Purple Goldfish for Thanksgiving

I had the pleasure of meeting Stan Phelps recently at a MENG meeting. Stan is the Founder and Chief Measurement Officer of 9 INCH marketing and the author of the Amazon Best-Seller, What’s Your Purple Goldfish – 12 Ways to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth. The book is based on the Purple Goldfish Project, a crowd sourcing effort that collected over a thousand examples of signature added value. Stan’s work resonates with me for two reasons.

One, I strongly believe that, as important as it is to have a solid brand strategy, it’s trumped by customer experience every day. There are a few things I know for sure about marketing:

  1. It’s cheaper to retain & grow current customers than to recruit new ones.
  2. Customer satisfaction is impacted more by their experience with your brand than by the fancy strategy presentations on your laptop.
  3. Happy customers buy more, & buy more frequently, than unhappy customers.

So Stan’s premise of focusing senior leadership more on adding value and building loyalty, vs. on creativity or cost cutting, just makes sense to me.

Hanson Beverage ServiceThe second reason the concept of the purple goldfish struck such a chord with me is that I had just heard a “goldfish” story about a friend of mine.  I’ve known Laurie since kindergarten. She and her husband own Hanson Beverage Services, which provides bottled water & related services to both business and residential clients in the greater “Michiana” (Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan) area.  A 20-year customer named Dorothy called to ask Laurie to cancel her service. Laurie talked to Dorothy for an hour, and learned that she & her husband were happy with the service, but they were now in their 80s and could no longer lift the bottles and have no family in the area to do it for them. customer gift for Hanson Beverage ServicesHanson’s drivers will now be bringing the water bottles into Dorothy’s home and changing them for her. Sure, it adds cost & takes time. But Laurie believes that’s just good customer service, especially for long-term customers. Dorothy appreciated the extra care, and sent Laurie a handmade potholder to show her appreciation.

What does this have to do with marketing? Nothing. Everything. Whatever you say about your brand (that’s marketing), you need to bring it to life in the way you deliver your brand every day. Hanson’s website doesn’t just tell me what products they offer, it promises customer service that is second to none, that will exceed expectations. Exceeding expectations is a definite purple goldfish, & I’m pretty sure they bring that brand promise to life every day.

When I work with my clients to define brand positioning, it’s not just about crafting the story they’d like to tell. It’s about crafting a story they can bring to life every day.  I help them do the “audit” to determine what they’re really delivering. I also facilitate team sessions to share the brand vision and make sure every team member understands what it looks like to deliver on that promise in their day job.

The holidays are a really busy time for many businesses. Make sure your team understands the promise they need to deliver with every customer interaction. And if you really want to win people over, empower them to deliver a few purple goldfish.


Monica Hahn is a branding & marketing consultant & career coach based in San Rafael, California

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Monica Hahn is a consultant who provides marketing and brand strategy, based in the San Francisco Bay area. Monica is also a career and executive coach who works in person or virtually.

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What clients say about Monica Hahn: Monica has been one of the most influential and valued Career Coaches I've had the pleasure of working with. She's always shown a genuine interest in helping me achieve my career goals. Monica’s integrity, passion, and intellect distinguish her in her field. Her ability to envision and pave new pathways to our brand and concept are unparalleled.
Kevin Price interviews Monica Hahn of Hahn Solo Strategy. Monica Hahn is a consultant who provides marketing and brand strategy, based in the San Francisco Bay area. Monica is also a career and executive coach who works in person or virtually.

Listen to my interview with Kevin Price on "The Price of Business."

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