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attitude Business culture Customer relationships Employees Entrepreneurs Improvement Leadership Positioning Small Business

Do you value your clientele?

Business demonstrate what they value through their behavior.

Some businesses value what they do, those they work with and most of all, those they serve. They work hard for every lead. Every client. Every order. Every payment.

They work to improve their craft every day. They learn from the best of their peers, while extracting and fine tuning strategies and tactics observed in other industries.

They “over-communicate”. As a result, their clients have no doubt what’s going on during a sales process, an order, a refund, much less construction, manufacturing, delivery, repairs and ongoing maintenance.

When there’s a problem or miscommunication, they pick up the phone, they email or otherwise communicate all the necessary details, then work as a partner with their clients to create a win-win resolution.

When they market, good businesses do their best to create want, evoke need and make an irresistible offer without being slimy. The ones who value their clients most also talk about the importance of the everyday things they do for their clients that other businesses might also do, but never bother to mention (Example: Northern Quest’s housekeeping and security team commercials).

Let’s talk about that for a moment… These businesses set standards for these seemingly mundane details and train their employees so they can attain them every day. Rather than tell us about the food or entertainment, why do they remind us of tasks performed by staff who are all but invisible to some of their guests?

The everyday things that these staffers do may not be what makes you decide to make an initial reservation (or purchase) or choose their resort over another. Even after a visit, you may not remember these details weeks or months later, if you notice them at all. What they might do is make you notice the next time, draw attention to that aspect of your experience with them and/or provoke you to think more about them on your next visit to another facility. These mundane things are often the tipping point between going back to resort A or choosing their down-the-street neighbor, resort B. They’re the kind of things done by businesses who value return clientele.

These business will do any number of things to monitor and improve the things they’ve know will cause their clients to return.

They will systematically call their clients and ask for 20-30 minutes a couple of times a year (at least) to discuss not only how their performance has been, but what the current and upcoming expectations of the client are and what else they could do for that client in the future.

When confronted with a reality check about their service, rather than come back with a confrontational reaction, they ask how they could improve that situation – and others.

These businesses don’t show that they value their clients by thinking that they’re done improving. Instead, they are constantly looking for ways to improve – even if they can’t immediately implement the change.

These businesses don’t focus on the worst of their clientele. In some cases, they fire the worst, in others, they implement programs that raise the worst to a better place. They see it as an investment to help their clientele become better individual clients, whether their clientele consists of consumers, businesses or both.

These businesses invest in education internally and demonstrate the importance of delivering educational value to their market, which not only improves the market, but establishes their position as a leader in that market and builds their credibility.

These businesses don’t have a moral ambiguity about selling. They know that they have an obligation to their business, their employees, their employee families and their communities to make the effort to see that every possible prospect who can benefit from their solutions does so. They understand that this obligation to sell to the best of their ability isn’t just about them, but that it connects to the well-being of their clients’ businesses, their clients’ employees and their families and ultimately, to the communities where those families live. They understand that this obligation does not mean that everyone with a heartbeat is their prospect, so they carefully qualify who does and doesn’t get the opportunity to benefit from their products and solutions.

Do you value your clientele?

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Competition Customer relationships customer retention Direct Marketing Marketing Positioning Public Relations Small Business strategic planning Trade Shows

Exhibiting at trade shows – Why do it?

Should we go to every trade show every year? Some of these shows cost us well over $7000. The one show that we want to skip this year is part of an association. They have about 300 members. We know just about all of them and know what they are using. Of course, a bunch of them use our product.

Anyone who has attended a trade show knows why this question is being asked.

Avoid the knee jerk

Our thoughts first jump to the time, trouble and expense of trade show travel, time away from “real work”, conference center shipping and logistics, being on your feet all day for three to five days, skipping meals and sleep as you work 6:00 am to midnight while your friends, family and co-workers think you are “vacationing” in Orlando or Las Vegas, much less the general aggravation of things like paying $300 to rent a 10′ x 10′ piece of cheaply-made, unpadded carpet.

Trade shows can be a hassle. They require a sizable investment in time, money and people to participate, so the natural response might be “Let’s think of reasons not to go.

