Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Business from a Dog's Perspective

Business really should be easier than it is. Perhaps if we took our cues from the pups in our life, we’d see that it’s really not that hard afterall. I’ll share a few things that have helped me stay focused on keeping business simple!

Sales – it’s all about negotiation. My dog wants a treat… I want him to behave. “Sit and stay,” I say. He does, he gets a cookie. Eventually, we graduate to “Sit and stay.” He does and I tell him he’s a good dog. In business… “Mr. Customer, won’t you buy my service and I’ll give you this wonderful item?” And, after they’ve continued to purchase, the reward becomes appreciation and intangible items rather than stuff.

Operations – I learned recently that a happy and well-behaved dog is achieved by giving them exercise, discipline and affection – in that order. If I demonstrate the behavior I want to see, manage it within guidelines, then reward when the proper behavior is executed… my operations run smoothly.

Accounting- no matter how many biscuits I say I have – he always knows there is one more in my pocket! Always know your critical numbers! Know what indicates that your business is healthy as well as what tells you it’s sick.

Customer Retention – To retain a customer is much like “retaining a pet”… Feed them, exercise them, discipline them, talk to them, reward them… it’s a process. If you’re not paying attention to them, they will find someone who does – and, so will your customers.

Business Philosophy – the philosophy of a dog is simple – get as much lovin’ and food as possible everyday! Business is really the same…it’s all about how much appreciate your internal and external customers and what you feed them (or the knowledge you give). After all, garbage in makes for garbage out – so feed your employees, customers and partners that “high-quality food”.

Research & Development – no matter how perfect you think it is – there is always room for improvement! Whether learning a new trick or perfecting the art of securing a belly rub… Processes can improve, products can improve and so can service offerings. Constantly evaluate the “tricks” of your trade.

I hope you chuckled a little, but most importantly, I hope it causes you to say “aha”… we could all use more “aha” moments in life! Just like we could all use more dogs in our life… here’s wishing you sloppy, wet puppy kisses and customers as loyal as a big brown dog!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The CRM Toolbox

I believe that for every job, there is a toolbox. And, in this toolbox, there are tools that can be used to achieve success. Some tools are small and take longer to accomplish the task. Other tools are more powerful and achieve results more quickly. But, regardless - they are all tools in a toolbox.

Take, for example, the CRM Toolbox... in some businesses the toolbox is the CRM software package and its many features are utilized to accomplish tasks at hand. In other businesses, those who do not have a CRM software package installed, the toolbox is made up of disparate communication vehicles through which tasks are accomplished. Let's talk about the tools specifically, since the toolbox itself is irrelevant.

The tools in a CRM Toolbox are communication mediums through which the business builds and strengthens a relationship with its customer. They are:

The Telephone: The telephone call will always be the single most efficient and most effective method of communicating with your customers. They always appreciate hearing your voice, especially when the call isn't always about selling them something! Find reasons to talk with your customer from time to time without making a sales pitch... you'll be surprised just how far that effort goes toward their loyalty to your business.

Direct Mail: Often considered the worst communication medium in today's hyper-paced business world. Again, when designed correctly and used to communicate ideas and information that are not always pushing a sale - direct mail is an integral piece of your communication strategy. What, besides the latest new product or "discount offer", can you communicate via a direct mail piece? Letters from the President, Testimonials by other customers, etc. are just a few ideas.

Email: The method everyone loves - rejection doesn't sting quite as much and most feel it's the fastest, easiest way to communicate. It has also become so overwhelming that many recipients delete or ignore emails they perceive are "selling" something. Again, a company must leverage this medium to do the most good possible, which means... at minimum, alternate the type of message communicated through email. Impersonal emails, form emails and other "short-cuts" can be spotted a mile away... Be sure to always add an element of something personal to each form-email you send.

Website: If your website is not interactive, then it can not do much in the way of building a relationship with your customer. However, if you can create a community where you capture their thoughts and feedback, allow them to recommend products/services, engage them in discussions on how to get more out of your products and services - you will win!

Social Networking Tools: LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter... they all have their place, strengths and weaknesses. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for business professionals to expand their sphere of influence, while Facebook and MySpace are excellent entertainment-business tools. At first brush, Twitter appeared to be a tool for the younger generation and entertainment industries, although recently professional service industries have found professional applications for it. These spaces are an excellent forum in which to re-connect with your customers and demonstrate that there is more to your business than just selling!

Blog & Article Posts: Blogging about your business - your whole business - gives your customer an opportunity to learn in bite-sized chunks. And, it's an opportunity for their feedback and, when the content is invaluable, an opportunity for your customer to evangelize about you! Take advantage of the blogging sites and article repositories.

The best CRM strategy utilizes all of these mediums and pushes communication through the channel(s) most preferred by each customer. However, just because your customer says that he/she prefers to receive email, doesn't mean that you cease communicating through other mediums (unless specifically requested) - you just minimize the information disseminated through alternative mediums.

I'd like to hear from you... What tools are in your CRM Toolbox? How are you leveraging today's communication methods to build relationships with your customers?