Wednesday Words

To Go Where Your VisionPoints, a few inspiration points for you and your business.

Our business in this world is
not to succeed, but to continue
to fail, in good spirits.
—Robert Louis Stevenson

To which I’ll add:

Fail out loud, if it’ll help to rally folks to your side. As Stevenson says, do it with grace.

Fail boldly, early, and often.

Never fail to ask for help. That’s been the true downfall of many a small business.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

We have no green beeeeeeans, today

I’ve worked for a couple of places, in my time, where company policy was “Don’t mention what we’re out of, and maybe the customer won’t ask.”

Maybe you’ve worked for places like that, too.

I saw this sign today and I just had to write about it.

Boston Market - Current shipment of green beans does not meet our high quality standards...

For those of you who don’t have one nearby, Boston Market is a semi-fast-food restaurant serving semi-homemade foods like meatloaf, roast beef, and chicken—rather nicer than the standard in-a-hurry food—with side orders you won’t see in anyone else’s drive-through such as mashed potatoes… and, as you can see from the sign, green beans. But not today.

Here’s why this sign deserves your Maximum attention:

Fess up

“Don’t mention the problems and cross your fingers” almost always results in a darned awkward moment when a customer, inevitably, does bring up the problem. Whether it’s something you’re out of, or something that’s gone wrong, someone besides you is bound to notice. During that awkward moment, you look like you’re less-than-honest. And at that moment, you are. You don’t want that! Fessing up, up front, looks good.

Write it like you give a doggone

I’ve sometimes seen “No tomatoes/orange juice/whole wheat buns this week” signs and the like, hastily handwritten on a sheet of copier paper at the point of sale, but those have an air of “buzz off & leave us alone about it” that isn’t present here. This one has something those dashed-off signs don’t have—an official imprint and some time and care in its phrasing and layout. Sure, it’s dead-simple, but the act of using letterhead and typing out a sympathetically-phrased sentence or two makes all the difference in whose interests the company seems to have at heart—this sign makes it seem as though they’re looking out for us customers. Nice.

Sneaky advert?

It’s not one of The Big Three fast-food places, and even in our local area I’d imagine there are many folks like me who don’t go here more than a couple of times a year. This nicely worded sign on their drive-through speaker actually highlighted an item that I had no idea about—and made me think of coming back in a couple of weeks to give fresh, company-approved green-beans-to-go a try on some other crazy-busy night! I don’t advise that you have supply issues just so you can highlight an unsung product you offer, but if a problem arises and you can make it sound like a future win for customers, why not?

Make the best out of mushy produce

Stuff goes wrong. That’s all part of running your business day in and day out.

Sometimes Maximum Customer Experience is about making the best out of a lack of green beans.*

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

*Unless what you’re out of is bananas… (watch to about the 40-second mark and you’ll get the gist of it…)

Wednesday Words

To Go Where Your VisionPoints, a few inspiration points for you and your business.

A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.
—Mary Kay Ash

A “million-dollar idea.”

Everybody’s got one.

Or wants one.

Or knows someone who’s got one, and is guarding it jealously.

Maybe you’re waiting for yours?

The thing about million-dollar ideas (and million-dollar-idea men and women) is that they’re a dime a dozen. This stymies some people, believing they’re not “ready” because some mystical lightning bolt hasn’t hit them yet, but you probably know at least one person who generates “great” ideas all the time—then does nothing with the ideas. Because lightning bolts rarely get up and do the dirty work for us.

So if you’re sitting around on your two-bit idea, worrying that you can’t make a go of it because it’s not The Next Big Thing, stop worrying.

You’ll make a go of it if YOU are the kind of person who can Make A Go Of Things.

If you can do your research and plan (further than you think!) in advance, stick with your plan for the long haul, create an Experience that’s worth talking about, and connect with your customers, you’ll make a go of it. Even if your widget is not the most original widget in the world.

While other people sit around, guarding their ideas, if you’re the type who can’t wait to make it happen, day in and day out, you don’t have to worry about whether the idea is worth a million dollars.

The real million-dollar idea is, “Let’s shout about this until we’re hoarse. Let’s get customers so thrilled that they shout about it. Let’s make this happen!”

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Selling what people WANT and NEED, but not what they have to be DESPERATE for

*** ***

Do you pass on the name of the locksmith who got you back into your car, unless a friend is locked out of theirs?

How often are you nearby when a friend is in an emergency situation that you’ve also been in?

*** ***

No, I haven’t been locked out of my car recently, but returning from a little Independence Day fun last week, I ran out of some crucial supplies.

It doesn’t matter what the supplies were. We stopped at a small store that carried what we needed, got the supplies, and went on our way. That got me thinking about emergencies of various kinds, and your small business:

Emergency products or services just don’t scale.

If it ain’t broke…

If you have to wait ‘til something’s broke or used up for customers to need you, or

if the customer you think you should target is so cheap that they’ll stay in a holding pattern until an emergency arises,

…then you just can’t achieve viral or exponential growth.

Slow, steady growth, maybe, but not a steep, viral growth curve.*

Causing your own stall?

