Competitive Advantage

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We Would Like To Espresso Our Thanks For Your Business

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While talking with some retailers about their business  they showed me  a thank-you note with the above as the greeting. Inside the note was a small packet of espresso coffee. Really clever huh?

How about World Nutella Day? This isn’t until February 5, 2011 but what could be better? You have plenty of time to buy up all the Nutella for your customers.

How about create your own special day? I just read that  Buca di Beppo is announcing spaghetti day. Is Meatball Day far behind?

I keep thinking I’ve seen everything but it’s not true. There are so many creative and fun ways to thank your customers and most of the great ideas have come from people like yourself.

The holidays are  upon us, it’s time to get in the swing of things. What will you do to thank your customers? Check out foursquare a mobile application for your business.

What is your passion; is it coffee, fishing, hunting, playing golf, making doll houses? Build an event around what you love and it won’t be difficult.

What about your customers; can you build around their passions? Do you know what they love?

Holding on to your  customers is a lot of work. It  takes more than Constant Contact and an email to keep in touch. Connect a video or an offer to your email and create something special. It may take  some creativity on your part but there are plenty of ideas in cyberspace.

Your marketing budget should also include funds for a survey of lost customers or an advisory panel of your customer advocates.  Unless a business is paying very close attention defecting customers will be lost forever. Unfortunately they don’t let you know when they’re leaving. If you believe your business is about outstanding customer service you must practice it 24/7. Don’t forget your on line customer service; the internet is open 24/7 also.

What can you do to give back over the holidays?  Have you thought about caroling? Get a group of customers and take to the streets. The key is to turn customers into evangelists.

How about raising money for your local food pantry? You have plenty of time to plan,  it’s never too early for Christmas in July. Think what you can do for others. Get a group of customers together and deliver meals-on-wheels for the holidays.

What about Memorial Day or July 4th? Everyone is dying to know what you’re doing for the holidays. Drop me your ideas and I’ll post them!

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Is A Complaining Customer A Good Customer?

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Are they better with their mouths closed?I know lots of customers that would disagree with this statement. If you’ve ever had a customer complaint on line than you know what I’m talking about. I have seen some mighty disagreeable comments that wouldn’t seem to go away.

How do you counteract these things? The first thing is to have your “great” customers  post loving comments about your service, your staff and your products. This way if you have any negative comments there’s a possibility they will get lost in the good ones or the complaining person looks like a nut job to the rest of the  readers. My experience is that most businesses don’t “stack the deck” with great comments to counteract the possible nasty ones before they occur. When a nasty comment is written, it is glaring.

I found myself the target of one of these feuds. A client of mine got some bad press for posting a photo without giving credit to the photographer. The title of the blog charged the customer with something other than the above which was not only incorrect, but slandering.  I pointed out the error of the title and immediately someone else became annoyed at me. (By the way, I checked with a lawyer first about my concerns which turned out to be correct.)  The title charged the customer with a very serious crime, obviously the writer didn’t understand what he was writing.

Online remarks can get very sticky. One of our local supermarkets received an unflattering comment on Twitter which was responded to by an employee of the market. The employee was so upset he went to the commentator’s boss and suggested the person be fired! The target took his case to the local newspaper and the rest is history.

Last year I was curious about a local luggage store so I went online for testimonials. Much to my dismay, there  was more than one nasty comment. When I went to the store to have my Tumi luggage fixed, I told the manager about the comments. His reply, “I never noticed”. Needless to say they closed the following month; they had been in business for over 20 years.

Some thoughts about what to do before it happens and after:

Manage your own publicity; get your happy customers to post great comments.

Post articles of value for your customers; articles that make them smile, feel special and get valuable information.

Be aware, watch for comments, Google your business to see what’s being written about you and your business. Sign up for Google alerts.

Blog about your great customers. Interview your customers about their families and their businesses. Make your customers your business partners. Great customer service means giving your customers what they want and possible helping them to stay in business.Consider the bank or insurance company  that provides valuable workshops on marketing and sales  for their small business customers.

By the way, I couldn’t find any. But it stands to reason if your customers can’t stay in business neither will you!

