Tag Archives: customers

The Importance of the YMCA History

One of the biggest assets any business has is the history of your business.  History creates a foundation for being able to support an organization whether it be through purchasing, partnership, support, or loyalty.  Many organizations train new employees using the history of the firm during their orientation process. This provides a foundation and understanding of where the company came from and what they are fighting/working for.  The United States Marine Corps uses its great history to teach it’s recruits during basic training.  Do you think Marines are proud to be Marines and loyal to their “company”?

We are taught our country’s great history in school growing up and most of us develop a loyalty and allegiance to the United States of America.  Why?  Why does that happen?  It happens because we connect to the success stories and people that have made our country great and we develop a loyalty and passion for defending and part of our great nation.  So let’s take that same idea and principle into our companies and get more energy from the employee’s and more brand loyalty from our customers.  The YMCA has one of the most impressive history’s of any organizations or company we have ever herd of…

The YMCA is a non-profit with a vast history.  How many organizations do you know that invented basketball and volleyball.  Pioneered Camping, Public Libraries, Night Schools, and Teaching English as a Second Language?  YMCA introduced the worlds first indoor swimming pool and group swim lessons.

The YMCA’s have provided the proper environment for ideas and organizations to be born:  The Boys Scouts of America, Camp Fire Girls, the Negro National Baseball League, Toastmasters, Hallmark Cards, Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and Father’s Day.

The YMCA has help build our country and have been visited by many U.S. Presidents.  The majority of employees, members and community members probably do not know about all the great things the YMCA has done.   Do you think it is worth it to tell people about the YMCA History?  Marketing the History?…

….We do.  History builds foundation and loyalty.  The organization is a non-profit and many people may need to be reminded about what the YMCA stands for.  The YMCA is more than just a fitness center, BUT do your members and communities know that?

How to Build Customer Loyalty

One of the biggest assets you have is the history of your business.  History creates a foundation for being able to support a company whether it be through purchasing, partnership, support, or loyalty.  Many corporations train new employees the history of the firm during their orientation process, so that they gain an understanding of where the company came from and what they are fighting/working for.

We are taught our great country’s history in school growing up and most of us develop a loyalty and allegiance to the United States of America.  Why?  Why does that happen?  It happens because we connect to the success stories and people who have made our country great and we develop a loyalty and passion for defending and part of our great nation.  So let’s take that same idea and principle into our companies and get more energy from the employee’s and more brand loyalty from our customers.

People like to work and stay busy, but they do not like to work jobs they feel do not contribute.  What if an employee was doing a small job that they thought was pointless, yet played a critical role in the businesses success?  Shouldn’t the employee know that?  It all starts with teaching employees the history of the business and where it came from and only then can you generate passion for support and true initiative, and link it to an individuals job.

Coke, MacDonald’s, JP Morgan, GE, and many other organizations have deep-rooted history in our country and because of that they have maintained success.  These are brands that have “grown up” with our country and have a vivid history of involvement with growth, innovation and job production.  But you however, may only have a start-up or a business that has been around for 5 years…so what!  You still have a story to tell.  Your story is what connects people to take an interest in your business.  The more foundation you can build the bigger building you can construct on it, so remember that if you want to build a huge international business you may want to look at sharing your background, success and history with as many people as possible to build the biggest foundation possible.

Start with your employees.  Sit them down and have a history night that leads into the day they got hired.  Make sure your history is part of your new employee training.  Look at The United States Marine Corps…the first part of their boot camp training is one week of Marine Corps history.  Ever wonder why the Marines are the best of the military?  Because they are honored to say “I am a US Marine” because they know the men and women that came before them and what the value of being a Marine truly is.

What is the value of being an employee or customer to your business?

The Pain of the Business Owner…

The Small Business Owner: Time For A Change

The Appeal: Work for yourself, and you’re automatically the CEO. You get to make all the decisions, set your own hours, and keep all the profits. And you’re inspired by the stories of other entrepreneurs who became wealthy.

The Reality: Most new businesses fold within a few years. There are good reasons. For one thing, running a small business requires you to be good at many jobs: salesperson, buyer, accountant, marketer, operations manager, even janitor. Few people can do it all.”

Marty Nemko: US News and World Report

Small business owner’s need real help; not some lofty-sounding, theoretical business model, a brand new pinstriped suit, and a warm smile.  In every bookstore and library across the globe, there are entire sections devoted to the analysis of small business progression and digression.  Each book implies the same message just as strongly as the next: viable success.  There is no doubt that most of these works are extremely valuable, providing information and advice on small business issues that have yet to be solved.

But, as clearly illustrated by the following statistics, there is still something missing. According to the following table, of the 649, 700 new firms in 2006, a shocking 564,900 failed. This statistic indicates a failure rate of over 86 percent.

Interestingly enough,  two-thirds of new businesses survive at least two years, while only 44 percent survive another two years. So what is the problem here? In order to fully understand the issues that these numbers represent, we must dig deeper into the mind of the small business owner.

