Customer Appreciation or Popularity Contest?

Rule number one in business is to make everything as easy as you possibly can for the customer. This was a zero hour promotion thought, that either wasn’t really thought through, or it was meant to be an 11th hour surprise outside your little group. The reason why you plan an event well in advance is to prevent yourself from straying into this kind of territory. You make a plan, think it through and stick to it! As it is, it looks ridiculously contrived.

Even if you can’t work together or for everybody fairly, you don’t want to be using a megaphone to broadcast this sad fact. First you have a stacked deck in favor of a select sampling of businesses, and then you offer a competition to pit the select and non-select businesses against each other. And if that’s not enough, you try to drag the customer’s into the mix. Save your customers the trouble, let me tell you who the winning businesses will certainly be; Blissful Living, Royal Expressions and The Hathaway House. Good job guys, you’re the favorites! This is actually an embarrassment to Blissfield.

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10 Responses to Customer Appreciation or Popularity Contest?

  1. Albeit Somewhat In The Shadows says:

    Thank You Robin

    • Robin says:

      I know it’s their first promotional event, and they did a good job of back-stepping since the post came out – all participating businesses have their own little picture posted to facebook now (I have no idea how they’re going to award that gift certificate). However, where were their mentoring experts known as Michigan Main Street? What about all that Specialized Technical Assistance & Revitalization Strategy and that intensive technical assistance? What was learned at those special instruction seminars? At the very least, I would have expected a review of the promotion plan outline.

      When you’ve got a group of people that arrogantly think they know everything and can afford to sabotage and ostracize “outsiders” wanting to contribute…that invites criticism. I hope they’re not surprised I took them up on the invitation.

  2. BJ says:

    Good article Robin. I agree with you, thanks for posting it. I see there were 8 different food and wine related businesses involved in this event. I was under the understanding this was a retail event for the downtown, but I guess I was wrong. It also appears they planned this event outside the box. The Main Steet map is only S. Lane St. and a block or so either way. If they are including businesses outside the box downtown will never gain a customer base. Weren’t they going to build up a downtown customer base first and then add to Main Street as they went along. I was not aware they were including the whole DDA district for Main Street. I’ve figured out a way Main Street can be dissolved. If the businesses don’t participate in these events they will dissolve sooner than what people think.

    • Robin says:

      Hi BJ,

      I’ll go one step further and say the DDA should be dissolved, it’s performing functions that a private organization should be doing; a government organization only breeds corruption and proves anything run by the government is run inefficiently. Despite $9 billion in cost savings over the past two years and the elimination of more than 100,000 jobs, the post office is in it’s third year of billion dollar losses. Reports for fy 2010 shows $8.5 billion in losses. Nobody has a finger on the pulse of a government run organization; they’re reactive only when they’re forced to be, they prefer not to adjust themselves according to the market. Taxpayers need to be making more noise and demand government get out of the way of American prosperity…on more than one level.

      You bring up a good point about the food and wine establishments, some consider these the food service industry and others consider them part of the retail industry. I expect that since they purchase product wholesale, prepare the food and sell it at retail prices they would be considered retail establishments. In actuality they should be in a class by themselves because they’re a combination of both service and retail. The real question remains whether or not Michigan Main Street considered them “retail” or not. I’m not aware they made any differentiation, they may have.

      I did however, hear them discuss the boundaries for the MMS District on a few occasions and they were adamant about looking after businesses within the district before expanding support to businesses outside the scope. The very first promotional attempt we had seemed to violate many rules, including that one. This tells me a great deal about who we’re dealing with. I as well would suggest businesses do not participate in these events. Unless they’re one of the favored higher echelon businesses, whether they realize it or not, they will be settling for the scraps falling off the master’s plate.

      • Logan says:

        I agree with BJ’s post. For now Mainstreet was supposed to concentrate on the area BJ noted. The Mainstreet group was very clear on that.