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You Never Know Where A “Cat-astropic” Event Can Lead

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Cats don't kill people (or dogs) guns doIt was reported that two kittens, Snowyday and Winter somehow dented the bell on a $5000.00 bass trombone.

Trouble in river city.

How did they do it? They probably used a  a chair. The owner, Anthony Giles, a professional trombone player, felt dented, just like the bell but unexpected events often lead us to new discoveries and new ideas.

Did  Edison really sit on the light bulb to create its unique shape? The best brass repair guy was called in New York City. Everyone knows  The Brasslab, Chuck Alexander, the master of Red Hot Customer Service. The “bone” was packed up for its trip to New York City.

An immediate diagnosis indicated that the bell needed to stay for  repair. This is not good. So, the trombone player, Anthony Giles went searching through through his “spare bells” and came up with a 10 year old  bell which turned out to be a better fit for his playing. I’m told that, as a musician, you’re always looking for ways to improve; By accident he had found one.

I think the kittens are not only off the hook but may be psychic and  were trombone players in one of their other lives.

So what  does this mean to the rest of us mortals? Can we possible train our mind to move from “victim” to being “proactive?” Stephen Covey in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People  talks about “mindfulness.”

Make lemonade out of lemons, the obvious.

Realize that even a seemingly a  disaster can be a new path for your life.

Be always thinking and wondering.

Life and success is all about attitude; never let circumstances dictate your feelings.

Think out of the box, why do you even need a “box to think out of ?”

Did I  say, don’t leave your trombone on the floor?

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How Much Money Are You Leaving On the Table?

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Can you give it away and make more money?

The other day I took my video camera to Best Buy. I was looking for a microphone to add to it as well as a stand. By the way, I didn’t buy it at Best Buy but you can always find an associate that will help. I usually ask, “Who’s the  best electronic person in the store?” and someone comes running. Being confident is at least 1/2 the sales game. A confident and friendly sales person is what most customers are looking for when they shop. He booted up his computer to tell me that a microphone wasn’t available for my camera , but he offered to print me out the instruction book, which was, of course, long gone. I asked about my flip camera, which I carry with me all the time just in case. We talked about it’s resolution as well as the  new wireless flips. As a side note, if you’re doing a closeup interview the flip is great; it also takes still photos which are better than your phone photos. If you’re taking serious videoing, it should be  done with a high definition Camcorder. I asked if there were classes available, so people like me can learn how to use what they buy.  He said they tried. They even offered to let the customers shop before the store opened and gave them the employee discount. The problem? No one came for the classes.   I see different types of training in various Best Buy stores  but nothing live in  Crossgate Mall, in Guilderland, New York. Maybe they didn’t try it long enough or put out enough publicity?

The other night I awakened at 4am and turned on the television. I started watching the Home Channel Shopping and there was the best pitch man selling my flip camera. I got up, grabbed my camera and watched while they walked me through every phase of the camera; it was so close up I thought I was on the show. They also shot a video, played the sound and showed the final  so I could see how it sounded and looked. I actually bought my nine inch Dell mini computer during one 3AM show!  I love it and by the time I received it I knew about it’s idiosyncrasies.

When you call the Home Shopping Network they make you feel like family; they encourage calls and ask if you’re a “regular”. Now you know you’re family.

What does this mean for your business? Is there a market for the “do-it-your-selfer?” Can you show the customer how to do simple installations of your products?

If you’re selling kitchen appliances, can you hold a cooking demonstration show to sell your wares?

How about a design clinic for your floors, walls and window treatments?

Are you a mechanic? How about a clinic on “car noises”, what to look out for like the Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers?

If you’re in the floral business, how about teaching the customer to design a simple holiday wreath?

There’s an interesting concept called “Freemium”. The Freemium model works off the premise that you give a way big stuff.  To some extent, The Freemium business model goes against what many of us have been taught. We’ve been taught to give away “little stuff” in hopes that the customer will come back for the “big stuff.” (Skype) is the best example of this business model, connecting millions of us with online video telephone connections  around the world. The site also offers a “premium service” at a fairly low rate. This is truly a great service. How many people use Skype? According to WikiAnswers , there are approximately 480 million people using Skype and 42 million making daily phone calls! Skye sells video cameras, phones, computer-to-land minutes and tons of other stuff. They make a ton of profit just from offering part of their basic service for free!