Don’t do that.

Why go when you own the market?

If you don’t go to a show or association meeting because you feel you own the market, what message does it send?

Here are a few possibilities:

This vendor doesn’t care enough to show up and talk to us.

This vendor only shows up when they think they can close a bunch of deals.

This vendor takes us for granted.

If your competitors are there – these are some of the ways they might position your decision not to attend, or they might simply say “Think about why Company A wouldn’t show up.

Think about the show from the point of view of the attendees who invested in your products and services. Will your absence tell them you’re taking them for granted? Remember, these people helped you gain your dominant market position by investing in what you sell. By attending these events, they’re identifying themselves as the ones who care enough about their business and their industry to step away from the office, learn what’s new, learn what is (and isn’t) working in their industry and brainstorm with peers and vendors about solutions.

Do you prefer to listen to the ones never involve themselves in such things?

Seth calls these people your tribe. Dan calls them your herd. The concepts are different, but their needs are similar. Herds require attention and care. Your clientele does too.

Herds? Really?

I don’t refer to “herd” with the mindset that your clientele is a mindless bunch of cattle. Instead, consider “herd” from the viewpoint of a rancher. How do they attend to their care, oversight and feeding?

Do they let the herd eat what they want? Deal with the weather without concern?  If a predator appears, do they simply let that predator kill off a few of the herd? If someone shows up to rustle part of the herd, do they sit back and let it happen?

Ranchers provide the right forage and plenty of fresh, unfrozen water, while protecting the herd from predators, rustlers and other threats.

They care for the members of the herd because they know each member of the herd is returning a ROI. They know what it costs to lose a head. Do you?

While members of a cattle herd don’t choose to be there, clients can choose to leave, as can tribe members. The care and attention you provide has a great influence on their choices.

What opportunities will exhibiting at a trade show present?

Find out what concerns your market today – from the current perspective of the leaders in your market, rather than from insights and perceptions that may have been formed years ago.

It’s an opportunity to talk with someone who uses another vendor’s product. If they won’t switch to yours – isn’t it important to know why? A face-to-face, eye-to-eye discussion may yield critical insight, or it’ll confirm that those people aren’t your ideal clients. Either way, it’s valuable info.

What will you gain from a stronger relationships with your clients and other vendors in your market?

Trade shows are unique gatherings of the best clients, prospects and vendors. They’re a big opportunity – if you work shows strategically and execute them with a plan.

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Customer relationships Direct Marketing Lead generation Marketing Small Business

The shortcut to easier sales

One of the more common questions I get is “How do we find a shortcut to easier sales?” The shortcut starts with a few questions…

Who is the ideal person for your product/service and what is the specific situation your products and services solve for them? You’ll know it’s them if they would look at your “menu” of available products and services and say “That’s exactly what Ive been looking for.

If you are thinking things like “I’ve been a little frustrated with sales lately.” or “I’m frustrated with my website. I’ve been having trouble figuring out what the site should look like, how the sales process should look, etc.” then this is quite likely the source of the problem.

The reason this is a problem is that the conversation your sales process and / or your website engage in isn’t the conversation going on in the minds of your potential customers. It’s not what keeps them up at night. It’s not what’s on their mind when trying to make payroll, much less when trying to figure out how to pay themselves AND the bills.

To have that conversation, you have to have a much narrower focus on each type of person that you’re selling to.

Who is your target market?

Is the answer a single word or phrase? Is it a paragraph describing what you sell? Or is it a description of the people and/or business AND the situations those people are trying to address by using your products and services?

Is the answer “I don’t really know?” or “I thought I knew but now I’m not so sure.

Imagine that you are taking one of these people under your wing. Who would be the perfect person for you to do that for? Can you describe them and their situation in detail?

Example: They’re a couple in their early ’60s. The husband is about 10 years older than his wife. He’s retired. They’re both from Brazil but are naturalized U.S. citizens. The wife’s employer is closing down, so she’s looking for a way to supplement her income. Try to describe people in their situation.

The accurate but not useful answer is: “People who need an income“. A better start is “retired people who need an income” and “retired expats who need an income“. These are two different groups. For someone who is looking to serve people with these kinds of problems, there are probably dozens of similar groups with important, yet subtle differences.

