February 27, 2011

Make It Easy for Your Customers – Appreciation Marketing at Its Best

We all appreciate our customers, right?  We show our appreciation by thanking them for their business, thanking them for referrals, supporting their special events, and engaging them as networking partners.  Good for you, but should you do more?

How easy do we make it for customers to do business with us, to buy our products or services?  Do we keep consistent hours of operations; do we provide the purchased product or service in a timely manner?  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Perhaps not; perhaps we need to take a new look at our businesses and how we relate to our customers.

Is your parking lot crowded; do your employees take all the close parking spaces; is there an adequate supply of handicapped spaces?  Can customers easily load their purchases into their vehicles in your parking spaces; is there any assistance for customers to load their purchases?  Can they easily navigate your parking lot?

When your customers enter your facility, do your employees greet the customers in a friendly, helpful manner or do they ignore them completely?  Do your employees only work in certain areas of your facility, or do they help customers in any area with any selection?  There is no savings in a customer searching out an employee only to be told that the customer needs to find someone else who works in a different specific product area.

Furthermore, is there music playing in your facility and how loud is it?  If a normal level of conversation is impossible, you should bring down the volume to less than ear-shattering.  Is there adequate heat in the colder months in your facility or air conditioning in the warmer times?  Just having some air circulation might be enough for your customers.  Jodie Blackwood, the business etiquette and customer service specialist, points out that business environments should be comfortable for the customer, not the employees.

Every business owner should take a look at their business from the outside.  What do customers see when they approach your facility; is the entrance attractive or even clean, is the parking adequate for all customers?  Does your entrance “welcome” customers into your business?  If you do not care about your business image, maybe you do not care about your customers.

Once your customer makes their selection, do you make it easy for them to pay for their purchase and leave?  Do you accept only cash, or do you accept credit cards or checks?  Do you help customers take their purchase to their vehicle if they so need or do your deliver and/or install their purchase?  If you deliver and/or install, do you make the process timely and convenient for the customer?

Every person who enters your facility should be happy to return, even if they do not make a selection during their visit.  If they believe that their visit was welcome, comfortable, and had value for you, the owner, they will believe that you appreciate their business.  As a result, they should return if they have a need for what you provide.  If they do not have a need, will they recommend you to someone else?  Do they know that you care?

Customers must be appreciated when they visit your facility; otherwise they will not return.  In addition, they may not recommend you to others, and they may even tell others to stay away from your business.  Don’t make it difficult for someone to do business with you; don’t make customers have to “work” to buy from you.

You are all my blog “customers”, and I appreciate all of you.  Please leave a comment if you wish, or I also welcome your calls at 360-314-8691 and your emails at Jim@SOC4Now.com.  Please let me hear from you so we can build a networking relationship and help each other.

February 20, 2011

Networking Partnerships – Are They Just for Referrals?

Appreciation marketing teaches us that we should pass referrals to our networking partners if possible.  Does our responsibility stop there; is passing referrals the only contribution we make?  Of course not; there are many ways we can support our partners; referrals are just one facet of the partnership.

Our networking partnerships must be comfortable for all parties.  They must be true partnerships where all parties trust each other, being assured that their feelings, thoughts, and spoken words will be honored and kept in confidence if desired.  Utmost care must be taken where each partner knows that openness will be fostered and respected.

Construct relationships based on trust and honesty.  The partners may ask advice of the each other and expect that their request will be honored.  The response must be straight forward and attempt to best answer the request for help.  We must not give the requester the answer that only flatters; we must provide our best advice.

In other words a networking relationship requires that all partners “check their egos at the door”.  They must get honest, direct, and supportive responses to requests for help, not empty words that will not “ruffle feathers”.  We might respond with the words that the requester does not want to hear.

If someone comes to you with an idea about their marketing, they have honored you with their request.  You should consider their idea as if it was your own.  Look at it from every angle and consider it as if it was your plan and your company needs it to further its prosperity.

