Respond

Engage-Respond-Listen

Respond

Over the years….one of the more challenging aspects of business is responding to people….whether customers….clients….suppliers….or assiocaites.

Often it’s selective responnse….some get an immediate reply….others only after some persisitence….some not at all.

The most effective response is immediate: Always return calls….Always reply to e-mail or correspondence.

A recent note to a business contact got no reply….all that was required a brief acknolegement….the lesson ….find another contact

Little issues easily become big issues with poor response….no engagement….unwillingness to listen.

Understand

Know Your Customer

Understand the Customer

We knew our products well….were good at business….yet did we really understand our customer? Understanding people/customers….is an intangible part of business….and one that we could have developed more fully.

“Understanding the values/beliefs of your customer and your audience is far more important than watching the instant replay of what actually happened.” – Seth Godin

While it may sound academic….we needed to know who our customers were and who our customers were not.

Our customer was not the Klingman’s (ultra high-end in Grand Rapids, MI) nor an Etan Allan customer. They were middle of the road….good quality….fair price customers. So we had to be selective in our buying so that we didn’t buy products that were not within their reach or even outside of their sense of style. They did expect excellent service.

While every sale was important….and often we analyzed why we didn’t make a sale….I would suspect that if we had understood our customers even better than we did….more sales efforts would have been successful.

Confusion

Select Varieties

Select

Kroger uses a promotion called Mega-Savings….buy 10 advertised items and save $.50/item…. for $5.00 savings.

One of the promotion items was a national brand….the Kroger advertising supplement indicated “select” varieties. The confusion sets in because there are 20 plus varieties of this product. The pricing labels are all similiar….the shelving display is not at eye level….and the aisle is narrow.

The end result: Of course out of four varieties selected….only one qualified for the savings and since there have to be ten items….there were only nine….thus no $5 savings.

A comment to the store manager remedies the problem….yet why confuse a loyal customer….or any customer. Make the promotion customer friendly….not create obstacles to buying. 

Kroger marketing ought to do better than this.

First Step

First-Step

Being clear about what we’re doing and why is the first step in doing it better. If you’re not happy about the honest answer to this question, make substantial changes until you are. -Seth Godin

Every business organization has to decide why they are in business….and making money is not the first step.

For our family business…..the “why” was to provide good products at a reasonable price and making sure our customers received good value and reliable service. If we didn’t take care of our customers….they wouldn’t take of us. Looking back….we would have greatly expanded our customer segment of the business. That is….we would have been in a continuous contact with our customers….offerings….special events…product service. 

Our name was on our business. Building on the name would be an ongoing process….connecting to and being part of the community.

Missed Opportunity

Under Construction

missed_opportunity_1

Often businesses get a web address and offer as their website: “Under construction or New Website coming soon.”

A recent article in the J-S Online about a business in Jefferson, WI was highlighted by the purchase of a fiber-optic laser metal-cutting machine.

http://www.jsonline.com/business/fiberoptic-laser-is-cutting-edge-at-jefferson-metal-shop-va8e19q-187367521.html

American Weld Design is a small business so the $700,000 laser cutter was a significant investment. Small business people do many things….and perhaps web site design isn’t one of them.

In this case, not having the website open was a missed opportunity to showcase the business….its capabilities….and the Cy-Laser state-of-the-art machine.

Pidgeon Hill

Craft Brewing

Pidgeon Hill Brew

Many areas of the country now have craft brewers….most of which started as a hobby. In the RDU area….two craft brewers that are readily recognized are Carolina Brewing and Aviator Brewing.

The craft brewing concept has arrived in Muskegon with the announcement that three businesses that will open in 2013. These brewers are local and take their hobby model to a larger scale. The latest is Pidgeon Hill Brewing Co.

What got my attention was the Pidgeon Hill artwork….very classic….well done….and represenatative of Muskegon history. Pidgeon Hill no longer exists….it was mined for foundry sand years ago. Of course Pidgeon Hill Brewing will have to stand on the quality of its products….however their branding creates a strong connection to the community.

http://www.pigeonhillbrew.com/home.html

Accidental Business?

Common Sense

Accidental-Entrepreneur-

From WRAL-TV: http://www.wral.com/couple-hopes-for-refund-after-cary-company-fails-to-deliver-furniture/11983914/

“Soon after we left, Utt-Grubb returned our calls. She says Carolina Farmhouse is an accidental business that started out of her and her husband’s garage. She said they have zero experience running a business and described the many delays as the growing pains of a small business.”

Creating….developing….managing a business is a challange….not everyone can do it. Most businesses certainly are not accidents. Common sense would seem to be – learn basic business skills before one starts a business. In the case of Carolina Farmhouse….the owners should have read The Accidental Entrepreneur before they ever thoght of being in business!

Several issues here:

  • Making furniture in a garage does not translate to making furniture on a larger scale….with consistent quality….and timely delivery.
  • No response to customers….means no respect for the customer.
  • Negative reviews….are extremely difficult, if ever, to overcome.
  • Nicely designed web site….does not mean a nicely managed business.
  • “Zero experience in running a business” means….no understanding of cash flow.
  • The NC Community Colleges Small Business Centers are a good and free resource….when used.
  • I suspect the folks who bought the items and had not received them were impressed with media articles and the company’s web site….however 50% down is just not prudent.

The end result: Complete lack of common sense.