If you tell me your clients are “lawyers”, I would suggest that is an incomplete answer. What kind of lawyer are they? Personal injury? Family law? Transactional? Estate? Tax? Each of them have different conversations, potentially different clients and they’ll each have different conversations with their clients.

The most expensive marketing mistake

The most expensive marketing mistake you can make is trying to have the same conversation with each of these groups. The “…with important, yet subtle differences” part is what changes the conversation with each group.

You need to narrow things down so you can have a conversation with one person (even if there are 100,000 of them) rather than 100 different people who have a related issue that this product will solve for each of them.

Pick one, do that one. Pick the next one. Do that one. You can only grab one person’s attention at a time and encourage them to solve this situation. Who will it be? Be specific.

Introduce me to your market

There are two pretty common ways to get to the bottom of this.

One is to role play introducing this person to someone who knows nothing about them, but will be immediately expected to be effective selling product or service that the salesperson is familiar with to the expat couple once your introduction is complete. I think you can imagine that to go from knowing nothing to being effective selling to them is going to require more than insight than “This is Joe and Mary and they need an income“.

What would you say?

The second method is to identify a familiar / famous person who fits the mold, if one exists. Introducing them might be a bit easier since you likely know something about this person and will be able to dig into quickly.

The shortcut to easier sales starts with knowing your audience better than anyone.

Categories
Business Resources Competition Customer relationships Customer service Guarantees Retail service Setting Expectations Small Business systems

Your systems should focus on your clients

Do your systems serve your internal customers or all of them?

By internal customers, I mean your accounting department, the staff on the shipping dock, customer service representatives, sales people and so on.

Systems that serve your internal customers do things such as accept, validate and record orders, track commissions, automate shipment notifications, manage inventory and a multitude of other things necessary to make sure that orders for products and services are properly fulfilled.

These systems (investments, really) serve your “real” clients as well, but in many cases their service to the client is indirect. I say indirect because your client rarely sees this service, even though they benefit from it. These systems enable your staff to serve your clients, keep track of where their package is and keep track of the fact that they’ve paid their bill. That’s service they benefit from – even if it is indirect.

Clearly, these investments are valuable. My assertion is that these systems don’t often focus on the client’s needs, even though they ultimately serve that client.

For example?

You knew I’d have an example or two.

You’ve probably seen a cryptic medical bill at some point. These bills have improved vs. the bills of five or ten years ago, but they could still be easier to read. Focusing on client needs might mean making the effort to create a customer-focused bill where info other than the total amount due is intelligible to the patient and their family.

A recent cold snap snuffed the battery in my wife’s car. When I went to replace it, I had to take it to a different store in the national (but locally owned) chain where I buy auto parts. Because the store’s systems are focused on internal customer needs, they were able to see inventory in stock and tell me which stores in the area had the battery I needed. While that’s useful information to help me get a new battery, it fell short of the staff’s needs and my own.

Unfortunately, they had no way to access my purchase information from a few years ago so that they could provide the appropriate discount on the new battery, since the old one expired during the warranty period.

The last time I bought a battery from these guys, they calculated the discount from the date on the battery (ie: the month and year that are picked off at the counter when the sell it to you). This time, that date was considered irrelevant. Further, I was scolded for not having a three year old receipt (which I probably have, but haven’t found).

I asked for advice to avoid this in the future, since I was used to the prior system where the pick-off date on the battery was what the trusted. The guys at the counter suggested that I tape the new receipt to the battery so that I’d have it next time. It seems like a good idea, but tape plus battery plus Montana weather times three or more years tells me that reading that receipt might not be so easy in the future.

Where’s my warranty discount?

The discount was trivial and really isn’t the point, but the situation provides a good example of a business system that primarily serves internal customers. The store that sold me the new battery has the ability to check inventory of the store where I bought the old battery and get a part from that store – both of these features primarily serve internal customer needs. A missing internal customer need that would also serve the external customer would allow store personnel to confirm a purchase at another store in the chair, as well as track the purchase for warranty purposes.

