Over the years, BrandExtract has been listed on four different lists with two different publications. We have been ranked by the Houston Business Journal as a Top 25 Advertising Agency, a Top 25 Design Firm, one of the Fast 100 (Fastest Growing Companies in Houston) and, most recently, the Inc. 5000.
Thank you very much.
We enter these lists as a way to market our company. Being listed says that your company is a player in its space and they tell clients as well as prospects that you not only help THEM grow, your company is growing along with them.
Of course with such accolades come a downside. It’s called American Registry. This annoying company (according to their website) “… helps customers commemorate and promote their unique recognitions by designing and manufacturing plaques, marquees, crystals, counter displays, banners and more!” The “more” is the flood of emails, phone calls, faxes (yes, faxes), smoke signals, Morse Code and snail mail they send to your company to persuade you to purchase such plaques, marquees, crystals, counter displays, banners and more!
So here we are basking in the glory of our company being listed when the barrage of “communications” comes from American Registry. First thing we notice are the emails from a lady named Riley Bloom. I’m including her email complete with contact info because you should call her. Or email her a few times.
I love her presumptuous tone. “I can send you the plaque and invoice you – just email me back to confirm.” Really?… You would do THAT? … For ME?! I told her no thanks and to take me off her list. Funny, she didn’t respond, but sent me another email the next day with the same polite message offering to send us our award if we would simply pay the invoice.
Next were the phone calls. Several of them. Every day. Sometimes two and three times a day for about a week and a half. In fact, our receptionist, Victoria, would politely tell them “no thank you,” and they would call back a few hours later. She said that it was typically the same person, but that the caller would change her voice. Kind of like Richie Cunningham in that episode of Happy Days. I think it was Riley Bloom.
Then the faxes would come. Dozens of them. We never use our fax machine, but I think we went through an ink cartridge or two during the two-week “engagement.” Fax after fax politely offering to send us our plaque … and the invoice, of course. Don’t forget the invoice.
Finally we’d had enough and I jumped on their website and told them to stop. Then I filed a complaint with the BBB. Then, I did what any respectable branding pro would do and I tweeted about them. Maybe that’ll get their attention.
Last week a big box arrived at our office to my attention. It was from American Registry. Avi Moskowitz, their CEO enclosed a really nice note thanking me for tweeting and bringing American Registry’s business practices to light (he forgot to sign it). He promised to change his company’s systems and processes to “benefit thousands of current and future AR customers and prospects.” Under the note buried in Styrofoam peanuts was a mini-keg of beer. Coors Light to be exact. He knew that it’s my mainstay brand from reading my tweets.
That’s why he’s CEO.
I thanked him via Twitter (since that’s where I crucified him; it seemed appropriate). But American Registry is a brand in trouble and Ari knows it. When you mention their name in the business community, owners and decision-makers don’t speak very nicely about them. Unless you think “annoying,” “harassing,” “relentless,” and “pest” are nice words, they need work. I’m sure Inc. magazine, American City Business Journals (parent company of Houston Business Journal) and Fortune weren’t happy about having their name attached to the “Pit Bull of Plaques.” Ari may be under pressure.
But to his credit, he’s trying. Sort of. In his unsigned letter, he promised:
1. “When a customer is honored with a series of recognitions that all happen in a very tight time frame, we will notify once, but not follow up by email or fax on each unique recognition. (Already implemented (and) will go into effect next week!)”
I think this was a good move. Bravo, Ari.
2. “We are starting to use twitter so we can get some dialogue going. (Expect this to start next week as well.)”
If I’m annoyed with you, why is this important? I mean, if I’m trying to avoid you, why would I follow you? I wouldn’t have put twitter as a priority because the prospects you’re annoying now need attention. However, considering there’s already a dialog about American Registry going without you (and it ain’t good), this is a good way to manage how badly people beat up your brand. Hope you have someone on this full time.
3. “We are doing a top to bottom evaluation of our subscription center to make it easier and more effective for customers to choose frequency and content of communications regarding their recognitions. (This will take us a few months to execute but we are committed to making it happen.)”
A few months? If this is the core of your issue, why is it so low on your priority list? And your solution seems much more complicated than it has to be. What if you just tell people at the bottom of your emails to reply “unsubscribe” if they no longer want to get your emails? Or, when company tells you that they want to be removed from your list, you just … are you ready? … do it … immediately…?
There is the fundamental difference between good brands and a bad ones. People want good brands in their lives; they don’t have to be forced on people. Good brands are patient and know that eventually you’ll come around. Yes, they make themselves known—they knock at your door, but they doesn’t pound on it demanding to be let in. Essentially, when consumers make the decision to engage with a good brand, the consumer sets the timeline, not the company. Good brands are confident because they know that they fill a void in your life or business.
A good brand is honest. It doesn’t deceive or lie to you about a promise they know they can’t deliver. The custodians of a good brand know who they are—from the CEO to the delivery driver—and everyone understands what is at the heart of the brand. They know what to say to a customer and how to treat them without necessarily having a script. The brand dialog just flows naturally.
Good brands don’t have to send extravagant, over-the-top gifts to make unhappy customers happy again. Sometimes just a short, sincere apology (personally signed by the president or CEO) will d0 because customers who buy into a good brand forgive out-of-character mistakes; they are not part of the customers’ normal experiences. And good brands understand and respect their customers enough to know how much contact is too much. Why?
Because that’s just what good brands do.