Category Archives: Success

10 ways to put the Customer at the Heart of Business by Denyse Drummond-Dunn

Sometimes we need to be reminded that our customers are the heart of our business. Denyse’s article below serves as a powerful reminder.

 

Many of you know that you need to become more customer centric, to put the customer clearly at the heart of your business, but just don’t know where to start.

This week I give you ten simple actions to accelerate your organization along its path to improved customer centricity.

#1  – Review the description of your target audience

Do all your brands have a clear description of their target audience? Is it as complete as it should be? If not, then use the 4-level who, what, where and why model to complete it for each one. Include not only demographics and consumption / purchasing habits, but also information about where they do these things, what values they have that you can tap into and what emotions motivate them to use your brand.

#2 – Assess the optimum way of connecting with your customers

Do you know the best way to contact your target customers, as well as their preferred place and time to connect? Review how you communicate with your customer and what information exchange there is at that time, Is it one-way or two? Are you in a monologue or a dialogue? Obviously the second is preferable as you can learn more about your customer when they are ready to share their information with you.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

#3 – Identify the needs your brand is addressing

Do you know which of your customers’ needs you are tapping into? There is certainly more than one, but if they are not sequential your customer may be getting mixed messages on what the brand can do for them. Knowing where your brand sits on Maslow’s hierarchy can also bring more successful regional or global launches.

#4 -Make your customer everyone’s responsibility

Is customer care only on the objectives of one or two departments in your organization? It should be on everyone’s annual objectives to watch, listen and engage with your customers and to understand how their work fits into the company’s objective to delight them.

Identify possible scenarios to be better prepared

#5 – Plan for the unthinkable

Do you know where your business is going? Do you know what might happen in the future and what you would do in each situation? How would you react to new laws, new customer demands, and their new sensitivities such as ecology, sourcing or ingredients? It is best to plan for such events before they happen, so you can quickly react to challenges as well as opportunities.

#6 – Review your business plans for customer centricity

Are your customers clearly identified and described in your plans, as well as the customers of your major competitors? Review your plans by considering how your customers will react to each of your planned actions; not just the outcomes you are hoping for, but a true detailed analysis based upon your understanding of them and their desires. Have you planned any actions to surprise and delight them, or are you only relying on the “same old” activities, repeated from last year? People get bored quickly and you can actually “train” your customers to expect your actions, which as a result will quickly become less interesting to them. Plan at least one unexpected WOW action each year.

#7 – Expand your innovation thinking

Are you blocked in an innovation box, relying on your internal technical and expert skills? If you know your customer well you can offer them more successful innovations, perhaps through additional sensorial experiences. Consider adding sound to taste, color to services, touch to packaging, aromas to retail displays. Give your customers more reasons to stay with you and they will become more loyal.

Testing isn’t the only way to make great ads

#8  – Stop testing your communications to death

I can feel your shock as you read this, but why not review your process for developing your advertising? If you spent more time and resources reviewing how to connect with your customer, and then reviewed early stage work up-stream with them, you would be more likely to develop winners. It would also reduce or totally replace your usual tests just before airing them, when in most cases it is too late to change anything.

#9 – Define your image

Your brand has an image but it might not be what you think it is. Make sure you are measuring it regularly and not only on the attributes that you ideally wanted to perform well on. Review and update the attributes used to measure the perceptions of your category with your customers, and ensure you measure what is (also) important to them. The coverage of the total category will likely be more complete and you might even find a new or adapted positioning that no-one else is currently occupying.

#10 – Update your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)

You know that what gets measured gets managed, well are you measuring what needs managing or only the easy metrics to gather? It you know your customers well, who they are, what they do, what they think of you and your competitors, and then compare these to where you want to take your brand, the metrics you need to be measuring become evident.

I hope this list has helped you to define a few areas that need revision in your organization. Even taking action on just one of them will improve your customer centricity. Of course doing them all will ensure that your customer is really at the heart of your business, as well as in the hearts of all your employees.

Hugs and Shout out to Denyse

The SendOutCards.com/loryfabian system is a valuable tool that will help grow your business. Never underestimate the power of sending a personalized greeting card and/or gift. Sending cards is a simple and easy way to help build better relationships with your customers who will become life long, faithful customers. And those types of customers provide referrals without ever asking.  In other words, free word of mouth advertising. (The best kind!)

 

 

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5 Tips from Getting the Most from LinkedIn by Dr. Misner

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Misner a couple of years ago at a BNI Convention in St. Louis, MO.  Only minutes from going on stage  that day, I learned firsthand that Dr. Misner is the real deal.  Dr. Misner not only took the time to shake my hand and look me in the eye, 5 or 6 elevator speeches rolled off his tongue for use in my SendOutCards.com/loryfabian business as well. How awesome is that?

 Dr. Misner is called the “father of modern networking” by CNN.  He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization and a New York Times bestselling author.

Just as E.F. Hutton use to be the voice of the financial world, Dr. Misner is the voice of the networking world today. The article below was written back in 2011.  Dr. Misner’s tips were true in 2011 and still hold true today.

What I’ve learned from years of using this social media platform.

 If you had any lingering thoughts that social media was just a “fad,” you may want to let those go, particularly in light of LinkedIn’s recent IPO — with a valuation of $4.3 billion. (2011)

I’ve been following the development of online business networking for several years, particularly the inception of sites like Ecademy.com, Ryze.com, and of course LinkedIn. While there are many competitors to LinkedIn, for now it has risen to the top of sites devoted primarily to business networking.

I use a variety of social networks to interact with colleagues, associates, and friends, but LinkedIn has some features that set it apart from the rest. In fact, many BNI members have used it to stay in touch with each other. As a person in the “500+ connections” category, I use LinkedIn as a way to disseminate the many articles I write every month, as well as to promote books and publications. Here’s how I use it and what I recommend to others.

