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?

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.

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?

How Long Have You Been In Business?

Recently I was visiting the website of a newer company and saw that they were pretty vocal about their being established in 2015. Sometimes when we see this it makes us pause because we know they haven’t been in business for very long, but it got me thinking about the advantages as well as the challenges. So I thought today we’d take a minute to consider the values and challenges of when you started your business.

There are many advantages to having been around for many years. You’ve had time to develop the business, you’ve had time to build up enthusiastic customers who buy from you again and again, you’ve had time to develop the products or services you offer, and there are people who prefer to work with a business that has been around for a long time. I agree that longevity does give your business some serious brownie points, and it can say a lot about the company, the product and the people who work there.

However, if you’ve been around for a long time, there’s a chance that you’re completely out of tune with how things run today in this internet and world-centric world. Potential customers may think your products and services are outdated or aren’t up to the technology and development of newer ones. They may also think your management and leadership are outdated and aren’t running things they way many other (newer) companies are. Of course, all of this may be completely untrue. As an older company what may set you apart is that you’ve changed with the times, considered and adopted some trends and are offering products and services that are created/implemented with today’s technology in mind.

So what about being a new business? Well, first and foremost there’s almost no chance you’ve got stock laying around from 50 years ago that someone might accidentally get. You’re also possibly bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives to the market, a market that may be very dry and outdated. You’ve also most likely taken advantages of the newest support and resources that technology has to offer. However, you also might not have any business experience to fall back on and without proper education and support your new business won’t last very long.

It’s hard to stay in business whether you’ve been working on it for years or just a few months. Being in business today means being open to learning and changing as things develop around you. Have you taken advantage of your new or established status in business recently? Have you reached out to a business owner who has been around a longer or shorter time with you to have coffee and talk about what is or isn’t working in your business? If not I would encourage you to reach out to another business owner this week and see what you can learn from each other. Maybe you’ll even find that you’re a great fit for a joint venture or cross promotional activity.

Start Smart(er)

Today I’m thinking about a topic that may not feel relevant for some of you, because you’re already past this point, but I’ve got some good insights for you as well, so don’t check out yet. Today I want to talk about starting a business. It sounds silly to revisit it if you’ve already started the business, I know but I often read articles about starting a business because everyone does it a little different, and it’s a very different story to start a business today than it was even 10 years ago. Let’s take a look at a few different aspects of starting a business.

Why?
This is one of the most important questions: why are you starting it? I think you can start a business for the money (you’ve got greater potential for increasing your income with a business than with a traditional job), but I don’t think that can be your only reason. I think there needs to be a reason that you chose to start a business walking dogs or marketing or making pastries, and I don’t think it should just be related to the amount of money you can make doing it. Why? Because those who will be buying from you are people with a personal stake in whatever you’re selling.

A Business Plan?
Do I think you have to write a 30 page business plan before you start? No, but I do think you need to research your potential business industry and customers and have a written plan for how you’re going to make money, care for customers etc. As your business grows this is something you should revisit on a regular basis (at least yearly) to make sure that you’re on task or even when you’re planning a course revision.

How will you make an impact?
This goes back to the first question in many respects, but has more to do with the results of what you’re offering. What are you making people feel and think when they buy your products or services? What do they feel or think when they see your marketing or your logo, or think about using your product or think about meeting with you in the future? If you really want to make an impact with your business you need to make an impact that people like.

Of course, once you’ve got these 3 things taken care of you should create a website, even if it’s a simple one for starters, as well as join at least one social media site. You should also look for opportunities to share about what you do and invest in your local community, even if you only offer services or sell online. And the research never should stop once you’ve started your business, there are tons of great resources online to further your business education and help you understand and tap into the newest trends and technologies, and determine if they’re right for your business and customers.

If you have an existing business I’d love to hear what have you learned in starting your business and what was important to you as you started your journey so we can all learn from your experiences as well.

Freeing Your Business From Indecision

Today as we think more about freedom I want to talk about one of the things that challenges that freedom, indecision. As a business owner you’ve got a lot coming at you that you have to make decisions about on a daily basis, and as a result some business owners go into overwhelm and the business may fall apart. You’ve seen some of these businesses on TV shows like Tabitha’s Salon Takeover and Bar Rescue, they’re suffering and not successful, and often that’s a result of overwhelm or indecision and lack of direction from the owner(s) and/or manager(s). Of course, we can’t forget or ignore the indecision that customers struggle with either. So let’s take a look at 3 key players in our businesses and their relationship with indecision.

Owners: I get the importance of doing your research and taking the time to evaluate your options. As a side note I talk with too many people who don’t take the 5-10 minutes to do the research before they make a decision, with all the information on the internet and contactability through social media there’s no excuse. However, as the person in charge you have to make a decision at some point in time and put action behind it. Your indecision not only affects you, but it also impacts your employees and your customers. There are people out there waiting for the solutions you could be offering but because you’re waiting to decide on a web layout or waiting for the discount to do an ad or putting off the renovations to your store, those potential customers are not getting the best from you.

