Archive for Customer relations

How much would you charge?

breakfast sandwichI just flew in from Sacramento, and BOY are my arms tired!

Sorry…I’ve always wanted to say that.

At the airport my bride purchased a “substandard” bagel and “okay” coffee for $6.04. The same counter was selling breakfast sandwiches for $11.

Realizing I’m in the wrong business, I pondered how anyone has the nerve to charge such exorbitant prices.

First thought: Greed. Airport dining options are limited and most vacationers, feeling expansive, don’t bring their own food.

Plus with millions of guaranteed customers, a “Take it or leave it” attitude is almost understandable.

Especially since airport meals typically fade from memory before the next suitcase is packed.

Then I considered my neighborhood’s gas stations. One at the freeway entrance consistently charges 80 cents more per gallon than the place across the street lacking ramp access.

Given the minor differences from one brand of gasoline to another, the price differential must be caused by the convenience factor; the station’s location.

Economics 101 dictates something is worth only what customers believe its value to be.

A bottle of cold water selling for 25 cents at Costco is worth $3 when sold on a hot day inside a football stadium. Customers willingly throw money for the same item due to its increased perceived value.

Meaning we’re witnessing the law of supply and demand in action. The gas stations, airport restaurants, and water vendors are all charging as much as their particular customers are willing to pay.

You too should be looking to bestow some form of additional perceived value on your business. Like the airport, gas station, and football stadium, you may have location as an advantage.

Carrying hard-to-find products, providing amazing service, or making something of significantly higher quality than the competition also helps.

Or just making the experience more pleasant than the competition does might make the difference.

Greeting customers with a cheery “Hello friends!” and playing classical background music for those enjoying a morning cup of coffee, for example.

Of course, the answer to business success changes based on industry, geography, customer demographics, and your definition of success.

But if you can find that one thing that makes both you and your customers happy, you may suddenly find you’ve become quite popular.

Right this way, Mr. Squinty

In September I found myself at a branch of my bank awaiting a receipt. My sd-sdreyer-1485458125-snap-phototime was spent perusing brochures, people-watching, and staring into space. Then the monitor behind the counter caught my eye.

As a marketing professional I’m naturally curious about every company’s messaging. So I watched their video presentation. Twice.

Finally I realized the problem. “The picture’s fuzzy,” I told the teller, who smiled noncommittally.

Last week I visited another branch of the same bank and determined the problem wasn’t my eyes, but the presentation itself.

This time the teller acknowledged the issue. “We said something to headquarters weeks ago and they promised they’d fix it,” she said.

Yet here we are, months later, and the problem persists.

When I started in business, my father advised me to be sensitive to customers’ needs. “People’s eyes start playing tricks on them around age 40,” he warned.

Truer words were never spoken! Shortly after I hit 40 my eyes started acting up, and they’ve only gotten worse with age.

So here I was observing a marketing presentation that was unfocused and giving me a headache.

And the bank’s marketing department apparently wasn’t very concerned about it.

Meaning the message meant to reinforce my warm fuzzy feelings for this bank instead irritated me.

Counter-productive? You bet!

Even if the bank eventually gets its act together, it’ll be quite a while before I’m watching that video again.

Translation: beyond the annoyance factor, they’ve lost a very visible, very cost-effective tool for communicating with me.

And a measure of good will has also been lost because they didn’t pay attention to my needs.

Now let’s consider your business. Do you:

• Know your customer’s profile and their preferred ways of being communicated with?

• Understand their needs to ensure they receive your message?

• Listen to your staff when they tell you there’s a marketing issue requiring attention?

Admittedly I’m not so annoyed that I’m moving my business elsewhere…yet.

Still, I’m now wondering which other concerns of mine they’re ignoring.

And should the competition hit me with the right offer, benefits, and messaging on the right day, I might be persuaded to switch.

All because some faceless person didn’t take the time to ensure quality control at the point of sale.

A Vision For Tomorrow

trump-clinton-1-620x412In September, 2001, my family and I were buying a house north of Boston. Then 9/11 hit, scrambling everyone’s plans.

Our initial reaction was to stop the transaction and hide until things settled down. But with a $15,000 deposit at risk, we saw little choice but to proceed with the purchase.

Having consummated the deal, everything eventually sorted itself out. We picked up our lives and made a future we were happy with, including moving to RB a year later.

Flip forward to Mr. Trump’s stunning upset in the presidential election. Millions of voters unhappily watched the nation choose its new leader.

In quick succession I heard people I respect talk seriously about fleeing the country or halting major new initiatives.

