Monthly Archives: January 2013

Who’s talking about you behind your back?

‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’

Oscar Wilde

So what do you do to get your customers (or your team, suppliers or joint venture partners) talking about you?

There’s nothing like a glowing review, testimonial or referral to endorse your business. Pick up any research on advertising effectiveness and you’ll see word-of-mouth at the top of the list.  But they won’t say good things about you unless you meet and exceed their expectations.

 

Give people a reason to talk about you

Everyone has an expectation these days for good service. So if you want to get people talking about you and ultimately give you great reviews or referrals, constantly look for ways to go the extra mile to impress your customer and make it really difficult for them not to talk about you.

Do something exceptional. Identify the things that are of perceived high value to your customers but minimal effort or cost to you so you can give added value. Do something to give people a real reason to talk about you. It’s the exceptional and unexpected that gets you noticed, remembered and most importantly brings you repeat or referral business.

It’s certainly the personal touches that can make an average encounter into a truly memorable one.

What is there that makes your offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others? Show your appreciation of their business and well as providing a memento that reinforces your relationship.

Your personal touches might not be pre planned, but as a result of being attentive to your customers’ needs. Train your staff to listen and be observant to what customers say or are looking for.

Customers love personal recommendations. And they love honesty. If they’re not sure what they want, find out about their needs, tastes, preferences, and tailor your recommendations. Share the ‘insider’s’ view, your personal favourites, what other customers tell you about their experiences or choices. Give your own tips, advice, and suggestions to help them make an informed decision, not the one that will make you the most money!

What is the very last thing that happens at the end of their visit or stay? How genuine is the farewell? How sincere the offer of help if they have problems? Identify the little finishing touches that you can give customers at the end of their visit to leave them with that wow factor.

Don’t be tempted to just copy what your competitors are doing. If you know what’s important to your customers you can start to tailor what you do to meet these needs.

And as you can’t be there all the time, give your team authority to do something spontaneous if they see an opportunity to enhance the customers’ experience.

Whatever your business, reflect on what your customers remember most about their experience with you? What happens in the last few moments of their visit will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression. Leave your customers with that little touch of magic that will stay with them for weeks, months or even years to come. So when someone asks them of THE place to go for that special occasion, fun day out, or indulgent treat it’s you that comes instantly to mind.

 

Create a social media buzz

Once you’re confident that people are saying the right things about you, get some of it in writing, so instead of just telling their friends they tell the world!

I personally still love an old-fashioned guest or visitors book for people to write their comments. But of course these only get seen by you and your other customers so encourage them to get the message further afield. If you’ve had a glowing comment in your visitors’ book, start off by asking if they’d be happy if you use that as a testimonial on your website. (And it adds even more credibility if you can get a photo of them or even a video!)

Then encourage them to get the word out there on social media. TripAdvisor is the obvious place to start, but encourage them to get talking about you on other social media networks which are most suited to your target audience, be that Facebook, twitter, etc. Again even better if they add photos tagged with the name of your business or other key words.

But please make it easy for them. Give them the link to your page rather than leaving them to hunt it down for themselves, because the chances are they won’t.

 

Get referrals

Referrals go one step further and are a great way to build your customer base – if a person comes to you as a result of a referral, you don’t need to go out and find them. The person who made the referral has already experienced what you offer and will do the selling for you.

And, even better, referrals build loyalty with the people who recommend you – they will want to be seen to stand by their referral by continuing to come to you themselves.

But referrals, just like reviews, won’t always happen unless you ask for them.

The obvious people to ask for referrals are your existing customers. Focus on those customers who are your ‘perfect customers’ as the people they refer will be a better match to your preferred type of customer (people generally know and mix with other people like themselves).

Think about other people who know you well enough to recommend you. This might include colleagues, suppliers, your own team and others in your network. This will be easier the better they know you and when they fully understand the extent of everything you offer.

 

Make it easy

If you don’t ask you don’t get.  So ask customers (and others in your network) directly who else they know who may be interested in your promotions or forthcoming events.  The sooner you do this after they have stayed or visited the better. This is the time they are likely to be most positive about what you delivered.

