Getting your firm, fit—for 2011 and beyond

Warm Up…

your stiff January muscles and your staff’s with a few brisk morning cleaning sessions.

Just a half an hour a day, three times this week, and you can give a deep cleaning to fixtures, glass, and floors, and make a big difference with small efforts that you never seem to get ‘round to the rest of the year. (Warm up bonus: after things are spiffy, give your entry a fresh coat of paint. Doing just the entry will save you time and money over a huge revamp but studies show it gives almost as much impact to the customer.)

Pull-up…

the stakes on that product you love having in your line, even though it never makes any money.

Everybody’s got one. A sentimental favorite. It takes too long to create, or it costs more than it brings in, or it’s never worth the hassle, even though you had dreams of its taking the business to new heights once the customers “get it.” If they don’t get it now, they’re not going to. (This exercise is one of the tough ones. Hate me now, love me later. It’s worth it.)

Lift…

a glass with your customers now and then.

Whether you’re literally asking them out for coffee or just cracking open a can of soda with them and inviting them to sit for a few minutes, be sure to take time this year (at least once a month) to listen to both regular buyers and occasional browsers or new visitors in free-form discussions. Ask good questions about how your business/product/service fits into their lives, and listen to their answers fully. Then look for ways you can put their ideas into action right away.

Curl…

up with some of the best small business and Customer Experience books to come out in the last year:

Jim Joseph’s The Experience Effect
Hot off the presses, Eduardo Porter’s The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do
Adrian Ott’s The 24-Hour Customer
Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness
Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto’s Shift: Harness the Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers
Robbin Phillips (with others)’s Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable Word-of-Mouth Movements

Crunch…

some numbers and look for ways to add to your marketing efforts online or off, either in dollars or in time spent on marketing.

If you aren’t spending at least 15% of both hours and money looking for new clients, all it takes is a little downturn to show the holes in your “loyal” old customer base… (well, I guess we all know that now). This is the best time to renew your commitment to spreading the word—especially if things are once again looking up for your company in 2011.

Raise…

employee morale with unexpected “bonuses.”

Sure, you’re probably already generous with praise when it’s warranted, because it’s the right thing to do and because you know that happy, frequently-recognized employees create better Experiences for your customers. This is a great time to think about ways you can go beyond simple pats on the back. What about a dinner gift certificate in your back pocket, ready to notice someone going beyond expectations and surprise them with your thanks, maybe once a month? A wall of praise where you encourage customers to say something wonderful about employees for everyone to see? A bagel breakfast for staff and management to relax… and come up with off-the-wall ideas for enhancing your Customer Experience? A bonus doesn’t have to be cash-in-hand to make working with your company something extra-special.

Stretch…

your definition of the business

Coming off a rough patch… like pretty much everyone is right now? Take the input you’re gaining with today’s exercises (from staff, from customers), and expand in a way you’ve never considered. Don’t break the bank and add on a wing, but find a way to go in a new direction on a small scale. Remember when you were a startup and everything was “put our toes in the water and only jump if we see a profit”? Think like a startup, and stretch your business in a new way, watching and tweaking as you see how it affects your sales.

Congratulations! After that workout, you’re on your way to the best shape of your business life. Stick with MCE, and you’ll see Maximum results fast—and you (probably) won’t even have to break a sweat.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson