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Been to Home Depot lately? If not, go and see how a good HR strategy equals a good marketing strategy!  And no, they’re not paying me for this.

In the midst of this record heat wave, I got up early to replace a hose so my lawn doesn’t burn out, and some weed killer, and Home Depot is conveniently close by. Several years ago, I would drive elsewhere because, IF I could find a clerk, they might have known where these were, IF I could get their attention.

Today, I was greeted as if I were the only thing that mattered and, after describing my needs, I was introduced to a herbicide expert who helped me find exactly what I needed. Then he escorted me to the hoses, ensuring that I had the necessary help (none required, really…).

What changed? A couple of years ago HR chief Tim Crow renovated training programs, expanded cash bonuses and increased employee/customer face time. And they’re having an impact: after a 2-year slide in sales and profit, both were up last year.

If the goal of marketing is to attract and retain customers well, it’s working at Home Depot, with a huge assist from HR.

And my wife no longer minds going there.

Occasionally I get a sales letter that is so bad I can only scratch my head. Here are extracts from two that inspired me to write this post, in the hopes that none of you will similarly ever waste your resources.

The first was accompanied by a slick (expensive) brochure:

Dear David

In the vast world of information technology sourcing / outsourcing, it can be difficult and perhaps overwhelming when trying to find the right solution for your client’s business, needs and cost structures. Which so many choices, how can you be sure which solution is the right fit for your client’s business.

The XXXXX approach is simple: By consulting with you and your staff in a partnership manner, we can better understand your client’s goals, workflow, technology and business needs to create a meaningful solution which will meet those needs now and into the future at a price-pint and service level which is remarkable.

Our experience spans many industries, business sizes and technology systems. We work closely with you and your client to build and implement a solution that will exceed expectations… [It only gets worse, so I won’t test your patience with any more…]

Why was this sent me? I’m not the CIO. Worse, I couldn’t figure out exactly the offer was, other than to get us to give them a bunch of information…

Here’s the second, from my cable company:

Dear David Harkleroad,

With the YYYYY Price Guarantee you lock in low prices for two full years on TV, Internet, and Phone. So you can sit back and enjoy two full years of everyone’s favorite TV shows. Two years of surfing and streaming online. And two years of hellos and miss-yous with all your favorite people.

Let it all in and get everything you want at prices you can count on, for two full years. Sign up for the YYYYY Price Guarantee today.

Sincerely

Your friends at YYYYY

Put aside the assumption that I actually have friends at YYYYY, they didn’t check that I actually renewed the service two months ago!

Both companies wasted resources: costs, time and, worst of all, my good will.

Regardless of which side you are on, the US is clearly in one of the most fundamental debates on the role of government in a long, long time. Passions are high. Rhetoric is flying. Fears abound. Yet neither side wants to budge – ‘tough’ rules the day.

Which may be the only salvation.

There are no simple solutions left. And the realization is starting to sink in. Lou Gerstner once said, “No institution will go through fundamental change unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.” Andy Grove said it differently: “only the paranoid survive.”

Survival ruled the day at IBM. It did in Greece. And it will in the US.

The question is, does survival rule the day at your organization?

If not, get tough.

On my way home from a peer group session of CMOs (with a shout out to the Forbes CMO Network and gyro who sponsored the evening), I reflected on the commonalities between good networking and good marketing.

If you’ve ever been to a party (and most of us have), you’ve noticed there are those who “work the room” and seem to have met everyone there by the end of the evening. What do they do that makes them successful?

First, they engage. They don’t passively await someone to connect with them.

Second they question, and listen. They “always think in terms of what the other person wants,” to quote Korean war general James van Fleet.

And, third, the truly exceptional ones “arouse in the other person an eager want,” quoting Dale Carnegie.

A pretty good set of rules for marketers.

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