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November 2006

October 2006

New phrase or new phase?

I like reading, always have done so and think always will do so (and writing for that matter). Lately I only seem to read (and write) non-fiction books, blogs and newsletters. Picking up ideas, interesting thoughts; sometimes mind provoking or revolutionary thoughts.
And sometimes very simple – wish I thought of that one – ideas.

Like yesterday when reading more (blog)articles in “Small is the new Big” from Seth Godin. One phrase really hit me and made me even laugh out loud. We all know of the value of ’word of mouth’ for business-success, growth and marketing aims. We also know that many ways of marketing are changing rapidly, especially on line, and terms and phrases are ‘invented’ on a daily base (and most times these new terms and phrases aren’t really ‘getting the message’ across).

Think about this one and tell me how easy it is to understand, to interpret and to make into a new, exiting and successful marketing aim:

“Word of Mouse”

And although I'm sure some will say: heard, read, saw, used, know that phrase already, I only discovered it yesterday in Seth's book ;-)


Last but not least

I love acronyms (as you might have guessed from the title of both this blog and my business novel ;-)
Acronyms can be a powerful, but simple way of expressing something important or ‘complex’. Recently I found this little jewel on www.businessballs.com/acronyms

LAST
Listen, Advise, Solve, Thank. A good aid for training customer service and complaints handling. (Ack Tumby).
Certain organizations continue to pursue less positive methods, notably the IFO technique (Ignore and Fob-Off) or the IPATTAP model (Interrupt, Patronise, Argue, Threaten, Terminate, Apply Penalties).”

I’m betting that workshops dedicated to customer service and complaints handling never tell you that in such a simple and precise way.


Chasing money or happily underpaid?

Every Tuesday I receive Lee Fowlers' newsletter, filled with business ideas, tips and interesting thoughts (sometimes very deep thoughts).


This week one of the topics is called: Do more than required this week

"By being passionate about the work you do, you will deliver more in quality service than you expect to receive in payment as compensation. This, in effect, is a way to keep money or value chasing you, rather than you chasing it. By always doing more than expected, you'll always be underpaid - which is how it should be.

For if you're paid more than you're worth, you eventually will be restructured, reengineered, replaced, fired, outplaced, declared obsolete and disposed of. Overpaid individuals are overdrawn on their knowledge and skills bank account. Individuals who are underpaid for the level and quality of service they provide are always in demand and always ahead of the pay scale in terms of knowledge and contribution. So money and opportunity are always chasing them.

Let money chase you, but never let it catch you, or you'll become a slave to money, instead of money working for you."
(Dr Denis Waitley)

Just thought I would share this with you all.
I really like this idea of 'overpaid individuals being overdrawn on their knowledge and skills bank' and agree that in the end, these kind of people will be re-evaluated as 'lacking'.


Stick it on!

Recently I mentioned happy reminders as a simple way to keep your company name and products/services in the memory of your existing customers. We all know (or should know) that is costs 5 to 7 times less to keep a customer than to find a new one.

But besides sending your existing customers regular letters or emails – newsletters, there are many other simple ways to remind them of your existence, your (add-on) products and services.

Suppose you’re a plumber and you install new boilers or service existing systems. You’ve given the client your business card; they received your written quotation, order confirmation and invoice. If your client needs his boilers serviced again (or if there is a problem with it) do you think they will search for your card, invoice or letter? Or will they open the Yellow Pages again to look for a local plumber? Why not stick a sticker on the boiler housing after you’ve installed or serviced it? A simple sticker with your name and telephone number, that’s enough. A constant reminder of who to call.
And if you have done a proper job in the first place they are bound to call you back in, so make it simple for your client to find your number.

Suppose you sell add-on products, like ink cartridges when you’re in the printer servicing business. Stick a sticker with your name and number on the printer (and perhaps write the type and number of the specific cartridges this type of printer uses on it). Who are they going to call?
Or like we do with our maintenance products. On every single tin, flask and bottle, no matter from which brand, our client finds a little sticker with our name and number. When they use the last drop of the product this will remind them very simply where to go for a new supply and gives us the opportunity to tell them about our other products or services.

So, stick it on!


Advice everywhere, just ask!

On the Kiss Business website I've given a short summary of all the advice and tips we received during start-up of our company. One of the items is: ask around.

And ask anywhere: sound advice can be found everywhere, even (or especially) on Internet forums. Latest example I read (and contributed to) was on the DIY-not forum, filled with trade-persons who not only give out DIY tips, but also help out when business advice is asked for.

Advice, available for those who look for it, but even more so for those who ask for it.


Small businesses: a force to be reckoned with.

Does size matter? Or is there ‘safety’ in numbers?

