Sunday, May 28, 2006

How to Create a Great "Leave Behind"

Part of marketing yourself and your business is providing your customer a nugget of value for free. While neat koozies, cool magnets and coffee mugs are great for name recognition – prospective clients tend to hang on to information that will benefit them. When marketing to your target audience and when meeting face-to-face with a potential customer a great “leave behind” will put the odds in your favor for future business.

  • Make it juicy! Think of some great facts about your business and how you approach them. An insurance agent might leave behind an article on “7 Facts that Contribute to Auto Insurance Cost.”

  • Go for functionality. Office supplies or business aids that your client will use on a daily basis will keep your name alive. Mouse pads, pens, or post-it notes with your logo are hard for people to throw away because they are usable.

  • Know who you are. Make sure the leave behind accurately reflects your business and has obvious tie-in to the product or service you provide. For example, a carpet cleaning company might leave a calendar with monthly stain cleaning tips to help maintain a spot free carpet.

  • Let your business card do the work. A car dealer’s business card might have “5 Things to Consider When Buying a Car” facts printed on the back. I worked with someone at Hershey Chocolate who taped a small Hershey bar on the back of her cards. Create a reason for your business card to be saved.

  • Use pictures and market to the pain. Think about the pain your clients might experience without your product or service. An attorney might leave behind a brochure with a photo of a smiling family and list reasons to have a will in place.

  • Wait until you actually leave. That’s the idea of the “leave behind.” You don’t want the client to be checking out your golden nuggets of information while you are still talking to them. It has to be enticing enough for them to look at it, read and save after you have left.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

How to Communicate How Great You Are in 20 Seconds or Less!

When meeting new people and prospective clients first impressions are key. How we introduce ourselves sets the tone for the conversation and, as a business owner, we want people to be interested in what we can do for them.

This is called your elevator speech. It’s that concise, 15 to 20 second blurb about you or your business that will catch someone’s interest in the time you spend riding up in an elevator. Studies show that an average elevator ride lasts15 to 20 seconds. (Trust me, I worked for Otis Elevator for 12 years!). Here are 5 tips for communicating how great you are during a 20 second elevator ride:

  • The take off. Begin with a short statement or question that has a “Wow” effect. For example, a landscaping service owner might say, “Did you know that where vegetation grows suicide and child mortality are less than in places where there are no plants or lawns?”

  • Going Up. In less than 150 words, describe the product or service your business sells and who it sells to. Don’t go into detail.

  • Push the button. Know your competition and what your business does that separates you from them. Mention it briefly without naming your competitor. A pediatrician might say, “One thing that we are able to do is to see sick children on the same day of the call.”

  • Enjoy the ride. Smile, be upbeat, and be memorable. Since I have an unusual name I sometimes introduce myself by saying, “My name is Zan - like Tarzan.” I worked with someone who sold shelving who introduced himself by saying “I secure the world’s shelving needs one shelf at a time.”

  • Stop at several floors. Practice your blurb, out loud, in front of family and friends. Be very comfortable with its delivery. It should flow from your mouth with little effort.

  • Time to walk out. End with a request. Do you want a business card, a referral, an opportunity for a presentation or to schedule a meeting? Ask and then LISTEN! Resist the urge to say anything else. You want your message to be just long enough to leave someone wanting more!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

How to Use e-Technology to Jazz Up Your Sales

Today, more than 85% of small businesses have PCs and almost 30% have their own websites. Statistics predict that small e-merchants, or internet based businesses with less than 10 employees, could soon account for as much as 10% of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Small businesses that do not conduct web-based transactions still utilize online technology in daily operations. Below is a thumbnail sketch of how to use e-technology in your small business:
  • Website. Your home page should reflect the personality of your business and have some pizzazz! Brainstorm to find unique and intriguing words to use on your home page so that your website will catch a web surfer's eye! A thesaurus may come in handy. The 3 minimum contents of a small business website are:

    1. A jazzy homepage that tells people why they should read it.

    2. A bio page that tells your readers about you and your business.

    3. Content that changes regularly to entice people to revisit your website.

  • Electronic Newsletters. The 2 keys to a great electronic newsletter are your database and the newsletter content. It is critical that your newsletter be emailed to people who have given you their email addresses for the purpose of receiving a newsletter and to be sure to provide an “Opt Out” option so that recipients may unsubscribe to your newsletter. The content of your newsletter needs to be limited to 400-600 words and be visually appealing. Use action oriented phrases, bullets, short paragraphs and edgy words that provoke emotion. Use a little humor and have fun!

  • E-mail. Treat your email as if it were a letter to your client. It needs to have a greeting, like “Dear Jane” or “Hi Jane”, a well-constructed and punctuated body of text and a salutation that includes your name, title, company name, phone number, email address and website.

  • Blogs. DUH! See my April 10, 2006 blog entry: How Blogs Help Your Small Biz

  • Webinars: These are web-based seminars that allow a small business owner to put a PowerPoint presentation online, narrate it, add video and let prospects view it 24-7-365 at their leisure. Prospective clients all over the country can be reached and you only perform the seminar once – while your prospects come to you via the web. Not only are they great publicity tools but many webinar viewers pay a small fee. Cha-Ching!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Guess What I Did at the Sandwich Shop? (Turning Mad Customers into Fans!)

At the request of my 4 year old, last Friday I headed to one of my favorite sandwich shops for lunch. I love the sandwiches and my daughter loves the pizzas. We entered the restaurant at 11:50.

Clue #1 There was only one table with 2 ladies eating in the whole restaurant.

Clue #2 There were no customers in line at the order counter.

So my daughter and I approached the order counter and waited a few seconds.

Clue #3 There was no employee standing at the order counter to take our order.

We waited a few more seconds. Finally, the employee working at the drive through window saw us standing at the counter, looked around and yelled, "Where's Melanie?"

Clue #4 After a few more seconds Melanie still did not appear.

Clue #5 Finally Melanie appeared with a telephone in her hand, looked at me, continued talking on the phone, held up her pointer finger and mouthed, "Just one second." She talked for a while longer and then disappeared behind a wall to continue her conversation.

All of this at ten of noon on a Friday, with no one in line in front of me or behind me at a nationally known sandwich shop on the busiest boulevard in the city. As someone who has spent her entire professional life working to satisfy customers I was irritated. Now I knew why the sandwich shop had no one in line at 11:50 on a Friday.... bad customer service.

Know what I did? I left. Even though I was craving the food, even though my 4 year old had lobbied hard to eat there, even though I was first in line.... I left. I chose not to give this business my money. And I will not go back. And I blabbed to my friends about the bad experience.

But this situation could have been easily turned around by the business. What if "Melanie" had followed me out to my car and said, "I am so sorry, I should not have been talking on the phone. Please come back in. I'll give you and your daughter free drinks and cookies with your meal." Think I would have changed my mind? You bet!

The extra effort to regain my business would have left an even bigger impression than if the whole lunch experience had been just satisfactory to begin with. As a small business owner, an unsatisfied customer represents an opportunity to create a customer for life. Here are some tips for handling upset customers and turning them into your biggest fans:

  • LISTEN to why the customer is upset. Don't defend yourself or your business.
  • Acknowledge and apologize for what has happened but don't explain why it happened. In my case, Melanie could have said, "I apologize that you were having to wait on me. I am sorry I kept you waiting." A bad way for her to apologize is, "I am sorry I was on the phone but my ex-husband hasn't paid child support in 2 months and that was a creditor on the phone...blah, blah, blah."
  • Confirm that you understand why the customer is unhappy. Ask questions to clarify what you THINK you heard the customer say. Examples are, "What you are saying is.... right?" or "I'm not sure I understand fully, could you tell me more about....." or "What you were hoping for was..... is that right?"
  • Propose a solution that will satisfy the customer. It is very important not to overpromise. Know what you can realistically do to solve the problem and then execute.
  • Follow up to confirm that the solution did indeed rectify the problem. The sandwich shop employee could have personally checked on me while I was eating my meal to see if I was satisfied. When I worked for Otis Elevator I would frequently drive to a customer's building to "check on" a fixed elevator (even though the mechanic had told me it was running). When I worked for a medical diagnostic company I would call a customer to verify that the replacement reagents had arrived the next day (even though I had seen the FedEx confirmation). As a small business owner you want to get credit for "solving" your customer's problem. Don't miss the opportunity to follow up on a corrected situation to confirm the customer's satisfaction and so that your customer can acknowledge the corrective actions of your business.