The Question of Customer Loyalty

As we head into what is the busiest shopping season of the year for many businesses, I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about customers and customer loyalty. As a business you have to have customers, otherwise you won’t be in business very long. The next thing to consider is whether most of your customers are repeat customers, or if you offer things that people buy once or extremely rarely. If you offer something, say heart surgery or roofing, you probably will ever work with someone once. But if you offer something like ice cream or hair cuts, and you’re not having repeat customers, something probably has to change. Here’s what one very successful entrepreneur had to say:

“Customers aren’t loyal. And it’s a waste of time trying to convince them to be….Life changes. Priorities change. Competition changes. In reality, almost no one is 100% loyal….Fact: 87% of a brand’s customers don’t stick to just that brand. They’re promiscuous at best. And if they’re offered something better, they’re gone.” Ramit Sethi

Those are some pretty serious percentages. So the question becomes: do we even try to gain customer loyalty? The first answer that comes to mind is that if you don’t give any effort to making your customers come back, few probably will. The second thing to consider is that it’s consistently proven to be cheaper in all ways to keep customers coming back than to gain new customers. The third thing to consider is that even if you have a service or product that’s purchased maybe once in a lifetime you can still gain loyal customers, it’s just not the same type of loyalty. Fourth, if you ask employees who really love your company about their favorite customers, they’ll often tell you that they enjoy connecting with the “regulars.” Fifth, loyal customers are those who share about your great products or services with their friends, and/or leave you nice testimonials you can use to get more customers.

One thing to remember is that everyone is human and everyone goes through changes in their life. So it’s really unrealistic to expect that every customer would stay with your business and your products and/or services for the full duration of their life (or their need for that product/service). But my answer is that we should work on making customers loyal, or at the very least, increasing the amount of times they purchase from us. Whether you use email newsletters, social media, events, physical mailings, a blog, a loyalty card or even just new products or services that are in line with those you already offer, there are tons of ways that you can build loyalty and encourage repeat customers. What are your favorite ways to connect with your customers and build relationships with those who are loyal to you and love you?

How Do You See Success?

Today I want to talk about an avenue to success that not everyone considers: doing the right thing. I know sometimes it seems like going the easy way, buying your way in or cutting corners is the way to go, and it will work for some people, but not in the long run and not always well. In fact, you can make more enemies and have more issues doing it that way than going about it the right way. I’m not saying that the right way has to be the hard way, but rather that doing the right thing, respecting other people, knowing when to stop and working towards wins for everyone will get you a bigger and better win every time.

There have been many stories in the news over the past 6 months, and even for many years past, of not-so-stellar examples of society both in individual people and in companies. I doubt that’s going to change any time soon, there will always be people who think that it’s fine to cheat, lie or steal. But lately the tide has been turning and the people who have been hurt are speaking up, and it’s great to see them coming forward. The one thing that’s not in the news as much as it should be are the people and companies who are going above and beyond, or just even doing the right thing, probably because it’s not really “interesting.”

So while doing the right thing and treating others with respect and dignity, giving them the opportunity to say yes or no, partnering with them, listening and talking, and working towards solutions together may not be glamorous or particularly news worthy, you’ll be able to create success that you feel good about, with the side benefit being that often they’ll be successful too. So how do you look at the steps to success? Do you see the sales you make in your business or at your job as an opportunity to work together with a customer? Do you see the challenges and issues that come up with your family and in your relationship as an opportunity to work together with your family to a solution that works for both or all of you? Do you see the choices you have to make as opportunities to become better and stronger, learning even if you fail? How do you see success?

Thankful for Things

The official holiday of Thanksgiving is over and people around the US and the world are diving into Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, many in the US starting off the season of buying and giving with some purchases yesterday on Black Friday. So today I wanted to talk about something that we adults don’t always talk about, but the kids tend to bring up when asked about what they’re thankful for: stuff. It may be more mature to talk about the other things in life we’re happy for like our partners, family, jobs and having a roof over our heads, but most of us have a lot of stuff to be thankful for as well. I’m talking about the books, the clothes, the food the dishes, the technology, the education, the size and quality of our homes and more.

I think we’ve wrongfully put some shame around being thankful for the things we have. Sometimes when we talk about things it becomes bragging, but that’s not what I’m talking about. And while it may not be healthy to be focused on having things and getting things, the fact is we have things. Are we thankful for them? Because I think we should be.

Thanksgiving may be over but we’re heading into a season that does focus on things, so today I would encourage you and your kids to spend time thinking about the material blessings in your life and really finding gratitude in them. Be proud that you’ve earned the money to buy them, appreciate all that you see around you and make sure you express a prayer of thanks or thankful meditation around all that you’ve been blessed with.

Change: Good, OK or Bad?

Lately there’s been changes happening in the world of business, with some prime examples being 3 of the big social networks: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Facebook has rolled out an “explore” feed where it tested moving all organic page posts to, which means if you have a page people have to do extra work to get to see your posts (no organic page posts would appear in people’s regular timelines, but ads still would). Twitter rolled out extra characters, which some have complained about and others are celebrating. And Pinterest has added a ‘sections’ feature which is a much needed organizational asset helping users better sort their pins.

