Want to Go Out of Business?

By Hannah Wallace April 30, 2008

I wonder if business managers are becoming neurotic given the endless number of “experts” who are selling millions of self-help books on ways to improve your business.

You can be a One Minute Manager or you can let your business be run by mice, as in Who Moved my Cheese? You can read the Tipping Point to learn precisely when your business will succeed or fail. And if your business is doing fairly well, you can still follow some sage advice encapsulated in a book entitled If it Ain’t Broke… BREAK IT. Need more help?

I am going to save you a lot of time and money—money that can be better spent on working on your business, if you are so inclined. Here is my list of five simple things you can do to insure that you are out of business in quick order. (You expected another Pollyanna list?)

1. Be arrogant. Forget that winning and keeping clients or customers is all about chemistry. Put an aloof greeter at the door to seat your customers. Don’t shake their hands and thank them for their business. Don’t ask them about their experience; in fact, don’t even show up. Think first about what’s in it for you and not them, because your bottom line is all that matters.

We can all recount the number of times we have gone into a restaurant, specialty store or service business and were treated as if we had leprosy. It’s almost like the employees are doing you a favor. And how many times have you actually gone back? How many people have you told to stay away?

2. Ignore the first 10 minutes. That’s when most sales occur. In real estate, it’s called curb appeal or staging. In a service business, it is how you present yourself to the client. In retail, it is the ambiance created when the customer enters your establishment.

Every new person comes into your business with a predisposed bias. Yes, we are judgmental, although that is not necessarily a pejorative term. We are human and, as such, have myriad experiences shaping our expectations. When we see a person, a business, an advertisement, a product or visit a business for the first time, we immediately call upon this lifetime of cues that will create a positive or negative first impression. Cognitive research from the advertising world indicates that you have to work 10 times harder to overcome one negative exposure.

So if you want to lose customers you should strive to make your initial consumer experience as tedious, cumbersome and difficult as possible. It’s a lot easier on you—and you don’t have to call Dr. Kevorkian.

3. Try to become a commodity. Avoid creating a point of difference. You should compete with every other business on price, premiums, discounts and sales items. Don’t establish a value proposition in the consumer’s mind—the fewer reasons you give them to shop with you, the better. And don’t do anything unique. Maintain the status quo. Avoid building brand equity.

4. Use marketing and advertising as a bludgeon. I do consulting with the Association of National Advertisers. Their research shows that the typical consumer in the course of making a decision will come in contact with between 50-100 touch points with your business. That includes every aspect of packaging, promotion and information. The successful corporations use an integrated approach to communicating a message, and they keep it simple and focused. Since you are on a mission to fail, bombard the customer with tons of facts so that you make sure every single element of the business is included in every communication. Use up every inch of white space in your ad. You paid for it.

5. Aim for the wallet and not the heart. A wide body of consumer marketing research supports the premise that decisions are made for irrational, emotional reasons. They don’t call most consumer packaged goods “impulse items” by accident. Why buy Listerine versus Scope versus the store brand? They all do the same thing. Why buy a BMW versus a VW? Both get you wherever you want to go.

True, there are many rational factors for making a purchase, but deep down it is about the emotional experience. Buyers want to fulfill a series of personal needs and they want to believe in a brand that touches some irrational but important part of their psyche.

If you ignore these guidelines and are still in business for next month, I am going to invite you to join the Sarasota chapter of the Anti-Covey Center (as in Steven Covey). As founder and chairman I am going to take applications for membership. Tune in to read about the Seven Habits of Highly Successful Non-Wussy People in a later issue.

Lou Schultz owns LMS-Unlimited LLC, a full-service communications consultancy, and Canvas Café Leysin in downtown Sarasota. Formerly, he was CEO of Initiative Media, a $23 billion global media services company. His awards include Mediaweek’s Director of the Year and Advertising Age’s “Top 15 Agency Innovators." Contact him at [email protected] .com.

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