Are “No-See-um’s” costing you revenue?


One of our favorite family vacations is to go to Hilton Head Island and stay in Sea Pines. My family and I rent bicycles and we go to the beach every day. My routine includes waking up at sunrise and fishing in the surf each morning before my family is awake. Our first year at the beach left me with welts that looked like mosquito bites but I did not remember seeking any mosquitoes on the beach. I thought that perhaps I received jelly fish stings, or I was having an allergic reaction to the suntan lotion.

I went to the gift shop looking for some calamine lotion and the clerk said “I see you found our “no-see-ums.”I found what? She said “no-see-ums” (like it was some biological term) and she went on to describe small sand fleas that are so small that you often do not see them however their bite later becomes an irritation. If left untreated these bites can become infected and some people have allergic reactions to the bite.

Does your business have any “no-see-ums” that bite your customers? It can be things you feel are little like not accepting American Express credit cards because their fees are higher than Discover card. It could be little irritants like not being able to make a reservation online or packaging that requires your customers to repackage your product before distribution. It could be requiring customers to complete incoming inspection of quality or you will not honor returns as they may have been freight damaged. It could be a number of small quality problems and your technical service line is always busy because you have not staffed it properly. “No-see-ums” are inside out processes that only serve you and actually cause your clients pain.

In one of the companies I served we supplied plastic video cassette packaging for video rental stores. We sold our products through a network of video distributors. To help make our product price competitive we offered free freight for orders of $2500 or more. We analyzed our costs to process and stage orders of $500, $1000, $2000, and over $2500.At one point we decided to gain a larger percentage of our distributor’s business we would increase our free freight requirement to $5000. (That way our clients would buy more from us to get free freight)One of our first distributors was a company called Island Electronics on Long Island in New York. After increasing our minimum freight I noticed their sales had decreased substantially so I booked a flight to determine why sales had dropped so quickly. When we arrived we noticed a warehouse bursting at the seams with products. Since my last visit, Island Electronics had picked up a number of new lines all competing for the already limited space in their warehouse. As I walked past my competitors master cartons as we walked to the owners office it hit me…raising our minimum freight requirement was an inside out strategy that did not meet the need of my buyer. My competitor who produced product in Edison New Jersey visited this account every other week and offered free freight on orders of $1000. My competitor understood the bigger challenges Island Electronics faced (SPACE). Our new freight program was a “no-see-um” and it also bit us. No-see-ums always bite more than once. First they bite your customer. If your buyer’s irritation becomes painful enough, the bite will negatively affect your revenues.


Market leaders are constantly in their markets observing, listening and sensing their buyers’ needs. They identify each “no-see-um” and create processes and procedures to prevent future negative experiences.


Market losers are focused on their internal needs with little regard for customer challenges and limitations.


Do you have any “no-see-ums” when clients deal with you?


How often do you visit your buyers? Your users, and observe their use of your product?


Have your salespeople identified “no-see-ums” only to be quickly dismissed?


2 thoughts on “Are “No-See-um’s” costing you revenue?

  1. Nice post Mark. I’m always impressed with your ability to talk about a big idea by referencing a common experience that makes it applicable to everyone. You are truly an authentic contributor to the collective conversation. Keep up the great work.


    Mark Y.

  2. markallenroberts says:

    Thanks Mark
    Years ago I would teach sales people to use stories to help buyers understand and connect to the message. I guess it rubbed off.
    I have a lot of respect for your feedback and your work Mark.


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