If you get a minute check out the Freemium model and see if it can help your business.  Remember giving customers what they want is true red hot customer service and great customer service is how you  build your competitive advantage. Why not make money too?

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Funnier Than Funny, But Does It Sell?

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image of Stanley Steamer commercial with alpaca

This makes me laugh!

I have been intrigued with “Have you ever cleaned an alpaca?” a commercial from Stanley Steamer. The two cleaning guys are in the truck and one is explaining how exciting it is to clean up after an Alpaca. It is cute, funny and definitely different. I went to Youtube to  view the video and look at the comments. The comments are interesting, what they say is ,  “I want and Alpaca, they’re so cute.” So much for Stanley Steamer, the cleaning company  being cute.

It would be interesting for the franchise people to ask their customers how they came into the store. Was it a friend’s recommendation or a past experience with the company.  They may have seen the commercial but  seeing the commercial might not be connected to their coming into the store. How many commercials have you seen, and liked, but didn’t drive you to the store or buy the product?

Maybe it would have been more relevant if they went to the local Humane Society and put their products in the animal cages or used their product to clean the cages. It would mean something to me and thousands of pet owners. As my friend Godzilla said, if you have an Alpaca in your house you have more problems than most of us that won’t be solved by either cleaning or special carpet.  It would have hit home and many of us would have gone to the shelter to adopt some pets. This is another important connection to the customer.

Another commercial similar to this was when Mohawk Carpet went to the Birmingham Zoo and featured Ricko the Black Rhinoceros as the featured mess maker to see if SmartStrand carpet with built-in stain resistance would do its job. Included in this was a Save the Rhino pairing with the Birmingham Zoo. This can be watched at

I love the Geico commercials and the latest being the “little Piggy cried all the way home.” The parody at Saturday Night Live,  are even funnier.


Remember “where’s the beef?” Did it change your mind about Burger King.

Both are darling commercials, bringing in the customer  through their love of animals as well as their carpet and carpet cleaning concerns.  Differentiation is what businesses need to build a competitive advantage but not all differentiation is considered a competitive advantage. When you have a competitive advantage it’s easy to build Red Hot Customer Service.

How do you know? You may not but you should try by asking your customers.

Ask customers about your commercial, in their mind how does it connect with their problems?  Most customers probably don’t have Rhinoceros or Alpaca stains. Does the customer get the part that both of these products will solve their most difficult problems? Does the customer think they have stains as awesome as the Alpaca? Do they think this is over kill? Do they think they need a product that will prevent staining like Ricko or do they find all of these stains disgusting?

There is a commercial for Schweppes that was a take off on the old James Bond movies. this commercial starred John Cleese. It was slapstick funny, didn’t seem to fit with Schweppes and wound up on the cutting floor. Maybe too funny or just too stupid. Frankly I didn’t really get it but love John Cleese.

Fun will sell if you use it to lighten up your customer and still use it to  reinforce your important message and  the promise to your customer.

It should be funny but not too funny so the customer forgets what you’re selling–and so do you.

Funny is a way to produce emotion in your customer and emotion is one way to build rapport. Humor is a grand way to build a connection with your customer but if it’s  so funny that you can’t connect it with your product or don’t  connect it’s a problem.

Suggestion: use humor it to add a light moment for your customer rather than an out-of-this-world funny. Save the funny for the comedians.

The key to funny, the commercial should make the product unforgettable and make the customer want to buy it.

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Become Different and Irresistable

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Here's my latest blog post over at Talk 1300 called "Become Different and Irresistable".

I’ve been reading how high-growth companies, even in bad times, spend little time thinking about staying with their competitors. Instead, they make their competitors irrelevant. How? By continuously trying different things that will delight their customers, code name: customer service.

