"Chief Penguin" Helps Break the Ice with Customers
By Cathy Flynn / Crier Staff Writer
Friday, September 6, 2002

New acquaintances often ask Michael Katz why he named his electronic newsletter consulting business "Blue Penguin Development." He looks them straight in the eye and says, with a straight face: "I was raised by penguins."

After watching the reaction, Katz breaks into a chuckle. With the ice broken, he talks about what it takes to build customer relationships and sales.

The penguin motif does three things, Katz said. It filters out people who don't get what he's trying to do...people whom he says he wouldn't want to work with anyway. It distinguishes his business from others with less-memorable names. And it immediately creates interest.

That sums up Katz's marketing advice to his clients: Set yourself apart from the crowd. Target the right potential customers, instead of trying to reach everybody. Then help them get to know you better.

"I help companies improve their sales by showing them how to market to their existing relationships," says Katz, whose business card includes the title "chief penguin."

"Electronic newsletters are the best tool for communicating with people you already know. Many companies spend 90 percent or more of their money talking to strangers, but it's five to 10 times easier to market to people you know. You just need to find a way to keep them coming back to you."

Katz, who spent 12 years at MediaOne before striking out on his own, is also the author of a book, "E-Newsletters that Work: The Small Business Owner's Guide to Creating, Writing and Publishing an Effective Electronic Newsletter." He lives with his family in Hopkinton and has an office on Main Street in Milford.

He helps his clients develop electronic newsletters that set them apart and strengthen relationships with current customers and with acquaintances.

"Most professional service firms are selling a commodity, whether it's a consulting service or headhunter," Katz said. The more you're selling a commodity, the more important is the relationship.

"Customer intimacy increases sales because people enjoy doing business with someone they like," he said. "It's like coming back to the same coffee shop because the people are friendly, or like going to the neighborhood hardware store vs. Home Depot.

"All things being equal — and even if things are a little unequal — people will do business with the nice guy. That's why we haven't seen the death of the local hardware store. People will make a decision on the basis of relationships, then find a way to make the rest of it work."

Electronic newsletters are an ideal medium for nurturing relationships, whether it's with an important client or "the person you met yesterday," Katz said. He sends his own newsletter to acquaintances as well as to his clients, many of them professional services firms. The newsletter establishes him as an authority on electronic newsletters and further distinguishes him from the large pack of marketing consultants.

"Most consultants say they do every kind of marketing," he says. "I want people to remember electronic newsletters when they think of me."

The Blue Penguin name, and the friendly-looking penguin that adorns all his communications, does help others to remember him.

"I belong to the Society of Professional Consultants, and so many consultants have names like 'Katz and Associates,'" Katz says. "We all know that there are no other associates — most small businesses are one person operating alone. So many small businesses are self-conscious about being small. But to me, being small makes it easier to promote my business with clients. My clients have my home phone number and my full attention."

© Copyright 2002 Community Newspaper Company