business, customers, Marketing, Personal Brand, Social Media

I Am Breaking Up With You!

It happens you know. Break-ups.

Day after day, customers buying your products and services.

Happiness one day, sharing their bliss for your business, and then?

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So how exactly does that happen?  The customer, one day changing their status from “in a relationship” to “single” again.  Out of the blue they are looking for something new and better.

I hear the responses from business owners: it’s the new short-attention span generation, they get bored too easily.  Really, it’s the customers fault?  Look again business owners. Look at the complaints on Yelp and make a list of customers who didn’t come back.  What did you promise them?  What was your brand promise?

One of the most overlooked aspects of owning a small business is the brand promise.  The one that says: My business will (fill in the blank) forever.  McDonalds never breaks that promise.  They make sure that each and every day, in every city in the world, someone is there to greet customers and serve up the crispiest french-fries on the planet with an inexpensive burger and drink.  We can choose not to go there, but we know that when we do, they will honor their promise to us. Fast, consistent and low-cost food. It’s not a noble promise, but it is their brand promise, and they take it very seriously.

Small businesses think their promise is to provide the product and service.  But think again.  Your brand promise is the deep, emotional connection that customers have to you. 

Let’s look at Hair Salons. Millions of women in America lay down plenty of dough to have their hair done.  They search out the promise of stylish cuts that make them look and feel beautiful, but sometimes that promise is superficial.  Salon owners (like many small business owners) do not go deep enough into their promise to make it long lasting and worthy of friend sharing.

Here is the scenario: A customer chooses a top rated salon from Yelp for a hair makeover.  First visit is bliss.  Receptionist welcomes them, offers a selection of beverages. The stylist greets her right on time making her feel like the most important client of the day.  Hair looks great.  Second visit, the receptionist is busy answering calls and forgets to ask if she wants a beverage. Customer grabs a water bottle. The stylist greets her a few minutes late, but is glad to see her again.  Hair looks great. Third (and probably last) visit, the place is crowded and the receptionist is talking with the another stylist on break, K-cups are gone, customer is waiting 20 minutes, and by the time she is called back, the stylist is hurried. Hair looks great as usual, but the custotmer still feels annoyed.

So what was the Brand Promise?

You promised the client they would look and feel good.  Like a rock star! Sure, the stylist gave a great cut and color, but the real promise wasn’t given.  Consistent rock-star-feeling service.  Did you go to the salon for the coffee? No, but it made you feel special to have it offered.  Is your time important?  Hell yes!  If a stylist is running behind, a call in advance, or a quick stop out –at the time of the appointment- with profuse apologies and a Hershey’s chocolate kiss would be nice.  The receptionist?  Yeah, the people in the lobby are the most important folks in the world.  Take your appointment calls, but keep your chit chats to us.  We are the rock stars you know!

Your Brand Promise needs to be defined.  Look at the interaction from your customer’s perspective.  Read the reviews and feel their pain.  Why did you get one star?  What was that customer really feeling? Customer service is about attention and consistency to the promise you made.  It wasn’t just about the great hair style; it was being made to feel great by being the most important client of the day.  It takes effort, but those relationships are rewarded with social sharing and referrals.

Break-up’s happen: Like personal relationships, when one partner feels they are not the most important person, the status changes.   And every business owner knows that it is harder (and more expensive) to find new customers, than to keep the current ones happy.  So make the promise and then keep it.

Do this today: Go and figure it out, your brand promise, and then hire someone to come into your place of business to see if your customers are really getting that promise.  Start with your website, your blog, your social media pages.  Make an appointment, order something. See if your business is really living up to the promises you made when you opened your doors. Just make sure the person is an objective third-party and be prepared to hear the truth.

What are your favorite businesses?  What do they promise you?  Are they delivering on that promise?

 

business, customers, innovation, Personal Brand

Who is your customer?

I love when a message is received– especially when it makes the receiver feel good, and the sender successful.

I recently came across an AD that really opened my eyes (and heart) to the idea that sales should be a WIN WIN proposal.  Unfortunately, all too often it is WIN LOSE.  Even when we want the product or service, we walk away feeling a bit of regret or guilt.  Mostly its because the sales side isn’t that friendly (but that is another story.)

So what if I see an AD on TV for a car dealer.  Maybe I will go to them. Maybe not.  But it might get me out to shop for a car. Depends on what buttons they push.

Now what if these businesses were to start thinking about the real needs of the customer without any sales as an intention?

Crazy, right?

Lets look at something a little less pricey than cars.

Take pet owners.

What do they need?  Love, companionship, and a walk outdoors, right?

Well, a dog shelter in Australia was running typical, sad music, sad face puppy dog ads on TV.

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Who wouldn’t want to run right over and adopt this cute little guy?

The usual pet lovers watched the AD and made their donations, while the rest of the country switched channels.
Who wants to think about a little pug dog imprisoned in cage?

Then they began to think about the customer.

Dogs, right?

