Show a little gratitude

August 30, 2017

GratitudeI believe that gratitude is a brilliant marketing strategy. I’m astonished at how many businesses give their customers the distinct impression that they’re a little put out by having to sell them something.

You’ve felt it – the grocery clerk who is too busy chatting to actually make eye contact. The phone rep that can’t wait to get off the phone. The sales pro that doesn’t return your calls, even though you’ve told him you’re ready to buy.

It’s annoying and hardly breeds customer loyalty. But gratitude isn’t just for customers. I believe the smart business owner creates a continuous chain of gratitude and not only is it genuine, but it yields incredible benefits.

Here’s how the chain gets constructed. First – you demonstrate your gratitude to your employees. You then give them the tools to extend that same gratitude to your vendors and clients. Then, you invite your vendors and clients to recognize your employees for serving them well.

See how it goes full circle? When you cultivate and encourage the cycle, it just picks up steam and gets stronger and stronger. It’s like a snowball that keeps growing and accelerating as it speeds down the hill. Pretty soon, it’s been woven into your culture and becomes part of your reputation. That’s a pretty powerful brand attribute.

So how do you make it happen? You develop tools for each group of people in the cycle. Let’s start with the employees.

The good news is that this isn’t about more money. It’s about recognition and appreciation. Everyone wants to be noticed for doing a good job. You start by defining what “a good job” looks like. Be very clear in your own mind what character traits you want on your team. Interview for those soft skills and attitudes.

After you hire the right kind of people – train them well. Don’t just train them to be good at their job, train them to be grateful for the clients who bring the opportunities to your company. Help them understand how each client contributes to the bottom line.

Now – start catching them doing things right. This cannot be left to chance or it won’t get done. Create a peer recognition program, where employees can thank each other for going above and beyond. Read the nominations at an all staff meeting or share them on your intranet. Find a way to publicize the kudos they received. Personally stop by their office (or call them if they’re not local) and thank them for making a difference.

What’s the business rationale for this effort? A study of over 1,700 employees conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicated that more than half of all employees intended to search for new jobs because they felt underappreciated and undervalued. Further research on gratitude and appreciation documents that when employees feel valued, they have high job satisfaction, will work longer hours, build supportive relationships with co-workers and supervisors, and are happy to help the company achieve its goals.

On top of all that – they aren’t looking for other jobs. I don’t know about your industry but in my world it’s getting tougher and tougher to find qualified employees. So we want to keep the good ones that we have.

Beyond the employee peer recognition, there are other things you can do. On your employees’ anniversary with your company, why not acknowledge their contributions and how it’s impacted the company? Or send a note home, telling his/her family how they contribute to your organization.

Celebrate your employees and their wins. Be thoughtful, be personal and be sincere. But most of all – be genuinely grateful.

Next week, we’ll wrap up the cycle of gratitude by talking about how you can cultivate that among your vendors and customers.

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But can I trust you?

May 24, 2017

trustI can’t guess how many times I’ve written about trust over the past ten years.  I’ve talked about the importance of the know • like • trust model, I’ve discussed the connection between trust and a brand’s equity and I’ve explored the role of trust in shortening the sales cycle.

Suffice it to say, trust is a cornerstone of marketing success.

But it occurred to me that when I’ve written about trust, it’s been one-sided.  I’ve focused on the trust we need from our prospects and customers in order to make them feel safe enough to make that first purchase or repeat buy.

I’ve been ignoring the whole other side of the equation. Trust has to be a two-way street or else it doesn’t work.  When you don’t feel trusted – it’s very difficult to trust. Just like in our personal relationships, it’s difficult to let down your guard enough to develop trust when you’re feeling like a criminal, based on how you’re being treated.

Think that’s a little extreme?  Think about some of the signage you see in retail locations.  “You break it, you buy it” or “video surveillance cameras in use.”

Without meaning to, in a million little ways, many businesses communicate that they don’t really trust their customers.

And if you think we have work to do in that arena – it’s nothing compared to how many organizations treat their employees. It’s pretty tough for them to trust you, trust your brand and create a trusting environment for your customers.

