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?

How to make a good upsell

Thanks to cloud services, my hardware needs have shrunk substantially in recent years. This makes it easy to pace and plan hardware upgrades for what little hardware I have left.

However, reality sometimes gets in the way. Yesterday, my wife’s laptop died so I had to take immediate action.

It was a lesson in fulfillment, point of sale retail and how to make a good upsell, or not.

Bad upsells undermine trust

Every time I update Java, the Oracle-owned technology’s installer offers to install the “Ask Toolbar” as an option.

The default is “Yes, install the Ask Toolbar” and may also ask to change your home page to the Ask search engine page. My guess is that Doug Leeds (CEO of Ask) doesn’t even use Ask as his home page.

According to three different independent references in Wikipedia, the Ask Toolbar is considered malware: “Ask.com is noted for a malware toolbar that can be surreptitiously bundled in with legitimate program installations, and which generally cannot be easily removed from most common browsers once installed.

Every time I update Adobe Flash Player, the Adobe-installer offers to install McAfee anti-virus. Naturally, the default is “Yes, install MacAfee.”

Since Microsoft bought Skype, the Skype installer now asks to switch your default browser, switch your default search engine and install a browser plugin that changes what happens when you click on a phone number. Of course, “Yes, please make all those changes.” is the default.

In all three cases, these defaults are the last thing you want to do.

The point is that these actions give the impression that these companies are willing to damage their reputations (and our computers) and undermine any trust we might have in them by injecting these out-of-context (or damaging) upsells into the process of using their products.

Why bad upsells annoy us

As long as we’re paying attention, these things are easy to bypass and only take a moment to do so. Anytime we’re installing software on a computer, the prudent user should be paying attention. We should not be clicking through the install to “just get it over with”, yet many do exactly that and find themselves victims of these unscrupulous install processes.

They amount to bad upsells.

These situations annoy us because they change our experience with the vendor’s product and make us be on our guard at a time when the vendor’s trust should be assumed – when we allow them to take brief control of our machines so their software can be updated.

It’s the worst possible time to do something to undermine trust, yet that’s exactly what these and other vendors do. It’s the worst kind of upsell, even though we aren’t being asked to open our wallets.

So how does that relate to a new laptop?

Good upsells are helpful

Deciding what to upsell is as important as the act of asking about it. When someone asks me how to make a good upsell, I suggest that they focus on being helpful.

If someone brings a couple of cases of canned drinks to the checkout stand, a helpful suggestion is “Do you need any ice?

If they bring five quarts of motor oil to the checkout, it makes sense to ask about the kind of vehicle they have so you can help them select an oil filter.

Even though we buy gifts for people all year, only jewelry stores tend to ask if if we’d like complimentary gift wrap for a purchase made January through October. Gift wrap is an upsell, even if it’s free.

We get distracted or forgetful in these situations by thinking beyond the moment, so the right kind of upsell can save us time, fuel, frustration and embarrassment by reminding us about important but briefly forgotten items.

As with any marketing, you should test your upsell to see what works so you can stop doing what doesn’t. A better ice question might be “Do you have enough ice to keep these cold all day?“, but you won’t know this unless you test different questions and measure the results.

Does the upsell help the customer remember something that compliments their purchase? Does it help them make the purchase more effective, more productive, more valuable to them?  Does the upsell build trust or undermine it?

Bottom line: Does it help them?

Customer relationships – Do yours mature and adapt?

One of the things that separates people from most machines and systems is their ability to adapt their interactions as the relationship matures.

A tough-as-nails 61 year old grandfather who supervises workers on an oil rig in North Dakota’s Bakken adapts his communication to the recipient when training a new guy to stay alive on the rig, and does so again when chatting with his three year old granddaughter about her Hello Kitty outfit via a Skype video call.

He doesn’t coo at a young buck and he doesn’t growl at his granddaughter. He adapts. It’s common sense.

Our systems, processes and communications don’t do enough of this.

Adapt to the relationship state

Why do our companies, software, processes, communications and systems so infrequently adapt to the state of our customer relationships?

An example I’ve used a number of times: You get mail from a company offering you a great deal “for new subscribers only” – despite being a subscriber for decades. It’s annoying, not so much because someone else gets a better price for a short time, but (to me at least) because they don’t appear to care enough about their existing customers to remove them from a lead generation mailing.

It’s a trivial exercise to check a list of recipients for a new marketing piece against a current subscriber / client list. Why don’t “we” do it?

For mailed items, it would reduce postage and printing costs. It would cut down on the annoyance factor in clients who inappropriately get special lead generation offers – regardless of the media used.

