Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A different story for each person. Are you a consistent entrepreneur?

Are you a consistent entrepreneur?
I see a lot of attention placed in emphasizing the development of strategies, methods, and implementation of actions to develop a positive and memorable experience for your company’s or brand’s customers.

And obviously, this is an essential element for any business strategy: Building a positive and memorable customer experience to turn those customers into good customers for life so they also become an inexhaustible source of new referrals, which today is known as becoming "brand ambassadors".

Who doesn’t want to achieve the same goal?

However it seems that the only ones who deserve to enjoy this experience are your actual customers, those who are actually buying your products, giving you their money. And I am quite sure that is not so. At least, shouldn’t be only them.

What other people deserve to enjoy the same experience?

Although very important indeed, customers who buy your products or services are not the only people who are entitled to enjoy such a memorable and positive experience with your company.

There are others that are equally important (or even more) and it might be you’re not taking them into consideration, or you’re not giving them the importance they deserve. Do you know who they are?
Your company is not only related to its customers, although it might look like it is so. There are also employees, the bank manager who oversees your accounts, your accountant, vendors and suppliers, the company selling you office supplies, neighbors around your business location, the deliveries guy, the DHL driver who stops by to drop off documents and packages, well ... I think those are examples enough for you to understand the idea.

With things being this way, what’s the reason for you then to create a positive and memorable experience only for paying customers?

It's funny because it happens so often that you put your whole focus on creating a positive and memorable experience for paying customers, that you forget about everything else. And then you have your suppliers waiting for months to receive payment of their bills, or your employees that must withstand the abuse they receive from you, or accepting you’ll be reducing their wages simply because you consider it necessary, or neighbors who complain because you park your car right on the middle of the road, blocking everyone else’s drive.

In developing your brand proposition either as a business or a person, always keep in mind that everything counts. Sometimes it adds up, sometimes it doesn’t. But everything counts.

The positive and memorable experience should be created for everyone.

It makes no sense that your brand or company sends different messages depending on whether the recipient is a customer, a stockholder, an employee or a supplier, because, at the end of the day, everything counts and it all comes together to the same place: your company’s recognition.

The brand experience must be memorable and positive for all of them, even those who are not giving you their money. Why?

Because everyone can become, whether you like it or not, a multiplier of the message they receive from you. If the message is positive and memorable, then you've found an excellent ambassador for your brand or company.

But what if the experience or message received has been negative?

How do you think your company will be perceived by a supplier that has to call your office again and again to get payment for a 30-days-net bill that is 120 days past due? Or how do you think your company will be perceived by the employee who has been working for you its entire life without ever receiving a salary review? Or how will your company be perceived if you stopped paying the last three payrolls simply because you ran out of cash?

How will affected people talk about your company or brand? Will it be positively or negatively?

Your message must be delivered in a consistent, coherent way. Regardless of the channels you have chosen for its dissemination (options here are plenty) your overall message should essentially be the same.

What does developing a consistent brand proposal mean?

In plain, everyday language, it means that your actions must match the things you say. And the things you say, must match the things you think. You are not going to make it through if you hide yourself behind the "judge me for what I say and not for what I do". It simply doesn’t work these days!

The only thing that matters here is to be simply consistent, coherent, and that you behave the same way with everyone. Or can I be affectionate with my friends but abusive with my wife? Or can you consider yourself an "honest businessman" while you're playing with your employees' salaries, or with your vendors’ money?

Be honest with yourself and start by delivering a consistent, coherent and straight-forward message to everyone!

Always keep in mind that, above all, consistency should reign in everything you do and communicate, and that all people who are related with you and your business deserve to enjoy a positive and memorable experience.

Always. All of them.

Related posts on this blog:
Customer Experience: The importance of a consistent message.
What Does A Barbie™ Have To Do With Your Personal Brand?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My dear friend: Yours is not the best way to build relationships.

Building relationships? Really?
Letters of love (and hate) are always trendy in social networks, and this post is going to be one of them.