1. Connecting with More People

I’ve spoken to countless entrepreneurs who have doubled or tripled their business because of the relationships they are able to make on LinkedIn. With the ability to view detailed profiles, become connected to people via a shared acquaintance, and post updates about one’s business or career for these connections to share, a huge number of the barriers to connecting with people in different geographic locations simply don’t exist to members of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is also a well-known resource for both job seekers and recruiters. The site lets businesses pay to post jobs and sells enhanced profile and services to jobseekers. Successful recruiters rely heavily on networking and LinkedIn to find candidates for open positions.

2. Participating in Groups

LinkedIn Groups is a wonderful way to meet others who share an affinity, whether an industry, cause, or an employer, and to have an online arena for exchange. Being a member of a group removes the barrier that LinkedIn ordinarily imposes that you must personally know someone to send a message or invite him or her to connect.

LinkedIn Groups is most valuable when used effectively to build influential connections. Participating in a group — by asking questions, suggesting topics, answering questions, or recommending another member’s answers — is a way to build a more personal connection. For example, I mentor a large number of BNI members, entrepreneurs who want to better their business writing skills, meeting with them on a regular basis via telebridge. These “mentees” have also formed a group on LinkedIn, where they can share writing opportunities, and receive reviews of their work.

Participating in groups can take as much or as little time as you choose. For maximum impact, choose group discussions that are highly popular, judged from the number of responses.

3. Capitalizing on Search Engine Optimization

LinkedIn profiles show up very high on search engine results. The more links you add to your profile, the higher one’s ranking may be in search engine results. LinkedIn allows you to incorporate two very important links to a profile: web sites and a blog. Adding these to your profile not only builds your profile’s link count, but also lets you promote your site(s). I use this feature to highlight my own web site, BusinessNetworking.com.

4. Tying in a Twitter Connection

LinkedIn dovetails with Twitter. Indeed you can adeptly integrate Twitter with several social networks using Twitter’s application programming interfaces: I cross-promote content I have written across my various social networking accounts. Every article I write can be seamlessly shared via my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn status postings.

Tying your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile (achieved by clicking a box), allows you to promote your Twitter profile easily through LinkedIn.

5. Building and Enhancing Credibility

LinkedIn may well become the first place everyone will look to determine the business profile of an individual. LinkedIn allows a professional to showcase a collection of printed works or publications, recommendations from other LinkedIn users, company affiliations, and work history. When I want to know more about someone I’ve just met, I can learn quite a bit of information about them by reading their LinkedIn profile. I can see where they’ve worked, or what they’ve done in the business world, and I can see what others think of them by reading recommendations that others have written about them.

Since most professionals do not stay in the same job for a lifetime anymore, their LinkedIn profile can continue to capture their work history narrative.

LinkedIn also allows for profiles of companies and brands, which can be cross-connected with the profiles of the “humans” associated with those organizations – including executive management, the founders, and the employees.

These days, a professional’s worth is frequently judged by the quality of his or her network. So LinkedIn is particularly vital for today’s entrepreneur, demonstrating knowledge, expertise, experience, social capital, and the breadth of one’s network.

 

5 Reasons To Stop Cold Calling And Start Networking | Written by Tim Tyrell-Smith

Are there really people that still cold-call?  Most states have a National No-Call Registry to get rid of those annoying time sucking pests.  Tim Tyrell-Smith’s article shares great information and also targets the last of the hold outs not using networking and social media to build their business.  Remember, if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will eventually lose a percentage of your business, if you already haven’t by not changing what you are doing.

Tim writes:

Can you imagine what happens to people when you call them cold? Well, no surprise, they stiffen up. They get uncomfortable. And they wish they hadn’t answered the phone. So what options do you have. Uh . . . how about networking?

All across the world right now, people are dialing for dollars. Insurance salesmen, consultants, recruiters, packaging suppliers, SEO providers and hundreds of other types of folks looking for a new client.

Why? Because their boss told them to do it. “100 calls a day, please.” The numbers game.

But cold calls are bad for business. They are a bad use of time and aren’t a smart way to begin a new relationship. Oh, and nobody likes making these calls either.

And for those of you who want to disagree right away (maybe you’ve had some success blowing cold air on people), I don’t care. I’m sure there are exceptions to the “cold calls don’t work” argument I’m making. But I don’t care.

Because the world has changed so much. And the tools to meet people more effectively are plentiful. Here are 5 ways to connect with new people without them freezing up right away:

1. Start blogging

While establishing a blog takes significantly longer than making phone calls, it is a superior strategy for introducing you, your company and its products to others. You can learn about mistakes bloggers make and some tips for getting started with blogging. But once you get up and running, a blog makes your website more interesting to Google, more dynamic to get return visitors and (very important) helps you build relevant awareness and subject matter expertise. In other words, people get to know and trust you in advance of your first contact. (ALL TRUE)  Need help getting started, contact Ken Tucker at ken@changescapeweb.com.

2. Use LinkedIn

This one seems awfully simple. You need to meet Mike (purchasing manager at target company x). Bill (your old coworker) used to work with Mike at a prior company. You go on to LinkedIn and learn this news. That the person you need to know already knows someone you know. Now what? Well, you ask Bill to introduce you to Mike. Sounds simple. But so few people do it. So many people are lazy on LinkedIn and don’t personally create and nurture LinkedIn connections. They just collect them like postage stamps. Don’t do that. You are smarter than this. (TOTALLY AGREE MOST POWERFUL AND UNDERUSED TOOL)

3. Join groups and attend events

There are industry groups aplenty, local community networking groups, and meetup.com groups all over. So there’s no excuse. You can develop your personal brand right now in front of real people. They can see that you are a good person, that you are patient and have the needs of others on your mind as well. And if you are smart, you’ll find a group or two and sponsor them. Or get involved in their board. That’s good networking. (CHECK OUT THE BNI CHAPTERS IN YOUR AREA. BNI IS ONE OF THE LARGEST AND FASTEST GROWING INTERNATIONAL NETWORKING GROUPS THAT GIVE YOU THE TOOLS TO SUCCEED WITH LIKEMINDED & SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNERS. MEETUP.COM IS ANOTHER POWERFUL GROUP TO CONNECT WITH.

