Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thank Your Customers!

In the hustle and bustle of running a business, it is easy to forget the simple things.  Then, when you stop and think about things, it is often those simple little things that are the most important to your business.

Telling your customers “Thank You!” tops the list.

You can, and should, thank them for their business when you send out invoices or give them receipts.  “Thank You!” should be automatic … and sincere.

Where you can stand out as a business, though, is by finding non-traditional special ways to say “Thank  You!” to your customers.  Give them a turkey at Thanksgiving or cater in a meal for their employees at this time of year.  Have pizza delivered when you know their team is working late or busting it to complete a project for you.  Gift them with a bottle or case of wine or their favorite alcoholic beverage, provided it’s appropriate.

If you think this is extravagant and something unnecessary or too expensive, take a minute to think that thought through a bit more thoroughly.  What would it cost you to replace those customers if you lost them?  Could you recover if they all went away?

Find a way to cover the expense of saying “Thank  You!” to the life blood of  your business.

Obviously, there are different ways and budgets to account for expressing gratitude to your customers.  Most appreciate a simple “Thank You!” when they pay their bill, but the more you say it – sincerely – the more likely they are to remain loyal to your company and your brand.  There is a nightmare scenario where your business is seen to be ungrateful for the work you get from clients.  Negative word of mouth can spread far more quickly than positive word of mouth.

Another tip:  Your method of saying “Thank You!” should reflect your brand … tastefully.

We once recommended to a specialty chair and barstool retailer that they find doll house chairs that they could put their logo on.  They wanted something they could leave with prospective business clients that the prospects would remember them for, so they found wooden doll chairs that could be branded and left as business card holders.  It was cute, appropriate, and reinforced the brand when they were used to say “Thank You!” to customers who bought their furniture.

Since it’s Thanksgiving 2013, we’d like to thank our clients for their business.  We appreciate the opportunity to work with each of you, and hope you find our counsel to be of value in growing your business.

To those who have yet to become clients, enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday and express your thanks to those who matter to you and your business!

Planning vs. Execution

How much time should you spend on planning the affairs of your business?

The simple answer:  Enough to know your plan and the resulting effort will have a reasonable chance of success.  Success comes in the execution of the plan, and evaluation of the ensuing results.

You can certainly over plan.  There are examples throughout history of companies that have spent so much time planning, revising the plans, and reviewing the plans that they forgot to execute the plan and the business failed.  Planning for the sake of planning is usually counter-productive.  It’s like changing for the sake of change.  Rarely a good idea.

One car dealership changed its catchy slogan for its location.  When the marketing staff was asked about it, they responded that they were tired of the slogan.  When they came to understand that their customers, and potential consumers, would lose their association with the dealership and make it harder to find them because of the change, the slogan came back.

Planning is the process of developing a strategy your company can execute with a reasonable measure of attainment.  It’s a rather simple process.  You determine what  you want to do, gain agreement from those involved in the implementation, figure out who has responsibility for the tasks that need to be accomplished, set a budget, and then you put it into action.

If, for instance, you plan to grow your business by 20 new clients each month for the next year, you should have more than an idea of how it’s going to happen.  If you’ve added five new members a month during the past year, you are now expecting to quadruple that sales performance.  The planning process involves rationalizing if it’s achievable, and laying down the groundwork to accomplish the objective month-by-month.

Monitoring, or tracking the results, is essential to the process of planning.  Using the 20 new clients per month example, if sales bring in 12 new clients in the first month, a quick analysis of how and why that happened assists in the execution strategy.  If the goal remains at 20, somewhere those missing eight new customers needs to be made up to validate the goal and the strategy for implementation.

Bring in 22 new clients the second month and now you’re down six.  What’s more significant, though, is that the sales people are starting to hit their stride.  They’ve had success and are gaining confidence in the process and belief in the goal.  That’s how the planning process and execution strategy work hand in glove to provide management with the tools so critical to growing the business and keeping the team motivated.

Yes, you can skip the planning process and trust that your company is on track.  You can “wing it” when it comes to measuring results and the performance of your sales team.  You can also feel comfortable repeating the same mistakes hoping for different results, then wonder why profits start to slip, customers leave for a competitor, and your business winds up closing.

We have found that planning can be as complex or as simple as you want, once you’ve laid a solid foundation, which is something Brand Irons can assist you with.  You also need an accountability partner to keep you focused on the execution of the plan.  It is far too easy to be side-tracked by the daily operations and avoid looking at the bigger picture.

