You would think that companies in industry that struggle to get general public attention should do everything to look as much professional as possible to attract new customers. Especially when “advanced” skating market is not that big, and appealing to customers is basically to be or not to be for smaller companies. Thing is, almost NOBODY does it right.
From oh-no-another-wheel-manufacturer companies, to a big players. Here’s a list of sins, that almost everyone repeats over and over again.
1) Missing deadlines.
Really, that’s possibly the worst thing to do. You build up the hype, people are waiting for your product, save money to buy it, and… they can’t! Because you missed deadline AGAIN, and now they are angry at you and would rather go buy other companies products instead.
There are countless examples of it. Most obvious one is Xsjado 2.0 release, but also SSM website launch etc. Yes, I know accidents happen, problems pop out from nowhere when developing new products, and in the end one link of production chain can fail. That’s normal, that’s life.
But that doesn’t mean this should be accepted on such a large scale. If you aren’t sure that you’ll make it on time, do not give deadline at all. And when you miss one, and damage is done, give your customers explanation of the delay, for example:
“Sorry guys but we won’t make it on time, team proposed some changes we want to implement in final product, and we got some fresh ideas, so stay tuned”
That way not only you’ll show people that you actually care, you’ll keep them interested and they’ll think:
“ok, if the delay is necessary to improve skates/frames/wheels, then so be it, it’s good they won’t release something half-baked, I’d rather buy good product than bad one, I’ll wait a bit more”
It’s really that easy. Give people who waited sneak peek on things in work. Keep them interested. Do not sit silently and pray they’ll won’t notice something is not right.
2) Not enough exposure. Or bad exposure.
It’s most visible in case of wheel companies. There are numerous out there, not only aggressive ones, but also speedskating and freeskate ones, and almost all do terrible job at advertising their products.
I’ll use Fester wheels as example. Ok, people know who is behind this company, and what riders are sponsored by it. They’ve seen promo edits. But is there any practical reason why people should choose Fester wheels over any other wheels out there? Tell us more about advantages of your product. Why it’s better than competition, why it’s worth to get it. Recently Circolo is making the same mistake. NOTHING is revealed about those wheels apart from who rides them.
Outside of aggressive world, Gyro is making the similar mistake. They have more than a dozen of wheel models listed on site, and they don’t bother to tell differences between them, and what applications different wheels were made in mind. Instead we get stories like that (taken from Gyro Siren description):
“In Greek mythology, the Sirens are creatures with the head of a female and the body of a bird. They lived on an island and with the irresistible charm of their song they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island. SIREN’s graphic is the side face of woman. SIREN attracts many slalomers.”
WHAT?! I finished primary school a long time ago, I read books, and I know mythos of culture that is one of foundations of today’s western culture, I don’t need a history lesson, thank you. Explaining what sirens are is almost insulting to any person with half brain. And what the last sentence means? If I’ll put Gyro Siren wheels in my skates suddenly I’ll become popular among slalomers? Will they chase me around like cats chase a bag of catnip? (maybe it wouldn’t be that bad, many hot girls are in to slalom…)
Shining example of too scarce advertising is Seba. Company that lives from freeskating (because FR series is a workhorse, not slalom models!), released less freeskating video content during year 2012 than Rollerblade and Powerslide (when you count powerblading edits, and you should).Some great freeskaters ride for Seba. WHERE ARE EDITS OF THEM SKATING?!
3) Horrible and/or outdated websites.
It’s 2012, and we’ll soon hit 2013. These are times when most people in the world carry internet capable smartphones with them. Times when information flows easily, and social media became powerful marketing tool. You would think companies are going to use internet to their advantage. You are wrong.
Let’s look at Hyper wheels website. It looks like something put by website making enthusiast that started learning HTML only a month ago. I think further comments are not necessary. Company that produce one of best wheels in industry don’t have proper, modern website, not to mention compatibility with facebook. That’s sad.
Have you been on USD website lately? What are Billy O’neil and Don Bambrick doing in team section?
Most recent example of website done bad was, now taken down, KORE skates website. Whoever decided to put it online must have wanted company to fail before they’ll even enter the market. It was that bad, really. And now they have standard “site under maintenance” placeholder there.
Here’s how you do it in modern world: you make simple page with your company logo, and email address for press that may want to ask some questions, eventually link to your fb profile if company have one. If you really want, you can add a counter that shows time left to launch of proper website. Just make sure to not miss this deadline.
4) Not using content released by your supporters to your advantage.
That’s possibly worst thing right after missed deadlines. You have pro team, am team, or simply a team, or not even a team, just bunch of people who skate your gear, and they make photos and videos that you can use as a marketing tool. And for some reason you decide not to.
This is stupid waste of talent, funds, and other resources. If you don’t want to use media your team provides, why even have team in first place? When someone from your team wins a marathon/comp, or takes high place in classification, let people know. “This guy won, and he skate for us” is powerful marketing tool.
5) Facebook wars.
This is almost exclusive to aggressive skating world. It happens when somebody from inside of industry is posting things about business that should be kept behind closed doors. If you have problem with business partner, or pro who ride for you, solve it (or not, and say good bye) in private, don’t create drama.
If one of people who post on your profile is trolling, warn him and block him if he don’t want to listen. Never insult people no matter how much they’ll spit on you – instead, use arguments in discussion to show who’s the fool. I f you’ll do it any other way, you’ll won’t be much better than them. And NEVER tell people to “fuck off”. Adapt, I’m looking at you.
6) Lying to customers
People don’t like it when someone is trying to convince them something is truth when it isn’t. Do not say false things. Most recent example is Rollerblade ad where two years old frames were presented as “ALL NEW”. Another one, K2 Varsity/Fatty ads which were THE SAME videos, with digitally repainted skates. Valo Light adverts that say shell is carbon fiber, while it’s carbon and glass fiber composite in reality. Beaten to death Razors mantra where they say:
“The G[insert number here] is made of a harder and longer lasting material which provides full support for a longer period of time.”
Seriously, if they change material for harder and longer lasting in each edition, we should be now able to bust tanks open with these skates. Behold, the power of titanium skates!
7) Not addressing issues, not taking care of problems, and not responding to questions and/or complains
Let’s say I’ve bought product of company X. I’m generally happy with it, but one day, there’s a failure of equipment that I’m not responsible for. First thing to do is to contact skateshop, but that doesn’t always work. I’ve seen too many cases of companies that refuse to cover warranty, when damage was not caused by a skater. Turns out cracked shell or broken cuff in skates designed for freeskating isn’t covered by warranty because skater used his rollerblades to …freeskate.
When cores in barely used wheels crack, it’s of course skater fault, and company won’t replace them – because cores cracked in USED wheels! So yeah, we are supposed to keep our wheels on shelves, and do not skate them.
There is also ridiculous case of Seba FR-A soulplate. This soulplate is official add-on, company makes money on it, and even put video with instructions how to install it on your skates, but doing so will VOID WARRANTY.
Not answering e-mails or redirecting them to people who don’t have a clue about how to solve customer problem is notorious in this industry too. It’s even worse when you send number of e-mails to a company, none of them answered, and after dozen of these you’ll get response like “we are addressing this issue and respond soon do not flood us with e-mails”. If you cant solve the problem right away, let your customer know you are working on it.
These problems aren’t sole reason why rollerblading isn’t in very good shape nowadays, but adds to equation unfortunately. Sport where companies movements looks very amateurish, will never flourish. Strong, professional image of skating as a whole is needed to “bring it back”.