High growth companies—irrespective of their industry—all described what has been called the “logic of value innovation.” Firstly, don’t try to get better than your competitors. Instead, become different and irresistible. Look for new markets and find out what they want. Look to customers for the future rather than the present. Always thinking, what would my customers want?


Read the rest here
.

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By |2017-03-03T12:07:14+00:00April 6th, 2010|Building a Brand, Competitive Advantage|0 Comments

Price Wars: Does Anyone Win?

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PricemgI teach a lot of entrepreneurial classes and one question that is always asked during the session is "Should I reduce my price?"

Of course you can do anything you want, but is it really worth it to lower your prices? There was an article in USA Today in August of 2009 talking about the consequences of lowering prices to bring in business. In the short term it will certainly bring in customers if they want to buy. Long term, you will have to ask yourself, are these the "right" customers?

If your customers are better customers what message are you giving them by lowering your prices? You’re saying our brand has changed; we’re not the store you thought we were, in fact, we’re not sure who we are!

Ray Noorda had a wonderful business in the company he founded: network software supplier Novell Inc., until he became obsessed with beating Microsoft Corporation. His battle was futile. He left Novell as it began a long downward slide.

According to Benson P. Shapiro, in his article Commodity Busting: Be a Price Maker, Not a Price Taker, in Strategy+Business Magazine, he states that smart competitors don’t try to beat their adversaries; they avoid direct competitors and instead maximize profits. The astute manager wants to establish a set of quasi "local monopolies," protected from competitive as well as customer pressure. This demands confidence, not bravado, astute analysis instead of raw aggression, and careful, empathetic focus on the other players in the marketplace.

Before you lower your prices you need to ask yourself, what for? I had an interesting conversation with a very large higher-end retailer who was experiencing a serious economic slowdown. I asked what he thought he might do and his remark was "If retail continues to be this way for the next year, I might have to close one of my underperforming stores." I asked how long had this been a problem, to which he remarked, for years, but when business was great we could carry the store. You probably know my suggestion: close it now! He thought that this was very negative thinking on my part: Why didn’t I think it would turn around? I stated if it couldn’t turn around in good times why would it turn around in bad times? Save the spending and put the money in your pocket. What did he do? He continued to drop prices, which gave salespeople an excuse for lower prices even more: "It’s not our problem they said." It also ate away at their self-confidence. What happened in one year? He closed the store.

Customers have distinct thoughts on stores that continue to change their prices, here are the results:

  • 70% said that slashing prices means the brand was overpriced to begin with. If you can’t sell it at the original price then maybe that price was wrong or did the quality change? The more you shop TJ Maxx or Marshalls the more you begin to wonder if certain brands should ever be sold at full retail prices.
  • 62% said that if a company does not slash, reduce or put a product on sale, that means that the brand is either extremely popular or already a good value. Brighton is one of those companies that has rarely if ever put merchandise on sale. Brighton just knows the stuff is unique and of good value.
  • 60% said that if a company put one item in the store on sale, then they felt other items in the store would soon go on sale. Macy’s has a habit of doing this with their women’s clothing line; by the end of the season, it’s all on sale. If you’re not too fashion conscious, it’s smart to wait until the sales and buy for the next season.

If you engage in price wars to increase your market share by cutting prices, you run the risk of lowering profits and not being able to cover your overhead. The result: you’re out of business.

Other companies, which still have the goal of maximizing their profits, follow suit by also lowering their prices, then a chain reaction occurs. The result? Everyone suffers a loss in profit. As previous research has shown, price wars seem to occur because of the mistaken belief that lowering prices below competitors’ prices is a competitive strategy. How can it be a competitive strategy if you’re not making enough money to break even — forget making a profit. What other strategies can you use to react to a competitor’s lower prices?

