If you exist in the business world long enough, you come across ideas, frameworks, and business paradigms that surprise you a little. Sometimes, you are surprised through sheer innovation alone, like the time I met a young couple who were working on a process for re-processing old carpets. To times when I was surprised by a brilliant business operating method where I could understand why somebody hadn’t thought of it before. The business practices in this article range from general operating procedures to clever marketing tricks. Take a look for yourself, and ask yourself if you could apply any of these to your own business.
Insurance Companies – Calculating Risk and Removing it
Do you remember the scene in the movie “Fight Club” where the unnamed protagonist explains the cold-hearted way that car manufacturers figure out if they should recall a faulty vehicle? I had a similar conversation with a woman who was high up in an insurance company. She said that their policy-making philosophies have infested every area of their business, which she described it as a process whereby risk is discovered and eliminated in an almost pathological manner.
A simple example was how their test inspectors have personal PDA tablet computers that they have to return to the office each day. They are each in slim cabinets, and the chargers in the cabinets kept going missing. Since they couldn’t screw the chargers into the cabinets, they made the charger cases too large to remove from the cabinet’s sliding doors. Risk eliminated.
They discovered some inspectors were taking their tablets home rather than returning them to the labs because it enabled them to go home a little earlier. This posed a risk to the information those tablets were gathering, so the insurance company created holsters for each tablet that would ping the user if it were not returned at least one hour after the end of the day shift. Three pings per quarter and the employee was disciplined. Not only did this stop people taking their PDA tablets home, it also stopped employees lending their devices to other employees, which helped to further lower any risks to their data.
Where You May Benefit
These seem like almost petty issues, but this is how their entire business operates. Be the risk a large one, like threats from Chinese hacking mills, to smaller risks like fire escapes that gathered ice on the railings, the company dealt with each risk with the same level of gusto. She boasted that the company doesn’t have a single warning sign on any wall. Going on to say, “Instead of a Mind Your Head sign, we simply lower the floor.”
Go out of your way to identify every single risk to your business and make a concerted effort to fix the issue. Apply it to everything from how your staff over steer when driving, to how your firewall is set up
Credit Card Companies – Ally With as Many Other Companies As you Can
You have probably seen credit cards where you get points that allow you to stay in certain hotels or fly on certain airlines. We are all used to the sorts of third-party perks you can get from credit cards. Yet, it makes you wonder why more companies do not ally with other companies in order to provide a better service for their end users. Transferwise and Virgin seemed like an obvious pairing since one converts currency and the other offers flights, but few companies seem willing to buddy up with other companies in the way that credit card companies do.
Is it so outlandish that businesses work together towards a better goal? Back in the bad old days when email spam wasn’t invented yet, we had to suffer junk mail. People stuffed marketing material through your letterbox on a daily basis. Back in those days, it wasn’t uncommon to see different companies appearing on the same leaflets and booklets because they shared the cost of the printing and delivery.
Where You May Benefit
Ask yourself if there are ways your company could ally with others to perhaps offer better value for your customers. Even if all you are doing is handing out discount vouchers for other companies, it is still something your customers get to enjoy without any expense to yourself.
Supermarkets – Show Them What They Already Have and Then Upsell
I wrote an article that featured supermarkets pretty heavily. It is called What You Can Learn From People’s AI Marketing Successes, and it features a wide number of marketing methods that supermarkets use with the help of AI. While our team at Vertanet.com were working on the research for that article, we noticed a few other methods that supermarkets use. They are one of the few companies in the country that are happy to jump straight to the upsell on the almost arrogant assumption you are going to buy from them anyway.
It put me in mind of the trickster Darren Brown, who said he used to have a long winded hypnosis method, but he discovered a faster way by accident. He approached a woman he thought he had hypnotized in the past, and he gave her the quick and easy version. She was entranced before he realized he had never actually met her before. He skipped the usual patter, and was still successful.
Where You May Benefit
When it comes to major supermarket chains, they often have adverts where they are skipping the part where they actually sell you the product, and jumping straight into the upsell. They are working on the premise that if you bought the product before, then you are probably going to buy it again anyway, so why not upsell to you? If you are selling to repeat customers, consider skipping the sales portion entirely and jumping right into the upsell. Consider dedicating a portion of your marketing efforts to skipping the usual selling routine and jumping right to the upselling portion of the process.
