from pickett&associates … exploring PR, social media and entrepreneurship

Marketing Success Requires Meeting Customer Expectations July 29, 2010

Filed under: Entrepreneurial Tales — pickettwrites @ 8:29 am

I don’t profess to be a marketing expert. You may notice that I do not tout myself as a “PR and marketing” firm. That’s on purpose. I have chosen to focus on public relations, spending a good deal of this year entrenched in deepening the knowledge I have gained through my professional experiences; I recently passed the APR (Accredited in Public Relations) peer review panel and am approved to sit for the certification exam later next month. I am professionally and personally committed to the Code of Ethics as prescribed by the Public Relations Society of America.

That said, while not being a marketing expert, I am a consumer. And what I want to share with you today is my “Tale of Two Nail Salons.”

I had received a coupon earlier in the month for a nail salon a few miles to my north. I’m not a frequent subscriber to these services, and I confess to being a big believer in “do it yourself,” but doing my own pedicures has never been one of my strong suits. The coupon was from a salon that was not really in my neighborhood, but for a $29 manicure/pedicure, I could drive 15 minutes up the road.

I headed off the other day for a number of errands that would conclude at this particular salon. I had pictured it in a strip mall, but when I arrived at the approximate address I learned it was in an old house. I parked my car and walked across the street – the closer I got the more I made that “breathing air in between my teeth” sound of doubt. There were random toys scattered on the porch as well as a “mini-Weber” grill that looked like it had been doused with water the last time it was used. I scolded myself … what did I expect for $29? “Buck up and keep walking and don’t be so damned judgmental,” I told myself.

Opening the door, there was a strong odor of nail polish remover mixed with … I have no idea. It smelled like something was burning. I was instructed to choose my nail colors and have a seat. As I vied for the proper shades of pink – competing with a particularly annoying four-year-old boy – I noted a sign that read, “cash appreciated.” I asked if I should run across the street and get cash, but was told no, they took credit cards.

And then here’s the weird part. When I pulled the coupon out of my purse, the lady behind the desk said, “Oh, if you use coupon, you need cash.” What? I politely said, “No problem, I’ll just run across the street.”

Which I did. And I kept going. I got in my car, and I found another salon that had recently opened much closer to my house. They were offering a 15 percent grand opening discount which put me right back at the $30 price point. And they were really lovely people with a nice, clean salon … that did not smell.

Okay, so here’s the lessons learned.

If you are a business that is trying to bring in new customers, targeted coupons through the various neighborhood outlets (like ValPak, Reach, Great Deals, etc) are a good way to go. They provide businesses with a very trackable “return on investment.” A business owner knows how well it works simply by counting the number of coupon redemptions and ROI is easily calculated.

However, simply getting someone in the door doesn’t instantly ensure success. Consumers have expectations of cleanliness, customer service and acceptable quality of product that are essential to closing the sale. And, ideally, you want to retain that client – you want them to have an awesome FIRST experience so they come back again. That’s how to build a business.

So, before you invest marketing dollars in ANY type of advertising or even in a public relations program, make sure your product or service delivers on basic consumer expectations. As my experience proved, even when looking for a “discount,” there is a definite tipping point at which a consumer will bolt. And there’s another product or service provider right up the street who is happy to provide that consumer with the experience they desire.

As the clouds break this morning to cooler temperatures, a sad day is on tap. Funeral for a truly wonderful gentlemen who will be sorely missed by family and friends alike; know that many stories will be shared today about his acts of kindness and servitude. RIP Zig.


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