DTI (Department of Trade and Industry UK) reports that in 2005 4.3 million businesses were active in the UK (an increase of 1.4% on 2004), total employing 22 million people and with a combined annual £2.400 billion turnover

99.3% of UK businesses are labelled ‘small’: 0 – 49 employees; employing 46.8% of the total ‘working-force’ and accounting for 36.4 % of turnover.

In real numbers that translates into:
In 2005 there were 4,269,900 ‘small’ businesses giving work to 10,296,000 people and turning over £873,600,000,000.

Going deeper into the ‘small’ business category:
3,200,000 businesses have no employees at all (sole proprietorships and partnerships comprising only the self-employed owner-manager(s), and companies comprising only an employee director) turning over £190,000,000,000 in total (= average of £59,375 per business).

Imagine selling a £ 1.00 product or service (with a 10% net profit margin) to all smallest businesses once a year.


Happy Reminders

We all associate reminders with outstanding bills: bills we have to pay or bills our customers have to pay, not happy reminders to send or receive.

But how would you regard reminders that bring in extra turnover for your business? Would you call those happy reminders? I would (and do).

The online shop of InterFlora is a great example of how to create Happy Reminders: everyone who orders a delivery of flowers (or bouquet, or plant) online is asked: would you like us to remind you next year by email of thisInterflora occasion?
Anyone who has had the wrath of his partner for forgetting an anniversary will be very happy to be reminded this simple way: won’t that bring you extra Brownie Points?

InterFlora also asks if they should remind you in the same simple way of any other anniversaries you might forget: wedding days, birthdays etc and not just of your partner but also for other family or friends anniversaries. All happy reminders where you score Brownie Points; all extra simple turnover for InterFlora.

I’m sure every business can think of a service or (add-on) product they can promote by simply reminding their customers of the existence of it. All you need is a simple database with customer details, mail-merging it to a ‘standard’ letter in order to ‘automate’ these reminders and start sending them out on a regular base.

At Wood You Like we remind every new customer 1 month after purchasing a wooden floor about maintenance: we stock the (add-on) maintenance products but also offer maintenance service for a fixed price.
And every 6 months we repeat this reminder. (It’s recommend that every 5 - 6 months wooden floors receive an additional maintenance layer).
All it costs us is one simple click to create the automated letters once a month, two sheets of paper, one envelope and 1 stamp per reminder. The ROI is amazing.

Happy Reminders: simple, low-cost and effective.


Time to get an edge

As businesses we are also customers ourselves, from buying stationery to leasing new vans or cars or whatever. It’s one of my pet-hates that some (well many) businesses appear to not even want your custom: don’t call back; don’t come round when promised; don’t sent out that promised quotation, sample or pricelist; take ages to reply to an email or letter (if they ever do).

How many suspects (i.e. someone who shows a first interest in the products, services you can provide) are lost this way?
And how many prospects (i.e. someone who shows a definite interest in the products, services you can provide) don’t turn into customers (someone who buys the products or services you can provide) because you didn’t bother to spend time on them?

Time is a powerful marketing tool, our own experiences (compliments from suspects, prospects and customers to be honest) have taught us that.
Our telephone is answered within 3 to 4 rings; if our phone is engaged the caller is automagically transferred to an answering machine (phone company’s option £ 1.50 a month) so the caller knows he has made contact. Messages on this machine are listened to as soon as we’re off the phone and callers are called back straight away.
Emails are replied to as soon as possible, if we have to search for an answer we will let the writer know it might take a little longer.
Quotes are either made on the spot in our showroom or emailed within 3 to 4 hours (Royal Mail is sometimes not very reliable, so after a few days we check by phone if letters, quotes etc are received in good order).
Delivery dates and times are scheduled in for the convenience of the customer, not for us.
When we fear we might be a bit late for an appointment, we call.

Time after time this simple attitude gives us an edge over the competition. And at what price?
Don’t say you simply don’t have time for this. Make customer contact a priority of your business, in the end they are the ones who pay your ‘wages’. If needed (and if possible) delegate specific customers contact task to others, but make sure it is done, time after time again.

Because if you don’t, another cleverer business will.


Doing it by the books (or blogs)

Like most business owners and managing directors I’ve read many books on starting, running and growing a business.
Can you learn how to run a successful business by reading books? I still don’t think so, because every business is unique.

You can however pick up ideas from business books (and business blogs nowadays). If it has worked for other business why not try it out yourself? Most times on a small scale of course, but none the less, nothing wrong with trying. If it doesn’t work – and do give it a bit of time -, next step is to try to adept the idea to your unique business profile/concept.
If it still doesn’t work for your business, stop with that particular idea, but remember you’ve learned something important anyway. Running a successful business is as much of knowing (trial and error) what doesn’t work as what does work.

The main objective of this blog is launching, discussing, brainstorming and testing ideas, the simpler the better. Some might work for you; some might not.
It’s the trying that matters.