  • Rather than base your strategy on maximizing profit, a company can react by not changing its price at all. Instead, you can drastically increase your service level, or look for unique and more expensive merchandise and refuse to engage in the price competition. Each of these strategies can end the price wars and reduction of overall profit loss. Remember one of the signs of a business in trouble is their lowering prices.
  • Don’t lower the prices in your better lines, instead look for a cheaper price point in the same line. This will not take away from your premier brand and allow your customers to stay true to the brand.
  • You may have also noticed that Heinz ketchup and Hellman’s Mayonnaise have combated price increases by giving the customer less product.
  • According to Unilever, "Recently, inflationary pressures have brought about by the increased costs of raw materials. Rather than raise our prices, we chose to slightly reduce the size of the 32 oz quart and 16 oz pint. This is the first time in over three years that we have had to increase costs to our consumers."
  • If customer likes the product and the price remains the same, it’s easy to stay loyal. I don’t think I have ever finished a jar of ketchup or mayonnaise. Is it sneaky? Maybe. I’m still buying Hellman’s because I like the taste. Cutting the ounces wasn’t a secret.
    Remember if you’re not a price cutter, you are treading in unknown waters with unknown competitors who are better players. Players who are always cutting prices and known for “offering deals.” Those that make money at this game are masters at buying the right price points.” Tough competition.

Someone once said, I might go out of business if I don’t cut prices. The response: if you’re going out of business wouldn’t it be better to do it with money? 

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By |2017-03-03T12:07:14+00:00February 21st, 2010|Competitive Advantage|1 Comment

If You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About Please Shut Up!

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Bad Sales graph There seems to be a lot of blame going on in Albany, maybe its catching. 

In Albany we seem to have three situations: the closing of the inner city YMCA, the building of the new Honest Weight Food Co-Op, and a charter school. 

The Y and the charter school have poor attendance — code for "not enough customers" — and they are both ruminating as to why the facilities should stay open. The Food Co-op is raising money for their new building and does not have enough investors. I know, I know, these are bad economic times—let’s get that out of the way. But let me remind you, a business is a business; I don’t care if it’s a not-for-profit, for-profit or no-profit. To stay in business, a business must have enough money to pay its bills and have some left over—that’s called profit. 
The problem for all three businesses is not enough paying customers— period. Did this just happen? I doubt it. Many of you know these statistics by heart, by the time a business is 5 years old 80% of its new business comes from referrals and existing customers.

Who is supposed to get customers for these businesses?

The problem with customer loss, it doesn’t just happen. Some bad reviews, annoyed customers and you’re on your way out the door.

By the way, I go to the local Y; it’s really close, I love my trainer and I can get in and out in 45 minutes.

Why? Because there are no customers! I feel the same way about Staples and I hope they’re not next.

Yesterday I’m on my way out of the Y and I hear a couple at the desk ask about the indoor track. I want to cry over the next three minutes as I listen to the woman at the counter literally talk the couple out of using the track.

With all due respect she didn’t look like she had ever run anywhere — no less on the indoor track. She also suggested that the couple go to the Y across town! There were too many people standing around agreeing with her for me to slap her — maybe they all work for the other Y on their days off. I got to speak with the “potential customers” in the parking lot.  They said they were delighted that she had told them about the Y and for being so truthful. “Truthful, I remarked, she doesn’t look like she ever saw the track, to which they laughed and said that’s what they were thinking. I also added, I’m a runner and as long as there are no cars or dead bodies in the way what could be wrong with the track? By this time they were on their way to the crosstown Y. They say an unhappy customer will tell anyone who will listen so you can be sure the membership isn’t going up this month. 

By the way the Y needs a bunch of members to stay open.

So the track is not great; the upstairs gym was a little cold for Zumba and Yogi, but I can wear a sweater. Did I tell you the Zumba instructor forgot her music? As a friend said, it’s like going to a gun fight and leaving your guns at home.  The Zumba instructor had 50 excuses as to why her life was too complicated to remember her music, Lisbeth, mind your business and hold your tongue. The woman next to me replied just loud enough for me to hear, "who cares about her life?" and then she repeated in Spanish for her friends!

Okay so the Co-op is another story. I have been volunteering to pack bags at the checkout. This is a good time to ask if a person’s a member, because members get an automatic 2% discount. Of course after bringing this up the cashier explains that I didn’t tell the truth. She says you have to invest $100 and if you want a 10% discount you have to work 3 hours a month.

Doesn’t she know, most people don’t want to work for “nothing” — not even 10%? Consider that a $100 investment will make you feel like an insider, part of something good.  In addition she said I was pushy. 

