A Philadelphia car dealer builds a fan page on Facebook and launches in January 2010. Over the next 12 months he garners 400 fans who mostly consist of friends, family, previous customers and a few people he calls strangers. At the end of the 12 month period he says he only sold one car to a fan and he’s very disappointed in Facebook and social media.
When I check his fan page I see it consists of nothing but photos of inventory of his cars, pricing, mileage, etc. In other words, it is a digital ad which is no different from the print ones all car dealers cling to as their number one marketing method.
I wonder how many of his 400 fans bought a car someplace else. Since they consist primarily of friends, family and customers they probably didn’t buy a new car in 2010 or, if they bought it someplace else, this particular dealer has a bigger problem than the fact he is clueless about how to engage people and build relationships with social media.
I would have told this dealer to start having some fun and engage his fans by allowing them to participate on the page. Have weekly contests for things like car washes, oil changes, and tire rotation. Make a free oil change contest into one where fans get to name what free option they would most like if they were to purchase a new car from him. When the voting is complete, I would have him offer that option with all cars sold to the contest participants who buy one within the next 30 days. Get your customers participating and telling their stories on your page. Why do they keep coming back to your dealership to buy when they could buy their cars from hundreds of competitors?
Tell the funny story about how a customer stopped for an oil change and the mechanic found a ten-foot long snake skin under the car. Or, tell the story about how one customer’s check engine light kept coming on and how he was told by another dealership that he would need a new $350 oxygen sensor installed. He brought it to you for a second opinion and you noticed there was a lot of black carbon around the gas cap cover. That made you suspect a problem with the gas cap itself so you installed a new one. $20 and a new cap turned out to be the solution and now you have a happy new customer who also saved $300.
Tell these kinds of stories, let your fans participate on the page, and stop with the advertising and I bet this car dealer who is so disappointed in Facebook and social media will be singing a different tune at the end of the next twelve months. And, so will you if you apply some of these ideas to your small business.
Do you sell in an industry that uses RFPs (Request for Proposals)? I once made the mistake of creating a company that sold a software system to very large organizations almost all of whom made use of the dreaded RFP even though it was not a requirement for them. After wasting hours of time on responding to RFPs with the hope we might get the sale only to see the sale go to the company that the customer wanted all along, I came to realize that RFPs are the biggest waste of time and money in the world of sales.
My belief was validated one evening when after a number of cocktails the decision maker for one of these large organizations became loquacious at a hospitality party I was hosting during a national convention and confided that the only reason his organization uses RFPs is to “show the big bosses we have done our due diligence.” He went on to tell me that most of the time the specification in the RFPs are written by the software supplier the organization already has chosen. By the time the evening was over I knew I didn’t ever want to sell anything again if it involved having to respond to an RFP.
In his new book, “We Are All Weird,” Seth Godin makes a statement that resonated with me and brought back my memories of selling to these types of companies. He says,
“Either you’ll want to spend your time and effort betting on the mass and the status quo – and trying to earn your spot in this crowded mob – or you’ll abandon that quest and realize that there are better opportunities and more growth if you market to and lead the weird.”
Part of Seth’s definition of weird is “people who have chosen to avoid conforming to the masses, at least in some part of their lives.”
If any of those large organizations had chosen to purchase their software system without the use of an RFP, they would have been considered to be weird and I would have enjoyed selling to them.
But that didn’t happen. Instead I chose to be weird and I concentrated my efforts on entities that used their collective minds and hearts to engage in honest and open discussions of software systems and not waste 80% of my time trying to fit into someone’s idea of a system designed to serve everyone and therefore one that would never satisfy anyone.
So I say “Death to RFPs. Off with their heads.” And, if you’re still working in an industry that uses RFPs exclusively or even extensively, I offer a suggestion. Search for the weird and sell to them instead.
The best piece of advice I ever received was to never take advice from someone who hadn’t done or succeeded at what they were advising you about.
People can’t take you where they haven’t been themselves. So, if you want to be a millionaire, only take advice from a millionaire. If you want to be a top salesman, learn from the top salesmen. If you want to raise a child, have a successful marriage, tell a story, sing a song, or communicate effectively with thousands of people then find someone who has, or is succeeding at just that very thing.
I’m a connector. I have a knack for bringing people together who when they are together accomplish things in exponential fashion. It’s a gift of mine and I share it with you whenever possible. If you’ve ever petted a dog, sung a song, taken a risk or a photograph, loved another person or a child, traveled, told a story or succeeded or failed at any of these things, you and I also have something in common. We’re human.
