First Satisfy The Needs Of Your Customers

My uncle Menke was the most interesting person I’ve ever known. He came to this country from his native Lithuania at the age of 12, and in the course of 85 years of life became an award winning, world renowned poet with 20 books to his credit. He was also a lifelong vegetarian, a musician and all in all, a very entertaining man.

According to family lore, Menke got hired to be a guide at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, with the job of directing people to whatever particular exhibit they were interested in seeing.

The only problem was that Menke had a terrible sense of direction.

Now while some less confident people might have considered this an obstacle, Menke came up with a solution. Realizing that he was more skilled at persuading than guiding, Menke learned the route to just one exhibit — The General Motors Pavilion — and proceeded to convince every single person who asked for directions that this was the place they should see. No matter what they wanted, GM was the answer.

As the story goes, this strategy worked well for about a day and a half, until finally one patron became so incensed at Menke’s refusal to help him go someplace else, that he complained to management and Menke got fired.

Menke was a gifted poet, but a lousy businessman.

He learned the hard way that no matter how much you may benefit from steering people in a particular direction, customers want to go where they want to go and do what they want to do. The only way to prosper in the long term (and I’m assuming you plan on being around for the long term) is to find ways to put their needs before yours.

With that in mind, take a look at your web site:

• Do you deliberately omit your phone number on the site because you, “don’t want to encourage calls?”

• Do you only send out a link to your electronic newsletter when you publish it rather than include the text as well in the email because you, “want to make them come to our site?”

• Do you require name, rank and serial number from people who request information because you, “want to capture their information so that we can market to them in the future.”

My recommendation is that you assess your current approach with an eye towards helping customers get what they want in whatever way they want it.

I worked with a company where we allowed customers to go to the web site and request that a printed brochure be sent to them in the mail. Why anybody would prefer to wait two days to read the same information that is right in front of them is beyond me, but people kept requesting the brochures and we happily sent them along.

By the way, this isn’t theoretical, altruistic, “let’s be nice guys” stuff. This approach to business (i.e. put your customer’s needs first) is intended to grow your business more quickly and with less cost. If you want proof that it works, start treating your family and friends from the perspective of “what’s in it for me,” and let me know if your life gets easier or harder. What makes you think your customers won’t respond the same way?

See you next issue, and as my uncle Menke would say, “L’Chaim!”

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