Give’em a “Gimmee”

Sure, you sell a product or service, but beyond that, what do you really sell? You have customers who return to you for more of your products and services. Why do they return?

When I ask my coaching clients, I’ve received many different responses mostly centered on expertise, convenience, service, and price / value. Obviously, there isn’t one right answer, and it’s a combination of these attributes but, assuming that a company is competitive in these areas, there’s one attribute that overrides them all. It’s an attitude that the company is there to highly satisfy their customer. Giving them a “Gimmee” is a very effective, inexpensive, and impressive way to show your purpose of highly satisfying your customers so they wouldn’t think of possibly defecting from you to a competitor.

You sell your expertise. You sell your knowledge of that product or service. You sell your ability to understand your customers’ need for your product and how to help them benefit from purchasing it.

So, if what you really sell is your personal knowledge, how do you impress upon your prospects that you have that expertise? Many companies successfully “Give’em a Gimmee.” They give prospects and clients a little bit of that expertise and specialized knowledge, free (along with some advertising material or a special promotion.)

  • A mortgage broker gives clients a pamphlet about various financing strategies – free.
  • An insurance agent offers a competitive analysis – free.
  • An investment adviser holds free retirement-planning workshops – free.
  • A painting contractor does a one-hour touch-up service on the five-year anniversary of their painting service – free.
  • An automotive garage does a short safety check and washes your car – free.
  • A family law attorney will review a will, five years after writing it to see if there are changes needed – free.
  • An industrial manufacturer gives basic semi-annual safety inspections – free.

Are any of these free actions actually free? Of course not. But the expense of giving them is minimal compared to the cost of the product / service they sell, and it is thought of as part of their marketing effort.

Of course, the logic of giving away a little bit of knowledge and expertise is that prospects will be impressed with your willingness to share, your accessibility, the extra value that goes with their product and service, and your professionalism

In a world of “me too” where almost every competitor looks alike, where there is little or no differentiation, “Giving a Gimmee” illustrates your customer service attitude and creates a difference!

Question or comment to Larry:

Toot Your Own Horn

Whether you get your news online, through broadcast, or in print, I’m sure you have seen articles about various companies, products, or people – the latest technology widget, a TV or movie star and what they think about something, a better mousetrap, or a new service; how a company handled a challenge, a new office opening, or some other newsworthy event.  Did you wonder how that information got to you?

While you are pondering that question, realize that very often the same story appears in multiple outlets at the same time… and it isn’t a coincidence.  It’s much the same with a single celebrity story being published in multiple supermarket tabloids.

I can almost guarantee you that a hard-working journalist wasn’t out beating the bushes looking for an interesting story to write.  Be assured, it didn’t happen by chance.  Getting news out about a person, a company, or a product public is both a science and an art.

Large companies have Public Relations staff or use the services of an agency.  Celebrities have publicists.  There are also some agencies that work for smaller companies.  OK, you are not a celebrity or a powerhouse large company, but still many small companies are successful at “tooting their own horn” through their own persistence and hard work.  They don’t wait for the media to come to them.  They toot their own horn!

  • They network and find out who to send their news to.
  • They present their news in a well-written, finished form that the media can use intact or easily put into a readable piece.
  • They present their story as news rather than an advertisement.
  • The information is complete with names, addresses, phone numbers, and a person to contact for more information.
  • They write their story with spin to create curiosity or a unique solution to a known problem or challenge.
  • Their news is written in plain, but powerful, language without acronyms (unless written for a tech audience).
  • They create multiple submissions and send them out often because they know that editors are busy and are not sitting and waiting for your release to land in their inbox.

If you want to get news about you, your company, or your products and services in the media, develop your compelling, curiosity-creating, solution-driven stories, and then get started tooting your own horn yourself because no one will do it for you. Then, start playing that beautiful music.

Question or comment to Larry:

99.9% Satisfaction… Good Enough?

Survey form with a tick placed in Outstanding checkbox.

