A Tale Of Two Vendors

When I started to receive emails and phone calls from vendors asking me to stop by their booth and chat with their CEO/CFO/some kind of O, I thought it was how vendors reached out to attendees prior to the massive annual Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference. It took Matt Stollak and his True Faith HR blog to explain to me that I was receiving those strange pitches because I was going to be a ribbon-wearing member of the social media press.

I felt kind of special for a few minutes. Then I received this phone call.

[Phone rings. Answered by daughter because I am feeding dogs.] Daughter yells at top of lungs: “MOM! Somebody about HR!” [Brings me phone]

Me: This is Joan.

Caller: This is (blank) from (blankety-blank). I’d like to see if you would list our client on your blog.

Me: What do you mean, “list”? Like a blog roll for vendors?

Caller: (silence)

Me: Well, I don’t have a vendor roll on my blog. I don’t have a blog roll at all.

Caller: (silence)

Me: Um, who’s your client, anyway?

Caller: (blank)**

Me: Well, they do sell to HR – I’ve even used their product.  But I don’t know any HR bloggers that have a vendor roll, or a vendor blog roll. I’m kind of busy right now, so email me at ginsberg dot joan at gmail dot com, tell me what it is you are looking for, and I will try to help you out later.

Caller: Thank you. (hangs up.)

A few minutes later I received this email:

Hi Its, (blank) from (blankety-blank), if you could refer different media publications or bloggers that would be interested in included our client that would be great. Thanks.

Really. This exact email (I deleted the names).

To this day I am really not sure what this marketing company wanted me or any other blogger to do for their client. I emailed back and asked for clarification but never received a  response.

Contrast that bizarre tale with an email I received from a different vendor a few days later, also included here without any change at all:

Hi Joan,

Congratulations on getting a press pass to the SHRM annual conference! I’m excited to see your SHRM posts – whether they will be rants or raves – and how you enjoy the conference. I’ll definitely be checking back tomorrow to see how your SHRM series starts. As the only Michigan blogger on the press list, I wanted to reach out to you and say hello! Baudville is located in Grand Rapids, so I’ll be making the long trip out to Vegas this weekend, too.

I’d love to connect with you at the conference, but as a VIB (Very Important Blogger), I know you have lots of people clamoring for your attention at SHRM next week. Vendors, authors, and speakers who all want you to know about them.  

 At Baudville, we’re different. We want to know what you think about employee recognition.

Cori Curtis, Marketing Specialist at Baudville and the author of this email, had obviously read my blog and went out of her way to make a very personal connection. I emailed her back that I would love to drop by her booth and visit. I wish I had done so (if you are reading for the first time, click here to see why I didn’t), because the videos were marvelous.

I think it is pretty obvious which vendor gets a big pat on the back in my book, and, most importantly, will be remembered as a great company when a time comes in the future to make a recommendation.

**I don’t wish to embarrass this company or their marketers by identifying them, but the client was a national insurance company who uses a duck in their promotions.

Vendor Loyalty – Or Not?

novi to garden city

I live in the metro Detroit area of Michigan at Point A (the northern point) on this map.  Point B is where I used to live.  It’s a 30 minute/15 mile drive between the two, give or take a few miles and minutes. The metro Detroit area is the 11th largest in the country, densely packed, and almost any consumer service is nearby no matter where you live.  I can get to a CVS pharmacy in less than a minute. On foot.

But I still use businesses located in Point B to provide me services – specifically my hairdresser and my dentist – even though I haven’t lived there in over 20 years.

It was during a visit to the dentist a couple of weeks ago when the subject somehow got around to the frequency of my visits to Point B.  My dentist thought it was ludicrous that I go to Point B at least once a month to get my hair cut.

Him: “How many hairdressers do you think you pass before you get here?”

Me: “About the same number of dentists I pass.”

Him: “Yes, but they aren’t GOOD dentists.”

His point was, of course, that hairdressers are minor, unskilled functionaries who deserve no loyalty, and that he was in a different class.  In my book, though, both provide excellent service at a fair price, know me and my needs very well, and are friendly guys that I can talk to while they are performing their magic.  I’ve been using their services for over 20 years and I am loyal to both. Given those advantages, a longer-than-necessary drive seems a  minor inconvenience.

I can’t say I have afforded the same loyalty to business vendors.  In almost 10 years, I changed every vendor I had the power to change, and tried to change at least one other (and was overruled by my business partner).  I will argue that I had good reasons to do so (lower cost, more efficient, better product, etc.) and, after all (shades of Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail”), it’s not PERSONAL, it’s BUSINESS.

But that comment by my dentist made me wonder if that is the right approach.  Would I have received better service and a better product from a vendor if I had showed more loyalty? Is there any reason to be loyal to a business vendor?  What’s your experience?

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