4. Use Twitter or Create a Facebook Page

Not everyone is comfortable on social media. And if you need help, ask me. Or hook up with a smart social media agency to help you establish a strategy and keep up a great, engaging relationship with new fans and followers. If you want to do it on your own, make sure to have a Facebook content calendar and learn the golden rules for new Twitter users. Oh, and if you are wondering whether it’s weird that sales people use Twitter, you’re wrong. Use these tools to create, establish and maintain a friendly and helpful relationship with current and potential customers. (DEFINITELY SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE I’VE EVER RECEIVED FROM VIRGINIA MUZQUIZ. GET YOUR BIG TOE WET, DIVE IN, AND DO IT. IT’S ALWAYS BETTER TO DO SOMETHING, THAN NOTHING.)

5. Offer to speak or lead workshops

When you stand up in front of a group of people you get instant credibility. Until you screw up. But you probably won’t. Especially if you model your style after people like Thom Singer. He’s someone who can teach you how to speak with a purpose. You can learn how to engage an audience as a speaker. While its not a bed of roses (audience can be cold too), it is a great way to also build social credibility (credibility that lets people feel more comfortable with you). And the business will come in so much more quickly. (JOIN TOASTMASTERS INTERNATIONAL; IT WILL CATAPULT YOUR BUSINESS OR CAREER FASTER AND FURTHER THAN YOU CAN EVER IMAGINE.)

So try these ideas instead of cold calling.

Unlike a slow moving glacier, these “warming up” techniques will thaw the corporate ice cubes and create a fast moving stream of business to you and your company.

Shout out and hugs to Tim Tyrell-Smith.

P.S. Try sendoutcards.com/loryfabian to help build relationships & stay in touch with the customers you have.  Farming is always easier and less expensive than hunting.

The Secret to Selling Your Brand With One Sentence By Stephen Key

“Can you please tell me more about that?”  Isn’t that the question we all secretly strive for whether we are networking or spending time with family and friends?  The truth is, the more people who know exactly what we do or how we can help them or how our product can help them, the more business that is likely to come our way.

Getting an increase in referrals is a no brainer when you educate everyone you know on how you can help them or someone they know.  Remember to ask the question “What do you need?” Never assume the person knows what they need. It’s always better to ask what their pain is instead of telling someone what you think they need.  Trust me on this one.

BNI (Business Network International) as well as Virginia Muzquiz at Referral Institute St. Louis both teach the value & importance of perfecting your  30 and/or 60 second infomercial.  For those of you unfamiliar with Virginia, visit her website at http://referralinstitutestl.com.  Virginia Muzquiz is THE Networking Diva in St. Louis & St. Charles and loves to share her trade secrets.

Most people know the importance of selling their brand, we just don’t always get it right. At Cave Springs Toastmasters,  we Learn by Doing!  Right, Tony Gartner?

There aren’t many places where we can give a 30 or 60 second infomercial; that why I love Stephen’s article about Selling Your Brand with One Sentence.

Check out Stephen’s article below. His best advice is to: Try out potential statements on everyone you know. Which one has the greatest impact? Ask for feedback. Then, start using this line all over the place.

“If you believe in the importance of your vision, but how do you get others to stop and listen to you? There will be many instances when you don’t have a lot of time to grab someone’s attention, be it a potential investor or a licensee. That’s why you need to be able to summarize the benefit of your business idea in a single, powerful sentence — a sentence that is so direct and compelling, it stops whoever reads or hears it dead in their tracks. A good one-line benefit statement should make someone think: “I want to know more about that.”

I’ve learned that if I craft just the right sentence, it’s all I need to get people to listen to my pitch, open my emails and answer my calls. I still remember the day the iPod launched and Steve Jobs called it “a thousand songs in your pocket.” Wow. That’s captivating. He didn’t have to explain any further. We wanted it already!

People don’t care about how something works. They want to know what it’s going to do for them.

Newspapers, tabloids, and these days, Twitter have been making use of the headline for years. How often do you find yourself on a webpage you never intended to visit, all because a headline was so tempting, you had to click on it? That should give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Creating excellent one-line benefit statements isn’t an easy skill, but it’s an important one, because it can be used to explain your idea in so many different kinds of situations in an attractive, successful way.

Sometimes, you only get one chance to make an impression. Cut through the clutter to make it count! Here three ways to create an awesome one-line benefit statement:

1. Make it emotional.

Why should people care about what you have to say? Grab them with something they can relate to. Benefits sell ideas, not facts. What is your idea going to do for the consumer or the world? Don’t be afraid to use emotion. People are motivated by their emotions more often than they are motivated by reason. Emotion also evokes visual imagery — if people can begin to see your idea, that’s a good thing. Some emotional words include: “free”, “incredible” and “unbelievable.”

2. Keep it short.

Like — really short. I’m talking no more than 10 to 12 words, ideally less. Remember, you don’t have much time. If your statement is too long, people may move on before they’ve even finished reading or hearing it. Don’t be intimidated by using fewer words. This is a really good exercise in general. Too often, I ask an inventor or entrepreneur to tell me about his or her idea and I’m overwhelmed with a five-minute speech. “What is he talking about again?” I find myself thinking. I’m not even sure. Brevity forces clarity.

3. Use numbers.

Numbers convey specificity. Look around you. Headlines with numbers dominate our world. One has only to look at Buzzfeed to understand the power of numbers.

Here are some examples of one-line benefit statements my students and I have used with great success in the past:

•        “The most versatile organization system available.”

•        “The store all, carry all, go anywhere elevated pet feeder.”

•        “This label will increase space on your packaging by 75 percent.”

Try out potential statements on everyone you know. Which one has the greatest impact? Ask for feedback. Then, start using this line all over the place. When someone asks: “So what is it you’re working on again?” you will have a great answer!”