Adapting your marketing (for example) to the state of the relationship you have with the recipient is marketing 101. It’s a no-lose investment.

Adapt to the maturity state

Like the grandfather, most of us alter our face-to-face speaking to the state of the relationship and maturity of the other person.

Sometimes we don’t, but that’s usually because we haven’t had the opportunity to determine the maturity of the other person in the conversation.

I’m speaking of the maturity of the customer relationship as well as where the client is with your products and services. There’s far more to this than simply adapting to a client’s intellectual and age-related maturity.

Remember that “tip of the day” feature that was popular in software not so many years ago? The half life of that feature was incredibly small and the value it delivered was tiny when compared to its potential.

Why? Because few software development companies took the feature seriously once it had been coded and tested.

How can I say that? Easy. Did you turn that feature off once you realize the tips were of little value after an hour’s use of that software? Did you turn it off earlier than that because the tips were of no use at all?

My guess is that one or both of those are true. The tips weren’t there for users throughout their lifetime of use with the software. In fact, most of them weren’t very useful beyond the first hour of use. Every time we move the software to a new machine, it’s likely we have to turn it off again. ROI for that feature? Not so high.

The content of these tips was everything (in fact, the only thing) to the user of that software, yet the content in most tip-of-the-day systems appeared to be rushed out as an afterthought.

What does a software’s tip of the day feature have to do with your business? Everything.

Take your time, implement well.

That the tips rarely were of use to new users beyond the first hour or so of use shows a lack of investment in their content.

Imagine if these tips were sensitive to the maturity of the user’s knowledge and use of the software.

Some cars do this. They automatically adjust the seat and mirror locations when Jerome unlocks the car and use different seat/mirror positions when Carmen unlocks it. Adaptation.

What if your systems, products, services, marketing, processes and other client interactions recognized and adapted like this?

Adaptive interaction isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. It can mature over time, as other things do. Take your time, do it right. You tend to get only one chance to break a relationship with a client, but you can strengthen it with every interaction.

Adaptive behavior is all about making your business personal.

Your story says why you care

One of the things I help business owners understand is how to tell their story (and why they should bother).

Sometimes, business owners don’t have a story, or at least, they think they don’t. Yet when you ask them, it’s a rare person who doesn’t have a tale that answers “How’d you get into this business?”

Many times, the work people do is a means to an end, or at least it seems that way on the surface because they just haven’t thought about it as their story.

Sometimes they got there by happenstance or by being in the right place at the right time. A family tradition leads others into a line of work after a parent sells or leaves them a business they didn’t even consider being in. Some folks “grow up” in the business and follow in their parents’ footsteps – even if that requires years of college.

For others, a business might have come out of something they’d done forever and decided to turn that activity into their way of making a living – say, a serious fly fisher starting a fly shop or a fishing guide service business.

More often than not the story is rooted in their passion for the work, for solving the problem their business solves, or the people they work with while doing so.

Your story is what sets the stage for a well-worn quote: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.“  (Attributed to everyone from FDR to a soccer coach from UNC to John Maxwell)

It does that because how you got to where you are today says a lot of about the “how much you care” thing.

But sometimes, the answer isn’t so exciting. Or so it seems.

At Our Company, we strive to stay current with the latest products and techniques. We consider ourselves experts in our field and we invite you to take advantage of our expertise so that you can be assured to have the equipment, accessories and service that meets your needs.

Please take a look around our website. Youâ??ll find information about the comprehensive line of cycling products and services we offer to maximize the fun factor in your outdoor activities. And be sure to check out our Resources & Links page where you can access all sorts of valuable information for cycling enthusiasts.

Stop by and visit us at Our Company â?¦ weâ??d love to get to know you better.

Check out Our Company online and add your â??Likeâ?? on facebook.com/ourcompany

Only 2 things in all of that give you any idea what they do: “cycling” and “outdoor activities”.

Why you?

I can buy cycling gear in a lot of places, including WalMart and Amazon.

I buy it from locally-owned stores for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that I want access to someone who can do more than just hand me the bag with my stuff in it. I want access to an expert who will base their answers to my newbie questions on their 27,438 miles of riding.

I have a lot of wants, just like people who play Warcraft, brew their own beer, restore mid-1950 Chevys or manicure Bonsai trees.

People who do those things don’t want to buy stuff from someone who doesn’t know anything about those things – and they sure don’t want to buy them from someone who doesn’t care about those things.

