November 15, 2007

Yea, but ...

During my first year of consulting, the most frequently asked question is this:

... "What happened to customer behavior, sales, and profit, when you quit executing your traditional catalog marketing program at Nordstrom?"

At conferences, via e-mail, phone calls, lunch appointments, or client visits, I take the time to explain what happened.

And then I wait for the two most common words I hear in response to my experiences.

"Yea, but ..."

These two simple words are used to discount what was communicated, to suggest that one's opinion matters more than actual experiences held by another.
  • "Yea, but you grew your website without a traditional catalog program because you had 100 stores to support the website."
  • "Yea, but that won't work for my brand because my customers love my catalogs, whereas your catalogs looked tacky to me".
  • "Yea, but I've read that multichannel customers are the best customers, so you have to have a catalog".
  • "Yea, but did you stop and think about how you spammed your customers by e-mailing them twice a week? Long-term, you can't get away with that."
  • "Yea, but that won't work for my brand because Abacus/Experian told me that 83% of my online orders came from customers recently mailed catalogs".
  • "Yea, but that was 2005-2006, and customers behave differently today."
  • "Yea, but that won't work for my brand because my merchandising assortment is identical, regardless of channel."
  • "Yea, but that won't work for my brand because my customer is 64 years old, and doesn't trust the internet."
  • "Yea, but online marketing doesn't work unless you're an online pureplay offering free shipping."
How often do we close our minds by using these two simple words? I think back to my days as a Vice President, and all the times my team brought ideas to me, ideas I would simply dismiss by saying "yea, but".

If you're an executive, try something different next week (it's a short week with Thanksgiving and all). Try going the whole week without saying the words "yea, but".


  1. Anonymous8:14 AM

    Great post Kevin - all too often we're busy formulating our response rather than listening. And it also depends on who you're asking.

    Miles' Law is too often true... where a person stands is a function of where they sit.

  2. Anonymous6:30 AM

    While some of those yea buts can be read as something of a reflexive rejection of the concept, can't at least some of them be viewed as a legitimate questioning of whether or not there are other variables that might change the decision? If I'm selling some fairly obscure, nichey product and perhaps I have one or two shops, then the parallel to one of the greatest names in bricks and mortar retailing is, at the very least, somewhat weaker?

  3. Certainly it is fine to ask the question, and to consider whether the response is relevant to your business.

    And if the interactions included thoughtful questioning the majority of the time, I wouldn't have written this post.

  4. Anonymous6:20 PM

    Yea, but aren't most people close minded and have their minds made up? Just kidding.

    As a direct marketing consultant myself, I do find that many decision makers and corporate advisors dismiss strategies they had not thought of originally. They also tend to judge certain strategies based on past experiences that were poorly planned and executed. That's why they need me and you!

    Consultants should bring strong reputations and depth of experience that overcomes this natural lack of objectivity present in every corporate environment. It's what we get paid to do.

    Yea but, I DO get tired of the predictable responses.


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