March 28, 2019

If you are a CEO, president, owner (or in any senior position of your company), being your own “boots on the ground” in the office is part of your job no matter how much you delegate to others. 

From Wikipedia: 

The origin of the term [“management by walking around”] has been traced to executives at the company Hewlett-Packard for management practices in the 1970s. However, the general concept of managers making spontaneous visits to employees in the workplace has been a common practice in some other companies as well. Also, the management consultants Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman had used the term in their 1982 book, In Search of Excellence. Historian Stephen B. Oates asserts that Abraham Lincoln invented the management style by informally inspecting the Union Army troops in the early part of the American Civil War. 

This is clearly an idea worth paying attention to if both Tom Peters and Abraham Lincoln thought it was something worthwhile. 

It’s also much more than simply “visiting” with your employees (or troops) regularly. Asking detailed questions and showing you care will go a long way as you build your business for the long run. 

Another great author and patriot, Dan Kennedy, takes this concept a step further by specifically applying it to marketing. 

He calls it, “marketing by walking around”…and he is also not talking about simply “visiting” either. 

Applied to marketing, you need to do lots of walking around inside your company and outside your company as well. 

There’s lots of exercise (and knowledge) to be had by CEO’s walking around a lot more, for both management and marketing purposes. 

Chapter 8 of my new book, Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing   is titled, “Customer Service and Fulfillment” and asserts that these crucial “back end functions” of your business are essential elements of marketing…and they need to be a key focus of the business at every level, from clerk to CEO. 


I open the chapter with this quote (which I came up with after being lectured many times on this subject by Dan Kennedy): 

“Marketing by walking around is a requirement, not a choice” 

Throughout the chapter I discuss many concepts and techniques to make sure this part of your business is top priority including: 

  • The importance of listening in on customer service calls regularly
  • Using “secret shoppers” effectively
  • How to plan for disasters in advance
  • The best ways to create “barriers to switch” from your brand

I hope you will pre-order the book right now at (and snatch up some incredible bonuses)…and then let me know what you think of this chapter in particular once you have the book after April 9th. 

While I can’t send you the entire chapter today, what I would like to share with you is an excerpt (and how I open the chapter) from “customer service and fulfillment.” 

Many of you have heard versions of this before at this special time of year–the opening of the baseball season in the United States. 

Here is how I tell the story in Overdeliver: 


In the early 1980s, baseball writer Thomas Boswell wrote a book called How LifeImitates the World Series. As a lifelong, diehard baseball fan, I loved this title. Baseball, like direct marketing, is a big part of my life, and I often look for ways where my two passions collide. It happens surprisingly often. 

I am not just a casual fan of the game (or of this direct marketing thing either). I was a pretty good catcher in Little League—a legend in my own mind at 12 years old. But in youth baseball, when you turn 13, you go from a miniature field to a much bigger one—the same size field major league players play on. 

Being a fat kid (“husky” to my family), that big field was a problem for me. I was quite slow, and navigating all that real estate just to get on base was a problem. And while I could still catch, the distances to throw the ball were too far for me as well. But I still loved the game and wanted to be part of it even if my body type (and ability) was standing in the way of my future baseball career. 

How could I get on the field competently? That’s when I became an umpire, often the most hated man on the field, but in my mind, I could be the savior, creating order out of chaos, especially with little leaguers. I knew they needed me, even if they didn’t know it. I loved the game, I knew the rules, I had a loud voice, and being a little husky and slow was not an issue. In fact, it seemed like all the umpires I ever saw on TV were fat. 

But umpiring gave me much more than just a hobby (inside a passion) and, as it turned out, a way to avoid obesity—it is also related to my passion for direct marketing in more ways than I ever would have imagined.  


