I realize many readers of our blog may not be card carrying members of the Bill Maher Fan Club, but his recent column in The New York Times is worth considering. Additionally, Ragan.com asked whether the bevy of businesses and brands apologizing lately should also heed Maher’s advice.
If it weren’t for throwing conniption fits, we wouldn’t get any exercise at all.
I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.
If that doesn’t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.
The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.
When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.
BusinessWeek offers thoughts on how to turn around a struggling business by studying your customers and paying close attention to your brand:
As you study your customers, look for things that aren’t working for them. The better you understand the pain points within and around your industry, the better you can enhance your brand’s relevance. Run-flat tires reduce the inconvenience (and danger) people feel when they run over a nail. Satellite radio eliminates the annoyance of static on lonely interstate highways. The Egg McMuffin lessens the hassle of eating in the car. Even minor enhancements can have a major impact on customer satisfaction, from a curved shower rod (who would have thought you could keep that clingy curtain at bay) to a Web form that remembers personal data (key in my address? again?) to a simple apple slicer (great for you and me, even if it’s not so good for Band-Aid).
Once you have a solid list of pain points, brainstorm about how you might relieve them. This is where understanding the changing lifestyles of your target is vital, as it gives you a sense of what they’ll be wanting/needing/expecting down the road. Some new ideas may require a costly and significant overhaul of the way you do business, while others will only require a simple process change, ordering option, or service enhancement. Over time you’ll probably implement a variety of ideas encompassing all of the above.
Need a head start? Try imagining solutions from the perspective of well-known, well-respected brands. For each pain point, ask: "How would Nordstrom (JWN) overcome this problem if they were in our business?" "How would Southwest Airlines (LUV) approach this challenge?" "What would the Marines Corps do about this issue?" Nike (NKE), Ritz-Carlton, Harley-Davidson (HOG), the Mayo Clinic—you can drop any number of companies into this equation that will cause you to consider different ways of relieving the pain. Many of your ideas won’t be practical (and some may not even be possible), but the exercise will open your mind to creative solutions.
Regardless of how you go about innovating, make sure you’re continually pursuing the next thing, because a company’s commitment to staying relevant must never cease. As you consistently address your customers’ evolving expectations and overcome the things that frustrate them, improvements that by themselves may only be measured in inches will move your company miles from where it is today. That’s where your customers will be. As long as you’re there to meet them, they’re likely to stick around.
NEWS ALERT: Apparently, Michael Phelps is a big deal.
While his accomplishments in the pool have rendered him an archetype in his sport with legendary status, it’s the personal revenue machine he’s generated that might be equally appealing to capitalists everywhere. This article on ESPN.com is quite telling, and explains how Phelps could end up taking in over $100 million from the global business community.
Eight gold medals in one Olympiad are cool, I guess. I’ll only take mild offense that similar financial accolades were never tossed my way when my Lil’ Steelers bested the previously undefeated Lions in the 1986 Boone County Pee Wee Youth Football Championship. Pretty impressive milestone, but whatever.