As always, I strongly believe everything bad that happens to any of us, offers an incredible opportunity to move on and learn a valuable life lesson, which then helps us do things in a better way, and that’s what I pretend to do with this post: Retrieve the lesson I’ve learnt from what happened and share it with you.

It's an experience I recently had with a friend of mine who I considered close, but who definitely showed me that such closeness was just due to a specific interest on his side, and not coming from a genuine relationship that was growing between us.

Here is my letter of "love". Hope you enjoy it. After you read it, we will then review the lessons we can all learn from this situation, with the hope it will help many of us (or at least just one) to make things better.

Dear friend,
I remember with nostalgia the days when you had your online store running and used to write me regularly to ask me about things, to help you clarify your doubts, looking for my advice to help you clearly see the path you had to follow to achieve better sales.
I remember how every day, with absolute regularity, we chatted for a few minutes (even on weekends) as you used to share with me the good news, which sometimes were not that good. I do remember you telling me how you had a supplier failing on delivering the merchandise as it was expected, or that silly customer asking you for a reimbursement, and many other things.
I also remember, as we started to build a little more personal relationship, that we didn’t talk that much about our businesses or projects, but also about life itself, about exercising and the need to keep ourselves fit, about our families, children you’re yet to have but hopefully will have someday... and many other things.
I remember the day you told me about your decision to shut down your ecommerce site, I asked you not to give up, reminding you there were still a lot of things you could experiment and implement on your business to make it better, reminding you your project was just too young to be demanded so much. Anyway, I tried in vain to keep alive the illusion I knew you initially had for your project, which had already disappeared from your heart.
To make it brief, business, like life on itself, is a continuous opening and closing of doors and opportunities. And I completely understand it because my own life has been just that: a continuous flow of things.
However, now that you're in your new project, I feel really bad watching how our relationship has become a one way highway. A highway you are simply using to promote the things you’re doing now, or just inviting me to read the things you’re writing now without even taking the time to stop by this blog, my blog, from which you have received so many good business tips in the past.
Now, the messages I receive from you are non personal communications sent to everyone, without any sort of interaction on your side, no personal touch, without any sign of that affection or connection that united us at the beginning, which gave room for our relationship to start.
Keep always in mind that, from this little corner of cyberspace, I will always wish the very best for all the things you do, for all your ideas and projects. Always.
Because being positive and saying good things is something that defines me and is part of my life. That's me and the way I am.
However, I do want you to know that, doing things the way you are doing, is not a way to build long lasting relationships. Not at all.
My best regards, your friend.

And after the tears have been poured out, what lessons can we draw from this to our own lives and businesses?

  • First of all, and on top of everything else, businesses are about people to begin with. Businesses are founded on the basis of the values ​​that define us as people, and not otherwise.
  • Don’t fake it. Never pretend to have a personal interest on someone you don’t care, whether it’s a partner, an employee, and (don’t even dare to) a customer. At some point in time, people will notice. You can’t fake it forever.
  • Relationships should always be a two-way highway, for mutual enrichment and growth.
  • Keep always in touch with the people who have helped you along the way. You'll never know if you'll need them again, and then they will no longer be there for you.
  • Never take advantage of a personal relationship to turn it into an opportunity for you to sell your things or projects. And if you do, be wise.

And here I leave it for you guys, so that you all can make your own, personal and intimate reflections. It’s an issue truly worth to think about twice, three times, or even more.

Social networks were created to unite people, to keep them close, to get them connected with each other. It is its core value.

Then we had all sort of businesses rushing in to turn them into a flea market, where you can barely listen and understand what others are trying to tell you. But on the very beginning, it was just about people, not business.

Don’t make the mistake of destroying your relationships just because you think they have became useless to you.

It might surprise you what life has prepared for you.

Photo Credits: dvs71 / 123RF Stock Photo

I recommend you to read:
"Dear Facebook, we need to talk"

Related posts in this blog:
Social Networking: How to destroy a relationship in less than 24 hours.
Facebook: A city full of street vendors.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"I don’t speak with the clowns, but with the circus’ owner instead!"

