Do More Than You Think Necessary

With Ruth Sherman at her Charisma Event

Ruth Sherman came to the DC area last week to present her “Cash in on Charisma” program. Here are three points she shared that really resonated with me and could be of value to you.

One of the big reasons why video works so well for disseminating your message and building relationships is that humans are wired to connect face to face. I’ve been saying this for a while. All this electronic technology is great, no question, but at the end of the day, people need to connect on a more human level. They need to see each other, shake hands, reach out on a physical level. That human need is why sending thank you cards and gifts to customers is so powerful. It is a tactile form of communication.

Next, Ruth implored that when preparing for live presentations, YOU’VE GOT TO PRACTICE much more than you think you do. I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of not doing that enough. I know my subject matter and can deliver well, but I know I could do much better if I spent more time practicing. When I took piano lessons as a child, I hated practicing. I must have had some natural talent because I remember playing pieces such as Debussy’s Clair de lune, Beethoven’s Fur Elise and Joplin’s The Entertainer in recitals. But I hated practicing and after a couple of years I convinced my mom to let me quit.

Public speaking ranks at the top of the list of things people are scared to death to do. But I absolutely love it! So here and now, I commit to spending more time practicing my stories and material, because I realize the people in my audience are giving me their time and attention and in return, my goal is to deliver great value for them.

The lesson for you – whether or not we’re talking about practicing presentations – is you need to do and give more than you think necessary. Start thinking what you consider good enough is probably the bare minimum you can get away with. To really build those client relationships, you need to step up the game. Communicate more. Reach out to customers and potential customers more. Engage them in conversation! If they don’t want to hear from you, they’ll tell you. In the meantime, deliver more value more consistently.

Lastly, your communications don’t need to be long. Who has the attention span anymore? While there are still places for sharing in-depth explanations and details, most of your videos (or other regular communiqués) need only be a minute or two. Just pop-in, share quickly, and step out. That means they won’t take you long to put together either. Hmmm. Now you have no excuse to not do more.

Invitation to Connect & Building Strong Relationships

Yet again I have received a LinkedIn invitation to connect from someone who did not bother to include a personal note. Does this oversight drive you crazy or is it just my own personal issue? If the purpose of connecting on a social networking site is to build relationships (which it IS), then why on EARTH would you not do the most important thing for building relationships and TALK to the other person?!

Start a conversation. No matter if you think the person knows who you are, you need to include a short note with your connection request. “It was nice meeting you at the breakfast yesterday…” Everyone is busy and meets lots of people every day. Maybe you are so extraordinarily memorable or maybe you just think you are. Even if I’m sending a request to someone I’ve known for a while, I’ll send a note such as, “how are we not connected here after all these months of phone calls and collaboration…”

Don’t even get me started on the requests that come from random people you don’t recall ever meeting and who aren’t even in a common group with you. Why? Why do you want to connect with me? Tell me. Where are your manners, like shaking hands with someone you meet in person? You would never just walk up to someone, say nothing, hand him your business card and walk away. You don’t “win” by having the most connections if those relationships are meaningless or non-existent. No one needs a giant database full of names of people they don’t know and don’t have anything in common with unless they are up to no good, also known as spamming.

Being successful is about building strong relationships. Relationships require communication. Therefore it only makes sense to start or continue a conversation here. Do I really need to remind you what happens when you assume?

Yes, this note serves the purpose of jogging someone’s memory of how you know each other. It also acknowledges her as an individual. It shows you are reaching out to connect with someone personally, as opposed to giving her reason to think you’re simply sending mass emails to reach a goal of having 7,500 connections. The personal touch here is just as important as the concept of customer thank you notes or thank you gifts; it makes someone feel good about their relationship with you.

When someone feels good about his relationship with you, he’s far more likely to think of ways to help you, work with you or send you referrals. In my social media world, it’s about developing advocate relationships. If that’s not what you’re doing, please, don’t send me a request to connect.

Building Better Customer Relationships

There was an article a couple of weeks ago in Forbes.com on “Four Ways Brands Can Build Better Relationships.” The author mentioned that today’s marketer needs to go beyond transactional relationships and expand to interactional relationships. As a business person, selling something is not enough. You have to make a human connection. Even, or maybe especially, if you’re selling online.

