How Can Marketing Make Your Company Wealthy?

Go to "Energize Growth NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company" page

 

Being diagnosed as an entrepreneur does not have to be terminal. Far too many entrepreneurs launch with unrealistic expectations, and if they are members of the 1/3 of companies that do survive more than 18 months, they fall prey to “the entrepreneurs’ dilemma”.

As an entrepreneur you probably were working for someone else and found a market opportunity, a need, and a problem that needed to be solved. Chances are you brought the opportunity to your company and they quickly dismissed your idea. So what are you to do? Do you keep trying to convince your “hippos” the size of this opportunity or do you break out on your own on a quest to solve this problem so obvious to you?

If you are wired to be an entrepreneur you set out to solve the problem, and if you truly understood the problem and designed something that solved it completely, you start experiencing sales. This is a fun time because if you did your research before launch, your marketing message clearly explains what your product or service does and buyers instantly get it.

At first your biggest challenge is how to make more…quicker. The next thing you know you are hiring others and you now have a “team”. You now have a CFO instead of your wife paying the bills. You are hiring others from the industry and training them to meet with the customers you once served personally.

Then it happens one evening, usually after 7:00 pm on the drive home (late for dinner again) you do a gut check; “Am I having fun anymore?” If you are honest with yourself the answer is often “no” as you is now “running “a company. Your days of meeting with customers and potential customers are replaced with meetings, planning, and holding your team members accountable. (You became a hippo) You begin noticing a decrease in the incremental sales growth per new employee hired.

The days of you jumping out of bed at 4:30 am long before your alarm goes off are replaced with the ring of an alarm at 6:30 a.m. and …dread, another day of work. If it sounds like I have been there I have…”been there… done that….have the t-shirt”.

The good news is being an entrepreneur does not have to be terminal. There is a great book I finished not long ago titled: Energize Growth Now, the marketing guide to a wealthy company by Lisa Nirell. If you find yourself in the entrepreneurs’ dilemma or want to avoid it, I recommend you buy this book for yourself and all your leaders within your organization.

I found the book provided high level strategies for plugging back into your market as well as tools and rules that are applicable the day after you read this book.

It is not too late to energize growth in your company.

I particularly liked her chapter on increasing your company’s wealth quotient and seven principles to position your company for higher valuation.

It is time we rethink how we “do “business and break the entrepreneur’s dilemma. This book reminds us how critical it is to stay focused on creating value for your buyers and market , and in so doing your wealth quotient as an organization will continue to climb.

Are you in the beginning to experience the entrepreneur’s dilemma?

Do you find yourself needing the alarm in the morning, longing for the days you did not need an alarm?

Are you looking for a road map on how to increase your organizations’ wealth quotient?

I highly recommend Energize Growth Now.

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“Colonel Custer had a plan “…What To Do When Your Plan Is Not Driven by Market or Internal Truths and You Lack a Market Driven Motivation

After writing my post: Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A? I had someone contact me with a question I thought was worth sharing.

“I read your last post and I can’t agree more with gathering market truths, assessing internal truths ( particularly after recent lay offs) and having a motivation to make a difference in the lives of those in your marketplace….

 

But what do you do when you work for an organization that built a plan based on old market data, an inflated view of internal capabilities ( that assumes we work 18-20 hour days) and a motivation that is singularly focused on making our owner wealthier and not changing the lives of those in the market we serve?”

Having helped a number of companies in a variety of industries over the year’s… shame on me for not expecting this question. Not only have I personally faced this dilemma, I know a number of people trying to obediently execute plans that were written from within their organization and lacking market data today.

I enjoyed the conversation with this young man, and below is what I advised him to do;

Gather current Market Truths

Chances are, at some point your leaders were market driven based on the growth they have experienced over the past 20 years. At some point however they started relying on their own personal guts and intuition and forgot the true market sensing process that empowered their original growth. The first thing I advised him to do is assess the market truths of today. Once complete, compare and contrast the plan you were given to execute in relation to current market truths. Note the strategies and tactics that are in alignment and call out those that are no longer rational based on new data.

