Eyes Wide Shut

A new farm stand / grocery store opened in my town yesterday.

That’s relatively big news, given that in doing so, they have literally doubled the number of local places where you can buy a quart of milk, pick up a dozen eggs or push around a squeaky-wheeled, metal carriage.

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They’ve also expanded the job market in town, something which did not go unnoticed by my 15-year-old daughter, Emily, and dozens (hundreds?) of her fellow Hopkinton High School classmates. Many of them applied for a job back in October.

Unfortunately, just a few weeks ago, most of the kids – Emily included – were turned down. Perfectly understandable; you can’t hire everyone.

But that’s not what I want to talk with you about.

It’s not that they didn’t hire most of the kids – it’s the way they didn’t hire them: They sent out form rejection letters. In doing so, they walked right past a colossal opportunity.

Think about this. Let’s say 100 kids applied, most of whom, I’d wager, are now feeling somewhere between “slightly grumpy” and “completely indifferent” at having been turned down. Not bad, no harm done.

But what if, instead of simply “not doing harm,” the grocery store turned this job rejection situation into … a marketing opportunity (cue dramatic music)?

In other words, while from an operational perspective these kids are:

“100 people we need to turn down nicely,”

from a marketing perspective, they represent:

“100 money-spending, food-consuming humans who live in a two-(or more) person household right here in town and who have a demonstrated awareness and interest in our business.”

Do you throw these warm, already-predisposed-to-like-you, business leads whose name and address you have, back into the ocean of strangers, hoping that maybe one day they’ll wander in again?

Or, do you do a few things to cement the relationship?

(I hope you realize those were rhetorical questions.)

Things like, I don’t know…

  • Sending a personal “sorry we couldn’t hire you right now” note to each kid with a store-branded USB drive and a coupon for a free anything in the coffee shop.
  • Inviting the 100 who applied to a special, “applicants only” pre-opening event with refreshments, a group photo and an in-person thank you from the owners.
  • Holding a contest for the best song or drawing or haiku about the new store and giving the winner’s family a year’s supply of free tomatoes (or whatever).

Here’s the point. Most businesses – of any size and of any type – view marketing as an activity done by certain people, with certain job responsibilities, in certain situations.

You revamp your web site … that’s marketing. You attend a networking meeting … that’s marketing. You publish a newsletter … that’s marketing.

All true.

But the way I look at it, everything you do that is visible to the outside world is marketing. (Go ahead, read that sentence again.)

You’re marketing when you take five minutes to reply (or not) to an e-mail question from a stranger. You’re marketing when you miss a deadline. You’re marketing when you send client invoices. And yes, you’re marketing when you turn down job applicants.

Everything you do in public view has the potential to make me more predisposed to talk about and hire you, less predisposed or neutral.

Which means that if you think marketing only happens when “you’re marketing,” you’re leaving a lot – a lot of clients, a lot of opportunity, a lot of money – on the table.

Here’s the bottom line. I have no doubt that over the next several months, that new store is going to spend thousands in local media, in the hope of getting my attention and that of my neighbors.

They may succeed.

But I can think of 100 teenagers who could have guaranteed it.

And speaking of grocery stores, haikus and branded USB drives, post your own, original haiku on the subject of our new grocery store in the comments section here (along with any other, non-haiku thoughts).

I’ll pick the one I like most and will send one lucky winner a year’s supply of tomatoes. I mean, an official blue penguin USB drive (pictured at left).

87 thoughts on “Eyes Wide Shut

  1. Ashley

    The store should have known
    Marketing is everything
    Way to blow that one!

    (Great newsletter once again!! Such great advice, thank you & Happy New Year!)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I think “Form Letters Crush Hopes” should be a bumper sticker! (Maybe even a tattoo.) Thanks Sue!

  2. Linda Davenport

    Don’t leave tomatoes
    or opportunities just
    rotting on the vine.

    Love the newsletter…one of the few things I read every time it lands in my inbox.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Beautiful one, Linda! I like how your sentences carry over to the next line. Very clever indeed!

  3. Rebecca Schatz

    Can’t resist a haiku contest. Here are 2 attempts:

    Foolish grocery store
    Threw teenagers out the door
    Should have make them friends.

    Everything you do
    Should be viewed as marketing
    Penguin USB.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      You’re not a haiku professional, by any chance, are you Rebecca? And of course my immense ego loves the second one!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Maybe I should print these out and slip them all under the door of the store with no explanation?

  4. Larry Grossman

    Kids know it all
    Kids get last laugh
    Katz makes kids stuff out of marketing

    PS If you don’t like this one, I’m certain you will send me a prize anyway…
    I hate to be rejected…

  5. Abby

    reject my baby
    then expect me to pay you?
    no, i reject you

    so true. Great newsletter. importance of sitting in the audience, not just backstage. Thanks, Michael.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thanks Abby! And I agree that that’s so much of the sentiment when it’s your kid going for the job. In fact, I think if they had a party for applicants, they should have invited the families too. Would have been a great event!