I’ve made and lost millions. I’ve started out and started over. In my mid-twenties, I started my professional life as both a photographer and journalist. I won some wonderful national awards. Not too long after that I decided to make my first major career change. At an age when most people are starting their first career, I was starting my second. I switched from journalism and photography, to sales and marketing. I won a boatload of awards and earned more money in a few short years than most people do in a lifetime.
I lived the American dream, becoming semi-retired by the age of 45. Over the next 5 years, I slid down the up staircase. I proceeded to give away money, lose money, and even have all my money stolen from me. At the age of 50, I started all over again from scratch and found, to my relief, that once you know the way to the top you don’t forget too many of the turns and twists it takes to get there. And now at the age of 62, I consider my life richer and fuller than it has ever been because I’ve never stopped learning, creating, and, most importantly, listening to the people in my life.
In my 62 years on this blue and green orb, I’ve spent time with the famous, the infamous, and all the rest of us. And, while I don’t name drop for the sake of name-dropping I am willing to share with you the perspectives of all of these, plus my own sometimes objective and sometimes opinionated viewpoints.
I promise I won’t bore you, and I promise I will give it my all in my posts here. I won’t always succeed at either but I know that failure is part of life and if I’m not failing (or if you’re not failing) we’re not really alive.
So if you want advice about marketing, sales, and people connection, I bring success, experience and insight in all those areas to the table. If you want opinions, magic tricks, stories and song, you’re also in luck.
Magic tricks and songs aside, there are a lot of reasons why we should connect if you’re serious about succeeding. So let’s do it. And, if after reading all this you’re still not convinced, there’s a great video on the about page where some of my friends answer the question, “Who is Bob Poole?”
If you aren’t using photography and video in your small business you are missing out on a fantastic, effective, and entertaining way to sell and market your products and services. And, you are not getting the advantage of being indexed by the number two search engine in the world – YouTube. Video gives you the opportunity to engage more of your customers’ senses while lending credibility to you and your organization. Other than a live presentation nothing can tell your story better than a video.
Learning more about video equipment, software, and other video ideas is one of the reasons I’m going to spend some time next month at PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. I’m also going to blog about it onsite as a way to experiment with a new (for me) concept.
You can go too! The basic admission is free and you’ll never see more photo and video suppliers and get more free education all in one place than PhotoPlus. All the details are on their website. There are over 115 seminars taught by some of the world’s most renowned experts that you can attend too. Those, however, are not free but having attended a number of them over the years, I can recommend them.
PDN PhotoPlus International has a Facebook page where you can learn more. You can also sign-up on their wall under the contests tab for an online sweepstakes and the chance to win prizes twice a week through October 28th.
The investment in equipment can be quite small and you can still get quality videos for your website, blog, etc. And, if you don’t want to do it yourself, I can point you in the direction of someone who can provide you with the best in video services.
What are you waiting for? If you’re anywhere near New York City and are interested in learning more about photography and video creation and utilization then circle a day or two between October 27th and 29th. And, let me know if you’ll be there. Maybe we can put together a meet-up for other readers.
Don’t forget the sweepstakes on Facebook. You can click on Enter Now in the photo below. Good luck!
If you’re in sales or a small business owner you may one day find yourself facing a situation similar to what Seth Godin describes in his blog today.
The bottom line of Seth’s post is that you don’t want to hesitate to give someone the opportunity to make a lot of money if you’re also making a lot of money. For example, why would you want to put a limit on commissions when for every $1000 the salesperson makes you make $5000? This is another example of what should be common sense in sales and small business. However, too often greed on the part of the company sets in and kills the deal. Seth’s example of the Dr. Dre headphones is a good example.
From a personal standpoint, I can tell you many stories of companies who decided to pay my company a flat fee instead of allowing us to assume part of the risk with them because they realized we were likely to be very successful and they didn’t want to pay out large commissions while forgetting they would be making large profits as a result. It happens more often than you would imagine.
I could also tell you a story (if I was allowed too) about a big software company that entered into a contract with a small sales and marketing company to split the profits on all sales on a suite of products that the company had deemed to be dead or dying off. The sales and marketing company was so successful they hit their 3-year contractual sales requirement in the first 9 months. Instead of being ecstatic, the software company looked at the huge checks it was writing to the sales and marketing company and said they wanted to cancel the contract – without cause. After much discussion and, of course, attorneys and legal fees, the big software company won. They succeeded in killing the golden goose.