No.

Who buys the dogs?  People.

People? Sure.

Where do the people live and work? In our community, in those big buildings downtown.

Well, isn’t it kinda like the people are imprisoned behind those cubicles?

Hmmm. Perhaps we were focused on the wrong need.

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The concept was simple: Introduce the Human Walking Program to area businesses by meeting in the parks across from the office buildings.  Then ask people to walk the dogs.

Its like taste testing, only much more fun!

From the windows high above there was seen a gathering of dogs.  A curious sign.  People gathering.

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“Can one of our dogs take you for a walk?” they asked.

Sure, why not.

People walked by and started to meet the pets.

Overjoyed with the attention, and new found purpose of walking the humans, the dogs were thrilled!

And the humans?

By introducing the people who worked in office buildings to the many dogs looking for a home, Lost Dog’s Home was able to find permanent homes for over 5,000 dogs living at the shelter.

No sad music.  No caged up dogs with hollow eyes.  No movie star endorsements.

Who Really Gets Saved?

The customers were identified incorrectly to begin with. It wasn’t just donations they needed to care for the animals, it was the desire to find homes–with humans–for these lost pets.

Brilliant.

So think about your next advertising campaign. Why isn’t it working?  Who is responding?  Who should be responding?  Are you reaching out to them in a fun, inclusive way?  Turn it around a bit.  Why would they most benefit from your product or service.  Now think out of the box.

http://www.wimp.com/adssaved/

business, customers, Marketing, Social Media

What is the Living, Breathing Part of Your Business?

I just came back from a local business owner networking group.  Our monthly meetings are informative and inspiring, but no matter the predetermined topic, eventually we wrap things up with everyone complaining about social media.

Today I heard all the reasons why small businesses do not need a blog.  No time. No money. No staffing. No results. My observation:  FEAR.  Fear of writing.  Fear of content.  Fear that customers will read it.  Fear that customers won’t read it. Fear of making mistakes. And most importantly, fear brought on by a lack of understanding at the simplicity of creating a blog.

It’s important to understand this: Social media is not about one time hits and viral posts that make it on the Ellen Show. It’s about building loyal followers, over time.  Followers that really enjoy what you have to say.  They get you! They want to experience your process, your thoughts, and your vision of the future.  They identify with your company values.  You are part of their Newsday.

How simple is this: One day you have the Engineering department post some cool blueprints and then the staff in HR write a post about how they collected food for the local food bank (with pictures and passion of course.) Finally, your design team posts a few sketches (because who doesn’t love seeing the sketches of products next to the actual, final version?)  The reader gets to be a part of your process like a secret agent.  It is not about selling or presenting your mission statement.  Your blog is a living, breathing part of your company. …the right brain part!

“Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”    Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic

Just focus on the extreme sports part of that quote, and don’t freak out about the writing part.  Believe me; every company has lots of things to say.  And I am confident that you have more than enough people who work for your company who can (and would love too) contribute to your company blog.  You just need to ask. Ask who is interested.  Ask for topics.  Ask people to contribute photos of anything related to the company.  Ask people for articles that relate to their jobs.  “Many hands make light work,” so show the people behind the process and you will find loyal followers who will buy your products and services.

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Need more convincing?

Here is the list on the importance of blogging:

  1. Blogging gives you a fast, cheap and fun way to spread information—and that includes marketing, public relations and branding efforts. Some statistics claim that businesses that regularly blog generate 54% more website visits than those that do not blog.
  2. Blogging is an effective way to court new customers and if you include some form of call-to-action (contests, discounts, freebies) which will take your visitors to a special landing page, you will find more appointments/orders for your sales department.
  3. Blogs which regularly publish fresh, fun, interesting and informative content (that is optimized for search engines of course) will grow organically, generating traffic beyond belief.
  4. Think of your blog as the perfect platform to launch new products and respond to any questions that potential or existing customers may have. This is especially true after your annual trade show.  Link your Pinterest page and share photos. Invite people to join in on the conversation.
  5. You do realize that you own your Blog, right?  You are not sending out press releases and packets to get “in the news.”  You own this, you are the news, and the beauty is that any department can step up to the plate and hit the ball!
  6. Blogging can support all your social media marketing efforts. It helps to make that overwhelming job seamless and coordinated.  Why wouldn’t it?  Your blog content gives you something to talk about on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Create content (from a variety of departments) so that you have a mix of topics that will appeal to your whole audience.
  7. And do not forget, blogging gives your business a voice on the internet. Blogs give businesses an opportunity to explain their vision and passion, as well as their management philosophy.  It doesn’t have to be dry and hum drum, and it shouldn’t be!  Put in the proper tags and your company will show up more often where it counts, on the search engines.

One of the business owners at my networking meeting said that he read  “only 35% of businesses today are blogging.”  His perspective was that it wasn’t a proven tool.  My perspective is that you can establish yourself as a pioneer with a strong following before every business has a blog.  Of course you need to have a social media policy in place and someone who will coordinate content on your Social Media Calendar (both absolutely essential to success) but you can (and should) start that blog as soon as possible.  Just get it on the agenda and make it happen.  You will see results.