The way you ask for referrals is key. If you ask:

“Do you know anyone who might be interested in receiving details of our promotions?”

you are likely to get  Noor at best  I’ll think about it.”

But if you ask a specific question, for example:

Who else do you know who is celebrating [their birthday, wedding anniversary, retirement …] in the next few months and may be interested in our [all-inclusive weekend breaks, wine promotion…]?”

“What other groups are you connected with who love..[ walking, cycling, floristry, local history….., etc]  and would be interested in our ….[exclusive programs, off season tours….]?”

 

Creating a simple referral form that you include with the bill or at the end of their visit can encourage existing customers to make referrals. Make this prominent, and offer incentives for them to give you names.

Maintain relationships with your customers, even if the likelihood of more business with them personally is limited. They are more likely to refer you to friends, colleagues or others if they have had recent communication from you.

Even if a customer only visits you once, remember, they have a network of friends and colleagues who may also be your ideal customers. The lifetime value of one customer can be their connections to other customers, too.

 

Reward reviews and referrals

If someone gives you a glowing review take the trouble to say thank you. Set up alerts and notifications so you can track what and when people are talking about you.  It demonstrates to others that you appreciate the feedback and don’t just take it for granted.

And if someone gives you a referral as an absolute minimum ensure that you thank them in person. Don’t wait to see if this actually leads to business, as what you are looking to reward is the referral process. The more referrals you have the greater the likelihood of gaining new customers.

Consider what other tangible incentives you might give that are of high value to the person making the referral, but at a low cost to you. Just ensure that the cost of the incentive does not outweigh the value of the referral. The nature of this incentive will obviously depend on where the referral came from, and what they’ll appreciate. Incentives don’t need to be cash; but they might include such things as a gift, an upgrade or bonus with their next visit, an invitation to an event, or an offer unique to your business.

 

Follow up

Once someone has gone to the trouble of giving you a referral the very least you can do is follow it up. Immediately.

Once you have a referral system in place, keep track of where and how you’re getting successful referrals. This will enable you to find out what works and what doesn’t, so you can refine the process.

 

Summary

So remember:

  • What are you doing to deliver exceptional customer service to encourage great reviews and referrals?
  • How do you make it easy for your customers to get the word out there to your perfect customers?
  • What systems do you have in place or need to set up to generate referrals?
  • How will you recognise and reward those who give you reviews and referrals?

Have you written all your thank you letters yet?

As many parents know at this time of year you often have to nag relentlessly to get your children to write their Christmas thank you letters.

But have you been setting the right example? Have you written to everyone who’s given up their time and money to do business with you either over Christmas or over the past year?

I have to confess I’m not a great one for sending Christmas cards to business contacts. Let’s face it, your Christmas card probably gets lost in a sea of other cards leading up to Christmas.

But sending something after Christmas; after the turkey’s being eaten, the tree’s come down and the cards have been binned, sending something of value to your customers is more likely to get to your customers attention and have longevity.

And I’m not talking here about bombarding people purely with a multitude of offers and promotions showing how desperate you are for business during the quieter months of the year. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t tell them about what’s coming up but do it in such a way that makes them feel appreciated.

Say thank you

Send something that shows you appreciate their custom. As a minimum this might be a simple as a broadcast e-mail to everybody on your mailing list, or homing in on those who have booked Christmas or seasonal events with you. Particularly think about those people who have been guests of your existing customers, maybe as part of a party and who have visited you for the first time.

But maybe you want to do a little bit more for your special customers; those that have been your perfect customers and you’d like to see a lot more of (and the chances are they’ll know lots of other people just like themselves, who they might be inclined to tell about you), the organisers of events, anyone who has made referrals that’s brought you extra business over the year, for giving you a glowing testimonial or review, or simply because they put their trust and faith in you to deliver something extraordinary for a special occasion.

A simple personalised thank you note will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by – especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. There’s nothing quite like something sent by good old-fashioned snail mail with a handwritten signature (and not on stuffy, formal business stationery) to get someone’s attention.  Even better, if the whole message is handwritten on a hand-picked greetings card. Try to find a card that reflects something about that particular customer.

