Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Deep Relationship Between Expectations, Experience and Your Business Success

Can you imagine what would happen if the guy on the picture wanted to put the car he's driving in front of the horses pulling it?

Well, the result is obvious: The car would not continue to move and it would be a disaster. Horses should always be ahead of the car, and the car will always move in the direction the horses are pulling it. If you change the order, it's not going to happen and there are not more options for you to choose.

When it comes to your business, it’s the same: your customer's experience is the engine that drives everything. If your customers have a positive experience with your product, everything works great, your business portfolio grows and you make money.

If, however, their experience is negative, then you can imagine the scenario: Customers won’t buy, your customer base won’t grow, sales will stall, and the rest is well known by all of us.

Therefore, all your efforts should be aimed at ensuring the best possible experience for your customers, both online and offline. All elements must be aligned towards achieving the same goal, and that is obvious.

The horses always in front of the car. Your customers’ satisfaction alway on top of your strategy.

No matter that your site appears among top 10 on Google’s SERP, or you're receiving a lot of RT's for your campaigns on Twitter, or many "Likes" on your Facebook page. If all those actions are not aligned with generating the best shopping experience possible for your customers, everything will be worthless.

But where do you start from?

Start by creating real expectations.

Usually, as a simple way to differentiate a product from its competition, we commonly use advertising resources such as saying "this product is the best", "number 1", "your satisfaction is guaranteed", "we offer an unbeatable price "and so on.

Going further, product use and features are often associated with achieving certain, more subjective things, such as happiness, success, professional achievements, beauty, pleasure, etc..

And since each person is free to talk and write about its product the way it think is best, about that I'm not going to say anything. You can continue to promote your product using the arguments and styles you want and consider more convenient to you. I’m simply going to offer you one recommendation:

Whatever you write or say, make sure your product does what you say it does and that your client is going to achieve, in a clear and verifiable way, the things you say it will achieve. It's as simple as that. Nothing more, nothing less.

It happened to me recently that I suddenly felt the need to play Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, as I had done before for many years. Following the usual steps, I googled it, clicked on the initial results, which led me to Softonic where I found a link to download a demo package for the game in a very simple way, without further delays, and I was promised “I would enjoy a complete gaming experience without having to buy the full version of the package”, which was good enough for me.

I followed the instructions on the screen, I downloaded the program, I opened it, I installed it and tried to get the demonstration running, but couldn’t do it. Without letting myself be dominated by my own frustration, I did try again. I did the same search, I chose another link provided on the same site, I downloaded the file, installed it, tried to open it and, again, nothing. Zero.

I did the same thing at least three more times, until I finally gave up. I had such a sense of frustration that I simply uninstalled everything I had installed on my computer by that time, delete the application icon that was created on my desktop and I threw it away.

And I just moved on. The experience was negative enough to me as to make me even give up on my desire to play the game again.

Customer service: Vitally important for your business success.

There is only one way you can find out if a client of yours has had a positive or negative experience with your company, its products or services, and that is through your customer service representatives, before, during and after the sale takes place. Some people refer to it as "active listening" throughout the sales cycle.

That’s why you have to make sure to offer your clients a clear path to get in touch with your company at all times, before, during and after the sale as I said before. You can also be a little bit more proactive and get in contact with them in certain cases. That would be your choice.

The point is to give your clients the opportunity to solve any doubts, request any information needed to make the purchase decision, and make the entire decision making process as simple, friendly and memorable as possible, and above all, when the sale is finally closed, to make sure your product completely fills your clients’ expectations.

The process can be narrowed down to a very simple statement.

Offer your customers something real they can truly expect from your product, create an expectation you know your product will meet satisfactorily. Then make sure those expectations are fulfilled on your customer side, throughout the whole purchase process.

The Deep Relationship between Expectations, Experience and Success

Why not I mention anywhere the word "Success", as I did in this post title? Because I personally think "success" is not something that you can actually “achieve by doing this or that” instead I feel it’s the ending result of many things done properly which lead to a satisfied customer.

However, the relationship between the three elements is undeniable: Create in your customers, expectations that you can deliver successfully and widely, and guarantee a positive experience for them. If you can make this happen, your business’ success will come as a natural consequence.

As soon as one of the three fails, either you're creating exaggerated expectations for your product or impossible to meet and verify, or you are generating for your customer a mediocre or negative shopping experience, the balance between expectations and customer experience breaks down and the possibility of success for your business disappears.

Photo Credit: © Robert Harding / Corbis

Related post in this blog:
How important is what your customer experiences with your product?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

7 Easy Steps To Building Your Personal Project: Why Should You Have A Plan "B"?

Your Personal Project in 7 Steps.
The most common thing that happens when one tries to explain someone else how the "Personal Branding" concept works and how developing a strong personal brand increases the chances of landing a better job with better salary, is to have that person coming up with responses such as:

"Branding is only for large companies," or "I'm not a product that needs to be sold" and things like that, all of them revolving around the same point: "Freelancers or entrepreneurs don’t need to have a personal brand"

And, after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to approach this issue from a different point of view: The need to have a “Plan B", which I’m sure will be more familiar to you.

