Diamond Certified Tips for Business Owners: Best of 2012

by jim-stein@att.net

We published a lot of business tips in 2012 that covered a wide variety of topics, but here are the 10 we think are most important for ensuring your company’s success in 2013.

1. Restoring faith
If you notice your customers can’t say what they want but definitely don’t want anything you’ve suggested, it’s time to restore the team. Focus solely on the decision-making rationale they find meaningful without judging them. Brainstorm an idea and tell them they’re free to respond in one of three ways: acceptance, acceptance with conditions (list the conditions), or rejection of the product or proposal along with the documented and measurable criterion used to reject this option. Structure can help bring forward underlying values and yield something constructive to work with.

2. Avoiding indecision
If a reasonable and logical proposal gets rejected, that means it’s not appealing to the customer on another level. Try tuning in to the customer’s impressions. You might say, “I notice you’re having difficulty switching gears. Overall, is this still something you want?” Or, “Is there something you’ve seen or heard about that feels more appealing to you at this point?” Or, conversely, “What about this plan doesn’t appeal to you right now?”

3. Pushing for real needs
Take notes as you ask a lot of questions to determine your potential customer’s wants. With each response, ask, “Why do you want that?” Then, verbally summarize their responses and gain confirmation on both their stated wants and their reasons. Your customer will be more willing to buy in to your recommendations if she feels you fully heard and understood her reasons behind her stated desires. Although it takes extra time to educate a customer and merge their wants with newly learned needs, it leads to a more satisfied customer and it’s the right thing to do.

4. Meeting expectations
Based on your company’s branding, marketing and specific customer communications, how do your customers expect to be treated and what do they expect to receive in quality and turn-time of your service? After identifying your customers’ primary expectations, begin to detail specific areas where your company isn’t meeting normal expectations. Look at all your marketing, staff communications and delivery of operations. For example, is there a part of your contract that’s often misinterpreted or missed? Are turn-time estimates perceived to be inaccurate too often? Is there someone in your company who tends to return calls in three or four days when customers expect one or two days?

5. “The good surprise”
Instead of telling each customer everything your company will do for them prior to service, don’t mention one point. Instead, bring this into the service process as your team’s “good surprise.” Do it with every customer, every time. Get your team to understand why you’re doing it this way. Exceed expectations! Not only will you delight customers, but these super-satisfied customers are much more likely to stay loyal to your company and refer it to friends and family.

6. The customer as a main character
When you talk about your company, remember that most people relate best to stories about themselves and people they know. Capture your prospective customers’ imaginations and their hearts and loyalty will follow. Instead of saying, “Here’s a drawing of what we’re proposing to do to your landscape,” ask questions about the person’s experiences—you might help her remember a relevant story or construct a story based on your service’s future use involving people she cares about.

7. The value of a good website
Staying on top of Google’s latest changes will help you understand what you should be doing on your site. Google values real content and rewards sites that deliver informative articles written by real people. If you want your site to succeed in search results, create valuable content that consumers actually want to read. Build your site for people, not search engine robots. It’s a simple approach, but it works.

8. Building a strong brand
Brand development is the most misunderstood marketing concept for local companies. Most owners think of the next sale, not their brand. Brand building is essential to locking in customer loyalty and referrals and increasing sales at quality pricing levels. How would you like your brand to grow in your local market in the next 10 years? Grow your brand’s meaning and awareness and you’ll increase the future value of your company.

9. Promoting growth
Your company won’t grow unless your employees want it to grow. Create an environment for growth by emphasizing communication. Present clear reporting on key company growth numbers to all staff on a regular basis. Then, hold monthly brainstorming sessions and collect ideas about how to achieve growth. Pick one idea and get everyone behind it.

10. Helping women customers nurture their powerful relationships
Women are naturally keener on analyzing relationships. Your company’s relationships with its women customers are nurtured over time, which means the longer and better the relationships, the more women feel it’s risky to buy from your competitors. Because of the investments in relationships and knowledge you have of your customers’ preferences, you’ve built up high switching costs and created greater customer retention.