Be Persistent

Refreshing...

Refreshing...

Today, according to predictions, we will hit 112 degrees in Mesa, Arizona. The AC units are running, the kids are out of school, and the streets look like a ghost town. "Winter" is officially here. (you know that time when everyone stays indoors because of inclement weather?)

At this time of year the word "refreshing" is particularly meaningful. Whether it is a tall cool glass of lemonade or dip in a cool pool. Both bring relief from the ongoing stress of the heat.

It occurred to me recently that some people are "refreshing" as well. Just like the lemonade, they bring relief from the ongoing stress of making a business work.

These are people that just "get it". You know the ones? They seem to know what you know and you find yourself talking excitedly together and sharing ideas and experiences and just enjoying the conversation.

That's what happened when I met Adam Toren. We got together to discuss Promoterz, our online service that helps businesses give a megaphone to their happy customers, become aware of unhappy customers, and increase the happiness of all customers. As we talked it was as if we were partners working out how to help other businesses succeed. Turns out that is what Adam does.

Adam and his brother Matthew are serial entrepreneurs. Among the impressive list of their ventures is a website, YoungEntrepreneur.com. They initially created this site to help youth become entrepreneurs but over the years it has become more to mean those that are young or new at being an entrepreneur.

The site has tens of thousands of members actively participating in its forums (http://www.youngentrepreneur.com). They also have a "refreshing" blog (http://www.youngentrepreneur.com/blog) as well.

If you are a business owner sometimes what you need, besides more hours in every day, is just to be "refreshed" as you read of others shared experiences. Others who "get it". I guess it is a sort of therapy.

I enjoyed their "10 Mistakes People Make When Starting A Business" and an interview with an Ebay founder on persuing your passion. As you read you find yourself saying, yep, I remember how I learned that. But you also get reminded of things you might want to revisit and you feel more committed to succeeding.

In the end, just as you are refreshed and ready to go as you finish the last of the deliciously tart and cold lemonade, you will have some good ideas and the courage to succeed in this thing we call business.

Promoterz is the hands-free, word-of-mouth marketing service that takes care of the details so you can focus on business. Learn more

The Starbucks Online Coupon Fiasco--Venti Size

The Starbucks Online Coupon Fiasco--Venti Size

Just about everybody with a blog commented on Starbuck's recent problems with online coupons. You can read the story here . John from Brand Autopsy asserts they never would have done something that dumb in his day (used to work there) and recommends more limited expiration dates. Seth has some additional principles for avoiding such issues. Countless others also weighed in on how it could have been avoided and what Starbuck's should do now that it has happened. All good stuff, but I hope the baby (online coupons) doesn't get thrown out with the bath water.

In a nutshell, Starbucks created an online coupon with about a thirty day expiration date for a free iced coffee drink. They gave the coupon to a few employees in select areas and expected it to stay limited. It didn't. It took off like wildfire thanks to the internet and they ended up posting signs in their stores saying "regretfully" they would no longer be valid at any Starbuck locations.

In my mind, the real story is not that online coupons don't work, but quite the opposite: online coupons work well--in this case too well. Remember the old days when you had to pay to get coupons printed in a newspaper or to hand out. You had to pay for every one! Not so on the internet. They multiply without costing you a dime. Isn't that just what you want to have happen? It should be. So the lesson is this: make sure that any offer you put on an online coupon is something that you would be happy to see proliferate. Tools to do that? Limit the expiration date, make it a "buy something to get something" offer, give away something with no hard costs. Have other ideas for creating coupons you're happy to see proliferate? Post them here.

If you are not regularly staying in touch with your customers someone else will. How do you stay in touch? Learn more

Bringing the Diners Back

Bringing the Diners Back

Restaurant Hospitality recently listed some of the tactics that big casual dining chains are employing to try to lure diners back to their restaurants after suffering a poor 3rd quarter showing. Consensus seems to be that same store sales have slowed down due to economic conditions, an increase in the number of casual dining restaurants and a shift of consumers to a relatively new category of food service called fast casual. Fast casual is quicker than full sit down service and higher quality than basic fast food. Big chain solutions?

Reduce Prices--Applebee's has got a dinner combo including dessert for $9.99, TGI Friday's has got appetizers discounted up to 50%, Cheesecake factory has reduced portion and prices significantly on lunches, and Outback has reduced steaks by $1.

New Menu Items--Applebee's is going to try out star power by teaming with Tyler Florence from Food Network, 23 new items on TGI Friday's menu, and Cheesecake factory has 16 new items on the menu.

Seems like nothing more than the obvious to me. Any time sales go the wrong direction the knee-jerk reaction is to reduce prices and add features. Eventually that strategy is not going work. Great news for those of us that aren't big chains, but it is going to take some effort. The Restaurant Hospitality article notes:


you may have to fight to keep the business you've got, but it's still there to be gotten.