Those who know me, can confirm I’m a positive person, a results driven guy and always moving forward, and really touches me deeply to see, day after day, more and more of my colleagues who, after having spent much of their lives working for someone else, whether you name it working for a well established corporation or simply raising their kids (who said it wasn’t a job?), find themselves suddenly needing to move on and find a new way to make a living on a different place, to get themselves a job and do not have even the foggiest idea where to begin with or how to make things happen.

People say the best managers, always plan for the unexpected.

And it is an statement we can also apply for any area of ​​our lives, be it professional, personal, in our family or with our partner. But that's another story.

In any case, in many posts oriented to entrepreneurs like you and me, the emphasis is on the fact that we must keep on going until achieving our goals, that we can not ever give up fighting for what we so desire, and even they make reference to the fact that having a "backup plan" (the very well known "Plan B") means that we are not really 100% committed to what we're doing, and that's not true.

At least, not from my point of view.

Only if we could have total control of all the things that happen in our lives, we might be almost sure our business will be a success, or that we will never get fired from the company for which we have been working for the last twenty years, or as it happened to my mother, for instance, who never thought my dad was going to die at the age he did, and she was so counting on him to live forever that she wasn’t ready to take care of all her things so suddenly.

However, life, time and time again, demonstrates us that neither in business nor in professional or personal life, things happen according to our will. That’s why it’s so important to always plan ahead, and make sure to be prepared for the unexpected in all areas of life, especially as it relates to our jobs and the way we make money.

If you can recognize that not all things are in your hands and that, for reasons out of your control, the company you work for might tomorrow decide not to continue to use your professional services, ie, simply let you go, then you will also recognize that it is a moment in your life for which you better have a couple of options.

When do you realize you were in need of a “Plan B"?

Unfortunately, when you already need it. It is normal. You might be now going yourself through a professional situation in which it would be advisable that you started to develop your own plan "B".

Obviously, it’s much more comfortable and less stressful to think that you’re going to stay in the same job for ever. After all you are an excellent employee, always meeting and exceeding your goals and working your heart out to help your company grow.

Don’t let comfort become your desktop partner, and guide your life. Don’t let a good title and a good payroll, to cloud your eyes and make you think such situation will last forever, because it could be the other way around. Keep in mind not everything is under your control.

Remember that too much positivism without an equivalent dose of realism, turns into fanaticism, and that's not good for you or anyone else. I am a deeply positive person, but also realistic, and I think I’ve had the ability to properly plan ahead for all scenarios I have lived.

Please do keep in mind: Make it a realistic positivism or, if you prefer, always a optimistic realism. Your choice.

How can you get started on developing your own “Plan B"?

Of course the first question for which you will have to have an answer is whether or not you like what you're doing right now in your professional life.

If you feel very comfortable in your professional area, and you want to spend the rest of your life within the same arena, the steps you might want to take are very simple:

  1. Go really deep in your professional preparation: Don’t ever stop learning. There are always new topics, areas worthwhile to venture on and develop. Consider, for example, that the social media and digital marketing area has been an extension of my professional degree in marketing and advertising. You can also do the same in your area. Name it post-degree studies, specialization courses, masters, name it as you wish, but never give up learning.
  2. Develop a strong network within your professional environment: Engage with your customers beyond what your job requires you to, build relationships with your suppliers, coworkers, with people within your industry and, why not, with people on related industries as well.
  3. Join discussion groups, boards, forums and every opportunity you have to make yourself visible and recognized as a professional, and let the world discover what you know about your area, and earn the recognition and authority your experience allows you to have.
  4. Don’t close yourself to listening to what other companies are offering: And even when you're not seriously looking for a job, it’s always good to know how much other companies are paying for a position like yours. Who knows? Maybe you could be earning twice as much as you earn now, and you didn’t know about it.
  5. If you enjoy writing, build a blog: and turn it into a space to add value to our society and the world, to help others solve their problems, to demonstrate your experience and knowledge in your professional field.
  6. If you hate writing, but like to share your thoughts: Participate in online portals dedicated to topics of your interest, leave your comments in someone else’s blog, share the best of your knowledge and own experience, and let your own professional environment know that you exist and have much to contribute.

If, however, you don’t like your job, don’t feel identified with what you're doing now, neither with your professional area, or just feel it’s time to make a change in your life and want to give it a try on a different area, then you must start by clearly defining what is that thing you would want to move on to.

