You go on vacation to a certain destination because you maybe read about it, saw it on television, or better yet, a friend has been there and TOLD you all about what an incredible place it was. You buy a new car for similar reasons. You select a service provider in much the same way. So my question to you is what are you doing to earn the word of mouth advertising that is so important to any business?
Do people talk about your products or service? Do they shop with you or look at your website and say, “WOW I HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE ABOUT THIS!” Is the experience that they have with you something that will stay with them and make some sort of impact on how they perceive your category? Do you as a representative of your company give customers a reason to speak up about how great you are?
What are they saying about you?
Some things you might want to know about the power of a referral:
- 84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products and services-making these recommendations the highest ranked source for trustworthiness.
- 74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.
- 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts.
I know that many companies out there are always asking for the referral. “Like us on Facebook.” “Please fill out this survey and tell us how we are doing!” WHY SHOULD I? Why should I invest the time to go on your Facebook page and spend the 4 seconds it might take to like your company? Or even worse take a survey! Want me to give you my friends names and phone numbers so that you can reach out to them and sell them something. NOT A CHANCE. Unless…
Chic-fil-A blows me away every-time I eat there with the kids because the level of service they give here in Joplin rivals that of some of the best steak houses I have ever been to. At a hotel in Colorado I left my keys at a restaurant and the the hotel shuttle bus had shut down for the night. So the valet went and got his personal car and took me back to the restaurant to get my keys so I could leave early in the morning. I like shopping at Zappos because they create cool videos to help me understand their products better and the overall customer service experience is awesome. All of these guys fire me up. Yes I am a dork I suppose, but when someone goes above and beyond the other people in the market, I get excited about what they are doing at which point I am more than happy to spread the word to friends and family. Isn’t this true for you as well?
If all you are doing is making a bed that is pretty much like the rest of them in the market I doubt you are going to get a lot of love from your customers. If the shopping experience in your store is pretty much the same as every other place you go, then don’t hold your breath waiting for the Facebook like. Not only are you NOT going to inspire someone to lift you up to others, you are going to annoy them for asking for something so valuable as their time when you haven’t earned it. Want to create those raving fans that advocate for your brand? Become what you respect most in the companies you love.
UPDATE: A while back I asked you guys to respond to a young man named Richard Croddy who was working on a paper for his school. Richard works for Mattress Express out in Tennessee and needed for some of you to take his survey and you did! Richard completed his paper thanks to you guys and ended up with an “A” on the paper and an “A” in the class. Well done Q’s Views readers, and Mattress Industry Executives on LinkedIn, I appreciate everyone that took part. A special thanks to Sleep Geek for helping me get the word out!
If you listen to some of the top business leaders out there, many of them will tell you about a mentor that they had rising through the ranks. For Bill Gates, it was Warren Buffett. For Jack Welch it was his mother. So what impact can mentors have?
I have had several in my career. Two of them have been involved since the beginning (literally), and a few just in the last decade:
- First my parents. My mother because she taught me about unconditional love, the value of relationships, and helped to teach me structure and how to be organized. Believe me, that was no easy task. My father because he was a business man and I thought he was brilliant when it came to negotiating deals, working hard, and learning your way into things. He actually let me come with him to business meetings and even brought me along for a legal deposition once. I was hooked.
- Perry Davis, my boss at Leggett and Platt taught me a lot as well. Not about marketing because he didn’t know SQUAT about that! (If he happens to read this he will laugh and agree I promise). But what he did teach me was how to measure every action because the ripple effect can directly impact many other things down the road. The other and more important lesson he passed on was how to approach your job with humility. (Yes, I’m still working on this one.) Perry had a big job at Leggett back then, and an even bigger one now. On one of my first trips with Perry we were staying at a condo in Colorado. Perry grabbed our luggage and I grabbed some of the other gear. Perry had placed my suitcase in the first room which was huge, featuring a king sized bed and its own bathroom. I figured that this condo had two master suites but I was wrong. I went to take Perry a beer and he was unpacking his stuff in a room with two twin sized beds. This guy is 6’7″ tall…are you kidding!? Just because you are a big deal, doesn’t mean you have to act like a big deal. I literally had to force him to swap me rooms.
- Karl Glassman was my other mentor at Leggett. Karl also didn’t know SQUAT about marketing but that’s because he and Perry both attended the Paul Hauser school of marketing; and FAILED! (If you know Paul, that last sentence is pretty funny.) Karl did however teach me how to lead people. In addition to Perry, he is also a very humble guy. When you allow people to do their job, encourage good behavior and don’t crucify people when they make a mistake, you can really get some great results. Karl is incredibly intelligent so you had better not try to BS him, but he knows that he is not always the smartest guy in the room and is happy to trust the guy that is on any given subject. He reminds me a lot of my own father and both of them are very generous in every way. You get more when you give.
