Seeing Things Differently

Today was a red-letter day for me. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I fractured my femur condyle on June 6th of this year (a day that will live in infamy). I have spent almost three months in a wheelchair without being able to put any weight on my left leg. I have to tell you it has not been a fun summer.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been allowed to put 30% of my weight on my left leg. So I have been able (somewhat nervously) to stand up, as it is hard to judge what 30% of your weight feels like on a leg that has not been used for months.

Today the physical therapist told me I can now put 50% weight on my left leg. Then he said, that at 50% I can now walk with a walker. So up I got, taking my first tentative steps with my walker.

I am sure that most people have seen films of a brand new baby deer struggling to its feet to walk for the first time. That was me! Doing something that I know so well in a completely different way, learning to balance my weight differently so while I am lifting my right foot off the ground I am still only keeping 50% of my weight on my left leg, using the walker.

It started me thinking about how many other things we do, simple things that we have been doing for so long that we don’t remember when we learned them. We just do them automatically without thinking about them.

In the meantime so much has changed in the world around us that there may be much better ways to do some of these things. For example, are we making the best use of new avenues of technology, or are we doing things we have always done?

Or what about the look for your business – is it time for a refresh, a coat of paint in colors that are more up to date, or new accessories to bring everything to life?

Time passes so quickly and we don’t realize that our way of doing things, or our business can remind customers of times gone by. Look around your retail room, your procedures and how you conduct your business. Are their updates or upgrades you can make that will make your business more profitable and more appealing to customers? Find them and make the changes as you can.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Update Your Competitive Analysis

We all know that part of a good business survival plan is a well-researched competitive analysis. Before you start a business, investigating your competition, their products, prices, marketing and public relations plans, customer service, and more is paramount.

For many businesses, once the original competitive analysis is completed, the demands of creating and running a business take over and the time to stop to take notice of what your competitors (who may also be friends and colleagues) are doing and how the competition has grown changed can be overlooked. In the wine industry, the number of tasting rooms has grown exponentially throughout the US and Canada over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down. This uptick in the number of competitors is going to affect your business.

Dig out your original marketing plan and look at the competitive analysis. If you don’t have a competitive analysis, now is a good time to start. Discover what your competitors are doing in the areas of:

  • Products (What are they making, how well and how much?)
  • Pricing (How much do the products cost?)
  • Sales (How are sales made: directly, through distributors, via the internet, etc.?)
  • Customer Service (How well do they treat their customers?)
  • Promotion/Advertising (How are they promoting their products? Explore all avenues.)
  • Strengths & Weaknesses (What are they doing well and what could they improve on?)

Start with the competitive businesses that are most like your own. Then branch out to similar businesses with the same target audience that may be making/selling different products in the same industry) or be in different price categories. Once you have the information delve into how successful they are, the number of customers you estimate they have and how your business compares. Try to put subjectivity to one side, for example thinking your product is better when it may just be somewhat different. Whether your product is better or not is for customers to decide. Remember that customer service makes a big difference in how customers perceive products.

Finally, take the time to visit your competitors. Much can be learned from going in as a customer. Or if you are well known to your competition send someone else in to do the assessment.

Knowing how well your competitors are doing is crucial to a successful business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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How Effective Is Your Interaction With Customers?

Important points that many businesses fail to consider when they are sending out information to customers, whether that information is through social media, emails, text or even through the mail:

  • Will customers be interested in this?
  • How much spare time do recipients have to focus on my interactions with them?
  • Are they being overrun with messaging from other companies that is very similar to mine?

Here are some ideas of how to get your customers more engaged with your emails, social media posts, etc.

  1. Know your customers: If you are keeping up-to-date records of your customers likes and dislikes (including how they want to be contacted), tailor these interactions to their needs, wants and desires.
  1. Segmentation: You will need to segment your customer records by the interests of your customers, what they buy and what resonates with them. You will also have to put some time into getting this information from your customers. Though the time you spend will pay dividends. This is especially true of your best customers. Start with the top ten customers. Once you have got all the information for these customers move on to the next ten until you have at least 100 (depending on the size of the customer list).
  1. Perseverance: It may take time, though once your customers realize that you only send them information that will make a difference to them and their lives, they are more likely to read it and respond.
  1. Response: Quickly respond to all comments and questions that come to you through social media posts, emails or by phone. Whether the responses are positive or negative it’s important that you show your customers that they are important to you. In the case of social media respond to all positive and negative comments online, though you may wish to take additional response to negative comments offline if the problem is not one that can be ironed out easily. Once the problem is successfully handled, ask the customer to go back on social media to say that everything was taken care of.
  1. Know Your Competition: Select similar businesses to yours and sign up for their mailing/social media or email list. You need to know what they are sending to their customers so you can differentiate your business from theirs.

By making your customers as important to you and to your business as you are to them, your business will grow and become more successful.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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What Makes Your Business Different?

To be successful, your customers and prospective customers have to know (and be constantly reminded of) how your business is different from other businesses in your area that are selling similar products.