Shout out to Stephen Key. Stephen is author and Entrepreneur contributor. (11/15/2013) The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229923#ixzz2lgXn1TOz

Ten Resolutions The Most Successful People Make And Then Keep By Mike Maddock

MOST OF US KNOW HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO READ, LISTEN AND ASSOCIATE. AFTER READING MIKE MADDOCK’S ARTICLE ON FORBES.COM EARLIER THIS WEEK, I RESOLVE TO FOLLOW MIKE’S SUGGESTIONS IN 2014.  IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO FOCUS ON MIKE’S TOP FAVORITE RESOLUTIONS THAN TAKING TIME TO CREATE MY OWN LIST. AGREE?

HAPPY NEW YEAR MY FRIENDS.   YOU CAN BE THE JUDGE on HOW EFFECTIVE THEY ARE.

LORY

Ten Resolutions The Most Successful People Make And Then Keep

Well, it’s that time again—time to start rolling out the New Year’s resolutions. Some of us will vow to eat less, exercise more, live in the moment, be more grateful. You may even decide to bury the hatchet with the family member who makes you so crazy.

But what about your New Year’s business resolutions?

This time of year is a great time to start making—and keeping—business resolutions, too. But sadly, like our personal goals, we often make them (year after year) with sincere intent only to see them quickly fall by the wayside, as we revert to (bad) habits that we have vowed to break.

But what about the most successful people and their resolutions?

Have you noticed how the most accomplished people just seem to identify important things and consistently get them done? Study successful people long enough and you start to pick up on the resolutions they seem to consistently make.

Here are Mike’s top favorites:

#1 – Spend more time on the not-to-do list.

Strategy is the art of sacrifice. That’s why you may consider creating a larger clearing for what really matters by first identifying, and then avoiding, what matters the least. Your time is a treasure to be invested. Creating a list of things that you are not going to do, allows you to invest more of your treasured time on the few things that matter the most.

#2 – Essential first, email second.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning? For many of us, it is looking at email. We wake up with a renewed mind and spirit, ready to take on the world, and then we immediately allow ourselves to be distracted by an insignificant email. Instead, wake up, take on the most important task of the day, and then (and only then) hit the email.

#3-  Resolve to think about “Who” instead of “What.”

Do you work for a “What” business or for a “Who” business? Successful companies run the risk of focusing too much on their current products and distributors thus—the “What”—losing sight of the constant and dramatically changing needs of their customer base.

(The “Who.”) Insurance, pharmacy, health care, higher education often listen too much to their agents, doctors and professors. The real innovation starts with the end consumer.

#4 Resolve to find your purpose.

As my friend Simon Sinek will tell you: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Starting a career, a company or any kind of journey that is based firmly on your purpose is foundational to success and happiness. If you don’t know your company’s purpose or even your own, finding one is the worthiest of resolutions.

#5 – Resolve to support a cause.

If you’re reading this, chances are you are one of the rare people who know how to start things. Fortunately, there are people like you who have already started causes that make the world better—they feed the hungry; they save the rain forest; they fight cancer; they do good things. There is virtually a cause for everyone, and contributing will make your year happier. Promise.

#6 – Resolve to invent more choices.

Here’s a secret that happy people know that I learned from my friend Dr. Dan Baker: You can’t feel grateful and fearful at the same time. And one certain way to become afraid is to feel trapped by any situation. The remedy is choice. The more choices you feel you have, the less trapped—and happier—you will feel. So this year, resolve to do a bit of brainstorming every time you feel unhappy.

#7 – Resolve to find a Yin for your Yang.

Walt Disney had Roy Disney, Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak and Orville Wright had Wilbur Wright. Wherever there is great innovation, there is a Dreamer and an Operator; an Idea Monkey and a (Ring) leader. First, determine where your passions lie, then go find an equally passionate partner, then go change the world.

#8 – Resolve to get outside your jar.

You can’t read the label when you are sitting inside the jar. The sad irony of being an expert is that it keeps you from seeing possibility. After all, you know what works, what doesn’t, what you can afford, what’s been tried in the past. Instead of relying only on your expertise, learn how to find other experts solving similar challenges to the ones you are facing. Go ask them what you may be missing.

#9 –Resolve to be the creator.

What is the outcome you want? What stands in your way? How do you overcome these obstacles? These three simple questions will keep you from being victimized by any situation. Creators change the world. Victims just bitch about stuff.

#10 – Plan vacations. (now)

You have probably heard the saying, “Life is what happens when you are not paying attention.” Unfortunately for many of us, we let this become true. Do yourself a favor and plan your vacations for the next year today. I promise you that the days around your vacation will fill in nicely. I also promise you that you’ll have something to look forward to and the life that happens during your vacations will be precious.

Hugs and Peace out to  Mike Maddock

Learn more about Mike @ http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemaddock/

7 Things I Learned from Startup Failure by Gary Swart

I PREFER TO SAVE TIME, MONEY AND HEARTACHE LEARNING FROM OTHER’S MISTAKES, DON’T YOU?

Gary Swart shares some of his essential truths in the article below that should be applied in all businesses, not just startups.

My former company, Intellibank, was sort of like Dropbox done wrong. You’ve probably never heard of Intellibank, because it came and went like so many startups do, but it was a promising company with smart people. We raised money and could have been the next big thing, but it never happened. Why?

Though Intellibank was not successful, I don’t view my time there as wasted. From the mistakes we made, I learned what not to do — and from there, I’ve arrived at some essential truths that can lead to startup success.

1. It’s all about the market

Even the best team with the best product will fail if its market does not exist. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen says that product-market fit (a term he is said to have coined) is one of the most important factors he considers when evaluating startups.

At Intellibank, we did not achieve product-market fit. Every customer was asking for something different and we gave it to them. We had six markets with 40 different types of customers, and in hindsight, we should have developed just one product. We couldn’t be all things to all people — and by failing to declare our major, we created a world of chaos for our sales, product and marketing teams.

