Posted by Denny Hatch
BOEING: Guilty of Shoddy Back-end Marketing
One of the absolute worst, dumbest things a marketer can do is make a sale—bring an enthusiastic and trusting customer into the corporate family—and then leave him twisting in the wind.
“The sale begins when the customer says yes,” wrote freelance copywriter Bill Christensen.
Once a sale is made and the product delivered to the buyer, it is imperative to make absolutely sure the customer is taken care of throughout the life of the product.
This is as true for the manufacturer of jet planes as it is for the publisher of a magazine or the seller of stamps to stamp collectors.
These two short quotes tell Boeing’s tragic story.
"For many new airplane models, pilots train for hours on giant, multimillion-dollar machines, on-the-ground versions of cockpits that mimic the flying experience and teach them new features. But in the case of the Max, many pilots with 737 experience learned about the plane on an iPad.
“'We would have liked to have had a simulator from the start,' said Jon Weaks, the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. 'But it wasn’t practical, because it wasn’t built yet.'”
—Natalie Kitroeff, David Gelles, Jack Nicas, Thomas Kaplan and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times
“As the pilots of the doomed Boeing jets in Ethiopia and Indonesia fought to control their planes, they lacked two notable safety features in their cockpits. One reason: Boeing charged extra for them.”
—Hiroko Tabuchi and David Gelles, The New York Times
The result: 346 passengers and crew were killed in the two crashes of brand new Boeing 737-MAX jets.
Is Boeing spoiled by its success as America’s premier exporter of American-built products? Have they become lazy jet plane builders who believed they no longer needed serious back-end marketing? Perhaps their business philosophy is from Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”
Could Calamity Have Been Averted if Boeing Had Seen
The 85-Point Checklist lede is the story of Boeing’s October 30, 1935 catastrophic crash at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. As a result of this tragedy, Boeing created its greatest contribution to Government, Industry, Medicine and War—the very first checklist in the history of the world. (This original Boeing document is illustrated my Marketeer’s Checklist.)
From my 85-Point Checklist:
31. Another marketing screw-up I absolutely hate: Instructions in teeny-tiny sans serif mouse type translated directly from the Chinese.
• Are absolutely foolproof instructions included with the shipment—illustrated, written in simple, readable English and (if need-be) well illustrated?
Continually Working With the Customer Can
Be as Essential as Getting the Initial Sale!
I made my bones writing/designing offers to acquire subscribers for magazines and newsletters. A typical offer:
Take the first monthly issue FREE. If you like it pay just $9.95 for the next 11 issues. If you decide to cancel any time, your money back in full.
Once you send that free issue, a whole lot of back-end marketing kicks in. You have to keep sending issues and billing efforts until the dude pays. After payment, you have to start sending renewal efforts starting 3 to 6 months later.
Let’s talk stamp collecting.
Two of the most brilliant proponents of after-marketing creativity were Prescott Kelly—proprietor of the Stamp Collectors Society of America—and his creative director, the late Malcom Decker.
Kelly and Decker did not offer traditional stamp collections. Instead they put together unique “themed” collections. These were continuity series of 33 or 47 stamps from around the world that featured railroad locomotives, great automobiles or a series of 58 gold stamps commemorating the treasures of Tutankhamun.
Included would be a handsome (free) album to house these unique collections.
Included would be a handsome (free) album to house these unique collections.
The Treasured Transmittal Letters
Accompanying every stamp shipment was an enthusiastic transmittal letter signed by George Worthington (aka Malcolm Decker). Each was chock-a-block full of fascinating nuggets of information and historical tidbits about the stamps in the shipment.
Decker-cum-Worthington wrote a one-page letter of 200 words with every stamp sent out. Plus George offered Christmas, Easter and other special stamps along the way so that by the time collection is complete, the customer would have received about 50 letters from George.
Mal Decker (aka George Worthington)
All the letters were personalized (“Dear John Jones”) and all were signed with a printed reflex blue signature.
George Worthington had a voice. To the collector, he was a real person.
“We send George on trips (he went to London for the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana),” Decker said to me. “He visits famous museums and galleries and regularly spends time with the artists, artisans and craftsmen who create our stamps. He even presented our Tutankhamun collection to the Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations.”
Decker also had help. For the "grist" or background information, world-renowned experts were hired. For the automobile stamps, automotive editor Beverly Rae Kimes ("The Grande Dame of Automobile History") wrote the letters with Decker doing the editing and polishing.
Railroad historian Thomas T. ("Tommy Trains") Tabor III was engaged to supply the background material for the locomotive stamps. And for Tutankhamun, Yale professor of Egyptology Virginia Lee Davis was the consultant-writer. Decker continued:
"We put as much effort into Transmittal Letter Number 4, 14, 24, or 54—word-for-word and page-for-page—as we put into the four-, five- or six-page letters in our full-dress direct mail packages that brought these subscribers into the program.”
”Send me the other 57 letters or I’ll cancel.”
"Once in a while one of our subscribers gets a windfall and buys the whole balance of his Collection at once,” Decker told me. ‘But what's odd is that after he receives his stamps, he oftentimes insists on getting the whole set of transmittal letters from George Worthington. He perceives the transmittal letters as having value and being an integral part of the collection.”
George’s letter makes each stamp “come alive.” When showing off the collection to friends, family or business colleagues he can impress the visitor with stories of the stamps.
Malcolm Decker’s Decision Tree
A serious, caring marketer should never allow a back office clerk to write a letter to a customer.
Above is the Flow Chart of correspondence requirements for one Stamp Collectors Society of America promotion. Each line represents a letter that must be written either as a transmittal effort, follow-up letter or response to a collector’s question or problem. Each of these letters was written by Decker with precision, care and warmth.
If a new situation arises that is not part of the Decision Tree, Decker would write a letter, add it to the flowchart and work with the clerks to make sure they understand which letters go out under which circumstances.
Takeaways to Consider
• The sale begins when the customer says, "yes."
—Bill Christensen, Freelance copywriter
• As direct marketers we're not here primarily to make a sale; we're here to get a customer. Sales are important, of course. (Where would marketers be without them?) But the name of the game is repeat sales rather than one-shots. And to have that you need a customer.
—Joan Throckmorton, Legendary direct marketer
• "People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn't forget it. You become responsible forever for the things you tame."
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
• A serious, caring marketer should never allow a back office clerk to make marketing choices or write letters to a customer.
• “Build it and they will come is bullshit.” Build it, sell the hell out of it and they will come.”
—Willard Rouse, Developer of Faneuil Hall and Baltimore Inner Harbor
Word count: 1282
At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.
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