How creates a love affair with me

July 19, 2011

...they even send love notes!

There’s no valuable and ROI focused marketing goal greater or more effective than to create a love affair with your customer.  Remember the perks:

  • It feels good
  • It’s easier to sell more to a current customer than something to a new one
  • It’s more profitable
  • It generates word of mouth
  • It’s incredible for employee retention

And here’s a little case study to prove my point.

We’re an agency, I sit on the boards of several not-for-profits and I was very active in my daughter’s high school.  All of that adds up to a ton of t-shirt purchases throughout the year.   A few years ago, we stumbled upon CustomInk.  I was shopping for cheap, t-shirts for a fundraising event for one of the boards I’m on and couldn’t find the right quality for the right price locally.

The experience I had with CustomInk that first go around made me a customer for life.  And every interaction I have with them since that first one just reinforces my buying decision.

Here’s how they create a love affair with their customers.

They are accessible: Live chat on their website, a phone number to a real person, very fast e-mail support — I’m pretty sure I could even send them a carrier pigeon and they’d get back to me.

They give me the tools to be successful: Whether you’re a novice and need clip art and suggestions to a pro who wants to upload print ready files — they have easy to use tools to let you do business with them the way you want to do business.

Their store (website) is well organized, has lots of help prompts and let’s me get to it: God love them for organizing their site in a way that lets me search by price or by color or by quality.  I never have to wonder “where would I go to do XYZ” because I always know.

When things go wrong (on our end)– they bend over backwards: If they think your shirts (or whatever you print) aren’t going to turn out well due to a design issue or if they just think your logo needs to be cleaned up — they do it.  They’re helpful and they don’t make you feel like a dope.

They support what I support: Every time I do t-shirts for a fundraising type event — they call the organization and make a donation.  It’s not a huge dollar amount ($20 or so) but the gesture means a great deal.

I get a person: Once my t-hsirts are in production, the work is assigned a staff person who oversees the order until it is shipped.  When I e-mail or call – I am connecting directly to that person.  When I have an art question — I’m assigned an art person who helps me get it right.  Follow up question — go back to your person.

They’re grateful: They go out of their way to let me know they appreciate my business.  I’m sure I am a small fish in their pond but they always check to make sure we were happy once the t-shirts get delivered and as you can see, every once in awhile, I get a hand written note.

None of what they do is rocket science but all of what they do is a sincere effort to connect with, support and thank their customers.  They’re an online company that understand the importance and power of creating real relationships.

I feel the love…and love them in return!

How about you — is there a brand that’s created a love affair with you?  How’d they do it?



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If you really walked a mile in their shoes…

July 16, 2011


…have you really walked a mile in their shoes?


We give lip service to wanting to serve our customers better, but I see so many examples where people clearly didn’t bother to even consider their customer, that I wonder.

I’m betting we could walk into any business today and point to things that make life better or more enjoyable for the employees but make the customer feel less important or considered.

Here’s what it might look like if you genuinely walked a mile in your customer’s shoes if you owned/worked at…

A take out food establishment: I’d put all the cold food in one bag and all the hot items in another.

A oil change shop: I’d have more than just car magazines in the lobby.

A CPA/business banker: I’d take the forms I make you fill out every year and put them into excel so you could easily update them rather than re-writing pages and pages of numbers.

A pest control company: I’d show up at your house in an unmarked van so all your neighbors wouldn’t know you had a bug problem.

A movie theatre: I’d have a “in your seat 5 minutes before the show” rule like they do in live theatres.

A lawyer: I’d provide you with a cheat sheet of all the important legal documents you need, have and where they’re stored.

Your financial planner: I’d give you a template that captured all of your financial data (investments, bank accounts, credit cards etc.) to put with your will in case something happened to you.

A clothing store: I’d have a room you could enter and have a store employee take a picture of you (with your phone) so you could get other opinions on the potential new outfit.

Did you notice that none of these changes are a big or expensive deal?