Employees: As a business owner you need to 1) empower your employees to be able to make decisions for your customers, 2) encourage your employees to make decisions, and 3) motivate your employees to make decisions that are best for both your business and your customers. Employees who are happy in their jobs and believe in what the business is selling and in the brand the business is growing, will typically make good decisions for your business, but they can’t if you haven’t educated them on the principles of working with customers as you want done in your business and you haven’t told them they’re allowed to make decisions that will bring customers back in the future even if they have an issue currently.

Customers: You won’t sell to every person that interacts with your business, that’s just the way it is. You should not want to sell to every person either, because not every person is a good fit for what you offer. However, I’ve never met a business that wasn’t missing out on converting some of the potential customers. Customers have indecision for several reasons including: they don’t know what you’re selling, they don’t know what people think of what you’re selling, they don’t know what the price is of what you’re selling, they have questions about what you’re selling, and they’re concerned about liking what you’re selling after buying. If these issues are present for them when they consider your offer, you’re giving your potential customers the excuse they were looking for to run instead of buying. Do your part in giving them fewer excuses to try someone else.

If you’ve been struggling with indecision on something, I encourage you to accept this reminder today and take action. Don’t make your business, your employees or your customers wait any longer, and do what you can to remove the dreaded gray area. What decisions will you make today?

What’s Your Social Snapshot?

This week I’ve been thinking about a phrase I read in an article about using social media for business: “social snapshot.” It got me thinking about social media and business, how we’re using social media in business, how our customers are using social media and what social media is all about and I thought I’d share a few of those thoughts with you today.

As you’ve probably heard me say before social media is all about being social. The entire point of social media is to share with friends, family, associates etc. what’s going on in your life, what matters to you, things you’re enjoying, what’s frustrating/concerning you in the world etc. So as a business it’s important to do more than just promote your offerings, because that’s not what people are interested in experiencing when they interact with you on social media. Should you include sharing about your offerings? Yes, but it has to be mixed with more social content like advice, experiences, interviews, and fun. As an aside, a big part of that social experience is to be talking with others, so make sure you’re responding to everything people are putting on your page (and if it’s negative either respond appropriately or delete, block and make a note about your preferred page experience).

When you’re using social media as a business you want to put up content that your customers, fans, potential customers and potential fans would find fun, interesting, helpful or share-worthy. Share-worthy can include things that are scary/worrisome/shocking as well as positive/feel-good, and usually has a story behind it. So when you’re considering your social strategy and content plan it’s important to take into consideration not only what you’re selling but what matters to your fans around what you’re selling. For example, don’t just think about the hammer you’re trying to sell, think about the picture that they’re trying to hang with your hammer.

Finally, going back to the phrase for today “social snapshot” I want to talk a tiny bit about how most social networks technically function and what that means for your business. First of all, most people aren’t going to your page/account on the social network, they’re getting your content in their newsfeed so they’re only seeing a tiny portion of who you are and what you’re all about at a given time. If you’re not familiar with social media for most of the social sites they use an algorithm to determine what content is seen by people. What this primarily means is that not all content is seen. It also means that content isn’t seen in order of publishing, things from 3 days ago might be the first things you see when you sign in because the algorithms have determined it to be more important that what’s been published in the 3 days since then. What it means for you as a business is that at any point in time your fans may be seeing content from your page and it might not be your most recent post. This isn’t a suggestion to go back and delete posts, but rather to be very conscious about what you’re posting and make sure that it always presents your brand in the way you want it presented. If you have to choose putting your best foot forward and creating less content but content that’s better created, or creating so much (partially decent) content you’re everywhere and you blow up the internet, because people only see a small portion of your business through the social network it’s better to go with less but better content.

The second thing to consider when talking about your “social snapshot” is the importance of completely filling out your account on the social network. This means having a nice photo for your account that shows up next to your posts, a helpful description in the about section or on the about page (take advantage of the space you’re given, if you can provide more information you should), and a helpful and descriptive picture for the header/cover section if that’s an option. If you get lucky enough that people do come back to your little piece of real estate on a social network, you want to provide the best experience possible to your visitors. It’s much like how you want to make your physical store or website to look inviting and how you want them to get all they can out of connecting with you. This may sound like a silly or overly obvious thing to do, but more often than not one or all 3 of these things aren’t what they could or should be on the social accounts I see.

Have you tried social media for your business? If so what are the things you’ve learned and what have your customers responded to best?

