Category Archives: Marketing Examples

The Irrelevancy of Fresh Pupperoni

Bentley and Buddy Beagle adore Pupperoni and dog bacon strips. Not too long ago, I noticed the bags were different. They enabled me to tear off the top, but then reseal them with a locking mechanism such as you’d find on the cold cuts you buy in the supermarket.

It never occurred to me to keep the dog treats “fresh.” The dogs loved them equally when they became somewhat harder in composition, I’m assuming (neither dog would sit for an interview) that the flavor was still excellent and the crunchiness an added benefit. After all, dogs love hard biscuits because they enjoy crunching things.

So I ran a test (I have a lot of time on my hands) and compared their reactions to “fresh” and sealed Pupperoni, and unsealed and “stale” Pupperoni. There was no difference whatsoever in aggressiveness to grab one, or haste in devouring it. To the dogs, the quality and experience were equal.

Why would a company make a more expensive bag when preserving the contents are unimportant to the end user? Because the intent is to better influence the buyer. Dogs don’t buy these treats, people do. And some people, mistakenly in my belief, think that sealed Pupperoni will last longer or taste better.

The same applies to most sales. Complex fishing lures aren’t made for fish, they are made for fishermen. Fish are dumb, and they’ll bite almost anything, and repeatedly. A fish’s memory lasts perhaps four seconds. Fishermen have slightly longer ones.

As you market and sell your services, keep in mind that it’s the buyer’s perception which is usually the determinant, not some greater reality, ultimate customer use, or your own analysis. That’s why people “rinse and repeat,” thereby using twice the shampoo volume (and product) they really need to. No one’s hair is that dirty. But their perception is that the company has an instruction on the label in their best interest.

So the next time you’re taking the time to decide among liver, poultry, or chicken-flavored dog food, save the time. The dogs don’t care, and you shouldn’t, either.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Customer ROI

The Peninsula Hotel in New York is one of my favorite hotels.

I arrived late yesterday, because of a delayed train, and when the limo deposited me in front of the hotel an assistant manager said, “Welcome back, Dr. Weiss. May I escort you to your room?” I casually asked on the elevator if I was upgraded by American Express.

“Oh, we double upgraded you,” she said, “to your favorite suite.”

The Peninsula is expensive, but I can walk to my meetings and shopping and to the theater, it’s 10 minutes away from Penn Station, and they know how to treat their best customers.

If you want to earn high fees, you must provide high value and recognize who your best customers (and potential customers) are—I call them “your ideal buyers.” You have limited time and resources. Focus them on the largest potential return.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Directing Traffic

Restaurants here in Bali hire people to direct traffic in and out of their parking lots, because the street traffic is so heavy that drivers otherwise wouldn’t be able to make the turns. They have lighted rods and whistles. The church we attended, in order to accommodate the maximum amount of worshippers in its lot, has attendants who parked the cars in a great, solid mass. But after services, they adroitly directed people out with a minimum of waiting.

What are you doing to direct people out of the “traffic” and the noise and into your business? Do you have features that light the way and allow people to turn to you?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Free Ride

Big headlines today about car service Uber raising around $18 billion, surpassing all start-ups except Facebook. Uber is a brilliant idea, but what happens from here?

Obviously, there will be competitive entries from others, offering cheaper rates or particular vehicles. Perhaps cab companies will embrace the technology and use their massive fleets to out-hustle Uber. Perhaps, instead of an app, a competitor will offer something you can carry on your key chain to summon a vehicle.

But here’s another thought: We’re riding around to local restaurants in Beverly Hill for free in the Peninsula Hotel’s Rolls Royce. There is no charge at all, save a tip to the driver. Other hotels around the world do the same thing, though not always with this level of vehicular excellence. (Even in Beverly Hills, a Rolls discharging you at a restaurant draws carefully veiled stares. What show are we producing?)

My point is “the free ride.” The hotel accommodates this expense in return for loyal guests in expensive rooms. They can charge a higher rent to the jewelry stores on the property, and provide more expensive food and drink. They will get more referral business (which they’re getting right here in this column).

What if Amazon or Barnes and Noble provided free books which were subsidized by advertising within them? What if newspapers stopped the inefficient and expensive revenue generator of subscriptions, and relied solely on more expensive advertising rates (spurred by technology’s ability to identify and isolate ideal readers for various offerings)? I’ve often thought that restaurants that charge for valet parking are silly—it ought to be free for “frequent diners” just as hotels should offer it for free to certain guests.