Some think in this web based age this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?

Ask for feedback

A follow up thank you is also a great opportunity to get feedback too. Ask them about their experience and whether they’d do business with you again. Did it meet or exceed their expectations? Ask for specifics such as what they enjoyed most and any ideas, comments or suggestions they have to make the experience even better. If they’ve had a good experience prompt them to post feedback on review sites appropriate for your business such as TripAdvisor.  Make it easy for them by providing a link to the review site too. And don’t forget to thank them again when they give you feedback. Even if it’s not all glowing and what you want to hear, wouldn’t you rather know about it so you can put it right?

Rewarding loyalty

You might choose to show your appreciation with something more tangible such as a small gift, an exclusive offer for themselves or a friend, or maybe even relevant and useful information or tips that’s relevant to your business and customers’ interests.

The law or reciprocity means that if you give something to your loyal customers you are setting the stage for them to do something for you in return. Whether this is repeat business, a referral or maybe a testimonial, any one of these will add benefit to your business.  So the more you can do to show your appreciation the greater the chance of staying on their radar and of them remaining loyal to you.

Mark key milestones in your relationship: thank them when they’ve been with you for a year, and on each subsequent anniversary, when they’ve concluded a big event, when you’ve worked with them on a big project or programme or when they’ve just upgraded to a particular level of service.

When enough is enough

One of the things I get asked about most with e-mail marketing is how often can you contact customers without annoying them. Well you certainly don’t want to be branded as a spammer.

I read this comment on TripAdvisor for a hotel only yesterday

“A nice hotel, friendly staff, breakfast ok, ……..  BUT: since I spent 2 days there I get mails and mails and mails about everything and nothing. I asked them twice to delete my data but nothing happened and they lavish me with newsletters.”

Not really the sort of thing that you want to get.

So three lessons here:

  1. Give your customers something of value; something that they really want to read or receive (and if you don’t know what this might be, try asking them)
  2. If you’re going to be sending a series of messages (supposed to a one-off thank you or confirmation) always seek permission and include a way to opt out if they choose
  3. Have a full proof system in place to ensure people are taken off your mailing list the moment they ask you to

Remember, a customer is special and the aim is to build a loyal relationship.

And of course thank yous don’t just happen at Christmas, but whenever a customer has had a choice, but chose to do business with you.


Who will hold you accountable so you achieve your goals?

Your Best Year Ever ~ Goal Setting for 2012
Step 6 ~ KEEPING ON TRACK

 

Congratulations you have finished your best year ever process.  Just for a moment consider how much time you have just spent creating the coming year the way you absolutely want it.  My guess is about 1 -2 hours and that is probably 1 – 2 hours more than most people you know have invested in creating the coming year as they want it.

So now it is time for you to take action in the doing, the being and the having.  You want to make sure it becomes a reality.  Consider with whom you share what you have written.  For many people the best time to discover what your goals are is when they see you achieve them – you know; the cynics who will mock you, and make you doubt your ability to achieve them.  Instead, share your goals only with those who will support you, chivvy you along, encourage you, and congratulate you on your progress.

Remember there will always be uncertainty, the coming year will be as uncertain as last year and every year to come will be.  They will always be uncertainty in our lives.  The secret is to act with certainty in everything you have written down.

 

Give up the all-or-nothing, only-perfection-will-do approach.

Avoid becoming obsessed. Not many of us have a 100% hit rate so there may be times when you set a goal and you end up making a mistake or your goal doesn’t work. It’s really not the end of the world. At this point you have a choice: you can get all flustered, beat yourself up and go back to wandering about without direction – or you can learn from the experience and move on.

You can’t break a resolution by messing up just once or even several times. Whenever you notice you’ve gone a bit off-course get back on-track by shifting your actions to get you back on course.  Keep it simple: Pay attention. If things aren’t working try something different. Correct your course.

Re-visit your Rules for Success.  From this list, what single thing if you did it regularly would make the most difference in helping you achieve your goals?