  3. Gwen says:

    Hello Bloggers,

    If the Promotions Committee is the group of people you are referencing as” arrogant and sabotaging and ostracizing others”, you can’t be further from the truth. The committee consists of 8 individuals who have come together through the Michigan Main Street Program and volunteer their time to promote Blissfield. This was our first “new event” and by no means was it an embarrassment to our community. There was no favoritism involved.

    The committee made the decision to include all businesses in the DDA district for this retail event, not just those in the Main Street map. Businesses were contacted. We didn’t differentiate between food/retail establishments. In our mind, all particpants are Blissfield businesses and we want to encourage “shopping locally”, hence the name “Love the Local.”. It was up to the businesses to determine if they wanted to participate in this event. Obviously many did, either by a donation and/or extending their business hours.

    One of our mentors from Michigan Main Street was in attendance that evening. She shopped and visited many of the businesses involved in this event.

    We agree that Main Street is about building a customer base in the downtown area, however, for this particular event, we choose to include all the businesses in Blissfield. This won’t be the case with all events; some are more suited to only the Main Street map.

    Some comments and suggestions from businesses occured that evening but because the Promotions Committee wants all their events to be successful (we have a measurement of success built into our plans) , we will be surveying all the businesses that particpated in Love the Local. They will be asked to give their opinion of this event: what did they like, dislike, what can be done differently next year, other suggestions, etc.

    I hope I’ve clarified some of the concerns mentioned in earlier blogs.

    • Robin says:

      Hi Gwen,

      Nothing was said in this post about arrogant and sabotaging and ostracizing others, the post wasn’t about the Love the Local event, it was about the last minute facebook competition that pit businesses against each other. This was a competition for businesses without having a fair playing field; there was no equal chance to win. The facebook competition was an embarrassment to Blissfield. No favoritism involved? What were you doing then…encouraging favoritism? Am I using the wrong adjectives? Playing on, fostering, promoting…asking customers to pick a favorite business that gets posted to facebook for all to extol sounds like it had something to do with favoritism to me.

      Are you saying that Michigan Main Street’s head promotion expert advised you or approved your very first event to make customers jump through hoops – then more last minute hoops, to emphasize and encourage the rampant favoritism that’s already plaguing Blissfield and to disregard their most basic operating principle of the MMS district? That’s pretty interesting if that indeed is what you’re saying. That’s what you’ve alluded to by making the statement that your mentor was on the scene. Maybe this will clear things up a bit…what did your mentor say after she shopped and visited many of the businesses? Are you claiming there is no favoritism?

      Your very first event and you didn’t cater to the MMS district which was supposed to be the very reason MMS exists. I believe Michigan Main Street is in a lose/lose situation here. Either they say one thing and do another as part of some grand scheme, as in we will concentrate only within the MMS boundaries as was the promise made to the downtown merchants but in reality there are no boundaries. Or, they have boundaries and the money collected to fund DDA/MMS comes from the entire business district but only goes toward funding events/economic restructuring/organization and design within the strict boundaries of the downtown core. Looks like somewhat of a quandary to me. Either way, merchants are going to be upset. I suppose I can sit and wait to find out what the criteria will be for outside and inside boundary events.

      • Robin says:

        Gwen, sorry about the misunderstanding, I did say something about arrogance, ostracizing and sabotage in a comment.

        Just to give you and other bloggers some added information, there’s a little light grey “reply” link under each comment and the word “reply” is underlined. By clicking this link you can reply directly to a particular comment and hopefully get a reply to your comment. It’s like looking at someone when you’re talking to them rather than going into a room and addressing everybody. That way the context of your comment is understood. I didn’t remember what I had said to someone else.

        To explain it further, I’ve repeated those words often because that’s my main beef about what’s been decaying the whole concept of community.

        If the Promotions Committee and those that belong to it have run people off the committee, then I guess I am talking to you.

