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If you want your customers to hate you, here's the plan...

If you want your customers to hate you, here's the plan...

November 03, 2011

Want to get your customers to REALLY hate you? It's easy to do. We see businesses do it all the time. But if you'd rather get your customers to REALLY love you, read on...

Sounds strange, doesn't it?

The guy who is always talking with you about how to Wow your prospects is now offering advice to get customers to 'hate' you?

but here's what's really strange. Smart, innovative people somehow manage to get their customers to hate them all the time. They come out with a change or strategy that's been brainstormed, discussed, evaluated and analyzed -- and that ends up alienating their best customers.

We see it more times than we can count. You won't believe the latest one. You may have even seen it yourself.

I'll tell you more about it ' plus, I'll tell you how to create change so your customers LOVE you instead of hating you.

The Parable of the Hot Dog Vendor

On the advice of his well-educated son, a hot dog vendor increased his prices, offered fewer choices for customers and moved to a "better" location. What do you think happened next?

First, let me tell you the parable of the hot dog salesman and his son.

There once was an old hot dog salesman on Wall Street. Nothing stopped him from showing up on his street corner. Neither rain, nor scorching sun, nor bitter cold could stop him from selling his hot dogs from sun-up to sundown.

He even worked weekends selling to tourists.

He saved all the money he made and helped put his son through college to get an MBA.

One day his son showed up at his father's hot dog cart, and he told his father that he was doing everything wrong. His business methods were out of date. Commodity prices were rising. The economy was dipping into a terrible recession. He explained to his father that he needed to make some changes immediately.

'Oh my!' said the old man. 'What should I do?'

"Cut inventory immediately," suggested the son. “Just carry one kind of hot dog. And stop giving away free mustard & ketchup with each hot dog and move to a better location.”

The old man did as he was told. But things didn’t work out too well. Needless to say, people like having a choice of kosher, polish, ball park and extra long hot dogs. No one charges for condiments. And the new location was terrible!

The hot dog vendor went out of business.

The moral of the story is this: Have confidence in yourself, and if something doesn’t make sense to you, question it! Experience trumps theoretical business plans any day. 

If only the management at Delicious! had learned the Parable of the Hot Dog Vendor...

Did you hear about this one?

Delicious is a social bookmarking website where you can easily save favorite web pages and categorize them. Just bookmark your favorite websites and Delicious saves them for you. It’s simple to use and if you have dozens or hundreds of websites that you want to remember, this is a great way to do it. Best of all, it’s free! We’ve found it to be a great tool to use at Brand Launcher. And it seems like another 5 million people love it too. Or at least they used to…

Delicious was owned at one time by Yahoo! which sold it in April to a company called AVOS. My guess is that AVOS thought they needed to put their stamp on it and they relaunched a “new and improved” version September 27. What a disaster!

Users woke up that morning to find bookmarks gone! Delicious scrapped some of the basic functions we relied on, bookmarks and tags were missing, saved data disappeared overnight, browser extensions for Internet Explorer and Google Chrome were gone … Oh, and this is the kicker - AVOS removed the Delicious Support Forum.

Can you imagine?! This is a tool a lot of business people rely on so they can quickly and easily find their favorite websites. And then to add insult to injury, they killed the support forum! But wait, it gets better … in addition to totally changing everything, they never told users about the changes.

I was irritated, but you should see the visceral reaction on the blogs and in the online forums! Here are just some of the comments…

I lost four years of work without being notified…I used Delicious as a knowledge bank. Anybody know how to retrieve my original 13,000 tags in their former state?

Will definitely be looking for a new site to save by bookmarks.

I’ve got a terrific idea for AVOS/Deilicious – why not just go back to the freakin’ code that actually worked and scrap this heap of non-functional dung you’ve handed us? … Get the theme? We’re users and we don’t like it. You didn’t ask us, you didn’t warn us, and you definitely didn’t give a new product that is any better for what we use it for.

Ouch! Unfortunately, changes like this one turn into customer relations disasters all the time. Netflix did the same thing in July when it decided to split its services and increase prices 60%, framing it as a “terrific value” that offers consumers more “choice.”

Consumers didn’t buy into it and instead flooded Netflix’s blog with more than 13,000 comments.

Then, in a very strange apology, CEO Reed Hastings enraged customers even more by telling them that they were splitting up their offerings and making it more complicated to get the same services – and yes, customers would pay more. What was the outcome?

In just 3 months Netflix lost 800,000 members and its stock tanked from a high of $298.73 to a low of $77.37 – costing them tens of millions of dollars in value.

Don’t even get me started about Bank of America and the other banks who thought it would be a good idea to start charging $5/month as a new fee to use your debit card!

So you think you have a bright idea for a change to your product? Still want to go forward with a relaunch? 

3 tips to get your customers to LOVE you when you roll out a new product

Before you get too discouraged, I have 3 tips to help you so you don’t join the list of “Most Hated Businesses in America” when you roll out your new product.

  • Find out what your customers want and need first. You’ve heard me say it before, but I’ll say it again: all marketing starts with the Hungry Fish. That means talking with customers to find out what problems they’re dealing with. What’s keeping them up at night? What do they need that will make things easier for them? What can you do to simplify their lives? Survey your customers to find out the answers, whether it’s by phone, mail, online, or in-peron interviews. The answers you get just might surprise you. 
  • Test, test, test. Always test before you do a massive roll out. Test the product. Test the pricing. Test the offer. Test the message. Better to make a mistake on a small scale and correct before launching on a larger scale and losing big. 
  • Ask yourself – and your team – the toughest question of all: Why might this idea fail? What objections do we have to overcome? Why might someone say, “no?”


Of course, 3M, Microsoft, and Google have research departments to do work like this, and you don't. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Try out your ideas as you talk with your Hungry Fish. “I’m thinking about coming out with XYZ … what are your thoughts? Could you use something like that? Would you pay for it?”

It’s not enough to see if people are interested in the idea. The big question is: “Would you pay for it?” Or here's another formulation: “How much would you pay for it?”

Does that mean you shouldn’t have confidence in yourself? Of course not. Remember the hot dog salesman. Trust your instincts. They’ve gotten you this far, right? But don’t ignore your customers, either. Give them what they want, and they just might LOVE you for it!

And with companies like Delicious, Netflix and Bank of America making radical changes just because they can… it doesn’t take much to impress customers.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman, President & CEO 
Brand Launcher 
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