Who do you talk with?
It's a phrase I heard for the first time a long time ago from a sales guy who was working on my team and simply wanted to show me he didn’t waste time talking to people who were not the decision makers on the companies he was calling.

And it's a phrase I 've heard repeatedly over time, especially from those sales representatives who, in a rush of arrogance, want to sell themselves as being excessively effective or to make us think, to us who have to make the decision to hire them or not, that without them we have very little chance to reach that important point within the company, the point where everything happens: the "decision maker", the key and determining factor... as some people say, "the big Kahuna".

However, for those who are familiar with these selling things, it’s a phrase that implies a profound misunderstanding of the process leading to a purchasing decision within a company.


The first person to enter the stage is “The Gatekeeper".

I love “Gatekeepers”! It's funny because it’s usually the person you would least think can influence, either positively or negatively, the decision making process. And probably it doesn’t. However, it plays a decisive role in it: it gives you access (or not) to the "Decision Maker".

Some people may determine whether you have access (or not) to the decision maker.

It’s usually the secretary or assistant, or even the receptionist. Definitely it’s not the owner of the circus, but I wouldn’t ever refer to it under any circumstances as one of the "clowns".

Earn for yourself the ill will of the "Gate Keeper", treating it with contempt or disdain, and you’ll have a great obstacle for your messages to reach the “Decision Maker”, especially when you're just starting to build the relationship or making the initial contacts.

Let’s then welcome the "Influencer" on the purchasing process.

I would like to say I make all decisions in my house, but I don’t. Many of them are made in conjunction with my wife, sometimes I make them by myself. In many of them, I play a different role although not making the decision but exercising a significant weight on the option we choose. It all depends on the matter we are deciding upon.

To give you an example: if we are to buy a new kitchen, probably between the two of us we come to a consensus on what we need and review different options but, in the end, we are going to buy the option my wife likes the best, even if I’m the one who is going to be writing the check.

Or, the other way around, it might be a decision I’ve made, but the actual purchase is done by my wife. See the process?

The purchasing decision within a company isn’t the sole responsibility of one person. You know who can weigh in to it?

And the same thing happens when it comes to business.

Yes, there is a "decision maker" who signs off the purchase, but in most cases this person has to consider the opinion of other people around, and usually those other people would be those whose work will be affected by the decision they’re about to make.

Yes, there is one person making the decision but it’s definitely not being taken on solitary.

The "Influencer" in the decision making process is an individual whom you better get to consider of vital importance for your business progress and you should clearly identify who that person is, treat it properly and never (but never) send the message out that you’re more interested in talking with the "Owner of the circus" because you will not be doing business with that company anymore.

Why is it important to clearly identify who decides and who influences?

Because you could end up investing too much time talking to the "Decision maker" and not to the "Influencer".

Explaining myself better, you could be confident the business will be yours simply because you convinced the "Decision maker" but when that guy turns to his team to get the influencer’s endorsement, he doesn’t receive it simply because the influencer is not as sold into the product as the decision maker is.

When designing your sales approach to customers, always take into consideration these three characters.

While doing the analysis of how your customers make the decision to purchase your product or service, always keep in mind the existence of these three elements in the process: the gatekeeper, the influencer and the decision maker.

It might not look as important on paper, but take it to a real life situation and you will get to understand what I say. It has occurred to me, especially in my early years as a sales guy - when I thought I could sell ice to Eskimos - that treating people with contempt just because I thought they were the “clowns”, made me end up losing the business.

Don’t let this happen to you. Each individual who participates in the purchasing process within a company should be of great importance to you and you must treat them all with the same respect and professionalism.

Or would you like to be treated like a “clown”, just because you're not the one who makes the decision?

Related articles in this blog :
Cold Calling Sales (Part I): Where Can I Start From?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why the party should be at your own house? Let me share with you one example

Keep the party at your house.
You know that whenever I talk about these kind of things, I like to share with you the reasons behind my thoughts and why I make the recommendations I make.