Make sure it’s something you really love, something you don’t mind spending hour after hour of your time with no rest, something at which you might be very good or even one of the best.

Once you've discovered that something you want to dedicate to if you were in need of implementing your “Plan B", if things don’t go as they were planned, then you should follow all recommendations I have listed for you above .

And without realizing it, you're developing on a very simple way a “Plan B" of your own and, at the same time, your own "personal brand".

Did you notice how easy it is?

Recommended posts in this blog:
Scenery Planning: Don’t Trap Yourself On A Dead End Street
Personal Branding Strategy: A Case Study

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Hardest Business Decision You’ll Ever Make: When To Stop and Change Course.

The Hardest Business Decision Ever.
A few days ago I attended a major digital marketing event in Alicante, the iDay, with my dear friend Reyes Ramón. As usual, one of the presentations deeply caught my attention and inspired me to write about the subject I want to share with you today.

This time, one of the guest speakers, Pep Rubio, referred to the fact that recognizing when you have to make a stop to change your company’s course and "win while losing" is a very important element that should be taken into consideration by any business owner.

And I agree 100% with him because it looks as if, in the world we live, talking about "making a stop and changing course" is deeply associated with failure, giving up or losing, and I kind of see things on a different way.

A while ago, in a post I wrote for this blog, I said that "it’s not the same to focus 100% of your energy and time in achieving your goals, than to keep on doing it after it has stopped making sense" and it's something I recommend to all the people I have the opportunity to talk with about business planning and to those whom I serve as a consultant.

Knowing what our options are when making decisions.

I like to apply in my life interesting things I have learned from other areas specially when they prove to fit and perform very well. While I was training for my private pilot's license, one of the areas in which instructors placed more emphasis was practicing emergency procedures.

I remember one of the exercises we performed regularly was the emergency landing and whose practice did not begin when the instructor simulated an engine failure but much earlier.

The first step was to make sure I knew which were the airports closer to my location or have already chosen a landing area if an engine failure was to occur. Thus, when the instructor was to say to me "you’ve lost the engine, what do you do now?" I already had in mind a couple of places to land and I could focus then on flying the airplane and landing it safely.

What’s the purpose behind practicing this procedure? Well I think it's very simple: Knowing in advance what my options were to land the airplane, allowing me to focus all my attention on the emergency checklist I had to follow if an actual engine failure had happened during a real flight.

Keep in mind that, in my case, I did it all during my training, and have never had, thank God, an emergency during a real flight and if I had, I guess I’d have been properly and sufficiently trained to handle it.

A change of course is always the smartest decision.

Let’s think of a real life situation: During a scheduled flight, one of the airplane's crew members realizes something is wrong. Analyzing the information he’s receiving from engine control instruments (does it sound like KPI analysis to you?) he realizes an engine is losing a lot of pressure and surely will fail at any time.

What should the flight crew do?

  1. Declare an emergency and divert to the nearest airport, make an emergency landing and get the airplane checked and repaired if possible? or ...
  2. Stubbornly continue with the flight to their destination airport, despite putting at risk lives of all people on board, including themselves?

Even though the correct decision looks like obvious, or at least it should, believe me when I tell you must of the times isn’t that easy to make.

Let’s go now to a business environment: Your company has a customer who has represented about 80% of your monthly billing over the past two years and suddenly lets you know they will soon be going out of business therefore will not be buying anymore from you.

What do you do then? Do you try to keep on going in despite of losing 80% of your monthly billing? Don’t you think it’s time to seriously consider making a stop and change your course?

By the way: Don’t ever let your business depend on a single customer. It’s a situation you should avoid whenever possible :-D

Would you like to know of some companies that have made dramatic course deviations at some point?

When it comes to large companies in our digital world, we tend to look at them as those big, ever successful monsters who everyone envy, and we don’t even think that, just like you and me, these companies also had a beginning, and they haven’t necessarily been successful all the time.

Many of them have even had to make major course changes during emergency situations.

I read in an article entitled "Why didn’t I think of that? 10 unplanned course  changes that were successful" (in Spanish), published by Javier Megías (whom I truly recommend you to read), about today’s major companies which, at some point in their lifetime, have had to sit around the table, with a clear and fresh mind, and make the decision to change course and move on.

In some cases, the changes were smooth and, in others, were deep and radical. Did you know that YouTube began as an online dating site?

In any case, the idea I want to share with you today, just in case I haven’t done it a couple of times before, is that flexibility must be embedded within the entire business plan of any entrepreneurship, to allow for these decisions to be made without causing further damage.

Remember: It’s not the same to be a persistent person than to simply be stubborn. What is the main difference? Stubborn people keep pushing on and on, even though what they are doing is not making sense anymore.

Related Posts:
A business plan’s flexibility: obstinacy or perseverance?
Things you can learn from the army.