The person who shrugged and said, “Well you can’t please everybody” probably thinks that 99% satisfaction is good enough… but is it?

If 99.9% was good enough, then:

  • Two airliners would crash every day.
  • The IRS would lose 2 million documents a year.
  • Thousands of prescriptions for medicine would be the wrong dosage, wrong count, or even the wrong medicine each day.
  • A thousand telephone calls would be misdirected every minute.
  • 99.9% quality assurance translates into one fault for every 1000 tries, and that’s just not good enough.

If you want to meet customer satisfaction goals that translate into growing the business, you will have to do better. Don’t shrug and mumble about that one-tenth of one percent. Track errors. Set error elimination goals. Structure or systemize error elimination review. Work to eliminate errors completely.

A “Customer Satisfaction Improvement” project would look something like this:

  1. Discover points of customer dissatisfaction.
  2. Define these points – make them as specific as possible.
  3. Measure and rank frequency of dissatisfaction – which are most common / easiest to overcome / etc.
  4. Create projects to overcome these points of dissatisfaction.
  5. Prioritize primary projects to overcome dissatisfaction – which to tackle first, second, etc.
  6. Create task forces, timelines, and budgets for the top prioritized projects.
  7. Develop a process to measure progress.
  8. As projects succeed, add new projects to overcome secondary points of dissatisfaction.

Obviously, this eight-point list is overly-simplified, but it is an outline of the process. You will want to customize it to fit your company, your limitations, your products, and your customer base and their expectations

The goal of most marketing is to make the customer or prospect feel they are getting either perceived or measurable added-value, not 99.9% value. That means giving customers 100% accuracy, quality, and value 100% of the time and then adding a little more value to that.

Customers today have many choices and they can buy the products and services you sell from companies all over the globe. They no longer have geographic limitations and need to buy from only their local sphere. Customers will choose 100% satisfaction over “good enough” every time. It is that tenth of a percentage point that makes the big difference. Make 100% satisfaction a marketing goal in your business, then add some value to that, and 100% of your customers will be back.

Question or comment to Larry:

Got a Good Joke? Keep it to Yourself!

In a social gathering, many people often joke. They may kid one another while enjoying an evening together with friends, food, and beverage. We are relaxed among friends, just kidding around. But that’s the social world. The business world is certainly not the same as a social gathering. In a business environment, we might gather over the proverbial water cooler and talk shop. Humor has a place in business, but you have to be careful not to offend.

You have probably heard many jokes that started, “There was this Rabbi, a Priest, and a Minister having lunch together…” right? Some of these are funny, others are dull, and some are downright vulgar depending on your sensitivity or point of view… and these days some people are very sensitive, critical, and quick to explode and take offense.

A joke in a comedy club or on late night television might cause the audience to become hysterical with laughter while the same joke at a conference table or break room can cause hysteria too, but this type of hysteria may cause someone to talk to Human Resources, an owner, or supervisor. People have been fired or disciplined over insensitive or misplaced humor.

The problem of humor in business is that everyone has some sensitive issues in their psyche and the jokester does not know who is sensitive to which issues, or even what those issues might be. Many people are touchy about religion, gender, identity, racial, political, and national origin issues and can be easy to offend. The offended party might not act offended, they might just laugh along with the joke, but then take their business elsewhere or feel that the jokester is an insensitive, offensive boob and not want to work for or with that person.

This is an age where “political correctness” is or can be a contentious issue and seemingly everyone is sensitive to perceived slights, even though the person telling a joke or making a comment is probably innocently trying to entertain, others may feel put down in some manner.

Business isn’t a barbecue in the backyard or out on the deck. Co-workers or customers are not family or friends. The goals of business are different from our social goals. Some people are easy to offend and easy to anger, so work at being less of a comedian and more sensitive to feelings of others. It’s good business.

Did you hear the one about????

Question or comment to Larry:

Does One Size Fit All?

