A while back, I had a meeting with an upset business owner who was becoming a little frantic over the possible loss of a ton of advertising money.
The problem? Not enough fresh eyes.
You see, this person had a full page ad going out in a niche magazine. People who would be ideal candidates for their product are the people reading this mag. Big money on the line, for this client.
Only one problem. Not enough fresh eyes.
Yep. The wrong 800 number was printed in the ad, which is now on tens of thousands of magazines on trucks, heading to the post office.
No one noticed the typo. Not the owner, not the owner’s spouse (also involved in the biz), nor anyone else along the food chain. I wasn’t involved in the publication of this ad until now, the point where I was listening to a pain-filled story about a situation that the client hoped I could rescue them from.
So we sit there and all this is explained to me and I have to bite my tongue for at least 15 minutes as I hear the entire explanation. About 90 seconds into the conversation, I’m wondering if someone else is going to break my $49 solution by making a conflicting purchase before the explanation is finished.
My dad always told me to be a good listener. Some darned good advice that I didn’t hear at the time, even though he must’ve said it about 10 bazillion times. Ok, I did HEAR it, but I didnt LISTEN to it. So like the polite guy I was raised to be (mostly), I sat and listened.
Finally, my chance to speak: “Is the 800 number they printed in the ad still available?”
Had I been on the phone, I would have heard a click and a dial tone. Fortunately, I got one more sentence out and the client ran out the door to take care of the problem.
That other sentence: I suggested a URL to use in order to get a toll free number for $49 and have it working within the hour.
The solution was simple: Get the 800 # actually printed in the ad, have it pointed at the business’ regular phone number. $49 spent ONE time, and the problem solved in minutes because of the nature of the vendor I pointed out to them. Automated systems that let you get an 800 (or 888, 877, 866, etc) in nothing flat.
Luckily, the typo’d 800# was still available, so the story had a happy ending. Turned out that the client’s ROI on that 15 minutes was pretty good, as the ad from the magazine was also in a national vendor’s brand new catalog that was also in the mail at that same moment.
It wasn’t that the client was stupid or unsophisticated. They aren’t. Just the opposite, in fact. But sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes, or a fresh mind to look at a problem is all it takes to see something that wasn’t there a few minutes before. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get a slight edge.
Something cheaper than an 800 # would have prevented this, even though in this situation there was little harm done: Have a checklist. It’s part of your system. The more things that you can put into a system (Not necessarily a computer), the more consistent our results will be.
“Check the accuracy of the address, website URL and phone #’s” on a pre-publication checklist would likely have taken care of this. No big deal. Pilots who have flown for decades use checklists. You should too.