Even if you do have product-market fit, you will not get very far if the market is not big enough. To determine whether you fall into that category, ask yourself if the market you’re targeting is big enough to allow for pervasive adoption of your product and exponential growth.

2. Validate with your customers, not your investors

A common mistake among entrepreneurs is seeking validation of their ideas and decisions from investors. The most important people any company should seek validation from are their customers. That’s right, your customers matter more than your investors — and any good investor would agree.

Do not ignore yellow lights coming from your early adopters, because their activity indicates a momentum shift. Spend time understanding all aspects of the customer value proposition. I once heard Guy Kawasaki talk about his 10X rule — in order for people to switch and buy your new thing, your product doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be 10X better than the alternative.

Think about the 10X rule and ask yourself: why should your customer buy your product? How does your product fit into the rest of his world? What influences their opinion of the product’s value? What is your product displacing — all products displace something — and why should your customer risk making that switch? You need to be as knowledgeable about your customer and their needs as you are conversant with your own product.

3. Focus, focus, focus

Focus and simplicity are often more difficult to achieve than building features on top of features on top of features. As a result, too many startups are unfocused. The time required to trim back an idea is not insignificant — said best by Mark Twain: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

In order to succeed, a startup needs to do one or two things exceptionally well; some of the greatest products today don’t have a million bells and whistles, but they solve one concrete problem brilliantly. I’m thinking of companies like Salesforce.com in the early days. They entered the market with good products, and over time they iterated, grew and added features — but not before they owned essentially the entire market.

By keeping it simple, measurable and achievable you’ll be well on your way. Everyone at your company should be able to articulate the goal of your business, enabling a dogged, unyielding focus on that goal throughout the organization.

4. Aim to exceed expectations

Your goal should not be meeting your customers’ expectations; it should be exceeding them. Truly great and memorable products surprise and delight their customers, so don’t be afraid to spend the time and money to build an exceptional product. But don’t let this pursuit inflate your product’s ego, if you will — making promises you cannot keep will leave you surrounded by disappointed customers, investors and employees.

I cannot emphasize how important it is in the long run to over-deliver to your customers. For example, Fab does not have to give every customer a $5 gift card with every order, but doing so wins them a lot of brand loyalty and even word-of-mouth marketing.

5. Figure out streamlined metrics to measure your progress

I once had a board member tell me that we were over-measured and under-prioritized. It stung. A lot. But it also made quite an impression. As a business leader you need to figure out the metric that matters most for your company and understand that the more you measure, the less prioritized you’ll be. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to measure everything. What I’ve learned is that in the early days, what matters most is having customers who love and use your product. Figure out the one or two best measures to determine this.

6. Pivoting is okay… but it is not a business strategy

I learned this one the hard way. At Intellibank, we would change our pitch deck based on what we thought would get us traction with investors. In one particular meeting, I was in the middle of explaining our revenue model, when a potential investor interrupted me and asked, “Can you tell me what your product actually does?” We were pivoting so often for different types of customers that we completely lost the big picture. You must be agile, but not to the point of an identity crisis; you have to look beyond your four walls and convey the big picture.

7. Ultimately, deliver a great experience. It’s what keeps people coming back

Customers come to restaurants for a great overall dining experience, but the food is the baseline. They come back if the service and experience exceed their expectations. It’s the same with any business—the product is table stakes and it’s the experience that brings people back.

Take a look at Hotel Tonight. It’s only accessible from a mobile phone and while there have been several times mid-flight when I’ve wanted to use the app to book my hotel in my destination city, I can’t and so I wait until landing. Using their service on my laptop would be nice, but the experience is so elegant and over-delivers every time, so I prefer to book my hotels there.

With all of these learnings in mind, think about the product you’re selling and think about where you see it going. Now take a step back and ask yourself the most important question of all—when your customers are using the product how do they feel, and will that feeling keep them coming back?

Shout out to Gary Swart is the CEO of oDesk, the world’s largest online workplace.

Why Do Your Potential Customers Say “No”? by Ultimatesparkle

Knowing the 5 buying decisions your customers have to make can help you understand what they are saying “no” to.

When selling your product, it greatly helps to understand the 5 buying decisions that your customers make before they are willing to say “yes” and purchase from you. Unfortunately, a single “no” to any one of these 5 decisions often results in loss of a sale. Therefore, knowing these decisions allows you to be aware of and address them all to help you connect with your customer and earn more “yes” decisions.

Decision #1: Do I like and trust you, the salesperson.

Your prospective customer’s first impression is often not with the product or service you sell, but with you. People judge others on two primary criteria: (1) likability and (2) competence. Each time you meet a prospective customer, they think, “Do I like and trust this person?” They need to feel that you are both a kind and knowledgeable person.

Do you have integrity — are you working for their benefit or only your own?

Are you credible — do you understand your product/service?

How to improve your chance of “yes, I like and trust you”:

  • Build rapport.
    • Be nice.
    • Be polite.
    • Be a good listener.
    • For tips on building rapport, see our blog When Meeting Your Customer for the First Time.
      • Have and project integrity.
        • Always be honest.
        • Make sure you work for their benefit, not just for your own.
  • Be credible.
    • Know your products and services.
    • Understand how your company adds value to customers.

 

Decision #2: Do I like and trust your company.

The prospective customer wants to know that your company is dependable. You are the representation of your company and how they think and feel about you will often be transferred to how they think and feel about your company. When you demonstrate integrity, credibility, likability, and trust, your prospective customer will be much more willing to see your company in the same light.

How to improve your chance of “yes, I like and trust your company”:

  • Only work for a company you personally like and trust.
  • Be familiar with your company.
    • Be able to talk about your company’s history, leaders, culture, and mission.
  • Provide material, if available and relevant.
    • Have a business card and direct them to the website for additional information.
    • Provide marketing material, if available, such as press releases, newspaper articles, customer reviews, etc.

 

Decision #3: Do I like and trust your product or service.