You’ve seen this before. Pharmacies are able to track prescriptions at any of their stores and refill them in any other store even if the original was called into a pharmacy thousands of miles away. To be sure, there are laws covering the record keeping of these purchases, but they could make it much more difficult to buy in the second location than they do.

Why do they buy from you?

The point is that your clients have a choice. If your internal systems make it easier for your clients to buy, redeem, refill, obtain service, and buy again…. they’ll likely buy from you.

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Blogging Customer relationships customer retention Direct Marketing Marketing Small Business

Has your client list heard from you lately?

As we head into retail’s peak shopping season, the big question is “Will my clientele buy…again?”

Have you had any contact with them since last November or December? The people spending money are in your client list, right?

Client list?

If they aren’t on your client list (or you don’t have one), how would you tell them important news when they aren’t on your site or in your store?

Without an accurate list, the only way to attempt to reach them is by spending a ton of money on advertising that isn’t guaranteed to reach your existing clients.

While you may want to advertise anyway, the message you craft (note the use of the word “craft”) for your clientele about this news should be different than the message received by the general public (or your market, if you’re  business-to-business)

Think about it. How would you tell them these things?

  • We’re moving.
  • We moved.
  • We expanded our facilities.
  • We added a new location.
  • We closed an old location.
  • We’ve expanded into these great product lines that are perfect for you.
  • We got rid of a product line that wasn’t up to our standards.
  • We’ve hired someone who is an amazing subject matter expert on (whatever is important to your clientele).
  • We bought a competitor, now we have even more great locations and consistent product and services. For those who are clients of the competitor, here’s how we’re different, better, etc.

Your client list is an asset as much as a building or your checking account. If you aren’t building it, it’s difficult to keep a connection with your clientele. What will keep them from randomly going to someone else?

The medium you use to reach them doesn’t matter. Reaching them is what matters.

What do I say to them?

What’s changed at your store in the last year? What’s new in the last year?

If “Not much” is your first instinct in response, consider these questions:

  • What service, product, customer care, processes, payment methods, shipping, return (or other) policies have changed?
  • What are people buying this year that they weren’t buying last year? Why? Is the reason important to your clientele?
  • What isn’t selling this year that was last year? Why? Is the reason important to your clientele?
  • What have you learned in the last year that can benefit them?
  • Do you have new staff members that can help them?
  • What new equipment do you have that allows you to serve them faster or better?

Would those changes be jarring to someone who hasn’t been in your store in 10-12 months? Warn them in advance than surprise them when they walk in the door or move to your checkout page.

But Mark, I don’t have a store

That’s OK. The question is at least as important for you if all of your sales are done by phone, online or in a mobile storefront (think “food cart”).

If you sell on Etsy, on your own site, via Shopify or Facebook or at local events like the farmer’s market and ballgames – how will they remember you when it’s time to buy if they haven’t heard from you in months (or longer)?

What do I say?

I covered that above, but it’s important enough to discuss in general terms because you will eventually feel like you’ve run out of things to say.

At that point, the temptation will be to do one of these things:

  • Send something, any old thing, just to stay in touch.
  • Send ads when you can’t thing of anything else to say.
  • Send nothing.

All three are a bad idea, but the first two are the worst.

The first one often results in a shrinking client list because they aren’t receiving anything meaningful from you.

The second one requires care. If you are sending useful, actionable information often enough, then an occasional ad email or footer on your regular emails is OK. What you don’t want to do is forget why you built the list in the first place and start advertising 100% of the time.

The third one is not ideal, but it beats the other two.

The key is to communicate with meaningful, useful info. You may think you have nothing left to say, but the reality is that you’ve forgotten more about your business than they’ll ever know.

Given that… Be helpful when you contact them. It’ll pay off.

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Competition Customer relationships customer retention Employees Getting new customers Leadership Marketing Positioning Sales Setting Expectations Small Business Word of mouth marketing

ROI: Why they don’t take your call

These days, it isn’t about the shine; it’s about what happens when the shine wears off.

Will your business owner clients think positively of you a year from now because of an investment you championed? They’d better. Without buy in from everyone involved, resistance is the best you can expect the next time you visit.

