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Catching the Boomerang Clients

The Boomerang Metaphor and Media Monitoring

My thoughts have turned to an accelerating phenomenon that I call “Boomerang Clients.” At least, I thought this was a phrase I had coined, as it relates to our media monitoring and PR measurement clients, until I discovered that it has already been well written about. Basically, every service loses clients from time to time. Some clients tell you why they are leaving, others won’t share that information. Historically, Universal Information Services has seen about 50% of exiting clients return to us within 24 months. They go out and then come back — similar to a boomerang.

Over the past two years, we have seen some of our competitors become far more aggressive with their sales tactics. If you’re reading this post, you are probably aware of the vendor that will relentlessly call you until you either break down and sign up with them, or threaten to sue them for harassment. I don’t want to name names. Other competitors aren’t quite so aggressive, but nonetheless also employ the, “False Glitter Effect” [Doug Coull, The Journey of Boomerang Clients]. I found this term when researching this post … and I love it.

The False Glitter Effect

For years, PR professionals have joked about how the PR industry discovers, promotes, flocks to and then moves on to the next piece of glitter. Some of this glitter sticks, like social media influencers; other glitter fades, like that weekly newsletter. This compulsion isn’t unique to public relations — every industry is attracted to innovation … or even the promise of innovation, whether or not it is real.

Using the False Glitter Effect to attract new business has become an effective tool for some companies that feel they may not be able to compete on the true merits of their services. And there is no doubt, prospective clients often believe what the sales person is pitching … they want to believe the story is true. Sales and marketing has always straddled that line between reality and what we want reality to be.

That’s not to say that all sales pitches are false — far from it. And in all fairness to PR professionals and buyers everywhere, when we see something that looks like it will make our lives easier or improve our performance, we listen. The problem with the false glitter is that the newly attracted customer quickly learns that what they were promised, and what they got, does not meet their expectations. Doug Coull described the outcome of this effect perfectly in his 2019 post, “the False Glitter Effect leads customers to a place of frustration and disappointment.”

The boomerang has reached it’s farthest distance and is about to return to the thrower.

The correlation between the use of false glitter over the past several years correlates directly to the increased number of boomerang clients we have caught. Since one of our core values is “Honest and Direct Communication with Everyone,” we won’t employ false glitter in our sales or marketing. This does put us at a disadvantage as an incumbent vendor. When a competitor compares their promises against our realities, our client can be victimized into believing the prospective vendor can deliver all that Universal does. Within 60 days — often sooner — our former client has discovered that these aggressive vendors do not have all the media mentions they claimed.

News Monitoring and PR measurement choices from Universal Information Services

There is no way to hide the holes a media monitor has in their service.

  • You either cover more television newscasts than Universal, or you don’t.
  • You either capture daily and weekly newspapers across the United States, as published, or you don’t.
  • You either have a comprehensive social media feed, or you don’t.
  • Oh, and by the way:
    • Everyone has essentially the same online media monitoring data for websites.
    • Monitoring online websites is not nearly a substitute for what has been broadcast or published.

100% of Universal’s Media Measurement clients monitor media beyond the web. Getting the whole story is important.

As far as the tools within the Software as a Service (SaaS), at our core the tools are similar. When it comes to monitoring the web, we all have essentially the same websites and we are all bound by the same limitations. Websites have paywalls. They have changing architecture. They might limit what stories they post, and many newspapers and magazines don’t even post their content online.

The real differentiator to find is whether or not your media monitoring and PR measurement vendor has real newspaper and magazine monitoring (content as published). Do they actually record and index all the TV and radio broadcasts needed to truly be a comprehensive media monitor? Do they have a full feed of all relevant social media networks, or not? Or do they only have the ability to integrate those real datasets by contracting with an outside vendor in order to fill these gaping holes. Most SaaS providers do not have their own solutions for comprehensively tracking all media, so their costs go through the roof as you work to fill in those gaps.

Universal catches the boomerang.

As mentioned above, within about 60 days of leaving Universal our former clients usually reach out and ask, “What would it take for us to come back?” Contrary to what some might think, this is not a time for our company to gloat and think to ourselves, “We told you so.” It’s our time to welcome them back with open arms. Our feelings go out to our returning clients because they have wasted time and money with nothing better to show for it.

We love our clients. Our mission is to earn the enthusiasm of each client by providing the best service available. Our mission tends to provide us with very loyal customers; satisfied customers who love our service. But when they have to work through the “frustration and disappointment” of false promises from a competing vendor, we do feel bad for them and work hard to restore them to our services immediately.

We always release a client with love, and remind them that we would enjoy the opportunity to work with them again in the future. This approach tends to greatly increase the odds that we will catch them when they boomerang. Is Universal perfect? Of course not. Do we have technical outages and miss occasional stories? For sure. But the difference is that we have more of our clients’ media mentions, we miss less of their coverage and we don’t have any holes in the media being monitored … and that’s a big deal.

All that glitters is not gold.

As mentioned, our competitor’s sales efforts are relentless. I believe we will continue to have clients attracted by false glitter, or maybe even due to legitimate dissatisfaction with our service. But the indicators are strong that we need a bigger hand to not only catch our boomerang clients, but the new clients finding us. We’re also catching clients seeking out a truly comprehensive media monitoring service after using one of our competitors. PR pros want a news monitoring and PR measurement service that has real customer support, finds stories that are missed, provides reliable insight through effective measurement and isn’t just flashing a bunch of false glitter. As I write this, it seems like such a simple business model … and maybe it is. However, I guess this post idea wouldn’t have come to me if we weren’t seeing so much of the boomerang effect these days. Here are some quotes from a few of our boomerang clients:

  • “It [the competitive vendor] just doesn’t match what you guys are able to provide.” -Cris, APR, Director of Strategic Communications, University System
  • “Sometimes you have to test those waters to truly realize what good service and a good company you truly have.” -Claudia, Director of Public Relations/Communications, Regional Health System
  • “I’ve worked with every major monitoring service over the past two decades, and the Universal team is absolutely the best! They’re professional, prompt, responsive, and knowledgeable.” -Chuck, CEO, Nationwide Satellite Media Tours
  • “New management wanted a “big” vendor, so we tried a few and were disappointed with the results and the price. Universal really knows their clients, the one-on-one assistance is essential to us.” -Cindy, Director of Public Relations, Competitive University System

I would love to hear from some other PR professionals. How do you feel about what you’ve been sold or do you have any experience with the False Glitter Effect?


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