to ask every current customer to stay in touch? Why aren't they pushing you to spend more on creating newsletters, personal email communications, blogs and handwritten thank you notes than traditional advertising campaigns? Why aren't they moving you out of traditional marketing and into new marketing?

We're pretty good at evolving our own troops and motivating people to deliver better results. But, what about those companies we rely on as partners? Are they pushing us and moving us forward? Or, are they taking an easier more traditional path just to sell their product or earn a fee?

Asking Permission

Permission is of the most coveted assets for any business. Misused or falsely represented, it's even more powerful...with the potential to destroy everything you've done to build trust with your customer. Sometimes, companies (usually big ones) fall victim to using "customary practices", which are cleverly disguised as permission, when in actuality they're asking for forgiveness...just in advance.

In the near term, it's easier to place your burden on the customer and to rationalize that it makes sense. The alternative, engaging and asking someone if it's ok to talk with them, is far more takes real effort, time, money and a genuine interest in how someone feels about what you're doing.

My overarching rule for sensible benefits the customer more than it does the company.

Then, in the case of unsolicited communication, I'd add that if we're penalizing the majority of our customer base to collect money or information from a few, I'd find another way. I certainly wouldn't do it like this...

Effective January 12, 2009 in order for the Bank to better service your account
and collect any amounts you owe, we may from time to time make calls and/or
send text messages to the telephone number(s) associated with your account,
including wireless telephone number(s) that could result in charges to you. The
manner in which these calls or text messages are made to you may include, but
is not limited to, the use of prerecorded/artificial voice messages and or an
automatic telephone dialing system. In addition, to better service your account
or collect any amount you owe, we may also contact you via email at any email
address you have provided. If you do not want to receive prerecorded/artificial
voice messages, automatic telephone dialing system calls and/or text messages
on your wireless telephone, please contact us at 1-877-647-8551 Monday-Friday
between 8am and 6pm and Saturday between 7am and 3pm PST.