I remember when the economic world around us was collapsing. Banks were failing, the US economy was spiraling out of control. During this time I had a conversation with a copywriter who worked on brands like crest, apple and hertz, that this seemingly doomed scenario was the perfect springboard for a small bank to make it huge. He continued, “Odds are, there is some bank out there that didn’t make bad loans, that stuck to their conservative roots, and all they need to do is speak up and they will emerge victorious. The concept is simple, if the world is complaining about something, that is not a problem, its a massive opportunity.
It tells you there is a hole in the market, and/or a hole in consumers minds when thinking about that category. I don’t know if any bank really capitalized on that branding opportunity, but my bet would be on Wells Fargo. They seemed to come out of the mess doing just fine.
As a marketer, I have been involved in many internal battles between the sales departments and my marketing department. The classic issue was about the quality of leads, but I remember clearly one specific and eye opening argument that I am proud to say I emerged victorious. Here’s the story. We were in the Junk Car space, and we promoted a free vacation voucher on our website. These vouchers cost like $5-$10 for us, and are basically remnant hotel and cruise inventory sold off to promotional marketing companies for pennies. Our web development team was much more nimble than our operations team, so we knew and started promoting the free vacation vouchers before the sales team knew about it. I got frantic calls from the sales manager, and several operations people yelling at me to take it off the website, because their team wasn’t prepared for it, and the back office wasn’t quite ready to ship them. They had customers calling and asking for the vouchers, and they weren’t confident they could deliver. What was the argument about? Well, they wanted me to stop promoting something that the customers were asking for.
To me, that was blasphemy. If the customers are specifically asking for something, wouldn’t that be a great indicator of what they want, and what part of the messaging hooked them?
Am I crazy? Was this an opportunity for the operations team to scramble and deliver, or a situation the marketing team should yank something thats working? If I see customers want something… I am not going to find a way to make them not want it… I am going to do whatever it takes to give them what they want. In the end that story worked out…
I Realized…When Salesmen Heard Complaints, They Saw More Work. When I Heard Complaints, I Saw Opportunity.
I still believe that most businesses don’t listen to their customers or are too busy trying to defend themselves than trying to do what it takes to deliver what their customers want and are asking for. In fact, with the immediacy of PPC, you can easily test 3 or 4 promotions and see which one customers ask about, and you know which one is a better hook.
There is an excellent story in next months Fast Company about C&A Marketing in New Jersey, founded by Chaim Pikarski and Harry Klein. They minted in the tens or possibly hundreds of millions of dollars just by reading customer reviews and complaints. Here is their business model. Find popular consumer goods on Amazon, read through all the reviews and see what features people are saying they wish the product had. (i.e. a waterproof bluetooth speaker for the shower, or that floats in the pool.) The company than designs and developers a product with the new features customers wished it had, and than sell it on Amazon, and eventually in brick and mortar retail. What a simple and brilliant strategy. Nowadays with the internet, it isn’t rocket science to manufacture consumer goods in China, etc… C&A would then list it on Amazon, and if the item sells really well, they invest in innovating it even more, and launch it under a big brand name they are building up (Ivation).
What A Brilliant and Obvious Way to Mine Consumer Complaints and Reviews For A Fortune in Profits.
According to the article, C&A employs hundreds of people to comb through amazon reviews and develop products.
I have always believed that businesses should check complaint website online to see what consumers complain about most in their industry, and use that as the platform to build a brand around. This is such a clear and obvious way to uncover consumer pain points, and most of the time the solution is easy to solve.
I have even thought about building a scraping tool with natural language processing to identify the biggest complaints in an industry. If you know of such a tool, let me know… more importantly though… Do me a favor and do your homework for your business. Find a common complaint and fix it, and than promote the heck out of it… You will emerge victorious.
(I should point out that asking them what the want will most likely not yield the results you need. Customers often don’t really know what drives them or what they really want… However, natural reviews and complaints are usually driven by emotion, and will more likely reflect their true desires.)
In Simpler Terms, When You Ask What They Want, They’ll Tell You What They Think You Want To Hear.
When They Take Their Own Initiative and Write Reviews or Complaints, They’ll Tell You What They Really Want To Say.