Creating a Customer Connection

Today I thought we’d talk about 3 of what could be the scariest and most intimidating words you’ve ever heard relating to business (and maybe life too), and why they’re super important if you want to succeed in 2017. The words? Personal emotional connection.

That’s one of the secrets to being successful today in 2017, to make your customers have a personal emotional connection with what you’re selling. Yes, details are very important as are facts and information and honesty. Also important is providing consistency across your marketing, customer service, and products/services, so that whether you’ve got someone who buys from you on a weekly basis or someone who only buys every 6 months, they can expect the same experience now and in 6 months.

So what’s the big deal about a personal emotional connection? First, it’s personal. That means that the buyer feels that you’re personally interested in them and understand their personal needs and desires, and that your product or service will align with them. Second, it’s emotional. You’ve probably seen the commercials where little kids in war-torn countries look starved and you’ve probably seen the commercials with starved animals as well. Both of those commercials play on your emotions, knowing that there are plenty of people out there who will have their emotions tapped by those commercials and want to donate. Third, it’s a connection. People like knowing that they’re heard, understood, appreciated, and that they have something in common with others. You want someone to come to your brand saying “finally! Someone gets me and my needs!”

One of the biggest challenges is that although sometimes a personal emotional connection can be made instantly, more often than not it takes time. And time is not something that everyone is willing or things they’re able to wait for. But the research shows that more often than not you can get more from a customer who has a personal emotional connection with your company, than you can with someone who just buys for the price or availability. So go ahead and come up with some services and products that people would buy for price or availability and then have in place a plan to create a personal emotional connection with them, and have other products and/or services available for if and when that connection happens.

Have you made an effort to make a personal emotional connection with your customers? If so, what have you learned?

Trust in Listening

I’ve shared on several occasions this month about the connection between listening and success. As I think about some of the people I’ve interacted with or worked with, I’m struck by the challenge that listening can present, even becoming a barrier for success at times. I don’t believe that you can reach your full success potential without listening to others and getting feedback on your actions and direction. In fact not only can you hinder your success because you’re not listening, you can isolate yourself from others and hurt your relationships with them.

Ignoring what people tell you, ignoring what people ask you, ignoring their opinions, second guessing everything that anyone tells you, and asking for second and third opinions all the time on everything are just a few of the indications that you’re not using your listening skills well and an indication that you may have some trust issues with people. I’m not suggesting that everyone is to be trusted or all answers believed as fact, but first to give the benefit of the doubt rather than just judging someone based on a first impression or opinion. And second if you’ve known or worked with someone for many years and you still don’t trust them to give you an educated, researched or complete answer it may be time to part ways or have a serious discussion.

I can tell you from being on the other side of the conversation, that it’s really difficult to constantly have your answers questioned or questions ignored. I can remember times when multiple people in the same office were asked to research the exact same item, and not because it was difficult, obscure or an extensive topic. I can also remember many times when I’ve repeated the same question over and over in an email correspondence to have the question ignored or not directly answered. It’s incredibly frustrating to be an adult and be treated as a small, irresponsible child for no particular reason.

I get that sometimes you can have a difficult day, but these situations we’re talking about aren’t one-off situations, but rather things that go on day in and day out. If you’re in the situation of being questioned constantly I encourage you to take time to really consider if the situation is that beneficial for you or if it’s time to move on to where you’re more respected and valued. I’d also suggest if you’re constantly being questioned that you sit down with a trusted friend to talk about whether your communication skills (or lack thereof) or communication style could be a factor in the issues you’re facing. If you’re someone who struggles with listening, I’d suggest taking a serious look at your life and relationships and evaluate if you’re feeling fulfilled, frustrated, challenged and/or valued. If your life is not all you want it to be it’s time to evaluate the people in it and the habits and practices you have.

While it can be challenging, communication is one of the most valuable skills we have as humans in 2017. If we all worked a little harder at communicating with each other with respect and clarity and taking the time to really talk things out, we’d solve many of the world’s issues quite quickly, or at least put a plan in place for resolving them with less anger, confusion and bloodshed.

