July 29, 2012

Appreciation Marketing – Business Relationships

This past week I had several conversations in which we discussed business relationships.  Business relationships include our customers or clients, our prospects, our family members, our friends, and anyone with whom we come in contact during each and every day.  That sounds like quite a long list, and it should be.  Think of everyone with whom you meet, see, and speak each day.  Those are your business relationships, chances for you to impress and influence others, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.  That is up to you.

We need to include everyone as business relationships.  We never know who we may meet today in passing that we might meet again in the future in totally different context.  You never know if the person whom you may meet today may be in a networking meeting tomorrow or at a company that you want to solicit as a prospect in the future.  As people change companies, either by choice or by circumstance, you find yourself with prospects in different situations from which you originally met them in the past.

Previously, we discussed that you should never prejudge anyone.  That means that we should consider everyone as a business relationship, no matter what their present situation is, because that situation may change.  The customer of today in one situation may be the prospect of tomorrow in an entirely different situation.  The failed presentation today may be the accomplished sale tomorrow in a different circumstance.  Therefore, we must consider our impressions at all times, not only in the present but for the future.

Do you come away from every presentation with a completed sale?  What do you do when you fail to make a sale?  Your mode of operation must be consistent and impressive in all cases.  All cases mean all cases.  It does not mean that you treat customers or clients different from prospects.  It means that you treat everyone the same, even if they never will be your customer.  Does never really mean never?  Does the failed presentation today mean that the prospect will never buy from you in the future?

Even if they don’t become your customer in the future, perhaps they can be your best referral source.  I look for a great referral source in every situation.  To me a referral source may be much more important than a client.  They trust you to treat everyone that they refer to you as a valuable asset.  You need to show them every time that they refer anyone to you that you are worthy of their confidence.  Never fail to live up to their faith in you because you are affecting their reputation to all of those referrals.  Of course the great client should also be a great referral source.

Business relationships may include your family and your friends.  Do these people know what your business is?  Would you want your neighbor to tell you about the great opportunity that they just discovered when it is the same as the one your business has?  Missed another possible sale there, did you?  Kick yourself all the way home because you never mentioned what you do.  How many of those do you want in your past?  That will dampen your mood.

Do you realize that what you do today may affect your success tomorrow?  Do you know that the person you insult today might be the targeted decision maker that you want to impress in the future?  Everyone knows many people; all of them should know someone with whom you want to do business.  Your impressions can be your best advertising or your worst nightmare.  Your comments about your experiences are welcome here, or you can email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or call me at 360-314-8691.  Does your past haunt or help you?

July 22, 2012

Appreciation Marketing – Do Your Customers Have Fun When Dealing with You?

In previous discussions we have touched on topics relating to making the customer buying experience a pleasant one.  We have discussed various ways to make your customers so uncomfortable that they might very well walk away from your presence entirely, costing you a sale and the profit from it.  You should always make the purchase process so pleasant that your customers will enjoy it, making the experience one that they relish in life.

Remember the things that make the buying experience one that your customers will not want to repeat.  What if you, your retail outlet, your website, or wherever the customer needs to visit is difficult to locate, or you or your employees are rude, disinterested in customers’ needs, or busy with each other?  What if your retail outlet is located in a dangerous part of town or appears shabby or in disrepair, or the hours are erratic?  Inadequate lighting, poor parking, a facility that needs refurbishing, or a hangout for unsavory persons will send customers to somewhere else.

Is the buying process easy if it is online, can the customer get a printed receipt, does the customer know when they will receive their purchase, or is there a way for them to deal with a shipping or product problem?  If not, they may give up on the purchase, and they may never recommend you to anyone else.  Bottom line, is the buying experience pleasant for the customer?

I told someone once that, as a customer, I am high maintenance.  I expect to be treated like the valued customer that I am.  I also expect to be treated like the referral source that I can be.  Every customer that you have, from the one who places the largest order that you have ever written, to the person who buys one of the least expensive products that you have, deserves your best service.  They deserve to be treated as a valued person, as a human being, and as your best customer.  Sell a person one nail with a great buying experience and they will recommend you to someone who might have you build them a house.

Recently I experienced some really bad customer service from a major supplier, a worldwide vendor.  I asked them how they felt about their customer service and how they liked being known for having the worst customer service in their industry.  Their response was to ask me if there was anything else that I wanted to buy at that time.  Their website is filled with errors, their telephone representatives are untrained, and their technical support has no clue about any question I asked.

