L.L. Bean’s Powerful Guarantee

Guaranteed. You have our word.

How much clearer can you get?

What a powerful customer service guarantee!

Here’s the body copy from L.L. Bean’s Website:

I’ve been a huge fan of L.L. Bean for years and became an even bigger fan last Friday.

L.L. Bean Field Coat Saddle

Last week, I was getting my favorite coat out of my closet for Fall – an original L.L. Bean Field Coat in Saddle – and making my plans to head to my alma mater Kent State’s homecoming.

Suddenly, I realized that I’ve been wearing this Field Coat (created in 1924) for nearly 15 years! I love it and there is still absolutely nothing wrong with it – it’s a terrific coat – but I’ve been wearing this jacket to homecoming every year!

I went through some old photos and proved it!

L.L. Bean Field Coat Stone

So, I went online and decided to get a new Stone Field Coat which is better than my old one and about the same price that I paid years ago! It’s a fantastic coat, but what amazes me about L.L. Bean is how they’ve stayed true to their roots and excelled as a private, family business.

If you’re trying hard to build your business the right way and need a little hope, grab a coffee and read L.L. Bean’s fascinating, refreshing story – their principles when they were small are the same as they are today when L.L. Bean remarked,

“I do not consider a sale complete until goods are worn out
and customer still satisfied.”

From my experiences, I’m not surprised that L.L. Bean was once again the first place winner (tops 3 of 5 years) selected by shoppers in the annual NRF Foundation/American Express® Customers’ Choice survey back in January.  According to shoppers, the top ten* retailers for customer service are:

  1. L.L.Bean
  2. Overstock.com
  3. Zappos.com
  4. Amazon.com
  5. QVC
  6. Coldwater Creek
  7. HSN
  8. Lands’ End
  9. JCPenney
  10. Kohl’s, and Nordstrom (tied)

I know it’s hard for small to medium sized businesses to sometimes wrap their heads around the successes and lessons to be learned from larger brands, but you can learn a ton from L.L. Bean’s commitment to customer service, satisfaction, quality, systems and innovation.

Go online and buy something from L.L. Bean or even better, call in an order and you’ll be WOWED!


P.S.: Here’s a great interview from L.L. Bean’s president Chris McCormick about L.L. Bean’s customer service secrets.


3 Secrets to Achieving Social Media Success

If you want to be a successful, profitable brand via Social Media Marketing, first remember one thing above all – it’s not about the tools, so don’t be one!

The secrets to success in life and business are so basically simple (certainly putting them to practice requires focus, hard work ) that we get so caught up in tools, investments and processes that we lose sight of the easiest ways to get from Point A to Point B.

For example:

  • If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more. Burn up more calories than you consume.
  • To find love in your life, first be a loving person. Give and you shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened etc.
  • If you want to be treated nice, follow the Golden Rule and on and on

Brands today get so caught up in the the “new new” tools of Social Media (Blogs, Twitter Facebook etc.,) that they lose sight of the true secrets of success. The reason I call them secrets is because most brands are unaware of them, avoid them or think they’ve already uncovered and accomplished them, but they’re not even close.

And, these secrets are not tasks you complete once and move on, rather they’re they’re three pillars of success that need to be strengthened every day through a brand’s daily actions.

Here are my three secrets to Social Media Success.

1. Build a Rock Solid Brand of Character and Integrity – Are you a stand up brand when no one is watching? Do you keep and deliver on your promises? Do you follow your ethical standards in tough times? Not easy to do, but certainly doable.

Check out Gallup Ethical Standards ranking of people in the various fields listed below. Take for example, “business people” – only 12% say they have very high/high standards. Don’t you think we can all work a bit harder on building our reputations than another Facebook Fan Page?

If/when you do, your customers and acquaintances in the Social Media world will be banging their Social Media Marketing drums, praising your name!

Gallup Ethical Standards 11.09

2. Deliver REMARKable Products and Services – Do you simply produce a product or service to get by or do you really “bring it and WOW people!” Are your standards and expectations higher than the norm? Do you sometimes hit them or blow them away all the time? Do you work hard to surprise and delight your team members and customers? Do you deliver a truly unique, meaningful and memorable experience?

When the REMARKable Susan Boyle performed awhile back on Britain’s Got Talent, her authentic, transparent and awesome talent delivered a a truly unique, unexpected (can you say, “WOW”) meaningful and memorable experience?

