Category Archives: Rants

Marketing Marketing

The very danger in our new world of constant contact and self-publishing via social networking, blogging and the like is that we can get way too caught up in talking about something rather than doing something.

The darkest side of this black hole is what Steve Rubel has recently labeled “The Lazysphere.” If you’ve somehow missed this post, read it now. It’s true.

The lighter side of this chasm might be worse, because it doesn’t feel bad on the surface. In fact, it feels good. Using us marketers as the example, when you’re passionate about how things get done, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in talking about it rather than doing something about it.

If you don’t keep yourself in check, you become guilty of marketing “marketing,” and nothing else.

For many of us,  a light bulb went off when we started reading Seth’s blog, and we stumbled across MarketingProfs, and we clicked around to find out that there were people out there who loved marketing and were fascinated with how it’s changing before our eyes.

Most importantly, we realized that blogs had opened doors for us to publish our thoughts on it all, while at the same time getting new ideas at a faster rate than ever before. It was nothing short of mesmerizing.

But the need for traffic and links and comments and trackbacks and, most of all, interaction from people who really have something to offer starts skewing what we do, making it all too easy to stop being marketers and start being commentators on the topic of marketing.

We become the armchair quarterbacks of marketing. But where are the skins on the wall?

It’s not just marketers. Bloggers blog about blogging. Preachers get wrapped up in preaching. Psychologists care more about how we think than what we think.

Here’s the point: If we get too enamoured with how marketing takes place without experiencing it first-hand, we’ll be out of touch and eventually irrelevant. The sad thing is that you probably won’t get called out for it, because most people can’t tell the difference (or they don’t have the balls to tell you).

Want a fresh perspective on marketing? Go do some of it. Otherwise, admit to yourself that you’re a sports talk radio host who talks about what the athletes are doing. It’s not a bad thing as long as you’re comfortable with knowing that. You have your hand on the pulse, but you have no effect on it. You are not the heartbeat.

Could You, or Couldn’t You?

It’s time for me to rant on my biggest pet peeve of all time.

Have you ever said that you “could care less?” In other words, someone asks you something, and you respond, “you know, I could care less what they think . . . .”

Well, you’re wrong. It should always be that “you couldn’t care less.” But don’t feel alone; just about everyone I hear using this phrase screws it up, even journalists. And it makes me sick, because people clearly aren’t thinking about what they’re wanting to say, and what they are saying.

What you want to say:
When you’re using this phrase, you’re trying to convey that you don’t care with a certain level of spunk. In other words, there is no level of caring that you can reach regarding the topic, so “you couldn’t care less.” Caring gets no lower than where you’re at right now. Makes sense.

What you actually say:
By telling someone that “you could care less,” you’re telling them that there is a level of caring that you have not yet reached, and therefore logic tells us that, yes, you could care less. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you care much, but it emphatically communicates that you aren’t quite to the lowest level of caring. Because “you could care less” than you do right now.

I don’t know how this went wrong, but it’s wrong, and it’s rampant. Still not convinced? Let’s switch out the verb and see how easily it can be clarified:

  • If you are stuffed and don’t want to eat another thing, you would say “I couldn’t eat more.” But if you screw that up like most of you screw up the caring thing, then you would say “I could eat more,” which would be completely false.
  • If you disagree with someone vehemently, you might say “I couldn’t agree less.” But if you tell them that “you could agree less,” then they know you at least have something in common. When you actually don’t.

Clear enough? I hope so.

Now, what can we do about it? To start, call someone out when they use it in the wrong way. Use tact, of course, but correct this viral ignorance. Blog about it. Email a link of this post to people. Do what you gotta do, but let’s stop caring less and start caring more about sounding like idiots at work and in public.

Or, forget it, and just tell me “you couldn’t care less.” Either way, I’ve done my job.

Pet Peeves - I see Dumb People

Less than medium-well service

My wife and I enjoyed a great steak dinner for Valentine’s Day at a Plano, Texas restaurant by the name of Mignon. It’s really a great place, and I bet we go back sometime. So this isn’t a rant about them as much as an object lesson. But we couldn’t escape without falling victim to one of the most blatantly wrong yet most frequent mistakes in good customer service.

We ordered our food. My wife ordered her filet medium-well, with the side note that she wants a “true medium well, with just a very thin line of pink.” The waiter confirms that this is what a true medium well would be, and as we wonder aloud if getting it well-done would be better (knowing from experience that a thin line of pink is rarely what you get from a fancy steakhouse when you order medium-well), he tells us that means the steak will be gray all the way through. My wife doesn’t want that, so we stick with the medium-well.

As he leaves, my wife predicts that it will come back too rare.

And it does. We’re not talking thick line of pink, we’re talking think line of red. Nowhere near anyone’s definition of medium-well. So we wait a few minutes, and I guess the manager could tell the steak wasn’t the way she likes it, so he comes over, takes the plate and promises a new steak very soon.

About 5 minutes roll by, then the manager comes back with a new piece of meat ready for us. He leaves, my wife cuts it, and it’s even redder then the first time. Our waiter comes over (the great steak educator) and takes a look and then proceeds to tell us that this is a medium-well steak. He carries on that “on a filet, this is exactly what medium-well is. I will get you what you want, but this is what you asked for.”

So many things wrong with this. Here’s my attempt at a quick summary:

  • I’m no steak aficionado, but that steak was not medium-well by anyone’s standards. I like my steak medium-rare, and this thing barely fell into that category.
  • Don’t usher me into a debate over what I did and didn’t order. Whether this is medium-well or not by your standards, it’s not what I want. You aren’t making me happier by trying to prove to me that I don’t understand how to order a steak.
  • We even talked about a thin line of pink before. We agreed that this was our definition of medium-well. What you have given me is nothing like that.
  • If you, Mr. Waiter, would apologize swiftly, recognize the problem and attend to it, you probably would have gotten a bigger tip than had the steak come out the way I wanted it originally. Instead, you belittle my wife’s intelligence and ability to order food, and therefore your tip was less than 15%. (I hope you noticed that).

Why, when faced with customer service situations, are we so prone to tell our customers they’re wrong? Even if they are, even if we can prove and justify everything we as the business have done, even if their request is ridiculous, why would we ever want to argue with our customers? If you think about it, by engaging in these pride-buidling, relationship-destroying discussions, you’re telling your customer that you’d rather be right and them wrong than for the two of us to come together and figure this thing out.

Good business is about solving a problem for your customer. Or at least trying to solve it. Customer service, the kind that works, doesn’t even show up until there’s an issue. Good customer service shines in these moments, and it makes all the difference.