Your customers and clients CRAVE personal interaction. Everyone’s spending tons of time online and communicating electronically, but humans are designed for more tactile connections. Remember the old Bell Systems’ tagline “reach out and touch someone”?

Life = Relationships. How you interpret that may vary. Some say their business is their life. Others view work as a means to living a good life. Doesn’t matter; it all comes down to whatever kind of life you choose, the most satisfactory ones are built on a foundation of solid relationships. And it’s not likely you can long maintain bad or weak business relationships and still enjoy a good life.

Phone calls, printed newsletters, handwritten notes, gifts delivered to one’s doorstep are all essential tools that will strengthen your connection to customers and thus increase client loyalty. You’ve heard it before – happier customers send you referrals and the combination of those two elements ultimately equate to more profits.

YES, these things “cost” more than sending an email and may take more than 30 seconds to craft, but the investment pays off in multiples. Stop being cheap and employing the short-term, transaction-based mentality that has derailed so many big company executives in the past several years. Get with the 2012 program and become humanly relevant.

Responsive like a Porsche

Andy’s one of the “new guys” in my leads group so he and I met up in a one-to-one last week. About a year ago, he left his corporate job to start his own company and now he’s serving as the IT department for companies that aren’t big enough to have someone full-time in-house.

Porsche_911I asked why his clients like working with him and to his great credit, he did NOT say, because we provide excellent service. (If you’ve been a long-time Rabbit Rouser reader, you know that response is way too overused, means nothing and completely sets me off. Ha Ha.) He said responsiveness. His newest client signed on with him because her previous vendor wouldn’t respond to requests for days. In contrast, he’s been getting back to this client’s employee’s requests within hours. Even if he can’t fix it right away, he at least lets them know he’s aware and on top of it. Not surprisingly, they are thrilled with him.

In fact, Andy told me one of the criticisms his boss had for him in corporate was that he set client expectations too high. Perfect! Now he’s just set the bar higher and made it more difficult for anyone else who comes along thinking they can poach his clients.

Acknowledgement and attention will win you fans every time. Sure, auto-responder generated emails make it easy for requests to be acknowledged, but everyone knows those aren’t personal responses. Technology is great, to a point. Even in the tech industry, people want personal. Clients want to know their issues are worthy of your attention and you will be providing them the service they want and need, hopefully soon!

Even in today’s mostly service-based economy, many clients feel the need for touch. (Get your mind out of the gutter, you.) I mean, they like the idea of personal communication and seeing something physical. This is why face to face meetings are still important, and why sending thank you notes written on paper or gifts that come in boxes make such a huge impression.

Don’t be afraid to set the bar high and make that mark the new standard in your industry or community. Making the new rules means stronger client relationships, happier customers and better client retention. The only ones who won’t look good are the competitors who can’t keep up.

Increasing client loyalty through love for the pets

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Connect with your target market via their pets

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate Panther’s birthday. Last week, I got an email birthday card from our new vet. Not just a happy birthday email, a link to a cute (of course) online card. I’ve been a cat caretaker (you don’t “own” a cat) for years and never had a vet send an acknowledgement of any of their birthdays.

From a marketing standpoint, this is a genius idea. Taking it a step further, the vet office could have sent me the email card along with an invitation to stop by and pick up a little cat toy. How many people would tell all their friends about that? So it would be a very inexpensive strategy to garner word of mouth advertising, and as we all know, there’s no better new client than one who is referred by a current client.

According to The American Pet Products Association, in 2011 Americans spent nearly $51 billion on food, vet costs, grooming, boarding, pet hotels, pet-sitting, day care, toys and other paraphernalia. Canadians spent $8.9 billion.

The point is, people LOVE their pets, as much or sometimes more than their children! So even if you’re not a veterinarian or in the business of selling anything related to pets, you could communicate with your clients or prospective clients ABOUT their pets and create a strong bond.

Let’s say you’re a financial planner. You could include in the client intake info a question about your new clients’ pets. What kind of animal do you have, what’s its name, what month is its birthday? Now when the dog’s birthday comes around, you send out a card with a dog treat, or a gift card to a local pet store, or a gift certificate for a pet photography session. THAT will get you talked about more than sending a birthday card to the client herself.

No matter what line of business you’re in, if you have a newsletter (what do I mean, IF? Of course you do, right?!), you can invite readers’ interaction by encouraging them to send in pictures or stories about their pets for publication. Guaranteed, that issue will be one they hold on to and pass along, which means longer shelf-life and exposure for your messages.

