Do All Your Job

Welcome Back stars and swirlsOK, the prospect purchased it, you delivered it and got paid so you did your job… and you feel good about the transaction… but there might be (and should be) a nagging feeling deep down in your gut… will your customer come back and refer others?   Doing your job (what the customer paid for) is really doing only part of your job.  If you are to succeed you have to do more.  You have to do your entire job.
Every business has three primary functions:

  1. Getting the business
  2. Delivering whatever the client bought
  3. Administering the backroom business functions

A big part of #1 (Getting the Business) after you’ve gotten the first sale is to demonstrate your uniqueness, your commitment to service, your ability and desire to provide future products and services to your customers and inducements, appropriate to your industry and relationship, to make them want to return to you instead of seeking a better deal elsewhere.
It’s called, in marketing terms, a Customer Retention Strategy, and just delivering what they paid for isn’t enough.  Your competitors are always trying to seduce your clients away, so you are in an ongoing battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of the valuable people and businesses that buy your products and services.
If you don’t regularly remind them about who you are, what you did for them, and why they should come back, then you did not complete your job.  The other part of your job is impressing your customer enough, so they remember to come back to you the next time they are in the market.  If you don’t constantly work at strengthening your relationship with them, while others are plying them with plenty of offers and promises, you are not doing all of your job.
Your customers have to deal with a complex world, beset with conflicting priorities, schedules, and budgets.  It isn’t their obligation to remember you when they next need your product or service, even though you fulfilled your side of the contract to their satisfaction.  It is your obligation to do more, to capture and retain part of their memory.
Doing your job, doing it well, and retaining your customer for next time is your whole job.  Intentionally build a Customer Relationship Strategy to ensure your clients remain your clients.  Do all of it well and they will come back again and again… That’s your whole job!

Question or comment to Larry:

Watch the Film Again to Win

The coaching staff of every football team starts preparing for the next game by looking at game-films of their next opponent.

  • Does their fullback prefer to turn right or left?
  • Is their kicker accurate from 50 yards?
  • Is their star blocker still injured?

Over and over they review the film, looking for strengths they will need, strategies to defend against, and weaknesses they can exploit.  In marketing terms, they prepare both a “Competitive Analysis” and an “Action Plan” which they call a “Game Plan.”

Of course, this competitive analysis isn’t limited to football; it exists in all sports at just about every level, political campaigns, and in just about every other competitive situation including in every type of business.

Your business, like the football team, competes against an opponent, and today, with the almost universal ability of your customers and prospects to search the internet, you are competing against businesses world-wide.  To succeed, you must perform the same type of analysis; develop the same type of plan:

  • If they can deliver in three weeks, can you deliver in two?
  • If they offer a 90-day warranty, can you offer one for six months?
  • If their price includes assembly, can yours include assembly and delivery?
  • If their price is $X, can you offer a lower price or savings of some kind?
  • If they have a well-trained, friendly and knowledgeable staff, can your staff be better?

Gaining a competitive edge requires knowing what the competition offers, and that requires a little sleuthing.  Read their advertising to see what they are offering, look at their website and measure their site’s ease of navigation, become a customer and see how you are treated. 

Start exploiting your strengths and pound home your messages of superiorities.  Start identifying your weaknesses and institute strategies of turning weaknesses into strengths (lemonade from lemons?).  Start working to upgrade your staff’s friendliness, knowledge, and helpfulness.  Then start monitoring the effectiveness of your efforts to become more competitive and tweak those that are working and modify those that still are not having the desired effect.  That’s what the football team does in the locker room at halftime to turn momentum onto their side, and you can also do it.

If you use a “Competitive Analysis” you can develop a winning “Game Plan” just like the Pros in the NFL, but realize that the companies you compete against are doing the same thing. So, add the option of flexibility into your Plan.

Question or comment to Larry:

Git Along Little Doggie… Git Along

Cow with Company BrandsBack in the Old West, once a year, after new calves were born, the cowpokes would gather the herd for a “Round-up” where they would “Brand” every calf.  The purpose of branding was to show differentiation (ownership) of these valuable cattle.  The Brand states, “even though this cow looks pretty much like any other cow, it isn’t any other cow, so keep your hands off.”  Branded cattle are unique cattle, not commodity cattle.  The ranch owners went to considerable trouble and expense to differentiate their cattle by branding, and it was worth the effort.

Creating a brand today is just as important, just as expensive, and just as difficult. And, just like with cattle, it does pay off.  Creating a brand is the next step above establishing a business or creating a product or service.  The brand is the mark of pride, the mark of difference, and sometimes it’s the only tangible reason the buyer has to pick one particular vendor from the pack of look-a-like competitors.

If you don’t believe me, take a walk through a supermarket.  Look at the packaged chickens.  They all look pretty much the same, at least to me.  In many, if not most markets, there are both branded and unbranded ones.  To me, the only difference is that branded ones are more expensive.

Now, in most circumstances, there would be no reason for a customer to purchase the more expensive package over the lower cost one if the contents are identical.  But even though the contents look identical, the marketer has worked hard to make their brand stand out and to convince the shopper that there is a good reason to spend more and prefer the branded bird.

Look at the line-up of TV’s in an electronics store.  I think that, if you exchanged brands between different ones, no one would know the difference, yet people have developed brand loyalties and will buy the brand they prefer.

A well-marketed brand is the reason why buyers come back rather than go elsewhere because it makes your product or service unique.  Branding is an important communication tool to impress your customers and prospects with a difference and the reason why they should return.

How can you translate your commodity-company, products, and services into branded, differentiated, preferred products and services?  If you work at it and develop your brand(s) so your points of differentiation stand for something, your “cow” will stand out from the herd.

Question or comment to Larry:

Don’t Be Shy… Just Ask (if they trust you)

questionnaireWouldn’t it be great if you knew what your customers and prospects wanted, why they wanted it, when they wanted it, and even what they expected to pay?  Sure it would!  It would give you a treasure trove of marketing intelligence that you could use to attract new customers and satisfy your current ones.

Well you could hire a spy I suppose, but I don’t know where you would find one. So without going to the expense (I don’t think they come cheaply) and effort of hiring an international spy, how do you get that information?  Simple, you just ask.

A New Jersey Real Estate brokerage sent a questionnaire to 75,000 households asking about their plans for moving in the future:  Are they planning to move soon?  When?  Where will they be moving?  What do they want in a new home?

Within a month they received future home buying (and selling) plans of about 1500 households.  They have a huge lead on their competition to attract listings to sell homes and prospects who want to buy homes.  All they did was ask the questions.

Banks and credit unions know when installment loans (example – car loans) will be paid off.  Many people will purchase their next car soon after they pay off the old one.  If they asked their customers their automotive purchasing plans they could dangle a promotion in front of them to renew those loans.

The knowledge that you have, or can get, just by asking your customers can give you a head start on your competition and, in many cases, your customers will give you the answers… if you have created a trusted relationship with them and you ask in a manner that respects that relationship.

Business is there for those who have earned their customer’s trust.  Those who ask and search for marketing intelligence, and who then promote properly to those who respond, will find that selling is so much easier if you find those who want or need and all you have to do is ask.  Just work at determining who can you ask.  What can you ask them?   How can you ask them?  What form will your communications take?  How often to ask them?  What to say? 

It does take planning and some experimentation, but it’s not hard.  It just takes getting over your shyness so figure it out and do it.

Question or comment to Larry:

There Should be a Merit Badge for Sales

Boy Scout with BadgesThe Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.”  They preach and teach that motto to imbed it into the mental makeup of their members so they will be prepared for the unknowns their adult life will challenge them with.  Scouts learn to be flexible, to face and overcome challenges because they have the mental and physical preparation to extricate themselves when they are over their head and to take advantage of situations they are prepared for.

Preparation is just as important in sales as it is in scouting.  The Scout goes off into the wilderness prepared with skills and tools (knife, compass, knots, canteen, etc.) to survive the unknown.  The salesperson goes off into the business world needing skills and tools also (knowledge of the market, the prospects, presentation tools, technology, personal strong and weak points) and, just like the Scout, practices dealing with the challenges of the unknown.

The Scout faces danger from snakebite, insects, injury, inclement weather, getting lost, etc.  He practices survival skills such as first aid, map and compass reading, building shelters, and building fires with just two sticks.

The successful salesperson faces obstacles and works to overcome them by preparation, creating and developing answers for the many questions a prospect might ask, rehearsing them to overcome objections and prepares to better communicate in an understandable manner the charts, tables, and financial forecasts to parry number-crunchers and creates and practices alternative offers to counteract the tough negotiator.

Neither the Scout nor the Salesperson knows what they will encounter on the road to survival and success in the wilderness they will encounter, but if they are to be successful, they must, “Be Prepared!”  It earns Scouts the Merit Badges they proudly wear. 

Preparation earns the Salesperson more sales, and typically, higher compensation.  In some industries high achieving salespeople actually do earn a form of merit badge when they are awarded designations such as becoming members of a ”Million Dollar Roundtable” or earn a professional designation, but I’m advocating that they be recognized by their companies to further compensate them for their preparation, their ambition, drive, and persistence.

If preparation is a key to success in sales, just as it is a key to success in scouting and life, reward the high achievers who go out into their own wilderness and become better prepared.  They role play the selling situation, have learned to counter tough questions and negotiate in difficult situations.  They have earned their Merit Badges.

Question or comment to Larry:

Are You an “Insy” or an “Outsy”?

belly buttonI don’t know if there is a scientific correlation between belly-button types and personalities but casual observation tells me that belly-buttons and personality types follow the same distinctive patterns – both belly-buttons and personalities come in “insy” and “outsy” variations.

Just as there are “insy” and “outsy” belly-buttons, there are inner-directed and outer-directed personality types.  The inner-directed type gains validation and purpose from themselves (or what they think about themselves) while the outer-directed types gain validation and purpose from others (or what they think other people are thinking about them).  Please don’t bother emailing me about this, I know this is an extreme over-simplification of a complex concept but this is a short article, not a book.

Managers and marketers who understand this concept can be much more effective if they understand who they are working with or working to lead, negotiate with, and persuade. They use different techniques, different vocabulary and different media to attract or convince either type.

Outer-directed people are more brand conscious, glitterier, more aware of status and are often more emotional and subjective in their purchasing decisions. 

Inner-directed people are often disdainful of those attributes and think of themselves as more contemplative and objective.  Their purchases reflect a more austere view.

Obviously, you can’t just ask someone if they are an “insy” or an “outsy” and they might not know even if you did ask them, but you should be able to get hints by studying their mannerisms, personal style, vocabulary and syntax.  If you know the demographic group and personality type of the people you are communicating with, you should then be able to create communications that will resonate with your targeted audience.  Consider how you think they will feel when you attempt to convince them or lead them. 

As an exercise, think for a moment about the people you need to convince (either for marketing, management, or leadership purposes) and develop sales arguments, leadership scripts, or managerial conversations (depending on each individual situation) to both personality types based on how you understand what they want to get out of the things they purchase or how you expect them to respond when they are being led or managed.  Done correctly, you should have slightly different emphases on the features and benefits you illustrate.  Measure how the response changes among inner and outer-directed people.

If you get it right, you will become an equal opportunity belly button and personality communicator.

Question or comment to Larry:

Customer Defections… 68% Attitude Problems

Grumpy employeeSeveral years ago, the American Society for Quality Control ran a survey quantifying the reasons why companies lose customers.  The survey showed that 68% of lost customers left because they were “turned away by an attitude of indifference on the part of a company employee.”  The second reason for customer defection was “dissatisfaction with the product or service” which was mentioned by only 14%.  

Customer Defection Reason #1 – Attitude of Indifference – 68%
Customer Defection Reason #2 – Dissatisfaction with Product or Service – 14%

Realize that almost five times more customers leave because of bad human relations than leave from product / service problems.  Maybe it’s time for some attitude evaluation and adjustment at your place?

In the past month I’ve had the following experiences:

  • The person who answered the phone said “Oh, he’s on another call, I’ll ask him to phone you back,” and he never called!
  • I filled out an inquiry form on a website with a request for a quote, and never got a reply!
  • I had an appointment with a company representative who never showed up and never tried to contact me.

Note – we’re not talking about product or service quality, just the way they demonstrate their interest in serving their customers.

Companies that work to provide great customer service by instituting policies and training staff to ensure customer satisfaction grow at a faster rate than those who continually “churn” their customer base.  They have to spend more to attract new customers just to stay even.

Great Customer Service does not “just happen”.  It comes from the core of the business.  It starts with a Mission Statement and wends its way through motivation, training, inspiration, attitude, quantification, and review.  It is a planned and orchestrated process just like manufacturing is a planned process with many components and operations.  In other words, Great Customer Service is so much more than just being nice to people or the “golden rule.”

It’s a three-step planned process to continually and constantly treat customers well (or at the very least… “not badly”). 

  1. Start with a simple statement that describes how you want your customers treated.   
  2. Compare that ideal level to the current level
  3. Institute improvement policies where needed.  Create a regular measurement and reinforcement / retraining program.

What can you do to institute a program that will discover whether your staff exhibits an attitude of indifference?  The sooner you start, the fewer customers you will lose.

Question or comment to Larry:

Rotting Lumber, Rusty Hammer, Angry Dad

TreehouseI started hearing some banging and sawing and the noise of neighborhood children having serious fun a few months ago.  Curious I followed my ears into the woods near my house and found them hard at work trying to build something.  I had an immediate memory-flash back to my youth, and to my early parenting years watching my own young children.

Probably throughout the march of history, adventurous children have hiked off into the woods or behind the garage carrying hammers, nails, and lumber scraps, all “borrowed” from the family workshop.  Their minds are filled with grandiose mental images of creating a fort, pirate ship, or clubhouse.  Most of these construction projects start with a lot of banging and end with an abandoned construction site and a harried Dad looking for tools that are rusting and decaying over at the now-forgotten “Fort Apache.”

The reason for failure is typically because the little adventurers started with a mental image of whatever they wanted to build, lots of childish enthusiasm and energy, but no planning.  If they had a simple blueprint more clubhouses would actually get built.

It’s pretty much the same with most Marketing Plans.  They get started with grandiose mental images and dreams of success but very little, if anything, gets committed to paper and a formal (or semi-formal) planning process.  Just as a blueprint for a building (or a fort) starts with a goal and plan, the Marketing Plan starts with an identifiable goal.  Both the blueprint for a kid’s fort and marketing plandevelop in the same way, with foundation, position, themes, timetables, budgets, and sub-projects… all working towards the ultimate, identified end – a workable Plan.

The next time you think of starting a marketing project, stop!  Think of an unfinished, rotting Fort Apache with a rusty hammer and an angry Dad.  Then get out the paper and pencil and design the Plan first.  What specifically do you want to accomplish – maybe it’s expressed in sales volume or number of units to sell, or lost customers to reactivate, or new customers to attract.  Then develop the theme, visuals, media strategy, timetable, budget, and fulfillment strategy.

You don’t want your promotions to end up looking like that partially built fort, you want it to be a huge success that will accomplish your goals and that requires a plan.  So, instead of banging away with youthful enthusiasm, put pencil to paper and get started.

Question or comment to Larry:

Barnumize it & Make Your Events a Circus!

Back in the 1800’s P.T. Barnum earned his fame and fortune by promoting “P.T. Barnum’s Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome. The show eventually merged and became Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, famously promoted as “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

People flocked to his circuses, and they became a magnet for “Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children of All Ages!” Barnum was an amazing, legendary promoter making people think these events were bigger than life. Barnum, by dint of his imagination and unflappable ability to hype the mundane,put his stamp on business promotion that is still being used effectively today.

Using events, and turning them into circuses is one way to promote your business but to make your events successful, you should think like Barnum. He didn’t do the same, tired old thing. He made his events outstanding… he brought exotic animals, freaks, acrobats and clowns, even men being shot out of a cannon. Some of these, of course, are frowned upon today but back then they were amazingly popular.

OK, I know you don’t own a circus (though it might appear that way sometimes), but think how you can bring Barnum’s brand of fun to your businesses events?

No matter what type of business you are in, if you “Barnumize” your events you will get folks to flock to your products and services:

  • Retailers hold tent sales in the parking lot. Have a fun theme and promote the theme.
  • Home Builders have “Parade of Homes” … but this time hire mimes to act out living in them… or even get cardboard cut-outs that stand in the rooms and point out the features and benefits
  • French Restaurants celebrate Bastille Day; Chinese Restaurants celebrate Chinese New Year, Mexican Restaurants celebrate Cinco de Mayo. There’s got to be a holiday you can hang your promotion on.
  • Investment advisors hold seminars. Why not create a puppet show showing an advisor working with clients and the puppet does the explaining… ok, it’s a little hokey but investment advisors can put an audience to sleep fast.
  • Industrial companies have Plant Tours. Why not get staff to sing a welcome song, then mingle with the guests acting as ambassadors.

Barnum knew we are all attracted to exciting events and high drama so I challenge you to imitate old P.T. for a few moments and invent an event for you to attract those flocks. The list of possible events is almost endless for any business, gosh there is Founders Day, The Company Birthday, and Fourth of July if you are stuck for a theme, but I know you can find themes more germane to your market. I also know they can be enormously successful for those who expend the effort to invent and promote using thematic events.

Question or comment to Larry:

The Name is the Game!

Attentive BabyAs humans, we seem to be hard-wired to respond to our name.

Almost the first thing a new baby reacts to is the sound of its name.  That infant hears their name repeated so often it is imprinted into the child’s unconscious.  Adults respond to their name, whether printed or spoken, in exactly the same way.  We like to hear our name; we love to read it.  In fact, most people can spot their name that is embedded in a whole page of text even when turning a page as if it leaped off the page.

Try it right now with the next person you speak to.  Inject their name into a sentence and watch how their attention becomes momentarily riveted by the familiar sound.  

If you want to grab attention, address people by name when talking to them in person or on the telephone. Insert their name into the body of letters and e-mails.  Use their name in the salutation and in a post-script.  Direct Marketers embellish their advertising mailings with names of their prospects; many studies have shown that using a recipients’ name in the subject line of an email will cause a substantially higher “open rate.”    

Yes, of course, we know intellectually that our name in the subject line of aneblasted email or imprinted on an envelope of a mailed piece, or used in the salutation of a mechanically produced letter has been done in some impersonal, digital manner but humans are emotional creatures and our ego responds to, what appears to be, the personal attention given to us by the use of our name.  

Before I end this article, I must mention one potential downside to using someone’s name.  Be careful that you use their name correctly – for example, my real name is Lawrence, not Larry.  If you send me an email with “Lawrence, this is especially for you!” it is an immediate disqualification because I only use that name on legal documents, never for other uses so my emotional filter will reject that email, envelope, or phone call from a telemarketer.

Name usage, if used wisely can grab attention and build relationships with customers, prospects, and associates so I challenge you to do a little experiment to prove or disprove whether name usage increases the attention of the person(s) you are communicating with.  Work at injecting names into your written and spoken communications and see what difference it makes. Let me know what you discover.

Question or comment to Larry: