Sunday, May 31, 2009

Have You Got Their Attention?

Perhaps the first question should be; have I got your attention? In this world of information overload what are you doing to get people to notice you and pay attention to your message? Are you relevant to your target market? Are you speaking to them in such a way that they know and understand that you can take care of their needs? Half the battle today is just to get people to focus for a minute on what you are trying to communicate. Think about the distractions that are in everyone’s life today that didn’t use to exist. Can anyone remember back before cell phones and pagers? Fast forward to 2009, you likely have multiple cell phones that text message, receive email and internet, 2-3 computers, a website, a blog, a facebook page, a youtube video, an Mp3 player, an iPod, not to mention home phones with voicemail, 3-way calling, call screening, call display and a myriad of other technologies we just couldn’t imagine doing without. All of this new communication technology also comes equipped with rings, dings, bells, chimes, and other sounds to grab our attention so we can drop what we are doing in order to respond. (Tip of the week: Just because a phone rings or an e-mail chimes, doesn’t mean you have to respond immediately).

The other time consuming distraction for anyone who has bought an electronic product recently will relate to; is the complexity of the various operations manuals and how much time it takes to understand the functionality. I figure between new boat electronics, new video recorder, the digital PVR system, new Blackberry, the Nintendo Wii game and a few other miscellaneous devices, you need hypnosis to absorb it all. I wonder if that Bluetooth voice in my car can be programmed as my tutor. Hmmm!

Go ahead, sit down at your computer and try to focus on one task for the next 60 minutes without any interruptions, bet you can’t! The bottom line is this; it has become more and more difficult to get people’s attention because there are just too many distractions to deal with on a daily basis. So how do you get people to stop and listen to what you have to say? How do you get them to pay attention to you and not the myriad of other choices that are available? How do you get them to believe what you say is the truth and that they can trust you? Therein lays the answer. It’s always been about knowing, liking and trusting people that has created the very foundation for finding, getting and keeping customers. It is more important today and here’s why. With the barrage of advertising messages today, loaded with copywriting expertise and clever sales pitches, people have started to become more discerning and less convinced that you speak the truth. We have become a society who doesn’t believe what you say, only what you do. Makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it?

So what one thing could you do right now to have your target market believe you can and will do what you say? Is there something you offer that could be provided like a “test drive” of your expertise? Do you have a detailed report, or could you create one that you could offer for Free, allowing them to get to know you and your style better? Could you then offer an iron clad guarantee to remove any doubt you can and will deliver on what you promise? Will this guarantee you offer make you a little nervous? It’s a good thing if it does. It means you’re going to do it right the first time. Are you starting to see the benefit of this approach and what might be the outcome? The bottom line is this. The future of your Business depends on how you can provide the assurance you are the only choice for your customer to make. It is well worth devoting the time to this strategy and your customers will be thankful for it. They might even tell others about you and that’s the best attention and compliment you can get.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

So what do You Do?

Many people ask me, “So, what do you do for a living?” My simple elevator speech is always the same. “I’m in the growth business, what do you do?” Oddly enough, when you turn it around and ask them, they kind of forget that they asked first. After they tell me what they do and some of the issues they confront in their day to day operations, I quickly explain how all too frequently that regardless of what their business is, the challenges they face are many times the same kinds of things that I help my clients with as they try to grow and prosper too.
Whether it is addressing the actual business or the individual, what I do is tap what seems to be the limitless resources I have at my disposal, to make “it” better and get it to work more efficiently. It is not always an easy process but for me I cannot imagine doing anything else since the rewards are so obvious. And for my clients, often times, the results seem to be miraculous.
One of the tools I use to accomplish this is my in-depth, “Business Effectiveness Evaluation”.
Here we review and do a formal analyses of the 9 key areas (including examining the financials) to uncover and locate key opportunities in your business. With comprehensive results and easy to read charts and graphs, you the business owner and I are able to go right to work in setting a new course or redirecting an old one so that bottom line profits are achieved. After we establish some baselines, we then are ready to develop what we call your S.M.A.R.T. goals.
This coupled with a structured series of pre-determined coaching sessions ensures that the very specific goals that you have established are hit within the time frames specified and any of the usual and normal distractions that are typically encountered are kept to a minimum. In other words, together, we find the best way to get the job done.

Are you ready to tune up your business effectiveness?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do You Have the FIRE for Customer Service?

It seems like everyone in business today is talking about the importance of good customer service. Providing it and measuring it. Although, it seems as though in too many organizations, customer service is given more lip service than execution.

What does it take to give good customer service? It takes a number of things. First and foremost, I believe successful customer service takes the same ingredient as is required for success in any other aspect of business or life for that matter. The first attribute for successful customer service is a positive character supporting all the other behaviors and skills required. Without a fundamentally solid character, all the other actions are superficial at best.

What is character? Character is simply the culture of the person. A culture is defined as a common set of beliefs, actions and interactions among a group. Character then is simply the common set of beliefs, actions and behaviors of an individual. Character is the culture of the person’s mind and is demonstrated to others through words and behaviors.

I suggest that you need a character of FIRE to be enduringly successful in customer service. FIRE is an acronym. In order to be highly successful in customer service, you need a character of:

Fairness – You must have a mindset of being fair with each and every customer. Few customers are genuinely out to get ‘something for nothing.’ When people are dealt with fairly, they tend to respond by reciprocating with an attitude of fairness. Dealing fairly with customers is a key element in generating repeat and continued business.

Integrity – This is defined as consistently following your stated values and guidelines. Certainly, we are all human, however, you need to do your utmost to maintain alignment and congruency between your words and actions. Say what you mean and do what you say.

Responsibility – This refers to taking responsibility for one’s own actions and the actions of one’s company or organization to the greatest extent practicable. Whenever you are interacting with others representing your company or organization, you represent everything about that organization to the people present. Take responsibility for your organization.