In last week’s post we were talking about the fact that all the efforts you do in the digital marketing world should be aimed to bringing your clients and prospects to your company’s website, or to any space of your ownership, one over which you have the control.

Of course it’s interesting and positive to take advantage of all different social platforms existing today to approach and develop dynamic and engaged communities around your company and products. That’s for sure!

However, you should always keep in mind you’re not the owner of any of the social platforms you use and while things remain this way, you will always depend on decisions made by real owners.

In some cases, those decisions will be in your favor. Some other cases, they will not.

This week I want to talk with you about a message I received a few weeks ago from the owners of one of the platforms I use for both personal and professional purposes: Facebook.

You want to know why the party has necessarily to be in your own house?

Until recently there was a Facebook application which was among my favorites: Messenger. I had it installed on my laptop and it allowed me to maintain interesting conversations with my contacts without having to log in to Facebook directly.

I found it quite a comfortable application and was accustomed to using it frequently. And you were doing the same for sure.

However, and despite my comfort and the way I felt like using this tool, its "owners", Facebook, did not see it from the same point of view: Definitely the fact that I interact with my contacts and maintain interesting conversations "outside" of my Facebook page isn’t interesting at all for them, because such “party” is happening not in their house but in mine, in the "privacy" and comfort of my laptop. And that’s not what they want.

That’s the reason why they decided to simply remove the application. No questions asked, no consultation, without any kind of ceremony. This is the message I received with the notice.

"We are sorry, but this application will stop working on March 3, 2014."

As you can see, it speaks completely by itself.

The message says it all: "Hey, we don’t like that you have the opportunity to be sharing and talking with your people from your laptop without logging in to Facebook, therefore this tool will no longer work."

And not only that, they also say: "If you want to continue to keep these interesting conversations, you have to do it directly from within Facebook, not from the outside."

When you see your neighbor 's beard burn …

That is why in last post I recommended you to use social platforms like Facebook for just what they are good at: developing relationships with the audience you are interested in, whether customers, prospects, colleagues, friends, family, or any other group you have decided to focus on.

But necessarily, if we're talking about your business, you should invite members of your audience to continue the party with you, to continue to interact with you in a space where you both can engage following mutually agreed upon rules and, above all, avoid the surprises that can come up when someone else makes the decisions, as in this case, Facebook decided it was not going to allow us to continue using its Messenger application in our computers anymore.

Allowing your digital presence to be dependent on someone else’s decisions is plane risky. And it's not one you should take.

I do believe what bothers me more about this whole thing is the imposition. I mean not even having the option to say whether or not I wanted to continue using the tool.

And that's the problem you can always face if the party is taking place at somebody else’s house: If the owner decides to turn off the lights at 2 am, lights will go out at that time and that's it. And this is only one among all, more relevant decisions they can make.

However, if the party is at your house you can maintain a policy of "open doors" for all members of your community, and that's a highly valuable opportunity you should take advantage of.

BTW: I forgot to mention Facebook Messenger is still available for mobile devices. How about that? I am guessing Facebook simply doesn’t want to miss that chance to have you hooked to the platform while you are away from your PC.

But if you’re in front of your desktop or laptop, nothing. Either you log in to Facebook or you simply forget about having those rich chats that were taking place through Messenger.

Photo Credits: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

Related posts in this blog:
The party must be at your place, not someone else's.
If you had to pay to be in Facebook ¿Would you continue to use it the same way?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The party must be at your place, not someone else's.

Let the party be at your place!
A few days ago I had the opportunity to meet a dear friend of mine who recently set up her own business fixing deliciously designed and decorated cakes for parties and celebrations of any kind .

We were commenting on the strategy she was using to promote her products. She told me she had a Facebook page and an account on Instagram, and through both she had already received some orders. I could see she was very excited and enthusiastic about her project while explaining to all of us the reasons why her cakes were better than her competition’s. Long live the entrepreneurial spirit!