Over all, do your customers enjoy their buying experience?  Can you say that they have fun when they buy from you?  Do you make them smile and laugh?  Do their family members smile, laugh, and enjoy the experience?  If not, make them do so.  Make them enjoy purchasing from your business; make your employees a part of the business, believing that they have a vested interest in the success of your business.  Your customers should be treated the same by everyone they meet, as valued customers.

So what’s it like buying from your business?  Do your customers laugh, smile, and recommend you to their friends and acquaintances?  Do they run for the exit, slamming the door behind them, vowing to never return?  Would you buy from your business?  Your comments are welcome here, or you can email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or call me at 360-314-8691.  Do your customers have fun when buying from you or would they rather pay more just to get their product or service from someone who will value their business?

July 15, 2012

Appreciation Marketing – Social Media Is Not Social

Social Media is not social; social media is virtual in its basis for building relationships.  Before all of you Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other similar followers jump all over me, let me explain.  These sites provide a means for people to connect for various reasons.  These reasons vary from personal, business, and other reasons all the way to criminal.  My rational is that they are a means of connecting virtually.  Virtually is not the same as face-to-face, and face-to-face is social.

I have met people of varying businesses who never leave their offices/homes.  They claim that they have everything that they need, computers, telephone, fax, internet, etc.  They never meet another person face-to-face except by video.  I believe that this is not the way we should do business.  The people who conduct their lives this way are missing the personal interaction that is available in more direct meetings, the interaction that physical meetings provide, and the opportunities to learn, teach, and experience others and their ideas.

At a networking event last week, I proclaimed that social media was not social, and I was prepared for a deluge of nays from the audience.  I was pleasantly surprised when many others echoed my feelings.  These are the people with whom I want to do business and pass referrals, and whom I believe are interested in the mutual success of us all.  They believe if you meet someone virtually, or follow up with someone who you have met at an actual meeting, you should then meet that person face-to-face and get to know them better.

These people believe that this type of meeting is the way to build business relationships.  Building relationships over the internet might work some times, but the majority of the solid, productive relationships will be built from actual, physical meetings where you exchange ideas, feelings, expressions, gestures, and speech inflections that provide true knowledge about the participants in the meeting.  These exchanges allow people to build long term, meaningful, productive relationships because they actually “know” each other.

This type of relationship will last through good and bad times, it will provide business through either actual sales or referrals, and it will give each party someone to rely on for the intangibles such as advice, guidance, and comfort when you need it.  Want a short term relationship, just interested in a quick sale, or do you want to milk someone for a referral or two?  Then this type of relationship is not for you.  Go back to Twitter or Facebook and take your chances there.  I’ll take the business partner who is into relationships for the long haul.

Does this type of relationship take time to build?  You bet it does.  Does it take work?  I have always said that networking is work; perhaps it is the hardest work that you can do.  Building your relationships is part of building your business future and your success in business.  You must be your best that you can be in building relationships, but shouldn’t you be your best every day in operating your business?  Would you want anything other than the best effort that your partners have?

What kind of relationships are you building?  Are they for the long haul or for the quick sale?  How do you use social media?  Do you use it just for the virtual aspects, or do you use it as your only marketing tool?  Please leave your comments here on this blog or email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or call me at 360-314-8691.  If you disagree, I would prefer to chat about your view point in a face-to-face meeting where we can get acquainted and get to know each other in detail.  That way we can watch, and hear, what we say and how we say it.

July 8, 2012

Appreciation Marketing – Referrals Are a Two Way Street

In last week’s topic, we touched on referrals, the life blood of any business.  If you do not agree with that belief, we need to have an in-depth, serious discussion, preferably face-to-face.  Tom Hopkins, the imminent sales and marketing guru, as well as every other marketing expert, believes and teaches the importance of referrals.  If you are not trying to move your business to be referral-based from one based on cold calling (where you attempt to sell to anyone, and everyone, you meet), you look forward to lots of frustration.

What is a referral?  It is not you telling someone about a business that you noticed while driving down the street, thinking that they should cold call the business.  It is not you telling another business owner that you gave someone their name, but you can’t remember the other person’s name or number.  These are useless gestures and should be banished to a trash heap.  They are insults to the networking relationships that we should be building with others whom we meet and whom we should get to know, like, and trust.

