Marketing – Is cheaper better?

Over the years I can’t tell you how many times a prospective client called and asked for a quote and then advised me that a competitor offered the same service at a price lower than mine.  How do you respond to that?  Do you lower your price to match or beat the competitor?  Many companies do, they even include this into their marketing scheme, advertising that if you can find pricing lower than theirs and submit proof that they will beat or match the price.

I don’t believe that just because something costs less that it is better, and in my experience the opposite is often true.  As a company we know what our services and products are worth and we price them at what we feel is a competitive and fair price.  We know that we will not always be the cheapest, and that’s ok because our marketing is not wrapped around price, as many companies are.  For me it is a big red flag when a company talks about price, price, price, but doesn’t discuss the attributes of the product or service.  Price is not everything.   My response to those potential clients that tell me they found it cheaper is to ask them why they are calling us then.   I have often advised these potential clients that just because it costs less doesn’t mean that it is a superior service and that you get what you pay for.  Other times when I couldn’t sway them and they kept throwing the competitions pricing in my face I have often told them that if price is what is important to them that maybe it would be better for them to use the competitors.  This has stopped people in their tracks on many occasions, because it is the last thing they were expecting to hear.

As a business you cannot kick yourself every time you see that a competitor has a lower price.  Don’t get me wrong, you certainly want to be competitive, but you also don’t want to focus just on price, you want to concentrate on quality as well and you want to be sure that this is being relayed to the client.  Cheaper is not always better, sometimes it is better to charge more but have a more quality product or service.

Indian call centers – Bad for business?

People are always complaining about Indian call centers , the two biggest complaints that I have heard over the years are they take away U.S. Jobs and you can’t understand them on the phone.  I am going to cover both of these issues starting with they take away U.S. Jobs.   People complain because companies are outsourcing to India where they can hire a call center and pay $10 an hour for agents and not have to worry about employment tax, workman’s comp, unemployment insurance, benefits, over time, as well as all the logistical costs.

Many people complain that by outsourcing not just call centers, but engineers and programmers as well that jobs are being stolen from the American worker.  My response to that is bull%%$#!  First of all as a company my goal is to grow and to make money and if an opportunity comes along allowing me to save thousands of dollars than as a business it is my obligation to my shareholders or principles to consider it.  While I am truly sorry that some people are going to lose their jobs, a company cannot base its business decisions on this, business decisions need to be made on quantifiable elements not human emotion.   Plus there is always other information that the general public is not considering.  You ask what is there to consider other than a lot of people losing their jobs?  Well consider this, because of the call centers in India and their relatively inexpensive services compared to call centers in the U.S. smaller companies who normally could never afford the services of a call center now can.  Those services generate income, and that income helps grow businesses and growing businesses generate jobs.   The world is changing around us, and we now live, work and shop in a global marketplace.

The second issue being how people hate talking to someone in India who can barely speak English.  I have been irritated in the past by calling a U.S. company and the person on the phone was clearly from India, I was not irritated because of where they were but because I could not understand a word they said.  My company runs a call center network with over 400 call center members from all over the world, with a large majority of them being from India and I can tell you from personal experience that not every call center agent is difficult to understand, some of them speak English so clearly and so annunciated that they make my English sound bad.  It really comes down to how well the call centers are screening when hiring.  Many call centers will only hire agents that have had Accent Neutralization Training (ANT) while others hire agents then send them to training.  ANT institutes teach agents how to correctly pronounce words and how to pronounce them without an accent.

At the end of the day people need to face the fact that the days of build it, sell it, and buy it in America are gone.  Technology has brought the rest of the world into our backyard, and we need to learn how to play with the other kids on the playground.  Global business has been a blessing for a lot of businesses, most notably small companies who couldn’t compete in marketplaces that were cost prohibitive in the past.  Wake up the future has arrived.

The Naked Waitress

In April of 1993 I drove from Philadelphia to Spring Hill, Florida, a small town right outside of Tampa; I left in the middle of what they labeled the storm of the century.  As I drove down the I-95 the snow was coming down pretty quickly and most people probably would have just turned around and gone home and waited a day or two, but not me, I told people I would be in Florida in two days, and by God, I had every intention of keeping that promise, regardless of the risks.  As I drove into Delaware the snow was coming down harder and faster than I have ever seen in this part of the country, and the driving was slow, but I continued driving for several  hours into passing through Virginia and finally into North Carolina, where the real fun started.

If you were thinking that once I got out of the eastern states into the south that the weather would improve and the driving conditions would be better, you couldn’t be further from being right; while the snow stopped, but the wind increased, and blew faster and faster and faster until what seemed to me to be hurricane like conditions, mind you never having been in a hurricane, this was just an uneducated guess. As I drove through North and South Carolina, the wind was blowing so hard, that my little Honda Accord was being tossed around like a bee bee in a jar.  I’m thinking to myself as I struggle to keep my car from veering into the other lane that while this is difficult, it’s probably the worst of it, and I am handling it ok.  Yeah right.  It got worse.  At some point in the middle of the night, with the wind still howling like mad,  the freezing rain began, coming down in sheets and creating an ice highway for the next two or three hundred miles.  I noticed everyone was pulling over and stopping, even the cops, which I probably should have taken as a sign to pull over for a while; do you think I did that?  Noooo.  I kept driving on the bed of ice with the wind blowing me all over the place, albeit I was only moving about 25 miles an hour, but moving I was.

I drove until about 4 a.m. when I decided I really needed some sleep.  So I found a little hole in the wall motel and I got a room and I slept for two hours, got up, bought some coffee, and hit the road.  The ice was still there and the wind was still blowing, and so my journey continued.  After about two hours, the ice started to disappear and I was left with just the howling wind trying to blow me into the next county.  I spotted a rest stop up ahead and decided I would take a break for a few minutes as I was feeling a bit tired.  As I pulled in I noticed that there were very large trees here, one in front of each parking slot and the wind was blowing so hard that it was knocking the trees over, making it impossible for me to park without risking having a tree fall on top of my car.  So I kept driving, and I drove through South Carolina and Georgia and sometime in the middle of the second night I crossed the Florida border.  I was really tired but I figured I was almost there I didn’t want to stop now as I only had around three hours to go and the wind had finally let up a little bit.   So I kept driving, and about halfway through Florida I got very tired and I was fighting falling asleep at the wheel, when I spotted a little pink diner and thought I could eat and I need to rest.

So I pulled into the parking lot, got out of car stretching my aching legs and walked into the diner.  I found a table and sat down putting my head in my hands and closed my eyes which I didn’t even open when the waitress asked me if I would like some coffee I just grunted “uh huh”.  A couple minutes later she brought my coffee and as I lifted my head to thank her and fix my coffee, I was suddenly jolted awake.  My waitress was completely naked.  I mean not a stitch of clothing, just her shoes.  What the hell was going on, did I drive into the twilight zone? As my extremely fatigued brain was trying to comprehend this odd situation I looked around and noticed all of the waitresses were naked.  Not quite able to speak I just sat there staring at the waitress like a coma patient; finally the waitress put it together and said to me “You didn’t know this was a nude diner did you?”  I sure didn’t I told her, I was so tired I barely noticed the sign.  She asked me if I still wanted to eat, I said “uh yeah”.  What guy on the planet doesn’t want to eat breakfast while a bunch of hot naked women are walking around?  And no they were not on the menu, they just served the food.

I looked around and noticed people were starting to come in, by the time I had finished my breakfast it was around 7 a.m. and the place was getting packed.  I asked my waitress, my completely naked waitress, if they get this busy every day?  Oh yes my completely naked waitress said, “We are packed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then most of the evening up until around 10 or so, and on the weekend all night sometimes, they come in after the bars and clubs and have something to eat and admire the scenery”.   They were known for miles around and that people drove from miles away to come eat said my completely naked waitress.

