You ever hear of a Brita filter? I’ve been using one for years. I’m mostly a happy customer, except for those darn black bits of charcoal, and how dirty the water receptacle seems to get, it’s been fine. When I went to replace my old one recently, I suddenly realized how important a role perception plays in our buying decisions. I was at a Costco and automatically picked up the Brita which included 2 filters, stuck it in my cart, and assumed I would just cart off happily. Instead, I took out my iPhone and started doing some research on whether I was getting a good price.
The price search led me to discover there were a lot of really pretty Brita filters. So, suddenly, I felt like the white one in my cart was not the one I wanted, and wow, how awesome that I could march over to Target and see if they had one of them pretty ones! And, I would be willing to suck up the few dollars difference for getting only one filter, just for the shiny, pretty one I wanted. Hmmmm.
At Target, I was confronted with another problem – multiple brands of water filters. I had really only paid attention to Brita and Pur. They are everywhere.
So, my perception was: since they are everywhere, they must be the best.
Their price point is great, I can find replacement filters easily because they are in the stores I shop in, so I had almost resigned to buy one of the Brita filters, when I, out of curiosity, pulled up an article on my iPhone, intending to compare Brita and Pur. Instead, I was introduced to 3 other brands, and rankings on each! With just a little bit of research, I got thinking about WHY I buy a water filter. Not only might it not really be necessary, but if I were really buying the filter to use as a filter, Brita scored LOWEST on filtering out ALL elements concerned.
My perception changed to: I’m a sucker. I got roped in to pretty colors, and “everywhere-ness” and never even bothered to research whether I was getting what I paid for. Doh!
Through the article, I found out that I could go super high tech and measure each water droplet for crap in my water. (I knew the gimmick would wear off after one or two uses, so said no.) Or, I could get a different brand which, supposedly did more of what I paid for, and was ranked to have better tasting water. So, I went back to Costco and bought a Mavea which came with 6 filters – a year’s supply – so a better deal than the Brita AND so far, I do find the water tastes better (or I’ve been brain-washed to thinking so by that article.)
The other thing I looked at was customer ratings, of course, and a brief idea of how each company replied to complaints. I wanted to be sure that if I had any trouble with the filter, I would also be able to return it or get some help.
So, what are the lessons from this experience for marketing:
- Omnipresence Gets Results. If you want to be a go-to expert or product in your industry, you need to be as everywhere as you can. The more we see of you, the more likely we are to trust you and buy from you.
- Deliver What You Promise. Whatever it is you do or sell, make sure that if someone were to do a write-up about your product or service, it really does what you say it does, and that you deliver the results you promise.
- Ensure Customer Satisfaction. To the best of your ability, if you have unhappy customers or clients, work hard to come to a solution that helps them feel like they got what they wanted, and makes you
Want more marketing tips? Click here!
Hey, it’s high time for a video blog, don’t you think? I recently sponsored a booth at Be The Change, and one of the great lessons was how important it is to stand out. But that lesson carries into everything you do as a business owner, so here is a short video tip on how you can stand out as you market your business!
Having faith and trust in yourself is hard. It’s a lot easier to come up with all the reasons not to believe in yourself. You simply look at everything you haven’t done, why it’s taking you too long to accomplish your goals, make everyone who doesn’t believe in you either, right, and talk yourself out of all your “foolish” ideas because you don’t have time for dreams.
Faith. Trust. Vision. Belief. All of these are hard.
Last week I flew home from Orlando amidst the super rainy, stormy, cloudy weather we’ve been blessed with in the Northeast. As we began our decent into New York, we entered into thick clouds. Normal, ok. Only, they never left. We made our entire way down through the sky looking out at clouds. Just clouds. It felt like we weren’t anywhere, and we were standing still, and it was also a bit claustrophobic. There was no visibility. There was no escaping. There was just the puffiness and wisps of clouds upon clouds. I mused that it was like being in heaven, if they serve nuts and pretzels in heaven. It also at times felt like being in an insane asylum with about 100 other people in my room, minus the straight jackets…It occurred to me in that moment that this was the epitome of trust and faith. I could look out that window, build up my anxiety about what might happen, whether it was even possible to land and get into a panic, or, I could breathe, have faith that the pilot knew what he was doing, and trust that he would land the plane safely. Of course, even if the pilot knew what he was doing, I didn’t know what he was doing. Trust is not easy, but in this case, it allowed me to let go, breathe, and surrender to the possibility that everything would work out fine. Business is the same way – sometimes we have great months, sometimes we don’t. Despite all the planning we do, we might not be able to see everything that’s coming.
