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hands claspedLooking for a way to get some quality,  FREE training? Then volunteer for a cause or a not-for-profit. These folks are always looking for help with projects. In fact, not only do they need help, they need LEADERSHIP to help them reach their goals. In other words, they need YOU. And YOU may need them, too.

As I was building my business several years ago, I found that getting actively involved in the right organizations was not only great for building my personal brand and that of the business, but also for getting some great training at someone else’s expense!  Plus it’s just a lot of fun because you get to work with other leaders you might not have the opportunity to work with otherwise.

There are several cautions that need to be observed when volunteering (and I’ll talk about them another time) but the benefits far outweigh the costs when it comes to volunteering.

So the next time the chance to volunteer comes along, don’t think about how busy you are, think about how it can positively impact your future.


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cell phone - pdaA few days ago I purchased a new Samsung Galaxy S4 for my wife. Now, before you Apple Devotees show up at my website with torches and pitchforks, go check that phone out. It’s a powerhouse! Anyhow, I’ve been a mostly-happy SPRINT customer for nearly two decades now. I say “mostly-happy” because there were a couple of easily-avoidable, hard-to-excuse bobbles on SPRINT’s part in the last few years. I won’t bore you with the details here because I almost wore you slick with BLOG posts about it a couple of years ago when it happened. Plus, I like to write mostly positive stuff, and to SPRINT’s credit, they finally did get the problem resolved and I was once again a happy customer.

When I bought this phone and got a text from SPRINT telling me I had to go and “verify” my discount. As I went from one SPRINT web page to another, failing to have my discount code recognized, I started getting that same “alone in a dark alley and about to get mugged” feeling I’d had a couple of years ago. Fortunately, this time, SPRINT had Sara taking care of it for me.

I called in to get help and Sara not only patiently helped me figure out a simple way to navigate the site, but on her own initiative, she reviewed my account helped me locate an even better discount that is going to save me another 4%.

Are you listening, SPRINT? I hope so, because THAT is how you keep a customer for life. Sara just saved your brand! Sara IS your brand as far I, your CUSTOMER, am concerned.

Good business means providing a quality product and being there to answer the questions of your customers. It means doing what you can to make sure theirs experience with you is indeed a good EXPERIENCE.  It means owning up to, and fixing, a problem when it occurs. And if you can give your customers a little MORE than they expected, that’s an investment that’ll come back to you, too, because they’ll tell others. If you want MORE business, do GOOD business!

Someday when Sara is the president of SPRINT, I hope she’ll remember this post in her acceptance speech!

We figure our best salesman is our customer. Treat that person right, he’ll walk out the door and sell for you.” – Jerry Murrell, Founder, Five Guys Burgers



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Wanna get away?

By Dr. Burt Smith October 18th, 2013

SouthwestNineteen years ago this month I attended my first AMA Meeting and haven’t missed one since! Yes, you read that correctly, I have not missed a meeting in all that time. To commemorate the occasion, AMAOKC Vice President of Programs, Stew Law, had Dr. Isaac Munoz, Manager of Customer Insights from one of my favorite brands, Southwest Airlines, come and give a special presentation.

Ok, umm…not all of those statements are entirely true. Yes, last week was my 19 year anniversary attending AMAOKC, and yes, Isaac Munoz from Southwest was the presenter, but the part about it being a special program just for me is a wee bit of an exaggeration. And when I say a “wee bit” of an exaggeration, I mean a total and complete exaggeration. To say that Southwest is one of my favorite brands and that it was a heckuva presentation are understatements, if anything, though. Lots of good stuff, so all joking aside, thank you Stew and thank you Dr. Munoz.

I’ve been a fan of Southwest Airlines for as long as I’ve been a member of the AMA. I think the book that tells their story, Nuts!, should be required reading for everyone, regardless of what industry they work in. Southwest is the embodiment of excellent, customer-centered marketing. They’ve also got the profits to back it up. Imagine that… an airline who dares to be profitable!

And when you break it down, folks, all Southwest really does at the end of the day is to do what they do better than the other guys do it. They simply do good business and as a result, they have an excellent business. As Drucker said, “The purpose of the business is to create and satisfy a customer.” Do that efficiently and the profits will follow. Southwest is a case in point to that effect.

To get MORE business, do GOOD business.

We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle


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Imagine it’s the fircar red linest day of school. You’re in your car in line waiting to pick up your child. You’re being a patient rule follower, wanting to set a good example and all, then out of the blue, some parent who believes they’re in a bigger hurry than you, and are thus entitled, for some reason, to YOUR the place in front of you in line, noses their vehicle right in front of yours. Cuts in line, in other words. Not waits patiently with a gracious expression, imploring you to let them in, but cuts in line. Yes, cuts right in front of you. Aggravating. Disappointing. Downright moronic. This very thing really, truly, did happen to a friend of mine and I understand it’s rather common these days, so it may have even happened to you. Sad, sad, sad.

But this incident gets even worse, if you can believe it. This rude moron is driving a car that is wrapped with the name and contact information of a company. How dumb is that?

As I’ve written before, vehicle wrap is ordinarily a very good branding tool. But as I’ve also written before, whoever is driving that car with the brand messages plastered all over it needs to remember their actions behind the wheel ARE the brand in the minds of the customers. So if somebody else is driving a car, truck, van, scooter or skateboard representing YOUR brand, they may be taking your brand image places you don’t want it to go.

My friend is very forgiving, but she’s also not the least bit forgetful. She remembers the name of that company to this day, and she has vowed to exercise her right as a consumer in a free market to NEVER do business with that firm, nor will she ever REFER this firm if the opportunity should arise. Maybe that’ll cost the company who committed the dastardly deed, or maybe it won’t, but any way you look at it, that company’s brand dodged a major bullet.

