Thursday, April 30, 2009

Extreme Marketing for Home and Synagogue

I’ve been reading a book called Your Marketing Sucks, by Mark Stevens, and rather enjoying it.

Stevens offers common sense insights in a practical way, presents real-world examples, and name-drops in ways that keep the read fun and interesting. Much of it is pretty obvious, his "Extreme Marketing" isn't that extreme, and there's a lot of hype and filler which gets wearisome, but I still like the book overall.

Among his points, Stevens contends that many businesses ignore easy customers (“low-hanging fruit”). There’s a lot to be said for this.

First, I don’t always agree with it; low-hanging fruit can still be too expensive to be worthwhile.

For example: He would like to see CVS have its pharmacy people offer to get store products for you, when you drop off a prescription. I have often wished they would do this, as a matter of convenience, and he points out that it could translate into extra sales. As he puts it, 5 million pharmacy trips, with $10 each in extra sales, would result in $50 million in profits.

Sounds reasonable… but I don’t think it is. First, CVS knows that if you use their pharmacy, you are quite possibly going to make these purchases yourself, anyway. Second, CVS pharmacies, like most chain-store pharmacies, tend to be minimally staffed; they don’t have time to hunt through the store for your Head and Shoulders marine-scent for semi-sensitive hair and dry skin, in a family-sized bottle. Third, they certainly don’t have money to hire extra staffers for each store.

So it’s not worth the investment of money, and the loss of time from actually serving the pharmacy, in order to offer customers items that many of them would have purchased themselves, anyway. (And particularly in a pharmacy-type store, where many purchases are personal and customers are less likely to want to itemize them face-to-face!) This idea fails on the implementation level.

But I wish we could use “Extreme Marketing” to sell our home to low-hanging fruit, by personalizing for individual viewings... but that seems to be against protocol.

They tell you to leave your home as neutral as possible, so that the visitors will be able to imagine themselves in the home. This makes some sense, but why not have the seller’s agent coordinate with the buyer’s agent, use market research, and let the sellers put out items that may highlight the house in a positive way for the buyers?

Example: If the prospective buyers have young children, we could leave out our air hockey table in the middle of the playroom, to show how the room could be used well. If the prospective buyers like plants, we could leave our plants in different locations, showing the good sunlight they can receive. And so on. But, no – personal stuff is supposed to go away. Pretend you never lived there.

And then there’s the Synagogue. I wish Synagogues would engage in Extreme Marketing, and particularly in the area of Low Hanging Fruit. Unfortunately, rabbis tend to be consumed with serving existing clientele, and so they often miss easy possibilities.

Here’s a current example: I want to know what’s happening in my new Jewish community, since I expect to move there this summer. So I emailed more than a dozen active synagogues and temples, from across denominational lines. I told them I plan to move to Toronto this summer, and I asked if they could add me to their synagogue email lists to keep me informed of what’s going on.

Almost all of the secretaries/office managers/executive directors replied within 48 hours, which is positive. Most of them do have synagogue email lists, which is good.

But the key, to me, is whether synagogue clergy follow up. “Jane gave me your name, she told me you’re moving to the area; where are you moving in? When? Can I help with hospitality/networking/kashering your kitchen/mezuzot/etc?” I won’t tell you just how many offered any such response; it’s embarrassing and lashon hara. But let’s just say I wasn’t fending anyone off. Presumably, the office staff do not have a protocol for passing this information on to the clergy or the lay leadership.

This just seems wrong to me. Aside from chesed, hachnasat orchim, et al - look at it as a chance to market the synagogue!

Yes, there are almost 200,000 Jews in the city, and yes, there are already lots of members to serve, but come on. Someone who emails your office, says he is moving in and asks for information is the lowest of low-hanging fruit. Go for it, folks.


  1. Myabe they were nervous to deal with a guy who refers to himself as low hanging fruit. Perhaps they'd rather deal with the Top Banana. Everyone likes to feel important.

  2. meh. A MUCH better book, which actually leads to a better focus on who you are trying to serve and serving them better, is Duct Tape Marketing. Lots of immediate, low-cost, strategic changes you can make across the board that change the customer experience (and your bottom line) right away.

  3. As he puts it, 5 million pharmacy trips, with $10 each in extra sales, would result in $50 million in profitsOK, if he really said this, he's a marketing guy who doesn't understand business.

    It would result in an extra $50 million in REVENUE. But it would not be $50 million in profits unless everything "extra" they're selling you, they got for free, and it didn't use any employee time.

    Selling you the extra stuff is an "upsell" - it makes for a higher per-transaction revenue, and increases the likelihood of retaining existing customers, which is always cheaper than getting new ones, but based on general retail mark-up and pharmacy employee wages, I'm better the PROFITS on all that effort are closer to $15-20 million.

    Not that this is any amount to sneeze at, but I dislike marketers who exaggerate so extremely.

  4. Jack-
    I actually told them I was Jack. Didn't help.

    He actually wrote "revenue." I was imprecise in presenting his remarks. But in any case, aside from the reduction due to the investment, it's also likely that many would have made these purchases anyway.

  5. That is so disappointing. ...especially since YOU followed up promptly with ME when I was thinking about moving into the area -- and I even admitted that we weren't particularly Orthodox. You got us on your shul's mailing list & a member of your congregation invited us to Shabbos dinner our first night in our new home.

    I am outraged for you! When I was planning my move to the Lehigh Valley, 2 rabbis called me back promptly and made us feel welcome. You deserve no less.

  6. Jack-
    I actually told them I was Jack. Didn't help.
    With my reputation you're lucky they didn't punch you in the nose. ;)

  7. Interesting. I actually attended services at one synagogue here in town, as well as a "meet the rabbi" event. I might like to join, but no-one has asked me to or told me what it would cost.

  8. miriam-
    Might be because they don't want to scare you off? I certainly don't like to approach people and initiating discussions about formally joining, although I certainly do invite people to come to shul programs.