A referral is someone that you honestly believe should become acquainted with, and perhaps do business with, another business.  You should know, like, and trust both parties to every referral.  You should inform both parties of the referral, providing both parties’ information to the other.  In short, you should introduce them to each other.  Is it necessary that they develop a sales arrangement with each other?  It may be beneficial to either of them that they know each other and provide information, perhaps only more referrals, to each other.

It is ideal if one of the parties engages in a sales agreement with the other.  It is even more ideal if both parties decide to purchase from the other.  However, they may just become networking partners with each other, providing referrals and information to each other.  Referrals are a two way street, and both parties should benefit in some manner.  If one has something that the other needs, great.  If both can provide for the needs of the other, that is even better.  If neither can fill the needs of the other, perhaps they know others who can.

When someone passes you a referral, act on it without fail and without delay.  After all, the other person should be waiting for your call.  Even better, they should be calling you if both parties received the same introductory information.  If you don’t call, you have failed the introducing party.  If the other party does not receive your inquiry well, or does not want to engage in the getting acquainted process, let the referring person know the situation.  After all, they went to the trouble of trying to make a match; they deserve to know what happened.

If the referral works out for the benefit of you, or the other party, thank the referring party, perhaps with a gift.  After all they just gave you new business; they put money into your pocket.  A small token of your appreciation is called for and will not cost much.  It shows “class” on your part and is the “right thing” to do.  There are several types of businesses which are restricted in what they can do for a successful referral.  Often a simple thank you card is sufficient.  I personally believe that everyone likes to be thanked and noticed for their referrals.

What are your thoughts on referrals and what are your stories?  Share your comments, or email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or call me at 360-314-8691.  Maybe our experiences are very similar, both good and bad, as we try to base our businesses on referrals instead of on cold calling strangers.

July 1, 2012

Appreciation Marketing – Meet, Learn, Move Forward

Last week the topic of this blog’s posting was “Schmooze, Don’t Sell”.  I received several emails and telephone calls from readers asking me to expand on this subject.  I also heard stories, some good, some bad, and some embarrassing to at least one of the parties involved.  This week I thought that I would add some thoughts regarding this subject.

We learn from exchanging information and gathering facts.  We develop our opinion of others from asking questions of them, listening to their replies, and observing their actions.  When we first meet someone who may become a networking partner with us, we need to meet that person more often and begin the process of establishing some common ground for the continuing relationship.  We need to ask probing, informational questions that allow us to get to know the other person.  We need to gather facts and process what we learn.

From our information gathering, we learn about the other person and develop either a liking or dislike for them.  I don’t know about you, but I have a difficult time doing business with someone whom I do not like.  I have an even more difficult time if I develop a mistrust of them.  I certainly will never refer someone else to anyone whom I do not trust.  I value my reputation too much for that to ever occur.  You must be able to trust all parties that you involve in a referral relationship.  They will remember who put them together.

People do business with others that they know, like, and trust.  The same rule holds true for when someone refers business to anyone.  They must know the person, more that a casual hello at a one-time meeting.  Do you really “know” the person to whom you are referring someone else?  This should also be true about the person that you are referring to someone.  You must know that each party to a referral will treat the other party with respect and honesty.  Otherwise at least one of the parties will learn that you are someone with whom they should not do business, someone whom they cannot trust to think of their best interests.

Must you like someone to do business with them, to refer business to them, or refer them to someone else?  I say that you must, after all you are putting money into their pockets.  How can you dislike someone and still help them to succeed?  Maybe the reason for your dislike should come into a discussion.  Why do you dislike them?  Are they dishonest, do they practice bad customer service or do they not honor their promises?  Do they fail to correct their mistakes, take responsibility for errors, or make the customer whole?  If these are the reasons for not liking someone, I agree and would not refer anyone to them.

If you like someone, do you trust them?  Do they practice trustworthy business practices?  Do they conduct their personal lives in a trustworthy manner?  You must trust someone to do business with them unless you take extreme measures to protect yourself.  I do not want to do business that way, nor do I want to recommend someone do business with anyone where those protective measures need to be in place.  My reputation is very valuable to me, and it is what precedes me everywhere that I go.  It also is what I leave behind when I leave somewhere.  Yours is the same.

When you meet someone, get to know them, learn whether you like them, and then decide if you can trust them.  Also, learn the “why” behind each of these steps.  Knowing “why” allows you to believe in what you have done and helps you teach others to build their businesses in a similar manner.  Leave your comments here to share, or email me at Jim@SOC4Now.com, or call me at 360-314-8691.  Then get on with learning, liking, and trusting, if possible.