Does the plan make sense; does it honor the marketplace and further the excellent reputation of the company?  Does the plan consider the benefit of the customer and have integrity?  Does the plan reflect appreciation of all?  Would you place your name and that of your company on the plan?  Do not fail to give your decision making the full attention that your relationship requires.

Then make your partner aware of all your feelings about the plan and how you arrived at your decision.  Be honest, even if it might be easier to not be.  Define your steps that you followed to arrive at your advice and discuss how you feel about the question.

If you and your partner agree about your suggestions, perhaps your partner just wanted reinforcement.  If you do not agree, then explain your thought process and discuss the differences in your thoughts.  If you discuss the disagreement and cannot resolve the differences, then agree to disagree and move on.  You have done what you should have done, to the best of your ability and cannot do more.

Is there a possibility that your relationship may be strained or damaged?  If so, then it wasn’t very strong to begin with; it wasn’t the type of relationship that was founded on honesty and trust and that fosters the growth of the same.  A true networking relationship is one where the parties can say anything to each other and what they say will be delivered and received with honesty, trust, and care for each other.

Think that you have a solid networking relationship since you pass referrals to each other?  You have a start; now take it to the next level and beyond.  Networking relationships are the basis for your network of advisors of whom you can ask anything at any time and get honest, truthful responses in return.  You may not like the conversation; you may be uncomfortable, but you will find that your relationships have moved to a better business and/or personal level.

Have a comment?  Please leave it for me.  I appreciate your thoughts, questions, and support.  I also appreciate your calls, 360-314-8691, and emails, Jim@SOC4Now.com.  Please let me hear from you so we can build a networking relationship and help each other.

February 13, 2011

Failed Referrals – What Do They Mean in Networking Relationships?

In the past we have discussed passing referrals to our networking partners and what makes a great referral.  Our objective is that 100% of our new business comes from referrals.  After all who really likes to cold call for new business?

Certainly we should all pass referrals to our partners which we believe that are appropriate ones, those which will bring a mutually rewarding relationship to each of the parties concerned.  Of course, both of the parties of the referral should be our networking partners.  But what happens when the referral does not result in a mutually rewarding conclusion?

As much as we try to pass “qualified” referrals to our networking partners, what happens when one goes wrong?  The two parties just cannot seem to make the referral work for some reason that we did not anticipate when we made the referral; is that our fault and should we try to “fix” the situation?

So when did we ever believe that referrals were “certain to work”; when did we all become the “all-knowing” experts on our partners’ business or needs?  There is no “for sure” in life, just as there is none in business.  There are going to be times when we miss the mark with our own business prospecting, in which we should be the expert, and there are going to be times when we also fail with a referral.

We try to “know” our networking partners’ businesses or needs.  However, we are not the “experts” in their businesses or needs.  We are not in the position to “sell” their products or services for them or to “buy” products or services for them.  Only they “know” what their business really is or provides, and only they “know” what they need.

We should be able to receive feedback from our networking partners after we provide a referral, and we should receive it from both parties in the referral.  Hopefully, this feedback includes a positive report on the referral; however, sometimes the feedback includes a negative report.  Maybe the referral is not ever going to end in positive results.

Does a negative result mean that you failed in your part of the referral process?  Maybe not, but maybe you misunderstood the parties’ mutual attraction.  No harm, this should not be seen as a complete failure on your part.  If you honestly tried to help two parties and failed, you have learned for the future.  Maybe the two parties also learned how to better educate you and others about their business or needs.

Failure in referrals should be seen just as failure is seen in any other endeavor, as a learning experience.  Anyone who does not fail does not attempt to do anything.  Those who fail and do not learn from the failure are doomed to fail for good.  Just learn and do better in the future.  Should the failure result in a damaged relationship with your networking partners?

