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About Merlyn on Media

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County. Merlyn’s blog focuses on all-things media, with an emphasis on how community-based media can make our county a better place to live, work and play.... Read more

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Do What You Want… and the (Best) Customers Will Follow

There’s a radio station in Baltimore that doesn’t want their listeners to contact them.
No phone calls, no requests, no nothing.

In an age of social media connectivity of all kinds, that’s unheard of.

Media companies and other consumer-facing organizations are dying to connect with you in every conceivable way:
Like Us,
Follow Us,
Vulcan mind-meld with us.

There’s almost no social media stone that hasn’t been unturned to try and keep you engaged with your favorite radio or TV station… or business for that matter.

Yet WSRQ 102.7FM, or ‘JackFM’ as they have nicknamed themselves (along with other stations across the country), eschews those modern communications conveniences by refusing to play listener requests.



“Playing What We Want” is their unlikely slogan.
And just to make sure listeners are aware of this inconvenient approach, JackFM proudly states that fact between almost every musical set and within every commercial break.
And just so everyone’s absolutely clear, they record listeners calling into the station complaining about their thumb-our-nose-at-the-listener strategy… and actually put these recordings on the air as part of commercial breaks.

I love it.

I don’t know about you, but when I listen to music radio stations, I listen for the music. Not insipid DJs (which JackFM doesn’t have) but as much good music as possible. As a result, JackFM plays more songs per hour and a greater variety of classic rock than any station on the broadcast dial. They’ve gone contrarian to the standard music radio format, creating loyal listeners like me and probably saving a fortune in personal expenses from overpriced disc jockeys and producers taking listener phone calls.

Of course, a contrarian approach to customer service will undoubtedly turn off many people. Like radio listeners who want to request their favorite songs, customers in YOUR business may have expectations about store hours, social media connectivity, even product or service pricing

Customer service isn’t about giving the customer everything she wants. You have a business to run, and you can’t be all things to all people. So don’t… and then turn that into a competitive advantage.

Beyond my day job at MCM, I run a little side business selling antique maps. My primary way of selling maps is through community festivals and other onsite shows. But not everyone can align their schedule with my show itinerary, and I often get asked “Can I come to your shop to take a look at them sometime?”

My answer: No you can’t.

I explain that I don’t have a storefront. But then I tell them that I don’t have any overhead, so I can price my maps more competitively against other map shops. This approach creates a sense of scarcity, perhaps even urgency in some cases. If I’m only going to be in Fairfax County twice this year, then my Virginia customers need to make sure they align their schedule with mine… and many do. They’re willing to wait months to come see me, blocking out their calendars. And having made a special trip to a show, you can almost guarantee that they’re going to buy something.

Like JackFM, I often put in my customer emails: “My last show of the year… don’t miss out!”. I doubt if I’d actually put customer complaints in my marketing, but many contrarian companies do.

And they’re successful for doing it.

Think about YOUR business. What are the things that you do, or more importantly CANNOT do for your customers that could help you stand out from the crowd… and create desire in your customers that position you in a special way:

• You’re not open Sunday… so I’m going to make sure to get out to see you on Saturday
• I have a shop, but it’s by Appointment Only
• My social media presence is limited, but I do offer an ‘Inner Circle Private Membership’ with exclusive content that I don’t share anywhere else

As a business owner, you can’t spend time and resources against every convenient customer-centric idea. So WHAT if you’re competitors are open until midnight or have a cool iPhone app. Sometimes being MORE in business is actually doing LESS… and promoting that fact to build the core customer base you need.

So do what you want… and reap the rewards.

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About Merlyn Reineke

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County.


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