Don’t be like this company. Let people share in the risk and have the opportunity to excel. If they win – you win. And, nothing motivates people more than being responsible for their own rewards – especially if those rewards have an exceptional upside.
Oh, and should you ever have the opportunity to enter into a similar Dr. Dre or a sales and marketing like contract, I have one suggestion I hope you take. Spend your money on a good attorney before you sign anything. If you don’t you may find yourself spending a lot more if things ever fall apart.
Another sales secret is that it is possible for your business to be too small or too big. Your goal should be to have it just the right size to meet your sales objectives and to be able to scale up or down as necessary.
I once bought a retail fishing store (long and funny story) only to learn by experience that it fell into the too small – too big scale. Because of the size of the facility, I needed employees but because it just wasn’t big enough in physical size, I wasn’t generating enough revenue and the employees could not be as sales efficient if the store were bigger and could stock more and larger products.
My choices were very limited. I had a lease I could not get out of and I could not physically expand. I could have cut the space in half and run it myself but that would have meant cutting inventory to fit in the physical space and customers would likely go elsewhere. And, I wasn’t interested in running it myself.
So, I closed it up and took my lumps. But, the lumps were smaller than if I had tried to continue down the same path. And, I learned some great lessons about retail that I now pass on to clients and friends.
I’ll share the most important retail lesson I learned. Don’t sell products that can be bought more cheaply at big box stores or online from Amazon.
Take the fishing store for example. You could buy anything we sold from Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, or even the local Wal-Mart for 15% – 30% less. We tried to compete with this by offering more value in the way of service and education. We had frequent free seminars on certain aspects of fishing like using downriggers for salmon on the Great Lakes. We figured we’d sell a lot of downriggers. But, what actually happened is the customer attended the free seminar and then went to one of the big stores we he could look at all types of downriggers and use the knowledge we gave him to pick from mass of options – options we could not stock or show.
So today’s small business small secrets are:
You can be too big or too small of a company. If that is happening don’t hesitate to scale up or down or else you’ll fail.
Don’t sell anything that is viewed as a commodity and can be bought for a lot less online or at a big box store.
Hannibal Smith, the leader of the A-Team, would smile and say this line when his plan would – well, come together. The phrase is now quoted the world over and has endured for three decades. It came to mind today when I followed a discussion at a Facebook Group called Social Workers.
The discussion began 14 hours ago with a clinical social worker posting he’d like to start a private practice. He asked for suggestions for getting accredited for 3rd party payment as he had run into a wall with the first insurance company he contacted.
About a half-dozen comments and 12 hours later, another Licensed Clinical Social Worker told the original poster that he has been in his shoes. Then he told him his firm is looking to expand their practice and asked him to give him a call or text him to discuss the possibility of helping each other out.
You may ask, “What plan came together?” From my perspective, the plan to use social media to establish relationships, network, and form tribes. I also thought it very appropriate that a Group called Social Workers would be using Social Media to do all that plus help tear down walls and fences that we’ve built between too many of us these past three decades.
A while back, I spent a week interviewing 17 people about their views on what makes good customer service and who are the best companies. Two things came out of the interviews that I think are worth remembering.
A person’s idea of whether or not a company is good at customer service is totally dependent upon their own personal experience with that company.
Now that might not seem like a radical insight but think about it for a minute. In just 17 interviews I found people who absolutely hate companies that are rated in the Top Ten in the United States over and over again.
You see it didn’t matter if your company is number one in customer service in the world if you left them with a bad taste in their mouth and if you didn’t delight them with extraordinary service.
This means that your company has to be vigilant to delight every single customer.
Your customer service program needs to be a Zero Tolerance one when it comes to unhappy customers.
The second thing is something that was consistent over and over again. People used the word “feelings” when they discussed their experiences. And, the stronger the feeling – whether positive or negative – is what makes the interaction one of delight or one to rant about.
Again, this doesn’t sound like an “aha” moment. But, it is because it gives you, the business owner/executive, the opportunity to align your customer service programs and goals with feelings which is the most powerful motivator in the world.
Instead of focusing on things like how long it takes a customer service rep to end a call, or the percentage of total customers who say they like you in your latest survey; when you use customer feelings as the measuring of delight, you will have to put the responsibility and authority to create that extraordinary experience right where it belongs – with your front-line customer service professional.
What kind of a difference do you think that will make? Here’s a note I got yesterday from one of my readers. As a matter of full disclosure, this is from my sister Judy who retired as a bank manger in Ohio. She sent it to me unsolicited and I think it is a wonderful example of what happens when you give your front-line people the responsibility, authority, and goals of creating an extraordinary customer experience.
