Sunday, August 07, 2005

An Inspirational Marketing Story from Xerox

We all know the power of story-telling in marketing. Stories bring basic principles to life. Like the parables of the Bible.

I'm not sure if this story that was passed on to me is true or not. Either way, it serves as phenomenal illustration of how extra effort can make all the difference in marketing.

Xerox ran a promotion in the capital city of one of the Scandinavian countries: order a printer and, if it doesn't arrive by 5pm the next day, you get it for free. Or something like that. The offer was limited to the zip codes that covered the capital only, as the company knew that the heavy snow that was around that time of the year meant it would not be possible to deliver to mountainous outlying areas and hit the deadline.

So, the fulfilment personnel were surprised to find an order had come from an address that was indeed in the snow-covered mountains that surrounded the capital city. Looking closely at their zip code map, they discovered that a fluke in the coding system had embraced a neighboring mountain with one of the city's postal codes.

The order had come in from a chalet at the top of the mountain. And there was only half a day left before the offer expired. Rather than give up, two Xerox personnel pulled the order out of the normal delivery system and set off themselves.

They hired a snowmobile and packed the printer on the back. Hours later, exhausted, and battered by the wind and the snow, they carried the printer up the last few hundred meters to the chalet door and knocked. It was just past the deadline.

"Sorry it's late, sir", they gasped to the astonished man who opened the front door. "Here's your free printer. We missed the deadline, so there's no charge."

Disappointed and weary, the two Xerox people made their way back, feeling like failures. The story soon found its way around the company. A couple of weeks later, they got a call from another department. Xerox had just landed a massive printer order from one of that country's largest companies. It turned out the man they had delivered to was the CEO. He was so impressed with the lengths the two Xerox employees had gone to to deliver just one printer to an individual customer, that he ordered his procurement people to switch all their printer business to Xerox.

And all because two people decided to go to extraordinary lengths to deliver on a promise to a customer (and not to have to give away a free printer, of course!).

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