In the Staples Small Business Survey, the catalysts lurking deep within these statistics were revealed. Data suggests that over “98 percent of U.S. small business owners and managers are working during their time off, including nights, weekends, and vacations—and nearly 54 percent expect to work even harder in the following year.” Slightly more than 38 percent cannot remember the last time they took a vacation. But why? According to the survey, the two most influential factors in the downfall of any small business were organization and teamwork. Fortunately, the very essence of The Octopus Solution is based upon creating and perpetually improving these components.

Without a solid framework for these systems, there is only one inevitable end: chaos and subsequent failure. In fact, when asked to compare their businesses to a track and field event at the Olympics, a mere “14 percent said their business operates like a relay race, with everybody working in tandem toward the same goal, whereas 26 percent think of business operations as a 100-meter dash, always sprinting and trying to do everything quickly.” In addition to this nightmare, if given a choice, nearly 52 percent said they would accept comparable business results  if they could have twice as much free time, while 48 percent said they would work more hours if they could double their company’s sales.

In the end, if all of the other small business books really worked, these statistics would be different. Unfortunately, there is not one small business book available at this moment that offers a precise, step-by-step solution to structuring, controlling, and growing a small business. While some competitors hint at a process for managing a small business, all of them ultimately rely on theoretical models and scattered pieces of “insider” advice that are virtually impossible to implement due to their intangible nature.

Instead, we offer you a step-by-step process for maximizing efficiency and production. The results of having a well-organized, systematic small business are for you to realize and luckily enough we have been given the opportunity to help you in manifesting these successes.

The Octopus Solution provides a performance based management system based on the detailed implementation of several principles. Each employee will come into work every day knowing exactly what needs to be done, leaving the small business owner time to focus on growth and expansion, and eventually, the onset of remote management. With the implementation of these detailed processes, failure will no longer be an option.

“People acquire small businesses in many ways, but all are faced with one common challenge: taking charge of everything involved in running a business.” – This Life Advice® material about Running a Small Business was produced by the MetLife Consumer Education Center.

You don’t have to run around anymore.

Change your business. Now.

Competition is a Great Thing

Competition keeps the customer happy because they receive the best price, product and service when businesses fight for them.  It also forces individual companies to not remain complacent.  We have worked with many companies that look and feel the same as their competitors and they have taken no steps to differentiate themselves.  Not only that but they do not even know what the competition is doing!

If you ignore the competitive landscape you do so at your demise.  Look at competition as a  great tool to keep you energize and constantly looking at your business and how to improve it.  We all have a competitive nature and applying a good context will give you the momentum to be a better player in the game.

Here are a few things we have our clients look at when analyzing the competition:

  • Competitors Website
  • Branding – new or old, are they spending money on marketing
  • Pricing – are they trying to capture the low, mid, or high level of the market
  • What type of customers do they serve and how are they going after them
  • Where do they do business and how saturated is the market they are playing in
  • Who is running the company and what is he or she like
  • Does your company go after the same type of customers
  • What is their message to customers and how does your business differentiate
  • What is the size of their business compared to yours
  • Who are their suppliers
  • Are their products or services different then yours

These are a just a few of the things to look at.  Remember keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.  Sometimes competition leads to mergers and acquisitions.  You need information to make decisions and not having it is a breech of your duties to your employees, stake-holders and yourself.  Pay attention to the competition and be creative.  Being creative will allow you to think outside the box to deal with what to do and how to do it.  If you have any good stories of competing for business please share them with us!

What is your Brand saying?

So many people talk about branding, but what is it and who are you?

Branding – definition by the American Marketing Association:   A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

Image– definition by the American Marketing Association: The consumer perception of a product, institution, brand, business, or person that may or may not corre-spond with “reality” or “actuality.” For marketing purposes the “image of what is” may be more important than “what actually is.”

With complete clarity, does your brand & image line up with your communications, customer perception and values?  Well let’s take the discussion back to how you form a relationship with someone.  We meet many people throughout our lives and starting a relationship (dating, friend, etc) is just about taking the initial steps to get to know someone to discover if you relate to them and wish to continue the relationship.  You may spend 6 months with a colleague at the office and at one point you have “really” got to know that person and you conclude that they are not who you thought they were when you first met.  Happens all the time.  The point is that when you start marketing you must communicate consistently.  So your image today can’t be drastically different then your image tomorrow.  In friendship we call that having “multiple personality disorder”.

So what if a business is having difficulty with who they are?  Maybe they have new management, recently acquired other companies, or what ever the case may be, it is critical to any marketing success that a business know who they are and what they deliver and to whom.  Without knowing who you are and what you want to be, there will be major disconnect with your brand and image in the eyes of the customer.  So back up and get the high level strategy worked out first before sporadically marketing an inconsistent business.  If you have confusion, your customers most likely do too.  Consistency in your communication builds the foundation of trust and security with customers.

If you are having trouble determining who you are, the people that can help you are your customers.  Survey them and get the real answers!

The Bear Hug Strategy

Did you ever have a strange dog come up to you and act like your best friend instantly?  There is nothing wrong with wanting to bear hug your customers or have them want to bear hug you!  If your clients do not feel a strong connection to you then why would they stay with you when  competitors try to silicate them?

