On Being Original

I listened to another podcast this morning that was pushing the “Be Yourself” theme song. For those interested it was Vernon Ross interviewing Fabienne Raphael. Thanks Vernon! And I couldn’t agree more. From attracting your ideal clients to producing unique graphics — and of course the big daddy: Creating Original Content — the marketing horizon is all about keeping it real (as it were). So how do you do that?

Well one way to get started is with Canva. Original art is easier than you might think when you consider photography. I shoot trees, sand, the ocean, chickens, what have you, just to provide me with the backdrops for quotes and content. I like quoting smart interesting people from history or literature and blend these with current positive thinking type quotes. If your style is more cutting edge then find or create that. I have a client who’s brand includes being a Christian so we create original graphics using bible verses.

We (my team) use Canva for Work so that we can easily share the products with each other, make changes readily, and publish the graphics in minutes. The app has several new features (like add your own fonts) that we are working on and hope to take advantage of soon. I definitely recommend Canva.com to anyone handling the social media marketing for their company. Oh, and of course, I recommend Vernon Ross and his The Social Strategy Podcast.


Bad Customer Service (not Zappos)

B tonyI experienced really terrible customer service (not from Zappos of course – those folks are golden!) the other day while purchasing candle making supplies and thought this might be a teaching moment. Customer service employees are often underpaid and perhaps disgruntled — making them down right dangerous to your business!

This was an online chat situation. I had a good bit of soap making supplies in my cart but needed help with candle making.  I told the person (Tiffany) that I was new to candle making and didn’t understand the designations for wicks. She sent me a chart/graphic that did not match up to the names/designations on the order page. So I asked her again to specifically explain what they meant. (I later surmised that one was in MM and the other in Inches but that is neither here nor there). She responded “kindly refer to the chart I sent to you”. Really? I instead rolled my eyes, closed the chat window and proceeded to another candle and soap making store. If her boss knew that a new customer — an entrepreneurial type customer who already has an outlet to put soap on shelves mind you — had just slipped through their fingers I’m sure they would not be happy.

As a marketer I am particularly offended by poor customer service. Companies spend money marketing and advertising their products —  just to have the customer turned away as it were by snotty responses from their live chat team. Ridiculous! Some funds should be budgeted for TRAINING of both customer service and reception. Good folks in those two areas of your company are gold.

Getting Video Right

By the title, you’d think I was going to give you the secret to great video but I’m afraid I don’t really have that. And if I did, I bet it would be more than any of us really want to spend: time wise or cash wise. With these little Facebook videos I really believe that good enough really is.

So, when I say “getting video right” this is what I mean. “Right” for now means fast, to the point, visually entertaining and posted! Getting pretty good video out there now is much more important than posting a great video 3 weeks, or God forbid, 6 months from now. Bird in the hand for sure. Right now Facebook is sharing video uploaded using the Facebook tool (instead of youtube) better than static posts. How long will that be true? Who knows? I’m no fortune teller.  All we can do is take advantage of that fact for as long as it lasts. Ride the wave as it were. The video posted above performed 646% better than the average posts for Market on Wylie. Why? Uh . . . luck? Sometimes a video gets rolled to the right folks and a large percentage of them like it and comment. That is, of course, the magic diamond sauce for getting Facebook to kick up the sharing. The video itself is ok. Produced on my iPhone 5s with iMovie; it is short (right under 30 seconds), it moves around (static camera shots get old fast) and the text is not overwhelming and easy to grasp quickly.

And please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I won’t be trying to improve my video production value – I think trying to get better at what I do is always on my mind. I just don’t let the lack of perfect lighting or voice over stop me from uploading a video. It probably will not come as a surprise that “No one will notice on a galloping horse” is one of my favorite sayings!

Last week I created a wacky movie trailer — just for fun mind you — and uploaded it to my personal Facebook account. Some of my friends on Facebook are also business associates and colleagues. I do believe in total transparency; so any client or customer can be friends with me on Facebook.

Here is the crazy part. About 18 hours after posting my Night of the Chicken video I ran into one of those friend/biz associates and he asked me how much I would charge to create a video like that for his business. Boom! That was a surprise. It really opened my eyes to the fact that I haven’t been leading with one of my strengths — my fearless nutty sense of humor. I think I water it down a bit to make it more palatable to the general public. But is that how I will find my ideal clients? Probably not. Be yourself. That is what Kim Garst says! And I definitely follow her.

So here it is. My sales and marketing masterpiece. Cluck?

Problem solving. I was listening to a podcast this morning on the James Altucher show — it was about youtube videos – but in conversation they hit on the problem solving mindset for entrepreneurs.

Solve a problem for yourself and for others — and you have a business.

Interesting! So I started breaking down problems and solutions: people are hungry (restaurant), my clothes are dirty (dry cleaners), I don’t know how to blog (how-to book on blogging), etc. Then I took it to me: businesses need ideal and loyal customers (marketer with strategies that corral all their media – website, social media, print collateral). Wow! I think sometimes I get stuck in the mire of things that I do that I lose focus of that basic premise. Pretty sure I’m not the only one that gets lost — maybe (thinking out loud here) if we set our problem solving premise down on paper? Hang it over your desk? It just seems to me that a clarifying statement would lead me back out of the forest of creative chaos I sometime get to meandering in and get me back on track.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to name the problem that you solve. It is a great feeling!