I will always be grateful to these people that helped to shape my life and business career. The impact they have had on me will last a long time and hopefully benefit others that come into my circle. I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for their kind hearts and influence. Because of what others have given to me, I try very hard to be that to those that ask it of me. Another mentor of mine from a long time ago was Roxanne Stevens at Sealy who once told me that she thought that her most important job was to help me get better at mine. She did, and I hope to do the same for the people that look to me for help.
How about you? Do you have a mentor that made a big impact on you? Are there people in your universe that would look at you as their mentor? If not, I encourage you to be that to someone because you can usually learn just as much from them as they do from you.
People love to share their stories of catching the big fish, making the big sale, or winning the big game. What we don’t talk about enough is the failure that happens along the way.
I was convinced that our industry was missing it by not having a box spring that delivered value. (I first wrote about this in 2013 so give that a look HERE.) Yes we have the adjustable bed which has been terrific for the industry, but just about everything else under the mattresses these days is basically a space filler; a platform. When I started in the industry I worked for Stearns and Foster and we had an 8-way hand tied foundation that really set us apart from everybody else. We wanted to do something like that with Spink and Edgar so we created the Adaptive Comfort box spring which was basically a wood platform with micro coils on the top to provide additional comfort and durability to the mattress. We wanted to give the rsa more story to set us apart. Good idea. Bad result. (We are taking down the link to Adaptive Comfort box spring on May 12th so if you want to see it, better hurry.)
After touring Sit’N Sleep stores in Los Angeles with my brother Jeff, industry veteran and our local rep Jeremy Bercier, and product developer extraordinaire Eric Johnson, we discovered that our box spring idea was creating problems for the rsa. They would sell Spink and Edgar and the cool new foundation but when they tried to transition them into an adjustable bed base the consumer would ask, “Will this change the feel of my mattress going to a firm platform?” The answer is that it would, and there in lies the problem. We couldn’t create a hurdle for the rsa to get that big ticket sale on the adjustable bed, but if the rsa didn’t sell the benefit of a coiled foundation they would never justify the price/value on the unique design. We had a 20 minute huddle in the store and made the decision to change the spec to a Euro Base, which is a Semi-Flex foundation with a hemp insulator pad that we grow on our farm in England. We still have some story but were able to remove the problem for the rsa.
What is the take away and why am I sharing this fail with you? Because there is something to be learned from it and I want you to benefit from that. The impact it had on me:
- We have to listen to the rsa. Those guys are on the front line and if we are smart we will get them involved in the beginning to help us find the sweet spot.
- We actually had retailers involved during product development so we were smart in that sense, but even then we missed it. You are never going to have all of the answers until your product hits the floors. Only then will you know what you really have.
- If and when you discover a problem you have to listen, push the ego aside, and make a quick decision. We told the rsa’s that were explaining our problem to us that we decided to change our foundation and they really couldn’t believe it. First, they felt like they were being listened to, and second that we were willing to change if it helped them succeed. Even when that meant selling off of our box spring into one that we would not benefit from. And we did it fast.
- Speed is important. I have worked for large companies for my whole career and the best leaders don’t screw around, they make decisions and move on. We have all seen the executive that dismisses the feedback from the field or takes that information in and puts it to committee where you “meeting” it to death and make a decision three months later after the real damage is done.
- As much as you can control it, get people on your team of like mind. I don’t mean people that will agree with you all the time, I mean people that have a similar approach to business. That is one of the things that my brother and I love most about working with Neil and Lance Ellman and Simon Spinks over in England. Simon trust us to know our market and when it comes to making decisions, we have a good discussion about the issue but are quick to get to the answer.
- We messed this up there is no doubt, but I think we reacted in the right way. Don’t focus on the problem, get to the fix.
I don’t care how much you think you know about this industry, there is always going to be something to learn if you are paying attention. Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Well, we learned a lot from this one and it is already in our rear view mirror. I still don’t know HOW WE MISSED IT!!! Have any failures we can learn from? Share them in the comments section.
PS Many thanks to everybody that donated to Elijah Gomez-Spiers. If you read my blog a few weeks ago I wrote about Elijah, a fellow mattress industry geek, and how his family lost their home in the Houston floods. Today that fund is over $21,000 and I know that many of you donated to that so THANK YOU! Special shout out to my good buddy and neighbor Rob Fogarty who has absolutely NOTHING to do with this industry but reads Q’s Views religiously and was kind enough to donate to Elijah. You Da Man!
