Be not what you sell, US Postal Service
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
21 September 2011
There’s a difference between what you sell and what your audiences buy
You are not what you sell or make. The US Postal Service lost $8 billion last year. And, warns that it will be insolvent in just a couple of years.
I guess “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
“As a branding company, this is exactly the kind of single-minded proposition we work to get clients to adopt. It is focused and easy to understand. But it is not what you sell.”
It assumes there will always be enough money to pay our postal carriers.
Though the US Postal Service has no official motto, the preceding statement had become the marching orders and battle cry. At least since at least 1912 when it was inscribed on the James A. Farley Post office in New York City. Though true to a point, the Post Office has and continues to fail to live up to the sprit of that statement.
What you sell
First off, I do not think that the US Postal Service has done a poor job in delivering the mail. I simply do not use the Postal Service. I have no need. Bills get paid online and letters that I once wrote are now sent electronically complete with movies, pictures, and sounds.
Stealing Share uses the US Postal Service to send out new business information from time to time. But I never think of using the Postal Service to send packages. Although it does send packages, it is not in my considered set.
And this is what leads me to the USPS confusing what it does with what it sells.
Going back to the unofficial motto, there is one segment of it that must be noticed. “…completion of their appointed rounds.“
It does not say, “completion of their appointed door to door mail route.” It says “appointed rounds.”
As a branding company, this is exactly the kind of single-minded proposition we work to get clients to adopt. It is focused and easy to understand. But it is not what you sell.
Permission to grow
More importantly, it gives the brand the ability to grow as it is purposive instead of prossesive. The statement says, ‘Nothing will stop our people from delivering your message, no matter what kind of message it is.”
For the history of the US Postal Service, this simply means “We’ll get you the mail.”
The simple truth is that the Post Office has confused delivering the mail with what what you sell. Getting customers what they need no matter what. It is only now that it understands the mistake and I fear it may be too late.
It is a common fallacy for business to be so literal about what it thinks it is selling. Often it misses the opportunities right under its nose. There is merit in saying focused on what you do. But, tunnel vision can be the death knell of a business and unfortunately the USPS is now coming to that reality.
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