  6. Jim Clayton

    Lot of great haikus
    No marketing you do
    Unless you read penguin blue

    I know not suppose to rhyme, but hey … its my comment. 🙂 Michael, I attended your webinar in November and it really helped to crystalize my thinking on pricing and estimating, helped me to untangle mixed thoughts on the subject for me. And, it confirmed that intentionally or not, I was actually doing well despite my mixed feelings. Thank you. I am glad we have virtually connected. Have a great 2012!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m glad we connected too, Jim! And thanks about the webinar. I’m so glad you found it useful.

  7. Michael Katz Post author

    OK, these are all so, so, SO good that I am officially changing the rules: I’m going to pick someone at random as the winner among the entries, rather than try to select a best one. It would be like choosing among my children!

    Or should I say:

    so much gold found here
    impossible to choose one
    pick a name from hat

    Thanks everyone, keep posting!

  8. Kathy

    As always, this newsletter has more great food for thought. Thank you!
    I hope I’m not too late:

    Marketing op missed.
    Business leads dumped; re-think the

  9. Jennifer

    I may have had to
    Google how to Haiku but
    blue penguin is cool

    Yeah, I know, my Haiku doesn’t have anything to do with the store issue…I’m a rebel, what can I say? I agree with one of the other Haiku-ers, yours is one e-newsletter I ALWAYS read. Awesome stuff.

  10. julie thorner

    No haiku here (I’d have to look up it’s rules, but rhyming is much more fun anyway).
    Here ya go:
    An opportunity arrived
    with kids who drive
    parents purchase decisions
    (with way-too-clear precision)
    the new store blew it
    rejections all through it
    they forgot that kids on social media THRIVE.

  11. cindi

    Not a haiku but my 15-year old son wrote this poem about his favorite thing (titled “Food”) for his English assignment yesterday. It includes simile, nomatopoeia and alliteration.

    Food. It’s the way to a man’s heart.
    Veggies fill the space
    when there’s no meat to stuff in the face.
    Pig is perfecton a picnic, but
    cow is cream of the crop.
    Turkey is tasty
    but only when veggies fill the plate.
    Schnitzel, sauerkraut, sausage and spaetzel
    Tacos, tostitos, tamales and taquitos.
    Venison sticks are the “BAM” when Emeril’s food hits the pan.
    Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and grapes,
    and blueberries–you better stay out of my pancake.
    But in the end, chocolate chip cookies win…
    You had me at food.

  12. Judy Haenni

    As the children that were turned down if they would like to help, as volunteers, for the upcoming Easter Egg Hunt with children and other special events where the store is always looking for young leaders to assist other young(er) leaders about giving back to their community.

  13. Kim

    One satisfied customer tells no one
    One dissatisfied customer
    Tells everyone

    Not just that they missed a marketing opportunity (bad enough), but having been in the same position – potential customers can get disgruntled.

    I once had an interview that took half a days preparation, 2 hours travel, 1 hour waiting, 1 hour for the interview and wasn’t even given the courtesy of a reply. Guess what happens when that business comes up in conversation? Good thing I’m ladylike NOT.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Yep. I think the hardest part of the “everything is marketing” concept is remembering it. It’s so easy to get caught up in efficiency and miss the opportunity entirely!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Let me just say that I have a newly acquired appreciation of beets after this past summer, provided they are roasted on the grill. Yum.

  14. Mark Wayland

    Morning Michael….
    Confused and deluded
    What business are we in?
    What do we do?

    It’s the absolute classic: a business making money in spite of themselves

    PS. I’m reading this in the internet lobby of the Novotel Langley Hotel in Perth, Western Australia… some extra points for distance covered…….

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      500 points to you for distance, Mark! Unless we get an entry from Jupiter, I think you will remain in the lead!

  15. Diane

    Didn’t give a hoot about
    About growing their business
    Only veggies and fruit.

    Fun contest, Mike. Who would have thunk so may many people would haiku?
    Always enjoy your newsletter. Be Well.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Thanks Diane. And I know what you mean about how many people participated. The subject of a future newsletter, for sure!

  16. Michael Katz Post author

    Hi Everyone!

    Just a side note related to posting on this blog or any other. Scroll up and down this page and you will notice that the majority of people don’t have their picture next to their posts. Some do (the cool ones).

    Good news! You can be cool too. There’s an easy, free, one time thing you can do which will always put your photo with your posts whenever you comment on a blog. Watch my short video on how to do it here: http://tinyurl.com/3q66phk


  17. Katherine Andes

    Thanks, Michael. It’s because of you that I’m one of the cool ones … I read your original how-to post when it first came out and applied it. Then I passed it on (with credit of course) to my own readers. You’re the bomb!

  18. Michael Katz Post author

    Hello Haiku-ers!

    First off, thanks to everyone for participating. What a great response and so much fun to read these (you are a talented bunch)!

    Second, as I mentioned earlier, I decided to select a winner at random rather than try to pick a “best” one. And, given how many people were involved, I’ve instead picked three names at random as winners of the Official Blue Penguin USBs.

    They are:
    Jennifer Carsen
    Loreen McFaul
    Debby Miller

    Ladies, please send me your contact info/mailing address and your USBs will be on the way!: ContactUs@BluePenguinDevelopment.com

    Thanks again everyone,


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