How has your company benefited from a regular blog? What challenges did you face in getting it started?

 

business, customers

The Silent Death of Customer Avoidance

Somewhere it got lost in translation that customer responsiveness was the selfish desire of the “gotta have it now generation.” With clicks and posts there is some 30-second rule that everyone should be responded too right now, and I mean 15 seconds ago!!  Sure it’s true. Our attention spans have steadily fallen as the speed of technology has picked up, but ask yourself: is it the speed of customer service that is most important? Or, is it the lack of any customer service that is killing off business?

Think about your last attempts to contact a business:

The Phone Call:  Yes the dreaded dial into the super annoying world of auto response. Oh, it’s fast.  The automated voice picks up on the first ring, but thereafter you might feel like Sandra Bullock in the movie Gravity….floating off in space trying desperately to pull yourself back onto ship!  Hit one to leave a message, hit two for directory….we enter our account numbers at least two times and then, when the representative does get on the phone, we are asked again for the account number– along with your mother’s maiden name, birth date, and last four digits of our social security number. I remember a time you could hit “0” and get a voice, now we just scream into the phone, “Representative, REPRESENTATIVE!”

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The Call Transfer:  So twenty minutes wasn’t enough to get to the heart of your problem, now we get transferred over to the “right” department–which is different from the button we chose on that very long automated message.  Some reps are kind enough to give you a direct number (which is never, ever listed on the website) in case we get dropped from the line. There is more often than not, at least one drop, but on a good day, we get to go back into the automated world and start punching in our account number again.  We sigh when they ask why we are calling, drop key details in hopes that things will move along faster.  We now remember the last four digits our social security number instead of mouthing the whole thing out silently. We are resolved to spending more time, more information, and listening to that horrible hold music while they check into our account.

The Survey: When we hang up, my personal favorite customer service response is the survey. It comes within minutes into our email box.  It prompts us to recall the very last interaction with a series of questions rated on a scale from one to ten of our happiness and our  “willingness to recommend their company to others.” (I guess they didn’t read the last eight I already did!)These surveys are either too short and irrelevant or too long and confusing to finish. When done, we are really tapped out over the issue and the experience is something we complain about to anyone who is within earshot.

Follow the Money: So you think it’s just the big guys who fall off the customer bandwagon?  Think again, there are plenty of small companies who have really lost touch with customers.  You know the ones I am talking about.  The specialty businesses that lay off all their people and now use only voice mail.  Voice mail?  OK, it’s a 90’s thing, but we get it.  Leave a message and hope and pray that someone will call you back.  I recently overheard a friend call a small, but prominent wedding venue. Her bubbly bride-to-be voice mail was so hilarious and over-excited.  But believe it or not, it took two days for her to get a call back, and the part-timer who did call her back was annoyed and dismissive when it came to setting up a viewing date, “Your date is too far away to get an appointment,” she said. Really?  What is your mission statement? You should be thrilled this girl got engaged and is looking to drop 20K on your place of employment!

Human Contact: Our tech savvy world is missing something very essential: human contact.  We want to be responded too in a reasonable time frame (less than 24 hours) by a human person who, preferably, has some sense of understanding as to why people come to you in the first place. And why wouldn’t a company want to be helpful to a customer?  (They still need customers, right?)  I know, customers take you away from your paperwork and team meetings, but isn’t it those pesky people who pay you money for your products and services?

Pay Attention. Large companies are being slowly and silently bled of their customers by smaller and more personal ones.  Big companies don’t carry the same clout anymore because consumers are finding newer, smaller businesses to meet and respond to their needs.  And established smaller companies are vulnerable too.  All that whining and complaining about staff cuts, budget shortages, and the economy….do they really think we care? Take the call, be nice, act excited about the opportunity to give us what we want!

Lost Revenue.  Lost revenue starts with one or two orders that never get placed because there was no timely follow-up.  Lost revenue continues when one or two customers hang up on the automated system and then shift their accounts elsewhere.  Our time is valuable and with each new business out there that reminds us that we, the customer, matter, another account is lost.  One by one we fall off the screen and become inactive users.  One by one we begin to post our happiness on Instagram, tumblr, and yes, even Facebook.  Our friends ask us why we love that new place so much, they share our posts, repin our pins, we talk about it over drinks, and then we forget the bad experiences of the old, and start looking for new ones that offer the same happy (social media worthy) experiences we desire.

To Do List: It is never outdated to treat customers like they are the most important part of your business. Consider hiring a receptionist who sounds as happy as a bride-to-be.  Check your email more often. Respond to Yelp and other reviews in a timely manner. And most important, have a plan to respond to the people (angry or happy) who matter the most, your customer…who, by the way, is holding on line two about his order that got messed up.

What do you think? Speed or Service?