Einstein’s definition of insanity:  Keep doing the same thing but expect different results.

Take the time to think things through; our philosophy on planning.

Brand your work – work your brand!

Remember America’s Veterans

November 11th is Veteran’s Day in the United States.  Take a few minutes to reflect on what their service means to you and your business.

Clyde in uniformMy father served in the United States Navy during World War II.  His brother served in the Army Air Force.  His brother-in-law also served in the Navy and saw combat in the Pacific.  Dad, in my opinion, was fortunate he stayed stateside during the war.  He taught electricity to seamen as Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class.  I wish there were some way to know how many sailors that he taught who went on to become electricians in America after the war.

As we think about these and other veterans, we need to consider the impact they have had on the world of business.

Veterans surround us in today’s business world.  As an employer, you may have hired a few because you trust their work ethic.  They’ve been trained to follow orders and do their work without complaining.  They have respect for others and stand up for what is right.

Some have seen the horrors of war, and pity on those of us who think the scenes in video games come close to the real thing.  Far from it!  Most veterans find it difficult to discuss their experiences with civilians.  I would guess it’s because they fear we will fail to understand or that we will be unable to stomach the truth of seeing death or bullet wounds first hand.

My father-in-law was a bomber pilot during World War II, and doubtless was responsible for countless deaths from the bombs his aircraft dropped on German cities.  He flew a full complement of missions and was one of the lucky ones who made it back alive each time.  He came back after the war and became a successful business man, operating a machine shop and a novelty business that provided for his eight children.  His legacy, and that of my father, continues well beyond his passing.

On this Veteran’s Day, unfurl your American flag and fly it proudly.  Put a flag decal in your car window and keep it there.  Thank someone you know who is a veteran and, if the opportunity presents itself, do something nice for that person.  Pay for their lunch without them knowing who did it.  Stand up for them should someone start bashing our military and its veterans.  Buy them a cup of coffee.  Do something you’re proud of today, and do it to honor a family member who served … and perhaps gave their life to protect your liberties.  Say a prayer for those who have served and those who continue to serve.

Freedom comes at a cost, and I – for one- am proud of those who have stepped forward to bear arms to give me the freedoms I enjoy as a citizen of the United States of America!

Flag and Eagle


In an earlier post, we talked about how to work a room when you’re networking.  If you were fortunate to meet an excellent potential client or referral source at that event, your key to success with a networking marketing strategy is follow-up!

Do you have a marketing strategy for networking?  For following up?

Assume you had an interesting conversation with an accountant who, you discover, has years of experience working with the types of companies you want to connect with.  Assume this accountant has been looking for someone like you to whom they can refer some of their clients who need your services.  Assume this accountant also seemed pleased with your responses to her questions and asked you to call and set up an appointment to get together for a smoothie or coffee.  That connection alone made attending the event worth the entire evening, in your opinion.

Now let’s assume it’s a week later and you have yet to make that follow-up phone call.  In the book of right ways to do things, that follow-up phone call should have been made within 24 hours of the event.  The preference would have been to pull up the calendars on your smart phones and make the appointment right there on the spot, but if that wasn’t done, the call needed to be made the next day.  Having a time frame for following up, and how it’s done are part of a networking marketing strategy.

How do you handle the fact you messed up on following up?  Here are some scenarios:

  • You make the call and humbly apologize, paying attention to the tone of her voice to determine if there’s a coldness to her response, which is also verified by whether she still wants to meet with you.  She may meet, but is likely to be skeptical of your ability to follow-up with her referrals in light of how you followed up with her, meaning she may be hesitant to refer clients to you;
  • You wait for her to call you and, if she does, express your confusion about whether you were supposed to call or she was.  If she calls, she is obviously still interested, so stay on top of the relationship from there on out;
  • You avoid making the call and anticipate you will run into her again at the next networking event.  Be prepared to eat humble pie if she shows up at that one or any of the next events where you may both be in attendance.  You may have a ready excuse, but it may carry little weight in convincing her you really are good at following up with people, and she may have already made a different alliance that shuts you out of getting any potential business referred to you;
  • You call her with a referral for her, and apologize for the delay with an excuse that you were working on the referral before you followed up.  It might work if she appreciates the referral, especially if she can convert it into business; or,
  • You write it off as a lost cause, toss her card in the recycling bin, and kiss the potential referrals business good-bye.

