The Good Thing About Bad News

Wernher von Braun, the only person ever to win two individual Nobel prizes (and one of the only two recipients of Nobels in two different categories), offered some advice that applies as much to marketing as science: “Look for problems and bad news.”

In marketing, that approach offers two powerful benefits.

1. Outperform Your Competition

Most of us avoid trouble. That extends to our businesses and products and service, too. As long as no one complains, we assume that all is well.

But we know better, don’t we. Things fall through the cracks. Service slips a little, and then a little more. In the rush of daily work, we quietly lose touch with longtime customers. So when something is amiss, we miss it.

Those small slips and missteps level the playing field. They keep everyone at an acceptable level of mediocrity. Customers stay where they are because there’s nowhere better to go.

But what if we went looking for trouble? What if we sought out bad news? We’d be more likely to find — and fix — issues before they became institutionalized.

Customers would go from dispirited to delighted. And happy customers buy more. They tell other people. That’s money in the bank.

2. Reposition Your Competition

In every industry, there are practices and procedures that actually make life harder for customers. These self-imposed limits and the hoops they make customers jump through have been around so long, they’re baked into many a business model.

But what if they weren’t.

What if you boldly challenged your own service model? What if you looked for the barriers your customers face to getting what they want, when and where they want it?

And the really big question: what if you decided to change it — to tear down the barriers and rebuild your processes so they truly put customers’ needs ahead of yours in all things?

If you did that, and then used your marketing to let the world know about it, you’d devour market share. You could quickly reposition your competition as stuck in their old, cumbersome ways. And yourself as the cool, customer-centric alternative.

Are You Bold Enough?

It takes a lot of nerve to dig into what isn’t working for your customers. Those are hard questions to ask — and hard answers to face. But they’re the key to unlocking a wealth of new business.

And there’s a side benefit. Happier customers not only stay around longer, they also tend to make your employees happier to work with them. Increased customer loyalty and higher employee engagement, in one neat package.