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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Making an Offer You Can Refuse

A small fire flared up today within the Sonlight online community. It's interesting what sparks these fires. Frequently it's things we do not expect.

Like when I took the time to try to capture a good picture for the Sonlight Rewards Program and got comments asking why companies always had to choose good-looking models with perfect skin.


True, I do have some good-looking co-workers. (You can meet several of them on the Sonlight Tour.) And my goal was to take a nice picture to showcase this opportunity to bless you and your friends. And while I certainly don't want to add to the Photoshopped Reality surrounding us ...I do really like Photoshop.

Today I saw--once again--accusations that Sonlight is just a business looking to make a buck and not interested in the Sonlight community.

Well, Sonlight is a business. And while we do seek to provide a service and bless you, ultimately we do have to make money. That's how we can keep providing services and work to bless you in the future.

That's also how I get a paid. And I like getting paid.

So, yes, Sonlight seeks out ways to find others to bless and serve. We do things we hope will be helpful and bring more people into the Sonlight community. But we firmly believe that what we offer must be of value and helpful. We seek to make you offers that you--and others--will want to take advantage of.

But we realize that not everything we offer will be of benefit to you. In fact, sometimes it may even make you unhappy that we offer it. That's a bummer for us because not only did we fail to provide something that will help you, but we also failed to leech another penny from your coffer.

<cough> [That was supposed to be funny] <grin>

The good news in all of this is that: Every offer we make is one you can refuse.

And the better news is that, as a business seeking to make money to keep serving you, if our offer doesn't help you we'll have to cut it out. Otherwise, we'd quickly not be able to offer anything to anyone because we'd be out of business.

So the fact that Sonlight is a business--a business built on more than just great resources--continually urges us find ways to serve you better. And whether you believe it or not, we do truly care about you and your family's educational needs. ...even if that means you refuse some of our offers.

It's late. I'll have to leave it at that for the night.

Has Sonlight served you well? What was the most ridiculous offer you've ever received?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester


mingmay said...

You need to stay in business so that you can keep offering your awesome curricula for me to homeschool my daughter. Everyday is a Sonlight day in some big or small way in our household. There are offers I have refused like Passport to India because I don't always have the time to read Sonlight e-mails. But none have been ridiculous.

Karen Joy said...

There's a company that has a radio commercial locally (IDK if they're national), and it ends with a lady saying in a relieved and chipper voice, "Why do you do it, Just Brakes?" to which a singing chorus replies, "Because at Just Brakes, we really do care!" I think the whole thing is RIDICULOUS. I do not believe for even a fraction of a second that Just Brakes really does care about me OR my vehicle, other than to use it to subtract money from my bank account.

I think the skepticism that you've received says a TON about our hyper-commercialized culture. We just don't believe the jingles and ad campaigns any more.

I really love the idea of non-profits. Not that it removes all bias, but it at least it removes profit motive. As long as Sonlight is in business to make money, most people are going to have some level of mistrust at each new offer.

Unless it's just me that's cynical. :)

I had to go through the same thing when you first started visiting my blog (and it's been too long, Luke!!): I found it virtually unbelievable that you, as a Sonlight employee (a Holzmann, no less!), would simply visit my blog to "connect" with me, as a Sonlight user. Same with your blog. *I* didn't visit it for the longest time, because I assumed that it was entirely to drive up sales, and I just wasn't interested in that, much as I love Sonlight curricula.

So... there's a fine line there, to be sure. It's hard to find, and even harder to communicate to a cynical public. (And it's why, btw, I've kept my blog completely non-commercial, though I've had folks urge me to "monetize", and can't believe I'm not making money off of all those hits.)

Sarah Butcher said...

I refused a Rosetta stone offer as my oldest is 3 followed by his sister @ 1 1/2 and I'm 18 weeks along with the next, I wouldn't need it for years(and can't afford it now). I wasn't upset I smiled warmly and thought I hope they get another Rosetta promo when they are a bit older as I;m sure glad you offer such a fabulous language program!

Joy said...

I want you to know, that we appreciate your ministry and the ministry of Sonlight! It has been a huge blessing to us. Every time I have called, emailed or chat with someone from Sonlight they have been so helpful and made me feel like they enjoyed serving me.

Of course it's a business! Boggles my mind that people would be upset, because you are making some money, offering an incredible product that blesses so many people!

Anyway, I just wanted to say, Thank you!


Diane Shiffer said...

Awww shucks! Did I miss some great (or not-so-great) offer? I like offers... even the not-so-great ones:-)

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Carol Cowan said...

I am sad that people can be so unthinking. Sonlight provides more service than any other company I have been involved with, as well as personal concern for its clients. I always felt that I was part of a family when I had interaction with Sonlight. My biggest regret is that I don't have any more children to homeschool. I MISS Sonlight. At least I still have lots of great books to read and re-read. Carol in NZ

The Reader said...

