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Archive for April, 2011

Face 2 Face Matters, Because You Can’t Shake Hands With A Screen (Phyllis K.)

In today’s social media-focused economy, it’s become increasingly common to have long, complex and lasting business relationships with other people without ever speaking to them face to face—or even on the phone. More of the average business’s sales support, customer service and other customer-facing functions are moving to the Web instead of being handled in person. And with cost-cutting foremost on everyone’s mind, conventions, conferences and meetings are all going virtual as well.

In this environment, you might suppose that there’s no longer much need to meet face to face. Well, you’d be wrong. In-person events are better than virtual events at capturing attendees’ attention, creating positive emotions and building relationships and networks.

Researchers found that face-to-face works best in three situations:

  1. To capture attention, especially if you are launching something new. Attendees at virtual events are more likely to multitask and filter certain information out. “[Multitasking] engages a different part of your brain, and information doesn’t make it into long-term memory. In contrast, the range of stimuli at an in-person event–from speakers to meals to meeting new people—creates novelty, which helps people be more open-minded and creative.
  2. To inspire a positive emotional reaction. An event that involves interacting with other people in the flesh creates a positive emotional experience. Those positive emotions become attached to the companies involved in the event, as well as contributing to make attendees more open to new experiences.
  3. To build networks and relationships. There a  distinction between sharing information—which can easily be done virtually—and creating networks or relationships, which still requires in-person human interaction. Relationships forged in person are stronger.   “Trust is built more effectively face-to-face.”

This applies to every meeting—even just between two people. You can Facebook, email, tweet and even talk on the phone all you want, but there’s no substitute for the kind of energy and connection that happens when you actually get together with a colleague or customer in person.

That’s why, no matter how busy I get, I always make time for face-to-face meetings. In my experience, they’re invaluable for building relationships that last—and that help grow your business.

 

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You Receive Not Because You Ask Not!

When it comes to driving your business, you want to have a couple of  magical things happen:

  1. You want your customers to become even better customers
  2. You want those customers to tell people about you.

This magical one-two punch is what grows your business without inflating your expenses. But to get a handle on those two things requires you get the answers to three things your customers won’t tell you … unless you ask.

No. 1 – Why Do You Enjoy Being My Customer?

Customers continue to do business with you for a number of reasons (good rates, great service, strong rapport), but it’s rare that they’ll volunteer this information without being asked. So ask them.

Find out what you’re doing right, and you can do two things:

  • Do more of the things they like
  • Discover patterns

Get the goods on this question, and you can turn your current customers into do-more-business-with-you customers.

No. 2 – What Else Do You Wish I Did In My Business?

Customers don’t just get products/services from you – they get other products/services before, during and after their transactions with you. Don’t miss this chance to cash in. Find out what else they want, and discover how you can give it to them.

  • If it’s out of your business scope, make deals with trusted vendors and recommend them.

Either way, it’s a chance to tap into more revenue, potentially at a minimum of effort on your part. But you have to ask.

No. 3 – Who Should You Tell About My Business?

People like doing business with you. And chances are high that they know others who would benefit as well … but they won’t volunteer this info off the top of their heads (most of the time). So make it networking with future clients easier by offering incentives.(Be on the lookout for my next post on how to do this)

Give people a good enough reason to spread the word about you, and they surely will. And when your good name becomes a standard of excellence that attracts new customers to you, the effort you put into creating it is money in the bank.

 

Run FORREST (Customer) RUN!

Loving customers sounds great when we’re reading it in a business book. But in the real world, the way we interact with customers can be anything but loving.  Here are some of the bad behaviors that I’ve seen over the years as a business banker and how to fix them.

1. Pushy Salesperson Attitude.

The days of the pushy salesperson are long gone. And if you’re still measuring sales performance on quantity (revenue) instead of quality (profit), then you are bound to get reluctant customers who cost money to integrate into your system and are often lost before they become truly profitable.

Find your ideal customer.

Start by identifying your favorite customers, the ones you get along with, who seem effortless and even a pleasure to work with. They are often a pleasure to work with because their requirements match what your business system delivers. For example, if you consistently deliver within 48 hours and your customers need product in 48 hours, they will be delighted. But if you bring on customers who need 24-hour delivery, you will consistently disappoint. When you’ve identified your ideal customers, dig into the specifics of what it is about your business that works for them.

2. Overpromise and under-deliver. (elementary?)

Studies show that expectations drive satisfaction results. So if you set your customers’ expectations higher than you are able to deliver, they will be MORE dissatisfied than if their expectations were closer to the true experience.

Listen.

For what’s really important to your soon-to-be-customer. Ask them what they expect from your company and then speak to each expectation and detail what a real experience is like. Then ask them how that sounds to them and if that meets their expectations.

3. Tell them what they’d like to hear.

This is another expectation issue. Customers want to know what to expect: when will their product be delivered, when will the service guy show up, etc. People are planning their busy lives around your answer, and when you just tell them what they want to hear but deliver something altogether different, this absolutely sends people through the roof.

Tell the conservative truth.

