Excitement Creates An Edge

Bells and Whistles 2_Med

Don't forget the bells and whistles

It's not always enough to be right. It's not always enough to be affordable. And it's not always enough to be timely. Sometimes, you need a little extra. Something that will set you apart from the competition. Something that will give you an edge, make you memorable, and help you to win. 

Whether you are pitching new creative, selling merchandise to a major account, or presenting a plan to more senior executives in your organization, you won't want to forget the bells and whistles.

A lesson in a Colorful box

The ribbon has faded, the whistle has lost it's shine, and the bells have accumulated a little rust from time spent hanging above my tools in the garage, but the lesson that they represent is lodged in my memory forever. I keep these symbols in a prominent place in my office as a reminder for me and a lesson for those who ask about them. They've been sitting in the offices I've occupied, regardless of the company or the roll, since 1984. This is how I got them.

I was hired by Ron Weinstein to be the Advertising Manager for Schuck's Auto Supply in 1983. The company was operating just over 70 retail locations in three northwest states at the time. Long a major advertiser in newspapers throughout the region, Schuck's had hired a Portland based advertising agency to assist in the companies entry into television and radio in 1982.  The initial campaign was reasonably successful and the agency was later given an opportunity to pitch for an encore. Ron empowered me to guide the agency and coordinate the review of their presentation, and to engage two additional agencies who would be pitching for the business as well.

When the presentations were heard, the incumbent and one of the challenger agencies were in a tight race. Both had excellent creative concepts, were within the designated budget, and had plans for implementation that were within the timeframe that was prescribed. However the incumbent seemed to be more confident than the challenger. So much so that they let a less senior associate make the majority of the presentation. As a result, some of the veteran leadership, energy, and excitement for what Schuck's would be investing in was noticeably lacking. The challenger, however, filled the room with color, enthusiasm and surprises that captured our imagination and interest. They made us feel special and as if they were willing to do more to win the business.

The next day, after discussing the presentations internally, I was responsible for notifying both agencies of our decision. The winner was thrilled and went on to serve Schuck's well for several years. The incumbent, on the other hand, was stunned, disappointed, and angry. Unwilling to accept the decision, agency principles flew to Seattle. Despite their effort to change our minds, it was too late. Ron asked me to tell them what I'd seen that was missing from their presentation that had cost them the business. I simply told them this, "You forgot the bells and whistles." 

A good Reminder - For Both of us!
A day or two later a package was delivered to my office. It was in a colorful, shiny box that had various stars, rainbows, and bursts adorning the outside. When I removed the lid I found multi-colored confetti, and reflective streamers packed around a smaller box. Next to the small box was a note. 

The note started with "thank you" and went on to say that despite losing the business the agency was appreciative of the reminder that it's not enough to do what is expected. And that every pitch should be as if it was the first one... the one that won the client's business in the first place.

I opened the inner box and there were the ribbons, the bells, and the whistle. Tied to the bell was a tag that said, "Here's what we forgot when we made our presentation."

See the edge?

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The Fine Print

Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.  Contact me!

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