The best salespeople are good amateur psychologists.  They are able to quickly assemble a mental profile of their prospect’s personality to better understand the issues that prospect is facing.  These salespeople / psychologists are often described as “good judges of people.”  How do they do that?

They observe the prospect – their dress, accessories, and hygiene.  They listen to speech pattern, inflection, vocabulary, and accent.  They read body language… all in an instant.  They know that, in many cases, one size does not fit all.

After a few moments of a personal encounter, the best salespeople have a fairly accurate understanding of the social, demographic, economic, family and value issues facing the prospect.  They can then ask probing questions based on these assumptions, to then offer features and benefits designed to appeal to that individual prospect.

Are the profile assumptions always right?  No, but they are usually close.  As the conversation goes on, the salesperson is constantly modifying the profile.

  • Does the prospect for athletic shoes want to just look like an athlete or actually play the game better?
  • Does the middle-aged couple who is looking for a home need living space for their children or for occasional visits from their grandchildren?
  • Does the prospective buyer of industrial equipment need long-term multi-year reliability or is their need temporary?
  • Does the owner of a car in need of mechanical work plan on driving long distances at high speeds or just for a three-mile commute?

In each of the above scenarios, the “one size fits all” salesperson will probably lose the sale or do a disservice to their prospect if they misread the prospect’s needs and wants.  A good amateur psychologist-salesperson should be able to make the proper suggestions based on what they discover about the needs and wants of the customer. 

  • A $200 pair of athletic shoes might be appropriate for a young competitive athlete but not for a middle-aged three-hundred pounder (unless there is a style or ego issue involved).
  • A 700-horsepower car is probably inappropriate for grocery-getting excursions.
  • Few people looking to buy a studio condominium have three young children.

Informed salespeople have a big advantage.  Either they discover that the product or service fits their prospect’s needs and wants, or they find that they are wasting time and go on to find a better fit between buyer and seller.

One size certainly does not fit all!

Want a Larger Piece of the Pie?

At a recent family gathering, my cousin Ann, known among those seated at the table as “dessert-maker extraordinaire,” cut her delicious-looking (and tasting) apple pie into equal-sized pieces and served it.  Everyone smiled as wedges of the fragrant, just-warmed delicacy were passed out, but I think each of us around the table, we were hoping for a little larger piece of pie.

Same thing in business.  Everyone wants a larger slice of the pie!

That’s what we call “Market Share.”  The pie is the total size of our marketplace we sell to, and our share is usually expressed as the percentage our sales are compared to the total.

Market Share is one of the battlefields large companies fight over, but most small businesses brush it off as “only important to the big guys.”  However, with a little digging for information, it can be just as important to you.  Knowing your approximate market share will create insight into the potential for growth and can help define your marketing strategy.

No matter what you sell, you should be able to discover the approximate size of your market.  Accurate market size figures are available from census reports and industry statistics.  Even if little information is available, you can make reasonable estimates and extrapolations based on your knowledge and experience in your geographic or industry marketplace.

Answer these simple questions:  How many widgets (whatever you sell) do you estimate will be sold in the marketplace you serve?  How many widgets will you sell this year?  Divide answer 2 by answer 1 and that percentage is your Share of the Market.

If you discover you dominate your marketplace, there might not be much room for growth, which means that, in order to grow, you’ll need to increase either your geographical reach or the number of products/services you sell, or you’ll need to discover another avenue to increase demand in order to boost potential sales.  If you have a small share, there is real potential if you can get noticed, so strategize to build a larger customer base.

In order to keep peace in a familyyou shouldn’t steal a couple forks of pie off your sister-in-law’s plate, but those family or social rules don’t apply to capturing business.  A new website, a different method of packaging your product or service, an aggressive pricing strategy, and a changed sales presentation are all strategies to get you a larger slice of the market, but it starts by discovering your current share and creating the strategies to improve.