Guilty as charged!  Some of our customers travel 3 hours to come to the Co-Op, honest. Shouldn’t we give them a little something extra?

In my book, pushy is when you’re trying to sell something of little value, not something of value.

Oh don’t forget the Charter School with the kids on TV crying about their school closing. The administration said they were proud of the kids for saying what they felt! I don’t even know what that means. They need more students to stay open and it seems that’s the administration’s problem. The effect is the closing of the school; the cause is not building the membership from day 1! Let’s not make it the kid’s responsibility to go out and get the sympathy vote.

Some thoughts about sales:

  • Sales are what make a business whole. 
  • Without customers there’s no reason for a business. 
  • In a business, selling is everyone’s job; teach them how to do it. 
  • Understanding why customers stay or leave is everyone’s job. 
  • One “really” unhappy customer can ruin your business. 
  • 96% rarely complain, they just go away mad. 
  • Things might seem okay, but it’s likely most customers just aren’t happy. 
  • How about some customer service training for all three of these places?

By the way, being proud of the company you represent is real customer service.

I hope Lincoln Pool isn’t next. 

Resources

Honest Weight Food Co-op members approve design of new $6M store

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Differentiation Builds Your Competitive Advantage and Delivers Customer Service

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Differentiation Flaunt It Honey!

My definition of customer service is giving the customer more than then they expect, i.e. Red Hot Customer Service. That’s exactly what JetBlue did Friday, October 30th at JFK International Airport.

Customers going through the terminal dressed in costume could show off their dance moves at the first-ever silent Halloween Eve disco. Friday I receive an excited call from Elin, designer supreme at Leader Carpet telling me about the event in J.F.K. Airport.

Elin’s comment: “Isn’t that cool?” I asked her what made it cool and she replied “It just is.” She’s right, it just is.

Here’s how it worked: When you went through security you would be given a set of headphones. Through these headphones you could hear a deejay spinning music. Of course, no one else in the terminal would hear the music.

That’s why it was called the “Silent Disco.”
“Our Silent Disco is about giving customers and crew members the chance to tune in to some great music, to burn some energy before getting on a flight or to shake out the stress of the week,” said Kim Ruvolo, brand manager for JetBlue Airways.

The event was produced by JetBlue partnership with Super fly Marketing Group.

So what do Jet Blue’s customer s think? In order to find out, JetBlue took a poll:

Disco at JFK?

Would you dance in an airport lounge?

  • No: It is way too embarrassing
  • Yes: I’ve got it and I flaunt it
  • I don’t know: Depends if I’ve had anything to drink

I checked out the poll and 41% said yes and 37% said I don’t know.

So, 80% of the customers will dance for one reason or another.

I call this customer service at its finest; assuming they got to their destination on time, no foolishness like overshooting the run way by 100 miles, or losing some serious luggage. This is just doing your job or the price of admission to be in the airline business.

Customer service is delighting your customer, making them smile, going beyond the call of duty, or doing something that makes you unforgettable. The key, as brand manager Kim Ruvolo said, is to give the customer something different.

Being different can also build your competitive advantage—but only if the customer loves it. My friend in Boston told me about an experience she had with her hair dresser of at least 20 years. It seems she showed up at her regular appointment to find the usual docile German Shepherd guarding the couch. The closer my friend came to the couch, the more menacing the German Shepherd became. She said it really scared the wits out of her; the dog had never exhibited this kind of behavior. Eventually the owner came to her rescue and asked my friend if she had done anything to frighten the dog! My friend, a little in shock, eventually got her hair done and went home. On her answering machine was a call from her hairdresser.

“It’s a good thing she called,” said my friend. “She was about to lose a good customer.” My friend, however, goes on to say there was no apology, just more defense for the dog. The dog also has a stomach problem, making it even more questionable whether he should be at the workplace.

What’s next? My friend called to tell me she has a new hairdresser, and she’s done a marvelous job!
No amount of silent disco dancing could fix this problem.
What could they have done to make it better?