As for this time – If you can’t explain to a random person in the lunch room or the warehouse why their employer should buy your stuff, it’s going to get picked to shreds.

ROI and the Why-To-Buy

The key to being successful is establishing Why-to-Buy in the context of each involved group. The discussion that sells the owner will differ quite a bit from the one that gets the warehouse on board, much less the one that gives the warehouse manager the tools necessary to get their staff on board.

When new purchase discussions do get down to talking about numbers, the ROI discussed is sometimes legitimately unproven and is frequently presented in a way that makes ROI impossible to prove, much less disprove. That’s a fast track to a “no sale”.

What’s your reaction to sales calls?

Ask a few business owners about sales calls. You’ll get a common list of “Why I don’t want to talk to you, sales dude.

  • I don’t know you, even though you act like I do.
  • I still have a bad feeling about our last deal.
  • I don’t need anything right now, but I am willing to listen to new stuff just in case, but you need to make an appointment.
  • You have no appointment.
  • I’m the wrong person.

The last time I had an office on a public street, the front door had a sign that invited two types of salespeople in (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts) and provided the rest with instructions and a number to call for an appointment.

In seven years, one salesperson called that number to make an appointment. The rest wasted their time because they didn’t respect our time enough to make an appointment. You might think that an aggressive salesperson shouldn’t take no for an answer. When it concerned that office, that was the wrong choice.

Nice Presentation?

Another thing that I see and hear repeatedly is problems with a sales presentation.

These complaints include:

  • A one way conversation – like drinking from a firehose
  • Not customized based on knowledge of your needs
  • Generic financials that don’t identify a payoff period
  • Little consideration for your real situation
  • Inaccurate assessment of labor cost savings
  • Ignore additional costs and management requirements
  • Gaps between the presentation and delivered solution
  • Selling the invisible. Either things that don’t work or things that don’t yet exist – and won’t be delivered for months.

Consider whether your presentations exhibit any of these qualities.

What they want to experience

How would most business owners react when their favorite salesperson calls?

This person…

  • Only calls when there’s a win ready for the business owner to invest in.
  • Shows up with a checklist of qualifications that illustrate why the opportunity fits the business.
  • Shows up with testimonials from similar businesses – complete with contact information, so you’re welcome to call them.
  • Has clearly spent time thinking about why they and the opportunity fits the owner’s business.
  • Brings up alternatives and why they ruled them out.
  • Leads their market – not so much in sales as much as vision, crcitical because it carries with it influence and the reputation of a market leader.
  • Thinks about what challenges you face and what they can do to make it possible to overcome them.
  • Brings opportunities that you can implement  that without losing your existing momentum.

Getting buy-in

Think about how many times you’ve had to deal with the situations I described above – both good and bad. How many times have you done this to a prospect? How much trouble was it to make that deal happen, if it happened?

ROI grows as buy-in expands. Remember that everyone views ROI differently.  Next time, we’ll talk about strategies to involve everyone in that conversation so that the buy-in stretches from the main office to the warehouse dock.

When a business owner sees that sort of widespread buy-in, good outcomes are almost sure to follow.

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Business model Competition Customer relationships Marketing Positioning Small Business

What are your compelling reasons?

This past week, I’ve had several conversations revolving around why people don’t buy, why people stop buying, how we can get them to use what they bought and how we can get them to switch to our product instead of a competitor’s.

These conversations all have the same foundation: Giving people a compelling reason to change.

Whether we’re talking about buying, changing what they use, or using what they’ve bought, people need compelling reasons to change what they’re doing – even if they’re not doing anything.

Without compelling reasons – buying and implementing is much harder

It seems obvious that making it easier to buy is important, yet some businesses do their best to make it hard to give them your money.

However, buying isn’t the only obstacle to overcome. That’s why I’ve told the software setup story as many times as anyone would listen.

Selling them is one thing, getting them to use, adopt, implement it is quite another – and in fact, it’s more important than the sale over the long term.

If you don’t care what they do after they buy your stuff, it’s an indication that your business model is broken, even if you’re selling that stuff like crazy right now. Someday, that will change. When it does, how will your current business model work?