Let me tell you about one of my CSR’s, Cathy, and her customer service. A couple from China recently moved to our small town and definitely had a language barrier upon arriving. The husband spoke a little broken English and the wife none at all. Upon arriving in East Liverpool, they bought a home and the title company needed a place to close on the house and asked if it could close at our branch. Once they were in the branch my CSR tried to make them right at home and comfortable with the proceedings. They needed to open a checking account and during the process the CSR was able to figure out that they needed to have their utilities turned on but they didn’t understand what they needed to do or who to contact. Cathy took it upon herself to call all of the utility companies, get the information as to what needed to be done and have them turned on. Then because they had no credit in their names in the United Stated she called a credit card company and was able to get them a credit card with a small limit so that they could start to build up their credit.
Needless to say, Cathy went above and beyond. Instead of being an order taker, opening the checking account and being done, she spent over an hour with this new customer to help them. We now have a customer and friend for life and it was all because Cathy created an exceptional experience for them.
This is the kind of extraordinary customer service, which is all part of marketing and sales, we all should be delivering.
You start learning the difference between good and bad customer service on your very first job. It could be babysitting, cutting grass, or delivering the local paper (back when there was such a thing.)
How do you learn? It’s usually one of two ways. Let’s take grass cutting as an example. You get done with the job and you knock on the homeowner’s door to collect your pay. She comes out to inspect the job and this is where you get your first lesson.
“I know I didn’t tell you to rake up the clippings and put them in the trash but I expected you’d do that as part of the job.”
You sigh and realize she’s right. You didn’t do a complete job so you apologize and make a special effort to not only clean up the clippings but pull some weeds from the flower bed. And, the homeowner smiles as she pays you and invites you to come back in one week to cut again.
Over time you form a relationship and the homeowner asks you to do other odd jobs. She also tells the other neighbors what a good work you do and pretty soon you’re in the landscaping business. You buy a lawn tractor to go along with your push mower and by the time you’re ready to start college, you have enough money in the bank to pay for the first two years.
Then there is the other way you learn customer service. I’ll use the babysitting example.
There is a young couple in your neighborhood that has a 4 year-old boy and a 1 year-old girl. They also currently have someone they call a fantastic babysitter. She is a classmate of yours. But, she just moved with her family to another state and the parents are looking to replace her.
You jump at what could turn into a great local job and approach them with your rates and experience. Two days late the wife calls you to sit for them. You take the job and you figure you’re on your way. They ask you to come an hour early at 6PM so you can spend time with the kids while they are still home and they can answer any other questions.
At 6:15 you glance up from playing Angry Birds and notice the time so you rush out the door and get there by 6:20. A little late but no biggie you think. The father greets you at the door. Mom is in the family room dressed to go out and feeding the baby a bottle. She looks a little bit pissed that you arrive late but nobody says anything (including you) and at 7PM the parents leave with instructions for both kids to go to sleep at 8PM.
The kids are perfect angels and are asleep in minutes. Now you’re on your own until around 11PM when mom and dad return. It’s time to text one of your friends and start a Words game. You notice the 4 year-old left his toys all over the family room. “Kids!” you think. When you go to get a coke from the fridge you notice that the family apparently ate dinner but didn’t have time to put things in the dishwasher or cleanup. But noticing is all you do.
Finally the work night is over. Mom and dad are home and you’ve got your money and are out the door.
You never hear from them again. After a few weeks you drop by their house and find mom at home. You ask her if she is still planning on using your services and wonder why you haven’t heard from her. “We found someone else.” she says. “She also straightens up and does some other things for us while she sits. We’ll keep you in mind.”
And, so you walk away pissed off and thinking, “Hey, I’m a babysitter not a maid. If they wanted me to clean up after their kids they should be paying me for it.”
“Oh well, there are lots of fish in the sea.” you say to yourself.
But, as the months and years pass the neighborhood babysitting jobs are infrequent for you.
These two young teens have experienced the importance of customer service. One embraced it and it changed his life. And, the young lady never really “got it.” After school she got a job in customer service for USAirways.
The difference between poor and good customer service isn’t a whole lot.
The difference between good and exceptional service is the key to success in your business – and quite frankly – in your life.
I finish up this five-part series on customer service tomorrow with stories about exceptional companies. Between now and then, please send me any stories you’d like to share about your personal experiences with extraordinary service. You can drop me a note at [email protected] or leave a short message at 215-804-9133. Thank you.
