Are you still living in the age of the Model T

modelT-CarWay back during World War II, when my Dad was off fighting the Japanese in the Pacific, my mother, sister and I lived on a farm in Perdido, Alabama with my grandparents.

It was a time when gas, as well as many other things, were scarce.  I remember one of my great-uncles coming to visit us on his horse.  My sister, Ginger, and I would sing, “Here comes Uncle Charlie, with a feather in his hat, riding on a pony,”  whenever he road up.  My aunt and uncle came in there 1940 Ford.

But, Mrs. Thompson,  a friend of my grandmother, always came to visit in her shiny polished Model T Ford.

That was a long time ago.  Model T’s are in museums or pulled out of garages for car shows.  They have been replaced with tiny smart-cars and huge SUV’s, along with everything in between.

Is your business, and your knowledge of how best to grow it, still living in the age of Model T Fords and steam engines?  Is it still living in the backwoods, where you began?

I’m not sure where you began your business and started learning the skills on how best to grow it.  Some of you began when brick-and-mortar stores or mail-order ads in magazines were the primary way to reach your customers.  Others started during the age of technology.  I began mine back in the age of Leading Edge computers and dot-matrix printers.  The internet wasn’t used for growing a business.

But that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is “WHERE ARE YOU NOW?”  Is your knowledge of technology and all that is available to you still stuck in the past?  And even more important, ARE YOU WILLING TO MOVE OUT OF THE PAST?”

I’m sure most of you have heard about Facebook, WordPress, Google +, Blogging, Pinterest, SEO and all the other stuff that is so important to growing a business today.  And some of you use them and use them well.

There are more and more new avenues to reach your customers becoming available all the time.  Knowing they exist, or even signing up for an account with some of them isn’t enough.  You have to learn how to use them most effectively to grow your business.

I’ve heard moans and groans about how Facebook doesn’t work.  How blogging is just a waste of time.  How WordPress isn’t the best way to build a website that gets indexed by Google.

They don’t work if you don’t know how to use them correctly.  They are a waste of time if you don’t take the time to learn what makes them work and why so many people use them successfully.  And, as you moan and groan, others in the industry are moving on past you.

That knowledge is available all over the internet but it can be overwhelming.  And, like everything else on the internet, you never know what to believe — what is accurate and what is just a way to get your dollars into some scammer’s pocket. As I’ve said before, anyone can be anything they want on the internet.

That is why we, at GiftRetailersConnection, made the commitment to our subscribers in the last issue to provide the knowledge that we have accumulated about the business and technology end of growing a business in each issue of our magazine.

We are committed to the statement that “business knowledge must collide with design if you are going to have a successful business.

If I, at the age of 72, can leave the age of the Model T behind and learn how to use the latest technology to grow a profitable business, why can’t you?  I invite you to come along on the journey.  The next issue will be out July 1st and you can be there at the starting line by subscribing at www.giftretailersconnection.com.

 

The Five Top Tips for Search Engine Optimization

Search engines are always changing the rules. But there are basic rules that rarely ever change.  The five tips that have always been important and I predict will continue to be for years to come are:

  1.  Search engines are savvy, so concentrate on text. Search engines only read text.
  2. Think about how a customer would search for your products.  Do keyword research using Google’s Keyword Tool, and use those words in your content to attract buyers.
  3. Don’t just list your products but describe them well.
  4. Use alt tags and/or captions to identify every photo on your website. Google searches on those too.
  5. Proactively create useful, relevant content people want to share and link back to. You can create articles that are part of your site or, better yet, add a blog.

And, of course, links from quality sites that relate to your business continue to be important.  That is one reason why a listing on GiftBasketNetwork.com should be a major part of your SEO.

Ideas Can Be Dangerous!

bright-ideaIdeas can be dangerous.
As most of you know, writing is really my forte.  As a true entrepreneur, I am constantly coming up with ideas for new businesses to create and new ways to share what I’ve learned through the years with anyone that is interested enough to read what I write.

But as I said, ideas can be dangerous.
Take this past week, for instance.  I keep a running list of these ideas and the list is growing longer and longer.  There is no way, in this world, that I can ever use all of them.  That may be just as well as some of them are probably not very good ideas.  But many of them are.  I can see the potential.  I know what they can become. But I also know that even though they may be good ideas, they will be dangerous ones for me if I don’t focus on what is really my passion.

Ideas lead you to believe that you can be everything to everyone.
And, of course, you can’t.  I was recently asked for my resume and the person reading it asked, “Okay, when do you sleep?”  I sleep as much as most and probably more than many. I just love what I do and spend many hours doing it. But, to me, ideas have become dangerous.

Ever now and again, I have to make myself sit down and take a good talking to.  I say, “Self, how are you going to fit all of this stuff in without neglecting what you already have going for you?”