I speak to industry analyst every month who are looking for information about the industry. What products are hot? Who is making the biggest impact at retail? Are the new leaders at the different companies focused on the right things? These are just a few of the questions that I get but lately, the calls begin and end with bed in a box.
I was reading an industry report from WEDBUSH and they included the results from some of their proprietary research. It says out of 1,000 respondents, 30% of consumers say that they are “very” or “extremely willing” to purchase a mattress online, sight unseen, if also given a free 120 night trial with free shipping and returns. When this concept first began, I think that most tried to explain it as something Millennials would be interested in. Guess what…I think that audience has expanded. WEDBUSH has e-commerce mattresses like Casper and Tuft and Needle at our around $300 million a year or roughly 2% of sales but a material 13% of non-innerspring units.
A Casper Delivery. Ugh.
The question on the table is will this negatively impact Tempur-Pedic given that they are the leader of the memory foam category? Tempur-Pedic has done an INCREDIBLE job marketing their products and building brand preference with the consumer. Is it enough to insulate them from the aggressive approach of the e-commerce guys? Casper isn’t just a bunch of college guys running things from their dorm room. This is a well funded, thought out business that is determined to take market share. Their marketing is fresh, their social media approach is better than most of what you see in the industry, their message is strong (even if I don’t agree with it), and the brand is hip and relevant. Sounds a lot like what Tempur-Pedic has going for it. The investment by Tempur-Pedic in their own brand should be enough to continue to deliver a premium price on their products but will it be enough to sustain prices three-four times what the bed in a box guys are charging? When you apply that same thinking to some of the other memory foam products out there that have not invested in their brand to the same degree that Tempur-Pedic has, you have to wonder if they are going to feel the pain even more?
If Tempur-Pedic continues to spend on advertising and innovate products that consumers have to have, they are probably going to be fine. They are experts in this area and have a big advantage since they are they ones that built the category. I also doubt that they are taking their business for granted which means they are hard at work building strategy to protect Castle Black as they deploy the Nights Watch to fight the would be attackers. (Anyone watching Game of Thrones?) What do you think? Who is going to suffer the most IF the category continues to grow?
BONUS CONTENT: I was reading an article about sleep this last week and the writer of that article was talking about all of the sleep tech out there these days. One of the new apps they reviewed was called Wakie. This is another app that serves as an alarm clock to wake you up each day but this one has a twist. Your alarm is actually a phone call from someone in the Wakie community. When I tried it, someone from Saudi Arabia woke me up. Very WEIRD! You can also find people to speak to about any topic you wish so if your bored, give it a try. Scratch that, read a book.
My parents and brother and sister all live in Houston, Texas and have been experiencing extreme weather over this past week and are expecting even more rain today. On April 18th the rain started falling in Houston and didn’t stop until some areas accumulated up to 20″ destroying many homes and killing seven people. (So far.) It’s so bad the Governor of Texas has declared a state of emergency.
My buddy Ryan Rodenbeck from Mattress Firm sent me an email alerting me to a bad situation as a result of this weather. Elijah Gomez-Spiers, one of Ryan’s co-workers, was hit hard by the rain causing three feet of flooding to their home. They were forced up to the second floor where they waited over 15 hours for the waters to retract allowing them to escape safely. But the damage was done; their home destroyed.
I have experienced a natural disaster as a tornado ripped through my town of Joplin so I can relate to the carnage something like a flood can leave behind. Imagine Elijah’s family trying to pick up the pieces and how it must feel to see everything you own under water. They have a long road ahead in terms of finding a place to live, fixing or possibly rebuilding their home, and replacing even the most basic needs like clothing and a place to sleep. (I am guessing they have that one under control.)
What’s left of Elijah’s home.
Let’s rally around Elijah and his family! Ryan started a Go Fund me page for Elijah that you can visit right now. You don’t have to give a lot but I would really appreciate it if you would stop by the page and give $10-$20 and maybe even send a note of encouragement to them. It may not seem like a lot but in a situation like this everything counts. Imagine the impact you can make on someone not just by giving them a few bucks but sending them a message that there are people out there that are concerned about their well being.
I have seen this industry be incredibly generous so I hope we can do a little to help Elijah and his family get back on their feet. Thank you in advance Q’s Views readers!
PS Well done Ryan Rodenbeck. Great to see you driving this!!!