Of course I felt very happy and shared Ivonne’s enthusiasm because I do believe that in situations like the one we are living these days, the first weapon we should use to get us up and moving forward is to always keep a positive spirit. Very realistic, but positive. Always positive.

“We always get together at our friends’ places”

But I became even more excited and enthusiastic when, continuing with our conversation, I told Ivonne the best thing she could do was to build her own website and give her cakes a “home of their own” to which she replied “I’m already working on it and have a graphic designer putting it together for me.”

Why am I so satisfied and happy? If you look at the whole process, when your digital presence is based in "your friends’ houses", whether it’s on your Facebook page, your Twitter profile, Linkedin or any other, you “have to drive” all the way “from your place” to “their place”. You even have to get dressed accordingly.

We have taken the habit of always partying at others people’s house. And the problem comes when they don’t want to party, what do we do?

And your “customers” (or members of your audience, if it makes you feel better) have to do the same thing: They have to “drive from their places” to meet with you at your friend’s house, or the platform you have chosen to engage with them. But they go there not only to get together with you but with hundreds of other “guests”, companies like yours, who were also invited to the same party. 

Moreover, as in any party held at "your friends’ house", the party starts and ends when the owners of the house call it off and if, simply overnight, they do decide they will not “invite” your customers to the “party”, that would be it for it and all your efforts will be lost. Or if your customer ever decide they prefer to have party at someone else's place that you don’t know, then you'd have to go after them and start building your community all over again, from scratch.

It is always easier to have someone else put together the party.

I remember when I was in the last years of high school, parties were always held at Raymundo’s place. He was a dear friend of mine whose parents owned a spectacular, large, comfortable home, one of those that are good to host the best parties ever.

But, what happened when Raymundo didn’t want to have party at his place? That we were only left with two choices: Either no party time at all for anybody, or we simply had to organize one on our own.

And this is a story that repeats itself endlessly in this world of digital marketing, and even more with the proliferation and growth of social networks: For new business owners, or those business who have a very small budget (not to say "don’t have any budget at all") using social networks to promote their products and services is the option they chose more frequently, and usually it’s all the do or can afford to do.

They tend to think that having a company website is a luxury that only large corporations can afford and don’t pay enough attention to building a space of their own, or don’t find those efforts are worth their time and money.

But nowadays is quite a different situation: There are many alternatives available today for creating websites. For some of them you have to pay, some others are free, some are good ones, some not that much. But alternatives exist, and many.

The party must be held at your place.

Did you notice the fond memories I have from the parties held at my friend's house? I can even remember, regardless of all the years that have passed by, the main rooms, stairs, the patio where we waited for the sun to wake up. Fond memories indeed!

Wouldn’t you like your customers to have the same fond memories of "your home" and not someone else’s?

That’s the reason made me recommend my friend Yvonne to have her own website, and it’s what I want to recommend to you today.

It’s great that you have a digital presence and are taking advantage of all the options and tools that social (and not so social) networks put at your disposal today to approach your potential customer and build a community with them.

But the party, in the end, must be at your own home. You have to prepare your own space so that at the middle of the party, you can tell all your customers, "Hey, listen up, let's all go to my place where we can continue to share and enjoy great things, and I can even show you things I didn’t bring along tonight”.

No matter the size of the parties at your place, they will always be more intimate.

Many people think it is necessary to reach hundreds of thousands of people, ie, be at those parties where there is no more room for even a single soul, where you can barely listen to the one next to you, or that you have a really hard time trying to reach the people you were intending to reach from the very beginning.

However, if the party is at your house, you will definitely invite those people who know you well, they will most likely have a positive attitude towards you and your business, and relationships with them will probably be more valuable than that you can have with the the hundreds of thousands "party goers" swarming today in the digital environment.

Therefore, my recommendation this week is for you to focus your efforts on developing your own space for your products and services, a place you can invite all your clients to and continue nurturing the relationships you have already been building through social networks in a place you own.

It will definitely take much more effort at the beginning, but will prove to be more profitable in the medium and long term, don’t you think?

Photo Credits : lenm / 123RF Stock Photo

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