If I can do this with 8 types of businesses — I’m pretty sure we could do it with yours too.  Your turn — tell us your organization’s core business and what you’d do differently if you truly walked a mile in your customer’s shoes.


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Are you built to sell?

June 1, 2011


Whether you are a business owner, a consultant or a W-2 employee — you want to be able to sell off what you have of value.

  • For the owner, it’s probably the business itself.
  • The consultant wants to evolve into having product to sell, so they aren’t just selling their time.
  • And the employee wants to sell his services — either to re-sell and demonstrate value to his current employer or be sought after by a new employer.

Although it was written with the business owner in mind, the book Built to Sell by John Warrillow speaks to all three circumstances.  (click here to buy the book*)  Absolutely every business owner should read this book but so should anyone doing business today.

A few key insights from the book for all of us…regardless of job title:

#1: If you remain a generalist, you will only be able to charge generalist prices and you’ll compete with everyone for their business.  Specialists command higher prices and are sought after — rather than having to chase down their potential customers.

#2: Let process and technology systemize your business and create the consistency that your customers can come to count on.

#3: Package what you sell and make it something that needs to be re-purchased/used often.

#4:  Say no.  Define who you want as a customer (or boss) and say no to the rest.  Don’t settle, don’t compromise and don’t spread yourself too thin.

The book is a fast, enjoyable read.  It’s written in the business parable style that many authors like Steve Farber, Patrick Lencioni and others have done so well.  And…you get more than the story.  John’s built an implementation guide with plenty of how to’s into the back of the book so you can get right to work on making yourself/your business ready for the next sale!

So — jump into the comments section and let’s talk about how to make ourselves more sellable.  What are you going to do first?


*Yup, it’s an affiliate link.  And yes, someone (publisher or the author) sent me the book to read.  As you know, I get books in the mail every day.  I only share the ones I think you’ll find valuable.   Otherwise, you’d think I sucked.

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How does a seasonal business sell year round?

May 26, 2011


A guest post by Isabella York



Within most any business, there is a peak and a slow season. The truth is that there are times when a customer wants to buy all of our stock, and a time when we just want to move units out of our storage space. When seasons and trends come to pass, so does the flow of customers.

If you have a business that is expected to make the lion’s share of sales over two months of every year, it is a constant marketing strategy game, getting creative with concepts and ways to use your products, and coming up with methods to stimulate profit for the whole year.

Here are a few things we need to note to keep our seasonal business thriving all year round:

Plan ahead: Kevin Fraley of Printworks talked to the Wells Fargo Business Insights Series about planning months, even years, in advance when it comes to business. Anticipation of the inflow of income during the season highs and the strategy to keep moving units in the slow seasons will ensure that the business stays active year round. Like the Boy Scouts, preparation in a seasonal business is the key to success.

Slash prices in the off season in a creative way: Offer a sale they can’t refuse, and make it interesting. Off season sales at unexpected times, like Christmas in July, when people are craving the chill and comfort of the holiday season, or Halloween costumes to celebrate an iconic horror movie’s redistribution in a digitally re-mastered version, are consistently popular and strike a happy image in the customer’s mind. Use popular television shows, movies or albums to tie in your stock, and hear the cash register ringing all year long

Manage your online reputation: These days, the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to market your company is to do it online. Create, manage and take care of your online reputation for an easy way to connect to the customer on a 24/7 basis. Create a fan page on Facebook and offer deals and steals on the page; connect with past and potential customers while on the site. Check online review sites and offer explanations to customer complaints on these review sites, as most of them give the merchant the option to do so.

Offer your business in a new light: Michael Jones of Chicago’s In Bloom Floral & Events knew his summer was going to be a hard one due to the seasonality of his flower shop, so he created another way of getting his customers inside his store during the off peak season. He opened up an art gallery in his store space, creating more interest in his other offerings by getting people inside to see his items. He drew them in using art, and showcased his flowers as well.

