Red roses for a blue lady

Pepe-le-pewI’m not sure why I’m on Mike Carlton’s e-mail distribution list, but I’m glad I am.

Mike’s a Chagrin Falls, Ohio-based, advertising agency consultant who produces a periodic e-mail newsletter and video. (Note to Mike: if I were you, I’d urge the city fathers to change the name of your headquarters town. With a name like Chagrin Falls, I’ll bet the hamlet doesn’t attract too many businesses (or stand-up comedians for that matter).

But, I digress. Mike recently interviewed a number of high-ranking Fortune 500 chief marketing officers to determine their specific pain points and summarized his findings in a white paper and video. I was expecting the usual feedback, including high turnover on the part of the agency’s team, not understanding the business of the client’s business, excessively high bills, etc. Instead, Mike reported the number one issue keeping CMOS up at night is ‘…being taken for granted by their agencies.’  That’s a staggering thought in today’s oh-so-weak economic landscape.

Mike says CMOs, just like significant others, need to be shown you still care about them year after year. They don’t want to feel taken for granted. Can’t say as I blame them.

Now, Mike’s top finding may seem like a no-brainer to you, but I:

a.)    Immediately sent the video to our management team, urging them to view it and asking them to ask themselves if they were, indeed, surrounding our clients of long-standing with ‘love’
b.)    Had a serious déjà vu moment about the time when, truth be told, I was guilty of taking a client of long-standing for granted.

Several years back, the top PR executive at one of our larger clients asked for a dinner meeting. I was only too happy to oblige, being the gregarious, fun-loving, client-friendly guy I am. At the dinner, though, the client told me she wasn’t feeling enough ‘love’ from Peppercom. She said our team was solid, but purely tactical in its thinking. She said she expected more high-level thinking from me in particular. I was fine with that and promised to send her weekly thoughts on strategy, etc. But, then, she floored me by confiding that the CEO of a very large, and very well known, competitor was not only sending her a bouquet of red roses each and every week; he was also enclosing a card with his ‘idea of the week for his very special friend.’

I was simultaneously repulsed and amazed; repulsed by the schlocky, used-car salesman approach of a guy I thought was one of our industry’s thought leaders; amazed that he would be so overt in his attempt to steal away our client.

I told the team about the red roses for a blue lady strategy our competitor was taking and vowed to match him idea for idea. But, sending clients a bouquet of red, white or yellow roses simply isn’t my thing. So, sure enough, in about a month or so, the account was put up for review. We were invited to defend the business. But, in our heart of hearts, we knew we didn’t stand a chance wooing back a woman whose heart had been stolen away by someone else. And, we were right.

It was a painful lesson. And, while I don’t stoop to sending red roses to blue ladies (or men, for that matter), I do reach out periodically to prospects with thoughts and ideas. And, I made sure everyone on my senior management team viewed Mike’s video. We’re even making it a point of discussion at an upcoming meeting. It’s a great reminder that, as Mick Jagger sang in ‘Stealing My Heart,’ love is like a thief. So, too, is business; especially when a blue lady is sitting in the decision-making chair.


5 thoughts on “Red roses for a blue lady

  1. Another piece of Chagrin Falls trivia… I’m a CF High School grad. And know the secret behind the name 🙂 – Steph Chaney

  2. I didn’t realize that, Frank. I’ll bet Foster would have seen you in a totally different light if he’d been aware of your 1960s TV trivia knowledge. BTW, I see James H. as the Skipper to Ed’s Gilligan. Thoughts?

  3. Not there yet, a mere 77. A lot younger than Ernest Borgnine. I like the fact that they still work together as the voices of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy on Spongebob Squarepants.

  4. Nice bit of trivia there, Frank. Thanks. I always loved Tim Conway’s impersonation of an old man when he starred on The Carol Burnett Show. Guessing that he’s now north of 80, I assume he no longer has to act the part.