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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Root Beer and Tips for Service Providers

A & W Root Beer cans boast "MADE WITH AGED VANILLA,"* but root beer and many other companies actually use "natural vanilla," a chemical compound derived from wood pulp or made by fermentation. Flavoring extracted from vanilla beans costs $100-$200 a gallon, and "natural vanilla", costs $50 per gallon. Providers of products and services should be truthful about what they provide. If they must substitute components or services, they should tell their customers and clients.

During the coldest week this winter, our furnace failed. After five days our HVAC company replaced the defective parts. But, the furnace failed again. They had used the wrong part. When the tech finally installed the right part, we had spent six nights with no heat. Like the food producers, the HVAC company was not truthful about the components used.

Tips for Service Providers

  • Do not make exaggerated promises in order to land a job. A market research firm should not promise more completed surveys than it can reasonably expect to complete. It is better to under promise and delight than to overpromise and disappoint.
  • Be truthful even if the news will disappoint your client. In the PBS show "All Creatures Great and Small," a young veterinarian does the right thing. He reports that a prize bull is not a good breeder, disappointing a potential buyer, as well as the strapped owner. The owner eventually acknowledges the vet made the right call.
  • Do not convince your clients or patients to approve extra, unnecessary work. Dentistry is "much less scientific and much more prone to gratuitous procedures—than you think," according to Ferris Jabr, writing for The Atlantic.
  • Do not pad invoices with surprise fees and surcharges. Cable companies are a prime example of this practice. They also make customers pay for services they don’t want.
  • Do not use deceptive language or make impossible promises, such as "lifetime warranty" to promote your services.

Tell your clients in straightforward language what you will provide. If you need to change any of the parameters of the project or the job, provide an explanation. And when possible, provide an alternative. Try to get buy-in from your customers or clients about necessary changes.

*"The Case for Plain Vanilla Gets Its Day in Court," Wall Street Journal, 2/8/21


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Copyright © 3/21 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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