Empathy – Work to fully understand the perspectives of your customers. Not that you have to agree with and concede every request by any means, but seek to fully understand. As Saint Francis said almost 1,000 years ago, “Seek first to understand rather than to be understood.” If you fully understand your customer, their expectations and needs, you will be in a much better position to fulfill them if you at all can.

Quality customer service is a key component in building and maintaining your business. Otherwise, all you can compete on is price. And someone will always come along and be able to shave a penny or two off yours. Build your customer foundation on a character of FIRE (Fairness, Integrity, Responsibility and Empathy) and you will go a long way toward building the customer service you need to be successful in business and successful in life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It’s Time for a Category Buster!

In the current financial market of uncertainty, it’s fairly safe to say most people are concerned about the volatile conditions and how it will affect their lifestyle and future plans. I’m sure there are many advisors today doing a lot of hand holding and offering reassurance to their clients that the sky is truly not going to fall. Whether you believe in the buy, hold and prosper philosophy or the sell it all today and wait for things to come back thinking, it’s still ultimately not up to you or within your control as to how the markets will perform. I don’t know about your crystal ball but mine has been a little foggy lately. So what can we do? How can we be practical and move forward in these harsh economic times? As a Business owner you do have a choice. You can be reactive and bury your head in the sand, wait it out and hope for new customers to find you, or you can be proactive and develop a fresh marketing plan and focus on some innovative ways to attract more Business and dramatically increase profits, the choice is yours!

Assuming you are choosing the latter, stay with me and let’s talk about my topic today of creating a “category buster” of an idea. A category buster can be defined as any product or service that goes above and beyond the norm as we know or understand it; it blazes a new trail and most often employs, “disruptive technologies”. It takes an idea that everyone knows and turns it upside down, inside out, or even creates a product inside a product that no one thought possible. Sometimes the best ideas are right under our noses; it just requires a fresh set of eyes and another perspective to see the hidden opportunities. Some of you may have heard of this now famous quote from the year 1899 by Charles H. Duell, the patent commissioner at the time, he said, “everything that can be invented has been invented”. So let me ask you this; when it comes to your Business do you share that sentiment or are you constantly looking for new ways to create something unique with your Business model?

The great question of the month for you is; what can you create, innovate, construct or dramatically change in the way you do Business to capture a new market or breathe new life into the one you already have? It wasn’t even 10 years ago that many people said they would never purchase anything on the internet, it was too risky. The irony is that it’s probably the safest and most secure way to purchase goods and services today! I read the other day that there are over 1 million new online users’ everyday. It’s probably a safe bet the internet is here to stay no matter what your brother in-law or neighbor thinks! I’ll tell you next issue about a brand new idea on a very old concept that is exciting and innovative, a true “category buster”. I’m in the middle of researching it right now for my next article; oh, the suspense is killing you now, isn’t it.

One of the best things you can do to explore opportunities within your Business is to join or start a mastermind group. According to Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich” no individual may have great power without availing himself of the “Master Mind”. “Power is required for the accumulation of money and power is necessary for the retention of money after it has been accumulated”. Andrew Carnegie also attributed his entire fortune to the power he accumulated through the Master Mind principle. If you are feeling like you just can’t come up with any new ideas and your creativity is low, don’t despair, and ask for help. As I mentioned earlier, a fresh perspective from a diverse group of Business owners will often reveal opportunities you hadn’t considered. It’s also an idea we have been brewing for a little while now and will keep you posted on the development and progress.

You have a few choices in front of you now and what’s most important is to get into action on something. Remember this; even when you’re on the right track you can still get run over, if you’re just standing there. Some of you may prefer this version; when you pray, move your feet! Take these next steps. Get together with your staff, your partners, your Business advisors and sit down together and brainstorm some ideas on ways you could improve the delivery of your product or service to the market. Call a group of Business owners you know or know of, where you could all collectively gain from the mentoring and coaching you could provide to each other. Or, you could call us and let us know your struggles and challenges and let us facilitate the organization and structure of a powerful master mind group for you and your team!

Remember to stay tuned for the next issue and more category buster ideas to help you further along this path to Business success!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

How to Market Effectively to Your Existing Customers

Here is the final installment in this series.

Once you have a prospect or a customer, the chances are much higher to sell them additional and more profitable products and services. Quite simply, people are always trying to simplify their lives – and using a consistent vendor is always preferred. You should be thinking about up-selling, down-selling and cross-selling your customers.

Up-sell – This is when you offer a prospect an alternative, and more expensive solution. If your business carries multiple product lines, you always have the opportunity to ask questions and serve them better if a more expensive product fits their needs better.
Down-sell– Similarly to an upsell, this is when a LESS expensive product may fit their needs better. In fact, a lower priced model may even perhaps produce more margin. Even if this isn’t true, you will win the heart of any customer by selling them something to suit their needs if you sell them something that is less expensive.
Cross-sell – This is a scenario that happens when your products or services have other accessories or complementary products. If this is the case in your business, preparing checklists is one way of making sure that they are taken care of – as well as increasing your revenues. For example, a paint store clerk who is checking out a customer with a couple gallons of paint should ALWAYS ask about brushes, rollers, drop cloths, etc.

Remember, don't force this type of selling. Always remember you are in business to serve your customer. So if it fits, do it, otherwise, give them what they want.

To wrap, I really want to impress upon you that serving your customers is much more than just a nice thing to do – it’s GOOD BUSINESS. If you remember the statistics at the beginning, that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers, your business will thrive if you are meeting the needs of the marketplace, and you are serving people well.

I hope you enjoyed this series on marketing to your existing customers. Please stay tuned to another topic to help independent business owners make a good business better.