If you have only been able to deliver overnight 1 percent of the time, don’t say that you can always do it. If you’re not as good at providing a typical service because you just don’t like it, then refer them to the person who is better. This will actually work in your favor.

4. Ignore them after the sale.

Bringing on new customers is important, but loyal customers who refer people to your business do so because of their experience AFTER the sale.

Create a process.

Customers get ignored because there’s not a process to service them after the sale.

Love your customers.

I mean this in the most serious way. Look for ways to offer them special deals and introduce them to new products and services. Have special events just for them where they can learn new things about your product or service. One client I have sent their customer a truckload of balloons, hamburgers, hot dogs, a grill and all the fixings for a picnic to celebrate their anniversary of being a customer for 25 years.

5. Keep the owner (President/CEO) behind the scenes.

Loyal customers feel like they have a relationship with the company. When customers have the feeling that they can reach out and talk to the owner whenever they want to (even though they rarely do it), it gives them a sense of closeness and loyalty.

Interact with customers.

Find opportunities to put yourself in front of your customers.  If you own a retail operation,  be there and answer questions. If you are a manufacturer, take customer service calls now and then. You might think you have more pressing things to do, but they will not yield the powerful customer loyalty that a personal connection does.

6. Make them feel stupid.

Rude and condescending tones can creep out in your communication— especially if you’re stressed. Your customers probably aren’t as smart as you about the product or service that you sell—that’s why they buy from you!

7. Voicemail, and no other way to find you.

It’s getting more difficult to find people at their desk.  And today’s communication tools have increased expectations that when a customer calls, they expect a call back or a response ASAP. Voicemail will NOT cut it anymore.

Leave a cell phone number.

Be sure to include your cell phone number in your voicemail recording so that people can get in touch with you.

8. Not understanding what’s important in their application.

There’s nothing more frustrating to customers than feeling like they are talking into a black hole when they explain how they use your product and service in their application.

Observe your customers in action.

Take the time to actually spend time with your customers watching how they use your product. You might even discover a new product or service in the process.

9. Putting your policies over their satisfaction.

Have you ever created a policy about customer satisfaction? The customer isn’t always right, but is following your rules worth the loss of a customer?

Plan to break the policy.

This might sound odd, but think about when it makes sense to break the policy. Think about when breaking your rules is worth it. This makes it easy to deal with situations quickly and easily without taking too much time to have the customer wallowing in discontent.

Trends That Can Make The Cash Register RING!

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Every once in a while it’s a good idea to sit back, take stock and assess how some of today’s current trends could benefit your business. Here are some to consider that have both marketing and operations implications for your company.

1. Go mobile. Mobile marketing is becoming increasingly important as consumer adoption of smartphones increases. Whether you market to businesses or consumers, your customers are increasingly accessing the Internet and using phones as shopping tools. But according to the fifth Small Business Success Index survey released recently, few small business owners currently use mobile marketing methods such as texting promotions to customers, creating a mobile site or mobile application, and advertising on mobile sites. Just 15 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed said these activities have the potential to be “extremely” or “very valuable” to their businesses. I think this is a big mistake. Young people are an obvious market for mobile marketing, but with smartphones becoming essential tools for everyone from soccer moms to businesspeople, no business can afford to ignore this trend.

And speaking of busy businesspeople, are you taking full advantage of your smartphone’s capabilities? With phones doing more and more, lugging your laptop is becoming less and less necessary. Whatever type of smartphone you have, explore its features so you can streamline essential tasks you need to do on the road.

2. Social deal sites. Social deal sites—where customers sign up to get daily emails of deep discounts on products and services in their areas—are sizzling hot. Currently, Groupon and LivingSocial are the biggest names in this industry, but there are plenty of local and regional offerings too. If your business caters to local customers, you’ll want to explore these sites as a marketing tool.

3. Subscription services. Slowly but surely, subscriptions have become woven into our daily lives. I’m not talking about magazine subscriptions (although they still exist) but the subscription business model in which everything from software to IT services to consulting is paid for on a monthly basis by automatic charge. Subscription services can streamline your expenses because you pay only for what you need. On the flip side, remember to keep track of your subscriptions and reassess them regularly, or it’s easy to end up paying for things you never use.

For your business, providing products or services on a subscription basis can be a smart way to boost your cash flow by generating recurring income streams. Just about everything can be sold on a set-it-and-forget-it basis, whether it’s a quarterly shipment of skin-care products, a monthly phone consultation or ongoing access to premium information on your website.

4. Seniors. Americans age 65 and older are a hot market, but one that’s too often ignored by small business. A recent MarketWatch article cited one expert who noted that while the teenage market is trendy, “there is … 10 times as much money to be made from seniors.” In fact, Census data show seniors are more affluent than most segments of the population, with the median net worth of households aged 65 and over at $108,885 in 2000, compared to a measly $7,240 for households under age 35. By 2030, people over 65 will account for 20 percent of the population—so if you’re not already targeting this market, figure out how you can.

Seniors can benefit your business in another way: as employees. If you’re like most small businesses, you could use some extra help right now, but you’re not ready to hire a full-time worker. Consider hiring retirees as part-time employees. Their experience and work ethic can make them valuable assets to your business, without the full-time commitment.