 

Write a market truths document

 

 

Highlight strategies and tactics in your current plan that are no longer in alignment with the market of today

 

Asses your internal truths, capabilities, discard to-do’s that do not support your road map

 

 

If your team lacks a motivation to serve your market, create one

 

 

Write a plan you will execute based on the information you have shared and allow some flexibility

 

 

 

 

 

As we closed the call this young manager said “we have a plan, but I am sure Colonel Custer thought he had a plan too…

Yes, I am sure he did. But he too underestimated the competition and lacked a clear understanding of his market realities. He had scouts warn him that he grossly underestimated the size of his completion but he failed to listen. Is it any wonder this famous battle was over in less than an hour? ( kind of like how most new products are off the shelf within 18 months)

The people I always wondered about were his men…I am sure most were seasoned military soldiers and by nature trained to take and follow orders. However there had to be a few heretics in the ranks and I wonder if they had the courage to speak up, did some dissert the night before the battle, or did they knowing walk into their own demise? History states a number of his men were seen running from the battle when it was obvious all was lost.

If you are asked to execute a plan that is not market driven based on the current realities of your market today, you owe it to your team ( and yourself) to present current market data.

 

Leaders do not just state the disconnections their plan has with the market realities, but they also provide possible new strategies, they become a part of the solution.

 

Be a leader… and if you are a member of a team that frowns on gathering current market data to create market driven strategies your have two choices;

 

Stay on the team and expect to be to do driven, chasing outcomes of the day

 

Leave the team and seek out market leading organizations that value writing plans strategically based on current market data

 

I could tell he did not like the second option , (nor did I when I felt the need to leave one of the teams I served when their plans were so far from market truths I experienced physical health concerns as I attempted to be a soldier and follow orders.) I was much younger then and I was still under the erroneous assumption that the Hippos in the room were the most knowledgeable.

How about your organization…do you believe the plan you will execute in 2010 was written with current market data?

 

 

 

 

 

If you answer is no, what do you plan to do? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever presented your Hippos current market data that was contradictory to the plan they gave you to execute?

 

 

 

 

(Would love to have an expert jump in here on the effects on employee physical health when they attempt to execute plans that are not in alignment with the market realities of today)

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one, …Establish Market Truth

The first key step in writing a powerful flight plan (roadmap) to grow your organization profitably is; establishing market truth. There are many truths we need to insure the strategies and corresponding tactics and key performance indicators are in alignment with the true market opportunity. Unfortunately a large percentage of business leaders use their gut and intuition and fail to establish current, relevant market truth before they launch market strategies.

The leaves are almost off the trees as I drove South on Route 71 in Ohio last week to work with one of my clients. It’s that time of the year for cold damp rains, grey cloud cover, and this time of year business leaders are sequestered off to key offsite meetings to write their strategic plans for next year. As I discussed in a recent post: October – November…National Strategic Planning Months…When Do you Focus on Strategic Plan Execution? …it never ceases to amaze me that over 70% of sales growth objectives were not achieved in 2009, and yet those same teams will receive sales quota increases in 2010. What are the leaders of these businesses thinking? Is it their assumption that 70% of their sales team is just incompetent, not trying hard enough, or are they just trying to “will” their businesses to succeed? As I discuss in my guest blog post far too often the true issue behind businesses not achieving key performance indicators is more related to your teams ability to execute effective market driven strategies. Since I discuss how to overcome the execution and accountability management challenge in the post I provided a link for above, in this post I plan to discuss one component of truth needed to; build market driven strategies that increase shareholder value.

As I discussed in my post : don’t look now but your lack of market knowledge is showing , far too many leaders are making decisions and writing plans based on dated or worst case incorrect information. How does this occur? The leading cause for Leader Market Disconnection Syndrome ( LMDS) are the Hippo’s in your organization calling audibles without any market data to support their directives. The reality is; thinking is hard work.

 

 

When you peel the onion and find the true “why’s” behind your team missing its goals you will find it is not for the faint of heart and requires a strong emotional intelligence.

 

The quickest way to build strategies that drive explosive sales and profit growth is to get re-acquainted with your market.

