Fresh thinking for the New Year

Fresh thinking for the New Year Feature Image

Hungry for bright ideas of how you are going to win lots of extra customers in 2015?

Here's some free food for thought from the team at Leads to you. Hopefully you'll find it stimulating ' and you might even find yourself laughing.

Fun is bad for business - discuss

Back in the early years on the 20th century pioneering ad man Claude C Hopkins declared 'People don't buy from clowns'. Sounds like good advice, and a lot of marketing money is still spent by companies trying to get customers to take them, their products and their services seriously. But, confusingly, some very successful companies are actively doing the exact opposite. So what strategy should you adopt when trying to attract new customers ' sensible and professional or unconventional and informal?

The colour purple

The fact is that there is probably no simple answer. Because life has become very complicated for modern marketers.

The problem stems from the fact that companies are now competing in the 'attention economy'. That's a marketplace where consumers are spoilt for choice and overloaded with information ' an environment where consumer attention is a rare commodity.

In that kind of situation brands have to do something remarkable to get attention. As Seth Godin says in his challenging book 'Purple Cow' black and white cows are boring, expected and therefore invisible. But a purple cow ' now that would get your attention!

So, if you want to succeed, your product, service and marketing must be a purple cow. Only the remarkable will get noticed, so being safe is the new risky.

It's smart to be wacky

Great, I hear you say. But where's the proof he's right?

Well, when Innocent launched their offering and approach was entirely different. The formula was so successful that in just 10 years Coca Cola started buying them out.

Then there's a company pushing Peace, Love & Ice Cream (in that order)? That sells wacky flavours that include Karamel Sutra, Joy to the Swirled and Cherry Garcia (named after lead guitarist of legendary West Coast band Grateful Dead).

Ben and Jerry are getting fat on it.

Happy shoes

But perhaps the wackiest of all is US based online shoe retailer Zappos. Selling shoes online is tough, because people want to try them on first. And the US is a big country, so delivery is challenging. But in just nine years (1999 to 2008) they went from zero sales to $1 billion. At the end of 2009 Amazon bought them for a reported $1.2 billion.

The secret of their success? Superb logistical efficiency and amazing customer service that achieves great customer loyalty (75% repeat business). Key features of the service include the fact they can offer next day delivery anywhere in US and you have 365 days in which to make a free return if not satisfied.

The company philosophy is best expressed by the title of the book written by charismatic CEO Tony Hsieh, 'Delivering Happiness'. Sounds very new age hippy dippy, so what does it mean in practice?

On average, Zappos employees answer 5,000 calls a month, and 1,200 e-mails a week. Call centre employees don't have scripts, and there are no limits on call times. The longest call reported is 10 hours 29 minutes.

Zappos employees are encouraged to go above and beyond traditional customer service. There's a famous incidence where, after a night of drinking into the early hours, Hsieh bet a sales' rep that if he called the Zappos hotline, the employee would be able to locate the nearest late-night' pizza delivery. ' The call centre employee, although initially confused, returned two minutes later with a list of the five closest late night pizza restaurants.' Another example involved a woman who called Zappos to return a pair of boots for her husband because he died in a car accident. The next day she received a flower delivery, which the call centre rep had billed to the company without checking with her supervisor.

Wacky zappy

The surprises, however, don't stop there. Like a lot of right-on modern enterprises Zappos has a clear philosophy, expressed as ten 'Family Core Values'. #3 is 'Create Fun and a little Weirdness' and the company believes that this delivers real and tangible business benefits (click here for more details).

Unlike so many other corporations Zappos actually follows through on all this values and mission stuff  and really does invest in creating fun and weirdness ' just check out their Zappos TV channel and you'll get the general idea. These videos are a long way from the usual corporate, politically correct and po-faced communications we've come to expect ' they're true purple cows!

We've picked just four that we find particularly off the wall. Here we see employees making fun of their respective accents (oooh, isn't that discrimination?), complaining about their co-workers personal hygiene (what would HR make of that?) and an employee being filmed whilst 'going to the bathroom' (where does it allow that in the employee handbook?!). Finally there's a video of the party to celebrate being bought out by Amazon (which probably made a lot of the workers very rich).

What can you take from this?

We're not saying that you should try and turn your company into an Innocent, a Ben & Jerry's or a Zappos ' the chances are it wouldn't be appropriate. But maybe, just maybe, there's room to lighten up a bit. People like to work for companies that are good fun ' and happy workers are generally more productive workers. Then there's your prospects and customers ' they're more likely to notice you, to be attracted to you, to buy from you and to recommend you if the experience of doing business with you makes them feel good.

Have a great, and fun, 2015!

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