Panic of the unknown and riots in the streets ensued. This was combined with wild gyrations in financial markets and comparisons to an American Brexit from sanity.

If you’re one of these people, remember how much you have invested in your lives, communities, and businesses. You can’t just go blindly running off into the night, screaming.

Because whether or not you’re pleased with the presidential election results, we all must deal with this new reality.

Furthermore, because of America’s reach and impact on virtually everything worldwide, there’s really no place to hide as the next four years unfold.

Want the silver lining? It’s nine weeks until the new administration is seated. This provides you adequate time to revisit your marketing plan to reflect the prospect of a Trump administration.

Reconsider your media choices, sales offerings, and audiences. If you truly believe your business will soon go downhill, plan to invest more in your marketing to counter that potential scenario.

And what if you got the election results you wanted? You’d best quickly move beyond gloating and singing “Dong Dong, The Witch Is Dead,” lest you offend customers who don’t see the world the same way you do.

Bottom line: The election’s done. It’s time to focus once again on growing our businesses. The distraction caused by candidates sucking all the oxygen from the room with every utterance is rapidly being replaced with the minutiae associated with actually governing.

As for me, I’m just grateful that Indecision 2016 is behind us, and look forward to a better tomorrow.

Hey…Where’d You Go?

column-movedSometimes my dog gets lonely. He’s 12 and set in his ways.

This is challenging on days when I’m out for the entire day.

Enter doggy daycare (yes, there is such a thing), where he spends his time with a pack of 80 furry knuckleheads.

He’s happy and safe there, meaning I can tend to business.

So imagine my surprise when I drove up last week to find the daycare facility had vanished. A crew was overhauling the building for a new tenant. A small sign directed me to a location two miles away where the daycare providers had moved to.

The new location was buried at the far end of a long parking lot. Though I eventually found it, my unanticipated detour forced a 15-minute delay for a client meeting.

The facility no doubt updated their Facebook page with their new address…only I rarely visit that page.

So how was I to know they’d moved? And how difficult would it have been for the daycare staff to send me an email with this news?

A bizarre concept, right? You’re changing location and tell people where to find you so they can continue doing business with you.

Failing to tell anyone (with the possible exception of those on-site the week of the move) guarantees these guys will lose business.

At some point that new tenant will move into the old location and the signage pointing to the new daycare facility will disappear.

When that happens, anyone visiting the old location will probably assume the daycare facility is defunct and find a new service provider.

Every business has a house list of current, past, and prospective customers. Over 30 years I’ve learned the most profitable organizations regularly communicate with everyone on that list.

Communications (newsletters, promotions, emails, texts, calls, postcards, etc.) should vary by audience.

Because whether you’re sharing buying opportunities, factoids, stories, or case histories, customers must be reminded why they need to have you in their lives.

Recognizing that out of sight is out of mind, regular customer outreach ensures customers think of you often and remember to buy from you.

Regular customer contact will grow your business over time, as well as helping you to weather disruptions like moving the business to a new location.

Giving Away Customers

Confession time: I’m not always the biggest fan of the Postal Service.

In this column I’ve previously suggested they cut Saturday delivery and establish coffee kiosks in their lobbies.

They responded by selling Bugs Bunny stamps and greeting cards.

Hardly a novel approach to improving revenues.

Still, I’ve continued renting my PO Box, finding it economical and always accessible.

No longer. Mailbox lobby hours will soon stop at 8pm, removing my ability to retrieve my mail at odd hours.

Increasingly, small business owners want the appearance of an office, even as they work from home.

This means having an outside address where packages and checks can be delivered at the same time the boss is out hustling new opportunities.

Suggesting RB’s Postmaster would be wise to remember these people have options beyond the USPS.

100 yards from the Post Office is the new UPS Store. It offers a real street address with mailbox rental and 24-hour access.

It’s called competition…a sometimes alien concept to those who haven’t run their own firm.

Admittedly, UPS is selling more service for a slightly higher price, but many people will happily pay for the convenience of late mail pickup.

And what boggles my mind is that the USPS is willingly giving away their customers.

My suspicion is the revenue they’ll lose will dwarf whatever they save on electricity during those off-hours.

Now let’s look at your business. Whatever you’re selling, someone, somewhere is selling it faster, cheaper, or with better service. It’s inevitable.

Meaning if you can’t persuade customers you’re the preferred choice, you’ll lose that business.

Certainly, some customers will prefer you merely because you offer the lowest price. However, these same customers can be stolen by someone else offering a $2 discount.

To improve customer loyalty while making a fair profit, offer better service than the other guy and charge a bit more to cover that extra service.

In these days of self-help and automation, the missing ingredient is typically a smiling welcome and a “How can I help you?”

And human interaction with someone willing and capable of resolving customer issues will never go out of style. Just remember how you like being treated.

It’s something to consider as you plan your business growth strategy for next year.

Beer: A Community Service

copy-Color-RBF-Logo-Web-Banner-2015I have two weeks to raise $1,250, and I need assistance.

This isn’t an email claiming I’m broke and lost in India. It’s a request to help our local community by drinking beer.

We’re obviously talking about Rancho Beernardo, the county’s only IPA festival. It’s sponsored by RB Sunrise Rotary and URGE Gastropub.

Full disclosure: I’m a club member…hence this plea for help.

It seems some genius decided everyone in the club must raise $1,500. Mrs. Marketing agreed we’ll cover $250 ourselves.

As for the rest…HELP!

The club expects to raise $100,000 this year, pouring it into scouting, YMCA, schools, and senior activities. We’ll build houses for the homeless, distribute dictionaries to third graders, and provide medical services to the poor.

We’ll financially support 20-30 organizations, plus provide hands-on help to Ronald McDonald House, PoVa, and others.

But we can’t do it all ourselves. You can participate in three different ways:

1)    Join us in Webb Lake Park on October 22, 2-5pm, for 50+ craft beers, savory foods, entertainment galore, and guaranteed fun.

2)    Market your business to 1000+ visitors. Six sponsorship levels are available, where $100+ will promote your name to very upscale attendees.

Sponsor benefits include free admittance, recognition in print, online, and at the event itself.

Oh yeah…did I mention you can be brewmaster for a day?  

3)    Send a donation to the RB Sunrise Rotary Fund at the San Diego Foundation to help wipe out polio.

Rotarians take the concept of “Service Above Self” QUITE seriously! All funds generated support local youth and community programs.

Now were I with another non-profit, I’d probably be ruffled by this request. After all, every group thinks their fundraiser is the most important one out there.

However, given the number and range of other groups this money will help support, your participation will help us AND them.

Furthermore, this is a golden (or amber) opportunity to target hundreds of local customers with disposable income. They’ll reward your business’ participation in the community with their patronage.

And I’m willing to venture the lifetime value of each new customer is significantly more than the cost of your sponsorship.

So for a good time, and to grow your business, plan to be part of Rancho Beernardo 2016.

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Want to join us for some beer? Get more information about the festival, or buy your tickets directly.

Interested in being a sponsor for Rancho Beernardo? Here’s all the information you’ll need:

Still have questions? Talk to me and I’ll get you fixed up.

Are you reading the room properly?

crowdMy bride and I recently borrowed a friend’s timeshare.

The location was nice and the facilities adequate, yet we knew there’s be a sales pitch the moment we announced we weren’t owners.

We weren’t disappointed.

Checking in, we heard of the many benefits of ownership. Then we were offered a free breakfast, an AMEX gift card, and a vacation.

Were we seeking a timeshare, it might have been tempting.

Sadly, neither of us gets vast amounts of vacation. Both of us dedicating a half-day to a hard core sales pitch was unacceptable.

Plus we don’t travel enough to make timeshare ownership a logical investment. It was the wrong opportunity for us.

Searching for their next sales commission, the staff never left us alone.

We encountered more pitches, videos in the lobby, and daily fliers under our door.

They misread their audience, and early on crossed the fine line between friendly persuasion and obnoxious hard sell. At that moment I crossed the line from pleasant “No, thank you” to a snarling “Get OUT of my face!”

It’s possible your organization also has potential customers who don’t respond to your sales pitch.

Regardless of your industry, repeating your message in hopes of making the sale is a given.

But it’s also important to recognize the wisdom my father provided when he advised me that you can’t do business with everybody.

Sales prospects might not like your offering, pricing, quality, service, or location. Or you just may not be a good fit for their lifestyle.

Learn to read the room and understand your customers’ needs. Talk with them about their objections or concerns to see if there’s a way to adjust what you’re selling to what they’re potentially buying.

Then, as part of your sales funnel, adjust your filter to recognize some people should just be written off.

And remember: Just as “No” means “NO!” in the dating world, so too should it carry significant weight in sales scenarios.

Because regardless of the reason someone doesn’t want to work with you, showing respect for their decision will help you avoid alienating them.

Then, should the seeds you planted during the conversation ever actually take root, they’ll think positively of you and potentially become a live sales prospect.