More Gratitude Please (apparently this is the month for it)

With Thanksgiving in the U.S. coming up in a few weeks, everyone’s talking about gratitude this month. Welcome to the conversation Zen Rabbit’s been having all year. Ha Ha! I am reminded of a discussion I had with mentor Paul Martinelli several years ago. I was starting Zen Rabbit and while my business was all about saying thank you to customers, Paul didn’t think I was feeling enough gratitude myself. Kind of ironic, right? He suggested I read Chapter VII on Gratitude in Wallace D. Wattle’s classic 1910 book “The Science of Getting Rich” every day, morning and evening, for 30 days.

It’s not a long chapter, three pages in the printed version of the book I have. Here are a few choice lines:

“Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude.”

“You cannot exercise much power without gratitude; for it is gratitude that keeps you connected to Power.”

“But the value of gratitude does not consist solely in getting you more blessings in the future. Without gratitude you cannot long keep from dissatisfied thought regarding things as they are.”

“Faith is born of gratitude. The grateful mind continually expects good things, and expectation becomes faith.”

In reading over it again now to write this article, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be beneficial to repeat that twice a day exercise again this month. Hmmm. Who wants to join me in this endeavor?

I also saw a link on Facebook today, via my friends Sherri Sokolowski and Debbie Phillips, to Carrie Saba’s blog post where she also proposes a gratitude challenge. I don’t know Carrie however I’m now grateful for finding her article. She’s sharing several fantastic ideas for focusing on gratitude, one of which is finding a gratitude buddy and emailing each other what you’re grateful for every day. Having trouble coming up with anything? She’s got some gratitude themes you can use as kindling.

Her post also brings to mind the project I mentioned back in 2010  after reading John Kralik’s book “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life,” whereby I wrote one thank you note a day to someone who has impacted my life and done something for which I am thankful.

So here’s to improved efforts on recognizing all that you have to be grateful for. It starts with acknowledging privately to yourself and moves to outward expressions through thank you notes and gifts shared with those for whom you are thankful.

PS: If you’ve not read “The Science of Getting Rich,” I highly recommend you do. It’s in the public domain now, which means you can find it for free. An ebook version is available herehttp://tinyurl.com/a5pkpox . The Kindle version is only $.99 or you can find an inexpensive printed copy.

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The Anguish of Gift Giving (to family or customers)

Today is my husband’s birthday. Not only is it his birthday, it is the anniversary of our first date. Yes, I took him out for his birthday after he gave me some sad story at the gym that evening about how all his friends abandoned him because he wanted to work out first before going for dinner. On top of it, today marks our having been together for half of my life. Kind of weird.

Enough sappiness, onto my challenge. Am I the only one, or are there others out there, who have a hard time finding a good gift for the significant other? The thing is, if there’s something he wants, he pretty much goes and buys it himself. I hear my family thinks it’s hard to buy gifts for me too, although personally I think I am the easiest person in the world to buy for. And still we are committed to this practice of giving gifts.

He’s a runner, so for a while he got everything running related – shorts, socks, cold weather tights, etc. But there’s only so much gear you can fit in the dresser drawers. He’s always been an avid photographer, so for a long time I could always fall back on getting something photography related. Even then, purchases required explicit details on exactly which lens or filter or bag to order. But then he became a professional and any such purchases were no longer gifts, they were business expenses.

No worries. Who needs more stuff anyway? Experiences are better. I shelicopter rides as thank you to customers?pent time browsing sites like http://www.excitations.com for ideas. One year I wanted to give him a certificate for sailing lessons at a local marina. Nah, I don’t have time, he said. Another year some of my Twitter friends suggested a helicopter ride. How cool is that? Don’t you know I’ll get motion sickness, he admonished. I guess skydiving, where I get to push you out of the plane, ready or not, is out of the question too then. Arg!

