Last week, my fifth-grade daughter brought me a small gift from a fundraiser sale at school – a Smencil, which is a ‘gourmet’ scented pencil made out of recycled newspaper. I loved it for a number of reasons:
1. She got me an orange-scented one, and the scent of orange rocks! Best. Scent. Ever.
2. It was very sweet and thoughtful that she thought to get one for her ‘old man.’
3. It’s recycled – go green, baby!
4. Now I’ve got a cool pencil in my office that I can sniff whenever I want.
But then as a businessman, I started thinking about the marketing of this idea. First, the name – I guess Smencils comes from Smelly Pencils. Yuck. I don’t know about you, but in my mind smelly = bad, scented = good. So I would have called them Scentcils. I googled Scentcils and didn’t find anything readily using that name, so maybe I’ll compete in this market. I have a lot of great ideas for things – in my own mind, I’m a prolific entrepreneur/inventor – but in reality I’ve only got one co-patent to date. Seriously. Check out Face Value – the Customer Game. It’s a unique way to think about managing your customer accounts.
Back to smelly pencils, what about the ‘gourmet’ label? Besides orange, I’m told the other scents include cherry, watermelon, chocolate, cotton candy, bubble gum, etc. Gourmet, really? It’s not like these are prime rib, brioche, or glazed duck. But I guess gourmet means different things to different people.
Lastly, I thought about the parallels of Smencils with strategic account management. Maybe if the Smencil people had conducted some customer loyalty research, they’d have learned that smelly = bad or gourmet didn’t mean bubble gum. Or maybe they did, and learned that leveraging the green feature or selling through elementary schools was a great way to sell pencils at a premium. Or maybe they learned no one wants a brioche-scented writing instrument. The point is, research, surveys, and listening to your customers are fundamental ways to learn more about who is buying, or considering to buy, your products and services. Whether it’s a strategic account or a mass market (of school kids, in this case), using the voice of the customer to take action is as great as an orange-scented pencil!
Sr. VP, Strategic Accounts