Ride the highs and the lows of your seasonal business by working the unexpected, and planning ahead. Creativity with a lot of planning will get you ahead, and thriving year round, all the whilekeeping your business in tune with the trends.

Isabella York has been in the business world her entire life.  Having seen business cycles ebb and flow, she knows a thing or two about developing strategies for changing demands, however her job with a purveyor of Artificial Christmas Trees and Christmas Trees has catapulted this skill set to a new level.

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Customer surveys: Tell them what you heard

May 20, 2011

…Close the loop on customer surveys

Last month, I wrote a post which suggested that you stop guessing what your customers were thinking and instead (dramatic pause for novel thought) you just asked them.   I offered up several different ways you could “survey” your customers from traditional surveys to secret shopping and advisory boards.

But… what I forgot to mention was this:

When you ask your customers (or employees, or vendors) for their opinion or assessments – be sure you close the loop by telling what you learned.  Let them share in the insights you gained AND tell them what you are going to do with this new knowledge.

Let’s say that one of the key pieces of feedback you got was that when your customers couldn’t get a hold of their normal account rep, they didn’t know who else they could talk to if there was a problem.

One way to handle that would be to create a contact sheet (headshot, name, title, phone number, cell phone number, e-mail, etc.) of the entire team that works on the client.  Write a letter, explaining that this was something you learned during the survey, so you’re sharing this contact sheet with them in case they were one of the people who wasn’t sure who to reach out to if there was trouble.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal.  A letter from your CEO with these elements would also work just great.

  • Thank you for participating in our survey if you did
  • Here were the things you loved the most (share the good news too!)
  • Here are the top 3 things we learned we could improve upon
  • Here is how we’re going to address those items
  • Again, thank you.  If you have more feedback, please feel free to call me.

You could also write a story for your newsletter or put it on your blog, website or Facebook fan page.  No matter what method — be sure you close the loop and let them know that you appreciated their time and that they were heard.

P.S.  The other plus of closing the loop is that it reinforces the message that you care about their opinion, you listen when they offer feedback and you are always trying to get even better.

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Stop guessing what your customers are thinking

April 25, 2011

… Want to tap into your customers’ minds?

We spend way too much time in “I think I know” land especially when it comes to customers. We make huge decisions based on “my best guess is” or “it seems like…”

There’s absolutely no reason for you to not know what your customers are thinking. Here are a few ways (short of the brain probes in the photo) to ferret out exactly what’s going on in there.

Secret Shopping with a Twist: Invite your customers to sign up to be secret shoppers.  Let them sign up on your website and pick a good blend of them.  Then, after every experience (or in a given time interval) give them a little form to fill out, rating performance,, quality, or whatever else you want to know.  Every time they send in their form (or submit it, if you put it online) they get some reward.

Bonus: Even those you don’t select will now know you want their feedback.   So they’ll speak up more often.

Create a customer survey: Just ask them already!  Afraid of what they’ll say?  Steve Olenski’s tells us in a recent post that we shouldn’t worry about that. In fact, according to the study he cites — most customers who participate in surveys (even if they have a tough message to deliver) care about the company and want it to be successful.  That’s why they invest the time in answering your questions.   We do these for clients all the time and it’s remarkable what we learn and how tiny tweaks (that you learned about in the survey) can change the customer experience.

Bonus:  They feel important and valued because you asked.

Create a customer board of advisors: If you are going to be making some big decisions, why not create an elite group of your best customers (the ones you’d like many more of) and bring them together monthly or quarterly for a couple hours. This requires you being willing to bare it all — they can’t give you good advice if they don’t know the whole picture.   But their insights, questions and counsel will amaze you.

Bonus: They shift from customers to full on evangelists for your organization.

There are, of course, more ways to check in with your customers.  Some may be better suited for your industry than others.  But… guessing is never the best choice.

What say you?  How do you stay in touch with your consumers?

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