And, in a few hours/days, 100+ Million Youtube Views were achieved and she became a richer person and a household name.

The REMARKable Brand of Susan Boyle

3. Be a Servant Leader – Lead from Behind

Finally, brand leaders would do well to remember that the most successful ones long-term lead best by serving the needs of their people. In a servant leadership based brand, the leader’s role is one of a resource (people, capital etc.,) steward and encourages leaders to serve others while staying focused on achieving results in line with the organization’s values and integrity.

People (customers, vendors and employees) want to be aligned with brands they respect, value and admire and servant leadership driven brands deliver on every one.

10 Key Servant Leader Traits

If brands today would simply work hard to lead and improve their business in these three key ways, the social media world would take care of the rest and freely spread their good news and great stories using their Social Media Marketing tools!


New iPad Wine List Rocks

I got my new iPad back in May – a moment in time I’ll always refer to as my “Christmas in May” and am having a love affair with it.

Sure there are things about the iPad that I wished it had, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

When I started to play with the iPad, I started to think thought long and hard about how we can apply it to improve our client’s business.

We do a ton of hospitality marketing work and this past summer, one of our great clients, Kevin Joyce owner of The Carlton Restaurant in Pittsburgh had closed his restaurant for two months for a much needed remodel after 25 years in business.

Kevin called me to go over some new ideas to kick off the new restaurant with a bang –  especially since his reopening was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, August 18 – opening night of Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Center with a concert by Sir Paul McCartney.

One of my first thoughts, was what could we do to:

  1. Reaffirm the fact that The Carlton has the biggest and best wine lists (15+ year Wine Spectator Award winner) – Great Wine is a big USP for the restaurant
  2. Complement The Carlton’s new 450 bottle wine library – the restaurant’s soul
  3. Showcase the fact that The Carlton offers the best wine dinners in Pittsburgh

In a snap, we thought, “Create an iPad Wine List to replace The Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list.” Using an iPad wine list would create a “halo” effect of flawless contemporary execution of the Carlton’s 45 page paper wine list and separate them even more so from the pack of restaurants they compete against.

As an aside – I know I may be biased, but I think The Carlton i the best restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh and I thought that fact to be true long before I started working for them…anyway…

Instinctively back in May, we Googled “iPad wine list” and could not find any U.S. restaurant using iPads for menus, but we found a great story about an Australian restaurant that swapped out its menus for iPads.

Kevin and I must have been doing a “Vulcan Mind Meld” at the time, because when we called him, he said he saw the Aussie story  and was ready to rock.

Our iPad wine list is not as aggressive as the Aussie menu – we prefer to walk before we run with the wine list first then potentially move to the food menu – but I can tell you that the iPad has significantly improved The Carlton’s brand image of Pittsburgh’s premier dining and wine establishment and improved wine sales too – customers love it!

We’ll soon cut a brief video explaining how the wine list works, but know these things:

  1. The iPad can be used to help lift your business
  2. Look for products and/or service executions that create brand “halo” USPs
  3. It’s better to phase in technology improvements to your business to flawlessly execute and gain an immediate WOW from your customers before someone else comes along and steals your marketing thunder and you look like a market follower and/or a “me too” brand**
  4. Great clients make great marketing firms

**Note: In the time we started to work on and launch The Carlton’s iPad wine list, there have been major news articles about iPad wine lists in use at Central Park South Gate restaurant (7.2.10),  Bones in Atlanta (9.13.10), III Forks in Jacksonville (8.11.10), but hey The Carlton had the first iPad wine list in Pennsylvania! More news to come as we continue to improve our iPad wine list effort.


Always Aim to be the Best

We work with clients of all shapes and sizes – from struggling start up moms and pops to thriving market dominating multi-million dollar enterprises.

Recently, we were blessed to be introduced to Steve and Jen MacBride, a young married couple and co-owner/operators of The Archer’s Edge (TAE) in Oakdale, PA.

We assisted in their Grand Opening this past Saturday on National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Check out this news segment of The Archer’s Edge featuring Steve and reporter Kelly Frey of Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV (ABC affiliate) which will give you a good feel of the place.

Pretty good priceless PR for rookies – we’re so proud of them.

Proud because they deserve it. Proud because they “bring it.”

I’ve only known the MacBride’s for a few weeks, but I was impressed by them from the start and their desire to do great things.