Working a Chamber of Commerce Event

lwt summer coverAbout two weeks ago I was in a sales meeting where a colleague was giving a short presentation. It was a list of things to do and not to do to increase your sales as an account executive. One of the things she listed was “Don’t attend Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours events as everyone knows you don’t get any leads from them”. I was annoyed by this but not that surprised. Networking in this environment takes patience, commitment and the long view – and it is important to know that going in.

Networking at Chamber events is all about what you can do for them. The first time or two you will just be meeting some folks, asking questions and hearing about what they do. This is the correct first step. (A bonus step would be to volunteer to help clean up afterward so you can meet some other Chamber volunteers).

By your third event you should be ready to start introducing some of the people you have met to each other. “Hey Sally. Do you know Tom? His son also plays high school football” for example. Now you are on your way to being seen as an asset. (Bonus step: find out ahead of time if there are any new members and seek them out – so that you can introduce them to other attendees).

This will get you on your way and in a few short months you will be the one others want to get introduced to. Get it? Long View!!

Great Read! Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Just read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. Loved it. Read to the very last page (which does not always happen with business books. I’ve recommended it to 3 people already and I’m guessing that number is going to grow! I really appreciate how he structured his story – what happened moves smoothly into why this might matter to you. 5 Stars.B tony

Retail 101: You had me at “hello”

b retailI heard about an experience a friend had just the other day in a local retail shop. When she walked in the shop the employees were chatting to one another around the register. Which is where they remained. They looked up for a moment to say hello then went back to their conversation. Sound familiar?

If you are a shop owner or manager take heed. This could be happening in your shop when you are not around. Or worse! Maybe you are one of the people guarding the register!

Retail customer service should not be an oxymoron.

Training and commitment and pride in your brand should be all you need to get this situation turned around! Start here:

Guarding the Register: a group of employees chatting around the register. Of course when no one is in the store this is a common occurrence. However, the moment a customer walks in the store they should scatter as though one of them just passed gas. This is a rule, not a suggestion.

Greeting the Customer: certainly a “hello” or “welcome” is a good starting point. A good salesperson can evaluate if the person is just looking or actually looking for something. Either way they may not want help right away; but this is not a free ticket back to Chit Chat Land or your chance to go back to stocking product in the back of the store. If a customer has to interrupt a conversation or go on a scouting expedition to find you they will not be pleased.

Which takes us into Working the Floor. Working the Floor is what you do when you have one or more customers in your shop that have said they do not need help right now. Your job is now to look pleasantly busy and delightfully available. Rearrange some merchandise, dust or fold something (depending on your products) within easy speaking distance to the customer. Now:Engage the customer! If they are looking at or pick up something that you know something about then chime in! “Oh, I gave my mom that scarf for her birthday. She wears it all the time” or maybe “I had that bottle of wine 2 nights ago with a pizza – it was perfect! It is on my go to list”. Now shut up. Let the customer talk. See, they don’t really want to hear you rattle on and on. They just want some knowledgeable attention and friendly help

Training your retail employees is essential and should really include refreshers and weekly call-outs when you see it being done right. Your internal shop branding tag should include “and knowledgeable, friendly, over the top charming customer service” after your claim to fame “Best Scarf Selection in the city” for example.

Get started with your employees today and reap the benefits of increased sales and loyal customers!

4 No-Cost Ways to Keep Employees Happier

We all know employee turnover costs money. So keeping good employees should be more than a goal – it should be a cornerstone of your workplace culture. Keep in mind, however, it is important to note the word “good” in that last sentence …

Tip 1 – Job Description

Your employees should have a thorough job description by which you and they can judge their performance. If you don’t have it already written then ask the employee to write it for you so that the two of you can go over it. Your employee will feel much more secure (a good thing) and you can address anything that is not being accomplished in a non-threatening scenario. HINT: This is also a great opportunity for the employee to list things they would be interested in doing. We all like to utilize our talents!

Tip 2 – Check your Org Chart

Your employees should have one person they report to directly: one person who decides ultimate priorities. The “too many chiefs” syndrome – being given high priority tasks by multiple people – is extremely frustrating and simply not acceptable. First you get tears; then they start calling in sick. Many of us have helplessly seen this play out. Watch for it.

Tip 3 –  Smiles Everyone, Smiles

No, I don’t mean to look like a nut. However, your mood can greatly influence your employees performance. Think about it: you might just be fretting over last nights football game but they could see it as worry (over the company) or dissatisfaction (of them). And you being either makes them very worried. So instead of working wholeheartedly, they are worrying. Get it?

Tip 4 – Chuck the worm in your apple

This might be an odd tip. But, get rid of the negative Nelly in your midst. They are harming your bottom line every day by distracting good employees with their “no win” talk about the economy, the government, kids today, your industry, their husband; anything they can complain about. Allowing them to daily poison your workplace is a foolish, costly mistake.

Embrace the power of cheery! Keep those employees happy and productive!


No Chance to Advance? Think Sideways!

In many small office situations there simply is no next rung on the ladder. This can create a stale work environment; and lead to a good employee getting a “wandering eye”. The thing to do is think sideways!

I know that more work sounds like the last thing any employee would want but the truth is more responsibility, more ownership, more creative latitude could be just what the business coach ordered!

Everyone likes to use their talents and skills. So your job, as the boss, is to find a niche that fits. Bring them in on annual planning. Give them some ownership in merchandising. Ask for their input on customer service. Appreciation and work fulfillment are strong anchors. Engaging your employee’s creative side will make them much more likely to stick with you and not look elsewhere.

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