  • Leave the dog home; he’s obviously too sick to be at work.
  • Leave the owner at home, she’s obviously too sick to be at work also.
  • Stop defending the customer since the dog was already defending himself.
  • Give the customer a free trip to the Bahamas; I’m sure she would have invited me to go along.
  • Give the dog a gift certificate to the vet or
  • Get someone to take the dog to the vet.

What would you have done to make this right?

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By |2017-03-03T12:07:15+00:00November 20th, 2009|Building a Brand, Competitive Advantage|0 Comments

Business is Alive and Well, Despite the Headlines

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Store-2
I've been speaking with my friend Tom Boschwitz from Homevalu Interiors. Homevalu Interiors has been around for a number of years and continues to change and reinvent itself. But it doesn’t matter how long your business has been around or how good it is, every business is dependent on customers who are willing to part with their money. And these days, consumers think twice or even three times before they take the buying step.

Bringing customers out is a labor of love — what works for one doesn’t necessarily work everyone.  The key is go get out, experiment, try new ideas and of course just do it.

And there are companies that are doing it. It just takes more skill and inventiveness.  Some people say they never see a customer and then someone tells you they’ve seen about 100 on a snowy night in Minnesota.

Lillian-Handbags Homevalue is an inventive company. Having done extensive customer research, including focus groups and consumer interviews, they probably have a better handle on what customers want and need than most businesses. Of course when the economy is tough one has to think wisely about where to spend advertising and marketing dollars.

Over the past few months, Homevalu has done a variety of in-store events for customers. Instead of hosting  color and design nights, which are quite common, they are actually holding multiple events. In fact, it's a party with various events and plenty of fun things to do.

Byerlys-Chocolatier
I remember not long ago Homevalue held a pet adoption which brought in over 100 people! They also hosted Ladies' Night Out (see pictures), held in the middle of a Minnesota snow storm. Vendors such as Mary Kay, Byers Chocolatier, Lillian Handbags, and others were invited as well as the store that provided the wine and the music.

Rudy-&-Ladies-Night-Ladies
Tom says that he budgets about $40 a person for the event, while comparing  traditional advertising costs at about $60 a person. The last four events in total have brought in about 450 customers. It appears that he's creating quite a following.

By holding multiple events and bringing in many of the same customers, Homevalue gets to thank past customers while cultivating  new ones. It just proves, if you can build a better mousetrap…

Strawberries

Some ideas for your events:

  • Ask your employees what events they think will pull in customers. Once you decide on an event, ask you salespeople for a list of 20 people they would invite. I had to bite my tongue because I wanted to say 50. Don’t forget the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Once you have the list, decide on the theme, the invitation and other businesses that would add value to the event and have their own lists of customers.
  • Be inventive; there is a flooring store in Kentucky that hosts line dancing every Thursday night—in the store. Does it work? Ask the "regulars" who bring different friends every Thursday. Ask the owners, who need a bigger dance floor to accommodate the calls.
  • Take plenty of photos, get them to the newspaper, the chamber, your business group. Don’t forget to invite your local newspaper to cover the event.
  • Get email addresses so you can send thank you notes. If you are having trouble asking, hold a drawing and note they will be notified by email.
  • Send photos to the people who attended and send them via video email, Talkfusion.com or sendoutcards.com.  Both great ways to stay with your customers. One via email the other via snail mail. Don’t forget to use these marketing tools to thank the customers and also as a way to invite them. In your video remind your customers to visit the vendors who were at your event.
  • Don’t forget to thank the vendors and get them as much publicity as possible. Remember, they all came to do business and are relying on you to make this happen.
  • Plan for your next event while you're at your "present" event. Ask everyone what other types of events would they like. Will they help you plan? Who would they like you to invite? Is there a favorite charity they would like to support? How can you involve them? Is there a special charity they would like to support for the evening?

Remember, most of your business comes from referrals, not just from happy buyers but from people who just love you and feel good about recommending you and your customers.

How about your events, what are you doing what’s working? Come on, share it with us. Need some help planning an event? Call or email me.

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By |2017-03-03T12:07:17+00:00April 16th, 2009|Competitive Advantage|4 Comments