I’m always surprised and saddened to visit businesses that simply just go along with the flow doing mediocre work and have no processes in place to “WOW” you. It’s all so boring, average, mediocre, dangerous and unnecessary.

Steve and Jen WOW you. Here are a few ways they WOW me.

  1. They have a ton of enthusiasm and passion for their new business, because they love archery and their enthusiasm is contagious
  2. They’re resilient because of their love of archery. They experienced a boatload of unfortunate and unforeseen challenges prior to launch, but their passion overrode all of them
  3. They “bring it” – enthusiasm, attention to detail, passion, excellence to their work
  4. Their goal is to be THE best archery center in Pittsburgh – not one of the best

I’m not a hunter and our business with TAE will not finance my retirement, but I’m a HUGE fan. Sure we’ve helped them a bit along the way with their PR and Marketing and will continue to offer our services. However, because their aim is to be the best (and they have plans to be), their future looks to b a bright one. We’re big fans and we will bust our tails to help them achieve their goals.

Great clients like the MacBrides make great marketing firms like us (we’ve got their back now) and when you build that kind of relationship everyone wins!

Always aim high!

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
– Les Brown

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s heaven for?”
– Robert Browning

“If you reach for the stars, you might not quite get one,
but you won’t end up with a handful of mud, either.”

– Leo Burnett


My Sorry Chat with Comcast

For the past few weeks, my office internet speed has been giving me fits. My connection speed at times has fluctuated from its top speed (yes – I pay extra for a faster connection) to as slow as dial-up (I have an on screen monitor) and has disconnected my staff and me from time to time.

So, I decided to give Comcast Live Chat a try – it’s more convenient than making a call for me and I’m sure more profitable for Comcast.

When you check out the Chat session I had last week with Comcast my internet provider (see below), a few glaring issues should bubble up.

1. Note the overabundance of apologies

2. How about having the audacity to try to sell me something – a disgruntled customer –  when he/she is in the middle of trying to solve a problem

3. What’s the deal with doing maintenance during peak hours – 4PM EST – even she get’s disconnected from me

4. Why should they ask me to call back and go through their voice prompts, go on hold etc., when they haven’t solved my problem, THEY should call ME back at a convenient time that’s best for ME

If companies would simply invest more in their systems and build better products on the front end, they’d be amazed at how much money they’d save (be more profitable) by saving on deal riddled advertising and customer care.

Their word of mouth referral business would go through the roof. I’d like to meet one person who has raved about their internet provider’s service.

Net – I’m researching Verizon’s FIOS.

user stephen_ has entered room

Stephen(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:40:25 GMT-0400 (EST))>

internet speed is dragging  - at times as slow asdial-up -
been going on for 4 weeks - off and on

analyst Annie has entered room

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:40:47 GMT-0400 (EST))>

Hello stephen_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support.
My name is Annie. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:41:03 GMT-0400 (EST))>

I'm sorry if this has caused you inconvenience in any way.
I am happy to have you on this chat to be of service to you.
We remain committed in providing you with the best customer service.
I can certainly assist you with your internet.

stephen_(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:41:33 GMT-0400 (EST))>


Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:41:44 GMT-0400 (EST))>

You are most welcome.

stephen_(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:42:58 GMT-0400 (EST))>

any thoughts on why my connection is dragging slow?

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:43:25 GMT-0400 (EST))>

I am sorry to know that you are getting a slow internet connection,

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:43:37 GMT-0400 (EST))>

I would be glad to assist you with your internet problem.

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:43:43 GMT-0400 (EST))>

Let me first pull up your account. Please verify your account number,
full name and the last four digits of your SSN.

stephen_(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:44:49 GMT-0400 (EST))>

dont have account number with me - name is Stephen Wayhart,
company BrandMill - XXXX

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:45:04 GMT-0400 (EST))>

Thank you for that information.

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:45:15 GMT-0400 (EST))>

Please give me one moment to pull up your account.

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:45:21 GMT-0400 (EST))>

While waiting, please allow me to take this oppurtunity
to share with you one of the main features that you can
get with Comcast which is our online site,
http://www.fancast.com. It offers full television episodes,
full-length feature films, trailers and video clips to
both Comcast subscribers and non-subscribers. If you missed
out on your favorite TV shows, you do not need to
worry next time. Certainly you will enjoy this feature
as another innovation, only from Comcast.

stephen_(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:48:45 GMT-0400 (EST))>


Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:49:18 GMT-0400 (EST))>

Thank you for patiently waiting, Stephen.

