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Congratulations to Jeff Bezos. Turns out he recently surpassed Bill Gates as the world’s richest person.

Mr. Bezos became the world’s richest person as the founder of Amazon.com. Amazon, of course, started out as an “online bookstore” and has now evolved into the world’s largest retailer. That was accomplished by setting a grand vision, working to make it so, celebrating the successes, divesting of the failures and not dwelling on them, and constantly listening to what the customer wants.

And that last one is the big one. By simply listening to what the customer wants and working to provide it better than anybody else, you can’t help but win. And if your goal is to be the biggest, richest, or whatever, giving your customer more value than anybody else is the way to get there.

Focus on that and maybe I’ll be writing about you before too long!

Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – William Jennings Bryan

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There are a lot of fine points to networking, and you can find a lot of good tips all over the place from a lot of authors, but to me, here’s one big secret you need to know if you want to be successful at networking.

Here it is:

You gotta do it!

Like exercise, networking isn’t a spectator sport and it isn’t a passive activity. You’ve got to consciously be practicing professional networking all the time with the goal of growing the number of people who are willing to help you, and they’re willing to help you because they know you’d do the same for them.

Yes, this may get old. Yes, it may often seem difficult. And yes, it may require monumental effort on your part.

So on the days you might not feel so much like networking what should you do? Do it anyway! Push yourself! You’ll be glad you did not only because you can celebrate that feeling of accomplishment that comes from meeting a personal challenge, but also because you’ll be moving one step closer to the results you’re looking for.

Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway!” – Emory Austin

 

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Yep, I’ve got a sure fire, time-honored, market-proven system that’ll help you have all the success you want in your endeavor, and then some.

Three simple steps:

1. Find out what your customers want.

2. Find a cost-effective and profitable way to give it to them.

3. Repeat.

Just that simple. Start doing this and you’ll be amazed at the results you get. If you’re already doing something like this, go back and make sure you’re not leaving a step out.

Test it for yourself and I’ll bet you’ll have a hard time arguing that it’s a simple strategy.

Simple, yes. Easy? Not so much. And that’s why so many fail.

A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine. – Murphy’s Law of Computing

 

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Every time I attend a seminar or pick up a book on marketing I find myself fighting the urge to go down one rabbit trail after another. While it’s good to keep an open mind and check out lots of different ideas and viewpoints, I think a much wiser approach is to peek through the forest and be sure you see the trees. Focus on what is most important.

In marketing, the most important thing is the customer! Your customer!

If the latest and greatest idea, whether it be related to big data or social media or any of the other new buzzwords out there, seems like something that would enhance your relationships with your customers or help you get more of your ideal customers, then it’s probably worth pursuing. If you’re not sure whether it would enhance those relationships, ASK your customers. And if you’re still not sure, try whatever it is (if it’s not too costly or risky to your brand) and study whether or not it enhances customer relationships. Whatever it is. Focus on what matters most: Your customer!

A similar strategy could be employed in life, too. Rather than chasing after the wind (Thank you King Solomon), figure out what is MOST important to you and be sure that becomes your main focus.

It may not be easy, but it is that simple.

Go get ’em!

“Starve your distractions, feed your focus.” – Unknown

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What a crazy, uncertain time we live in.

I realize that just about any generation could say that, but you’ve gotta admit, things are pretty nuts right now and without getting even the least bit political here, we’re venturing into some uncharted waters this election year. Uncertainty always plays havoc with the stock market and the economy in general, so don’t be surprised if we have some rough waters in the near future. Possibly globally, from what I’m hearing. 

My source on this is “they,” by the way. As in, “They say…” 

Seriously, though…

A downturn usually results in downsizing. That is never something any decent leadership team looks forward to doing, though,granted, it is sometimes a necessity.

If you find yourself using the term “downsize” as part of your strategic vocabulary in the next few months, just keep a couple of things in mind. 

First, though downsizing looks good on paper, downsizing often results in a workforce with very low morale which  in turn results in a workforce that delivers lousy customer service. The net result of that can be lost revenues.

Second, don’t forget that what you are after with your ideal customers is a lifelong relationship. So if lousy customer service results in the loss of a customer, you’re also potentially losing a whole lot more in terms of the lifetime value of that customer. 

Hasty downsizing can be like cutting off your arm to cure a hangnail. Its “savings,” may not always save you what you think they will. 

In the words of Tom Peters, you can’t shrink your way to greatness! 

 

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A while back a little crisis erupted when a local fuel vendor announced that a few batches of its gasoline had too high an ethanol content. High enough to potentially cause engine damage. Several Oklahoma City metro convenience store locations were affected, and they of course had to notify the public of the unfortunate news.