I know several people who smartly use their own pets in their print, online and video marketing. Doing so allows you to share a more personal aspect of yourself and helps your target market feel like they know you better and cements a bond. Want an example? Check out this episode of Newsletter Guru TV.

In what other brilliant ways can you incorporate pets into your marketing strategy?

Listen Real Close

Hey you. Your clients are talking to you, telling you exactly what they want. Are you listening? Are you hearing them? Take those earphones out for a minute. Sometimes you get so caught up in creating and delivering what you want to give them that you miss hearing what they really need. And then you miss out on the opportunity to deliver it, better serve your customers, become the hero and increase your profits.

Zen Rabbit was built to help business professionals multiply their profits through sweet appreciation. The main tool has always been The Gratitude Cookie. Now, while I doubt that will change and everyone still loves the cookies, I’m also hearing my clients say they want more. They want to work with me to develop a whole repertoire of products they can send in appreciation. They want a monthly program through which they can send something different every month.

Considering Zen Rabbit is really a thank you concierge, I’m excited about coming up with new ideas and finding cool options to offer. That’s how the Money Tree got added to the product line-up and there are more very exciting items coming soon.

In nature, it’s called evolution. What is the next logical step in serving your customers? Are you teaching clients the “how to” without offering the “done-for-you” program as well? Given that so many people are time stretched (or are they just lazy?), there could be an opportunity for you to expand.

I’m not suggesting you give in to the Achilles’ heel of entrepreneurs – Shiny Object Syndrome – and go off in all different directions. I’m merely advising you to pay close attention to what your clients may really need, either in addition to or instead of what you’re currently providing. After all, they already trust you to deliver “A,” so it’s likely they will trust you to give them “B,” as well. Now all you need to do is listen, learn and create the tool or the program or the service that allows you to serve them even better.

You Told Your Customer What?!

Ever have one of those weeks where everyone you’re working with seems completely incompetent? As I texted to a friend, why can’t people just do their freakin’ jobs? Oh, the frustration! She texted back, simmer down tea pot. Ha Ha, at least that made me laugh.

Instead of just being angry about it though, I started wondering why. If you believe as I do that you are responsible for everything that shows up in your life, then what was going on that caused me to become the queen of beating people with a sharp stick to get them to do what they are supposed to do?

I haven’t come up with a good answer to that question yet. And I will refrain from calling out specific companies here (although feel free to take a look at my Twitter feed for the past two weeks.) But what I do have are a few pointers to keep you from annoying customers and pushing them to do business elsewhere.

  1. Set expectations that you can and will meet. You hear a lot about the importance of providing outstanding experiences and exceeding customers’ expectations. Under promise and over deliver. And who wouldn’t want to do that? Just be aware that once you set those expectations you’d better at least meet them, or you will end up with a disappointed customer (which is sad) or an irate customer (which is dangerous).
  2. If you screw up, take responsibility and admit you made a mistake. Clients understand mistakes can happen. What will send someone over the edge is when you don’t take responsibility for that mistake, you lie about it or you attempt to cover it up. Blaming the U.S. postal service, any of your other vendors or your “stupid” employees is easy, but it doesn’t make you look good and calls into question your integrity.
  3. See if you can put yourself in your customer’s position and understand where they’re coming from. Listen to even what sounds to you like the most ridiculous request. See if you can come up with some kind of response that allows the customer to believe he or she was heard. Perhaps there is some kind of compromise you could present that works for both sides. “Sorry, that’s our policy” is NOT an apology. It is a cop out and speaks poorly of your commitment to servicing customers. Repeating your policy over and over as if the person you are speaking to didn’t hear you the first time is also insulting.

Nevermind exceeding customer expectations. Is your business even meeting them? Wake up and take an honest look.

Do you “get” what your clients want?

When you understand what your clients really want, you’re certainly in a better position to deliver it. That of course, always leads to more satisfaction for them and for you. And more money.

You cannot be this guy & have a thriving biz

The thing is, I find a lot of business people only want to give clients what’s easy, what’s already on the menu. Don’t go and ask for special orders.

The businesses unwilling to customize may have to learn a hard lesson in the form of decreasing sales. Not many can operate in the way of the Soup Nazi.