A Business Investment

As we look ahead to July 4th and the celebration of Independence Day here in the USA, I want to talk a little about something businesses can learn from this special day. In case you’re confused or forget your holidays, July 4th celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared the US as separate from Great Britain. This wasn’t a decision like saying they’re not going to buy one kind of tea from them, they’re choosing to make a really big difference in the direction the future of the lives of all who call the US home. The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew that it wasn’t going to be something that happened over night, but they decided that for the best of all their futures as well as all future generations, this was a necessary separation. In signing the Declaration of Independence these men chose to make an investment in their future that they may not see real results of in their lifetime, but they believed it would be worth it.

As business owners each day we have to make choices in our businesses and in our leadership. We have to make countless little decisions that are more comparable to choosing which tea to buy from whom. But occasionally we have to make decisions about how or if to invest in something for the future of our businesses. The first decision we have to make is whether or not to look at those big decisions as a potential investment or not. If we choose to not make an investment in it we won’t be take the same steps as we would if we were going to invest. The signers could have decided they didn’t want to make it an investment in our futures and instead would just make an agreement with Britain to do things differently in the future but they chose to invest.

A typical investment question that comes up is with employees. Do you choose to do the absolute minimum when it comes to training or do you choose to do all you can to make each employee the best they can be for themselves and for your company? It’s not necessarily wrong to do less when it comes to training, but typically you’ll experience a higher rate of turnover, you’ll have more employee discontent, less commitment to the business and customers, and less to work with (if anything) when it comes to company culture. But if you choose to invest in the people that are part of your company you’re not only making your company better, you’ve got the potential to make the whole world better.

This coming week I encourage you to do a check-in as a leader and take the time to look at whether or not you’re making investments in your business, if you’re investing in the right things (and right people), or if you’re just doing what it takes to get by in the business world. I have to say that I think the signers made the right decision to invest in our futures, what will you decide?

The Business of Summer

This week we had the beginning of summer! It’s my favorite season and I’m always happy when it gets here. As I sit here listening to rain pour down outside and feel the warmth in the air, I’m reminded of the challenges and opportunities businesses have each summer. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can take advantage of the summer in your business.

Work with the weather. The weather can discourage people from coming out and shopping or it can bring people out in droves depending on your business. If you’re one of those businesses that doesn’t benefit from the summer showers or hot days, those days can be a great opportunity for you to take to social media and email and send out special day-of discounts that your customers can take advantage of (and bring you business you would not have otherwise).

Work with visitors. Summer is one of the seasons that brings lots of visitors and travelers to different parts of the country. Having a “visiting” section of your website, a visitor’s guide in your business, and even offering special locally-inspired products are all great ways of introducing people not familiar with the local area to your business and the area as well as letting the out-of-town visitors know that you appreciate them and are glad they’re visiting.

Get smart with scheduling. Summer does shake things up a bit with lots of employees wanting time off and people interested in staying out later at night. So maybe it’s a good opportunity to change your hours to be open 5-6 days a week with extra extended hours. That gives your employees some time off and gives people a chance to come visit and shop at the hours they’re looking to do exactly that. Having those days off can also be great for doing a deep cleaning of your site, refreshing your website and marketing, taking some courses or doing some other types of educating or learning, and getting some good rest, too!

How will you make the most of your business this summer?

Challenged by Technology

Recently I’ve been reflecting on some of the challenges of being in business and being a customer as well. There are things we should be taking into consideration for regarding our customers and what we’re selling as well as how we’re communicating with them, especially regarding changes. This week I accidentally left my phone at home for a period of time which got me thinking about changes and the technology that’s so central to our lives now.

The first thing I was reminded of was the fact that there are and always will be changes happening. Sometimes changes happen that someone thinks is a really good idea but many customers hate, or the biggest issue isn’t the change, it’s the lack of communication about the upcoming change. Changes are a necessary and almost inevitable part of life and business but you can’t seriously make changes without notifying your users of those changes, especially if it’s something that may so (negatively) impact their business that they have to find a replacement.

The second thing I thought about was how instant our world has become. Technology has enabled us to connect within seconds with many parts of the world, whether we’re using email, phones, social media or messaging. It’s amazing and has so many benefits to offer the world from emergency situations to providing support and love even from many miles away. I’m not one of those people who sits at my computer all day and waits for an email so I can reply to it instantly. I do believe that we can (and should) have lives and not be attached to our devices 24/7. So maybe it’s a good thing if we all leave our devices home once in a while.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about ease of use. Technology in general does make it much easier to do so many things. But sometimes there are changes made or features added that make it harder to use the technology. There are also times when an update or upgrade is desperately needed but it’s not made (or the change that isn’t needed is the one that’s made). I think sometimes in our desire to be #1 or the most trendy or the one with the most features we forget about the people and how easy or difficult it is to use.

This week in your dealings with technology I encourage you to try something new with technology. Maybe you’ll find that the change isn’t as difficult as you thought it would be.