 

Years ago there was a great commercial in which a business owner called a meeting and instead of pontificating about opinions. gut instinct and intuition he distributed airplane tickets to his senior executive team and sent them out,…out into their market to visit belly to belly with those mysterious entities called “customers”.

 

 

If you want to create a business plan that results in explosive growth in 2010 and beyond get out of your office and dive deep into your market now.

 

What you will find very quickly is the market has changed considerably in the last 15 years from when you carried a sales bag. The market has changed significantly in the last six months! As I discuss in my post: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them? some of those changes include;

 

  • longer sales cycles
  • more influencers involved in the buying decision
  • greater pressure on terms
  • increased pressure from international suppliers
  • as well as many more…

 

The first step in establishing market truth is to get out in your market and speak with your customers, potential clients, and those potential clients you recently quoted and failed to win.

 

While your sales team will tell you the reason you did not win the contract was price, my personal experience and research has proven time and time again price is not even on the list of reasons why your buyers do not buy. As high as 50% of lost sales are due to the sales process not having the right sales tools to help their buyer buy.

Market leading organizations continually outpace market losers and one of the key reasons why is their clear understanding of their market, its problems, and their changing buying processes and buyer criteria.

Market losers listen to disconnected Hippos and increase their sales objectives although they failed to meet goals last year.

 

 

Do you work for a Market Leader or a Market Loser?

 

 

When was the last time one of your key leaders met belly to belly with a customer? Potential customer? A customer you bid but failed to win?

 

 

Is your organization launching strategies that are market driven or Wall Street driven?

 

 

Are the new goals you are asking your team to achieve built from the market up with real current market data, or are they the result of ROI justification meetings with product mangers who never left the building?

 

 

Step One, Truth: Establish Market Truth

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

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For as long as I can remember I have heard “your customer is always right”. The spirit behind this statement was to make sure market leading organizations do not try to “overcome customer objections” and listen…as failing to listen is the #1 reason buyers do not buy from a salesperson.

However you will receive the best tips to grow your business from prospects who do not buy.

alpha security 1

I remember a time, back in the day, when I was serving a plastics company, Alpha Enterprises, which made mechanical security devices to stop consumers from stealing music. The record labels announced they were eliminating the “long box” cardboard package in 12 months and CD’s would now be sold in just the Jewel case (as they are today). The national retailers were concerned. So we designed a perfect security solution to house the CD that complemented the current line of audio and video products we sold them …it fit in the current fixtures, had a area inside the device to house the security tag so consumers could not peal them off, it was quick to remove at the checkout counter, used the same key as our other devices, and we even made some of them out of Lexan so the package was crystal clear so as not to deter from the graphics on the CD package. We were kicking but and taking names. It was my job to present our solutions to the various record chains and mass merchant music retailers and book preorders so we could grow our capacity to meet the market need.

And then I presented our various solutions to a Boarders Books

We had never sold Boarders before. We did not have a relationship with them, and the buyer politely said…”no thank you…we will pass”. I was taken aback…doesn’t he know how awesome we are? Did I forget to tell him how all the other chains are lining up to buy? I was always taught, back in my Frito-Lay Selling Skills training; the sale starts when the buyer says “no”… so I couldn’t let this one go. As I said we were on a roll…we were at about $38 million in sales and based on preorders alone we were forecasted to surpass $76 million in 12 months. We could have just kept trying to sell people who already knew us…but we wanted to know more about why Boarders did not buy.

So we flew up to Ann Arbor Michigan again and this time had a meeting in which we asked a lot of questions and did not try to sell. The buyer shared they were going to have a large roll out of music in their current and future stores, but they chose to merchandise the music as retailers did in Europe so our current products were not the perfect solution.

 

cd tray

We listened to his needs, visited his prototype store and based on his feedback as well as other clients in Europe developed a new line of security packages. The Sentry line quickly grew to include audio, video, video game and DVD. The Sentry line of security products provided a greater gross profit per unit than our current line of security products. We eventually won Boarders business and presented our new line in Europe, and it turned out this was the perfect solution for Libraries.

alpha security

Prospects who do not buy often give you the key tips to cause your organization to experience “explosive growth”.

 

Why?