The Bear Hug Strategy is about developing a solid relationship with your customers.  People want to be in relationship with other people and want to feel that bond of trust, commitment and loyalty.  Do you care more about the customer or their wallet?

So how can you Bear Hug more clients?  Simple, you need to look at both your sales and marketing strategies at the high level and see where they can be changed from a process standpoint to allow you to develop relationships.  In previous blogs we called this dating your customers.  It takes time to build a marriage.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to go from 1st date to marriage in one meeting and one night stands don’t work.  So think of the steps and commitment involved in developing relationships and now take that same process and apply it to your sales strategy and marketing messaging and brand.

As you become a relationship driven company and not a transactional one you will find that customer loyalty increases and maybe you become lucky enough to experience a Bear Hug from some of your customers!  You want Bear Hugs!

The 5 Step Rule to Making Sales

“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” – Estee Lauder

What is the top line of your P&L Statement?  Sales, right?  Well the economy is doing terrible and competition is fierce and selling is more important then ever.  It seems we have steered away from sales being as important as marketing.  In fact I would say sales is more important than marketing, just less sexy.

Yesterday we pitched a big deal to a potential client that we are eager to work with and in our discussion we talked about the difference between sales and marketing and how they too often get lumped under the heading of marketing.  That’s wrong.  Marketing is responsible for research, branding, advertising, communications, and many other specific types of campaigns, but all those have the purpose of driving a potential customer to your door step.  Once they are at your door step it is the responsibility of sales to close them.

Selling is not about being a used car salesmen…they are a full of BS.  It is not about marketing, advertising or fancy slogans.  It is about believing in your company and products and service and presenting them passionately to a potential buyer with their best interests in mind.

Here is our sales process and you can adapt it for your business:

  1. Generate leads – there are thousands of tools out there to find customers or business names to call.  Be creative about how you find them, it is not hard, just time consuming (they may come from marketing).  We have an amazing intern; intern Mike, that helps us with all the grunt work of generating leads.  Organize all the leads in a customer database like ZoHo CRM, SalesForce.com, Act! or even Quickbooks.  Right now we are reaching out to 3 different not-for-profits across New England to offer our services and the next steps will tell you how we are doing it.
  2. Send a big package – I get about 20-30 pieces of mail per day at my office and most are sales offer crap.  We are sending a sales offer too, but you need it to not fall in the “crap bucket”.  After putting the leads together you  send them something in the mail.  Play with the types of mailers you send so that you can customize them to find the sweet spot.  We send: a cover letter talking about our successes, news articles about our company helping other companies, detailed information about the projects we have done, and a document that helps the reader in some way.  We may send them a “how to make money from Social Media” included in the package or many other articles we have written.  This helps our big package stay out of that “crap bucket” and adds value to the reader.  Now the goal of your mailer is to soften the potential client to get them to take a phone call with you and have a starting point for discussion.
  3. Pick up the phone – Making calls to the people you have sent a mailer to is the next step in the process and the objective of making the calls are to schedule appointments.  It is hard to close a potential customer on the phone, if you can do it great, but it is more effective to establish a relationship in person (Go back to our blog on dating your customers for more insight there). Before you pick up the phone you MUST be prepared!   Being prepared means having a call script, a voicemail script and having practiced it out load (preferably to a tape recorder) before any call is made.  If you get a person on the phone the first 2-4 sentence out of your mouth are the most important.  You need to start off on the right foot and get them interested in talking with you.  Leave a voicemail every time you call if you can not get through.  You want them to have enough interest to schedule a meeting with you.  If you keep leaving voice mail (LVM) they will, here is your schedule: Call Day One and LVM, Day 3 LVM, One week later LVM, Two weeks later LVM, then get them on a once a Month LV schedule.  The objective with this is to have a schedule that is respectful, but gets them to take the call either to say “never call me again” or “you have been persistent, lets meet”.
  4. Shake their hand – The meeting is when a potential client gets to size you up and vice-versa.  You want to build repore with the people you meet because people buy from people they like.  Do not ask for a sale if you have not created a foundation of respect.  The client must feel that you are trust-worthy and capable and once that occurs you can ask for the sale.  Closing the deal does not always happen on meeting one, in fact it may take a long time depending on your sales cycle.  But if you are truly interested in building a relationship with the client (and they can sense it too), then you will stay with them and help them succeed.  Always remember that your gut will tell you when to ask for the sale.  You have to be aggressive, knowledgable and respectful all in one.  Once a deal does close and you deliver you must manage the relationship.
  5. Repeat Customers – Service your customers well and take care of them and they will take care of you.  Find a balance between going after new business and servicing existing because it will make a world of difference regarding how hard you have to work.  We have said this many times before; repeat customers cost 5-10 times less to retain then acquiring new one and will spend on average 67% more.  Enough said.  Use step one and the customer database to help you manage staying in contact with your customers on a timely basis.

That is what we do for our sales process.  Get leads, mail a letter, make a phone call, meet the client, close the deal, and stay in contact to service them.  If you want to survive look more towards rethinking how all the employees in your company can contribute to the sales process and hit the ground.  Sitting back and relying on marketing (an important piece) will not solve your income problems.  Sales Will!  Get after it!