Drug Free School Zone

As we look ahead to the next few weeks many kids are going back to school, and some may already be there. Today I thought we’d talk just a bit about one of the two biggest challenges your kids may be facing as they return to school: drugs, and the other of course would be bullying. We all have some experience with or exposure to drugs and bullying, whether it’s what we’ve heard or seen on TV, something a family member or friend has dealt with or something we’ve personally struggled through. In too many cases there are people who die as a result of drugs or bullying. And yes, drugs and bullying can be something that adults struggle with too, it’s definitely not just an issue with kids. Another similarity is that we’re both often inclined to hide our issues and not talk about them or get the help we need. Sometimes we don’t get help because we don’t realize it’s that bad or tell ourselves we’re dealing with it, but other times we’re just scared of what others will say or that there might be attacks or punishments because of hiding it or being in the struggle in the first place. We’re going to talk about drugs today and address bullying in more detail next week.

Not all drugs are bad, when taken correctly drugs can help people of all ages live better, feel better, get better, and heal. There are also lots of natural alternatives like supplements that many people feel also help with dealing with certain health issues, and marijuana has proven to be helpful to some people as a medicinal aid as well. But the issue comes in when there is no medical reason for taking the drugs, supplements or even marijuana. The issue is when people use drugs to feel good or escape their issues or look cool or feel something. That feeling becomes addictive and quickly people get sucked into using more and more until they’ve got more health issues as a result of taking them, and many people each year die as a result of taking those drugs. What was a quick fix becomes a serious and deadly problem.

But the real issue, as presented especially by drugs but also in the bullying, is that we’re not able to enjoy life as it is, we’re not confident in who we are, we’re not willing to face the difficult stuff in life, and we feel the need to escape the reality of life. I get it: life can be very challenging and there are some seriously bad stuff being shared in the news. But the answer isn’t to hide or bury our heads in the sand, it’s to join the many people who are stepping up and standing up for a better world, for rights for everyone, for every voice/culture/group to be heard, and for everyone to be treated as a human being who is capable of making an incredible difference in this world.

So what can you do as a parent to help your kids avoid drugs or help them stop taking drugs? First, don’t do or abuse them yourself, set the example for them. Second, if you do have an issue get help for it, there are tons of resources around the US and in other countries that can help you beat your addiction. Third, talk with them about local resources that they or their friends could access if there’s an issue and what to do if someone overdoses and they’re with them. Fourth, help them find and encourage healthy and helpful activities that they can do that will bring them joy, help them feel good about themselves, help them be healthy and teach them responsibility.

Avoiding the issues of drugs and bullying can only hurt the next generation, it’s time we step up and be honest about this issue that is hurting so many families and killing so many people who could make a very positive difference in the world. I encourage you to talk with your kids and teens today.

Listening in Business

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is listening. It’s so important if you want to be successful in business to be listening. Let’s take a minute today to talk about the important things you should be listening to if you want to be successful.

Your customers: what are they saying? They will let you know about their dissatisfaction and the things they love. The internet is a great place to find reviews about your products and services, and you should invite your customers to give you feedback directly as well. You can also listen to their silence and their lack of return to your business and products/services as a clue as to how much they don’t like you.

Your suppliers: are your suppliers constantly raising prices? Are they hesitating on delivery? Do they tell you it’s difficult to get what you ask for? If so it may be a clue that there’s something broken or not working right in your supply chain.

Your employees: your employees are often your first line of interaction between your customers and your products/services, so it’s important to listen to what they have to say about what you offer, what customers are saying to them, things they’re feeling challenged by and what they would like to see changed. If your employees aren’t happy, aren’t respected and don’t think your product or service is worth what you’re charging then you’ll have some difficulty getting them to work at their best for your company.

Your marketing: I know it can sometimes be difficult to understand all the metrics and know exactly what things mean, but it’s important to be in touch with your marketing team to see how people are responding to your marketing. If they’re not responding and you’ve done the proper a/b testing, and tried different marketing opportunities for a consistent period of time, maybe the marketing isn’t the issue.

The market/business world: are you in tune with what’s going on in other businesses? With how they’re marketing their products? With what’s going on with your competitors? With how others are marketing? With government or industry changes that might affect you? I know it sounds like a lot of work but it’s important to be aware of what’s going on outside of your company, not just inside your company.

How good of a listener are you as a business leader? Take time today to really listen to what’s going on in and around your business.

People Focused Success

Something that we often talk about when we talk about business is how important it is to remember that behind every credit card payment or sale is that there is a human making that purchase. As I was thinking about the topic of success in general today I realised that that same truth applies: if you really want to get ahead in life, be successful in a relationship, have a great relationship with your kids, or make a difference, it starts with being considerate of others.