So how do you fight? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Get in touch with your customers. Walking around asking them how their meal was is great, but what happens when they walk out the door? Do you have a way to stay in touch with them? Start gathering email addresses and stay in touch regularly with your loyal clientele.
  2. Ask your customers for feedback. Hopefully you didn't wait till sales dropped to realize that your customers want a high quality food faster. Is there someway you can meet that need for them? What else do your customers want? You should be closer to your customers than the big guys and able to move faster.
  3. Get your word-of-mouth on! The best way to "fight" for more business is to develop a force of loyal customers that are actively telling their friends and associates what a great restaurant you run. Don't leave it to chance, get a program in place that makes it easy for your customers to spread the word.

Word of mouth fills seats, now is the time to get started.

Get customer feedback, generate referrals, and increase repeat sales for as little as $150 a month. Learn more

The Miracle of the Reservoir

The Miracle of the Reservoir

I grew up in the west and now live in Arizona. There is a simple rule for growing things out here (this rule applies everywhere but is more obvious in the arid west): if it doesn't get water it doesn't grow. Early settlers fought their neighbors over water rights knowing that land without water wasn't worth a plugged nickel. In addition to fighting, they went to work and figured out ways to divert and contain spring runoffs, rainfall and the flow of rivers and creeks to use in dry times. They built dams that created reservoirs then built a network of canals and ditches to get the water to the fields. Wallah! Arid desert became fertile farmlands. Fly over the west today and the benefits of the reservoir and resulting irrigation are obvious in the green irrigation circles that dot the land.

Now think about your marketing and advertising efforts. Paying for advertising can feel like paying somebody to do a rain dance--you're not at all sure what you are going to get. But sometimes there is no choice. So you pay and with some luck some new customers fall from the sky. With a lot of luck maybe a lot of customers fall from the sky. Then comes the moment of truth: do the customers run off like a flash flood leaving only a little green in their path? Or have you built a customer reservoir that they peacefully flow into to be tapped again and again ensuring green for many years to come?

How do you build a customer reservoir? First let's be clear, the reservoir metaphor only goes so far. While it is possible to build a dam to trap water, trying to trap customers is a recipe for disaster. Your goal is not to trap but to create something customers want to be, and remain, a part of. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be remarkable-Find out what is most important to your customers and then be absolutely amazing at it.

  2. Be inviting-Identify your customers and invite them to be part of something great. Make it easy for them to join.

  3. Be persistent-Make the effort to stay in touch regularly, if you don't someone else will.

  4. Be contagious-Make it easy for your customers to tell their friends about your business.

  5. Be attentive-Ask your customers what they think, listen to what they have to say, and continue to make your business even more remarkable.

The early western settlers learned quickly that without reservoirs they couldn't survive. The same is true of business today, rain dances alone aren't sufficient.

The Happiest customers tell on average 8 other people. Who are your happiest customers? Promoterz knows. Learn more

The Power of Staying in Touch

The Power of Staying in Touch

In the cluttered marketplace we compete in, I don't think the power (and necessity) of staying in touch can be overemphasized. I learned the lesson again last week--thankfully in a good way. It had been a while since I had heard from one of our clients at PromoterZ and so I sent him an email and invited him to go to lunch. We had a nice chat, I asked for feedback on our service and he had a few suggestions (I'm happy to note that we followed through on them). I ran a new idea we're working on past him. He liked the idea and agreed to let us test it with his customers. Then he mentioned that their franchising operation is taking off (looking for a good franchise opportunity? Check out Entrees Made Easy) and there might be an opportunity for me to tell some of their new franchisees about PromoterZ. Turns out the timing was perfect, and I'm scheduled to present to some of their new franchisees next week on how to turn customers into promoters.

So what did I get for my $30? Our product, PromoterZ, is now better thanks to his feedback, we have a place to test our new concept (more on that in future posts), and I have the opportunity to tell new franchise owners how much PromoterZ has helped Entrees Made Easy. Where else could I have got that kind of return on my money? Thanks Brandon!

They say it costs 5 to 10 times more to sell to new customers than it does to sell more to current customers, and yet what percent of our effort is spent looking for new customers vs. pleasing and staying in touch with our current customers? I was able to take Brandon to lunch, but that is not always geographically possible. A phone call works great. It can be as simple as, "how are things going?" Use technology where you can. Without exception, each time we send out our newsletter we get one or two phone calls from customers--they had been meaning to call but never got around to it until the newsletter arrived in their inbox. Here are a few other ideas:

• Send 1st timer customers a special thank you
• Send birthday greetings
• Send a newsletter
• Send Holiday greetings (Did you know today is Chocolate Eclair Day?)
• Send thank you notes

Finding new customers is tough and expensive. Once you've got a customer, hold on to them by staying in touch. I can guarantee you if you don't, somebody else will.

Unhappy customers tell on average 22 other people. If you ticket price is $50 that is $1100 in revenue. How would you like to know before they tell 22 others? Learn more
Syndicate content

Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

Blogroll