Back to why I love the title, How Life Imitates the World Series. I became an umpire at 16 years old and have done it my entire life: Little League, high school level, men’s and women’s soft- ball. My dream is to umpire at the Little League World Series. You probably also have passions in your life that, on the surface, have no relationship to your “work” . . . however, ask anyone about their hobbies, interests, exercise routines, etc., and they will tell you how the things they do outside of work give them more focus when they are back at their desk. I maintain that—as it said on the back of [my mentor] Marty Edelston’s business card—“the master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play.” But for this part of the discussion let’s assume there is a distinction. At least a little one. 

As with all the activities in your life, the concentration required to do something well is demanding—whether it’s being a lawyer, an accountant, or a dentist, or if it’s mountain biking, skiing, or yoga—and in all cases and situations, distractions will lead to failure. In the case of your livelihood, you could lose a client, have a downturn in business, or even get fired from a job; in sports, it could lead to physical injury. 

With umpiring, while you could get hit in the head with a baseball if you are daydreaming, the real injuries come when you get yelled at for missing a call. I know you might get a correction during an imperfect downward-facing dog in a yoga class, but missing an obvious call in a baseball game will have a coach loudly arguing with you—in your face and possibly kicking dirt at you—while the parent of the kid who was the victim of your awful call will be screaming from the stands about what a despicable person you are. 

Maybe I should take up yoga. 

A  copywriter  friend  once  asked  me,  “Why  would  anyone want to be an umpire?” 

There had to be something motivating me to be abused so much, and I came up with three answers. The first two I have already touched on:

  1. I love the focus required to do it well.
  2. I love creating order from chaos by applying established principles (in this case to the game of baseball).
  3. I love that underneath it all, umpiring is about customer service and fulfillment.

This chapter is about #3, and when I say fulfillment here, I am not talking about my personal fulfillment but rather fulfillment for the customer. No one comes to a baseball game to see the umpire, just as no one goes to any sporting event to see the referee or official of that game. The best an umpire can get at the end of the game is “Nice game, ump.” But the moment an umpire makes a mistake, all hell breaks loose. 

If you have ever worked in customer service, fulfillment, or any part of a business that is all about making the behind-the-scenes stuff seamless, I think you might be getting the connection. Most customers don’t interact with a company just to experience their customer service and fulfillment. They are buying, receiving, and enjoying their product (sort of like playing in a baseball game on a beautiful spring day); but if something is not right with the experience, it will be time to get satisfaction for the wrong that has been inflicted upon them. 

No one wants to feel wronged—and if you don’t make it right for them (quickly), I guarantee that the lifetime value of this customer will decrease significantly, maybe even to nothing, or less than nothing. This is the marketing after the marketing—and when we screw up on delivering for our customers, it is absolutely the worst thing we can do in business. As I’ve said in other ways throughout this book already, it’s much easier to keep a customer happy (and increase their lifetime value) than to get a new customer . . . although it does feel sexier to get new customers all the time. 

Saving a loyal customer after they feel you have not fulfilled your promise (at any point in the relationship) is your most important sales function. You do this by making world-class customer service your highest priority. While I worried about the title of this book being Overdeliver, worried that potential readers might think it is only about delivering impeccable customer service, I decided to go with it because it is such a core principle of marketing. And now you know that “over delivering” is also much more than this. 

The fact that so many marketers today put up with 30 per- cent to 50 percent return rates on an initial sale (I guess because keeping 50 percent to 70 percent of new customers is good enough) makes me cringe. And even if accepting that return rate on the initial sale is the prevailing philosophy, these marketers still don’t spend enough time caring for and nurturing the folks who don’t return the product initially, losing them later by not being laser focused on doing everything to keep these customers happy and coming back for more. 

Having a total commitment to the highest quality (and integrity) on the initial sale is the most important first step…but that same mind-set needs to be in place with all customers throughout the lifetime of their relationship with you. And when you are thinking about customer service and fulfillment, it’s even more important to have this maxim front and center all the time, one that I made up and one that I try to live by (and which you have seen at the opening to Chapter 1): “Everything in business (and in life) is not a revenue event, but everything is a relationship event.” 