JapanesePod101 – Offer Newsletters With a Genuine In-The-Moment Use
If you sign up to learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com, they offer to send you a word of the day every day. It is an email that gives you a Japanese word, how it is spelled, what it means, and how it is pronounced. For somebody learning Japanese, this is a rather valuable email, and this company offers to do it for free.
Where You May Benefit
Perhaps you cannot offer the sort of newsletter that is useful every single day, but do you have one you can offer people on a weekly or monthly basis? Is there some sort of information you can offer on a semi-frequent basis that would make your emails genuinely useful in the moment? It is often best if the usefulness of your emails are temporary.
For example, cryptocurrency and currency conversion websites sometimes offer alerts for big price changes, and betting websites often offer updates on upcoming sports events. Do you have something you could offer people that has a genuine in-the-moment use? If so, your newsletter could become far more valuable, which you could then use as a branding tool, promotional tool, or you could use as the start of your sales funnel.
Steam – Notify Consumers About Discounts From Their Own Wishlist
Online stores like Steam allow people to create a wish list. It is a list of all the things that each consumer wants from the store itself. Steam goes the extra step so that whenever something on your Steam wish list suddenly goes on discount, Steam emails you and lets you know.
Most companies shy away from this sort of marketing tactic. Companies do not like this type of marketing tactic because it teaches consumers to wait for discounts before they buy. In fact, the PlayStation store, another gaming store, removed their wish list functions for that very reason. If your consumers only ever buy when you are running discounts, then you are probably going to struggle to remain profitable, so why does Steam do it?
The first reason could be that Steam doesn’t own the games, they are only selling them, and they get their selling commission only when games actually sell. Ergo, it doesn’t matter to Steam how thick or thin the game’s profit margins are when the sale is made. The second reason why Steam does this is that they know the value of drawing people back to the website. Sure, there are plenty of people who will only dip in and out of the website whenever a wish list discount email is sent, but that is not always a bad thing. Steam is very good at making its discount sale and keeping people around long enough to get them interested in other games.
Where You May Benefit
Do not shy away from the wish list discount email method. You may attract the bargain hunter crowd, but sometimes it is worth losing a little profit here and there if it gets people in your shops or on your websites. Plus, if you work in a very competitive industry, remember that even a discount purchase from you is a purchase your consumer will not make with your competitor. Finally, even if you do make mostly discounted sales, there are always add-on features, upsells and aftercare you can make money on.
Argos – Same Day Delivery
Why isn’t this more of a thing? Why is it that I can now order just about any type of takeaway food up until 1am in the morning, but if I want a bicycle pump, I have to wait a week for a delivery from Amazon. When Argos first started offering same day delivery for what is their regular delivery fee, I was 100% sure that most other large retail companies would follow their lead…but they didn’t. Argos has stores that are in every city and town, so they can treat their delivery the same way a takeaway does, but why can’t others?
The fact that Argos also offers three to five delivery slots per day is also brilliant. Forget confining your thoughts on delivery to postal and delivery services and take the food takeaway approach of hiring somebody to do deliveries around town. If you sell the sorts of products people want today, then you could have online writers praising your brand for free too (like we are doing for Argos right here). I wouldn’t accept their money if they did offer to pay us for our praise, I have never known a time when I could order a baby’s high chair in the morning and have it arrive at my house in time for lunch.
Where You May Benefit
Perhaps you do not have a store in every town, but you have a store in your own town. Why not offer same-day delivery in your own town. If a takeaway can do it, why can’t you. There are many times when small businesses struggle to find a major selling point that pushes them above their competitors. Yet, if you are offering same-day delivery for the same price your competitors are offering 3-5 day delivery, then that is a massive advantage you can use to grow your brand. Don’t forget that Dominoes used to make awful pizzas, but they ran their “30 minutes or its free” campaign and became an international success story. Do not underestimate the power of quicker deliveries.
Final Thoughts – When Nothing Applies to You
There are no doubt a fair number of people reading who cannot apply any of the methods in this article to their business. Be it because their product cannot be delivered on the same day, or perhaps because they don’t have an upselling process. For whatever reason, my humble advice is that you network a little more and perhaps make a bigger effort to make more business connections. Poke your nose into the way other businesses operate because you will be surprised how much a seemingly unrelated business can inspire you to try new things within your own business.