I know it can be hard to miss the fact that you’re surrounded by other people. They drive their cars in your lane, they make noise in the cubicle/room/apartment/house next door, they talk, they do crazy things, they hurt people, they pollute the environment, they cook your food, they refill shelves at the stores, they deliver your boxes and countless other ways they worm their way into your life that you both appreciate and find frustrating. I know most of us occasionally have had the thought about how grateful we are that someone invented something (like the toilet) or did their job (like flew our plane safely), but often we take it for granted or even try to ignore it because we’ve got so much going on in our own lives that we can’t possibly keep up with what the rest of the world is doing as well. But the fact is that without many other people our lives would not be what they are today.

This month we’re talking about the topic of listening which really is one of the first steps to success in relation to others. If we’re able to listen with our ears, our eyes and our bodies to what’s going on around us, we’re able to figure out what other people want, what their issues are, what their dreams are, what hurts them and what’s challenging them. We can even find out how they want to resolve things or move forward in their life. Can you remember the last time you were trying to tell someone something important and it took forever for them to register your issue or even you? When they finally did your relief was overwhelming, right?!

If you’re looking to be more successful in life, and most of us are, yes, you should think about what you see success as and how you want to get to that success, but then you should take into account the other people who could help you achieve this vision, who is already doing something similar you might be able to work with or support, who will be affected by or benefit from your success, and how it will affect the people closest to you. What role are others playing in your success journey?

Proactive Partner Listening

This month we’re talking about the topic of listening. Today I thought we’d start off talking about listening to your partner because that’s one of the biggest challenges in our lives, and unfortunately the one that we usually give the least amount of attention to, when it should be one of our highest priorities.

First of all, if you really want your partner to listen to you, you can’t be screaming or cursing at them. They will completely shut down and block you out. Being rude to them will do the same thing. In fact, doing all or any of these things may result in them doing the exact opposite of what you want just to spite you. Yelling and rudeness isn’t the way to start a conversation if you want someone to listen to you.

So assuming that you and they aren’t screaming/cursing/being rude and instead are having a relatively calm discussion, first you need to be open to hearing what they have to say. Second, you can’t be just planning out your response to them or thinking about all the things that you have to do. It may be helpful for each of you to be taking notes with pen and paper if it’s a serious and in-depth conversation. Taking notes will allow you to really hear what they’re saying and you’ll be able to go back after they’re done and talk about each of the things they said if necessary.

Listening also means asking questions, and no, I don’t mean the sarcastic or rude ones. I mean asking questions that will help you better understand where they’re coming from, what they’re feeling, what they’re experiencing and what results they would like. Asking questions also has to do with coming up with solutions that work for everyone, or at least the largest number of people possible.

I know it can be really hard to have discussions with your partner (or anyone) about really emotional topics, things that really bother you or serious issues. But if you both are open to having those discussions and are both open to listening and discussing and coming up with solutions that create the biggest wins for everyone involved, those discussions will go a lot easier.

Caring for Customers

How many happy customers do you have in your business? Are most of your customers happy? Would they return again if you offered something else they could purchase from you? I’ve been thinking about not-so-nice reviews lately and disgruntled/dissatisfied people (not just customers) and thought we’d talk a bit about the intricacies of running a business and dealing with customers, because, let’s face it: if you want to be in business and stay in business you have to have customers. While I don’t believe that the customer always has to be right (because not every customer is right for your business), you should always do your best for your customers.

I know that some review sites have some pretty scary and scathing reviews on them. I was checking out a high end restaurant on Google and saw they had reviews on 2 sites, one was a more high end review site and one was an average review site. Both sites had positive and negative reviews, but what was interesting to me is that there were far fewer negative reviews on the high end review site, and the average review site had quite a few. Does that mean that the reviews on one of the sites were wrong? No, but it may mean that their non-ideal customers weren’t happy with their service, which isn’t really a surprise and shouldn’t be taken at the weight of a full negative review. However, that doesn’t mean you should discount or ignore those negative reviews on any site, often they do have important information to share with you about what you could do to improve your business for your ideal customers.

Which leads to my second point today, it should not be your goal to please everyone. Sure it’s great if a non-ideal customer leaves a great review and enjoys your product or service. They may even come back occasionally and purchase again. However, your focus should be on satisfying the needs and desires of your ideal audience, which means that you have to know your ideal audience, have products/services your audience wants, and market to that audience.