If you want to cultivate trust among your prospects and customers – you have to start by demonstrating trust in your own team and those same prospects and customers.

Let’s look at a couple ideas for each.  First, the customers:

Your customer service promise: Call it a pledge, a promise or a policy. Whatever you call it – make sure it’s written in simple English, errs on the assumption that 99% of your customers are honest and good people, and cuts your customers a great deal of slack.

Make it very public – post it on your website, in your store and in your contractual agreements. Celebrate the fact that you believe in your customers and in servicing them with respect and affection.

Arm your employees with both authority and resources: Every time a customer complains or has a bad experience and you make them wait for a manager to resolve it, it feels like you don’t trust them or their story.   You also teach them that you don’t have enough confidence in your team to give them the ability to resolve the issue. But when your employees can immediately respond and fix the problem, the customer feels heard and that your organization believed them and their concern.

And now, for showing your employees that you trust them:

Treat them like grown-ups: Flip through your employee manual.  Are the rules for adults or does it assume that your team will act like teenagers trying to sneak out after curfew?  Too many employee rules are made for the few, not the majority. Create rules that make it clear to your employees that you hold them both capable and accountable.

Ask for help: Nothing says “I believe in you and your abilities” more than asking someone for their help. Involve your employees in key decisions involving customer-facing policies, pricing or R&D options.  You can’t just give this tactic lip service.  You actually need to listen.  The upside of that – you’re going to learn more than you think.

Remember that the know • like • trust model is a two-way street.  What are you doing to pave the way to trust for your customers and employees?

 

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Get Ready for Hibernation

December 7, 2016

Hibernation

You may not realize it but you’re starting to feel very sleepy. In a couple weeks, you’ll be in full “business hibernation” mode. Everything comes to a screeching halt as you go from full steam ahead to a sleepy stroll towards the New Year.

Even if you want to keep going at breakneck speed, everyone around you is already yawning and shifting into a very lazy gear. Between the holiday shopping, parties, travel and those long weekends that seem to start on Wednesday – productivity is doomed.

Customers don’t want to start anything new. No one’s in the office to review any proposals or contracts and even if you have work in progress, tracking anyone down to give you an approval is almost impossible.

The New Year doesn’t snap everyone back to attention either. It’s usually the middle of the month before things get cooking again. We are slow to wake from our winter solstice slumber.

But, if we know the hibernation period is coming, is it possible we could actually use it to our marketing advantage?

Here are some suggestions for some ways that you could enjoy the slow down but also feel like you’re planting some seeds for a strong new year.

Ponder and plan: You know you should already have your next year’s business plan done, right? You know why you don’t? Could it be because you haven’t had a free moment to think? Guess what – the hibernation season is the perfect time to dream, wonder and put at least a skeleton of a plan together.

If you’re looking for a system to turn your plans into accomplishments, check out the book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman. I’m betting that you’ll have time to read it before the end of the year!

Reach out and connect: Think of a few people who are important to your business but you rarely slow down long enough to have an actual conversation. They might be a key vendor or a referral source. Make the time to invest in your connection. Grab coffee or a hot toddy and ask them how you can help their business in 2017. You’re going to like where the conversation goes.

Prune for future growth: Gardeners and arborists will tell you that pruning sparks new growth and I think there’s a lesson there for all of us. It’s time to trim. Trim your email lists, trim marketing tactics that just haven’t delivered the ROI and trim all the data that you’re buried under. This is a great time of year to get down to the essentials.

Spruce yourself up: You know that website that you keep meaning to update? Now’s the time! You need to freshen up your content, take down the bios of employees who’ve been gone for 10 months and give the whole site a fresh feel. Don’t forget to give the back end of the site some attention too. There are probably plugins, updates, and other technical aspects of the site that need your attention as well.

Build up the team: Everyone who works for you has been going all out for months too. Why not use the forced slow down to strengthen your team’s bond? Do something together that fosters team and holiday spirit. Adopt a family and go shopping for them together. Or work a shift ringing the bell for the Salvation Army or wrapping gifts for charity. Why not create a Toys for Tots drive among your employees, vendors, and customers? Let the holidays give you the perfect team building exercise.