Here’s another way I like to put this as it pertains to customer service: Lifetime value increases the longer someone loves you and wants to buy from you in the future like they have in the past; but this requires you to take care of them like they are family, even without any exchange of funds. 

Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs and business owners treat their customer service and fulfillment as afterthoughts, and not just the function but the people they hire for those jobs too. These shortsighted executives act as though the actual real-world interaction with real-life people who buy from them doesn’t matter once a sale is made. This is a big mistake. Alas, the fulfillment manager, or customer service rep, on their best day, will get the feedback equivalent of “Nice game, ump.” If there are no problems, these folks remain invisible. But when they blow a call (i.e., make a mistake) they become the least popular employees in the company. 

It takes a certain kind of personality to umpire . . . or to be a fulfillment manager or customer service representative. Taking pride in giving exquisite service—and being willing to do it without being noticed—is extremely rare. These are the people who over deliver at the highest level. Pay close attention to people you hire for these roles, and pay them well too. They are your first line of defense in protecting against leakage of your existing and potential customers; and they are your last line of defense against customers leaving you forever. 

The wonderful telephone operator who solves a customer’s problem behind the scenes and saves an order or avoids cancellation feels like they are part of sales and revenue creation (or what we can call revenue saving). And the delighted customer, who receives a positive outcome, will have their day made and might just become a customer for life. The folks I know who are the best at customer service receive satisfaction in saving the day, whether it’s noticed by one or by many. But while they may not be looking for positive reinforcement, go out of your way to applaud them. Give them accolades for their excellent skill at keeping customers; they deserve this just as much as the sales rep or copywriter deserves praise for figuring out creative ways to add new customers.

Make sure you look after every part of your customer service and fulfillment, because the only way to stay in business for the long haul is to focus relentlessly on keeping your customers happy. And that includes keeping your employees happy too. Even if things go wrong, if you are committed to making things right and saving every customer with every interaction, no matter how negative or potentially damaging, you will build resilience into your business—because, as we know, all businesses thrive on repeat purchases. 

You can even base your entire differentiation strategy as a company on how you treat your customers. Look at such well- known retail businesses as Nordstrom, Stew Leonard’s, Ritz Carl- ton—they are differentiated in extremely competitive industries due to their unrivalled customer service. I love tracking what companies have done to create superior levels of service for their best customers, especially with commoditized products. Premium services such as Amazon Prime and the American Express Black Card over deliver and create customer experiences like no one else. 



The rest of the chapter in the book on customer service and fulfillment is not about baseball—I promise—but it is about the importance of servicing your customers at the highest level and not just selling them. 

And whether we are talking about management by walking around or marketing by walking around it’s always about  leadership by walking around. 

And that’s what I really mean when I get out on the field over the next 5 months and begin each game with “play ball!” 






P.S. I hope most of you have at least taken a look at the bonuses I am offering with my book, Overdeliver…and if you pre-order today (the book launches April 9th), you can still get everything at immediately. 

Please pre-order now and also feel free to share the link above with anyone else who might benefit from these incredibly useful resources from the greatest direct marketers ever, past and present. 


P.P.S. As I continue to talk about all of my mentors and friends mentioned and discussed in the new book, I have been getting inquiries about some who are not represented at– marketing royalty known for their genius (and their own form of “overdelivering”). 

One of those is Bill Jayme. He just had too much material to add! 

“The Bill Jayme Collection,” a swipe file of 210 monumental control packages written by one of the most prolific copywriters ever, is now available in a new format. 

I was out of stock (of the 12 disc set) but based on the demand for the content (and your feedback on changing the format), I created a small quantity of this priceless collection on one USB thumb drive in a protective plastic case (rather than on discs). 


If you would like to hear more about the legend of Bill Jayme and why he is considered one of the best and most beloved copywriters ever, please read “Deeply and Irrevocably Personal.” 


To order one of the limited edition Bill Jayme Collections in stock now, click here.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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