What will be your milestones for keeping track of your progress?

Celebrate your Succes

 

1

2

3

 

  • When you see yourself making progress what will you do to reward yourself?
  • What will you do to celebrate your success when you achieve your goal?
  • Assuming we all have some way of holding back or sabotaging success, what would be the way you might do this? (For example: procrastination, arrogance, believing it can’t be done, not saying ‘no’, indecisiveness, being too proud to ask for help
  • When you notice yourself doing this, what will you now do instead?
  • Goals are easier to achieve when you have a support structure in place.  Which support structure will you put in place this week to make these goals fun and easy?
    For example:..Ask colleagues and family for support, and to check on how it’s going
    ..Join up with someone else who has the same goal
    ..Join a club or network group
    ..Find a training programme to give you the skills
    ..Set up a coaching programme with a good coach
    ..Find a mentor to guide you, support you and hold you accountable

Get your business off to a flying start in 2013 with one of my complimentary business retention strategy sessions. Find out more here.

To access the whole programme online here


Achieving your Business Goals

Step 5 ~ MAKING IT HAPPEN

 

Now think about what you need to do to reach these goals?  For each goal outline resources you need, action you need to take and the support you’ll need.

Now make a list of everything you are going to have to do to achieve your goal No. 1.

  • What are the actions?
  • Who can help you?
  • What resources do you need?
  • How will you obtain these?
  • What obstacles will you need to overcome?
  • How will you resolve these?
  • What skills will you require?
  • How will you acquire these?
  • What sacrifices will you need to make?
  • What consistent behaviour will you need to adopt to achieve this goal?
  • What actions can you take in the next seven days to get you nearer your goal?
  • What action can you take in the next 24 hours to get you started?

 

Now do something every single day, however small, that gets you nearer to your goal.

Get your business off to a flying start in 2013 with one of my complimentary business retention strategy sessions. Find out more here.

See Part 6 tomorrow or access the whole programme online here


Setting Goals for your Business

Step 4 ~ WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT

 

Now the next part of the process is probably the most exciting because this is were you start building your blueprint for the next 12 months.

What do you really want in 2013? What goals really matter?

Lots of people come up with lengthy laundry lists of vague, wishy-washy resolutions with no real oomph in them. Often we don’t even really care about them at all. They’re just fashionable or what we think we “should” care about, or based on what we think other people expect of us.

What do I mean? You know, resolutions like this:

…..I’ll cut our overheads                   
…..I’ll be more focussed
…..I’ll be a better ____ (parent/boss/friend/spouse), etc.
…..I’ll clear our overdraft
…..I’ll do more to bring in new business

Unclear statements like this can NEVER engender any real enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, they’re far more likely to cause you to feel bad rather than good because they all focus on something that’s MISSING rather than on what’s truly desired.

When we focus on something, we are much more likely to get it – whether it’s a car, a financial goal or even a relationship. By sending a message of desire to our brain, we start to make pictures of that and, in turn, we do what we have to do to make it happen. Rather like a builder has an idea of what a project will look like when it’s done or like a hairdresser knows what style they want to create before they start cutting, we can all design the future we want – and then go out to get it.

Unfortunately not all of us are focused on positive outcomes. Many of us are obsessed by what we don’t want, what’s wrong with us and what’s missing from our lives. We often forget to put our attention on what’s great, what’s working and what resources we already have to create even more happiness and success. Because we tend to get what we focus on, if you focus on what’s not working or if you spend all your time wondering why bad things always seem to happen to you, then you’ll simply get more of what you don’t want. What’s the point of that?

Finally, the key thing to consider when you’re setting goals is to clarify why you want something. Chances are if you set goals about things that you need in your life or that will benefit you and others, you’ll feel happy when you achieve: for example, increasing patronage in your restaurant may help your profitability.

But if you set goals just because you think you should or to please other people, you may not feel that great – even when you’ve achieved what you set out to do. For example if increasing patronage in your restaurant just increases your workload, but does little to enhance your bottom line, it’s unlikely to motivate you! You have to ask yourself ‘What’s in it for me?’ and ‘What will happen if I don’t manage to do this?