If you aren’t focusing on making sure they implement what they buy, your business model might not be broken, but your management of it is. You wouldn’t plant a crop and never watering or weed it, so why would you make a sale and then make no effort to cultivate the use of what you sold them?

That’s what the software setup story addresses and as you can read, I’ve been there.

What’s their point of view?

One of the things that fails business owners most often is assuming that their clientele is just like them. To be sure, there some cases where that’s true, but in others – it’s simply wrong.

The danger in this is that people buy, implement and change things for reasons who may not have considered, or for reasons that are meaningless to you. If that reason is the primary driver in decision making for your market and you miss it because their reason means nothing to you, closing a sale could be quite an uphill climb.

Even if you’re shy, you have to ask questions.

What are the obstacles to change? In many cases, they might want to change but think they don’t have the time to retrain their people, adjust their internal business processes and deal with yet another change. Solving that requires your value proposition to be clear, compelling and long-lasting.

What are the real reasons they might change? What truly causes the pain they feel? What keeps them up at night? What makes them worry about their future? Why is changing worth it at all if the outcome is the same? Same reports, same Excel spreadsheets, same profit?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re going to struggle to sell to them even if you have exactly what they need and want to take away their pain.

I don’t sell things that make the pain go away

If you aren’t making someone’s business pain go away, your clients are probably some portion of the general public. You might want someone to buy your cosmetics, or perhaps you’d like them to give your dry cleaners a chance vs. them continuing to use the one they use now.

Think about the risk people take when they change from Maybelline to Bare Minerals or from One-Hour-Martinizing to Joe’s Hometown Cleaners.

How do you currently communicate that trying your stuff is so easy and so risk free that if it doesn’t work out, they lose nothing?

Once you’ve done a great job of taking risk off their plate, you still have the task of proving the value of switching.  How are you doing that these days? Put yourself in their place.

Imagine a bank asks you to switch to their bank from the one you currently use – the one where your direct deposit goes and where your bill pay stuff is all setup and working smoothly.

Or consider switching from Windows to Mac or iPhone to Android.

Now you understand how they feel when you ask them to switch.

 

 

Categories
Business culture Customer relationships Customer service Employee Training Employees Leadership service Setting Expectations Small Business

Earning return business, part two

Last time, I shared a story about how Best Buy avoided losing my family’s phone business (and perhaps all our business) by bending the rules a little on an insurance claim that had gotten in the weeds thanks to a combination of errors on our part and theirs.

This week, car rentals. We recently drove 1300+ miles to see my mom and rented a car for the trip. Most of the adventure occurred during the rental car pickup, of course.

Deliver what you promise, unless you can’t

I reserved a small, high-mileage car for the trip. My evil plan was to rent a car whose difference in gas mileage would more or less cover the rental, while giving us a chance to check out the car.

While talking on the phone to the local guy at the  rental place, I was assured that they have one in stock. Naturally, when I got there a few hours later, they didn’t have the car I reserved. This isn’t uncommon when reservations are made online and far in advance at an airport, but when you call the local outlet and ask the “Do you have what I reserved?” question – you expect to get it. Turned out, they had so few cars that they ended up making me wait 45 minutes while they tried to clean up their “mule” (shuttle car).

The car I got was a lower mileage car than we wanted, though not terribly low, and it wasn’t the one we wanted to evaluate for purchase, so it ended up being a less productive rental than we’d hoped.

They were wise enough to end the pickup experience on a positive note by defusing the frustration of a 45 minute wait by waiving the fuel charges and saying “Bring it back as empty as you can.”  If you’re calculating the cost of defusing situations like this in your business, keep in mind that the fuel charge savings of at most $30 isn’t what defuses the situation. Owning up to the inconvenience, apologizing and making an effort to ease the annoyance is where the situation is turned around.

Owning up is part of earning return business

With some clients, owning up, apologizing and putting $30 on the table won’t be enough. That’s why it’s critical to train your staff and give them the authority (and boundaries) to resolve situations like this without forcing the client to hear them restate policy, wait for permission to escalate the issue, wait for a response from corporate, etc. Making your clientele wait another 45 minutes and getting them on the phone with the corporate call center will make things worse, not better. That’s why last week’s BB situation worked – there was no waiting.

