Thursday, April 30, 2009

What Makes Great Leaders?

Had a recent thought about what makes great leaders. Usually great leaders are born during times of adversity. Many of the great generals and presidents of the past have been recognized in history for their leadership when they stepped up to a tremendous challenge.

Leaders of today can be great leaders in their organizations by practicing three things:

1. Be Visible - That doesn't mean you can create this Hollywood style video for your employees and customers and think your charisma will carry the day. Such media is useful for mass communications, but people still want the human face-to-face touch when times are difficult for them. Getting out into the workforce and customer locations is the most effective way to exhibit confidence and calm employees during stressful events.

2. Be Up Front with Everyone - Trying to mask the truth will only cause more anxiety and distrust in leaders. Telling it like-it-is is generally well received when people know you're being honest with them.

3. Always Give Them Hope - Knowing that there is a light at the end of a tunnel and that it's not a train coming will give employees and customers a sense that their efforts and trust in you are not futile. Hope keeps everyone moving forward.

The last installment of "How to Market Effectively to Your Existing Customers" is coming very soon.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

How to Market Effectively to Your Existing Customers

Business Appearance

Everything about your business that the customer sees should be consistent and congruent with your message. Whether consciously or not, your customer will be evaluating their decision to use you – and to continue to use you. The business’s appearance is the first thing they will notice.

From the time they pull up, they will notice the building, the signage, the doors, the customer areas, the bathrooms (if they use them), the internal signage, how the employees dress, and the company vehicles. This sensory data is processed, and the customer gets a “feeling” about whether or not your business is congruent with the reasons that they contacted you to begin with.

For example, let’s assume that you chose to target female professionals. Of the areas listed, what would you like to have in place?

First Contact

Now they have contact with someone in your business, whether by phone, walk-in, internet, etc. What is important in that first contact?

Smile – They are coming in to support your message and your business, and your family. Smile. And make sure that you train your employees to smile. Yes – even on the phone!

Next
– Prepare scripts – This does NOT necessarily mean that your employees will say word-for-word what you teach them to say. In fact, few people even like being served by a robotic employee. However, you MUST set out parameters by training them on what YOU want them to say! There IS no “best” script. It’s YOUR business, and you must design it to match your preferences for serving them. ALWAYS script customer interactions, train your employees, and make sure they are doing what you want.

PS – An internet script would obviously be the response – even if automatically generated

Other Interactions

Similarly, you should train and script for other interactions based on your typical business model. Here are just a few examples:

Again – it is VERY important if you own a business to be thorough and to train your employees well. It’s YOUR business, and YOUR business should reflect exactly what you want it to reflect. It WON’T do it on its own!!!

There will probably come a time when a customer doesn’t get what they expect. Here is a good model to follow to ensure that they are heard and that you will get another chance to serve them again.

Customer Dissatisfaction
-Listen
-Affirm
-Restate
-Validate
-Ask Questions
-Apologize
-Provide Solution
-Thank Them!

Listen ACTIVELY – This means nodding your head and giving obvious non-verbal cues.
Affirm – I understand why you aren’t happy…
Restate – Let me make sure I have this right, you bought a widget, got it home, and…
Validate – Well, I can understand why you aren’t happy…
Ask Questions – The questions you will ask are dependent on the situation…
Apologize – Take responsibility and apologize!
Provide Solution – This probably means replacing the item or giving a refund…
Thank Them – Yes – you should thank them for bring ANYTHING to your attention to improve your business!

Employees

The next area on the list is your employees.

A great slogan which originated from an airline noted for its outstanding customer service is “hire for attitude – train for aptitude.” Attitude is everything in team-building as well as customer service. Skills can be taught. Obviously, there are professions that require technical skills, but attitude is tremendously important if you want to have a business that loves to serve and have fun in the process.

Training is also essential if you are going to build your best business. We have already talked about scripting, but employees can also be taught on building good rapport, interpersonal skills, product knowledge, etc.

Systems

The next area is systems development. We have discussed some systems so far, but it is the owner’s JOB to develop the systems for the entire operation! The systems that you design will be used by the team to serve your customers well. The customers will provide revenues for the financial stability of the company, and the company will then – and only then – provide for your life.

DO YOUR JOB and build your systems!

Magic Moment

The next item on the list was “the magic moment.” Knowing what the magic moment is for your customers is vital for providing what they expect.

If your message is speed (i.e. fast), they EXPECT fast, and will judge your entire company by it. For example, the magic moment for most McDonalds users in the drive-thru is having your meal handed to you quickly.

Quality – If your message is high quality, there are also magic moments. For example, an expensive leather couch should feel differently than a cheap leather couch. The magic moment comes when the person sits in it!

Level of Service – Again, different levels of service have different magic moments. Nice restaurants have several people waiting on you. The magic moments come from quick and courteous service – plus the extra efforts and the little things that they do.

Delivery – Delivery is when the customer uses the product or service. The little boy who buys a Styrofoam airplane expects it to soar when he launches it! If you stress that your product delivers – it better deliver if you want repeat customers!

Ease of Use – The example we used before about pickup and delivery for a mechanic shop holds true here. Make it easy to use – and deliver as promised! If the customer is expecting you to drop them off at work – because you told them you would – you better have a car and a person available to perform!

Again – all businesses that make promises have a “magic moment” when their customers' needs are met. Take the time to define and improve yours!

Post Purchase

The final item on our list was post-purchase. There are many things you can – and should – do to have the best chances of getting them to return again and again!