Faith. Trust. Vision. Belief. All of these are essential to running a successful business.
Money comes in, and money goes out, like the tide. Clients line up, and clients disappear. People love your work, people hate your work. The only possible constant in your business is you. Don’t be the tide, be the anchor. Trust that while everything around you may be in flux, you don’t have to be. Hold on to the vision of what you want your business to become even when the reality of your business looks totally different. Believe that you can reach and change your destination no matter how far away it seems. Make it normal to ride the tough moments with a deep breath.
So, how do you hold on to faith in your business during stormy moments? Here are a few ideas:
- Breathe. One of the first things we forget to do when we get stressed out is breathe. Well, obviously if we’re alive, we’re breathing, but I’m talking about conscious breathing, where you pay attention and notice your breath.
- Ground yourself. If your business is spiraling, you can often find the root of the roller-coaster swirling within yourself. The way to stop your business from feeling out of control is to first find a solid place to stand within yourself.
- Let go of the past. Whatever hasn’t been working is already done. You can’t change it, so stop beating yourself up, and accept it.
- Learn from experience. Now that you’re done feeling bad about things, you can plug into what the experience has taught you and brainstorm ideas to do things differently.
- Plan the future. Now you can draw a new path to the future you want, and have the insight to know that if you can survive once, you can do it all over again.
- Make a list. If you’re having a “famine” month after several “feast” months – it’s likely that you have simply moved your focus. Write down the activities you did the 3 months before the “feast” months, and then write down the activities you did the 3 months before a “famine” month. You will likely find that when you are in feast mode, you neglect your client outreach and marketing work because you focus, instead, on fulfilling client obligations. Make a point to ALWAYS find a way to do client outreach and marketing, no matter how meaty your month is.
Faith. Trust. Vision. Belief. All of these depend on you.
A recent experience reminded me about the power of setting intentions.
We walk around too often feeling powerless. We get lost inside the vast thoughts of our mind, listening to the words that keep us down, justifying beating ourselves up, and open to low energy to fuel this negative process.
Actually, we are very powerful beings in our business, and in our lives. I was reminded of this on my way to the park.
I was in a hurry, as I always am living in New York, and having only 15 seconds to cross the street before the light changes. I had my headphones on, was listening to my music, focused on making the green light to cross into the park, when a woman very intentionally crossed my path, stopped me, and interrupted me. I took out my headphone. She looked perplexed. She stared. I’m thinking, “Get on with it lady, I gotta make the light!” She said, with an accent, “Could you take a moment, and please explain to me, can I get the subway here?”
I looked at the light, then at her, and said, “Yes, you can, if you walk to Lexington Avenue.” She said, “How do I get there?” I looked at the light, and then at her. I pointed in the direction she needed to go, and I said, “You walk that way for 3 blocks.” Then I turned and ran off. As I ran, I saw a man in a truck look at me. I wondered if that was the woman’s son, and I had just been an ass to his mom.
What a jerk. I debated returning to the corner I met her, but knew she would be gone. Then I spent half my run beating myself up for being a complete ass. I could tell she did not really understand what I was saying or where I was directing her. I knew she spoke Spanish, and I do, too, how could I not have offered to speak Spanish? Jerk, jerk, jerk. I was sluggish in my steps, and then I decided that this was a waste of my time, and my workout.
I began to think about the opportunity I was given in that moment. It was an opportunity to be of service, and an opportunity to be present. Instead of beating myself up, I took a vow to myself to be more open and notice the world OUTSIDE my head, and the people in it. I decided I would intentionally look at people, slow down, see if I could help.
Later that day, I was waiting for a friend outside a subway stop, “coincidentally.” I was looking at my iPhone screen, when a woman very intentionally interrupted me. I looked up. She was German, she needed directions. What did I do? I spent 5 minutes giving her EVERY direction she asked for, and more on top of that. I wanted to make sure she had every ounce of knowledge I could pass on to her! She left feeling informed, and I felt redeemed!