Personally I’m working on some changes in my business as well, so the question becomes should you work on changes in your business? I believe every business needs to change throughout their life cycle, both big changes and little ones. I believe we should be making some little changes throughout the year in response to trends, seasons and customer requests, and we should make big changes as our business grows and evolves.

But the bigger question is are you considering or making a good change? In the case of Pinterest I think it’s a great change. In the case of Twitter I think it’s an OK change. In the case of Facebook I think it’s not a good change in general, but could have some positive implications because it will mean that only your most interested fans would be involved with your page, those most likely to make a purchase.

By no means should you be discouraged from making changes because some people won’t like them, but if a large majority of your people aren’t happy with the change you’ve made you need to either reconsider the change completely, reconsider how you’re going about the change, or be prepared to get a whole new customer base (one of the changes I’m making is with regard to Facebook).

What changes are you considering or making this month or in the coming year? I invite you to share your changes in the comments below.

Who is Thankful for You?

As I was thinking about Thanksgiving and our topic of the month, success, I came across this bit of wisdom from Amaka Imani Nkosazana:

“Stop seeking attention from people who don’t give you the time of day. Value your time, comfort your spirit, have peace of mind. There are people who love you and care about you. Give your smiles to them.”

Each of us face the challenge of wanting attention from those who won’t give it, like people at our offices or family members. And yet we sometimes are guilty of not giving attention to those we do care about and want our attention, like our kids and our partner. Why do we work so hard to get attention from people who don’t care about us or want to give us that attention? Sometimes I think it’s because we simply are so focused on getting the attention we want, that we don’t see what’s right in front of us. Sometimes maybe we don’t think that the attention from that person or those people who do want to give it to us would be enough for us and we’ll still not feel like we’re wanted enough.

When it comes to the topic of success we need to make sure that our attention is focused on the right people and the right things. One thing to consider when making a decision about where to focus our attention is the long term affects of making a decision to put so much effort and attention into someone or something. Yes, sometimes we let important relationships that matter to us go a little because of the other commitments in our lives, but if we don’t make up that time in the future or if we don’t recommit to them in the future they’ll distance themselves from us. You may never be able to please the one person in the world that you want to please. That doesn’t mean you should give up on pleasing them, but that it shoudln’t be your focus.

As we head into Thanksgiving here in the US in less than one day I encourage you to focus on the people you are thankful for, and those who are thankful for you. Spend time with the people who mean the most to you, and let the rest of the world do their own thing, if for only one day.

What are You Thankful For?

I hope you’re ready to celebrate this week with family and friends. Thanksgiving is one of those unique holidays for us in America that doesn’t relate to a religion and therefore includes everyone in the celebration. And while many people may celebrate July 4th, I think more people in the US take time to gather together with friends and family in November to take time to remember what they’re all thankful for.

Sometimes the simple things of life are the best. This week I’m sure you’re thinking about the lists you’ve got for Thanksgiving dinner and maybe Christmas even, so I thought I would keep things simple today with a reminder from Tecumseh:

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

What if being thankful wasn’t as complicated as we make it out to be? What if we didn’t have to have terrible events in our lives to be thankful for our life? What might our lives look like if we expressed our thanks more often? I know we’d be more positive and I bet we would be better able to take the tough stuff in stride. Our stress levels would be down and we’d have better relationships. Instead of looking for what was going wrong we’d focus on what was going right. This Thanksgiving I encourage you to take a step back from the whirlwind that is your life and take time each day for the rest of 2017 to write down 10 things you’re thankful for. They could be people, events, nature, or things, basically anything that has made you smile that day, went well or you appreciate. Here’s my list for today:

1 the sound of soothing rain drops outside my window
2 the opportunity to do good for the world and recycle
3 my cup of tea
4 being able to see the world around me
5 funny text messages from my partner
6 being able to work from home
7 helping lots of great individuals, families and businesses grow
8 clean, dry laundry
9 being able to support some great charities and organizations this year
10 you!

What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on why Thanksgiving is special for you.

The Value of a Painting

This week in the art world something very interesting happened: a Da Vinci painting sold for $450 million. That’s just a few dollars, no big deal, I bet you’ve got that under your mattress for a rainy day, right? Not likely. However, as I was marveling over the fact that someone just spent that much money on a poster sized painting, it got me thinking about what it really means for us and our businesses.

In fact, it’s really great news for us. It means that there is money to be spent, people are buying, and people are willing to spend a lot of money. So the next time someone says that you’re not doing well in business because no one is buying anything, think again. That person or people who just bought that painting still need to eat and live somewhere and have clothes and probably watch TV and talk on their phones just like the rest of us. So take a moment to celebrate that and let yourself be relieved that there is money to be earned.

But what you can’t ignore about this incredible purchase is that the reason that someone paid $450 million for a painting is because of the perceived value. Someone has an overwhelming desire to have this painting in their possession. Maybe your tax audits or websites or cups of soup aren’t quite as interesting as a painting by Da Vinci, but you’re not asking $450 million for them. So it becomes a question of have you communicated the value, the interest, the intrigue behind what you’re offering, and have you told anyone about what you’re offering?

