Are You the Fairest of Them All, or Have You Taken Your Eye Off the Ball?

They say that a cat doesn’t recognize his own reflection because an image on glass has no scent. No scent = Not cat, and certainly not himself.

Some time ago I worked with a client to assess strengths and weaknesses regarding the public’s Perception of his company. Sales were slipping, and he didn’t know why.

My assessment, in a word, was corporate arrogance.

Not the word I chose to use, of course, but the one that fit best.

They’d gotten big, kinda fast. They were justifiably proud of their growth, but they had a fatal flaw: they thought their growth was all about them, instead of seeing it was a joint effort between them, with their charming, early eagerness, and a band of their customers, who agreed to be charmed. (Yes, your customers must agree to be charmed by you.)

Lately, in the company’s quest for new customers, they had clearly been ignoring their old customers.

Their old customers, who had once been fans devoted to building something with the owner, figured he didn’t need them anymore, and stopped coming by.

He seemed to think he and his staff spent too much time with these loyal customers, and had acted too friendly with them. So he’d cooled off with people who believed they were “friends,” and his staff had followed his lead. It was all very professional. Hard to point a finger at.

Friendliness was what the old customers came in for, true enough; it almost felt like they’d been invited into the company’s living room.

As we discussed our findings, he discovered that old, loyal customers:

— Buy More Often — Spend More Money per visit — Refer Their Friends to become part of this living room atmosphere —

WAY more often than newer customers.

Not news to you, I hope.

It may have been too late for him to hear this news, because do you know what happened when he got our report and talked with us?

Sure you do.

He looked in the mirror I held up, but he didn’t recognize his reflection. (Like a cat.) Denied it applied to his company entirely. Essentially, he said, “We haven’t changed enough to bother anyone. Everybody else has changed.”

Blame the market. Blame Jean Chrétien (no, I don’t know why his name popped into my head). Blame the changing demographics of your town, blame the competition, blame those loyal customers. Ooh, it’s tempting.

If customers didn’t feel like hanging around your joint anymore, would you be brave enough to look in that mirror? Would you recognize yourself?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. I hope you’ll come by my living room again soon! The Devil’s Advocate takes on this subject later in the week.