Whatever goals you set, you have to demand more of yourself to push your performance: and you have to realise that we are all more capable then we think we are. Your ability to achieve is immeasurable – and it can be easier than you think to get what you want.

It is also too easy to set resolutions or goals in some areas which are not then compatible with other areas for life.  For example people often set very ambitious goals for their business, which then conflict with personal goals.  So when setting goals for the coming year it is a good idea to look at all areas of life. Business and career, Personal development, Family, Possessions & things that you want , Spirituality, Relationships or personal relationships, Health and fitness and Financial.  Those aren’t in any particular order of importance and ideally you’ll want to have goals in every single area of life.  Even if you are currently focusing on your business goals for the coming year, at some point you have to be honest and take stock of how well these sit with your goals in other areas.

So now what I want you to do is take some time, (this is probably the lengthiest part of this process) and literally dream; picture and list all the things that you want to achieve in all those areas over the next 12 months.  Most people find this easier to do on paper rather than on a computer; use whichever format works best for you to get the ideas flowing.

At this point don’t worry if your goals are realistic or achievable or not; just brainstorm.  Play with the idea; focus your energy and attention on it until it’s clear and sharp and big enough to be exciting to you, until you feel great just thinking about it. (It doesn’t matter at all what anyone else might think of it.) What are all the things over the next 12 months you want to be, you want to do, that you want to have in all those areas of life.  The being, the doing and having of which would make the coming year the best year ever.

From your list of goals pick your most important goal to work on for now.

The goals that you need to be setting need to be SMART.  You are probably already familiar with the idea of smart goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound.  Click here for a more detailed article on SMART goals.  But a couple of areas I would stress are:

That your goals need to be specific. Describe in specific detail exactly what it is that you want to achieve.

They also need to be expressed in the present tense as if now; as if you already had the goal

And each goal needs a precise time: day, date, month and year, and in some cases it might even be a time of day

  • Now identify your number 1 goal. What is this?
  • When do you want to achieve this by?
  • What will you see, hear or feel once you have achieved this goal?
  • Why is this goal important to you?
  • How will this goal impact others?
  • What impact will working on and achieving this goal have on other areas of life?
  • If you don’t achieve this goal what would happen?
  • Now imagine 6 months have passed, and you’ve done it.  You have achieved your number 1 goal. Write down how you would feel.
  • Now repeat this process for goals 2 and 3.
  • If you wouldn’t feel wonderful about each of these, then you might like to go and re prioritise.

 

Get your business off to a flying start in 2013 with one of my complimentary business retention strategy sessions. Find out more here.

See Part 5 tomorrow or access the whole programme online here


What Do You Need to Do Differently to Achieve Your Best Year Ever

Step 3 ~ RULES FOR SUCCESS

 

Yesterday’s exercise probably wasn’t as pleasant as the previous part of the exercise but that is OK; we can now extract learnings from what you didn’t achieve so that you can ensure you make the next 12 months different.

So we’re now going to identify your ‘Rules for Success’.  What I want you to do is go over all of the things you have achieved over the last 12 months and work out what it was that you did during those times that enabled you to succeed.

By going through the goals that you have achieved and also going through the goals that you didn’t achieve you can put together your personal rules for success, the rules that you know you have already proven that if you follow these rules you succeed.

It is a good idea to keep these rules for success somewhere handy, to keep reminding yourself of them.  Then next time when things aren’t going the way that you want you can refer to your rules of success.  I keep mine pinned above my desk as a constant reminder.

So take some time now to review the previous year and work on your own personal set of rules for success.

What are the rules that if you follow them you succeed?

Then look at the things that you didn’t achieve, what were the rules that you weren’t following that if you had followed them you would have achieved these goals?

  • What do you need to start doing?
  • What do you need to stop doing?
  • What do you need to continue doing?
  • What do you need to do more of?
  • What do you need to do less of?
  • What strengths can you draw on?
  • What are your rules for success?
  • Where will you put these to act as a constant reminder?