Fortunately for OnCue and its customers, the recall didn’t affect them. Or, more accurately, as a loyal On-Cue customer, I should say it didn’t affect us. OnCue made a point of making sure their customers knew it, too, by placing signs that prominently shared that important message on the front doors of its Oklahoma City locations.

If your value offers a competitive advantage, even if it’s a short-term advantage, showcase it. Let the world know about it.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it, baby!

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There is a logical part of us that knows economic downturns are inevitable. But emotionally, they’re still hard to accept and even harder to muddle through.

But the truth is, just as a robust economy offers opportunities, so does a downturn.

A downturn may be a good time to grow. If you’ve been wanting to expand, you may be able to acquire assets for your business that were overpriced during the boom times. This is especially true for real estate.

If you’re wanting to build, those construction firms who were too busy to return your calls during the good times may now be very eager to negotiate a price you’ll really like.

Now may be the best time to advertise. Because your competitors have likely scaled back on their advertising, your messages can stand out on a less cluttered landscape. You may also find that ad rates suddenly become easier to negotiate in a downturn.

Your workforce should also be happy to have jobs, so they should be focused more on how to increase their personal productivity and offer stellar customer service than on how to find that “next, better job” that always seems to present itself in an up economy.

It’s been said that we all turn into much better managers during a downturn because the scarcity of resources forces us to make better, smarter decisions and find more innovative solutions.

A downturn certainly isn’t preferred, but it may not be the end of the world, either. If think a downturn suddenly erases all opportunity, consider that success stories like Microsoft, GE, FedEx, Revlon, and Hyatt, and plenty of others, started during a recession.Then go out and make some history of your own!

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” – Napoleon

 

 

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Every time your team members open a conversation with a new customer or prospect, the very first question they should clearly, enthusiastically ask each one is this:

“How did you find out about us?”

 

This gives you true, direct, voice-of-the customer feedback about what marketing is working and how well. You can also train your people to probe a little and find out not only how they heard about you, but if it’s a particular tactic or campaign they reference, find out what the liked about it, what they remembered most, and so on.

You can experiment with the wording, of course. You may prefer something like, “Thanks for coming in today. Say, How’d you hear about us?” or “Hey, could I ask how you first learned about us?” or “We’re glad to have you here, do you mind sharing, what brought you to us?” Whatever phrasing suits you best, with the goal to make it as conversational as possible. But the bottom line is, you, and your team, need to be in the habit of opening every new customer conversation with this type of very important question.

It could be the best market research you ever get!

I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.”-  John Wanamaker

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Spoiler Alert: This HUGE movie comes out Friday and everyone is speculating about who the  “Winner” will be. Well, I’ve got the answer: You!

That’s right, if you’re a fan, you’ve already won! The writers, producers, director, cast and crew of this epic undertaking (which cost close to $411 million to make) put their blood, sweat, and tears into making this movie with the ultimate goal of making YOU happy.

So congratulations, you’re the big winner!

That’s how the free market works, after all. Somebody takes a risk (sometimes an incredible risk) to create something of value for a customer, and if the customer agrees it’s valuable then the provider of that value ends up getting value in return, most likely in the form of what we call PROFITS! All that focused effort with YOUR satisfaction in mind.

Isn’t that a rather exciting story of its own?

Any time you build a new business, any time there’s an end-use customer getting a product and enjoying it better than a competitor might be able to offer them, you’ve created wealth for our society. So, the best way for you to make money is to create wealth!” – Paul Zane Pilzer, The Fountain of Wealth

 

 

 

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I‘m a huge fan of using guiding principles. In fact, I often suggest trying to replace formal strategic plans with a good set of memorable, actionable guiding principles wherever possible.

You can find more on that HERE if you’re interested.

The idea of forgoing formal strategic plans for a handful of guiding principles may sound a bit far fetched, and granted it may not work for everyone, but when you stop and consider what we’re really trying to accomplish with strategic plans in the first place, which is ACTION, then I think it makes sense to at least take a look.

Here’s what Nordsrom’s did:

In an effort to train its entire team in how to deliver stellar customer service on a consistent basis, they tossed out the giant, three-ring binder that contained all kinds of policies and FAQs regarding customer service. All new hires are now trained with one phrase: “Use your good judgment in all situations.” That’s it.

Of course, there are plenty of stories that are then told in their ongoing training sessions as examples of what kinds of situations might come up, how employees have handled such issues in the past, and what can be learned from both the good and bad outcomes. The guiding principles lead to action, the action can then be studied and refined, and continuous improvement occurs. As the old Shewart Cycle reads, “Plan, Do, Check, Act,” then do it all over again.

Success is a process, not an event, and guiding principles can help keep that process in motion.

I will never put my name on anything that does not have in it the best that is in me.” – John Deere

 

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