Here’s why…

A less-forgiving victim of that kind of rude behavior could have whipped out her cell phone and snapped a picture of the vehicle with the brand wrap on it. She could have then Tweeted, Facebooked, and blogged about the dastardly deed to all those in her sphere of influence, who could then have reached out to their spheres of influence. And so on, and so on. All in a matter of minutes. She could have launched her own social-media mini-attack on the brand. And she’d have been justified in doing so.

That is the kind of POWER your customer has these days. So if you’ve got employees who are driving around in a vehicle with your brand showcased on it, anything and everything they do while behind the wheel is potentially something the market could use to build their impressions of your brand. And anything your employees do that offends a customer could be digitally shared with the world long before you even know about it. So remind anyone driving a vehicle that identifies your brand that everyone, including YOU, is watching, and that they need to play nice!

Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos, founder, Amazon.com



“You’ve gotta be doing this…” has been the buzz for the last few years. I’ve lost track of how many self-proclaimed social media experts have come along (and more than a few have gone away!), harping on how this is the next big thing, the future, and so on.  “You’ve gotta be doing it…” They’d say. “You’ve just gotta!”

For the longest time, they added that one of the reasons you’ve “gotta be doing it” was because it was the best FREE way to get your brand some attention. It was never “free,” my thumb-jabbering expert friends. If somebody had to invest time in managing the campaign, that disconnects with any business definition of “free” I ever heard of. Now they are saying, “But if you really want the best exposure, you’re going to have to spend some money…” And they get all serious and they furrow their techo-savvy brows as they deliver the line, then pause for dramatic effect.

Here’s what I think. These are great tools and are arguably essential component parts of an overall strategy, but they’re just that: Tools and components. They are tactics, arguably very useful tactics, but if they’re not attached to an overall, meaningful strategy, don’t bother.

Marketing is about serving the customer and giving them value. Anything that helps build that relationship and delivers value is a good investment and an essential element in the growth of that relationship. Anything that doesn’t is a foolish (and expensive) waste of your time and and offensive waste of you customers’ precious time.

Facebook and Twitter are great media for communicating with customers, but my prediction is that the landscape may get pretty cluttered before too long, if we’re not already there.

I’m reminded of what Warren Buffett said hurt the newspaper business so badly. He said the customer has millions of choices from which to get information, but only 24 hours in a day and two eyeballs with which to consume it. Think about your own digital activity…are you really able to find the time to do all you want to online?  Even with that smartphone that accompanies you everywhere? Isn’t it likely the same customers you’re trying to reach have the same frustrations? And they should give you a piece of their scarce, irreplaceable time because…?

This is part of the reason why the social media “experts” are now saying you’ve got to buy your way in front of your audience. And though buying your way in front of them may help you get in front of them, unless there is real, genuine VALUE in it for them, you’re not going to keep their attention. And what’s the net result of that going to be? Back to that “offensive waste of their time” grumble I used a few paragraphs ago.

So what’s the answer? For starters, we need to be very honest when looking at what we’re really getting with our digital efforts. As I mentioned earlier, if we know they’re helping build the value relationship with our customers, then they’re a very worthwhile investment that should be made because they are useful strategies and tactics in achieving results.

The terrible truth is, if social media is something that gives your customers value, then yes, you’ve “Gotta be doing this…” And you should be doing it because it’ll ultimately give you a return on your investment.

If not, then taking a wait-and-see attitude rather than just running out and “doing some social media” may be in order. To quote from The Richest Man in Babylon, “Better a little caution than a great regret.”

“Twitter makes me like people I’ve never met. Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life”. – Unknown





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2013-09-27 18.09.08I found myself on a quest last week. My son decided he wanted to be Hawkeye from the Avengers for Halloween. It turns out that the Spirit Halloween store is the exclusive home of the Hawkeye costume in kids’ sizes. I called the Edmond store and spoke with Bridget. She was very courteous and told me that the store had just opened, and that the inventory hadn’t been completely shelved yet, but to call back in a couple of days and check with them then. “Ok,” I reasoned, and planned to do just that. 

I know from my phone log that I made that call at 4:22 on Thursday. At 4:24, a mere two minutes later, my cell phone rang again and it was Bridget. She had some very good news – she had just located a medium Hawkeye costume! She additionally offered to write my name on it and set it aside for me.  

I enthusiastically burst into the store on Friday morning to get the costume, acquired the one Bridget had so generously set aside for me, and of course thanked her for being such a beacon of customer service excellence. I had the chance also to meet Doug, the manager, and made a point of letting him know that he had a very satisfied customer on his hands. To his great credit, he told me he has come to expect nothing less than that caliber of service from Bridget.

Well, bravo, Bridget, and bravo, Doug! You two are great champions for the Spirit Halloween brand and you are the reason I’ll be back! They’re also why I’m telling you about them now!

They both deserve a “marketing medal” because they BOTH “get it” when it comes to taking care of the customer and winning through excellent service.  Bridget is obviously the star because she solved the problem for me in such a proactive, expeditious way. Doug also deserves a hand whether he trained her so well or because he hired so well, and it’s probably a combination. Whatever the ingredients of the recipe, Spirit Halloween needs to keep using it!

The great lesson is that I am a happy customer who will be back and will tell others about them! And all they had to do was to take care of their customer. If you want MORE business, just do GOOD business. It may not always be easy, but it is that simple!

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers who boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.” W. Edwards Deming