Waiving the fuel charge meant more than not worrying about the fuel – it meant not making an extra stop before returning the car. Little things…

Little lies are still lies

On the negative side, there was a token apology for not having the reserved car we’d talked about, and of course, no action on that. However, I understand that things happen and you can’t give someone a car you don’t have (the car didn’t come back on time from the prior renter).

In your business, this is where you take the opportunity to make things better, not worse. For example, they could have retrieved the same make/model car from the airport (30 miles away), or suggested that I go there and pick up that car to save time and then comp the airport parking of my car. They didn’t offer either.

When I asked why they operate differently from the airport, such as charging us for a day when they are closed, I got the excuse that local rental locations “work differently” than the airport location because “we’re a different company”. Of course both use the same reservation systems, corporate branding and pricing.  But they’re different.

Train the excuses out of your staff

Not long ago I heard someone say “Excuses are a lie wrapped in a reason.”

In your internal training, you’ve got to repeatedly reinforce that things like this are unacceptable discussion points.  They aren’t malicious, but they become part of your story because you’ve told them 100 or 1000 times. Each one is a paper cut on your culture and your reputation, and eventually – those cuts bleed.

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Business model Customer relationships Direct Marketing Lead generation Marketing Positioning Small Business

Even black cats need a reason why

I didn’t do a Friday the 13th promo yesterday. Did you?

In my case, I didn’t get a promo out despite a monthly reminder on my calendar. Yes, every month a week or so before the 13th, a recurring reminder prompts me to check if there’s a Friday the 13th that month. This month, there actually WAS a Friday the 13th, which is a great time for a promo tied to the “holiday”.

I do this and recommend it for my clients for Friday the 13th and other oddball “holidays” because they’re a reason why, even if it is a quirky one. You can always craft a unique story between a product or service and almost any normal or oddball/unusual holiday. For that matter, you can make up a holiday that’s all yours. It isn’t like you’d be the first to do that.

A reason why

Before we do that, let’s go back to the business reason for doing this in the first place: A reason why.

There are all kind of reasons to do a promotion, but they are more productive if there’s a reason behind them – even if the reason is downright silly.

A few years ago, a Baltimore business had an 11% off sale after a snowstorm dumped 11 inches of snow in the area. The online business hadn’t slowed since snow didn’t disrupt their nationwide retail traffic, but the 11 inch snow was worth celebrating so they had a little sale to commemorate it.

Please understand that when I say “promotion”, I am usually NOT talking about “a sale”.

In particular, I’m absolutely not talking about the 40-50-60% sales that stores seem convinced are a daily requirement to keep a mall store open, or at least to generate the traffic they think they need.

I don’t spend much time in malls, but a recent visit had more stores with BOGO and 40-50-60-70 (yes, 70!) percent off sales than I’ve ever seen.

Either their original prices are fantasy or they are in serious trouble.

What exactly is a promotion?

Since I’ve made it clear what a promotion isn’t, I should also make it clear what a promotion IS.

A promotion draws attention, giving your clients and prospects a reason why. While it might include some sort of discount, it doesn’t have to. A well-executed promotion certainly doesn’t need discounts to make it successful.

Promotions commonly attract a specific type of client and prospect to your business. The newbie, the expert, the confused, the investigator, as well as those categories of prospects and clients within each product/service niche you offer.

Fine tune your reason why

A local home brewing store can have a promotion to introduce brewing to their clientele, yet still narrow the audience and get a specific kind of buyer. Instead of having a Saturday in-store brewing day promotion / event, they might have one focused specifically on India Pale Ales (IPA) and then rotate through other styles. In a large market area, they may want to narrow IPA days down to double-hopped or dry-hopped IPAs.

When doing this and focusing on one brewing style, they might stock up on fresh IPA-ready hops and have several brews in different stages of brewing so they can teach each stage’s hopping techniques.

Doing this with a dozen different styles of brewing on the same Saturday would be out of reach for most home brew stores – and would likely hurt business by confusing those who are paying attention.