Don’t get me wrong. I think you should enjoy the slow down. You’ve earned it. But, there’s no reason you can’t mix the holiday festivities with some business activities that will give the next twelve months a leg up.

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Don’t forget to recognize your good fortune

November 23, 2016

good fortune

It’s easy to get caught up in the metrics, goals, sales projections, and all the other things we measure in business. But as Thanksgiving approaches, I want to suggest that the best parts of being in business can’t be measured in dollars, percentages or increases but by your good fortune.

I don’t know about you, but by this time of year, I’m getting a little tired. I’ve been going full throttle ever since the holidays wound down last year and I’ve been chasing some pretty aggressive goals. This coming week is the perfect time to slow down and genuinely be grateful for our good fortune. Why not take advantage of the slower pace of Thanksgiving week and actually say thank you to those who make your work meaningful and successful.

Your employees: Let’s be honest – your employees are awesome, aren’t they? They care about your customers, they care about your business and they care about you. They work hard and your bottom line benefits from their efforts.

If you have a small staff, take the time to handwrite them a thank you note. Point out the things they do that make such a difference and let them know you appreciate all they do.

If your team is too big for that, gather them together and tell them how much you appreciate them. If you have multiple locations – why not shoot a video? It doesn’t have to be fancy — you can do it on your computer or phone. But make it personal.

Your clients: What if you spent a couple of hours this coming week and called all of your customers just to say thank you. Don’t try to sell them anything or talk about 2017. Just say thank you. But be specific – tell them why they’re such a wonderful client and why you appreciate them so much.

Encourage your employees to do the same thing with the customers that they serve.

Your vendors: You know who I’m talking about – the ones who bust a hump when your client shortens their deadline or wants to double their order but not the time it takes to get it done.

Let them know that you value their skills, commitment to your customers and willingness to bend over backward to help you over deliver. If there’s a sales rep or front line person who is always going out of their way for you – why not pick up the phone or write a note to their boss? Express your gratitude for their employee and make sure they know just how lucky they are to have them.

Your past customers: Even if they haven’t done business with you in a while, why not drop them a note to thank them for their past business? Tell them how much you appreciate the faith they had in you and the opportunity they gave you. Again, this isn’t a sales gimmick and you’re not trying to win them back. Just acknowledge that you enjoyed working with them, are grateful for the chance and wish them well.

In keeping with this blog post’s theme, I want to thank all of you for reading my blog content. Your emails, calls, notes and kind words make my day. I love it when you disagree, agree or just ask a question. I’m very grateful for our on-going conversation about marketing and all things business.

The magic of this week of giving thanks is that the more gratitude you express, the better you feel. You’ll be reminded again and again of your good fortune and that’s the perfect way to wind down this year and gear up for even more blessings in the year to come.

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Insincerity is not good for your brand

September 21, 2016

BrandI love it when employees really adopt their company’s brand and make it their own. That’s one of the ways you know that your brand has really woven itself into the culture of your organization. But it rarely happens by accident. In any brand process, part of the process should be about helping your employees understand and internalize the brand.

Then, you need to work with your team by job functions, helping each type of employee figure out how the brand influences their work. For example – if you’re a bank, how the tellers bring the brand to life will be very different from how the fraud department will live the brand.

Unfortunately, most companies take a shortcut that just makes their brand feel forced and artificial.

The first time I checked out at Walgreens and the clerk said “Be well,” I thought, well that’s cool – it fits with their whole brand and bravo to the clerk for making the brand her own.

After being in about five different Walgreens in several different states, I caught on. They had all been told to use “be well” as their farewell to customers. Suddenly the only thing “be well” communicated to me was a robotic script that completely lacked even an ounce of sincerity.

Probably not what Walgreens wants us to think about their “at the corner of happy and healthy” brand position.

That’s the problem with a lot of brands. You can’t just create a brand and slap it on your marketing materials. For a brand to actually mean something to your customers or your employees – it needs to be grounded in what you actually believe. It has to be built from your corporate values and be the sword you’re willing to fall on when there’s a conflict.

