Dare To Be Different

When we first start our business, we are told to research, to find out what works for others and to determine how we are different.  But many of us are afraid to take that step that would keep us from being  just “more of the same.”  We copy what works for others in our industry and are afraid to be different.

Fear of being different is often what keeps us in place and keeps our business from standing out in the crowd.  Fear stands between us and success. 

Do you really want to be successful in your industry?   Do you want to be what Seth Godwin describes as a “purple cow in a field of brown cows”?  Then. . . . ..

Don’t be afraid to stray from the proven patterns created by others!

What worked for other people, might work for you. But it might not also.  It might make you just another one of those brown cows munching away in the field instead of the “purple cow” that gets the attention.  If you want to stand out from all the other gift companies, then find the unexplored paths. Lead people to places they have never visited before! Try new things.  Add new products.  Create new markets.  If it doesn’t work, try something else.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself!

It’s your business and you are your business.  Don’t try to be something you are not.  Let a little bit of “you” show through in your website and both your online and offline marketing.  It makes the business less commercial and more friendly.  And, best of all, it creates TRUST. 

If you’re writing a blog, and have an opinion, state it.  If you’re not comfortable with your own opinions and viewpoints, don’t blog. Blogging is about being personal.  It’s not about being more of the same. Your voice is YOU and is different than all the other voices in all the other blogs within your industry.   Even if all of the bloggers in the gift industry say the same thing, your voice is what will make your statement stand out and be different.

Don’t think you can please everyone all the time!

Because you can’t.  If you’re blogging, your opinion is going to be different than that of others.  That’s a chance you take when you let YOU show through.  Without intending to, you may offend someone or they may read something entirely different into your meaning.   If you’re operating a business website, there’s no way you can offer something for everyone.  Even the way you have your site set up may offend some.  A Bible verse may turn off those who are not Christian while those “Naughty” gift baskets that you offer on Valentine’s Day may offend the more conservative.  Sure, whichever direction you take, you may lose a few customers along the way.  But you will be yourself and, by daring to be yourself–even if it’s different than the standard– you may attract even more customers.  You may even discover a whole new market that you never thought of targeting before.

Don’t be afraid to dream!

Dream. Hope. Believe! If you continue doing things the same way all the time, you will achieve the same results.  Act on those dreams or  you’ll never achieve them. Believe in yourself and understand what makes you different.  Don’t just march in the gift industry parade or even in the parade of life.  Step up and LEAD THAT PARADE!

The leader of every parade is someone who  DARED TO BE DIFFERENT!

Make Your Customers Work for You!

Enjoy another great article from our guest blogger, Susan Placek, owner of “Popcorn Greetings“. 

Make Your Customers Work for You

As an entrepreneur I know about the headaches and hassles small business owners have to deal with every day. We invest a lot of time and money on marketing our products and services and only a fraction of the many approached prospective customers really turn into new accounts.

That is why I decided to make my customers work for me. Every time I send off a customer as happy as a clam, I have recruited a new sales representative, who doesn’t show up on my pay roll.

Industry studies show that it is five to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Consequently these accounts should be treated like precious nest eggs with the utmost care and attention in order to make our marketing efforts worthwhile.

In a world of increasing competition and a tough economy, smooth business transactions are simply not reason enough anymore for customers to return. Excellent products, fair pricing and overall customer satisfaction are the basics for happy customers, but no guarantee for customer loyalty.

By definition, customer satisfaction is a measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectation.

To leave a lasting and positive impression we have to go beyond of what a customer expects when doing business with us. Establishing a merchant-customer relationship built on quality of product or service, fair pricing, competence and trust, is fundamental for a thriving business and the most cost-effective way to grow sales. Customers will not only return, but also become messengers by promoting our businesses, simply by telling others about the positive experience.

The renaissance of good old values is, in my opinion, a positive effect of this recession. Building a business focusing strictly on profit doesn’t leave any room for the human factor. This kind of business philosophy may have worked for some time but it has come back to haunt many businesses and the results are all too obvious.

So what does it take to prosper and score in the game of business?

To better understand, we have to look at things from the customer’s point of view. What motivates us as customers to come back and recommend a business to others?