 

Get your business off to a flying start in 2013 with one of my complimentary business retention strategy sessions. Find out more here.

See Part 4 tomorrow or access the whole programme online here


Setting goals for your business

Step 2 ~ WHERE ARE THE GAPS

So, yes, some things fell through the cracks. Take a look at that, too, without the drama

So the next part of the process is to look at the last 12 months and this time look at what you set out to achieve but you haven’t achieved yet.  The goals that you set, but haven’t yet actualised in reality.  And again take some time to make a list of all of these things.

 

  • What are the things that you wanted to be by now but not yet achieved?
  • What are the things that you wanted to do, but haven’t done yet?
  • What are the things that you wanted to have but haven’t had yet?
  • Have you any outstanding unspoken conversations?
  • What do you regret or feel guilty about?
  • List all the other on-going things that bother you and cause you negative energy – however minor.
  • What do you need to do with them: action or let go?  Make a decision one way or the other; how important are these things to you?
  • What are the things that need to be done?
  • What things do you leave behind you and stop worrying about them?

Get your business off to a flying start in 2013 with one of my complimentary business retention strategy sessions. Find out more here.

See Part 3 tomorrow or access the whole programme online here


Your Best Year Ever ~ Setting Goals for 2012 ~ Part 1

Happy New Year!

We all know that having a sound business plan is key to success in any business, and it’s that time of year when we might be looking to update our plan and map out our strategies for the next 12 months.

However don’t underestimate the importance of goal setting as part of this process.

Goals (not just for business, but all areas of life) give us a sense of direction and shape what is to come. They also help us establish a timeline for our actions. Goals give us a target to aim for; helping us to concentrate all our efforts on achieving the outcome. Without a timeline there is no sense of urgency and a lot of time and effort can be wasted on unimportant activities.

But before we go rushing ahead and brushing last year under the carpet (and potentially beating ourselves up for things left undone), it’s good to take stock, celebrate our successes and learn from what we didn’t achieve to make the coming year different.

So before you get sidetracked on too many time-consuming unimportant activities take some time now to reflect on what you truly want to be, do and have in your business (and life) for the coming 12 months.

This process will take you around 2 hours, so a bit longer than the average throw away resolution made on New Year’s Eve.  But to me it is time well spent.

If you prefer to see things written down rather than on a computer screen then I recommend you record all this in a journal, or a hardback book, where you can revisit your notes. Or to access the online version go here. Either way write it down, as this helps reinforce your ideas.

So find yourself a quiet space and set aside a couple of hours to plan Your Best Year Ever.

 

Step 1 ~ CELEBRATE SUCCESS

 

Let’s start by reviewing the past 12 months.

Most of us have a tendency to view the taking stock process as an opportunity to beat ourselves up and find fault with everything we have NOT accomplished.

Well, enough of that.  Start from a place of power.

This year, give yourself some credit for what you have accomplished! Make a list, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking anything is too small to be significant. In one way or another, in one area or another (and likely in many), you’ve come a long, long way.

So let’s start by reviewing your successes and accomplishments

So starting from January all the way up to today make a list of all of the things that you have achieved, all the goals that you achieved, any new skills learnt, and burdens you have dealt with.  It doesn’t matter how big the goal was or what area of life it was in write down every single thing you have achieved no matter how small no matter how big.  Month by month list and categorize every single thing you have achieved in the last 12 months.

Now let’s take a look at what you have written. I bet you have achieved more over the last 12 months than you thought you did. So notice how good it makes you feel when you look at what you have gone out and done.

  • What have you achieved?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What have you learnt that you didn’t know 12 months ago?
  • What new skills have you acquired that you didn’t have this time last year?
  • What challenges have you overcome?
  • What setbacks have you overcome?
  • What setbacks have you overcome?
  • What situations will you look back on with a smile, even if at the time it was uncomfortable?
  • What have you learnt from these experiences?
  • How does it feel to be reminded of all your achievements?

Get your hotel business off to a flying start in 2012 with one of my 12 complimentary hotel business focus sessions. Find out more here.

See Part 2 tomorrow or access the whole programme online here