Even when the prospective customer likes and trusts you and your company, their primary concern is whether your product or service really will fulfill their emotional and practical need. The best thing you can do is to let them tell you what their needs are.

How to improve your chance of “yes, I like and trust your product/service”:

  • Understand what their need is.
    • Ask open-ended questions that start with Who, What, Why, When, Where and How.
    • Listen closely to their answers.
    • Confirm understanding.
    • A good way to do this is by repeating back to them what you think you are hearing and asking them if your understanding is correct.
    • A good example is “I am hearing that your need is X…is this correct?”
      • Understand your product’s benefits.
      • Provide the best product match for their need.
        • When they have confirmed that you understand their need, work with them on selecting the product or service you offer that fulfills this need.
        • Always be honest with yourself and with them.
        • Don’t try to sell them something they don’t need or doesn’t help fill their need.

Decision #4: Do I like and trust your price.

Most people don’t truly buy solely on price. They buy because of value.

How to improve your chance of “yes, I will pay that price”:

  • Sell value, not prices.
    • As stated above in Decision #3, show them the benefits of your product and service that fulfill their need.
    • Help them see the value that your product/service provides by saving them money in better quality, higher durability, uniqueness, timesaving, convenience, etc.
    • If one of your benefits is a low price, great! Make sure they are aware of this.

Decision #5: Is it the right time to buy.

No one wants to spend money before it’s necessary and their comfortability with when the right time to buy can vary widely from person to person.

How to improve your chance of “yes, I am ready to buy now”:

  • Identify their objections and concerns, if any.
    • Ask more open-ended questions such as “What additional questions or concerns do you have?”
  • Work with them to provide solutions to their objections
    • Are they still worried about money?
    • Maybe you can help them with flexible payment arrangements or discounts.
      • Are they concerned about making the wrong choice?
      • Let them know about your return policies and satisfaction guarantees.

It is important to not be too aggressive. If they are not ready to buy, don’t pressure them. Remember that the best salespeople spend energy on building customer relationships, not on pushing products and services. See our blog Make The Sale Without Being Pushy.

In summary, knowing and giving attention to the 5 buying decisions that your customers make will help you when selling your product. Whenever you hear “no”, try to understand which of the 5 decisions they are saying “no” to.

If they are saying “no” to you or your company, you need to work on building better relationships and branding yourself and your company.

If they are saying “no” to your product or price, maybe you need to work on better communication of the benefits and value that your offerings bring.

If they are saying “no, now is not the right time for me”, then you can ask them if they would be open to keeping in touch and when a good time would be to follow up with them.

Getting a “yes” from your customer means they are saying “yes” to all 5 decisions. The better prepared you are for addressing each of the 5 decisions, the better chance you have of completing the sale and truly fulfilling your customer’s needs.

Shout out to  ultimatesparkle

The Eight Rules of Success to Think About Every Morning by James Caan

Think about reading James Caan’s personal rules listed below every morning for a month. James delivers short, quick and easy to follow rules that make sense.

A few new rules I added to my daily ritual:

Work on a project for at least 30 minutes every morning before opening your email.  Email messages can disturb your focus and weigh you down with urgent, but not necessarily important tasks. Emails can also crush creative juices to those addicted to checking their Inbox. Starting your day off being productive can build a momentum that lasts throughout the day.

Complete! Complete! Complete!  Always finish what you start. It’s easy to get off track with email & phone interruptions.   Never start a new task or project until you finish the one you started.  Checking off your to-do-list is another way to create momentum.

The Eight Rules of Success to Think About Every Morning

I have said in the past that there is no magic formula when it comes to being successful in business but there are certain guiding principles that I have followed throughout the course of my career. Not everyone gets what they want in life but if you work hard and keep trying then some measure of success is bound to come your way. Here are a few of the personal rules I have stuck with throughout my career in business and still follow to this day.

1. Application

No matter what people say true success does not come easily. Like everything in life, if you really want something you are going to have to work for it and put in the time and effort. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of hard work and everyone who has gone into business for themselves will tell you it is one of the toughest things they have ever done in life.

2. Believe in yourself

There is no point in going into business for yourself if you do not have any confidence or self-belief. When you set up your own company the only person you have to answer to is yourself – which means confidence is vital. If you do not believe in yourself and your product or service, then how can you get others to put their faith in you?

3. Be creative

If you want to be truly successful then you have to be prepared to stand out from the crowd. Although I have always believed that an idea doesn’t have to be brand new, the best businesses will still have a strong USP that sets them apart from competitors. Creativity is one of the most valuable qualities any person in the business world can have.

4. Be there first

It is a competitive world out there those who are not out of the traps quickly are the ones who are going to get left behind. I have always believed in striking first. Once you have established what the best course of action is, there is no point in being cautious because it will give your competitors the chance to get in there before you and win that vital piece of work or contract.

 5. Build a brand

When I set up my first firm, the first thing I did was to go out and rent an office in the best part of London, as an address in Mayfair is great to put on a business card. The actual room itself was tiny and windowless, but nobody knew this as I arranged for meetings to take place away from the office. When it comes to doing business, building a brand and a good reputation is vital. Once you have done this, you will find things a lot easier, as most of us prefer to deal with people or companies that are recognized and trusted.

6. Seek advice

It is impossible to be an expert in every field and there is nothing wrong with seeking advice when you are struggling. When you are starting out in business it can be great to speak to someone who has years of experience behind them. If you ask for help you will usually find that people are more than happy to give their time and their expertise.
7. Get organized

Running a successful business can be very stressful and demanding and one of the most important resources you will have is your time. If you want to get the most out of your working day then you need to be properly organized and you also need to make sure you are not wasting precious time on tasks that can always be delegated to someone else.

8. Don’t run before you can walk

When you first start in business there is a tendency to grab every piece of work which comes your way, which can be a potentially fatal mistake. First of all you need to make sure that when you negotiate a contract there is a decent margin. Although you want to make your mark, there is no point in taking on work that does not yield a worthwhile profit. More importantly don’t take on more work than you can manage. It is one of the most common mistakes in business and can prove to be very costly.