ALWAYS thank them
ALWAYS ask them to come back – or if they are going to come back again.
If you have a business like a hair salon where they might come back regularly by appointment – ask them for the next appointment NOW.
If you have a business where you can acquire the customer’s name, address, e-mail, etc. – get it – and be sure to stay in touch with them!
Since people like to “belong” start a VIP/member group. Even sub shops do this with free sandwiches after 10 purchases – and you can do it too. Special events for members, closed-door sales, etc. make them feel like a part of something special.
A product of the month can be used to introduce new or lesser-known products or services to your target, and keep people a member of your business family.
Surveys are also an excellent way to keep your hand on the pulse of your customers –they also show that you care about them. There are many services that can do this inexpensively as well.

And finally in this installment is:

Critical Non-Essentials

Critical Non-essentials – What little things can you do that are inexpensive, but ADD to the experience of your customers? Flavored teas, flowers, music, heck ANYTHING that adds to the experience will give them a feeling of being cared for better than other options. On the travel channel, they did a show on the “best truck stops in America.” The winner was a truck stop that bought an old limo – and picks up the drivers at their truck to deliver them to the restaurant. A simple $6000 investment brought truckers in from everywhere – and got them national press! What can you do in your business that isn’t essential – but MAY be critical to your continued success? Remember, SURPRISE and DELIGHT.

There are a lot of people who have the best intentions when they promise things to customers – but aren’t able to come through. Most of the time, people mean well, but somehow life and emergencies get in the way. Make it a habit to STOP this OVERLY-optimistic communication! It is always better to under-promise and to then overdeliver.


The final istallment of "How to Market Effectively to Your Existing Customers will deal with Sales to existing customers. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to Market Effectively to Your Existing Customers

This is the second posting in a series on How to Market Effectively to Your Existing Customers

Market Opportunities
What opportunities are available in the market? The key is t0 identify opportunities that AREN’T being filled!
Price – higher prices AND lower prices are both opportunities
Target Market – Businesses can also cater to certain groups of people. For example, gender, age, socio-economic levels, etc. are opportunities to specialize most products and services
Product line – Should you offer a wide array of products – or specialize in vary few products? Again – there are opportunities either way. (eg a bike shop vs WalMart)
Ease/Speed of Purchase – What do people hate about the purchasing process in your industry? (eg Dominos)
Location – Since people generally buy from stores located close to their homes or businesses, what opportunities are in your local marketplace for stores you may see elsewhere?
Ease of Use – We have included technology and portability, but also included in this might be additional services like pickup and delivery when your car is getting fixed. What makes it easier for the purchaser to USE something in your market?
Quality – High quality, low quality and everything in between are opportunities. What is available now – and what might you be able to provide?
Personal Attention – Some people don’t care about it, and some people cherish it! What do people in your industry do now – and what is missing?
Any others that you can think of?



Every year, there are a million ¼” drill bits sold in the US – why is that? What do people need? They NEED ¼” HOLES. If you are going to be successful, you are going to look at people’s need for HOLES rather than the technical specifications for drillbits. ALWAYS look at the customer needs – and make your product accordingly!


It All Comes Down To…

Customer Expectations &
Meeting (Exceeding!) those Expectations

To get people to come back to you, you must deliver. What did the customer EXPECT after you marketed to them… Meeting or preferable exceeding those expectations. And what do they want? They want congruency. That is, they want you to deliver as promised! DO what you SAY!

What else do customers want? They want consistency. People's lives are inconsistent enough – they appreciate consistent service tremendously! This is why systems design is so important!
There are a lot of high-end restaurants that are national chains, such as Mortons, Ruth Chris, etc. Can anyone guess what restaurant was noted in a national survey for having the best customer service? McDonalds! This is a restaurant that you order standing up, you wait until they get it for you, they wrap your food in paper, serve it on a plastic tray – and you have to clean up after yourself! That’s not exactly the definition of good customer service, but the CONSISTENCY is appreciated by everyone so highly that they are seen as having great customer service!

So – how can you meet and exceed your customers expectations based on why they came to you in the first place? There are several key areas that you should be looking at. They are:

- Business Appearance
- First Contact
- Other Interactions
- Employees
- Systems
- Magic Moment
- Post Purchase

And in our next installment I will be discussing each of these areas that influence customer expectations.






Monday, April 13, 2009

How to Market Effectively to Your Existing Customers

Why is Selling to Existing Customers Important?

Revenue
Customer Service Institute – 80% of business comes from 20% of your existing customers
Technical Assistance Research Programs Institute – 91% of dissatisfied customers don’t
return – AND tell seven people!
Harvard Business Review – Increasing customer retention from 10% to 15% can double
revenue.

Cost
Customer Service Institute – It costs 5X more to get new clients than to keep an existing one

Longevity
¨National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) – 3-Year study proved that
businesses that focused on service were more likely to survive than those who emphasized
price or product

It All Comes Down To…

Customer Expectations

Meeting (Exceeding!) those Expectations

Totally satisfied customers are 6X more likely to repurchase than satisfied customers (Xerox
Corporation study)

Message/Vision

Every great company starts with a vision of how they will serve the market DIFFERENTLY
and BETTER than existing options

THEN THEY COMMUNICATE IT!

Once Communicated to the Prospect…

A Lead is generated
In person
Telephone
¨Internet
¨Other
Sales/Conversion
Service/Delivery

The real focus of this article is the next area: service and delivery.

Businesses Fill Needs (Service)

People trade dollars for solutions
People buy for two reasons:
Decrease Pain
Increase Pleasure

That’s it – nothing else. Generally, people will move a bit quicker to decrease a pain than to increase a pleasure, but both principles apply. Can you think of any product or service that this does not apply to?

If not then:
Find a way to decrease the pain or to increase the pleasure in your industry and your chance of success soars!

Stay tuned for the next segment of “How to Market Effectively to Your Existing Customers” series.