Question or comment to Larry:

Don’t Make Dum Promotional Misteaks

One’s perception of a business is only as good as the image presented by the business itself, the promotional material their customers and prospects see on websites, print advertising, signs, vehicles, brochures, even business cards.  Yet, all too often, what they show the public are dum misteaks.

A bank closed a branch office two years ago, yet that old address is still printed in advertisements – dum!  How can their customers be confident their money is safe and know that their interest and fees are accurately reported on their accounts?

A salesperson has a new cell phone number or email address yet is still giving out business cards with the old information – a dum savings of a few dollars that could lose a hefty commission when the client can’t reach the salesperson.

A computer consultancy printed a brochure six years ago and still uses it without any revisions.  It is sadly out of date since many of the technologies promoted have been replaced in the marketplace by newer, faster products – dum!  If any business needs to be up-to-date with their promotional material, it is this one!

A contract manufacturer’s website touts that they use the latest technology, and it was the latest when the site was created back in 2013, but the photos now show an outmoded facility; just updating a few photos would make a much better impression – dum!

A catering company printed a menu to give to prospects with two typographical errors and one misspelling, yet they haven’t replaced it – how can their customers be confident that the chef can read a recipe?  Dum!

This week, take a few moments to do a communications audit.  Gather everything that your company shows the public.  Is the information current?  Is it error-free?  Should anything be updated?  Assign two or more people to proof-read (spelling errors, accurate phone, URL’s, addresses, names, etc.) on each communication device.  [HINT – when proof-reading, read word-by-word backward, starting at the end of the documents, so the context is removed and only the words are read.]

Once your communications are checked to see if all the information is current and revised, as needed, make an entry in your calendar for another communications audit in six months to ensure that your clients and prospects do not see your new dum misteaks.  Also, please don’t send me an email telling me that I’ve made a bunch of dum misteaks… I’m just checking to make sure you’re reading!

Question or comment to Larry:

Ohmygosh… That Gorilla Weighs 800 Pounds!

If it hasn’t happened to your industry yet, be assured that it will.  The 800-pound gorilla will come after you.  It will sit anywhere it wants, maybe right next to your business, and try to push you off the bench.

It happened to the toy stores, and the gorilla was named Toys R Us. And now, a new and bigger gorilla is working hard to push Toys R Us out of the marketplace.  It happened to the local pharmacy, and the gorilla was named Walgreen’s or CVS.  It happened to the local diner, the local bookstore, the video rental, the local department store, the employment agency, the tax preparer, and just about every type of business imaginable.  It’s only a matter of time until that gorilla comes after your industry and after you!

Sure, there are still a few local toy stores, bookstores, diners, etc., but in order to survive they must be very good at what they do, and they must market aggressively because the gorilla is good at doing what you do, and it has a great marketing department with an advertising budget much larger than yours.  It also has a large headquarters and regional staff of trained experts at all of its business functions – purchasing, production, human resources, bookkeeping, design, inventory control, logistics, and management. 

How can you compete, survive, and prosper against that gorilla?  You can’t continue to do business the way you’ve done it for years, that’s for sure! 

You do it by taking advantage of your local knowledge, knowing your customers, and your industry.  You build on your strengths by making them stronger and minimizing your weaknesses.  You do it by working to elevate your company’s skills and better professionalize your staff to please your customers and anticipate their needs.  You do it by creating and developing services, programs, and customized efforts to please them in ways the gorilla can’t, because of its size and scale.

How do you become more aggressive with a limited budget?  You start by thinking hard about how you market, who you market to, how best to inform and excite your prospects, and develop a planned attack to impress your targeted market.  If you do all that, you may survive and even prosper when that gorilla comes after your customers as it certainly will.  Following all that, you must work at constantly improving because, if you beat that gorilla today, be assured it will be back.

Question or comment to Larry:

Of Carrots and Added Value

Most products or services are like carrots – a commodity.  Every so often, a company with vision, creativity, or just dumb luck, takes a commodity and turns it into a differentiated, value-added product… and customers get addicted to it.

