Joy Parks

How I lost a client

In retail on February 13, 2010 at 8:42 pm

About ten years ago, I was working with a boutique creative agency on an account for a retail client that specialized in household linens. At the time, their marketing program consisted of signage outside the store, an occasional sales flyer and a very creative ad (created by the client’s previous agency) that had pulled well in the beginning but had become less effective over time.  The chain couldn’t compete with discount or department stores on price, but it had built a good business built on selection and quality, and had plans to expand.

The client made it clear from the initial meeting that they were not interested in the web—back then, it was too new for them to see the value. In addition to a few more traditional vehicles like print ads and radio spots, I suggested a quarterly newsletter that could be slipped into shopping bags and displayed at the cash in each store. I positioned it as a way for the chain to stand out as a specialist and build loyalty. The initial issue, I explained, could contain features on bedroom decorating trends, a guide to thread count, tips on how to get a better night’s sleep and perhaps even a recipe for a warm milk and honey concoction that would knock out the worst insomniac.

Not only did the client not buy the idea, they called the agency a few days later to fire us. They felt we were too interested in spending their money on communications that would only “talk” to customers, not sell them something.

I drove past one of the stores recently and noticed that the same old price-screaming signs are in the window. And while they now have a website—and what they call a newsletter—it’s basically an online sales flyer, with shots of products and prices in big type.  It’s all about what they want to sell, not what their customers might need to know. They may have come online, but their thinking about their content hasn’t expanded at all.  And not surprisingly, neither has their business.

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