This is the same kind of anguish many busy professionals go through in thinking about how to say thank you to clients. Finding customer gifts takes up too much mental energy and time, so it gets put on the back burner and rarely gets completed, which ends up costing them money in the long run. You don’t perform your own heart surgery or sew all your own clothes. Certainly allowing an expert to manage a client appreciation program is a better allocation of your resources than doing it yourself.  Ironically, it’s actually fun for me to find and send gestures of customer appreciation on behalf of my business clients. Maybe when you remove yourself from the thick of it, and take a step back, finding the right thing becomes easier.

PS: Any fantastic birthday gift suggestions welcome!

Saying Thank You to Customers in October

October is another great time to say thank you to customers. Unlike in December and even November, your clients are not inundated with cards, gift baskets and goodies this month. That means your kind gesture will make you look like a rock star stand out. And who doesn’t want that?!

There are plenty of special occasions to share your appreciation and show your thanks to customers this month. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. You could go with a dog-themed gift or make a donation to a local shelter. It’s Apple Month; send a jar of delicious, organic apple butter. It’s Eat Better, Eat Together Month, which means you could put together baskets of simple and healthy dinner ingredients, such as whole wheat pasta and sauce or wild rice and lentils. October is National Book Month, so buy a case of your favorite book and share it with everyone. It’s National Caramel and National Popcorn Poppin’ Month; you could easily tie those two together in a yummy snack. In honor of Pizza Month, send a pizza making kit. To make this one even more interactive, ask your clients to then send you pictures of their pizza creation, or post them on your Facebook page.

Also in October:
National Food Bank Week, 14-20. Create a promotion that encourages your clients to donate canned goods to their local food bank.

World Vegetarian Day – share a veggie or bean soup mix or recipe.

Balloons Around the World Day – how fun to have a bouquet of balloons delivered to special clients.

National Chess Day – share chess sets or the more edible chess cookies.

International Top Spinning Day – send out those old-fashioned wooden tops and I guarantee your recipients will play with them all week.

World Pasta Day – again with the pasta, choose a package of funky shapes for extra attention.

Plush Animal Day – find your favorite animal and send a few out with a note tied around its neck, or attached to its paw. Better yet, make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund and you can choose which animal you want to “adopt.” Then they’ll send one of those plush animals to you or your recipient.

National Candy Corn Day – no one eats this stuff any other time of the year. Fill up some decorative bags and send one to everyone.

And of course there’s Halloween at the end of the month, giving you a great opportunity to send caramel or candy apple kits or an assortment of your favorite candies. Non-food items like masks or witch fingers are fun too!

You’ve got no excuse not to implement one of these creative ideas for reaching out and strengthening those client relationships this month.

You can debate the statistic of whether the cost of acquiring a new customer is five, seven or nine times greater than the cost of keeping current ones. What’s not up for debate is the fact that it’s much more cost effective to keep the ones you have, which is why customer thank yous seem like a worthwhile investment to me.

Need help coming up with creative gift ideas to reward loyal customers? Reach me at lori @ zenrabbit.com and let’s brainstorm.

Perseverance and a Sense of Urgency

It’s another beautiful autumn day in the Washington, DC area – blue skies and crisp temperatures. As I thought about topics for today’s post, my mind returned to a day similar to this one back in 2006. I had recently been introduced to the person who would become my first contract baker, the first person to whom I would entrust with the job of producing The Gratitude Cookie for me.

At the time, I was living in south Florida and after exhausting options for finding a baker anywhere in that state, a mutual contact recommended I connect with Harvey Christie, legendarily known by all in Virginia and West Virginia as Chef Harv.

It was on a day like today that he met me at BWI airport and we headed to Baltimore to meet up with Irwin, a broker from whom I would end up buying the cookie machine that would automate the process of making the cookies. Chef Harv and I hit it off right away. I felt really comfortable working with him and optimistic about growth potential.

