Desperation Also Breeds Contempt

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I have not posted here in a while; but I am seeing a disturbing trend. It seems that for many companies, go-to-market and sales strategy are taking giant leaps backward- all on the altar of desperation.

I guess that tough times have made people desperate. I am seeing a sharp increase poorly constructed, manipulative and even abusive sales and go-to-market strategy. Some companies get creative in difficult times, but sadly, many are resorting to tactics that were barely acceptable in the late 20th century.

I tend to stay away from rants, but here are two examples of ways to put yourself out of business from sheer desperation or greed. The first is a start up that has made a poor choice of market strategy. The second is a familiar large organization that should know better.

So- anyone else getting multiple “personalized” cards in the mail from people that you do not know? Someone had a good idea with Send More Cards Now. Use digital technology to allow anyone to send a personalized card- a real paper and ink one- from anywhere in the world. They jazzed it up with enough art to make choices interesting and even made it possible to use a scanned version of your own handwriting inside. (Not that I would use that. Neither pharmacists nor English teachers can decipher my scrawl). They can do all this for under a buck, color printed and in the mail. Not a bad value proposition. So, what’s the problem?

I have received to date 14 cards, from 4 different people whom I do not know. (Leave aside the 2 that are addressed Dear “FirstName”.) Instead of marketing this directly to users or through an organized distribution channel, the company has chosen MLM as a go-to-market strategy. Each card is both a card and a sales pitch to be a distributor. Aside from the concern about being deluged with offers from resellers, I would have no confidence that my personal correspondence would not be used to promote someone else’s business. MLM is a hard strategy to manage. Powered by the web, it is ripe for all kinds of abuse. My guess is that these folks have killed their goose to get the golden egg. An ad free, secure and protected service would be a no brainer, but this is hard to touch if you care about your own customer list.

The second example I have is Hertz. Yes, that Hertz.

I called this week as I have regularly for at least 2 decades to make a reservation for an upcoming trip. I know what to expect. They can see that I am a top tier customer. I know I will likely pay a little more to use their preferred placement at most airports. It is a profitable relationship.

After the reservation was complete, the CSR said, “Oh, wait. I can save you another $20 on this reservation. Do you want me to check out the details for you?” The phrasing was almost innocent but since I had some thought that he simply had a different price tier available, I bit and said “yes”. I was transferred to the kind of boiler-room sales operation for the “Hertz Fun Club” that should be long out of business. It was the kind of aggressive, persistent and manipulative call script reserved only for hard nosed collection agencies. Misdirection, an almost refusal to simply tell me what they were selling and the complete absence of listening skills made it the kind of call that you just hang up on. Well, I did anyway.

If Hertz thinks opening a dining affiliation program will help them through tough times- then that is their call and good luck to them. But to expose their customers to that kind of experience is short sighted and likely will do more harm than good. I do not know if the business development executive at Hertz who put the deal together is reading, but whoever they are, they should find out how many other top tier customers have an Aviz Wizard number.

Barry Goldberg
Entelechy Partners
I. Barry Goldberg is managing director of Entelechy Partners, an executive coaching and leadership development firm headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. His practice focuses on senior executives, change leaders and bet-the-business program teams. Goldberg holds a graduate certificate in leadership coaching from Georgetown University.

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