Using a gimmick can be a great way for a business to stand out, but it may also leave some skeptical about the seriousness of the company. Here are some proactive business practices that will ensure you're taken seriously.
By Tressa Wood (CEO, Men in Kilts)
Back in 2009 when I first told people I was joining Men In Kilts and we were planning to franchise, some people said, “Really, Tressa? Isn’t that just a gimmick?”
Gimmick is defined as, “an innovative stratagem or scheme employed especially to promote a project.” Another definition is, “a unique or quirky special feature that makes something 'stand out' from its contemporaries.”
We definitely stand out and I would agree that we are unique, maybe even quirky. People stop, look, and smile when they see us. That is pretty powerful.
But how do we ensure the perceived gimmick is more than just that? We put it aside, and built our business strategy and systems as if the gimmick did not exist. We quickly got to the point of, "Forget the kilts. How will we become the leader in this market, even if we were ABC Window Cleaning franchise?”
Here are some ways to help your seemingly off the wall name or idea becomes more than a gimmick:
Follow Up With Customers Immediately
We found that most of our competitors did not make it a priority to respond to customer inquiries within the day, let alone within minutes. We built a centralized customer service and sales center where our team answers customer calls from across North America in less than 60 seconds. Market research is an important first step as this type of strategy would have been difficult to implement after franchising had begun.
Build an “Exceed Expectations” Culture
It really is the little things that matter. Our teams are on the lookout for opportunities to provide a little more than expected, in any situation. The question is always: what can we do that’s even more unique than the kilts we’re wearing? For example, changing a hard-to-reach light bulb for a customer while we’re cleaning their interior windows, getting involved in the community and supporting a charity, or even stopping to help someone change a flat tire. We encourage everyone at Men In Kilts to go the extra mile and do more than people would expect from a window cleaning company.
We’re not perfect and if we make a mistake or someone isn’t happy with our work, we want to know so we can make it right. We follow up with customers after every job, we use the NPS (Net Promoter Score) system to measure where we stand in terms of service, and we listen to our customers. We also guarantee our work. If businesses are not accountable to delivering what they say they will, customers will not stay loyal.
As the CEO, Stay Directly Connected to Customers
The CEO needs a direct line to the customer. It is not something you can pass off. The NPS email goes out from my alternate email address, so customers can respond to me directly. I have a copy of every NPS response delivered to a folder in my inbox, which I review weekly. Considering happy customers are critical to our success, I make it a priority to stay connected.
... and keep your growth plans in mind. Every role in our company can be done from a home office. This mobility allows us to keep overhead down, attract great people and remain flexible and responsive as we grow and navigate our way through start up.
We also ensure we are respectful of the Scottish culture, and we wear our Wallace tartan kilts with pride. We make every effort to manage the brand and never cross the line from being fun to being “sexy,” which can be a challenge. We once had a women call us to try and book our service during a wedding shower, which we respectfully declined.
Don’t get me wrong, while it takes a lot more than just wearing a kilt to make customers happy, we leverage the kilt angle as much as possible. It makes marketing virtually a breeze and the PR is fantastic.
So if you are thinking of ways to stand out and be different, make sure you do it with taste and purpose.
DO YOU HAVE OTHER TIPS ON BALANCING BRAND GIMMICKS WITH EFFICIENT BUSINESS TACTICS?
About the guest blogger: Tressa Wood partnered with the Men In Kilts’ original founders in 2009 when there was one window cleaning location and a vision of franchising. Tressa joined as CEO and co-owner and launched a new franchising company, Men In Kilts Franchise Services. The company now has locations across North America and plans to be in every major metro by 2017.