Something like this (which I just tossed together) tells people why you care:

We’re cyclists. The finest moments of our lives are memories of eating dust on single tracks only we and the bears know about, getting air at BMX events, leading the Tour de Hometown (even if only for a moment), riding in the kiddie seat on the back of our parents’ bikes during a trip to France and sharing the same memory with our kids right here at home.

Every bike, component, accessory gear and clothing in our shop is tested and personally approved by our staff. We don’t just hire salespeople or mechanics. We hire cyclists. We know you want help from someone who’s been where you’re going – or wants to ride along.

When we aren’t on our bikes, we love to use our combined 74 years of road racing, BMX, trail riding and cross-country touring experience to help you get the most out of your ride. We can’t wait to meet you and talk bikes.

If they know your story, they’ll know why you care.

If I owned a fitness center

In the process of elliptical-ing across some wide open (virtual) spaces recently, I thought to myself, “What would I change if I owned this place?”

I might warm up the pool a couple of degrees, but that really isn’t the kind of change I meant.

The things that came to mind were in the spirit of “Be indispensable“.

So what would make that place the ONLY place to be a member?

When I have these conversations with a client, the first thing we often talk about are their clients.

We start simple. Who are they? What do they need?

A Day in the Life

To answer the “Who are they?” question, let’s look around at a day in the life of a fitness center and see how we can segment the members (customers) into groups based on gender, age, level of fitness, “Why they are there”, and so on.

I don’t mean a group like “People who need/want to work out.” Obviously, most people who join qualify for either need to or want to.

I’m thinking about a list like this, and I’m sure it’s far from complete:

  • Professional or semi-pro athletes, such as people who regularly marathon, triathlon and/or Ironman. You might include players for the local semi-pro teams. Around here, the Glacier Twins and/or Glacier Knights would be included.
  • Bodybuilders.
  • Post-partum moms who want to get their “pre-pregnancy body” back.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Men recovering from heart surgery.
  • Anyone newly diagnosed with diabetes.
  • People who are new to working out.
  • “Formerly disciplined workout people” who haven’t worked out in five, ten or more years.
  • People recovering from an injury, possibly under the direction of a physical therapist.

Within these groups, you’ll find breakdowns for gender and/or age group. Don’t underestimate those.

Everyone should be considering the sizable wave of Baby Boomers heading into their 60s-70s-80s might impact their business and what opportunities they suggest. Likewise, research has repeatedly shown that women control or influence 80% or more of household spending.

Is your business catering to these groups? If not, is your business even passingly friendly to these groups?

I Have Needs

The second question on my list was “What do they need?”

Until you create the list above, your needs list might be simpler than it should be because you might just be thinking “What do my members need?”.

Once we’ve gone through the customer (and prospect) identification and segmentation process, we’ll find more needs.

That’s why we go through this probably tedious, sometimes eye-rolling process that almost always helps you find new things that your customers need. The result should be obvious.

What do they need?

Now look back at that list of customer types from a “wants and needs” perspective. Consider the needs of body builders, post-partum moms, heart patients, and semi-pro athletes, for example. In some ways, they’re similar. In others, they have wildly different expectations.

They all need machines/weights, steam room, hot tub, pool, showers, restrooms and so on.

After that, the needs among the groups vary quite a bit:

  • Some would benefit most from instruction and/or working in groups.
  • Some prefer private facilities.
  • Some prefer gender-specific workout times/rooms.
  • Some prefer age-specific.
  • Some work evening or night shift.
  • Some would prefer to find a workout partner for motivation, spotting weights and/or accountability.
  • Some would like to be gently nagged if they don’t show up 3 times a week.

One example of many obvious ones: You wouldn’t necessarily have 20-somethings in a Yoga class with 60-somethings. Not because they can’t enjoy each other’s company, but because the instruction and goals for one group probably don’t parallel the other. That might drive you to have separate Yoga classes for singles, post-partums, “retirees”, physical therapy patients and so on. In each case, the instructor could be matched with attendees.

“What about me?”

If you don’t own a fitness center, you might be thinking this discussion isn’t much help.

Use what you can after adjusting it for your business. Can you take any idea here and make it work for you?

Finally, take a hard look at the thought process itself (“Who are my customers, what are their unique needs”) and see what you can come up with for your business. Even if you’ve done this five, ten or fifteen years back, I suggest doing it again. You might find yourself in new markets, focusing on a particular type of customer that you’d previously ignored, etc.

Make an offer that makes sense

zipper
Creative Commons License photo credit: gagilas

Yesterday, an email from WinZip arrived in my inbox.

I’ve used and liked WinZip for at least a decade. Not many pieces of software can make that claim.

Lately, they’ve been emailing me pretty frequently. This particular email offered a free copy of the latest WinZip if I used their affiliate link to sign up for a free trial with Netflix’s online movie service.

Whaaaa?

Ok, maybe that’s not such a bad deal if I’m not already a Netflix user, but the offer may not make sense depending on what kind of WinZip customer I am.

When I got the email, I wondered “Why Netflix?”

It might make perfect sense if WinZip knows their customer base well. Perhaps they’re sure that a majority of their users are home users, student/teacher users or small business/corporate users. If that were so, it would’ve been best to segment their email list and mail this offer only to their home users. And perhaps I’m somehow on that home list, rather than on their “business customer” list.

Even if all that is true, is this a service that most WinZip users can take advantage of? Does it help their users get more out of their WinZip? Or did they send it because Netflix is a really good affiliate deal for the makers of WinZip?

The offer just doesn’t make sense from a “How can we help you get more out of our software?” perspective – something you should *always* be thinking about, whether you sell software or transmission oil coolers.

In fact, some will see that message – especially at multi-per-week frequencies – as spam.

I’m not convinced that WinZip segmented their email list before sending this out. If they had, it might make sense.

Leverage

In your case, it’s essential to avoid being “one of those people” and eventually ending up on a spam blacklist.

If you’re going to send 3rd party offers to your customers, make absolutely sure they make sense by giving your customer an opportunity to leverage the investment they’ve already made in your products and services.

Whaaaa? Part 2

When you build a commodity (mostly) utility, even one as good as WinZip as been, at some point your business model is going to flatten out. With no recurring revenue, you start doing things like emailing your customers offers to purchase a movie service. Even your business customers.

Think deep and long about that business model. What happens after 100 customers? What happens after 500 or 50,000? What happens 10 years from now?

The more thought you invest in that stuff now, even while building the next-big-thing, the less likely you’ll need to make choices that would never cross your mind otherwise.

Shredding mad pow in my driveway

So far it’s been an incredible year for snow in the Northwest.

Two feet in the Washington DC area is a Snowpocalypse?

That’s nothing.

We have 8 feet of fresh pow* in Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. It’s so deep, we’re carving mad turns in our driveways and carrying avalanche beacons when we go out to get the mail.

Come out and join us and ski and ride your brains out!

Oh wait. Maybe not that much snow, but come on out anyhow.

Which truth is real?

As with other markets where misinformation can lead a customer astray, the internet has a way of finding the truth, even about mad pow*.

When skiers and snowboarders hop off the lift expecting to find the foot of fresh powder mentioned in the snow report and instead, find a couple inches of popcorn**, it doesn’t excite them.

When skiers and snowboard riders find a few feet of waist-deep powdery goodness, they can now use their cell phones to report snow conditions via Facebook, Twitter and this killer skier/snowboarder snow report app.

This app has forced resorts to come clean on their snow reports.

Thing is, it isn’t just snow conditions that are available in (close to) real-time from a source that’s cutting turns in it right now. Whatever you do, there is likely an enthusiast community talking about it

Whether we’re talking about stream flows, fish and wildlife migration, trail conditions, road conditions, whiter whites and brighter brights, parking availability, meal quality, service quality and more…it’s out there on the net for the savvy customer who wants to check you out before buying.

Help them find it – and don’t claim to be shredding pow in your driveway unless you really are

* Translation: Fresh, deep, powdery snow, often blamed for high levels of absenteeism at work and/or school.

** Translation: smallish, hard popcorn-looking snow that looks like that stuff sprayed on ceilings in office buildings and homes. Not really what you want to ski/ride on, but still better than a good day at work.

Do you make their eyes shine?

Today’s guest post comes from TED, where musician/educator Benjamin Zander talks about music, passion and how he can tell if someone has a passion for what they do – as well as what kind of impact (if any) his playing has on his audience.

Are you producing that kind of impact on your clientele?

How many people left this hall and told a friend about the amazing experience they just had?

How many people do the same when your business gets done serving their needs?

3 ways to destroy a vendor-client relationship

If this video from Scofield Editorial wasn’t so annoyingly accurate regarding how some businesses operate, it’d be funny.

Ok, it’s funny anyhow – until it happens to you.

Try not to be on either side.

Some businesses operate this way as a matter of course. With some people and some businesses struggling these days, it’s easy to find someone trying this.

Just don’t do it.

If nothing else, keep in mind that you will meet them again, probably on your way back down.