Shout out to James Caan | Serial Entrepreneur & Investor in People with Passion

The Power of Gratitude in Business by Tricia Molloy

Before I wrote my book in 2006 and starting my Working with Wisdom speaking, training and mentoring business, I was a marketing professional. In fact, my public relations firm, Molloy Communications, turns 25 this year.

Although I don’t do much marketing these days, one service I continue to offer is writing testimonial quotes. Many professionals have found that you can wait a long time for even the most delighted clients to send their testimonial quotes. And, when they do, they are often generic or not focused on your key messages. That’s why I chose to facilitate the process by interviewing my clients’ clients and writing the testimonials for everyone’s approval. I’ve written more than 500 over the years.

The reason I’m so passionate about testimonials goes beyond its power as a third-party endorsement. It’s about the power of gratitude. When I interview my clients’ clients and help them articulate their appreciation, the process produces multiple outcomes. Their client is reminded of the good work that was done on their behalf, which prompts them to do more business and refer others. My client gets to read that what they’ve done really matters and can share that testimonial with the support staff that often doesn’t get any client feedback. Then, these testimonials are featured on my clients’ websites and are also added to their LinkedIn profiles—a much better alternative to the one-click LinkedIn endorsement that lacks any thought or credibility.

Compelling client testimonials are like word-of-mouth advertising on steroids. Whether you’re an attorney, management consultant, marketing professional, speaker or business vendor, you can benefit from client testimonials. If you would like my help, find out more at http://www.testimonialwritingservice.com.

If you’re a good writer and would like to do it yourself, here are some best practices I’ve learned along the way.

1. Before You Begin: To increase the effectiveness of your collection of testimonials as a marketing and sales tool, pinpoint three key messages–such as the high level of client service you provide—and make sure each testimonial touches on at least one of those messages.

2. During the Interview:  Ask open-ended questions, like: “What was your problem and how much was it costing you?” “What results came from my help?” “Is there one instance, as we were working together, that most impressed you?” “How would you describe my personality and working style?” “How do I compare with others in my field?” “What else would you say to someone who was considering my services and/or products?”

3. When Crafting the Quote:  Use action verbs and descriptive, emotional words. Vary short and longer sentences, and limit the quote to no more than five sentences. Maintain the tone of each client so it doesn’t sound the same.

4. Once the Quotes are Approved:  Add the quotes to your website, emails and proposals. Request that your clients post their quote to your LinkedIn profile since you can’t do it for them.  And, of course, thank them for their testimonials!

I hope this helps you harness the power of gratitude in your business. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

A Shout Out, Hugs and Peace to Tricia Molloy, a woman who GETS IT and Is Sharing IT. May her sharing return tenfold.

http://www.triciamolloy.com/2013/02/the-power-of-gratitude-in-business-how-to-write-compelling-client-testimonials-for-your-website-and-linkedin-recommendations/

How To Build Better Business Relationships: Make It Personal by Darrin Dahl

Whether you realize or not, relationships are the fuel that feeds the success of your business.

Here’s how to make ones that last.

Whether you recognize it or not, all successful small businesses–regardless of what they do or sell–have one thing in common: their owners know how to build and maintain relationships. The truth is that entrepreneurs too often get caught up in the details of the kinds of products or services they are selling to notice how critical it is to build relationships not just with your customers, but also with your vendors, employees and–gasp–even your competitors. “Without strong relationships, it is impossible to have success as a business owner,” says Michael Denisoff, who is the founder and CEO of Denisoff Consulting Group in Redondo Beach, California.

You need to have long-term customers and good vendor relationships that will carry you through challenging times or tight deadlines, as well as relationships with other business owners to share struggles, resources and best practices that can really give you an edge. The reality is that business relationships are just like any other relationship. They require some effort to maintain and they must be mutually beneficial. As in any relationship, you must be willing to give, share and support, not just take or receive.”

That’s a lesson Denisoff admits he had to relearn the hard way when, a while ago, he fell into the trap of neglecting some of his business relationships. But it wasn’t that he didn’t care about those relationships. It’s just that he got so busy that he didn’t realize how much time had gone by where he had not checked in with several of his contacts–an easy mistake for most small business owners who feel like every day is shorter than the last. What Denisoff found was that, in two cases in particular, his failure to put enough effort into nurturing his relationships caused them to wither away.

The first instance was when he called up a supplier to ask for a favor–not realizing how much time had gone by from the last time he had touched base. Denisoff says his supplier seemed distant and not very willing to help him out, which was surprising. After asking him if anything was wrong, Denisoff’s supplier answered that since Denisoff hadn’t been around in a while, he felt like he was being taken advantage of. In another instance, he called up a customer who he could tell was not pleased with him because, in truth, he only called her when she had a project ready to go. She felt like Denisoff did not truly value her and was using her only for her business. It’s like having a friend that only comes to see you when they want to borrow money or need help moving,” he says. “In time, you cut them off.”

The two eye-opening experiences caused Denisoff to take two major actions in response. First, he created a contact database where he not only stored information on his clients, but also with vendors and business peers. He now uses the database to document the details of the conversations–both personal and professional–that he has with each of his contacts. “This helps with continuity and helps me to remember key facts and information about each contact,” he says. “It felt mechanical at first but it proved to be an efficient method to ensure that no one fell through the cracks.” Secondly, Denisoff changed around his daily routine so that he now dedicates a portion of his day to doing nothing but reaching out and maintaining his professional and personal relationships. “Thankfully, I have strong long-term customers to keep the pipeline full and a good group of vendors and business peers dedicated to helping each other succeed,” he says.

The actions taken by Denisoff are great tips for any business owner to adopt as their own. Here are some additional tips from Denisoff and other business owners on how to build stronger business relationships that will last.