Your customers and employees have a pretty accurate BS meter and if your brand promise is superficial, they’re going to figure it out pretty quickly.  Here are some things that trigger the meter.

Hyperbole: When you use loaded words that seem hyped and exaggerated, it immediately makes people suspicious. Use language that your audience can connect with and relate to, rather than words that feel artificial or impossible to achieve.

When it’s rote: Much like my experience in Walgreens, there’s a fine line between creating consistency in how your brand is communicated and it being robotic and stale. How often have you thought that a customer service rep was just reading from a script and really didn’t care if he had “met or exceeded all of your expectations today?”

One size fits all: If your brand position is so generic to your industry that your competitor could adopt and reasonably honor your brand – it’s not really a brand position at all. It’s simply a statement of what everyone in your industry should be delivering.

When it’s nothing more than marketing speak: A genuine brand isn’t just a marketing tool. It’s a divining rod that helps direct the entire company. I should feel your brand in my interactions with every single employee. But that requires commitment and investment on your part. It’s just spin if you sprinkle it in your marketing but not work to make it a part of your organization’s foundation.

When it works on the outside, but not inside: Your brand promise needs to be just as true internally as it is with your best customers. Remember – a good brand is your values in action. Values aren’t situational. You can’t expect your employees to behave according to your brand if you don’t in your dealings with them.

A brand is a promise of what it’s like to do business with you. Insincerity can kill your chances of even having a shot at delivering on that promise.

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Let’s talk business, social and joy!

February 25, 2012

I’m fortunate that I am invited to guest blog in some of the most prominent and cool spots on the web.

Every once in awhile, those opportunities converge and it’s raining Drew‘s thinking everywhere you turn.

Come join in these conversations around the web:

Marketing Profs Daily Fix: In this post, I suggest that many business owners would be smart to think differently about how size matters.  By staying focused on your organization’s sweet spot — you can actually get smaller while your profits, reputation and opportunities get bigger.

Come read what I had to say and join in the conversation by clicking here.

Marketing Executive’s Networking Group’s Blend: In the social media space, we sure seem fascinated with toy talk.  Pinterest is our latest obsession.  But we often lose sight of the most important social media tool of all.  Do you have it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Click here to read/share.

IowaBiz:  Some companies just exude a cultural joy that makes you want to do business with them.  And guess what — that doesn’t come from some company manual or marketing plan.  It comes from letting the employees share their genuine joy.

Come see a very real example of this sort of joy and tell us where else you’ve see it by clicking here.

I’d love it if you wanted to jump into any or all of these conversations!

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Meet your company’s spokesperson

February 11, 2011

employee drewmclellan
Is he your new spokesperson?

Take a few minutes and walk through your place of business today. Really look at the people who work for you. Your goal — identify the employees who are just there to get the paycheck.

  • Maybe it’s the 16 year old part-timer who calls in sick about as often as she shows up.
  • Or the employee who has been there for the past 20 years and is just biding his time until he hits retirement age.
  • Or the employee who is still bent out of shape because they got passed over for a promotion and goes out of his way to sabotage the woman who got the nod while he looks for another gig.

Congratulations — you just met your organization’s new spokesperson.  There is no “off the record” anymore.  Because we’re always on the record.  Just ask former Congressman Christopher Lee.

The idea that a disgruntled or disengaged employee could say something unfortunate is not new.  But in the good old days, they might tell a few friends over a beer or vent to their family, but it was pretty contained and isolated.  And as soon as the words left their lips…they evaporated in thin air.  No record, no residual.

Not today.  Any employee can shoot off their mouth on Facebook, Twitter or another social media outlet and literally infect thousands of people with their opinion in a matter of seconds.  And thanks to Google, screen shots, archives and savvy web users — those words never disappear.  They are etched in digital stone.

Whether you like it or not, this digital age means that every single employee you have represents you 24/7.  On your time, on their time.  On your communications tools and on their own.

Before you start breathing into a paper bag — recognize that this isn’t an inherently bad thing.  It can be a wonderful thing, if handled right. But it does require that you understand the risks, the potential rewards and how you can set your employees up to be fantastic representatives of your brand.

I will dig into that on Monday, so stay tuned.

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