This is Part-Three of a Five-Part Series on Customer Service. Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s including some updates about Avid Technology. Why not sign-up hereto get the rest of the series delivered to you by email? Thank you.
Difficult to Believe!
On Saturday I got an email from Avid Technology asking me to complete a customer satisfaction survey. Really – I’m not making this up!
Even More Difficult to Believe!
You may remember from yesterday that I was waiting to hear back from both Avid offshore support and a gentleman whose name is Adam from Avid Social Strategy | Corporate Communications in Burlington, MA. I assumed that Adam was still working on the problem and that’s why I hadn’t heard from him yesterday. The offshore guys had promised they would get back to me with a solution Thursday or Friday. I’m pretty sure they meant last Thursday or Friday but I started to wonder if we had a communication problem.
Then finally last night, I got an email from offshore support. I thought finally I’ll have my answer. Here’s what it said:
We have not heard from you concerning your request for support in the 5 days since we sent you a response.
Consequently, we have changed the status of your question to SOLVED
At this point in the story you have GOT to be laughing with me.
I couldn’t take any more craziness so I forwarded the email to Adam with a note that asked the question, “Are you embarrassed by this?” To Adam’s credit, he called my office and left a voice mail last night around 9:30 letting me know he had received the email, that he is still working on the problem, that he apologizes for the delay, and he left his mobile number so I can call him anytime if I have a question.
So Adam is one of the good guys. The question is will Avid let Adam deliver the kind of exceptional service that Adam obviously wants to deliver. I hope so. Not for me but for Adam. He deserves better.
On to the last name in our Customer Service Hall of Shame.
AWeber Email Marketing – I’m shopping for a new Email Marketing partner and since AWeber is in my back yard, I thought I’d check them out. The first thing they told me is they would have to run an confirmed opt-in on mine and my client’s email addresses to make sure they are all permission based. I had already explained I have a large, active list that gets mailed regularly and they are all permission based. I even told them what email services provider I’m with now.
I also told them “we” were not going to be doing a confirmed opt-in because I know for a fact that 50-80 percent of the people on the list just won’t see the email and then they will get dropped from the list. Then we will spend months answering their emails when they ask why they aren’t getting their newsletters, blogs, reports, etc. And, remember we do this for clients and not just our company so our clients will definitely be unhappy.
AWeber responded by asking me more questions. Okay so far – sort of – although I felt like I was working hard to become a customer.
Their next response was to ask me a lot more questions that all had to do with them asking “Are these permission based emails?” And, it was work this time as I had to gather a lot of statistics from my current system reports.
The last email (and the last email forever with AWeber as far as I’m concerned) was from Chase the Import Specialist who told me he wanted my login and password for my email service provider account at my current provider so he could see the data and history for himself that I had just sent him – much of which was cut and pasted so he could see it came from their system and not mine.
At first I considered sending the login and password to him along with my date of birth, social security number, long-form birth certificate, passport, and the encrypted pass-code to every login and password I have. Then I thought, “On second thought, I think I’ll find a different email service provider.” One that doesn’t approach potential customers with the attitude that they are obviously lying since this is how AWeber left me feeling.
And, Chase, the Import Specialist, has lived up to his name and chased away a new potential customer.
I could go on with more examples and I know you have plenty of your own. Feel free to respond in the comments as you already have yesterday. The point isn’t to take these companies to task. That would be too easy. My concern is that too many companies still believe they are the ones in control of their customers when this is absolutely not the case anymore.
And, that is a wonderful thing for all of us!
By giving up control and allowing the customer to have control, companies can get instant feedback from many sources on the web as to how they are doing and they can put out any fires before they get out of control. That’s why Adam at Avid is monitoring Twitter. He can get positive and negative feedback instantly. Now if they only let him act on it the way they should Avid will be on its way to a big change in customer service. By the way, so you know I’m not picking on Avid, this is the second time I’ve had this type of experience with their offshore support. Last time it took a product manager in Germany to jump in and find the solution.
While product managers should get constant feedback about their customer base it is not a good use of their time to be first-line support. That’s why companies have got to continually invest in the quality and education of the people who deal face-to-face, phone-to-phone, etc. with their customers.
Customer Service should not be an entry level job which too many companies consider it to be. And, Customer Service should potentially be on a career track to anywhere in the company.
Who do you think knows more about your customers, products and services – your C-Level executives or the people in customer service?
Now where will you invest your company funds, raises, and bonuses this year?
Learn How to Recognize and Sell to the Four Personality Types