Many years ago, I had a cottage (more like a shack) in a small coastal Maine town.
Our small town had a General Store that was the gathering point for the community. Every morning at 6 AM there was a group of lobstermen and retirees drinking coffee before heading out for their day.
New owners from “away” bought the store. In Maine, anyone who comes from a distance of more than 50 miles comes from “away.” These guys had some great ideas, but pretty soon they determined they didn’t make any money selling coffee at 6:00 AM, so they decided to not open ‘til 8:00 AM.
That wasn’t their only bad decision, but it was the beginning of the end. Those same lobstermen and their families stopped going to the store, and not just for coffee. They stopped going for their beer, sandwiches or to pick up a loaf of bread. It wasn’t a boycott. They were never that organized. It just happened.
Here was their big mistake. They thought they were in the store business, when actually, the business they were in was to be the gathering spot for this town. When they stopped opening early, they lost the connection to their fundamental reason for being in business, and the clock to their ultimate demise started ticking.
What is the fundamental purpose of a TV station?
I guess your answer might depend on the role you play in the station. I’m a sales guy, and my answer is pretty simple. The primary purpose of all of our platforms is to bring customers to our clients. When we stop doing that, much like the small-town General Store, we’re on a dangerous path.
I write this because with all of our conversations about budgets, national shortfalls and digital growth, I feel like we sometimes forget how important customers are to our business. As National continues its slide, customers are more important than ever.
Customer results are critical. That’s why I get on my soapbox, with less than a little provocation, about the critical need to have our AE’s know how to make an ad campaign work. It’s something only a few of the AE’s selling our products truly understand.
We also have a huge miss with commercial producers who can produce technically beautifully ads that are horrible. The technology we all own makes ads in the smallest markets look like large-market production, but a pretty ad that doesn’t work isn’t a good ad! How do we serve our customers that way?
Between the AE and the producer not knowing what to do, we end up producing an ad that doesn’t renew. That, especially on new business, is just about the worst possible thing that can happen.
Then there’s the issue of General Managers, even some Sales Managers, who are too office-bound and don’t really spend any time talking to or meeting clients. As I write this, I remember a GM who wouldn’t even meet a client when they were in his building. That scares me. Actually, as someone who loves this business, it makes me mad.
Back when there were only 3 major car companies, dealers didn’t pay a lot of attention to the quality of their service departments. Truth was, there were limited choices in the market, and if a customer was upset, who cared? There was enough business to go around. But when the Big 3 became the smaller 18, dealers realized they’d better ramp up the way they treated customers.
The parallels between the car business and our business couldn’t be clearer, yet I’m not sure we’re moving fast enough to realize that our primary purpose is to bring customers to our clients. If we fail at that, we’ll lose that client.
A business that doesn’t honor its customers is heading for problems. In the good old days when demand exceeded supply, we didn’t need to pay much attention to that. However, with demand dropping as it is today, making sure every client has the experience of positive results is critical to our long-term success.
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