Even if you really delivered and your customers had a great Experience with you, there’s no reason for them to tell friends, when they know their friends are not in the emergency situation—and the excitement about buying from you is forgotten as quickly as the urgent need fades.

Think carefully about what you sell and how you present it to potential buyers.

It’s possible that you’ve stalled your own growth by making it seem as if you’re the guy to know in an emergency—and to call, ONLY in an emergency.

In that case, you have two choices:

Expand on your expertise: change or add to what you sell so that there are related, non-emergency products or services in your line as well;

Change your presentation (website copywriting, brochures, ads, in-person sales) to show how what you offer can be just as useful when purchased before an emergency (or maybe even better, if it can save money or prevent some disaster by being purchased earlier).

What’s the difference between “customers who know they have a want or a need” and “customers who are having an emergency” in your business?

How can you find more of the first group, in order to grow your sales and word-of-mouth referrals?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

*Unless—there’s always an unless—unless you’ve found a large, untapped market of people in this emergency-need situation with no current solution available.**

**Not very likely.

Wednesday Words

To Go Where Your VisionPoints, a few inspiration points for you and your business.

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.
—David M. Ogilvy

There’s no room for sissies in business —if you want your business to grow.

Your message has got to be strong. Neither management nor customers will see how great your idea is unless you can present it as rocking-awesome. But wait, there’s more…

I had a chance to write a guest post at Copyblogger yesterday, talking about making your message more than strong—your message has got to be enchanting, to the right people, to help you drive sales. (If you haven’t read it, I’d love it if you’d click away for a minute to check it out!)

In that post I used the example of Guy Kawasaki, former Apple chief evangelist, current venture capitalist, author, and speaker—but not an overnight success at all, just a creative, original thinker and a good salesman—to show, in just a few steps, how you can strengthen your message with a little of your own enchanting magic.

Strong, enchanting message? Sure. But selling that message? Ay-yi! Sales, more than any other aspect of growing your business, is not for the faint of heart. “Selling” frankly scares some people to death.

Though they want their business to succeed, they hope that anything at all except being a salesman will make it succeed. And nothing will.

So one more little “secret” from Guy Kawasaki’s CV today: Re-name the thing that scares you. (A rose by any other name really will smell as sweet.)

Don’t think of it as “sales” anymore. Instead, be your company’s Chief Evangelist.

Try it for the next week:

Don’t try to sell anyone anything. Just tell ‘em why you love it. Why you believe in it. Why you invest your blood, sweat, and your 75-hours-a-week in it. Tell ‘em about the results Mrs. Jones got, and how her thank-you made your day.

In the modern world of business, even Mr. Ogilvy might agree—hard sales tactics have less and less power. But enthusing about what a great help your company has been, and how proud you are of the work you can do for folks? Glowing about the solutions you provide… the reasons why you (and your customers) go home happy?

That’s called being real. And these days, that’s Maximum (Selling) Experience.

And you didn’t even have to say the word.    ;)

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

& no holding back

Last week, we talked about gaining traction for your business, within the right market.

This market must be full of early adopters (low resistance to change) with their ears to the ground (on the lookout for change) who have spare $$—and who are also talkative sharers.

What do those “talkative sharers” want?

Something to talk about. And that’s where you come in.

To get noticed, to gain influence with your market—to gain their ears and keep their loyal interest in your company—you’re going to need to say something noticeable.

You’re going to need to voice strong opinions.

There are a lot of people reading this right now who are fond of being “behind the scenes.” Perhaps you’re just not comfortable being the mouthpiece for your company. Maybe you know your work is awesome, and you’re sure that the world will “get it” without your calling attention to yourself.

Keep that up, and you’ll discreetly fade into the woodwork of business history.

Voice those strong opinions. Customers expect it and require it. Bland does not tell what’s unique and worth sharing about you.

Bland does not sell.

Don’t hold back on your opinions, or your knowledge in your field. Customers come to you…

(if they do come to you)

… because you’re the expert.

Other folks don’t know, and don’t care, like you do. Even your most valued customers have a more casual interest than you do, and a tiny window of time in which they’re listening to you. They’ve got their own fish to fry. Shake ‘em up while you hold their attention—even if what you have to say is unexpected or controversial. Your experience, opinions, and knowledge can lift doubt (and kick out lukewarm customers you don’t want).

An expert is allowed to be passionate about their field. Heck, if you can’t defend the merits of what you do—vigorously—why do you expect customers to talk you up vigorously?

Be controversial, even an instigator, in moderation. (Check yourself right before the words “shrill” or “close-minded” come up in a conversation about you.) Don’t shy away from a little publicity—and give ‘em a sound bite or two.

If you believe you can truly help your customer with what you sell, but you hold back on what you believe, your customers may never hear about you…

… or worse yet, they hear about you and can’t remember you long enough to talk about you.

There’s no room for sissies in your successful business plan.

Make some noise!

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Wednesday Words

To Go Where Your VisionPoints, a few inspiration points for you and your business.

Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.
—Marilyn vos Savant

How many people stop running a marathon when they’re “this close” to finishing?