  • they have no relationship with you, so they share the raw truth
  • they are intimately connected to their problems and are looking for solutions to solve them
  • current customers have a relationship with you, and therefore don’t feel comfortable telling you your current or “new product baby” is ugly

 

As you focus on growing your organization make sure and capture customer feedback and more importantly tips from those who do not buy from you.

 

Over time our current customers also experimented with merchandising like Boarders Books and thankfully we listened to that buyer who did not buy at Boarders. When our key current customers needed as new solution we already had a proven design.

 

Your best new product solutions and services for current products often come from prospects who do not buy from you.

 

 

 

How about your organization…

 

Are you capturing customer feedback?

 

Are you capturing feedback from prospects who do not buy from you?

 

What are you doing with this information?

 

Are your salespeople trained to listen when a prospect says no, or are they supposed to “overcome objections”?

 

Market leaders understand some of the best tips to explode their sales and profits come from prospects who do not buy.

 

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

tool acc backgrounbd

 

 

As an entrepreneur you will have a number of people approach you to “help you grow” your company. Far too often these local “experts” are really “marketing tools” who are like the terrible boy friends on the popular show Tool Academy focused on themselves and not aligning to your objectives and are not trying to solve your problems. So how do you know if you are dealing with a strategic partner or a tool? In this post I will share how to discern the “marketing tools” from strategic partners.

I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop reading before my first appointment and off to my left, …the pitch was on. First of all the meeting I was listening to should have occurred in private and not in a public place, this young entrepreneur needs to learn to… police his rounds.

It was painful for me to listen and not walk over to the table and tell this young entrepreneur to quickly dismiss this person posing as a thought leader and strategic partner but who was obviously a marketing tool. Some of the lessons we must learn in the bootstrapping phase build our future leadership muscles, so I hoped this experience would not be a too expensive lesson.

How did I quickly know this guy pitching was a marketing tool and not a key strategic partner? Maybe it’s from personally being taken advantage of by fast talking marketing tools early in my career, or maybe it’s a by product of what my daughter used to call “ sparkly’s” in my hair now. Maybe it’s from knowing what I know as well as what I do not know?

As an entrepreneur cash management should be your top priority. Investments must accelerate the achievement of your objectives and align with your flight plan. They should be tied closely to a measurable goal that is in alignment with one of your key initiatives.

Back to the conversation…the pitch was on. From what I gathered the entrepreneur’s sales were down over 30% and felt his problem was marketing or the lack there of. The person pitching worked for a marketing firm, and from what I could gather the only tool they had any real experience with was print ads and direct mail. Therefore the solution to this entrepreneur’s problem was direct mail and print ads. I have lived this “marketing play “many times over the past 25 years with various actors (vendors) pitching me and the companies I was serving. Sometimes it’s a new website, search engine optimization, PR, social media, media buys, email marketing,  new brochures…and the list goes on.

 

tool acc

 

 

How do I discern the “marketing tools” from strategic outsource partners?

 

 

Below are the things I look for to quickly dismiss tools

 

 

Tools talk more than they listen

 

Tools talk about their solution as a “cure all” for all my needs

 

Tools can not produce a list of past customer referrals as they often only have one transaction with clients and move on

 

Tools argue with you and keep coming back to their solution as if it were the only way to solve your problem

 

Tools lack an understanding for integrated marketing and dismiss other strategies they do not understand ( but as proposed thought leaders, marketing experts,… they should)

 

Tools cloud the discussion with industry terminology they do not explain (they try to baffle you with BS)

 

 

Tools do not listen to your goals; they are focused on their goal: getting your money

 

Tools do not ask a lot of questions

 

Tools do not share the downside, the risk, or the expected return on investing in their tool(s)

 

Tools take cell phone calls and text messages when they are supposed to be focused on your needs during your meeting

 

Tools avoid ROI discussions, and when you bring it up, they change the subject

 

Tools do not ask about how your buyers buy, nor have an intimate understanding of this process themselves

 

When (if) Tools follow up, they will be connected to getting your money and not in alignment with your goals ( they can’t because they were not listening)

 

 

 

It was pretty easy to make the above list as I sit here listening to the pitch as within 20 minutes this marketing tool violated most of them. I hear the tool discussing; the need to “merge, purge and perform list hygiene” as well as the need for a 12 month commitment for various ads they will test, and how the 12 month commitment will help the entrepreneur with the media buy… What is the problem the entrepreneur has? Shouldn’t you know this prior to pitching your solution?

 

It makes me want to scream: RUN AWAY!

 

 

 

As an entrepreneur your main focus is now on building your business and not working in it.

 

 

 

A proven strategy to grow your business is to align yourself with market leading strategic partners who are thought leaders in their space.

 

 

Too often entrepreneurs try to become experts in areas that are far from their core competency and instead of growing their business they dilute their effectiveness.

 

 

I am a big advocate of strategically aligning yourself with outsourced partners that provide solutions that align with your objectives. I am not an advocate of hiring marketing tools with one tool that fixes everything they feel is broken.

 

 

When you look for a strategic partner with knowledge and skills to compliment your core competencies, you must quickly dismiss the marketing tools as their work will only deplete your cash and not produce your desired ROI.

 

 

How about your organization….

 

 

 

 

Do you want to share any experiences you have had with tools?

 

 

 

 

Has your organization ever hired a tool? How did that work for you?

 

 

 

 

What are some other ways to quickly discern tools from strategic partners who can help you achieve your objectives?

 

 

Entrepreneur best practices: #12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

idea

 

 

At any given time 6 out of 10 US adults are thinking about starting their own business. Half of those will attempt to launch their own business. As I discuss in my eBook; 50 Ugly truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway, they often enter into their own business with a false set of expectations. One of these false expectations is their “idea” is a product and even more disturbing is when they start investing to support their idea as a business. Recognizing the majority of those who launch a new business will fail within 18 months, one of the common contributors to their demise is not asking the right questions.

 

Before you ask friends and family for start up money, before you tap into your home equity and 401k, and definitely before you quit your day job…you need to play “20 questions”.

 

You must verify your “idea” can be monetized into a viable business before you launch.

 

20 questions to ask before you invest;

 

#1 what problem does your product or service solve?

 

#2 how big of a market is there for this problem? This pain and or need?

 

#3 how are those who have this problem solving it now?

 

#4 clearly articulates your secret sauce, other words what is your unique selling proposition?

 

#5 is there replacement products in existence that could solve the problem?

 

#6 who is the market leader in the space you plan to enter?

 

#7 how many other competitors are there in this space?

 

#8 what is your level of understanding of this market?

 

#9 is your idea a product or IP that can be patented?

 

#10 what stage is this market in terms of its lifecycle? Infancy, growth, mature..?

 

#11 what level of support will be required to serve this market? Do you personally have expertise in running a business?

 

#12 what are the distribution channels of this market?

 

#13 what is the buying cycle?

 

#14 what is the common payment terms for this market?

 

#15 Do the potential buyers of your new product have the ability to pay for it?

 

#16 is there any legal and or compliance issues this product must pass prior to launch?

 

#17 what do you estimate is the total costs per unit of sale, transaction

 

#18 what is the anticipated number of units sold in year one? What % of the market opportunity does this represent?

 

#19 what is the number of units needed to break even with your upfront investment?

 

#20 How much cash will you need, based on the buying cycle, the costs, payment terms and distribution channels to launch this product or service?

 

 

Once you have answers to the above we can start to have a good discussion about your new idea and how you may be able to monetize it. Unfortunately however far too often entrepreneurs get that rush, that “buck fever” and they stop asking rational , needed , questions and they attach their focus on the days when…

 

 

When they become millionaires…

 

When they are recognized in their community…

 

When they sell their business for millions and retire without a care in the world

 

 

All of these When’s can become a reality if you spend the time upfront understanding the market, its buyers and their needs.

 

Entrepreneurs must understand: You are not your market.

 

Although this idea you have may be so obvious to you, you can not assume nor extrapolate that assumption across the market without real market data.

 

If you have an idea, that may be the next iPod, do yourself a favor and play 20 questions before you invest one dime in making your idea a product or service.

 

How about your organization….

 

Do you launch new products or services because one of your Hippo’s says so, without market data?

 

Have you launched products that failed to meet ROI targets?

 

If you are in sales, how did it make you feel when you were given a goal, and told to make it happen …only to find out your marketing needed to “create a need for it”?

 

If you are the president or CEO, what processes and procedures do you have in place to insure your teams are asking at least 20 questions?

 

Market leaders understand the importance of building new products and services from the market need up, versus the ivory tower down.

 

Market losers have a; ready – fire – aim launch process.

 

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

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I have heard entrepreneurs say; “any marketing is better than no marketing at all…” and they can say this…but they would be wrong! Entrepreneurial leaders must insure the marketing vehicles and tactics  they use support their brand and do not create an interruption.

 

 

Market leaders understand their buyers, their buying process and buying criteria.

 

Market leaders create sales velocity because everything they do has continuity with their brand.

 

 

Market losers create a variety of marketing tools and “throw them against the wall” of their market and wait to… “see what sticks”.

 

Market losers scare business away, and their energy and budgets are used to grow competitors’ businesses.

 

I Love being a Chase Bank customer.

 

I have used a number of banks over the years…Bank of America, Key Corp, and so on. However the service I get from Chase Bank seems to feel different, it’s as if they know me, and they answer my questions before I ask them. Just yesterday my wife and I met with Dennis at our local branch and he was obviously trained to serve his clients. When other banks have made us feel like we were putting their associates out , Dennis was like the Van’s Golf employees name tags that say “sure not problem” Even the experience of walking into one of their locations “feels” different in how you are greeted and guided to the right person to help you. So imagine my surprise after a doctor appointment to come out to my car and see a windshield flier under my wiper from Chase Bank. This was an interruption for me.

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Marketing interruptions make current customers pause…and bad things happen when customers pause.

 

For example, at first I smiled and threw their flier in my trunk to throw away later. As I drove to my next appointment however my mind wandered…

I have been reading about banks in trouble

 

Is my bank…Chase Bank, in trouble?

 

Should I maybe check out Wells Fargo or maybe open an account with Bank America again just to play it safe?

 

Didn’t I just read they were downsizing?…. ut oh

However my mind quickly came to terms with what has a higher probability of truth; It was the end of August ( end of the month race to hit numbers), and some salesperson , a hunter by nature ( which is awesome) needed business. So as opposed to sitting in the branch waiting for business to come to them, they took initiative and made some purple fliers and more than likely spent hours in the 104 degree Arizona heat stuffing them under windshield wipers in hopes this would drive new business. I had a pizza shop as a client years ago that could ramp up or down his sales by the number of windshield fliers he would have his drivers place. It became a predictable outcome for him over time.

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However, the way a pizza shop or even a gas station chases new business is significantly different than what I would expect from my trusted bank, and the two should never be confused.

As I discussed, entrepreneurial leaders have bad things happen when they “assume”. “Well if windshield fliers work for pizza shops and gas stations…why not…” The “why not” is whatever you do must be intentional and have continuity with your brand image, your brand promise in the minds of buyers in your market.

In defense of Chase Bank, I have had rogue sales guys and even sales managers do much worst over the years. As I said I have to smile that at least they tried! Leaders, no matter what the size of their organization, must remember;

If marketing does not create tools that help salespeople hit their objectives, sales will create their own…and although you appreciate their “be a part of the solution” attitude it may cause your market to pause. When markets experience a pause, an interruption in the brand image …bad things happens.

 

 

How about your company…..

 

Are your salespeople creating their own tools to hit their numbers?

…Are you sure?

 

What policies and procedures do you have in place to insure your brand image is protected and reinforced?

 

Have you ever had your salespeople create their own tools…tell me about it.

 

 

From the number of fliers blowing around in the parking lot now as “marketing litter” I could tell most of the people who had fliers under their wipers did not value this communication attempt by Chase Bank. I would be interested to know from Chase Bank if this tactic is a marketing approved new business program or if I was correct a local branch went off the marketing reservation. If this tactic does in fact drive needed new business at moth end that is greater the negative impact it has on their brand in the mind of the market.