Most People Don’t Matter

It’s a funny thing about people. They say they want x, y or z, but are completely unwilling to commit to getting it. You’ve heard the phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Most people pay that lip service. They “believe” it, but when it comes down to brass tacks, it’s easier for them give up than to figure out the way, and so they do.

Seth Godin’s blog post today is titled “Most People.” Read it. Has this been your experience? Maybe it describes people you know. The part I take out of it and find relevant to what we’re doing here in regards to increasing customer retention and loyalty is that “most people aren’t going to buy what you’re selling” but that’s okay because your best customers are not “most people.”

Look around. Most people either do not care about customer service or don’t know how to deliver it – that much is quite evident in many customer experiences you’ll have this week. But the ones who do are the ones whose businesses are thriving, regardless of what’s happening in the economy.* They are not deterred by the idea that most people aren’t their customers. They are driven to find the ones who are and start conversations with them. Realize that it may take some persistence until those best customers recognize how you are not most people. Don’t be discouraged, like most people would be. YOU are okay with staying on track and weeding through most people to get to your best customers.

You are not doing what you’re doing for most people. Whatever your industry or profession, YOU are offering something very special and it’s only for your best customers. Understand your best customers are different from someone else’s best customers. This is why the idea of competition as a market force is on its way out.

Now once you connect with those best customers, it behooves you to continue treating them as valuable. Taking the actions necessary to make sure they know you appreciation their business is imperative. Consistently saying thank you to your loyal clients is an investment of resources most people won’t make. Good thing we’ve already established that you’re not most people.

*If you deliver fantastic customer service and your business is not thriving, it’s simply because not enough people in your target market know about you. That’s easily fixed through better marketing. Need help coming up with creative ideas for getting the attention of your ideal clients? Let’s set up a short, complimentary call to see if you can benefit from a full-out 2-hour strategy session.

The Hard Part is Getting Started

The hardest part of any project is probably not what you think. In fact, what you are thinking is part of the problem. You’re thinking about all the steps, and time, and effort it’s going to take to do it. And then you’re not doing it. I’ll start it tomorrow, you say. What’s that saying – tomorrow never comes? Because it’s always today. Ha ha.

Humans are amazing in terms of how many excuses or reasons we can create to keep ourselves stationary. So it appears that the most difficult piece of your project is the start. Once you start, you may run into barriers along the way, but the momentum is already there and you just keep going. Building the momentum to push off the blocks is the real challenge.

Start Button

Start Me Up

How do you start? You just start. How do you roll a ball down a hill? You push it and it goes. You start by writing up as specific and detailed a plan as you can of what you will do – make this phone call, send that email, write the first paragraph, etc. And then schedule the time in your calendar to do it. Easy enough to say, perhaps harder to make yourself do.

Are you super excited about getting the results that undertaking this project and implementing this action will deliver? If that answer is a flat out no, then you might want to reevaluate why you’re doing it. More likely it’s YES, but it’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable terrain. Or YES, but I don’t know all the steps. That’s okay and it’s not good enough reason to not start. Make a list of all the potential roadblocks. What are the typical things that have tripped you up in the past? You know there will be some, so prepare a plan to face and overcome them now.

I’m reading a book called “The Power of Habit, Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.” It’s fascinating to learn how the brain works in regards to creating habits. A lot of studies have been done on how to change habits and many have found that habits are linked to will power. In fact, will power itself is a habit. Beyond that, the ability to change habits is linked to identifying the distractions, and creating a plan to overcome those distractions.

Here’s an example. You know you should create a customer appreciation program because you believe it will help you strengthen your client relationships and increase customer retention. You have ideas in your head of what you want to do. And yet you keep putting on the back burner. Come up with all the reasons you haven’t done it yet – too busy to manage, not sure how to segment, don’t have the money, etc. Recognize that these are excuses that may not even be real obstacles. (What if you don’t have to personally manage the program. Or it ends up helping you keep a client who otherwise would have left, so now you’ve saved more than it cost you to implement.) Now quickly jot down how you’re going to overcome those blocks – get more information or simply set aside 10 minutes a month on your calendar, for example. Don’t spend a lot of time and over planning on this.

Now get started. The people who are most successful in starting have figured out how to combine throwing caution to the wind and going for it with having a carefully designed strategy for managing the obstacles.

I would never do that

Incongruent: containing disparate or discordant elements or parts. Synonyms include conflicting, contradictory, contrary, incompatible, inconsistent. None of these are words you would want associated with your marketing. Yet the word incongruent is what came to mind when I was thinking about my recent car-buying experience.

2012 Genesis Coupe

My new car, a 2012 Genesis Coupe

I’d submitted an online form expressing my interest in a particular car. That prompted a barrage of emails and phone calls from several area dealerships. Not to bash car dealers; I think they get enough of that, but from a marketing standpoint, wow, I saw some room for simple improvement. Sure, you might think “I would never do that!” Still, there are lessons here for you no matter what your business.

First point of contact

The first email or phone call sets the tone for the rest of our relationship. One guy called me and was very friendly. He engaged me in a conversation and I had a good feeling about him until he said something to the effect of “girls don’t usually like the manual transmission” or something like that. I called him on it and he backpedaled. The damage was done. In a later conversation he told me there were no cars in the model I wanted with a manual transmission in a 400-mile radius. He had checked for me. Apparently he didn’t do a very good job of checking because I found one to test drive 30 miles away. If you’ve already guessed I didn’t buy from him, bonus points to you! The one thing I will give this guy is that he, more than most of them, was persistent in his follow up.

Other sales people called me and started out with “I saw you’re interested in this car. When do you want to come in?” Hey guys (all but one was a guy), a little foreplay might be to your advantage. How about asking for more details about what specifically I want and why.

Then, after a conversation, I’d get an email. Clearly I’d been entered into a database and sent a generic email. Several of them from different dealerships said, “I haven’t been able to reach you by phone…” Wha???

Or I got emails from three different people at the same dealership with, “my name is… I got your inquiry and am eager to help you.” And a couple of, “I’m the manager and so and so is the sales person with whom you can speak…” and the person the sales manager or GM put in his email is not the same as the one who sent me an email two hours ago. Incongruent marketing!

Make sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. Get everyone in your business on the same page so you don’t look foolish and give the impression no one there knows what they’re doing.

Provide requested info
When I was finally ready to buy, (from submitting that online form to purchase was 44 days), I sent out an email to about 10 area dealerships clearly outlining what I wanted and asking for their best price. Only half of them answered and one of those tried selling me something different. The salesperson where I’d test-driven the car didn’t ever respond. In fact, he never even followed up with me after I walked out his door. I’d told him I loved the car, but that particular one wasn’t the right color. Major missed opportunity for him.

If someone is asking you for information, it usually means they want to buy. Answer their questions and the probability you will make a sale, get a client and start a long-term relationship goes up tremendously!

Make me want it more
How can you create an eagerness to buy now or help your client see herself owning or using whatever it is you’re providing? One of the things the sales person from whom I bought the car did that I thought was brilliant was he took a couple of pictures of “my” car in his lot and texted them to me with the message line “your car.” This was smart for two reasons. One, he was cementing ownership of this vehicle in my mind. Two, he was confirming to me that he actually had the car in the color I wanted (because most of the other dealerships did not have it on their lot). And three, he was building the relationship, creating a higher level of comfort, since we hadn’t met in person yet. I asked him about this tactic and he says he uses it especially when he’s doing internet transactions because people need visuals.

Give your customers the ability to see and feel and get comfortable with all the qualities of your product or service. Help them imagine what it’s like to use and own or implement what you’re selling. Give them the ability to “own” it before they actually buy and your job of selling is done.

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.

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From World Cup Soccer

Did you watch the World Cup match up between the USA and Algeria yesterday? Wow! What a game. In the past, I know a lot of Americans have complained about the “boringness” of a game that doesn’t have a lot of scoring. In this game, there were plenty of shots on goal, but it wasn’t until the 91st minute that the ball actually went in. (Click here to see the highlights.)

WooHoo! I was jumping out of my chair with excitement and it was even cooler to see the excitement Landon Donovan and his teammates felt.

The USA wasn’t favored to win. They hadn’t won any of their previous World Cup games this month; the best they’d done was tie. And for 91 minutes it looked like they were going to go home despite their heroic efforts. The score was 0-0, which on paper looks like nothing was going on. But as the announcer said, everything can change on a dime and all of a sudden, sweet victory!

Immediately, I thought holy cow, look at the lessons here for entrepreneurs and business people. So many times, we’re working, we’re working, we’re taking shots on goal, and nothing is coming up. We keep missing, coming so close. And then there are the unfair referee calls. (What was he thinking?!) The times when that account should have been ours. Or the vendor doesn’t deliver as promised and we’re the ones who pay the price for someone else’s incompetence or mistake.

Keep preparing. Keep going. Keep playing your heart out. It’s all about persistence. Well, that and then the use of the “secret weapon” that everyone with success I’ve admired has implemented.

Certainly Landon Donovan, the player who scored the goal, physically trains for this game. All the players are in top form. One of the announcers mentioned that he also mentally prepares using meditation and visualization. Aha! Not surprising to hear, just another reinforcement that quieting the mind and connecting to that unseen force, or spirit or whatever you want to call it, is at least as equally important as all the physical preparation.

The takeaway here is this. Make consistent mental preparation a part of your strategy. Then stay on the field, giving it your all, for as long as it takes to win. Because it’s not over till it’s over.

Need help with your meditation practice? Maybe you’ll find this ABC News video, “Going Inside the Meditating Mind” helpful.

Don’t Quit

Just back from a weekend with the in-laws in Baltimore. Catching up from 4 days of being “out of touch.” In my email was this great passage. It was sure timely for me to see; I post it here because maybe it’s perfect for you today too.

Don’t Quit
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he’d stuck it out.
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are –
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

Author Unknown

What I learned from my 17-year old daughter

This is a story written by Zen Rabbit client Jane Daly from Bank of Sacramento. For readers of the mailed version of the Rabbit Rouser newsletter, scroll down 3/4 of the way for the rest of the story. 

My daughter is driven. She loved to set goals for herself and work to reach them. When she was in the 6th grade, she set a goal that she would get straight A’s from 7th grade all the way through high school. A lofty goal, indeed! In addition, she ran for student council president and was involved in student government all six years. She also played basketball on the school’s team. Community involvement? Of course! She was involved with the church youth group and participated in their fund raisers, community service and missions trips. Does she sound perfect? Hmmmmm.

Somewhere during the high schools years, Heather set her sights on being class valedictorian at graduation. At her school, this required a GPA of greater than 4.0. Advanced Placement classes allowed her to get more grade points for an A than in a regular class. School involvement also counted toward the valedictorian role. This was her new driving ambition! To stand in front of the whole school body, parents, teachers and staff and give a speech as the highest grade point student was now her goal.

As graduation day neared and the points were being tallied, it was clear that she and her BEST FRIEND were neck and neck for the valedictorian honor. Tension mounted, as you can imagine. Think about something you have wanted for a very long time; worked hard for; and suddenly it was within reach. So close you can grasp it. The culmination of six long years of toil.

Finally, a meeting was called of the top three students and the school administration. It was to be announced who would be valedictorian and who would share the salutatorian role.

As Heather’s palms sweated and her stomach jumped, it was announced that her best friend, Sara, was valedictorian. Heather was crushed. But she was able to wish her best friend well and congratulate her on a job well done. Sara outdid Heather by only 2 tenths of a percent.

In reflecting on this life lesson, I learned three things from my daughter:

  1. Have a worthy goal. Don’t be afraid to set a goal that is way out there. Can you imagine a 6th grader saying “I’m going to get straight A’s for the next six years?” As adults, we would want to caution, “Well, don’t be discouraged if you don’t make it. Things can happen between now and then.” How many times are we hesitant to set a goal because we hear those voices saying much the same thing: “You’re setting yourself up for failure! Set a lower goal! Don’t do it!” Set the goal and don’t let anyone tell you why it won’t happen.
  2. Once you’ve set the goal, keep it in sight and work toward it with all your heart. It will hurt. It will cause you to say no to some things that will give you a temporary good feeling. But remember Heather, who diligently did her homework, sacrificed some fun times with friends, and kept her goal in sight.
  3. Accept defeat graciously. I was never as proud of my daughter as when I saw that she was truly happy for Sara who won the role she had coveted for those years. She also fervently prepared her salutatorian speech and gave it her best effort. She was not ashamed to have come in 2nd place. If YOU set a goal and just don’t quite make it, accept that you gave your best effort and congratulate yourself on a job well done.