How many people give up on their Vision when they’re “this close” to making it?

The numbers are bound to be very different. Practically zero for the first. Un-countable, and possibly uncomfortably high, for the second.

What’s the difference? The ability, training/ working, and dogged determination are there in both cases.

But in the second case, there’s no finish line (in sight). When you can’t see where you’re going, sometimes you think you aren’t getting anywhere.

So when the going gets rough for you, do be realistic. Maybe you are on the wrong path. It happens. But maybe you just have a couple of yards to go. Spend some time thinking about it and consulting with your trusted advisors.

If it’s only a temporary condition, don’t give up (and make it permanent) when you’re right about to break through.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

or, “Fast” and “Easy” Startup Planning To Keep Your Business From Failing

Why is it that with all the information available today on how to be successful in small business, so few people really are?
—Michael Gerber

If it were so simple, we’d all do it.

Let’s distill it as if it could be simple. We could call today’s post “How To Create a Business That Makes Money.” As always, I hope you’ll do just that with these steps. But instead, let’s call it The Money-Making Business Manifesto.

Like all good manifestos, this one gives only the top-level view. (Take a tour through MCE’s archives for in-depth articles on many of the points in this manifesto.)

Warning: Like in all good manifestos, the steps below are just as simple as they look—and just as difficult, too.

Start here:

Find something that is being done, and is being paid for* by a large enough market to sustain your business (break even/ make a small profit) if you can capture 5% of it.

Never start a business that nobody wants or uses even in some peripheral way (peripheral? Henry Ford made cars when most folks still had horses, but there was a large and verifiable, paying market, for reliable transportation).

Never start a business on the assumption that you can capture a majority of it (new businesses work their butts off to grab 5%… established businesses aim for 20-25%… more than that can happen, but if you want to stay in business you can’t aim at the miracle-success-story, you have to aim with realism).

Never start a business where the market seems huge (no one wants anything that’s aimed at everyone).

If the idea is too small, expand the definition/ realign/ change.

If it’s too big, pinpoint-focus.

This market must be full of early adopters (low resistance to change) with their ears to the ground (on the lookout for change) who have spare $$—and who are also talkative sharers. Can’t create traction if you have to spend all your energy convincing your customer. Can’t get word-of-mouth going if your Ideal Customer is a hermit, a social nincompoop, or too busy/ too fancy-pants to share.

Do it better than it is being done by anyone else (“better” meaning “far more valuable”), either through novelty/disruption or vast improvements (not vast in your mind, vast in the consumer’s mind—unmistakable and worthwhile).

Talk it up anywhere you can, from the minute you get the idea to the day you open your doors. Create buzz. Listen. Refine.

Never be afraid someone’s going to steal your idea, it’s not that unique. You are the secret sauce that will make it unique, and they can’t steal you.

Run it past real potential buyers when you know the date you will officially be able to deliver (your product or service).

Get commitments to buy from at least 5% of the people you run it past (if you can’t get this now, what makes you think you can after you’ve poured tons of good money and sweat into it?).

Bonus: Get real advance money put down.

Do not skimp on planning. Cheaping out now will doom your company—and you’re reading this because you want to succeed, right?

Finally:

Seek outside help at the planning stage. Why? Because you WILL delude yourself on at least one of these points, if not many.

Look at it this way: you’ll put thousands of hours, tens of thousands of dollars of your savings, and your family’s and friends’ goodwill on the line to make this happen. You’ll spend 1-3 years making it a success or you’ll spend 1-3 years struggling while it dies. Which would you and your support network prefer? It’s worth paying a professional to poke holes in your plan (and to advise you on ways to fix the holes) at the outset.

If it were so simple, we’d all be Bill Gates or Sam Walton.

But if you’ve got the entrepreneurial spark and you’re willing to examine your plan as critically as an investor or a bank would (both of which have no interest in 99.9% of new/small businesses, sorry), you can plan to be one of the ones in the “Success” column, with a sustainable business that makes money.

Now all you’ve got to do is check your course frequently, realign/ revisit these steps right away when you sense turbulence, and work your plan like hell.

Never stop.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

*Silicon Valley seems to be of the opinion that vast adoption rates with no revenue in sight is okay. Maybe in the Valley. Maybe, for a hobby. In the ROW (Rest of the World), we gotta eat. Make sure there is money exchanging hands in your desired niche if you hope to call it a business.

 

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll print it out and tape it to your fridge! You may also want to subscribe by email or by RSS, and help this post to help other folks by using the “Share” button below. And if you’d like more information on creating Maximum Customer Experience for your business online, check out our Web Audit and Web Experience Solution. I’d be glad to help you move from start to sales!

… to clear a few things off the MCE-plate. Back shortly. Thanks for your patience!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Wednesday Words

To Go Where Your VisionPoints, a few inspiration points for you and your business.

I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people who are convinced they are about to change the world. I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference after another.
—Ellen Goodman

The essence of your small business. The essence of mine. Working hard, making small changes—for ourselves, our families, and for the larger community.

Pretty awesome. Keep on making those small differences.

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

« Previous PageNext Page »