Archive for July, 2011
Here’s to a new week. Good luck to all! This poem hangs on my office wall, and it offers a lesson in life and business. I hope it helps you as much as it has helped, and continues to help, me every day.
When things go wrong as they sometimes will, When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, When the 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. 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 go wrong that you musn't quit.
If you didn’t have products or services that customers need, you wouldn’t be in business. Successful businesses meet those needs, but doing so is a bare-bones minimum. Great companies go far beyond simply meeting customers’ needs by delivering great service at all customer touch points.
To be fair, if you’re selling bags of sugar or some other commodity, you’re probably safe to focus simply on meeting your customers’ expectations. All buying decisions, yes all of them, are emotional. Even sugar, for example, is purchased because of one’s love for baking sweet treats. There’s an emotional connection, both to the joy of baking and to seeing the smiles on the faces of those who enjoy the end result. Unless your sugar ruins my recipe, I’m buying, because it meets my expectations.
With premium products and professional services, however, solely meeting expectations is no ringing endorsement. Be honest. When is the last time you got excited about a product or service when you heard “yeah, it meets my expectations”? If you were honest, the answer is never.
I’m a Home Depot junkie, which means my workshop/basement is loaded with stuff that I’ve purchased, and that I’m planning to use at some point. From time to time (after 12 months of not using something) I’ll return it. You guessed it – Home Depot’s return process does not meet my expectations. It exceeds them. Their incredible no-questions-asked return policy is painless, stress-free, and every retail store could learn something from the model. In short, it blows away my expectations about product returns.
Find ways to surprise your customers with extraordinary service. Send a hand-written note, agree to a meeting before or after “normal” business hours, remember their birthday or children’s names, send information on Wednesday even though you have until Friday, accept a return after 12 months without question. If you don’t, someone will, and over time your customers may be lured away from your basic, vanilla, no frills, expectation-meeting experience.
Just a little ditty from Google’s Terms of Service, you know, as we all pour our lives into Google+
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a courtesy call from a sales professional who is just checking in to see if you’ve made a decision and are ready to buy? Typically the first check-in is followed by a second, a third, a fourth, and so on until a near perpetual game of cat and mouse breaks out only to end once the cat, or salesman, completely runs out of energy, or worse, when the mouse goes on the offensive! The answer is simple, but it is rarely practiced effectively. Make each call an opportunity to add value for your prospective customer. However, there is a catch. It must be genuine!
In our practice, sales consultants aren’t allowed to call a prospect simply to “check in” or “touch base” without at least delivering information that could be of value. Perhaps the information is a new way to use a product or service, advice based on past experience, an interesting article, or even a networking introduction. It should be relevant and genuine, and not simply an exercise in reaching out.
Prospects find new and creative ways to avoid calls and emails that offer no value, but serve only as a reminder that they have not yet said “yes” to your sale. The next time you grab your phone or type an email in an effort to move an opportunity forward, do so by offering value and building trust. Drop the phrases checking in and touching base from your sales vocabulary, unless you really like leaving all those voicemails!
In my company’s consulting with law firms, especially small firms (including solo firms), we often hear that a web site isn’t important because “we get all our work by referral.” Without a doubt, referrals are one of the best, if not the best, lead generation tools available in a sustainable lead generation program. However, the internet has long changed the way people buy products and services and firms that ignore the trend may do so at their own peril. Here are 4 reasons why small and solo law firms need a web site.
1. Web sites can help foster trust
Reasons for not creating and maintaining even a modest web site about one’s practice typically include phrases like “we don’t need one” or “I don’t have time,” and seem to focus only on what’s more convenient for the firm as opposed to prospective clients. Even after a referral the next stop for most prospective clients will be online. Referral or not, your web site provides a low-cost method to show your face(s), describe how your practice can help, and provide prospective clients peace of mind that you’ll be a good fit.
2. Web sites work even when you don’t
It’s 11:30 pm and your office hours ended much earlier in the day, but don’t tell that to your web site. It’s still there providing information about you, your attorneys, your practice areas, case history, and more. In fact, it also has a “request information” form so that prospective clients can ask questions or request a consultation.
3. Your competitor already has one
The Yellow Pages has taken a distant back seat to the web, and most consumers will spend at least some time online to research companies before they buy. Even with a referral, not showing up online alongside your competitors could eliminate your firm from further consideration – out of sight, out of mind.
4. Web sites help grow your referral network
That’s right, you can use your web site to build an even better referral network. Your web site provides an easy, low-risk avenue for others to suggest a visit for further consideration. What’s more, with increased requests for information your ability to identify and select the best fitting clients will improve.
That’s probably too broad a stroke, but in this case, I’m talking about software and SaaS (Software as a Service). Hey, some companies don’t have Apple’s fiscal and human resources to make things “perfect.” Besides, perfect isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be (I love Seth Godin’s take on this one: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/06/how-do-you-know-when-its-done.html).
Sometimes just getting to your end-game, however “ugly” the experience, makes you the winner while everyone else is waiting for beautiful design, a perfect interface, and to be all things to all people.
Ugly but functional beats out beautiful and in-development. Stop waiting, and go be ugly.