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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

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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The Digital Doc Team!

You may recall that over the years I’ve noted my love/hate relationship with my cell phone and many things electronic. Thanks to a newly found, newly-formed relationship with the newly-located team at DitigalDoc.com (178th and Western, right next door to the Family Video), I’m now back in love with my electronics.

I had an blog-worthy customer service experience that I just had to share with you back in December. My son & I ran across Heath and his excellent DigitalDoc.com team as we were renting some Christmas movies for our family. They dazzled me with how promptly they fixed his iPad screen, then absolutely astounded me with how they went above and beyond. You see, he was having an issue with one of the apps on the iPad and they had kindly agreed to see if they could help him get it working promptly as part of the repair.

But it didn’t end there, either…

They ended up spending about an additional hour working to get the thing working for him, 30 minutes of which was after closing time. Simply amazing! Yes, we will be back. Yes we will be referring others. Yes, I highly recommend them to you right here and now. Heck, I honestly can’t wait until my next electronic breakdown just so I can send them some more business!

All joking aside, their whole team seriously impressed me and they are a superb example of what we’ve talked about here often, which is that to have MORE business, simply do GOOD business.

Thanks for the great example, guys!

Profit in business comes from repeat customers; customers that boast about your product and service, and that bring friends with them.”W. Edwards Deming

 

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Nine years ago this month my son was born. I won’t get all mushy and go on and on about how much I love him and my wife, or how it does indeed change your life (in good ways!) the way everybody says it will, or any of that.

What I will do is give a long overdue “Thanks” to the professional team on the maternity floor at Mercy Hospital who did such a swell job of helping our family navigate that joyous, exciting, and terrifying time. Joyous and exciting to be new parents of a perfectly healthy son, and terrifying to be signing lifetime contracts as new parents! We often think back fondly on that experience thanks to what great care they gave us all.

So even if it’s long overdue, I hope you professionals, you angels of Mercy, know how appreciated you still are!

 

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valentine candy boxIf there’s one resource I absolutely love, it’s the library. If there’s one place that levels the playing field, if there’s one place I don’t mind my tax dollars going, it’s the library. The OKC Metro Library system has been a resource I’ve used for over 20 years now, and I continue to marvel at what the library system has to offer.

I once heard a speaker say that information wasn’t power, that only applied information was power. If information by itself were power, then the library wouldn’t be the quietest, deadest, least-crowded place in town. The point being made was that in order to get results, just having “information” wasn’t enough, one had to do something with it. To take ACTION. I agree with that, as I’ve written before, but I think we might be tempted misinterpret that to think it’s a slam on the library, when the exact opposite ought to be the case.

Og Mandino wrote that at his lowest point emotionally, found himself at his public library. He found himself strangely compelled to start investing his time in a self-directed education that would ultimately result in helping him raise himself from a “hopeless bum” into a millionaire. He ended up writing books that would inspire millions, too. In fact, there have been several stories told of how “bums” literally went to the library to get out of the cold and ended up using that time to read. To better themselves. And they wound up finding solutions that would turn their lives around and ultimately help them not only “survive,” but prosper. The point is often made that it was the ACTION of applying what was learned to achieve the success, but isn’t it worth celebrating that the same education that enabled that success is available to all of us? Right down the street, in many cases?

I was just there with my son and I was amazed at how they now have Kindle Fires that families can check out that have all kinds of interactive learning tools and such. Heck, I was dazzled a few years ago when they started offering digital downloads of books and periodicals that you could get, from your library onto your phone or tablet, without even leaving the house. That they now make technology available to those who need it, and might not otherwise be able to afford it, is pretty doggone cool as far as I am concerned.

The resources are plentiful and they’re yours for the borrowing. You’ll find your local library is peaceful and quiet…and rarely is it crowded!

You’ve already paid for it, so are you really maximizing this amazing asset?

You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!” – Doctor Who, Tooth and Claw

 

 

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