Which scenario would you be most comfortable using a week after meeting someone?  Which is most likely to nurture that relationship and lead to referrals?

How much easier is it to carve a few minutes out of your busy schedule to grab your phone, dial the number, and exude enthusiasm for having met the person last night?  Make that part of your networking strategy.

Follow-up is easy if done promptly.

Two quick examples of what it can mean for your business:

Trying to scrap an old vehicle, I contacted a salvage yard that had been recommended to me.  Several phone calls and voice mail messages failed to get a response.  I contacted one I had used before and they were on site within an hour, gave me a fair price and hauled off the vehicle.  I heard from the first one an hour after the vehicle was gone.  Too bad, so sad.

Looking for a plumber, I contacted two in the community where the work needed to be done.  The same scenario of waiting for a call back played out, until I called the second one.  The first had been highly recommended so I was giving them the benefit of the doubt.  Within an hour after contacting the second, the first finally called after more than a week.  Yes, I understand plumbers can be busy people, but a courtesy phone call does wonders to build credibility and that level of trust you expect from contacting a business.

Part of your corporate marketing strategy should be to carve out a brief time period every day to make those follow-up phone calls or to merely follow-up on whatever you need to follow through on. Your customers, prospects, and referral sources will appreciate it.

Working A Room When Networking

Networking events get you face-to-face (F2F) with potential customers, whether you’re the business owner or a sales person, so knowing how to work a room correctly is an essential skill in today’s high-tech business environment.

At a recent event, one of the participants was sitting at a table checking her E-mail.  I commented to someone I was networking with that this type of event is about net working and you should avoid net sitting or net eating.  The person in question realized her mistake, got up, and came over to the small group that I was with to make her introductions.  She admitted she should have been up and meeting people instead of catching up on her E-mails, which can be done at any other time.

There once was a preferred E-mail response time that has given way to texting when it comes to urgent matters.

The people who are there to network with you and other participants are only in your presence for a limited time, so you need to take advantage of those moments.

In a traditional view of F2F networking, the idea is to meet, greet, and exchange business cards with as many participants as possible.  The fallacy in that approach is you rarely spend any quality time getting to know the other people and you go home with a pile of business cards that usually winds up in another pile on your desk somewhere.  If you are religious about following up on the business cards you receive, give yourself bonus points. If they stay in a pile for more than a week, deduct a whole slew of points and try a new approach.

This is a less new than an unused approach.

Go to networking events prepared.  Yes, be prepared!  You need business cards but if the people in attendance use the LinkedIn-related CardMunch app, they can take a picture of your card and give it back to you, as I did several times at the last event.  It syncs up with LinkedIn and the person’s profile, so the card becomes another one in a pile if you keep it.  You make take it back and plug it into Outlook or other management system.  If you do, toss the card unless you want to wallpaper your office with business cards.

What I mean by being prepared, though, is to know which professionals are valuable for you to meet and network with at these events.  If you get referrals from CPAs, for example, you want to meet any other certified public accountants who may be attending the event.  If you get referrals, or can give referrals to a graphic artist, spend time with the ones you meet at the event.  Find out if they have specialty areas or enjoy one aspect of being creative more than another form.

On the other hand, if you meet or get introduced to someone in a profession that has little value to you our your business, be courteous and make small talk but then look for a way to exit gracefully.  Keep in mind they may know someone you might want to meet someday.

The most graceful exit strategy may be to simply say:  “Excuse me, but I just saw someone I’ve been waiting to meet.  Do any of you know (and point out the person)?”  If they know them, they may feel comfortable introducing you – so make sure it is someone you truly want to meet.  If they don’t know that person, they are all likely to respond, “Nope, sorry,” which gives you permission to bail.  Or … simply excuse yourself.

Hang on to their cards, if you feel it may be worth giving them a call to prospect at some point.

With the people you do meet and get to spend a few minutes with, remember you are trying to make a connection.  Ask them about what they do, and listen to what they say.  Let them do the talking, but be prepared to give a brief overview of how you may be able to use their services, help them in some capacity, or refer business to them.  The more you let them talk, the better you look as a conversationalist, and less pushy as a sales person.

Networking is about being visible with the people you want to establish credibility with, and then working to build the trust that will solidify a relationship.  Be confident in yourself and in your ability to make small talk.  Try to have some fun,too.