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Encourage Honest Feedback

An open, honest relationship demands clear communications of how each party is performing,” says Patrick Scullin of Ames Scullin O’Haire, an Atlanta-based marketing services company. “Encourage constructive criticism and be brave enough to suggest ways clients can help your firm perform better,” he says. “If you know where you stand, you can stand stronger.”

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Listen More Than You Talk

We all want to extol our strengths, our virtues in hopes of impressing others and, ultimately, getting more business,” says Alisa Cohn, an executive coach. “It’s counter-intuitive, but being a good listener highlights your virtues much better than being a big talker. I coach a financial planner and we did a little market research on what his clients value the most in him. Yes, they value his advice and his skills in handling the money, but a lot of financial planners have that. What sets him apart is that he takes the time to listen to them and really understand where his clients are coming from. They said most often that they value his role as a sounding board, and a few even called him better than a shrink! That’s the kind of behavior that leads to referrals and long-term business success.”

Dig Deeper: Listening With More Than Two Ears

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Make A Routine

Devise a system to ensure that not too much time passes before you connect with your contacts, such as the formal database Denisoff created. And with the proliferation of social media tools these days such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s never been easier to keep in touch.  {SENDOUTCARDS.COM/LORYFABIAN has a system you can upload almost any database in, emails you birthday and anniversary reminders, and keep all of your notes on each customer in one place.}

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Be Honest

As a small business owner, it’s important that people see me as expert in my field,” says Amy Harcourt of Definitive Marketing. “But, when asked questions I don’t know how to answer, I always say so. I remember an initial meeting with what became one of my best clients. I was meeting with the executive team and was asked about my experience in their industry (of which I had none). I could have tried to spin my response to sound like I knew their industry. Instead, I told them that I had no experience and why that might work to their advantage. I was surprised to see stern, questioning faces turn to friendly nods and smiles. They really appreciated my honesty. And that laid the foundation for a great relationship.”

Dig Deeper: Can the Truth Set Your Profits Free?
How to Build Better Business Relationships: Take Notes

Keep detailed notes on everyone you meet, says Mike Scanlin, CEO of Born To Sell, a software company that makes investing tools. “When you get back to the office, enter those notes into your address book or contact system. Later, you will want to be able to enter keywords like ‘sailing’ or ‘wireless’ or ‘French’ and find all the people you know who match that keyword. Doing keyword mining on your own contacts will pay dividends for years.” Sendoutcards.com/loryfabian

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Give More than You Receive

Be sure to contact people when you are NOT in need of something. Take time to learn about their business since it’s as important to them as your business to you. “Take a minute to understand your client’s dreams and provide opportunities for them to fulfill this whenever possible,” says Rohan Hall of rSiteZ.com, a company which builds social networking sites. “Whenever I have a client on the phone I try to understand what they’re trying to achieve with their business. From time to time there will be an opportunity that I will actually refer them to someone that I think could help their business especially where I gain nothing from this. Clients really appreciate it when they realize that you’re looking out for them.”

Dig Deeper: How to Incorporate Philanthropy Into Your Business

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Be Proactive

Using your journal and knowledge of your relationships, forward articles, links and other information that might be of interest to your contacts. “When I see interesting news stories I forward them to people who I think would find them relevant,” says Scanlin of Born to Sell. “I’ve had many recipients come up to me later and say things like, ‘I can’t believe you remembered that I wanted to go to Thailand.’ It takes less than 30 minutes each morning to send out a handful of these. Do it every day and the care and feeding of your network will be alive and well.”

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Be Real

“Do not be afraid to be vulnerable,” says Amy Ludwigson of Pure Citizen, an organic clothing retailer. “Let people see who you are. It builds trust and respect. Being too professional is a bore and well you are not going to enjoy yourself.”

Dig Deeper: When Do You Lie? Strategies For More Authentic, Respectful Communication

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Turn Blunders into Opportunities

Admitting mistakes and correcting missteps will take you far when it comes to building relationships, says William Gregory O, who is the co-founder of Lex Scripta, a law firm in Illinois. “Often times, people just want to know that you are sorry and that you have a plan for getting back on track,” he says. When one of our service providers made a mistake, which resulted in our service being delayed for a week, the service provider responded immediately with an apology and a proposal for fixing the problem. Instead of looking for another service provider, we decided to work with this provider because we know that the provider is honest and diligent. When a mistake is more than a minor setback, do something to make it right or otherwise provide value to the wronged party.”

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Make it Personal

Sometimes it is good to send an actual physical letter or card of appreciation as opposed to an e-mail. “Say ‘Thank you,” a lot,” says Amy Blum, owner and president of Eagle Marketing. “I send notes to new clients thanking them for their business. I send e-mails of appreciation often, for no reason at all. And, I send great toffee during the holidays. Never forget who got you where you are. And never, ever think you can say thank you enough to clients, customers, colleagues and even vendors too.”

*************PLEASE NOTE*******

GO TO: www.SENDOUTCARDS.COM/loryfabian and start sending CARDS today.  Need help?

You could send 5 or 500 cards in 5 minutes, in your own handwriting, and even upload a picture or logo into the card.  For about $5 per year per customer you can make your customers feel special and appreciated, and they will never forget you.   If you would like a free gift account to try our card system, please visit my website at http://www.sendoutcards.com/loryfabian.

How to Build Better Business Relationships: Meet Face-to-Face

Invite your contacts to an event (sporting, music, etc.) that you would both enjoy. You will naturally deepen the relationship and get to know each other better. You could also make plans to catch up at or join someone at a networking event. {Lory writes: “For me, BNI’S GIVER GAIN’S PHILOSOPHY IS A FAST & QUICK WAY TO JUMP START YOUR BUSINESS. BNI & SendOutCards.com are alliance partners.  They both build stronger relationships with members, customers, clients and friends.}

For some people, networking events are challenges and having at least one friendly face there can give them the confidence to network better. Plus, you will strengthen the relationship.

Hugs & Peace to Darrin Dahl! | http://www.inc.com/guides/201101/how-to-build-better-business-relationships.html