If you did your homework and made the referral believing that you honestly believed that the referral was mutually beneficial to both parties, then you have nothing to regret.  As we said before, it is not your function to “close the deal” when the two parties get together.  Do not stop referring others; learn, and move on.

Appreciation marketing teaches us that we must thank those who provide referrals to us.  The referring party is not responsible for “closing the deal”; we are the ones who must complete the process.  If someone passes you a valid referral which does not result in a positive outcome to you, thank the person, provide them feedback that may help both of you in the future, and move on to more referrals.  Be glad you have such a partner in your network.

Remember that your comments are always welcome, and thank those of you who leave them.  I also appreciate your calls, 360-314-8691, and emails, Jim@SOC4Now.com.  Please let me hear from you so we can build a networking relationship and help each other.

February 6, 2011

Give; Get; Repeat - The Never Ending Cycle of Appreciation Marketing

Last week we discussed the fact that in life there are givers and there are takers.  Without both of these types of people, there would be no exchange of anything.  Without the two halves of the relationship, there is no relationship.  For every giver, there must be a taker.

In the past I never wanted to be known as a taker.  Takers have a bad reputation; they take and take and take.  They never give back.  Is that true?  Why does it have to be considered that way?  Takers can be givers, and givers can be takers.  After all, it requires two for this process to work, doesn’t it?

Perhaps these terms just have a bad reputation, a bad feeling so to speak.  Maybe we should change the terms to donors and recipients, contributors and receivers.  Isn’t it amazing how a change like this can make something that seems to be bad into something that we can accept or even like?

Givers provide something that the recipients want or need, whether the recipients know it or not.  If I give you a referral, I am the giver, and you are the recipient, or taker.  If you pass a compliment to me about a shirt that I am wearing, you are the giver, and I am the receiver or taker.  Every exchange takes two to make it work, a donor (giver) and a recipient (taker).

Many of us just think that takers are bad people, the people that we never want to be, the people that we want to avoid.  If you are a giver, you need takers; you need people to accept or receive your actions that you give.  What good is a referral without a person to which to give it?  What good is a compliment without someone to whom to mention it?

No matter how many referrals or compliments that you give, you must have that many receivers, or takers.  They may be the same person multiple times, but spreading the wealth is so much better.  Your receivers should appreciate your efforts, especially the person who receives multiple referrals, but they should do something else.  They should pay the effort forward.

Pay it forward – wouldn’t that be a great title for a movie?  Repeating the efforts of which you are the recipient extends the action or process.  Give, get, repeat; what a simple philosophy.  What comes around goes around.  When someone gives something to you, you must give something to someone else.  When someone does something nice for you, do something nice for someone else.

What about the originator of the process?  Why not just give back to the person starting the process?  Giving back to the person who gave to you is our normal thought process, and it is not the wrong way to think.  However, why not do both, why not give back to the person who provided you something and pay it forward to someone else?  In other words, what goes around comes around. 

Can we incorporate this philosophy into our business life?  Referrals are the backbone of any business, or should be.  Passing referrals is like giving someone money for their business.  But what about other ways of using this philosophy in our lives?  Passing compliments or advice, providing a friendly ear, sharing a meal, sharing any information that improves someone’s life, even recommending a blog to someone, they all qualify.

When someone helps you through any of these ways, accept their gift, for it is a gift.  Then pass a gift to someone else, or even pass another gift back to the person who helped you, who gave you a gift.  Give, get, repeat; it works for all of us.  Extend, accept, duplicate; provide, receive, replicate.  They all mean the same.

Appreciate all those with whom you come into contact during your life, both business and personal.  Accept their gifts and show your appreciation in return by passing on gifts to others and back to them.  Then repeat the process.  What comes around goes around; what goes around comes around.  It really works.

If you want to add a comment, please do so.  Otherwise I would be glad to chat about these theories, or anything else, if you call me at 360-314-8691.  You can also email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com.  Please let me hear from you so we can build a networking relationship and help each other.