Martinka Consulting


Some Things Never Change

Posted on by JohnM

Back in the 1990’s, in the days when you actually paid for long distance phone calls, I called my telephone company salesperson (when you also had a sales rep not a call-center person) about my rates. I had heard an ad for their company that featured a rate much lower than mine. He told me, “They don’t pay us to stay in touch with existing customers, they only pay us to generate new business.” He ended up dropping my rate in half and it took my initiative to do so.

Fast forward to 2014. I see TV ads for ATT that are offering a multi-phone plan that’s noticeably less expensive than what we pay. So, I call and within three minutes I’ve reduced my bill by 20%.

So why can’t ATT (or any of the others) treat their existing customers the same way they treat new customers, without the customer having to take action?

It would seem to me that you want to reward loyal customers to keep them from moving to the competition. Provide great service in order to keep your customers and generate referrals.

You Don’t Need to Badmouth the Competition

Posted on by JohnM

We recently had the “pleasure” of going mattress shopping. For the last few years we’ve said that when it became time to get a new bed our top choice would be the Westin Heavenly Bed because every time we stayed at a Westin we just loved the bed.

However, we felt we needed to do some comparison-shopping so we started by heading off to Sleep Country USA, the major mattress chain in Seattle. Bad mouthing the competition may work with some people but not us. We mentioned how much we like the Westin bed and got a diatribe about how it’s not that great a mattress and here’s a better one. We mentioned the Sleep Number bed and heard what’s wrong with it  and how the (similar) one they sell is so much better. And so it went. We walked out saying that we’ll get our bed somewhere else, no matter what model we finally choose.

Our next visit was to Macy’s where the approach the salesperson took was completely different. She explained different mattress features, pros and cons of different types, why their best selling model is their bestseller, etc. We finished at Nordstrom’s, as they’re the only store that carries the Westin bed. Again, the salesperson was informative and helpful.

A mattress is a big decision. Even though the financial outlay is much less than a car, it’s just as important as we spend a lot more time on a mattress than in our car.

Bottom line: we all have competition. If we didn’t we wouldn’t have a business. Want to be the only business selling floppy disks (soon to include CDs)? Good, healthy and honest competition keeps us productive. We get customers and clients by demonstrating the value we provide, which is more than just features of our product or service. We don’t get customers by telling them that the product they like, from personal experience, isn’t that good.

“Right now, the most avant-garde thing you can do is to be sincere.” (Actor) Steve Coogan

P.S. We ended up with the Westin bed based on experience, reinforcement of said experience at Nordstrom’s and the fact that it was on sale for about 30% off, making it half the price of our next favorite.

Are Your Employees Really Valuable Team Members?

Posted on by JohnM

In January 2014 Delta Airlines announced a new membership policy for their Sky Clubs. In simple terms, they doubled the annual fee and got rid of some perks like spouse memberships, free access for American Express Platinum cardholders and more.

Okay, it’s their business and if you’ve ever been in an airline club in a hub city at peak time (try Atlanta at 5 pm, especially on a Friday) you’ll understand why they want to weed out some of the people. There’s absolutely no exclusivity anymore.

What I found amazing was that they gave their employees, including those working in the Sky Clubs, absolutely no advance notice of this. They got the same email blast that members got, at the same time.

Now I’ll bet Delta has spent millions on consultants to help them build teams. I’ll bet they stress to the employees that they’re not just workers but part of “a team.” And then they keep those employees who will take the brunt of the questioning in the dark.

Seems to me there was a bit too much overthinking here. Some people in the executive ranks made a decision and didn’t realize the ramifications to what the employees would face. There is a better way. Get employee input and coach them on the changes and how to handle them.

“People are like bicycles. They can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving.” Albert Einstein

So You Think You Know Your Customers?

Posted on by JohnM

On December 17, 2013 Bloomberg Businessweek published an article titled, “Proof That It Pays to Be America’s Most-Hated Companies.” The theme of the article is that big companies don’t care if you like them and have little incentive to care.

As Bloomberg said, “The companies you hate are making plenty of money. In fact, the scorned tend to perform better than the companies you like.” They even had a statistical analysis graph that showed the higher the customer satisfaction score the lower the 2013 stock return.

They surmised it isn’t worth it to try and make customers happy and many customers are in a bind because they may own the stock (in mutual funds or retirement plans) of the companies they hate.

So, what does that mean for us with small businesses or for those in large firms who sell by building relationships? Nothing!

We can’t even come close to emulating the firms that put us on hold, have us punch 17 buttons to try and connect to a live person and cut us off repeatedly. If we treated our clients and customers like that they’d find another option in a caffeine-infused heartbeat.

Once again we have evidence that being a cog in a large company’s machine isn’t the best experience in life. Can you imagine making decisions that say, “Screw the customer, it makes us more money?” It’s a lot better to do the right thing and benefit. Makes sleeping a lot easier.

“Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.” Don Henley


Posted on by JohnM

Sports and business have a lot of similarities with great analogies and stories (that make a point). Last week I was discussing the recent football playoffs with my marketing person Lori. We got to the point where we agreed that while it often comes down to one play.

In business you need to have a strategy, implement it and execute it correctly. The same holds true in sports. Lori and I discussed what happened in the 49ers-Packers game. With about three minutes to go it was the 49ers ball, third and 11 at around mid-field.

The Packers scheme was great; they called for an all out blitz. The implemented it well, rushers coming from everywhere. They executed it poorly, or at least one player did. A defensive back rushed from the (offensive) left and didn’t hold his outside lane. He got sucked into the middle (he probably got greedy and went for the sack), the running back blocked him and the quarterback ran around the left end for a first down. If he had held his lane he would have boxed-in the quarterback and the odds are it would have been a sack or incomplete pass, resulting in a punt and not a game winning drive.

Look at your business. The chances are you have the idea, vision and strategy. You’re probably slow on implementing given the challenges of the day-to-day. Then ask, are your people and you executing it correctly? Just like sports, you want a game winning drive with all of these things coming together so you make more sales, grow your company and achieve more success.

“Defense needs to be more physical, reports man slumped on couch for past 5 hours.” The