One of the best ways to satisfy the needs and desires of your ideal audience is to be consistently good at what you do. That means offering a product or service that has consistent (good) quality, consistently marketing your company, consistently reaching out to your audience, consistently caring for your staff and partners/service providers, and consistently learning and updating as your customers and employees request and you see fit. If the consistency isn’t there you’ll let down your people more than you should, not be consistent with sales, not develop the relationships with your customers that you could, and not be known for being the best at what you do.

This week I encourage you to make one change that will make your customers happier immediately and in the long run. If you care for them, they’re more likely to return the favor. What will you change or do better?

Listening for Success

This month we’ll be talking about listening, so today I wanted to start off talking about why listening is such an important skill for your success and how to be most successful at it. First of all, listening is a skill, it’s something you can improve. There are also layers to listening which means it’s not that boring inactivity that you really have no responsibilities during. An important part of listening is asking clarifying questions to better understand what is being communicated.

I believe you can listen while taking notes, but you can’t listen while replying to emails on your phone or playing a game if you really want to give the person speaking the respect they deserve and get the most benefit from your listening. You also aren’t fully listening if you’re too busy coming up with counterarguments and not fully hearing what they’re trying to tell you.

So why is listening so important? Because when we don’t listen some epic mistakes can be made, people can be let down, you can have to do things multiple times to get them right, you can embarrass yourself, you can share something that wasn’t meant to be shared, and you can miss out on really important information. Also, if you really want someone to listen to you, it’s only right that you listen to what they have to say.

But as I mentioned above listening is just the first step, actually the first step is being willing to listen and being open to what you hear. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with what you hear, but it does mean that out of respect for the other person you’re going to hear them out and after you’ve heard it all if you’re not in agreement with what they’ve said you’re going to agree to disagree.

After you’ve listened then it’s important to ask clarifying questions. These questions can help you avoid doing things multiple times because you didn’t get sufficient information in the first place, but they can also help you make sure there are no misunderstandings in what you’re hearing and the other person is trying to tell you.

After listening comes either action or talking then action. Sometimes there’s nothing more to discuss, the other person has laid out their plans, you’ve heard them, understood and agreed, and they can go and do their thing. But other times further discussion is necessary to figure out what each person involved is responsible for and what they are or aren’t willing to do, before any action can be taken.

As we finish out this week and enter into this new month I encourage you to practice proactive listening. When was the last time you really listened?

The Blame Game

Do you know one of the most “popular” topics for couples, and families too? Blame. From saying that the dog ate the homework, to the kids spilled cereal (and milk) on the contract, to the relationship failing because your partner never took out the trash, we’re pretty quick to point fingers and try to get to the bottom of who is to blame.

First, let me say that it is important that responsibility is taken/given for things that happen or don’t happen. It’s important to be honest about what you’re seeing and what happens. However, it’s almost never the case that the blame rests solely on one person (or dog). It’s almost always the case that there are multiple factors, and multiple people to blame. Which means that as much as you can (and should) point fingers, you’ve really got to take stock of who else could be responsible in the matter as well, including yourself.

The key to the blame game (and its resolution), isn’t anything really revolutionary, it’s something that I’ve said repeatedly and is one of the biggest keys to a successful relationship: communication. Yes, pointing fingers will happen even in the best families and relationships, but the conversation needs to be more than you yelling at them for doing something or not doing something and vice versa. The conversation needs to discuss the issues you’ve got, why things weren’t done or were done, and what is going to happen or change moving forward to help avoid this in the future. These types of civil discussions don’t happen often enough in relationships and families, and as a result big divides are created between people.

Of course the blame and the conversations only go so far: without a willingness to change on all parties’ part and action taken as decided in the conversation, there’s not much point to having the conversation or even having the blame (and subsequent fight) in the first place. If the partner who is most to blame isn’t willing to do things differently in the future or doesn’t see their error, you’ve got a choice to leave, to make changes in your life, or you have to decide it’s not as big of a deal as you’re making it out to be. When it comes to family blame situations, you either have to take control as the parent, or get another party involved who can help straighten things out and be the leader your kids need.

There’s no shame in admitting that you need help, that you and your partner need help or that your family needs help. The only shame you should feel is if you choose to not get someone the help they need.