The very next day, I met a lovely woman at an event and she asked me for some information about the hair salon I use. I told her everything I could. At the end of the event, she said to me, “Thanks for being so helpful and informative. Most people wouldn’t take the time or give that much information, thank you so much.” Double redemption!
I’ve decided to simply add this intention of being present, alert, and helpful, to my daily routine.
Whether you set intentions in your business, or in your life, your thoughts are very, very powerful, and they create opportunities for you to take action upon. I guarantee you will not always like the action you choose. So, when you do not, then look at the lesson/opportunity that choice is giving you and change course. That is the beginning of the success you are seeking.
Want more ideas to build success in your business and your life? Check out The Mojo Matrix!
During a recent jog in the park, my mind drifted to the subject of time travel. (It can be argued that my mind drifts even when not jogging.) It struck me that there is absolutely no sense in inventing time travel at all.
First of all, we’d each want to change different things. I might like to find out how the world would be had Al Gore become president, and remember what life was like without cell phones. Someone else would probably want to go back and become the creator of cell phones, and keep the presidents as they were. So, we’d all cross out what the other one did, and probably end up with the exact same present that we have now, without ever having tampered with the time-space continuum, which would have continued despite our best efforts to change it. (Hey, this is my blog post, and it makes sense to me, if it doesn’t for you, then go watch “Back to the Future” where the essential information of the time-flux capacitor and and time-space continuum are explained.)
More importantly, though, is that some of the reasons I imagine we want to time travel are because we regret choices and decisions, and we want to go back and make different choices, with the knowledge we now possess. The thing is, all those “bad decisions” and “mistakes” have led each of us to where we are now. We could not be where we are without those past actions and events. So, erasing them is actually erasing valuable knowledge and experience that leads us to make better decisions. Making one right decision does not guarantee that the ones that come after it will be equally “right” or have the outcome you were expecting. And, unless you plan to stay in the past, with your past self, from the moment you choose, until the day you went back in time, I’m not sure you’d end up any happier, wealthier, etc. because you can’t control the reactions to the changed decisions, only the decisions themselves. Also, if you watched “Timecop” with Jean-Claude Van Damme, then you would know that your current and past self cannot occupy the same space at the same time, or you turn into a nebulous blob and disappear. So, then, if you have to travel back in time pre cell phones, you might have a really hard time reaching your past self in time to change important decisions.
If the underlying desire of time travel is to change our circumstances, then it seems to me that the better choice would be to change our circumstances now. Stop giving your power to change to the past, and focus it on the present. Because, surely, all the stuff you think “led you to end up poor, miserable, yadda, yadda” is simply about the emotional attachment to past events. How about you stop feeling sorry for yourself, (I mean, sure, take a week or two, feel sorry for yourself, but then if you really want to change, stop feeling sorry for yourself and start taking action!) and figure out what about your SELF you can change, right now, instead of hoping you can be alive when they build a time machine?
Bad customer service discussions are spreading faster than head lice at summer camp. I’m amazed at how many different peers I have that are either experiencing HORRIBLE customer service, or hearing from their peers about the worst customer service they’ve ever seen. Perhaps it’s because I just read “It’s Called Work For a Reason” by Larry Winget (a great read!) but I have really seen a lot of bad service.
The thing is, we tend to think only of corporations when it comes to customer service. As if “customer service” and “Corporate” go hand-in-hand. But, we small business owners are every bit as responsible for pleasing our customers as are corporations. In fact, you’d think it would be easier for a small business to take great care of its customers. But, somehow, there seems to be a trend going around where money and growth/expansion are trumping customer care, and it’s time to bust the customer service bull.
“Customer Service Surveys” by Team Members on Flickr Commons
Here are some of the bad customer service actions I’ve been hearing about/experiencing as of late, and, if you think this could be you, some ideas for you to fix it:
You’re expanding, hiring new people, and trying to manage unprecedented demand for your service. Yay! Good for you! But, wow, your customer service sucks. Your existing customers are feeling how busy you are, and they don’t feel nurtured. Your prospects feel entirely forgotten about, not cared for, and your resulting funnel is becoming full of dead flies because you are completely ignoring them.
