Category Archives: Marketing Curmudgeon

Customer Research and Database – Dumb Marketing Move

This week’s dumb marketing move goes to Staples. They do a lot of good marketing but I think this one just isn’t that good.

They are constantly sending me savings coupons, which is a great thing right? Not really! I shop in-store and every single coupon is for online shopping.
Here’s what they sent me:

Hmmmmm….someone isn’t doing their homework. Most of my shopping from Staples is in the Copy and Print Center, so I have to go in and I CAN NOT use anything they send me. Thanks a lot Staples.

Lesson Learned: If you’re centering a campaign on your online sales, make sure your customers buy online. If you want to entice them to buy, make sure you state “for first time buyers” and don’t overkill the mailings, you’re just wasting your time! That also means you need to keep your database updated.


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Customer Service Can Sink Your Business – Dumb Marketing Move

This week’s Dumb Marketing Move goes to Holland America (cruises).

Most PR executives, and their marketing department, would be excited to get a full article in AARP’s magazine considering it has one of the largest circulations of any publication. But I don’t think there is joy being felt on the executive deck of the Holland American Cruise line. A recent article highlighted (link above) the travails of a couple that had a terrible experience. One that even the most inexperienced management team would have realized was wrong to have allowed it to happen.

They forgot the unwritten rule of customer service. When a problem arises go out of your way to provide great service to your customer they will tell dozens of people. Handle it atrociously and they will tell hundreds. In this case the amateur marketers at Holland America Cruises manage to have it exposed to millions, through AARP’s publication of this incident. Millions learned of their less than caring attitude towards the customer. The cost to them would have been far less if they had been empathetic, courteous, fair … and smart. So with ship horns blasting, we award them this month’s “Dumb Marketing Move” award. They went out of their way to earn it.

Lesson Learned: Never underestimate the reach, impact and overall effect of the quality of your customer service, be it positive or negative.

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Under Qualified Staff Rushes Customers Away – Dumb Marketing Move

This week’s Dumb Marketing Move goes to Mural Arts Tour.

I’ve been extremely curious about the Mural Arts Tour in Philadelphia since we are in the top 3 cities for public art. The concept of Mural Arts is to encourage kids, communities, and even inmates to get together and participate in creating a mural, as well as creating exciting and vibrant city walls. So when Bank of America announced sponsored free tours, I jumped at the opportunity to experience it for myself.

Here is how the tour played out for us: We got on the trolley and the tour guide wasn’t present. We sat down in the front bench; ten minutes later, the tour guide arrived and mumbled under her breath “Oh, someone is in my seat.” She turned to us and said “You’re in my seat, can you move?” We moved; she didn’t say thank you and acted inconvenienced. This seat should have been labeled reserved for the tour guide, but most tour guides don’t sit.

The tour guide explained she was a part time mural artist with this program. She vaguely explained how details were mapped out to make a mural but not clearly if you didn’t understand gridding- the process of making a mural large scale and not lose the detail. For the duration of the tour, she directed us to look left but the mural was on the right and vice versa. She showed us a “mural” that was actually an advertisement on the side of a building but pointed it out while admitting she didn’t know anything about it. Finally, she explained, “The murals are funded through sponsors, building owners and people like you, who take the tours. But this tour is free; so not by you.” She seemed to judge us for taking a “free” tour, when in reality; the tour was sponsored by Bank of America.

Overall, the tour was okay. Our attitudes were a little skewed from the start, but it was clear she was an untrained tour guide. Another thing the Mural Arts Tour and Bank of America missed was an opportunity to make money out of us “free-loaders”.

Bank of America should have supplied pamphlets for the people on the tour and Mural Arts lacked follow through with getting us on another tour. Since they have 5 other tours covering different parts of the city, they should have had a postcard that had a small discount. If I liked this tour, I would have definitely booked a paid one or given it to someone I knew would use it.

Lesson Learned: Cutting corners, using untrained, and under qualified staff can hurt your business. There is a dilemma with small business owners, they worry about employees leaving after they’re trained and the money spent is then “wasted”. When in fact, trained employees generally stay longer; it reduces the number of errors they make (increased productivity), and it increases revenue. Training is in fact a part of marketing and your customers deserve it. Plus, don’t forget your follow through. 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. Never forget that!

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Unhappy Employees Can Damage Your Business – Dumb Marketing Move

This week’s Dumb Marketing Move goes to FedEx.

I’m sure FedEx does a lot of good marketing, but they’re forgetting one important thing, their front line. Now that it’s getting hot again, I thought we should share this. Their drivers don’t have air conditioning in their trucks.

So at least ¼ of the year, if not more, their frontline employees are miserably hot, which can quickly translate into snappy people with the public or aggravated driving. They’re forgetting that satisfied employees, even if it is just their comfort level, are a powerful marketing tool that should not be ignored.

Lesson Learned: Your marketing plan should also include satisfaction of employees; they can turn off a customer, a loyal customer, or even a potential customer. Employees are now less loyal and if they aren’t happy your customers will hear about it, and if they are happy it will show and customers will love shopping at your store, or using your services.

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Fastest Way to Lose Business – Dumb Marketing Move

This week’s Dumb Marketing Move goes to 21st Century Insurance.

I have had insurance with 21st Century since I bought my car in 2008. I never had any claims, problems or anything in those years. So when I received a cancellation noticed, you could imagine my surprise.

I paid, in full, my current amount due but in two different installments. As far as I knew, everything was fine. It seemed to
send their system into a frenzy and I was the one to blame.

So I called. We know the person we initially talk to has a certain amount of power as far as making changes to accounts. But what I found out from talking her, who was friendly and helpful, was that my first payment – because of the billing cycle – was not applied to what I owed but it was applied to all of my monthly payments deducting each one by $20 and was considered an overpayment.

First of all, what? I owe money and you’re not applying it to what I currently owe? Second of all, why is this even an option?

As soon as I found out that she couldn’t help me, I asked for a manager. This manager listened to the problem and basically said that she couldn’t do anything to help me. I asked her a question, and she said, “I’m sorry we can’t do that because you’re in cancellation status.”

Remember, this cancellation status wasn’t my fault. I paid everything owed but in two installments, and that was apparently unacceptable. It wasn’t until I threatened to switch insurance companies that she was willing to contact the billing department and get this fixed. Needless to say, I ended up switching companies as soon as I was done talking to 21st Century and have saved $700 a year.

Lesson Learned: Customer service, scratch that – GOOD customer service, is the cheapest but most important aspect of business. If your customers are happy, they have no reason to shop around and possibly change companies, brands, or move their loyalty somewhere else! So the question is: what have you done today to make a customer happy? Did you smile? Say Hello? Make your customers feel welcome? Reassess how you and all of your employees look like from the outside. It might be a lot different than what you thought it was.

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Use Coupons to Your Advantage, but Don’t Forget the Expiration Date – Dumb Marketing Move

This week’s Dumb Marketing Move goes to Speedy Lube.

It’s really for something simple, but that’s marketing.

“Marketing is all the exhilarating big things and all the troublesome little things that must be done in every nook and cranny of the entire organization.” – Theodore Levitt, The Marketing Mode 1969.

Speedy Lube did a great job; they placed their coupons on windshields of all the cars parked within 5 blocks of their shop. Great idea but after examining their coupon I noticed the expiration date, 12/31/2010. I got this in January of 2010. Coupons are handed out to generate sales quickly, and to also create brand awareness. With an entire year to use these coupons, I’m going to forget about it and never redeem this coupon, or worse, never visit the store or in this case the mechanics.

Lesson Learned: When creating a coupon, don’t overlook the expiration date. For a retail store, use a month for a good expiration date. For a mechanic, use a 3 month expiration date for savings on an oil change, since it is recommended to get one every three months. For the bigger repairs, think about a longer lead but the main thing is, get customers in the door. Also, think about the small items; offer something like $1 off of motor oil. Just don’t forget to create a sense of urgency!

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When the Customer isn’t Happy, Say Goodbye – Dumb Marketing Move

This week’s Dumb Marketing Move goes to Got Print.

Got Print is a printing company that someone had referred me to. We’re always looking for a new company with a better quality product, so I definitely wanted to try this company out. The person who referred us printed their business card there and I liked what I saw.

I went through my usual design and ordering process and received two emails; one saying my order was submitted and another saying it was approved and they didn’t rip us off for shipping. Reasonable all around.

Then the postcards, eventually, showed up. The printing process seemed long. When we opened the package, every single one of the postcards was warped. The postcards are representing us when we mail and hand them out. So I thought I would email the company and advise them of this, and also ask why this happened. Since all of our postcards are for events, we didn’t have time to reorder these cards.

I had to email them twice to finally get an answer. The answer we received was this is normal and there’s nothing we can do about this. Here is their full email:


We apologize for any inconvenience.

Please be advised that the bending you notice in the paper is normal and can sometimes occur. Please note that this is just the behavior of the paper and cannot be controlled. Note that this issue may occur once in a hundred orders.

If you wish we can provide you with a discount code. Please let us know how you would like to proceed by creating a new problem message under this order.

Once again we apologize if this issue is causing you any inconvenience.

If you have any further questions, please log into your account, click on the order status and create a new problem email.

Thank you,
Quality Control

Generic, no name at the end, just signed “Quality Control” and this answer did not help me, it left me scratching my head. They were nice in the email and they did offer me a discount, but I think the problem is bigger than a discount. I will never use this company again, and if it does happen every hundred orders, maybe there needs to be a change in equipment/card stock or something. I don’t know about the printing process but I’ve never had this issue with any other company.

If this is a reoccurring issue with a bend or warp in the card stock, isn’t that why you have quality control?

Lesson Learned: As an owner, you need to know what people are unhappy about, whether it is service or product. Otherwise, the problem will be constant and you will lose paying customers. I’m sure that this was not the owner that replied to me, because I feel like it would have been dealt with differently. Have a feedback system that you look at, it can simply be a survey after they receive their order like Next Day Flyers did and make sure there is follow up. Read Next Day Flyers Smart Marketing Move here. 

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