So you are probably wondering why I told this strange yet probably amusing story right?  Because in every business it is important to brand your product, without a brand, you are just another business among many.  There are lots of diners out there, and most of them are pretty much the same, nothing spectacular about them, just a place to get a greasy burger, get a coke, a sundae, some eggs, toast and coffee, they are all the same.  All but for this one little diner somewhere in Florida that made itself different from its competitors by having completely naked waitresses, and while what they did was bold, and some probably didn’t  like what they did, one thing is for certain, you will never confuse them with their competition. They branded their product, their diner, but using, yes you guessed it, completely naked waitresses to serve the food.

I may not be here the rest of the week, I have an odd desire to go to Florida……..


“Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.”
Orson Welles


“If you can, be first. If you can’t be first, create a new category in which you can be first.”
Al Ries & Jack Trout, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, 1994


Being a resource for your clients

Have you ever had a client come to you with money in hand and you had to turn them away because what they wanted was not something that you provided?  You probably didn’t like the feeling of turning them away knowing that they were going to take that money and spend it elsewhere and if you had only been able to accommodate them you could have had the sale.  This happens to everyone, no one company can do everything, but you can still turn this into a positive.  How can turning away business be a positive you ask?  Simple.  You know the things that your clients ask about and are interested in; make a list of those services and start networking and connecting with companies that do provide these services and let them know that you have clients that occasionally need the services that they provide and that you are going to start sending them their way.

This does two things for you, the first it shows your customers that you are not just a source for the services that you provide, but you are also a resource for those that you do not.  Some may cringe at the thought of sending business to someone else because they will be worried, what if they don’t come back or what if they use this other business for services that you do offer?  While this is possible, it’s really not something I would be worrying about because whether you send them somewhere or not, they are going to search on their own and find a company that offers what they are looking for.   By you sending them there you are showing yourself to be a resource and the next time they need something there is a good chance they are going to call you and next time it might be a service that you do offer.  Another thing to consider as well, if you develop a relationship with the companies that you are sending your clients to, they may reciprocate and do the same by sending their clients to your for services you offer that they do not.

At the end of the day you want to show your clients that you are a resource they can use, even if it is for services that you cannot offer them.

What a woman wants.

In the marketing and advertising industry we create a lot of different ads and brands for our clients, some of the products we use, some we never have or never will.  I am of the opinion that you need to understand the buyer of the product, the consumer in order to be able to market it.  You need to be able to shop.  What does that mean?  Does it mean you physically need to go to the mall and go shopping for the products you are working on?  No.  It means you need to become the buyer, the shopper, the consumer mentally.

Last year I put a challenge to my MBA students asking them if they owned a cosmetic company and were in need of a new Marketing Director would they consider hiring a man, or would they need a woman to hold the position since all the customers were women.  The responses were mixed, some said either a man or a woman could do it, and some said it most definitely would have to be a woman, how could a man be in charge of marketing to just women?  My response to them was that prior to the 1960’s women mostly stayed at home as homemakers, and the working world was largely men.  Most households had one income, the husband went to work and earned, the wife stayed home taking care of the kids, the house, did the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.  They also took care of the shopping and purchasing most of the household items that were needed.  So that means that most marketing managers and directors were men and that most buyers of everyday household items were women, not to mention the female products such as cosmetics and pantyhose, clothes and more that women bought.  But mostly men were in charge of the advertising and marketing.  How can a man advertise a product he has never used, will never use?

Very simply; a good ad man or woman has the ability of putting himself or herself in the shoes of the buyer so to speak.  They mentally become that person, so that they can understand their needs and wants.  If you have ever seen the Mel Gibson movie “What a woman wants” while funny it had some very true attributes to it.  It showed how a man had to really understand a woman in order to sell to her.  This is true in any product, regardless of whether a man or woman is purchasing, what age they are, and regardless of what sex the person in charge of the marketing or advertising campaign is.  They have to put themselves in the mind of the consumer, become the consumer.  Meaning if a man is in charge of selling lipstick to women, than yes in his mind he has to become a woman, understand what is important about the lipstick being bought, why they need it, why they want it.  A good marketing person can do this.  So if you are looking for a good marketing company, don’t let someone’s sex sway your decision, they might just surprise you.