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September 16, 2004

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means to Your Customers

In Godin's final column for Fast Company, he lashes out at the disrespect shown by marketers to their customers.

It's a pretty depressing read.

As businesses have become commodities, many of them have decided that respect is the first thing they can no longer afford. If you’ve ever been herded onto a cattlecar airline, or put on interminable hold by a cell phone company, you know the feeling. One telcom executive confided in me last week, “after we sell you an account, we never ever want to hear from you again. If we hear from you, it’s bad news.” Hey, it’s just business.

I don't know too many successful show organizers who operate this way. We're not too far gone to realize we need to get exhibitors to re-up with us if we want to stay in business. And that means meeting and exceeding expectations. And we want attendees in a buying mood while walking the floor, not pissed off because of waiting in long registration lines.

In fact, most of us wouldn't mind getting more calls and feedback from customers. Calls help us fix things. And also provide an opportunity to upsell where appropriate.

But then Godin shows how this dark side of marketing is affecting non-marketing business practices.

Now, apparently, it’s okay if a company reneges on a pension commitment. Now, if the contract doesn’t specifically spell out how one company will treat another, it’s okay to rip the other off as long as there’s a loophole. Now, apparently, it’s quite alright to treat your friends and colleagues the same way a marketer treats his prospects.

And I'm ashamed to say that I have seen this type of behavior in our industry. Disagreements between hotels and events are rampant. Decorators, too. The namecalling and fingerpointing goes both ways. Not to mention all those ASPs back a few years ago that promised the World and delivered Afghanistan (and a few are still doing that, no disrespect to Afghanis intended).

You don't need an organized belief system to recognize that "Love your neighbor" is good policy in business as in life. Sometimes that does mean disagreeing and pointing out that the other party is wrong. But it also means doing that with respect.

I suppose the culmination of Godin's fears has materialized in "The Apprentice". I've watched a half dozen episodes between this season and last. If the behavior of these contestants represents the ideal schooling for executive leadership, things are going to get much worse before they get better. I know I wouldn't hire any of them. Well, maybe Kwame.

01:34 PM in Trade Show Marketing | Permalink

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