I have spent a lot of time in my garden for the last six months. It has been a lot of work, but at this point in the year, it is pretty enjoyable work. Why? Because all I really have to do is walk out and pick things to eat.
That has definitely not been the case throughout the last six months. With twenty-seven inches of rain in twenty-nine days, it has been a struggle. Plants have gotten sick and/or needed constant attention. I have faced more bugs or diseases this year alone than all of my previous years combined. I have spent more time on garden forums than I want to admit and have read through a 300 page garden reference book. It has not been overly enjoyable, and it is a hobby that has it ups and downs. Through it all, being able to harvest has driven me. This Saturday I made gumbo. About half way through, I ran out of peppers and okra. It took all of two minutes to walk out and pick what I needed from my garden. It was rewarding.
I find that busy season for Old Hat is a bit like harvesting my garden. The stress level is definitely different, but the steps we take to get here are very similar. We spend more than six months reviewing our processes, creating new products, and telling the sports world about them. This year we have added an extra source of information in Marketing Automation that is producing more data than we have ever had. We are able to see what people are doing, clicking on, reading, and looking through on our site. It allows us to target our products to those that we know are interested. It is a great service and another product we spent the off-season preparing for our clients and ourselves. Zac blogged in detail about it here
You should check it out and then we can all be harvesting at this point in the year!
I wrote a blog once about how art was hard and more specifically how design was hard. It’s hard because not everyone has the same taste. What might look good to one person may not look good to another
The job of any designer is to figure out a way to please as many people as possible. Achieving this can be very difficult; achieving this while not letting your ego get in the way is even more difficult.
When I first started designing I would often take a client’s criticism of my work personally. I would often get frustrated with client revisions. Things got to a point where I considered maybe doing something else for a living.
But then one day a few years ago a thought occurred to me. I realized that everything I could ever possibly design would one day be gone. After the season was over, the poster I designed would be taken down. After you entered the game, the tickets I stressed out about would be thrown in the trash. And the logo I worked so hard on would be replaced with another one someday. Sure, these things might be saved for a while as souvenirs, kept in a box in someone’s garage as a reminder of that one awesome season when their team went 12 and 0. But in the end, just like everything else, they will cease to exist. That’s their nature. That’s the nature of everything really. Everything is impermanent.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re thinking this all sounds so negative, depressing and nihilistic. You may even be thinking that this somehow means that I no longer take my job seriously because “everything is meaningless”. However, nothing could be further from the truth. To me, the idea that everything is transient, is just a simple yet powerful reminder that no matter how personal I take the criticism, no matter how irritated I get by it, it’s all just an illusion. It allows me to do my work from a different perspective, one that allows for more give and take, which in the end makes me a better designer.
I wrote this blog a few years ago but as we are in the throws of our busiest time of year, when opportunities to fail to deliver on our promises are at their peak, I thought a little blast from the past blog about customer service might be fitting. Enjoy:
Two of my favorite places to eat in the entire world are Victoria’s Pasta Shop on Campus Corner in Norman, and Meers Burgers in Meers, Oklahoma. Both have amazing food… some of the best on the planet. In fact, the MeersCheeseBurger was listed as the 3rd best cheeseburger in the nation by some food publication. What’s interesting about these places is that their service typically ranges from mediocre to awful. At both places, you have to wait too long for initial service, too long for the food and the wait staff is anything but friendly. At Meers, there doesn’t even seem to be a rhyme or reason to who waits on what tables. It’s like the waitstaff battles over who has to take you until someone finally gives in.
Why are these places successful? One reason: their product is AMAZING. Victoria’s serves the best Italian food I’ve ever had. I’ve eaten Italian food in Little Italy in NYC, in Vegas, in Chicago, New Orleans… all over the United States. And if I could go anywhere for Italian, I’m going to Campus Corner in Norman. Their chicken lasagna is something I’d kill for. People drive from all over the state (and country) for a burger at Meers. And I have to admit that their burgers are truly stellar. And at any given time during peak hours, there will be a line of people waiting to eat at each place.
Is your product that strong?
Victoria’s and Meers Burgers don’t need great customer service. Their product is why people keep coming back. And because they have virtually no competition, they can get away with it. Oklahoma Football falls into this category. Marketing Sooner Football successfully involves one thing: providing seats. As long as the product is good, people will show up.
My assumption is that there are few of us who have this luxury. Don’t get me wrong… Old Hat’s product is second-to-none. I stand behind what we do 100%. However, the 150+ sports organizations that utilize our services don’t do it for the product alone. The Internet has made the world flat. While Meers has no competitors anywhere close, the Internet has made it so that every design firm in the world is a potential competitor. There are probably a thousand places that make Italian food just as good as Victoria’s. Problem is, I can’t easily get to them. With the services we provide, there are a lot of places that can provide a good product AND our clients can get to them just as easily as they can get to us.
We Flipped It
What Old Hat has done is flipped it. Part of what we sell IS our customer service. That’s why our clients return over and over again. I wish I had a few thousand dollars for every client that has come to us and said, “We used to use XYZ Sports Marketing for this but their service was just terrible." Oh wait, I DO have a few thousand dollars for every client that has done that. I cannot count the number of clients we’ve gotten and kept just based on their desire to never work with our competitors again.
So is your product strong enough to make you successful without great customer service? If so, congratulations. I envy you. But for the other 99% of us, our great products have to be combined with great customer service. Always respond to calls. Always return emails. Always communicate. Never miss deadlines. Set the bar high and then jump over it. That’s what Old Hat does.
Victoria's service has gotten much better since I posted this blog. In fact, they opened a second location and the service there has been nothing short of spectacular. Great service, great product... Sounds like Old Hat to me.
Meers, on the other hand, has gone the other direction since I posted this blog. The past few times I've been, the burger was nearly inedible. And their service still sucks. So I don't go there anymore.