Here’s a testimonial I received last week from fab client David Wolfe, President of Lupine Partners. I share it with you not from an egotistical place, but because I’m excited he’s validating one of Zen Rabbit’s prime tenets for serving clients.

Lori Saitz, and her gratitude program, has been a strategic partner of mine since February, 2011. I first heard of Lori while listening to a GKIC CD that she appeared on. I sent her an email while I was listening to the program and requested a meeting. The response from her came very soon after my initial email. I was interested in a custom program that would allow me to tailor my ‘gratitude’ on an as-needed basis with no restrictions. In other words, I wanted the gifts to my customers to go out immediately as soon as I thought of it. I fully expected Lori to tell me what her rules were and how my request did not fit any of her programs.
Instead, she gave me exactly what I asked for. Sent the contract that day and I signed it. Call it the cookie bizarro world…
Despite my sometime curmudgeonly leanings, I feel like she gets me and does a very good job of trying to provide solutions to the scenarios I bring her. I like the way she thinks.

Listen. Let your clients tell you what they want and then deliver it. Seems pretty simple. Makes me wonder why more businesses aren’t doing it.

Tis The Season To Spread A Little Joy Among Retail Clerks

The elves and I have been super busy packing holiday orders, so when I saw this article by my associate Ross Reck on his blog, I thought it was so very kind of Ross to write something that would save me from having to write my own post today. 🙂 Remember, my friends, show a little kindness and gratitude for the clerks!

This is the time of the year when retail clerks catch a lot of undeserved verbal abuse from the people they’re trying to serve.  Stores are crowded, people are in a hurry, check-out lines are long and tempers are short.  Under these circumstances, a kind word or gesture from you can brighten a retail clerk’s day.

I read where one person carried small packets of M&M’s in his pocket to give to clerks as he was going through the check-out process.  He would simply put it in their hand and say, “I hope your day is going well.”  Showing an interest in their welfare can also brighten their day.  During last year’s holiday season, I was checking out in a grocery store and I asked the clerk how her day was going.

She responded with, “Wow!  Somebody asking me how my day is going; now there’s a switch!”  We then proceeded to have a very pleasant conversation.  Several days later, I was back at that same grocery store and the check-out lines were long.  That same clerk spotted me and said, “I’ll open my register for you. Come with me.”  I then let her know how much I appreciated her kindness.  She looked at me and said, “We always remember the nice ones.”  So, take the time to spread a little joy among retail clerks this holiday season.  It will brighten their day and yours as well.

Dr. Ross Reck is the coauthor of Instant Turnaround!, REVVED! and the best selling The Win-Win Negotiator.  He is also the author of Turning Your Customers into Your Sales Force, The X-Factor and his very popular newsletter:  Ross Reck’s Weekly Reminder.

The Pain of Writing

Gloria Steinem said, “I do not like to write – I like to have written.”
I’m right there with you sister. I’m in the midst of writing two important works (by important, I mean I know there are people who want and need this information; I get emails and phone calls with questions about it all the time). One is an e-book, the genesis of which goes back almost two years! And yet I have to make myself set aside the time to do it. And then when the appointed time comes, I have to force myself to stay off Facebook and Twitter and actually do the writing. It’s too easy to get lost in “doing research” and avoid composing original thoughts.

What is up with that? It’s not just me. Do you struggle with this challenge too? You’re not alone. I know plenty of writers who struggle with this issue. Is it a fear of not having anything to say? Or conveying the message in an imperfect way? Sometimes it feels like the right words (or any words) are just out of reach.

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” ~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

One of the strategies I’ve found helpful is to do a short, ten or fifteen minute, meditation to clear the head. There are some good ones at Meditation Oasis. I particularly like podcast #29, Enhance Your Creativity, for helping focus my thoughts before writing. Podcast # 37, Accessing Intuition, works well too. Take a look at the list – they’re all free – and see if there’s something that resonates with you.

Another good approach comes from Nike. Just do it. Close your email. Go offline. Put on the Pandora “spa” channel. Attach blinders. Sit your butt in the chair and start writing. Even if you think it’s crap, keep writing. You’ll edit later. For now, write, write, write. I’ve heard it gets easier the more you do it. Personally, I’ve not gotten to that point yet – something to look forward to. In the meantime, I’ll use a bit of personal discipline and get to work. Someone is waiting. Someone needs to read exactly what it is I’ve got to say.