Worse yet, if prospective home brewers (ie: newbies) show up at the promotion and happen to be folks who don’t like IPAs or the hop’s influence on that style’s taste, they might never come back.

Attract, Educate, Train, Sell

Whether you sell home brewing gear and supplies, or power tools for artisan woodworkers (hmm, do those mix well?), you’re likely to want to separate promotions by audience type so that you don’t attract newbies who need broad knowledge to make a decision with experts focused on tightly defined niches.

The point of the promotions described above is to attract, educate, train and of course, sell. No matter what you do, you’re likely to have prospects and clients interested in what you do that fall into groups you could arrange into newbies, confused, investigators and experts.

What are you doing to give them a reason why?

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Business culture Competition Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Guarantees Small Business Travel marketing

Create a truly meaningful guarantee

Does your guarantee provide value and eliminate risk for the prospect, or does it simply give their money back?

While giving their money back is often seen as an ideal guarantee, the fact is that while it’s the easiest effective guarantee you can make, it’s also the least common denominator.

Does your business reputation depend on least common denominator service? I suspect it doesn’t.

Least common denominator?

A least common denominator is like a best practice.

The term “best practice” implies something only the best companies employ, but the reality is that there’s so much focus on best practices that they’re often the average.

“Average” because these best practices are what most businesses do. The truly best practices of the best companies are often unseen to most other, or they’re simply not recognized as something that provides a substantial competitive edge.

These things don’t have to be expensive or mind-blowing. They simply require seeing your business relationship with the customer from their perspective. One example is being mindful of opportunity cost.

What about opportunity cost?

While a money-back guarantee does eliminate the client’s obvious loss-of-investment risk, it doesn’t take into account their opportunity cost – the cost to them of your inability to deliver.

Protecting the client from lost opportunity isn’t part of most guarantees, but it should be part of yours.

Let’s look at airline flight guarantees to understand why.

If you book a seat on a plane for travel to a critical face-to-face meeting and the plane is late for reasons other than severe weather, the airline may reroute you, book you on a competitor’s flight or worst case, get you a hotel room for the night so they can try to get you to your destination the next day.

What they won’t do is compensate you for missing the meeting, even your late or non-arrival is entirely their fault. How would they calculate what to pay you, assuming they could afford to?

If you miss a meeting due to air travel issues and this ultimately costs you $20 million, do you expect the airline to cough that up because you bought a $400 plane ticket? Only the narcissistic would have such expectations.

All the airlines can really offer is a full refund in the form of a future flight, a flight on their competitor, or to ask you to be patient while they work to eventually get you to your intended destination.

Even if the airlines sold “guaranteed travel” tickets at a much higher price, the logistics of delivering a guaranteed service would likely make it unprofitable for them.

Given the possible reasons that a flight can be late, it’s understandable, so why does the lack of an opportunity cost guarantee come off as weak in your business?

Create a truly meaningful guarantee

Most of you don’t have the logistical issues that airlines have, so you can offer a guarantee that deals with lost opportunity cost without a huge expense or effort. All it takes is some thought, action and follow up.

That’s why not protecting a client’s opportunity is weak.

If you own a local hotel, there will be times where you can’t fulfill a reservation. Plumbing leaks. Power fails. Stuff happens.

If you have an arrangement with nearby competitors, a bed and breakfast and a few airbnb hosts, you can avoid leaving a guest out in the cold. While it might not seem like a big deal to you, these things have a way of happening when the prospective guest is an influencer on Trip Advisor, or worse, a travel writer with two million Facebook likes and a cable TV show.

The same thought can go into guaranteeing carpet cleaning, car rentals or whatever you do. Take away the investment risk like everyone else, then wrap the opportunity loss in bubble wrap.

Go to the bullpen

When a pitcher throws so many pitches that they “lose their stuff”, managers call the bullpen for a pitcher with a fresh arm.

That’s what customers want. They don’t want excuses. They just want whatever you promised. Your job is to figure out how to deliver that even on your worst day, or when your pitcher has lost their stuff – whatever that means in your business.

To a client, an appointment or a reservation is a promise – and often that client has made promises based on the one you made them.