Without differentiation, consumers will have a hard time remembering your business. I work with a number of wineries and regularly talk to wine consumers about their experiences when they go wine tasting. After consumers have been to six or seven wineries during a day of tasting, they have a hard time recalling all the wineries they went to or what they tasted where. They will, however, remember a winery dog, a beautiful garden, a particularly friendly and helpful staff member or a wine varietal they particularly liked, especially if the wine was made from an unusual grape. These are some of the differences that make a business stand out from the crowd.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the book Neuromarketing:

“In a sales context, the absence of contrast – especially when a prospect has difficulty understanding the differences between your product and others – will bring the prospect’s decision-making ability to a halt.”

There are many types of differentiation: products, service, price (either high or low), quality, location, are just a few. The important thing is to choose a concept, word or phrase you want consumers to think of when they think of your business. Though if you want the customer to buy it has to be something that differentiates your business from everyone else’s in the mind of these consumers.

If you are interested in delving further into how to differentiate your business in the minds of consumers, I suggest you read, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, which made a great impression on me when I first read it, many years ago. I have read it many times since then and it’s as relevant now (or perhaps even more so) that it was then.

If you have not differentiated your business, now is a good time to begin. Start by asking your managers and staff, what they think makes your business stand out from the crowd and then ask some of your regular customers what it is that keeps them coming back. That will give you a good start.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Stop Before You Start

Julie Pedroncelli St. John from Pedroncelli Winery sent me a great article by Barry Stuckey who has spent much of his career in Hospitality. The article was about a waitress he encountered in an eatery at Heathrow Airport. I have pulled out some of the key points, as the article was too long for this blog. The article really encapsulated a lot of the finer point of excellent service, whether you work in a retail business or are selling B2B.

The first point, which to me is the most important, is to be conscious of what you are doing before you begin speaking to a customer. Before you approach the customer or pick up the phone to call them, STOP… Clear your mind of what you have been working on or thinking about and focus your attention on the person to whom you are speaking. As you are approaching the customer or waiting for them to answer the phone, put yourself into listening mode (you are probably already in talking mode). Once you have approached the customer smile, and tell them your name. You should also be smiling if you are on the phone, people can tell.

This small act of separation from what you were doing, or from the last customer allows you to move on to a new customer. Your focus on them will transmit itself to the customer. You will appear engaged and ready to help them. The customer will also become engaged as they realize that your attention is directed to them. Because you are more engaged you will be more apt to listen and really hear what your customer is saying. You will also be more likely to pick up non-verbal signals such as their tone of voice or the fact that their stance shows you they are or are not interested.

When a customer asks you a question, smile in response and, before you speak, lean in just slightly. This creates an impression that you care what your customer is saying.

These are small things that will make big differences to the comfort of your customers and to their connection with you, the business and the products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Social Media – External and Internal

Are your employees following the company on social media? If not they should be. Social media is a great place for employees to get reminders of the information or offers that you are broadcasting to customers.

In the days before the internet took us to worlds we had never anticipated, it was common in business that employees (especially part time or occasional employees) were not up-to-date on what was going on as far as specials or events were concerned. It was not unusual in the wine business when wineries were doing AVA-wide events and selling tickets for these events that customers would visit a winery asking for tickets and the person at the tasting bar would tell them that they didn’t have tickets for the event. This is just one example of how information is not been disseminated to everyone who needs to have it.

As part of the dissemination of information, encourage your employees to follow the business Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, etc. In fact, you may wish to make following the business social media mandatory, just as it’s mandatory that they read memos and other information relating to their jobs.

If you are an employee, it is going to make your job easier if you know what is going on in the business. In most consumer-oriented companies, customer specials, events, and other customer oriented information can be hard to keep up with, so being aware of what customers are seeing on social media will help you remind customers of things they may have forgotten. Not to mention helping you with sales. You can keep up on what customers are thinking, and whether they are happy or not. Also, keep track of any personal mentions you may get. It doesn’t hurt to know how many customers have appreciated your help, especially if you are hoping for promotion or a raise in pay.

Be aware of everything that is happening in your business on social media. It will keep you at the top of your game.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Assessing Customer Experiences

Last week this blog delved into statistics regarding customers who may have had a less than stellar experience when they visited your business. We discovered that the percentage of customers that you think were satisfied with their visit was not necessarily in line with the number of customers who actually were satisfied.

Also, we learned that only a small percentage of dissatisfied customers take the time to complain. The rest just don’t return.

After publication of this blog, I received an email from one reader regarding the best ways to contact customers. He was concerned that calling people may be intrusive and they may not be comfortable telling you what they really think. Good point and one that is raised regularly during seminars and conference sessions.

The first thing to do is to ask customers how they would like to be contacted. Would they be open to a phone call or prefer to be contacted via email, text or mail. How customers prefer to be contacted many times has to do with their generation. Text is the favorite for Millennials and younger people, while some Gen X or Boomers may prefer email or even mail. Step one is always to identify the wishes of individual customers.

If you don’t have this information on your individual customer records, procuring the information gives you a reason to call your regular customers and double check. Most of your regular customers are not going to mind an occasional phone call. In fact, in many cases it is going to strengthen your relationship with these customers as you are initiating a more personal interaction. While you are on the phone and the opportunity presents itself, this is a great time to tell the customer of any exciting opportunities to purchase. Remember that these people are regular customers because they like you and your products.

Once you have the information on how they want to be contacted, make sure you have the address or phone number in order to follow up. Also get their agreement (in writing) with a follow up email that you as them to sign and return.

Your consideration for how your customers wish to be contacted will just deepen the relationship you have with them and they will appreciate the courtesy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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