The Cincinnati Chapter of the American Marketing Association just finished up with their second annual Ignite Conference! This conference offered a great opportunity to learn about how customer experiences can lead to a better competitive advantage. EMI was there, and these were the biggest takeaways:
Many people try to hide their weaknesses from their employers. We are taught to spin our weaknesses into positives during job interviews for example. Dave Rendall speaks about this in his book Freak Factor. Growing up, he was often seen as a rebellious kid for not sitting still, talking in class, and not doing what he was told. Year after year he would be sent to the principal’s office and told he would never make it in life. Instead of being bogged down by what everyone told him, he instead used his “weakness” and turned them into strengthens based on what he calls the “Freak Factor” (the unique combinations of strengths and weaknesses that make you different and powerful). He left us with a few important takeaways:
Similar to people, many companies try to hide their weaknesses from their customers. Dave Rendall worked with Stan Phelps, author the Goldfish series of books, sharing their thoughts on how companies should focus on taking their weaknesses and turning them into their strengths – using what makes them different to make them powerful. Some examples of this are in the quick-service industry. When healthy eating started trending many restaurants, which weren’t exactly known for being healthy, McDonald’s and many other restaurants adjusted their menus to include things such as apples, yogurt, and bottled water. These adjustments did not improve their revenue.
Meanwhile, Hardee’s, a struggling brand did the opposite. They focused on unhealthy eating, rather than the healthy options many others gravitated towards. Hardy’s Thickburger is about as unhealthy as you can get, combining hamburger with not only a hot dog but also potato chips. This change, doing the opposite of what most companies were doing, rejuvenated the brand and greatly increased sales.
Dave and Stan also gave the example of Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theatre in San Antonio. They have a rule of no children, and no texting or talking during their movies. And they throw anyone out of the theatre that breaks these rules. Not only that, they put any complaint letters and angry voicemails they receive on their website. While this alienates some potential customers, they created a loyal group of customers that appreciated the no texting element among a group of people that could focus on the movie experience.
The big point Dave and Stan tried to get across was that companies shouldn’t be afraid to be unique and be counter to typical norms because it can lead to surprising results.
Ignite was filled with many great speakers, in addition to Stan Phelps and Dan Rendell expert and the coauthor of the Goldfish series of business books, Chick-fil-A, Spectrum, and The United States Playing Card Company who all delivered ideas on building great customer experiences from various perspectives. Providing customer service that embraces flaws in using unconventional methods that are more likely to stand out and be remembered, each speaker gave different examples of what great customer experiences can be. Achieving competitive customer service might be easier than you think, try to focus on how what others might view as issues, could be the unique selling factor your company needs.
EMI was fortunate enough to be part of the planning committee for this conference, so we can speak personally on how much work and volunteering goes into creating these amazing events – not to mention all the volunteers who helped out while also juggling their normal day jobs. All the hard work that went into identifying the ideal speakers, determining how to promote the conference (with special giveaways and sponsors), and more, led to such a great experience for all the attendees. Small group environments can offer better networking and foster relationship building better than you can in large conference environments. There was a puppy break, free snow cones, and a library for everyone to take home one of the books from the authors’ presentation! That being said, we highly encourage everyone to support their local conferences. Whether helping with volunteering efforts or simply attending the event, you won’t regret the experiences you can receive from conferences right in your area!
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