I Still Miss The She-Crab Soup

I love Virginia. Since moving here over 20 years ago, I’ve picked up some wonderful and descriptive southern truisms.

Probably the one I like best is “you can’t polish a turd.” Pretty much says what it is. If you sell manure, no matter how you dress it up…… it’s still manure.

The phrase applies to both people and businesses: No amount of marketing can overcome bad business practices: poor customer service, inferior product(s), deceptive selling techniques, etc.

I’ve said before that media advertising improves word-of-mouth advertising. Your business attains a higher Top of Mind Awareness among the general public. Neighbors and social groups tend to compare life’s experiences among their conversations. Naturally, your business gets talked about when it’s in the community’s social fabric. If you’ve got a good business, then it’s a great thing.

But the opposite holds true as well. No amount of marketing can overcome poor business practices. These range from the simple, fixable problems, to the systemic.

You may be overpriced, or you may be the unfortunate victim of unrecognized value. These are minor, and relatively easy objections to overcome.

But more difficult, maybe insurmountable, are the internal issues: poor telephone manners, unprofessional customer service, or underwhelming product or services that aren’t quite delivered as billed.

Every business has its’ bad days: logistical foul-ups, bad employees, even bad customers.

But it’s the repeated offenses that will wear your business down over time.

My friend Tony was a fantastic cook, a professionally trained chef, graduatedfrom the Culinary Institute of America. His kitchen skills were extraordinary, his cuisine extraordinary, and he specialized in the fine dishes of low country South Carolina.

Tony and his girlfriend decided to open their own restaurant. I never, ever had a bad meal there, or a meal that wasn’t fantastic. Unfortunately, his girlfriend just wasn’t the type to run the front of the store. It takes a special person to be a restaurant host. She was pleasant enough, but just didn’t have the skill set. Service was spotty at best.

When they advertised, people came. They loved the food. But the dining experience itself was never consistent. People began to ignore the ads and regular customers stopped coming. Eventually, the best She-Crab Soup I ever had was no more.

The lesson here is to get regular customer feedback. And not by singly asking: ‘How was everything?’ Because the answer is typically “fine.” The followup question should always be: ‘Was there anything else we could have done to improve your experience here? We’d appreciate your comments.’

This doesn’t just apply to restaurants. These two questions should be asked of every customer at every business. People want to help those companies that strive to want to help them. It’s human nature.

Here are 5 things you can ask yourself today about your own business (and be honest):
1. Do I provide good value for my product or service?
2. Am I telling enough people (as in Marketing) about my good value?
3. Is every area of my business customer focused?
4. Do I ask every customer for feedback?
5. Do I ask every customer if their experience was good enough to recommend to a friend?

Granted, this is a column on marketing, not sound business practice. But unless the business itself is soundly grounded, no amount of heavy marketing will completely ‘polish the turd.’ And I apologize for the imagery.

Until next time, market wisely.

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