        I strongly believe everybody that pays taxes in a community should be valued and heard if they have something to say about how it’s operating. I’m in the process of explaining exactly how I’ve seen arrogance, ostracizing and sabotage in action and by whom, in the following posts .

  4. Gwen says:

    Hi Robin,
    I read your initial post on Feb 11 and other on Feb 13. As I read both of these posts, it seems you are referring to the Promotions Committee because we are the committee who planned and coordinated the Love the Local event. That’s why I’m responding.

    I can assure you the idea of using Facebook was never meant to offend anyone or make a competition of that night’s event. Maybe we were being too simplistic, but it was intended to be a way to have folks visit the Blissfield Facebook page. I’m hoping you’ve had the opportunity to visit the page and see what’s been happening. We’re trying to get the word out about the businesses and events in town.

    The Promotions Committee hasn’t had the chance to meet with Mary Stotler(Promotion Specialist Michigan Main Street Center) after the event. We were to have met with her this past week, but with the lack of electricity, that didn’t happen. We’re hoping to meet this week and see what she has to say about Love the Local. I will be sure to ask her specifically about the Facebook campaign.

    I can only speak for myself, but I’ve not been made aware of any promises to downtown merchants that only their businessess would be included in DDA/Michigan Main Steet events. The title itself includes all businesses in the DDA and Michigan Main Steet map. But as I mentioned in my Feb 26 comment, “We agree that Main Street is about building a customer base in the downtown area, however, for this particular event, we choose to include all the businesses in Blissfield. This won’t be the case with all events; some are more suited to only the Main Street map.”

    • Robin says:

      Gwen, the post on Feb. 11 was “Elite Force Favoritism” and did involve the DDA’s and Chamber’s Director, Shelley Woods but it was Wonacott with presumably the DDA and the Chamber board’s and their respective Chairs blessing that issued the orders for only 4 special businesses to be approached and offered the CDBG block grant. The event I wrote about occurred in 2006 – 2008, the Promotions Committee hadn’t yet been established.

      Based on the information that has been given me through the sales and hype process generated from Michigan Main Street, their employees, the board training session, the committee training session (all the PowerPoint slides that depicted downtowns), the verbiage “downtown”, “traditional downtown shopping districts”, together with repeatedly saying they were going to focus on the downtown core plus the actual map of the MMS district as shown here sounds like a promise, pledge or assurance the nucleus of all activity was certainly going to be within the confines of the map’s boundaries. Others have come to the same conclusions, obviously from other comments. As I’ve already stated, one would think that your very first event or even your first few would have had the focus that was previously decided and indeed promised.

      Taking into account the lack of trust that’s been cultivated by the elite network, with the unfairness, favoritism, ostracizing, sabotage and overall corruption that has undermined this community. I cannot be assured that a facebook account that’s administrated by the network, dedicated to cheer for the network businesses offering a business against business competition wasn’t meant to offend anyone. I found it offensive and I don’t even have skin in the game (a business downtown). I do have 25 years of retail and customer service experience, I have owned and managed businesses, I had two very talented Executive Chefs for parents…and I’m an outsider with an objective perspective that lives in the community.

      At this point it will only take a perception of wrong doing to get criticized, you’d have to be hyper vigilant to avoid criticism in the future. If you’d really like to avoid that and turn things around, you’ll have to bend over backwards for an extended period of time to win over those that have been slighted and abused. If you wanted to shorten the healing process, it would be good to get supporters on board with the cause, ask the f-troopers to help you; they’re always willing to help, aren’t they?

      If you’re in the “there is nothing wrong with Blissfield” camp then disregard everything I’ve just said and we’ll keep on doing what we’ve been doing. If not, a good place to start is to get businesses involved in the decision making process, treat everybody fairly and communicate, communicate, communicate. If you find that you’ve got to make an executive decision because of a lack of consensus, then take turns producing benefactors to those decisions and communicate that…and keep track.

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