Do at least one thing today

If you subscribe to my email newsletter, you know that I close most of the emails with “Do at least one thing today to get, or keep, a client.”

It’s as simple as it sounds…but do you do it?

Even if you can only spare 15 minutes, spend it every day doing something that attracts new clients or helps you keep the ones you have.

Here are a few ideas that can be accomplished in only a few minutes.

You could…

  • Write a blog post
  • Add another 200 words to your upcoming book
  • Review recent contact logs for ideas, potential problems or training needs.
  • Record a podcast
  • Design a new loyalty program or fix something about the one you have.
  • Ask someone who has never seen your website to let you watch while they try to use your website.
  • Ask one of your customers what they most value about what your company does.
  • Call a prospect who didn’t buy and ask them what turned them off to your company. Write them a thank you note (NOT AN EMAIL) afterward.
  • Follow up the “what turned you off” call with a “here’s what we did to fix that” postcard (postcards get seen)
  • Take the answer from the prior question and compare it to yours. Take action on your conclusion.
  • Create a new product or service
  • Write a thank you note to a new (or existing) customer.
  • Tweet about your favorite new product, customer, employee, industry discovery
  • Modify an existing product or service to make it easier to use.
  • Pick one thing off your customers’ pet peeve list and fix it.
  • Call one customer and talk to them about their experiences with your products, company, staff.
  • Call one customer and ask them what your company could do that would most impact their use of your products/services.
  • Call one customer and ask them what keeps them up at night, future-wise.
  • Call one customer and ask them what keeps them up at night, problem-wise.
  • Call one customer and talk to them about their next-big-thing.
  • Spend 15 minutes thinking about your next-big-thing (and take notes). Do so in a way and place that there is no way you can be interrupted during this effort.
  • Ask one staff member what you could do to help them be more productive.
  • Ask one staff member what they would fix first.
  • Ask one staff member about their vision for the company and its customers.
  • Ask your staff which meeting or other regular activity they find a complete waste of time – and what they would do instead.
  • Review your contact logs (or ask the staffer who is the first point of contact) to find out what’s on the mind of your customers these days.
  • Make a video showing off one of your product features that more people should use.

Those are just a few ideas. What would you add?

Jump in!

UPDATE:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/JustinKownacki/statuses/106754362109460481″]

That’s Justin’s tongue-in-cheek comment on what he wanted to happen after unsubscribing from a vendor’s email list today – only to find out it would take 10 days for the unsubscribe to occur. Sarcasm aside, that’s a personal touch not unlike the list above refers to…

Making it personal at BusyMac

World's Favorite Sport

If you live in Northwest Montana, you know that one of the things we “cling to” is high school sports.

I live in Columbia Falls, a town of about 4500 people. Our arch rival is Whitefish, a town of about 6000 people.

While our towns are changing, Columbia Falls has historically been the blue collar industrial hub of Northwest Montana, with several lumber mills and a large aluminum plant (now closed). Whitefish, on the other hand, started off as a lumber and railroad town and transformed itself over the last 70 years into a ski resort town that has become known for the ski mountain, palatial lake homes – as well as the railroad depot.

Both towns are changing as the economy (and our country) has changed over the last 20 years. Today, both towns are homes to technology, public relations, marketing and/or internet-related firms with national and/or international markets.

But one thing hasn’t changed. The rivalry between the high school teams.

Making a connection

All of this sets up the story for an email I received yesterday.

Due to a setting in Google Calendar, I was having a problem with syncing Google calendars with calendar software on my Mac, which is called “BusyCal”.

I emailed the company and thanks to a handy option in the software they provide, some diagnostic info about my calendar was sent to their support staff.

A short time later, I received an email with instructions to check a few things.

The email closed with this comment:

It could also be that you are from Columbia Falls and we’ve designed the product to specifically notice that and cause issues. Moving to Whitefish will solve all your problems… (Whitefish, Class of ’83…)

Regards,

-Kirk
support@busymac.com

With this brief comment at the end of an already helpful email, Kirk has taken our connection from a brief, distant tech support relationship to a friendly rivalry.

It’s a great illustration of how simple it is to create a real connection with a client.

Business is Personal.

Think about how you and your staff can create personal connections with your clients.

UPDATE: 3 days after posting this column, the Columbia Falls Wildcats won their 4th state boys basketball title in 9 years. A month earlier, the Columbia Falls Wildcat Speech/Debate team won their 11th state title since 1991 and their 6th in a row. While it’s “only sports”, there are important lessons being learned in Columbia Falls about what it takes to succeed – even outside the classroom.

Little things lend quality to a welcome

Last weekend, we took a trip to Oregon to get our youngest son registered for fall classes at Pacific U.

During the lonnnng drive (it’s about 10 hours each way) from Montana past Portland, a few things about processes brought me back to our talk about QuickBooks and my own process improvement from last week.

What kept tweaking my “slight edge” nerve during the trip was that I was reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” for the first time. If you haven’t read it, one of the constants of the book is the impact of quality in one’s life, work, thought, psyche and in fact, quality’s impact on almost everything. I found it a fascinating read and something I really hadn’t expected.

The teachings of the book aside, one thing that stood out during the trip was the difference between my admission at a large state college years ago (too many) and today’s at a small, private university.

Shake and Sign

Each student begins their stay at the U via a personal face-to-face with the University president during new student orientation just before their first semester begins. During this time, the new student shakes hands with the president and signs into a book where all prior students have signed in.

This “shake and sign” event fires psychological triggers relating to commitment, group membership, and the beginning of a process that comes with what likely feels like a personal obligation to a new mentor to complete it. When the student graduates, only then do they sign out – by that time, they’re only leaving campus. The relationship to the school is fully vested by that time.

The process of starting school is transformed. For most, it’s a group event with potentially impersonal “herding” of hundreds (or in my case, thousands) of new freshman through all the processes typical of orientation and starting college.

Turning that into something very personal to each student is simply brilliant.

Personal. Individual. Welcoming. Obligation.

It created an experience like those that Walt Disney focused on: one that you had to tell someone else about.

How do you welcome new customers?

15 seconds: The difference between so-so and …

Measurement
Creative Commons License photo credit: maessive

Today is about setting expectations.

When you go into a doctor’s office, most people figure they’ll wait 10-15 minutes whether it makes any sense or not.

If that doctor’s office happens to be an OBGYN, you can reasonably expect that it might be 10 minutes or 3 hours, which goes with the OB part of the territory.

The leg, again

So yesterday, I went back to the doc to get that spider bite thing looked at (again, I’ll spare you the photos). After waiting 10-15 minutes to get the standard temp/bp and probing questions, I somehow managed to find a way to wait for 30 minutes before seeing a doc.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore, I had to poke my head out and ask where ye old doc was.

Why, he’s right outside my door, finishing up some paperwork from the prior client. He looks up, smiles and says “Sorry, had a little crisis, but I’ll be in to see you in just a moment.”

Had Blood Pressure Boy (sorry, don’t recall his name) stuck his head in the door and said “hey, we’ve got a little crisis down the hall, it might be 20-30 minutes before the doc can see you”, expectations are set and reasonably so. I’d sit there and watch “History of the electric light bulb” on the History Channel and be all mellow and such.

Silence, on the other hand, just has me sitting there stewing as I stare at a swollen, red leg wondering if everyone went out for happy hour or over to Costco to taste a few samples.

15 seconds: the time it would have taken for someone to poke their head in and set expectations.

Power to the people

Over the weekend, we had a bunch of wind push over a tree onto the power poles just down the road. 1 pole got creamed, which put tension on the one in front of my drive. It ended up badly cracked. 6 hours without power.

When telephone poles get creamed by falling trees on my road, I expect the power to go out…just not randomly for 3 to 6 hours each day for 4 days.

Yesterday, I walked out to see if they were going to change both poles that day (not sure) and they volunteered that the power would be out for several hours in the afternoon. That allowed me to schedule around the power situation without a loss of time, productivity and so on.

Today, they showed up again. One of the trucks is parked on the road in front of my place.

It might have taken 2 minutes to walk down the drive, knock on the door and say “hey, we’re taking the power down in about 10 minutes and it’ll be down for several hours”.

But that didn’t happen.

Mid-morning, the power went out without warning.

Now, I knew that it was going to go out sometime during the day,  but not when. The effort to share that tidbit would have saved me no time (due to short-term UPS batteries protecting my gear), but it would have let me prepare my schedule around it.

The slight edge, again

It’s not a huge deal, but it’s one of those slight edge things that great businesses do for their customers.

  • “Hey, we’ve got a crisis in room 11. It might be 30 minutes before the doc can see you. Would you like a cup of water or something?”
  • “Hey, we’re cutting the power in 10 minutes and it’ll be down for several hours, just a heads up in case you need to shut down computers or something.”
  • “Hey, it’ll be 2 weeks before I can get to your mower, will you need it before then? If so, stop by and I’ll give you a loaner.”
  • “Hey, there’s a rebate on that item, better take this form with you. May as well save a few bucks where you can.”
  • “Did you know that our clients who sell this item sell 20% more if they present it this way? Might give it a try if you can.”

You get the idea.

Expectations can change in a mere 15 seconds. So can your entire relationship with a client.

How do you keep up?

momentum
Creative Commons License photo credit: fazen

How do you keep up?

I was speaking to a group of small business owners the other day about websites and (to their surprise) mobile technology and how it should affect their internet strategy – or at least, provoke them to have one.

After (probably) scaring them a bit, that was the last question I was asked: “How do you keep up?”

Meaning – how is a small business owner who has to deal with sales, marketing, managing their staff, sweeping the floor, doing the books, promoting their business on Talk Like a Pirate Day and 117 other things – how does THAT person keep up with all that stuff, let alone have their fingers on the pulse of all this new mobile technology, their website, etc?

And how do they manage to find the time to keep their website updated?

If you don’t, you’re training your customers to not visit it.

Additional question I might hear from coaching clients: How do I keep up with all that stuff, plus the things you suggest that I should be doing???

Short answer: You don’t keep up with it all. So don’t sweat it.

Long answer: If it was easy, anyone could do it. Keep reading.

But what provoked the question?

Perhaps the fear of the unknown or the huge amount of change I laid in front of them.

One

So how do you keep up?

You really don’t. One thing adds to another thing, adds to another thing.

That’s one of the reasons my email newsletter signs off with “Do at least one thing today to get, or keep, a client.”

Set aside a little bit of time every single day, just like you do to work out, play golf, relax with a hot cuppa and the paper, and so on.

Put this “one thing a day” time in your calendar. The earlier in the day, the better. That way the crisis of the moment doesn’t come along and knock you off the rails.

  • Maybe today you spend 15 minutes writing 2 blog posts, or an email for your email newsletter.
  • Or you contact (or delegate it) 1 customer a day who hasn’t spent money with you lately.
  • Or you contact your newest customer and ask them what they think about what you’re doing for them and why they chose you. Keep going in reverse order till you get to the customer you’ve had the longest.
  • Or you contact the customer you’ve had the longest and ask them why they still use you. Again, keep going in reverse order till you get to your first customer.
  • Or you read a chapter from a marketing, strategy, operations, social media (etc) book. Or a blog that offers similar assistance.

One thing a day. Same way you eat an elephant.

Then what?

If these things start getting traction, maybe they get more than 15 minutes a day. Maybe you hire someone to do them, or delegate them to a staffer you already have. Or you do less of the stuff that isn’t really having an impact. Or you automate what you can of the tasks that are now paying off. Or the ones you can’t stop doing that don’t appear to be making a difference.

Maybe you ask each department (if you have them) to do the same thing. Or you ask each of your employees.

Do one thing a day. 5 minutes, 15 minutes, whatever you can manage at first.

When you push water from 211 degrees F to 212 degrees F, amazing things happen.

One thing a day may be all it takes for your business to do the same kind of thing.

Once you spawn a culture of continuous improvement, hang on tight.

22 things you dont know about your customers’ web viewing habits

Today’s guest post is from Ian over at Conversation Marketing and talks about little things you need to know about the folks who visit your site.

These kinds of things hit close to home here at Business is Personal. Little tweaks make a big difference.

What are 22 things (at least) that you dont know about your customers’ website viewing habits?

Most of us want people to stay on our site for as long as possible.

These 22 things are the kinds of things that drive them off.

Is your business ready to boil?

Sometimes the edge between success and floundering is quite small.

At 211 degrees F, water doesn’t boil at sea level. At 212 degrees F, it does. It’s that way in business as well.

By now, you’ve heard the story about the Nobel Peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus, a former economics professor in Bangladesh. He provided microloans to entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. Doesnt sound like that big of a deal….UNTIL you know the details.

steam
photo credit: dsasso

In 1974, he was visiting a small native village and after talking to one of the villagers, discovered they made and sold bamboo stools for a living. Problem was, they had to borrow in order to buy their daily supply of bamboo.

The loan amount? About US$0.25. Yep, a quarter. Unfortunately, almost none of them had a quarter. With their small daily profit and tiny loan amounts, no bank would consider a loan to them.

Instead, they had to borrow from the US equivalent of “loan sharks”, who charged extremely high interest, resulting in debts the village businesspeople were unable to pay off.

With the debt the villagers were carrying, they were stuck in financial quicksand. Unable to make progress, and unable to borrow from normal sources in order to help themselves out of their situation.

Yunus started asking around and found that the total debt for the entire village was $27.

$27. Now *that’s* a slight edge.

Everyone reading this likely has $27 in their wallet or purse and thinks little of it. To these villagers, it may as well have been $27000 or 27 million – because they didn’t have it.

As you might have guessed, Yunus paid off their debt out of his pocket, enabling the entrepreneurs to turn their situation positive, generate a profit and pay him back.

That small act created microcredit…which was the basis of his Nobel Prize.

Little things do make a difference, and that’s the whole principle behind the slight edge.

What’s the little thing keeping your business from boiling?