I continue, “You can’t just jump from one idea to another.  Since you can’t do everything you want to do and you can’t be everything to everyone, what is really relevant and how are you going to deliver the essentials that the largest number of your readers and customers want?”

And that is what I am currently trying to do.  I’ve developed a magazine.  There’s a free forum.  A worldwide directory. And I’m writing ebooks.  The other side of my business has created e-commerce sites in a variety of areas.

So now, I’m asking you.  What is important to you?  What questions do you have that you’re dying to have answered?  What solutions are eluding you to problems that you are experiencing?  What needs to you see that you would love to have filled?

Help me out, folks!  Help me focus on what is really essential.  Tell me what your ideas are in the comments area.  All these ideas that I have are just too dangerous for me to try them all.

 

 

 

What has happened to customer relations in our world today?

Today is May 16th. Last night I noticed a charge on my credit card for $15.48 from Big Steer, one of my wholesale suppliers.  Strange, I thought, I haven’t ordered anything from them since October.

So I called and left a message.  Got a call back from the owner telling me that this was for shipping on the order that I placed back in October — seven months ago.  I asked why wasn’t the shipping included in the charge that was made on my credit card for the product back in October.  The answer was that it was a  Quickbooks issue and had happened to other customers as well.

I don’t have the time to spend going back through my tax files to find a a credit card statement and an invoice for $15.48 from seven months ago so I will pay Big Steer the $15.48 instead of challenging the charge.

But, they have lost another customer and gained this post.  I don’t think I am the only person having customer service issues and am wondering what has happened to customer relations in our world today.

As I said in the post I made on Monday about another customer service issue:

The lesson from this experience:  It just confirms the policy that my company has had since its inception is that if I make a mistake, I will eat the loss. I will not expect my customer to pay for my mistake.  And, being on the receiving end of this fiasco created by two different local companies (and now just a few days later with a national wholesaler), I understand the truth in the statement that a happy customer will tell their friends while an unhappy one will tell everyone they can reach.

An Update: A few hours after making this post, I received a phone call from the owner of Big Steer telling me that she had been thinking about it and decided to refund the charge on my credit card.  I thanked her and told her that I thought that was a good customer relations move.

A Customer Service Lesson Learned from Two Flagstaff Florists

One of the easiest ways to increase the value of our business to our customers, and to make sure they return to buy again,  is to offer exceptionally great customer service.  In the short run this may cost a company a bit more money, but in the long run you’ll see the benefit because each customer will spend more money with you.  But even more important is the fact that they will tell their friends about the great experience they had with you or will tell many, many more friends about the negative experience.

I had a first-hand experience with this concept during Mother’s Day weekend.  On Thursday, I received a phone call from a local florist, Sutcliffe Florist, one that I had used for the 30+ years that I have lived in Flagstaff.  The call went like this:

Caller:  “Since this is Mother’s Day weekend, the cost of our flowers has gone up, and we need more money from you for the gift you ordered through our website.”

Me:  “I haven’t placed an order with you, but I suspect that the order is a gift for me from my daughter that lives in Prescott. If that is the case, DO NOT CALL HER and ask for more money.  Just prepare an arrangement with the amount that she paid and deliver it.  I repeat.  ‘DO NOT CALL HER.”

I learned later that as soon as this woman hung up with me, she called my daughter while she was in the middle of teaching and asked her for more money.  My daughter asked to speak to the manager or owner.  When she was connected with Kelly, the owner, she was told that they couldn’t honor the order placed on the website because there were FTD fees and the cost of the flowers were higher than shown on their website. And the reason she had an employee call both me and my daughter is that she just didn’t have the time to do it herself.  There was no explanation as to why she called the intended recipient to ask to be paid more.

Of course, my daughter cancelled the order and called another Flagstaff florist, Robyn’s Flowers.  She placed the order for what was pictured on their website as a nicer arrangement for less money.

On Friday, I received two bouquets from Robyn’s Nest Florist.  When I called my daughter to thank her, I asked if she had ordered two bouquets.  She said no, but she would call Robyn’s Nest and thank them for delivering them probably because she had told them how disappointed she had been with the customer service from Sutcliffe Floral.  She called Robyn’s Nest and I immediately received a phone call telling me to choose which bouquet I wanted to keep and they would pick up the other one.

They got the second bouquet back with no argument since only one had been ordered but the end result was the loss of what would have been two future customers (me and my daughter) plus all the other people that we would have told about them.

The lesson from this experience:  It just confirms the policy that my company has had since its inception is that if I make a mistake, I will eat the loss. I will not expect my customer to pay for my mistake.  And, being on the receiving end of this fiasco created by two different local companies, I understand the truth in the statement that a happy customer will tell their friends while an unhappy one will tell everyone they can reach.