Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dear Restaurants and Cafes,...May I have a word?

A restaurant, cafe, or deli, like any other business, may only get one chance to surprise us with their service, food, and cleanliness. Unfortunately, some do not make it to our "Top 10 Favorite Places to Eat" list.

It's even worse when a favorite eating spot disappoints. No business is perfect, but all businesses should strive for perfection. If 100% satisfaction is not part of the business culture there's already a problem, and it's only a matter of time before that pothole becomes a sinkhole!

Food service business owners are some of the hardest working people I know. Many times they go into this business because they love to cook or love to be around friendly people. Yet, understandably, they may fail to realize there's so much more to making this business successful, even beyond the financial risk.

So, what can food service businesses do to win total devotion?
Here are my personal Top 10 things it takes to win my heart:

10. Include plans and training for customer loyalty and leadership in your overall 
      business strategy. Customers can spot the ones who do not.

9. Terminate any employee who is not 100% committed to your business culture. It 

     only takes one bad apple to spoil the barrel.

8. Have a mobile friendly website that contains what a customer might want to know. 

    Seek advice from an expert with proven experience.

7. Provide convenient parking and accessibility.

6. Be philanthropic and community minded. Your community will thank you in

    countless ways.

5. Create a culture of happiness and 100% commitment to serving.

4. Provide superior training to waitstaff and all others who interact with customers.  

    It's not just about the proper serving of plates.

3. Prepare delicious food. Your customers are the judges.

2. Realize that cleanliness is next to Godliness in food service, so keep the place very
    clean. This includes the restrooms. Please.

1. Deliver platinum customer service. That is, if you want to make money.

If you're an owner I know what you're thinking. It goes something like this:
"What??? There's no way I can do all of this. I can tell this writer has never owned and operated a restaurant or cafe. Too bad. Customers who expect all this can just find somewhere else to dine!!!"

Okay. I sure will. You are right about one thing. I have never owned a food service establishment. But, here's what's really important: I am a customer, and I am the one who keeps your refrigerator as well as your cash register running. Or not.

You cannot take short cuts on any of the Top 10, and each one requires a dedicated strategy and tactics to drive success and make life easier on owners, managers and employees.

Remember #5? That one is really a part of #1. If you're one of the brave, hard-working souls who owns and operates a food service business, I know you can do this! You have the grit and determination it takes, so let's see you show off. We will be devoted fans forever.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How To Create a Short List of Your Gazillion Wonderful Services

If you are a professional services business you may find it difficult to explain all you do. Unless you can specifically say, "I clean houses" or "I am a dentist" or "I am a massage therapist", it can be daunting to describe the realm of benefits you can bring to a customer.

Always remember this: Clear communication is key to every successful business. 

Here's an example of a recent communication dilemma.  One of my clients offers advice on financial planning. I noticed his list of services included 9 categories containing 58 items. My job was to refine his message of services to be more clear and help him more easily market his primary services.

It is true that he can assist people with that many categories and items, but how in the world do you explain that in the few seconds or minutes you have with a client or potential client? 
Here are 6  steps you may find helpful to narrow down your services message:

    1.  Make a list of everything you can do for a client. Everything.

    2.  If you have a long list of more than 5 things, determine a few categories.

   3. Now, start adding each of your extra items under the appropriate category.

   4. Determine if you personally provide the service or if you outsource the service. If you            outsource the service, put an line through ones that are usually outsourced.

  5.  If you have more than three items under some categories, eliminate or re-word those            to reduce the number. Make sure you have -0- duplicates on the page. It is ideal if you          end up with -0- items under each category. Brief is brilliant!

   Your work should look similar to this when you have finished:

My Services  
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Marketing & Brand Identity
  • Strategic Planning
  • Leadership Development 

Now you are ready to create your elevator message, that "thing" you say to let people know how you can help them. Stay tuned for the next blog post for easy tips on getting your elevator message just right!

Image credit

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Substitute or Use The Real Thing?

In life and in business there are times we substitute for the real thing.  Sometimes it works fine, but you never have a 100% guarantee that the substitute will work as well as the real thing.

Take automated voice recordings that some companies use instead of a human for answering a phone call. Press 1 for English, Press 2 for Spanish, followed by 5 more requirements in order to get to a customer service representative who has put you in a queue behind number 9.

This morning I set out to make a blueberry cake from a recipe given to me by my mother-in-law. I don't often bake, so it was my hope that this cake would turn out well.

We have our own blueberries, so I picked enough needed to make blueberry pie filling. I had no trouble finding a recipe for the filling, and I was missing only one ingredient: cornstarch. So, I went to the faithful internet to look up a substitute for cornstarch to save myself a trip to the grocery store. Here it is:

"Though a home cook can't make cornstarch at home, it's possible to make a good substitute: potato starch. Use an equal amount of potato starch in recipes that call for cornstarch, including soups, sauces, gravies and custards. To make potato starch, grate potatoes into a bowl and add some warm water. Strain out the starchy liquid by wrapping the gratings in cheesecloth and squeezing the liquid into a bowl. Refrigerate the liquid for four hours, then pour off the top layer of water that has separated from the starchy liquid at the bottom. The starchy potato liquid can be used directly or dried to a powder."

Me? Do all that? Not happening. Too many steps and too much work.

I tell this story to say sometimes you need the real thing, the real deal, and nothing else will do. The real thing may cost a bit more more or be a little inconvenient or it may not. 

I made the trip to the nearest grocery store, purchased the corn starch for $1.49, and it worked just as I knew it would.

I recommend using the real thing whenever possible. Sometimes a substitute just won't make the cut.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The 6 Step Path to Loyalty

Remember the customers who stick by your side, coming back again and again. Do you really want them to feel unimportant? How would you feel if a business you support seemed way more interested in getting new customers than in you?

If you center all of your marketing around 6 customer loyalty principles, you will have a strategy that means customers cannot bear to stay away from your business.

The downside is that you may have to ramp up your team in order to keep up with all the business. And, you may have to open several bank accounts in order to store your money safely. But, those are minor inconveniences.

So, let's get right to it. Here are the 6 steps to customer loyalty:

  1. Awareness - Don't hide under a bushel basket. Put yourself and your business right out there so customers hear about you, know who you are, and want to come check out the place.
  2. Attraction - Figure out the "why" behind a customer showing up to purchase from your business. Make your business so appealing no one who needs your product or service could possibly resist.
  3. Connection - Your customer must be able to relate to your product, service, business philosophy, model, community service, charity, or other value.
  4. Emotion - Do you sell beautiful things, healthcare products, or wigs? Whatever your product or service, there better be an emotion attached that will drive the customer to your door.
  5. Belonging - We all want "Cheers" back in the neighborhood. No one likes to be ignored, so help them feel they belong and that they are part of your tribe.
  6. Reward - Your current customers and prospects can shop somewhere else in town or online. You better reward them for connecting with you and spending their hard-earned dollars in your business or someone else will.
Developing a strong loyalty marketing strategy is easier when you put yourself in the customer's shoes. Treat them how you would like to be treated.

Here's a handy dandy little "Path to Customer Loyalty" diagram for your studying pleasure.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

S & H Green Stamps, Amen.

I have vivid memories of helping my grandmother stick green stamps inside the specially designated books. Sitting at her dining room table, we were on a mission to collect enough stamps and fill enough books to get "free" merchandise.  Now I realize the merchandise was not really free at all, but it wouldn't have mattered. We consumers wanted those stamps, and we were loyal to the businesses that offered them as a reward for purchases! When I married I collected green stamps of my own. I wish I could remember for what merchandise I redeemed them.

Sperry & Hutchinson (S & H) launched this reward program in 1896, and saw the 1960's become their heyday. At one point S & H issued three times as many stamps as the United States Postal Service! There was a time when S & H was the world's largest purchaser of consumer products, and the green stamps continued to be used for over 90 years.

Why is this important to know, and what lessons can be learned from the success of S & H?
It's important to recognize that if you can find a way to connect with customers, reach them on some personal touch point, and give them something they value, you may be on your way to having an admirable customer loyalty strategy in the making.