Has SL Served me well? -- yes, definitely so. Loyal, and satisfied, customer since 2001, with many years ahead of me.

What is the most ridiculous offer I've received? -- well, I didn't receive the one that has everyone all fired up, but it did seem a bit ridiculous to me when I saw it. However, that's just because I'm far enough along in my journey to know that no one has all the answers. Still, I shrugged and went on my way and I'm sorry others didn't.

re: Ashley's comment -- I think it is the opposite; I think those who feel the most invested in the relationship then feel the most betrayed when SL does something seemingly out of character. Those to whom SL is "just a business" have no emotional investment, thus no emotional reaction.

Having been around for a while, I've seen lots of these fusses and up in arms moments, over all sorts of things. SL has survived, and continues to thrive, despite them. Which is confirmation enough that I've chosen the right company to do business with. Yep, Sonlight has definitely served me well, and I expect it will continue to do so.

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Wallace said...

Sorry Ashley, the comments WERE from people who have used SL products. And the "advice" you can pay $40 for 5 minutes is provided FREE by the SL community every day, and without the Joel Osteen philosophy. Maybe you haven't visited the forums lately.

My beef with the email was that SL prostituted themselves by providing my email to a service I neither asked for nor care to use.

Delete? Sure no problem. But Luke's insensitivity here is alarming. SL used to listen to their customers.

Lori said...


While I certainly appreciate that Sonlight is a business, I am surprised that you'd respond so dismissively to the response to this. I'm pretty sure this is the first time that SL has used my e-mail address to advertise a life coach. It's not something I expected, and when I looked at what Hannah Keeley was selling, I was troubled.

For $39.95 and just five minutes a day, she is overing people success, wealth, a happy marriage, good health, obedient kids, and peace of mind.

What she is telling her customers she will deliver, she CANNOT deliver. She is promising them a lie. She is saying that if they just do A, B, and C, then X, Y, and Z will happen in their life. Yes, if you give advice on how to declutter a home, and people follow it, they WILL have a decluttered home. Stuff doesn't have a mind of its own. And, yes, we are all aware that a lot of programs that promise they will teach our children to have beautiful handwriting or to speak a foreign language or to learn to play the piano won't work for every child, but at least they are making claims about one area and presumably, at the very least, your child will have better handwriting and know more of a foreign language or be a better piano player if they do the lessons. But you can't promise people that following your advice will lead to success, wealth, an end to depression, health, a supportive spouse, or obedient kids. You just can't. You can't even guarantee that they'll have more wealth, better health, a more supportive spouse, or more obedient kids, because that is not how people or life works. It's not how God works. It's that part of it that really, really bothers me. It bothers me that she's promising it and it bothers me that SL is using their customer list to advertise it.

Working Through said...

Thank you Luke ! The offer did not offend me in any way. I know how to use the delete buttong. What may appeal to others, may do nothing for me !

I want Sonlight to be around many years to come. To do that, you have to stay in business by attracting new customers. I understand this well.

I have been at this 23 year, but have 15 more to go, and this is if I don't homeschool some of the grandchildren. ;-)

I love Sonlight, amazing books & employees. Thank you one and all !

Cindy said...

I run a small business for homeschool support and enrichment. It is a failing business. We are running it into the ground trying to keep ministry high and costs low. And we still regularly field criticism regarding our prices. No one seems to believe that no human or entitiy makes a single cent off of our fees.

There seems to also be an understandable awareness of one's own family finances and how much it costs to live, but complete oblivion about how much it costs to run a business.

Karen Joy mentioned skepticism regarding any ad campaigns. I agree that people seem to think the worst about companies and their motives.

It is a sad state, especially when my desire to connect is so very genuine. We have a website, a blog, a yahoogroups list, and a couple of facebook accounts just to promote connection and community. However, so few of our members take part in any of that.

Sorry, Luke, that your motives were called into question. It stinks.

Kelly said...

I love Sonlight and seriously want them to stay in business. I prove this yearly with my money. That said I think you missed the point on this one. Many of us find the particular product in question demeaning of our roles a wives and homeschool moms. That is not the same as SL offering a SAT prep book that doesn't fit my needs.

Luke Holzmann said...

I'm glad to hear Sonlight has been such a blessing to you!

Karen, there is certainly a financial aspect to the caring. As I said when we first started chatting, "I wouldn't be able to do this if I wasn't getting paid to." But that does not, and will not, detract from the fact that I really do care.

Sarah, we have been able to do Rosetta Stone sales from time to time over the years. I hope that continues! <smile>

Ashley, we do pray for our customers and strive to serve them well. Thank you so much for your support! But there are--as evidenced here--many people who love Sonlight and feel that we have not served them well here. It's often that love of Sonlight that pushes them to demand that we do things well.