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:49:25 GMT-0400 (EST))>

I apologize for the delay.

stephen_(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:49:48 GMT-0400 (EST))>


Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:50:11 GMT-0400 (EST))>

I am sorry but the system is slow right now.

analyst Annie has been temporarily disconnected.
Please wait while the analyst attempts to reconnect.

analyst Annie has entered room

stephen_(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:50:53 GMT-0400 (EST))>


Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:51:33 GMT-0400 (EST))>

I do apologize for the inconvenience that this has caused you,

Annie(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:53:12 GMT-0400 (EST))>

I do apologize that  our tool is not available at the moment
since it is currently under weekly maintenance. But don’t worry,
there is an account set up for you already, it's just that
the password is not accessible yet.  If it is okay with you,
you can chat back with us after two to four hours, when
the maintenance is completed. I will make a priority note
on your account that you will need your internet service.
That way, when you call or chat back with us, it will be
given to you right away. You are a valued customer so I
will tag it as a top priority. Again, I really apologize
for this inconvenience. But rest assured that after two to
four, you will have your internet service.

stephen_(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:54:20 GMT-0400 (EST))>


stephen_(Tue Jul 27 2010 15:57:39 GMT-0400 (EST))>


American Idol’s One Big Marketing Lesson

I’ve never been one to watch much TV and running your own company doesn’t leave you much time at all, but I’ve found myself tuning in to American Idol a lot. Love Siobhan, love Crystal’s talent too, but too much cocky attitude for me. Lee’s my fave guy…OK that’s enough. Oh yeah, I’m into it big time.

What’s been driving my nuts about this show is this over used contestant quote that seems to arise every time someone’s performance tanks, “I had fun…I was just trying to have some fun with it.”

Are you kidding me?

I don’t care if you’re on American Idol’s stage, your high school’s stage or a kindergarten school stage and you have non-speaking role as a tree or a rock  – you have to bring it!

Have fun later counting your money or bowing to a genuine applause.

And, if you’re in it to win it – you better be or don’t waste everyone’s time – listen to the judges (or in business your customers, sales receipts, food critics etc.,). It’s amazing to me how few of these kids actually listen to the judges who have been around the block a few times. They’d rather pay more attention to the over the top audiences who give everyone a standing “O” whether the rock or not.

These are the same Little League parents who give trophy’s to every team regardless of where they finished. Thanks Mom and Dad!

BTW – Do you notice how the word “great” is used so many times – not just on AI, but generally speaking? Ugh!

When these AI kids tank and say, “I had fun,” (when it’s clear the judges and I didn’t have any fun at all) I just want to reach through my TV and slap them. I’ve been waiting for one of the judges – Simon or Ellen would be perfect – to say, “Well we’re not having fun listening to you, so STOP IT!

These “having fun” kids are choosing songs they feel are safe simply because they’re afraid to fail. Are you like them in business?

Put another way, instead of trying to win…they’re trying not to lose…they’re not giving it their all and leaving everything out on the stage.

Note:  Similar to the NFL’s “prevent defense” – I hate it – worst scheme ever designed – that’s another post.

If these kids gave their performances everything they had – and not be afraid of failing –  there would be less tears because they knew deep in their heart they gave it their very best and they’ll sleep better at night.

Live with no regrets.

It’s certainly been true for me. And, I see it in business every day with the lack of breakthrough ideas and vanilla milkshake task mentality efforts.

A few months ago on one of the world’s biggest stages – the Winter Olympics – if you paid attention to sports like downhill skiing, you’ll see that those who really pushed it and got on the edges of their skis either broke world records or crashed – there’s no in between – but both kinds of skiers probably slept well at night knowing they gave it their all.

Breakthrough, WOW performances are always a delicate balance between “edgy” efforts and crashes – both are memorable!

However, if you’re just trying to have fun, boring and in middle road – I guarantee that you’ll get run over!

P.S.: One more thing.  Notice how the judges often say, “I think” which is weak language. Instead of saying something like, “I think that was your worst performance ever.” Say, “That was your worst performance ever.” Much stronger and effective use if language.


Making Your Internet Search Experience Easier

Making common repeatable things easy for people to do is great way to stand out from the crowd and make money too.

Internet search engine fatigue is a biggie for me – and for over 70% of you too – and AllMyFaves has been a godsend to me. It’s a simple virtual and visual directory that includes a list of top and most visited sites in major daily-used subject categories such as Blogs, Entertainment, Games, Kids Shopping, Travel and Weekly Favs, but the Home Page alone is awesome.