The cookie machine was manufactured in Germany, so we had to wait weeks for its delivery. Once it arrived, the die that shaped the cookies wasn’t exactly right. So we had to wait longer to have that corrected. I kept pushing Irwin to call the German company and get them to expedite matters; it was getting closer and closer to the busy holiday season. Irwin was an elderly gentleman and he basically suggested I chill out and not get so worked up about this, else I die young.

Chef Harv and the unexpected
I’ve always had a strong sense of urgency, so pushing Irwin to get that cookie die delivered didn’t seem out of character or particularly prescient. When it finally arrived, I went back up to West Virginia and Chef Harv, his crew and I figured out how to run this machine (it did not come with a detailed instruction manual).

We hadn’t actually signed a contract yet when he ran the first “real” batch of 5,000 cookies the week of Thanksgiving. (And thinking about this point now, I’m reminded of how I clearly did not learn my lesson on this topic, but that is another blog post.)

And then on the morning of December 1st, Chef Harv was killed in a car accident. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about how even though I’d known him only a few months, I felt that I’d lost an amazing friend. The fear over what would happen to my business came second.

To the credit of Chef Harv’s team, they pulled off the incredible feat of carrying on, fulfilling all of Zen Rabbit’s holiday orders that season. My clients had no idea what was going on behind the scenes as all their thank you and holiday gifts for customers were shipped and delivered on time.

Postscript
In the end, Chef Harv’s wife decided to continue the business and we did end up signing a contract. I’ve since moved on to a much better baking partner arrangement, however I’ll always be grateful for this overall experience because of the lessons it taught. For all the business owners reading this, keep on, keep the faith. At some point or another, we all face challenges that seem insurmountable. Prove to yourself and everyone that you DO want and deserve success. And eventually it starts to come to you.

Saying Thank You to Customers in September

September is a great time to say thank you to customers. Unlike in December and even November, you clients are not inundated with cards, gift baskets and goodies this month. That means your goodwill gesture will stand out, make a bigger impression and create more buzz.

There are plenty of special holidays or reasons to show appreciation and say thanks for business this month. September is Apple Month, Fall Hat Month, Honey Month, Self Improvement Month, Skin Care Awareness Month, Guide Dog Month, National Preparedness Month.

Teddy BearAlso in September:

  • Cheese Pizza Day – send a gift certificate for a local pizza place
  • Read a Book Day – share a copy of your favorite business or inspirational book
  • Teddy Bear Day – who doesn’t love a cute Teddy Bear?
  • Chocolate Milkshake Day – a gift card is probably the way to go here
  • Play Doh Day – send a mini jar of this childhood favorite. Who’s not going to play with it?!
  • Talk Like a Pirate Day – find a translation guide to send
  • Elephant Appreciation Day – write a note on a card with a picture of an elephant
  • Comic Book Day – get really creative and make your own
  • Pancake Day – pancake mix and a bottle of syrup
  • Chewing Gum Day – easy enough to mail or drop off a pack of gum
  • Most appropriately, September 27 is National Thank You Day.

Pick one of these fun holidays and use it as a reason to send your customers a note or gift. Remember, if you improve your customer retention rate by just 5%, you can expect to see an increase in profits of 25-100%. Seems like a worthwhile investment to me.

Need help coming up with creative gift ideas to reward loyal customers? Reach me at lori @ zenrabbit.com and let’s brainstorm.

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.

Why Gratitude is Good for Business

Right on is what I said when I saw this article posted by Fortune magazine on CNNMoney. It’s always a good thing when people are talking about the importance of gratitude in business, even if they’re not quoting me. Ha ha.

In fact, two of the people they did quote, Kristina Bouweiri/Reston Limousine and Heidi Kallett/The Dandelion Patch, are strong business women in my local circle of contacts. How cool is that?!

The article totally supports what Zen Rabbit is all about – building appreciation into a business’ daily and weekly plans and strategies and doing it year-round instead of just for the December holidays. Of course these business people are seeing benefits to this approach in terms of more engaged workers and more loyal customers.

See the whole article here, at http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2011/11/23/why-gratitude-is-good-for-business-year-round/