We get free internet access in many airports by agreeing to listen to a 30-second commercial first. Could you run a short-haul air flight for free if there were a product demonstration during the trip? How about a free rental car if you agree to visit a time share demonstration?

Using the house car is a considerable benefit. Although it’s build into the hotel cost structure and charges, it certainly seems free (just as frequent flyer miles seem free). There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but apparently there is a free ride.

And that might just be the next big thing.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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I passed a property today that had been for sale for some time, and saw the prominent SOLD notice pasted over the “for sale” sign. I wondered for an instant why the realtor would take the time and expense to maintain a “sold” sign, then quickly realized it was great advertising.

Just as quickly, I wondered why consultants don’t post SOLD on past business. What would that look like? Well try this:


• Who is a leader in health care innovation? The Acme Pharma Company.

• Who is the global standard in hospitality? The Omega Hotel chain.

• Who is the best known brand in timepieces? The Chrono Stores.

• And who does Acme Pharma, Omega Hotels, and Chrono Stores choose as a trusted advisor? Joan Essex of Essex Consulting.


The statements are public knowledge and supportable. The consultant is not claiming she’s responsible for the statements, simply that those outstanding firms have hired her.



© Alan Weiss 2014

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Promo Made for Shark Tank Judging at San Diego Convention

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Brilliant Marketing

At the Four Season here in Palm Beach they take clients seriously. Later this year I’m conducting my fifth Thought Leadership Conference here. The sales manager investigated my background, and one of our daily amenities reflects my love of (and former) cars, spun sugar created by the chef. Any wonders why I love it here?

I've owned three Ferraris.

I’ve owned three Ferraris.

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Lisa Nirell interviews Alan Weiss

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Lessons on Thought Leadership

We’re going into the second day of my annual Thought Leadership Conference in Florida. Margaret Wheatley is our guest tomorrow, following Marshall Goldsmith and David Maister in prior years. Next year, Dan Pink has already committed.

Some lessons from the first day:

• You’re not a thought leader until others proclaim you as such.

• You can take the position that there’s “nothing new under the sun” and be cynical, or you can adapt ideas for key, changing variables in the economy, technology, demographics, and social mores.

• You need to tell people what will help them, not strive to achieve consensus. You need to be prescriptive, not solely diagnostic. Thought leaders evolve and change their minds.

• You must be edgy, provocative, controversial, even contrarian whenever possible. You have to stand out in a crowd, not disappear within it.

• Focus and discipline are essential. “To do” lists are meaningless. Schedule what you need to produce and create, and get it done.

• There is no pride (nor great reward) in being a “best kept secret.”

• Thought leaders create works: books, videos, audio, teleconferences, workshops, speeches, and experiences. The “thought” has to be manifest in terms of pragmatic improvement for others.

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.

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Stop Listening to Customers and Have Them Listen to You

Henry Ford said, famously, that if he had asked customers what they most wanted in transportation they would have replied, “Faster horses.” Steve Jobs’s biography demonstrates that he virtually never asked customers for any feedback, but simply focused on providing exciting products, accepting the occasional dud. Akio Morita invented the Walkman in a complete vacuum of customer demand for such a device.

So why, then, do we still hear of organizations being “customer focused” or “customer driven” or incessantly convening focus groups and feedback mechanisms? I’ll tell you why: Because they’re afraid and out of ideas.

I don’t believe this is the equivalent of the draconian choices on New Hampshire’s license plate, “Live Free of Die.” Sounds like more of a threat than a philosophy. And I frequently listen to my clients who say, “We have critical mass to support this project if you’ll create it for us.” Throw money at me, and I become marvelously attentive.

But I also created a highly successful mentoring program, coaching program, consulting college, million dollar club, and scores of other experiences by simply creating what I felt would be exciting, challenging value for my ideal clients. I try to determine what they would most profit from which they can’t find anywhere else. Hence, high value, high fee. (Interesting how these things correlate, right?)

Banks, airlines, insurance companies, and most industries can’t seem to produce excitement. They stick to the tried and true and until it’s dried and blue. They listen to customers so that they can say, “You told us you wanted this now buy it. If it doesn’t work, it’s your fault.”

Great teachers create excitement for students. Great operations create excitement for customers. They provide value in terms of unknown need, and don’t merely respond to what customers want, which is a commodity, price sensitive business.

What kind of professional services provider are you? Are you trying to react to what clients want and compete on price, or are you creating new need and getting paid for that unexpected value?

It’s not a very hard choice if you want to be sought out and create your own future.

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.

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