  • Friendliness, respect and courtesy are a must and nothing goes without it.
  • Patience will pay off, acting pushy signals desperation and stress and will not be appreciated by customers.
  • Customer questions are a perfect way to start working on a solid and good customer relationship. Being able to answer, advise and explain proofs knowledge, and is a base for the customer’s trust in business competence. Sadly, a clue less facial expression is often the answer one gets these days to questions about detailed product information. “I don’t know” is not a good answer either, unless it is followed by “… but I will be happy to find out for you”.
  • Passion for the business has a positive effect on how a company performs and on the quality of products and services. Don’t we all prefer to make business with people enjoying what they do?
  • Being able to call a business and actually talk to a person without getting trapped in the automated phone system is every customer’s dream. I absolutely despise these endless recordings and dial options and every time I have to deal with it, I get very annoyed. Real humans answering phone calls bring back the human touch. I like this.
  • It is good advice to listen to customers to avoid any kind of misunderstanding, to acquire conversational skills and to control your own emotions. Taking things personally does not help when dealing with customers.
  • Punctuality of phone calls, meetings and shipments helps establishing trust in the business.
  • Handing out unique customer appreciation gifts without breaking the bank, is a nice way to show gratitude, and with the right product it is also an excellent business marketing opportunity. Customization adds to the personal touch of a thoughtfully chosen give-away, saying “Thank You” is always in season.
  • A caring attitude and genuine interest in the customer’s needs is a safe investment into a thriving and successful business.

Is your customer service ready to ask, “May we help you?”

Creating Customer Loyalty

Here is an article written by Sean D’Sousa  of Psychotactics.  It talks about customer loyalty in a way that we seldom think of. 

Are you concerned about customer loyalty? Are your customers so loyal that they will stick with you through hell and high water? And if not, you really need to question how you can create a customer relationship that’s so gluey, that you never go bluey in the face. Funnily you don’t have to go far. Reach for your Webster’s dictionary and you’ll discover a hidden secret to customer loyalty.

Do you find it amusing? Giggle if you must, but stick with me and I will show you the simplicity and longevity of this sane advice that will change your marketing strategies and tactics forever.

But First, Let’s Look At Nasty Hurricane Andrew
In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew went bananas. Like a drunk on one too many Tequilas, he tore into South Florida with wind gusts of 175mph, redrawing the landscape as he stomped onwards. Approximately 600,000 homes and businesses bore the brunt of his menace.

By the time Andrew left, he had run up a tab of $26 billion dollars and the curses of some very, very angry insurance companies. Andrew had single handedly run up the highest insurance recorded payout in history , if you don’t count September 11.

Many an insurance company looked gloomily into their crystal balls and decided the future was too dicey. So while they grudgingly forked out the costs required to cover the claims, they refused to renew customer policies.

State Farm Insurance Had a Different Opinion
The biggest reason Hurricane Andrew blew the roofs off the houses was because contractors had not anchored them to the frames. State Farm not only happily forked out the policy claims but also paid its customers more to bring the houses up to code.

Amazingly, this insurance company was willing to overpay just to make sure their customers have peace of mind should Andrew or one of his family come visiting.

State Farm Wasn’t Too Far From the Leo Burnett Advertising Agency
Agencies are like turnstiles. Clients come, clients go and it’s the same mantra for employees. Not if you look at the Chicago-based agency called Leo Burnett. At Leo Burnett, over a four-year period from 1986 to 1989, 98 per cent of business came bounding back from repeat clients. No other agency even came close.

Furthermore, this Houdini of advertising has had an almost zero client defection rate for decades. In an almost boring, old fashioned way, they adopt a loyalty based management that keeps clients superglued to them. And it continues to amaze and fascinate the roller coaster advertising industry that can only watch in awe and extreme fascination.

Which Brings Us Back to Webster’s, Doesn’t It?
Now let’s look at how Webster’s Dictionary defines the word Client. It says: A client is one who comes under your care, guidance and protection.

See those words?
It doesn’t say someone you need to get money or make profits from. It asks, even beseeches you to care, protect and guide your clients, like you would with your own child. Everything you do, you do unselfishly for that child. You put your heart and soul into creating a safe, educated environment. You become the guide and the protector. You create a bubble as secure as you can to make absolutely sure they get the very best.

Scary, isn’t it? Especially when you look out there at so many companies, whose single motive is to simply get the sale and move on.

Hurricane Andrew Moved On, State Farm Moved Up
As soon as the brouhaha of Andrew’s visit died down, up came the vultures from other insurance companies. They tried to woo State Farm policy holders with discounts and other incentives. Most of them found doors slammed in their face. Their customers were staying loyal no matter what bait was being dangled in front of them. When the chips were down, State Farm pitched in to help like family. There was no way the customers were going to let down their own family.

Adhering strictly to Webster’s, State Farm had cared, guided and protected its clients. And the clients were repaying that with rock solid loyalty.

Leo Burnett Did The Same With This Hidden Clause?
The same principles apply to Leo Burnett. Like mother hens, they fuss over their clients, doing acts of guiding and protecting that other agencies would never even consider. Its first client, Green Giant, is still a customer some sixty years later. Even back then, founder, Leo Burnett, put in an additional clause that enlarged the standard vendor agreement of buying space, producing ads and maintaining confidentiality.

It read: Counselling with you in regard to your advertising and sales efforts, seeking new ways to improve your advertising, make it more productive, and in every way within our power, working with you to advance your business.

Founder Leo has been dead for over 30 years, but the tradition of caring, protecting and guiding doggedly lives on. Their policy is simple. If a customer runs into a bad year and has to cut back on its advertising – let’s say by 50 percent – Burnett doesn’t automatically cut back on its services by 50 percent and pull half of its management off the account. The company is willing to lose money on an account over the short term.

The inevitable result, Of its 33 clients, 12 have been with the company for over twenty years, and 10 for over thirty years.

Paying Attention to Webster’s Is Not Enough
It needs more. And that more is called sacrifice. Just like with children, you can’t deal with fifty all at once. Each child needs its own time, space and guidance. This requires huge resources, and if you chase every possible client, you’re soon going to run yourself pretty ragged.

The Leo Burnett Agency chooses carefully. It selects its potential clients, as you no doubt will. In 1994, 54 companies invited the agency to talk about a business relationship. Burnett pursued only five.

If your selection of customers isn’t deliberate and systematic, you will run yourself ragged trying to service customers that share neither your dreams nor standards. Invariably, you will find discord and the desire to care, protect and guide will evaporate like moisture on a hot summer’s day.

Care, Protect and Guide – Even If You Have To Send Clients To Your Competition!
If you’re scared, back out now, because I’m going to ask you to do something no seemingly rational business does. That is, you care about your client so much, that you take pains to send them to your competition if you cannot help them.

Hang on. This isn’t as bizarre as it sounds. If you really do care for your clients, you should want them to get the best advice possible. However, no one said you shouldn’t make money off this.

If you sell high end BMWs and you know your client needs a more economical Toyota, you should logically send them over to your competition. However, if you set up a deal with the Toyota dealer, you can not only generate a commission, but also give your potential client a bonus or discount if they go specifically through you.

Hey, those customers are going to walk anyway, once they find their exact needs aren’t being met. And if they get stuck with something they don’t really need, they’re going to be mighty mad once they find out. You aren’t doing yourself or them a favour by making them stick to what you have to offer. Sending them to a competitor that you know will treat them well, endears you to the customer and ensures a tidy profit as well.

Welcome To The Land Of Endless Loyalty

Loyalty at its very roots is exceedingly simple. It’s exactly like a parent-child relationship. While no doubt you will come to depend on technology as your client base grows, the enduring thread that binds it all is the underlying psychology.

Inevitably, you won’t always have a trouble-free course, and both Leo Burnett and State Farm have had stormy days. The only way out of the driving rain is to heartily embrace the care, guidance and protection concept. Let it be your guiding light, far superior to any mumbo jumbo mission statement, leading to exponential profits and devoted clients.

All you have to do to succeed is play Mother Hen.

And say a silent thank you to a certain Mr.Webster.

* Source: The Loyalty Factor by Frederick Reichheld.
**Secondary Source: Me. I worked at Leo Burnett in the 90’s.

It’s amazing what you can read on the web!

It’s amazing what you can read on the web.  I just read the following on someone else’s blog about “Ten Ways To Turn Your Freebies into Cash”:

“4. Start a gift basket business. If you really want to get active with selling freebies then you can start a creative gift basket business. You’ll have to work full time to collect as many freebies as possible and then to repackage them into unique gift baskets which you can then sell for a profit but if you like this sort of thing then it can be well worth your time.”

This is just another example of what some people think of our industry.  “Anybody can build a gift basket.  All you have to do is put a bunch of stuff into a basket, tie some cello (or as one utube video demonstrated — use saran wrap), and tie a bow on the top.”

This is why so many people start a gift basket business and quickly discover that they don’t know the first thing abourt running a business.  Other than learning the techniques necessary to create a professional product that creates a WOW effect, running a gift basket business isn’t a whole lot different than operating any other kind of business.

It takes research (lots of it), hard work (lots of it), a knowledge of business principles, and persistence.  And time.  Oh yes, lots of time!  Businesses don’t just happen.  They are made.  And they are made by people who love what they do, have enough passion about their chosen industry to hang in there and persist even on the bad days.

“Get a bunch of freebies and start a gift basket business.”  This person is even a bigger charalatan than the one who writes that “you can make thousands during your first few months in business and half a million the first year.”    Unfortunately, there are those out there who are going to believe both statements.