If by purchasing groceries or gas from your business, your S & H stamps helped a family buy a new refrigerator or take a vacation, how is that for finding a personal touch point?

For stories of S & H memories, I found this great web article. I think you'll enjoy it.

S & H Green Stamp Memories

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I'm Not A Fan of Marketing When it Wears that Old Leisure Suit

 I AM a fan of relationship marketing and loyalty marketing because it's real, modern and thoughtful.

I am NOT a fan of  branding when it's only a buzz word tossed about by the waves in the ocean of businesses.

I AM a fan of meaningful, creatively developed brand discovery that leads to a solid brand identity that CEO's, teams, and customers all "get".

You don't need reward cards, stamps or coupons to have a loyalty program. Those are reward programs. It's okay if you want to do that and you have the type of business for which the rewards are a good fit. 

What you really must have is a loyalty marketing strategy. Customers won't give you too many chances to show them you care about what they want and what they think,  Be different. 

Throw out that old leisure suit you've called your marketing. It won't get you the customers you want, and it sure won't create loyal fans.

I have some recommendations and solutions that will bring your business into the forefront of the mind of your customer and place you right square dab in their sweet little hearts. That's what your fans really want.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Business Lessons from American Pharoah

The wait was long. Not since 1978 when Affirmed won The Triple Crown did the grandstands thunder with exuberant vibration, hands in the air and joyful jubilee. 

We, the fans, get to see the glory day, not the blood, sweat and tears of learning, training, practicing, racing, losing, winning and then, coming out ahead when it really counts. As it did on June 6, 2015, 37 years since the last Triple Crown Winner.

In business it's much the same. The competition is hot and fierce, innovation is thundering up fast, just a few strides behind you, and loyal fans see a flicker of something new from the corner of their eye. It seems interesting; something that could be the next winner.  Will they place their bets on you, their steadfast friend? Or will their loyalty flow to the next big thing coming 'round the bend?

Be ready. Keep learning, practicing, and innovating to stay in the race. Your fans are counting on you because they've invested in you and your business by spending again and again. Don't let them down.

They have placed their bets on YOU.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Don't Tempt A Feisty Lion

How often do you wonder, "Just what was he/she thinking?"

I thought this recently when I was on vacation and speeding motorcyclists were dodging in and out of highway lanes where I was traveling in a car.  Does the motorcyclist simply not think to himself, "Well, let me see, maybe I should be careful because the very slightest unexpected movement by a car or myself could result in an accident and untold deaths." I guess it's called feeling "bullet proof". I might venture out a little and call it irresponsible behavior. What were they thinking?

Then, today I read that on Monday, June 1st, a 22 year old young woman was killed by a lion as she and a friend rode in a car through a privately run lion park near Johannesburg, Africa. The car windows were rolled completely down. I repeat: The car windows were rolled completely down, in spite of very clear park warnings to always keep windows rolled up. What was she thinking?

The woman was photographing the lion, and the lion lunged. As tempting as it is to take once-in-a-lifetime photos, don't tempt a feisty lion! I would be tempted to get that great photo. But, I would not be tempted to be eaten by the lion. My sympathy is indeed with her family. What a tragedy!

I see similar risk-takers when I travel. Once, when my husband and I were at Yellowstone National Park, the buffaloes were slowly ambling around the property minding their own business looking very friendly and innocent. A daring tourist with a camera got a little too close to a couple of buffalo, and it's a good thing the tourist had on his running shoes because the buffalo prepared to pursue! What was that tourist thinking? Don't be fooled by those slow moving buffalo. It's a trick.

Another time as we drove through Wyoming, we saw a line of cars stopped on both sides of the road, cameras and tourists everywhere.. The focus of their attention was a very large moose walking across the plain about a quarter of a mile away. The moose wanted to cross the highway, but as he continued his plodding journey, some eager tourists got very close and in his path. What were they thinking?

The moose let them know very fast that he would not take their interference lightly. A moose will not think twice about trampling you to your death.  It's the same in Alaska. Stay out of their way.

I love adventure, travel, and I'm not shy about stepping out there and taking a chance. I do try my best to avoid feisty lions.