Good points, muddyboots! But what we promoted does not have those theological flaws in it (at least, the tips you can get for free; I guess I don't know for sure about the 5 Minute Mom deal because I haven't been through that course <smile>). More to come in my next blog post. I'm very interested in your thoughts on that when I get it published.

Wallace, we did not sell your email to anyone. We emailed you about something we hoped you'd find helpful. Those helps are available elsewhere, to be sure, but we did not give away your information to anyone. That's not "how we roll." I'm sorry I came across as insensitive. Please let me know how I did that so I can avoid doing so in the future.

Lori, more to come in my next post, but for now... I don't think that's what Hannah is saying. She is offering a few free videos and resources to Sonlighters. She does offer life-coaching--and, yes, I believe this is the first of such a we have mentioned to you--but from her presentation she says she'll share information that can help you. And if it doesn't, she'll send your money back.

Kelly, I'm sorry you felt it was demeaning. That was not the intention. I'm sorry for any offense we may have caused.


Godsmacked said...

You are still missing the point, Luke. I give Sonlight Curriculum Inc. permission to send me emails about THEIR products, not other companies and their products. While it is true you didn't violate my trust by selling my email address to another company, you still were opportunistic in using my address (and everyone else's)to just do the advertising for them. I guess it is all about who sends those unsolicited advertisements out, isn't it?

I also agree that Hannah Keeley's message is not a helpful one. She is about as real a homemaker as Martha Stewart. I wonder how well she would do in the real world minus her minions? Her website DOES contain name it and claim it theology (regardless of your assertion it does not) and her marriage/sex blog entries are not something I can see Sonlight Inc. endorsing.

Also, it is hinted that she is a Sonlight Curriculum user. Really? What makes one a Sonlight user? Buying a book and reading it to your child? Unless she has actually bought a core and used it, I think it is false advertising for you or her to be making this kind of assertion.

I get that you are trying to keep Sonlight from going down the tubes. Perhaps you should trace the companies steps back, to figure out where you started going wrong and fix THAT rather than trying all of these "fixes" that are only upsetting your loyal customer base.

(Oh, one little bit of info, your "loyal customer base" is not made up with mommies toying with homeschooling by buying Pre-K and K cores for their 3 year olds. It is the people who have bought 4 or 5 cores and have convinced others to try your materials. Those are the customers you should be seeking to keep instead of alienate.)

Working Through said...

"Godsmacked said...

(Oh, one little bit of info, your "loyal customer base" is not made up with mommies toying with homeschooling by buying Pre-K and K cores for their 3 year olds. It is the people who have bought 4 or 5 cores and have convinced others to try your materials. Those are the customers you should be seeking to keep instead of alienate.)"

Goodness, the kindness is all around.

I am now starting all over again with 2 little ones. I am one of those mommies you speak of.

I am the future of Sonlight. I will be a Heirloom member next year. I have brought friends to Sonlight.

I find your comment extremely offenseive !!

Luke Holzmann said...

Godsmacked, we sent an email which offered you free content which Hannah created just for us. We also, as a courtesy, mentioned her other tools if you found the free ones useful. It was not for you, and that's completely understandable.

You will be pleased to know that Hannah is a Heirloom customer and has used Sonlight over 10 years.

We do continue to rework what we offer to make it ever better. But we will also continue to seek out ways to serve our customers and make others aware of what we offer.


Godsmacked said...

Jana, you may "consider yourself the future of Sonlight"(I am sure that is why your complained so much to get long time contributing forum members isolated in the hidden forums that no one talks about.) Guess what? I find YOUR comment offensive. You may be starting over with two littles, but that does not mean that you represent the larger cross section of the people who WERE using Sonlight. The fact is, Sonlight is losing customers and they know it. It is time they HONESTLY ask themselves why.

Working Through said...

I have done no such thing, I was jumped on almost the very first day I was on the forums. I was personally attacked. I have never been treated so badly on a forum ever. Because I didn't agree with the "loudest in the group".

I barely post over there. And I see clearly that many of the new homeschoolers are uncomfortable. Many posts last year, and lately have shown that. The drama is just not necessary, it pulls customers away from Sonlight. A simple search of any engine will show that.

I am entitled to my opinion and have my big girl panties on.

I am the future of Sonlight, and will be around for a very long time. I have grandchildren almost ready to start too. So I am not going anywhere.

( Godsmack isn't even on the forums with that name, nor do you have a blog, or info about yourself. Show you self to us all, why hide ? )

Working Through said...

Oh and Godsmack, I have used Sonlight for many years through a program in Alaska. Since they were PO's I didn't get the badges. Obviously you don't know much about me !


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