AllMyFaves is an interesting customer service model for a self help tool.  And, it’s a great model for those of us looking to drive revenue because making things easier for time starved people is a killer strategy and will always be a welcome one.

Are you easy to do business with? Are there ways to improve your processes to improve your “easiness?” Can you improve your messages (e.g., Web site) with more visuals and/ore better design? Is it easy to search your own Web site and find things?

Study AllMyFaves and I’m sure you’ll find a few ideas to apply to your business and improve your quality of internet search life at the very same time.

Check out the AllMyFaves story here.


AMA Pittsburgh Marketer of the Year

Over the next two days, we’re participating in two separate presentations to the Pittsburgh American Marketing Association at the Duquesne Club downtown and to students at Chatham University.

My client John Graf – co-owner of the Priory Hospitality Group – and I are co-presenting and will review the success of our Winter White Wedding program which has driven first quarter wedding bookings by 400% and continues to rock – it helped us win the Pittsburgh American Marketing Association’s Grand Marketer of the Year Award!

The Priory’s Winter White Weddings are a true testament to the success of  “Blue Ocean Strategies” that profitably transform brands by pursuing low cost brand differentiation that makes your competition irrelevant.

To help you sail in Blue Oceans, click this link to review the Priory’s PowerPoint deck:
AMA Pittsburgh Marketer of the Year Priory Hotel 3.16.10


Sound Marketing Advice

There’s a great article in Fast Company about the, “The 10 Most Addictive Sounds in the World,” by Martin Lindstrom.

Lindstrom’s neuroscience based hypothesis contends that over 80% of today’s marketing messages are based on sight and a brand is not maximizing its communications when it forgoes appealing to a person’s other senses. And, sound is underutilized!

Take a quick quiz here.

I’ve certainly witnessed the appeal of sound in automotive, amusement park and restaurant marketing (e.g., background music, worker noise levels etc.,) and found it fascinating that when the sound was removed from slot machines in Las Vegas, revenue fell by 24%!

Be more aware of the power of sound because when your customers can hear your sizzling steaks, you’ll hear your cash register ring more loudly!


Irish Asked to Boycott Denny’s

File this Blog post in your, “What were they thinking” folder!

From very reliable and ticked off sources, I understand that Denny’s restaurants have been airing a disrespectful television commercial degrading the Irish by offering unlimited pancakes or fries in celebration of the ending of the Irish Famine.

Mama Mia!

If this is a joke, it’s not even close to being funny. The Irish Potato famine (An Gorta Mor) which caused the suffering and death of 1.5 million Irish due to forced starvation and related diseases is nothing to celebrate.

It’s a blatant insult to the Irish and they’re mobilizing.

For you Brands involved in Social Media Marketing watch how this unfolds.

I’m sure Denny’s will pull the Ad, and some talking head (whose head and whose mini-me heads should roll) will say, “I take full responsibility…yadda…yadda.”

But, is a simple apology enough? I don’t think so.

Watch the Irish mobilize and give Denny’s their own version of a Grand Slam – the marketing bozos at Denny’s deserve it!

Here’s a protest letter (AOH Denny’s Letter) from the president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

First, they offend African Americans (who knows how many other people since) and are made to pay $54 million in Race Bias Suits, and now this asinine insulting ad?

As a marketer (and a restaurant and hospitaly marketer too), I’ve been amazed by the amount of positive coverage (Super Bowl Ad) in the mainstream marketing media about Denny’s Free One Day Breakfast campaigns.

As for me, I prefer a Denny’s tagline in Time Magazine, “Denny’s: Where the Food Is Free and Drunks Can Pee!” because I believe in truth in advertising!

Full disclosure – I’m 50% Irish and a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. And, I haven’t been a big fan of Denny’s since the African American incident. I go out of my way to get my eggs over medium at a local independent Mom and Pop joints and will continue to do so.  I suggest you join me.

FYI – I called the following Denny’s Customer Service number (1.800.733.6697) to demand that they pull this ad off the air, and they said, “I apologize and we’re aware of people’s concerns and we’re working to pull the ad.”

Some answer.

Note: The old days of a customer telling 9-12 people of her negative experience is way over.  With Social Media, it could be thousands. Brands need to raise their game, because if/when you pull a stupid act like Denny’s, you’re going to get blasted!