Take some time this weekend before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday start next week Friday and make sure that you’re communicating clearly the value that you bring to the table.

The Autumn of Success

As I was out taking a walk the other day I was once again taken in by the wide variety of leaves that are part of the world where I live. Each autumn those leaves fall out of the trees and brilliant colors that cover the ground fade within days to dull browns. As you know leaves fall off the trees somewhere between September and December depending on the year and then reappear in or after March.

It reminded me that sometimes we have to give things up in order to get the things we want, or that sometimes we have to let go of the old to make room for the new. If you’re trying to lose weight but keep riding the roller coaster, sometimes the best thing you can do is to give up those old clothes. Don’t even give yourself the opportunity to get back into them. If you’ve been struggling with your employees but really want your company to succeed, you either need to fix the situation with the employees you’ve got or hire new employees. As I talked about last Wednesday though, don’t fall into the trap of fixing the wrong issue, in other words the issue may not be the employees but rather you or how the company is run.

But as with the leaves, they don’t just reappear on the trees immediately, there’s a rest period. If you know anything about farming you know that farmers rest portions of their fields each year because the soil needs to be rejuvenated. The nutrients of the soil aren’t just there, and if the soil isn’t given the necessary rest it won’t perform to the best standards. The same is true for our lives, sometimes you have to take time to rejuvenate for the next step in your success journey to really be successful.

This week I do encourage you to make strong steps forward on your success journey, but don’t do it at the expense of a complete flame out or if you’re not really convinced with what you’re doing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have an escape hatch or backup plan, just that you should be working forward, not waiting for the floor to fall out from under you.

Set for Relationship Success

Today we’re talking about relationship success. While there are always factors that can’t be anticipated, and people do change, I believe that there are some things you can do to help your relationship be more successful than most. Here are 6 things you should consider to give your relationship a good chance at success.

Attention: does your partner get your undivided attention at least once every day or are you frequently doing more than one thing at a time while talking or being with them?

Actions: how do you behave towards them? What do the actions you take on their behalf, towards them or because of them say about you and your relationship with them?

Attitude: do you dismiss them and their feelings? Have you grown to resent them or their place in your life? Do you treat them as a burden or distraction?

Care: do you show them how you feel about them and how important they are to you? Do you make a point of doing special things for them? Do you sometimes put their needs ahead of your own?

Communication: how often do you two talk? Do you share the things that go on in your day and listen to them share about their day? Do you take minutes here and there to just text them that you love them?

Consistency: relationships aren’t made or broken in one day or one event, are you consistnetly showing your partner that you are their partner, or consistently showing them you’re not invested in the relationship?

I encourage you to take time to consider your relationship this week and take the necessary steps to evaluate and improve your relationship so that it’s fulfilling for both you and your partner and has the best chance at lasting success.

What’s The Real Issue?

A friend of mine is moving and therefore leaving the company they’ve worked at for many years.  They’re a hard worker and have many years of experience in their field and since they started hinting about their departure a year or so ago the company has tried to replace them with varying measures of success and failure (mostly failure).  So we were discussing why it’s so hard for the company to replace them.  Of course my friend is top-notch in their field, but there’s a lot more to the story than this individual being great.  And our conversation got me thinking about why we don’t succeed at some things, or why some things don’t work out as we would expect.

Someone could say ‘I’m not getting anywhere with my Facebook page’, and you could look at the page, see the page is updated maybe every 2 months and then only with a sales pitch and come to a reasonable conclusion that one reason they’re not successful is they’re not posting consistently. Someone could say ‘I’m not selling anything’ and you take a look at their business and see that they haven’t done any marketing beyond establishing their physical and online stores, and come to a reasonable conclusion that one reason they’re not selling is because they’re not marketing. In another case someone could say “I’m not getting any sales” and you look at their products and see that there’s nothing unique about the products, come to a reasonable conclusion that one reason they’re not getting sales is because their products aren’t unique.

Now, we could go back to the same 3 examples and probably find other reasons why they’re not successful in those areas, but what it comes down to is the fact that the issue isn’t really the issue. Yes, not getting anywhere with Facebook or not making any sales are issues, but what they really point to is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed first. Until that larger issue is addressed the smaller issue won’t be able to be completely resolved. Sure, you can make some headway by doing paid FB ads, adding more stores online and offline, or adding more products respectively, but that’s really not addressing the issue that needs to be addressed.

To follow through on our examples, my friends’ company doesn’t need someone who can technically do their job, they need someone who’s a leader and able to help the employees they’re responsible for be more successful in their jobs, and/or hire new employees who are qualified for and have the attitude for success.  In the case of the Facebook page example unless the business really uses all of FB’s aspects along with a solid content strategy they won’t get anywhere.  In the case of the business not selling anything but having physical and online stores, you can have the best products or services in the world but if you don’t market them, you can’t sell them.  In the case of the generic products, yes, there will always be a need for generic products, but why be generic if you can bring something unique to the marketplace?

Today I would encourage you to sit down and take a look at the things that have presented as issues or you’re concerned about and look a bit deeper into them and see if you’re missing the real issue.