Or, you have a thriving business, and lots of different levels to help people get the help they need, and so you’ve decided that your lowest tier customers are less important than your higher tier customers.
How to fix your customer service:
Set expectations. You need to be really clear in your own head about what you expect from every employee. Then, you have to tell every single employee what those expectations are. Write them down, have everyone read your expectations. Talk about them, ask what people have understood their role is, make sure you all agree. Also, let your customers know what’s going on – if you expect a busy period, get on the phone, talk to them, figure out the best way for you to be in communication while you sort this out, and consider some sort of bonus gift/offering to make up for the glitch you are expecting. Leave the door open to complaints, take them on, and figure out how to satisfy your customers. In fact, before you deal with your internal issues, I’d personally reach out to every one of your customers, which, as a small business owner, should be something you can do within a week. They helped you get to the point you need to expand, so thank them. Customers tend to be a lot more patient when they hear from you, than when they don’t.
Set check-points. Especially when a new employee starts, establish ways to check in, regularly (daily or weekly) as to their progress. Figure out a way to see results of their actions, so you have a visible and tangible trail that lets you know if they did their work the way you expected or not. Show them where the weak points are, fix it quick, and try again. The same goes with your customers – show them you value their loyalty and their business by checking in regularly to see how their experience has been. Take notes, and actually fix the problems, and stay in touch around them.
“Customer Services” By Gordon Ednle on Flickr Commons
Your prospects matter, too. I think this is just the most appalling of all. While you are so busy being busy, you are making it really hard for those of us trying to learn more about you to do so. I won’t name names, but I actually tried really hard to get to know a business that was highly recommended to me. Last November, I sent them a Facebook message. I also tried to sign up for their newsletter. Dead silence. A month later, I got a reply to my Facebook message, with due apology. I replied, silence. Everyone kept telling me how great this place was, so I even emailed. Finally, after multiple tries, I got on their mailing list, and got a ticket to their January event with a discount! Yipppee! Then it got canceled, boo. They moved me into something else, yippeee! Then that got canceled, too. Boo. Then they told me they were excited I was coming to an event 2 months later that I was not registered for, at which point I just got pissed off. You know what I did NOT get, after 6 months of putting up with this horrible customer service? A phone call. If you know you’ve been falling down with your prospects, pick up the damn phone and call us. Beg us for our business, apologize, figure out how to make good on our business, because when your pipeline dies, you are tripling the work you have to do after you sort out your internal systems.
The same goes for referrals – if you don’t have time to reach out to them, then be up front when someone connects you. If you are open to referrals, then show them how valuable they are to you from the beginning. If you take one of our valued clients, and treat them with less value, it’s embarrassing to us, and means we will be less likely to refer business your way again. When you have poor follow-up with our clients, we worry that it reflects poorly on us, and damages our credibility in referral sources. Don’t make this mistake – it’s bad for everyone’s business.
“Customer Service Essentials” by Eurobase Fullfillment on Flickr Commons
It’s easier to renew existing business than get new business. No matter what level your customers are with you, they all came to you because they felt you had something valuable to offer them. Sure, if they are paying less, they can’t expect the same level of value that higher-paying customers get. But, they can expect to feel valued, and not be simply made to feel that the only way that will happen is if they spend more money with you. Train your associates to treat every caller with the same level of respect.
Handle complaints with integrity. No matter what you do, it’s likely that some people are going to complain. Complaints don’t always feel good, and it’s really easy to get defensive, emotional and upset by them. Do your best to breathe through them, remember that we are all different people, and listen. Find out what’s really bothering a customer or a prospect, and see if you can come to a point of resolution. Sometimes, we just don’t mesh with people, that’s ok. There is no need for you to change who you are or your personal style, or your personality, just because someone does not like any of the above. Take their criticism in stride – learn whatever lessons you can from the feedback, let go of what doesn’t resonate, and then move on without trashing one another in public forum. None of us is a fit for EVERYbody, but where we can be of service, and value, it serves all of us to apologize if we step outside of normal excellent behavior, acknowledge disappointments, and do our best to part ways with compassion. And, sometimes, when you behave compassionately, you can completely turn a bad service anomaly into a great customer.
What’s your experience with customer service, and what tips would you add?