For an example of a differentiated, value-added product, let’s talk about carrots.  Specifically, those bags of miniature, peeled, ready-to-eat carrots for sale at the supermarket at a substantially higher price over normal, “you-peel-em-and-cut-em” carrots.

For those of us on a “healthy eating” regimen (trying to control my waistline here!), those carrots have become almost as binge-worthy as a sack of salty potato chips, and once I got addicted to them, I found it so much more convenient that they were unpeeled and cut, that the extra cost was offset by the ease of use.

These carrots are no longer normal vegetables.  By being cleaned, cut and peeled, they have been transformed into a healthy snack.  They don’t compete with broccoli and green peppers for a place in your salad; they compete with potato chips and popcorn for your “munchie” cravings.

Consider the products and services you sell.  What can you do to make your customers rely on your products and services?  How can you add value and differentiate them like the carrots? 

  • Can you create a “Club” that offers extra services?  If you do it right, you can even charge for membership, like Amazon does with Prime.)
  • Can you give them extra advice or personal service that they can’t get elsewhere?
  • Can you give them preferred appointment times, better seats, the desired table, the “complimentary” little gift?  (Like the car dealer that washes your car for free?  Like the tire store that will check inflation levels at no charge?)

Online retailers have been tripping over themselves to offer extra-value services at little or no cost, working to get us addicted to their pricing, convenience, andselection.  That battle is intensifying and continuing to put more and more brick and mortar stores out of business unless they fight back aggressively.

Unless you can figure out how to make your clients addicted to your company, your products and services look just like those undifferentiated bunches of carrots in the grocery –  yes, they are great as cooking ingredients, but not so great as snacks.  Today, no matter what you sell, your customers want more – more convenience, more speed, more style, and more safety, and they are often willing to pay more for these “mores” if you can figure it out.

Question or comment to Larry:

Watch the Film Again and Strategize!

The Super Bowl is just one week away, and sports fans everywhere are tuning up their grills, ironing their game jerseys, and fluffing the pillows on the comfy couch preparing for the big game.  It’s also time to make yet anotherbusiness / sports analogy.

Football has often been called a “game of inches.”  It is also a game of sleuthing for knowledge, creating strategy, and tactics designed to maximize competitive advantages and minimize competitive weaknesses.

I’m sure, at this very moment, the coaching staffs of both contending football team are preparing for next week’s game by looking at game-films of their opponent.

  • Does their running back 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 to defend against and weaknesses they can exploit, and from that knowledge, they create what in footballthey call a “game plan.”  In business, we do much the same thing by preparing a “Competitive Analysis” and an “Action Plan.”

Your business competes against many opponents, even whole industries.  We compete on price, service, location, culture, quality, design, and negotiation skills, just like the football team competes against their opponents on blocking, tackling, kicking, and passing.  To win in your league, you must perform the same type of analysis that football teams do and develop the same type of plan: 

  • If your opponent can deliver in three weeks, can you deliver in two?
  • If they offer a 90-day warranty, can you offer one for six months, a year, or five years?
  • If their price includes assembly, can yours include assembly and delivery?
  • If they offer free shipping, can you offer free shipping plus free shipping on returns?
  • If they offer attractive accommodations, can you offer luxury accommodations?
  • If they offer low prices, can you develop strategies to reduce your costs and offer better value?
  • If they use a cute jingle or tagline, can you create more memorable, more focused communications?

Gaining a competitive edge requires knowing what the competition offers, and that requires a little sleuthing.  Read their advertising, look at their website, and become a customer and see how you are treated.  From your “Competitive Analysis” you can develop a winning “Game Plan”, just like the Pros in the NFL. 

During halftime in the big game, while coaches are modifying their game plans in the locker rooms, instead of grabbing another handful of chips, think for a moment about how you might modify your Action Plan to win during your big game tomorrow.

Question or comment to Larry: