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General Business

16 Posts authored by: Chris Brogan

All of us are experiencing a slow season together. Yours might be different than mine. What matters most is that we take advantage of this time (while taking time for ourselves and those we care for).chris brogan business success.jpg

 

Slow Times are Growth Times

 

Let me start by telling you what most people do incorrectly with space and time. They fill it. Sometimes, they stuff it full of busy work that “needed to get done.” Other times, they look for meetings or calls they’ve been putting off.

 

When you hit slow times, the best possible use of this time is growth. This must be the measure by which you gauge the worth of actions you might take. Growth can mean rebuilding. It can be learning. It can be preparing for the next busy cycle.

 

You have the clients or customer base that you have, though they may be on hold for now. Think about how you’ll begin to get new ones. Look for partnerships. Look for new seeds to plant that will turn into rich opportunities later.

 

Call your best clients and see how you can help. This is slow season work for sure. That means your clients may also need a little boost in getting business. Ask if you can help grow their business in some way. Who turns away helpful people?

 

Make Your Own Conference

 

As a keynote speaker with thousands of friends in that industry, I can tell you that there are no shortages of quality content all over YouTube. Beyond just TED, there are more conferences posting material every single day. You could seek out a particular speaker, an industry, or an idea and find mountains of opportunities.

 

Because it’s your conference, you’re not relegated to live speakers on a stage. You can add documentaries and slideshows and instructional materials. You can learn from other industries and look for crossover points of support. This is a powerful way to fill a slow season day.

 

 

Write or Record Something Helpful

 

Your customers would love helpful guides, to-do materials, and more. When you’ve got some time, it’s a great time to create this kind of material. It’s a wonderful way to equip your customers for even more success.

 

You can do a step-by-step document, or if you want to get even more bold, you might make a small series of videos or audio recordings. Any of these can help.

 

Set Some Future Planning Days

 

Look at what’s coming this year, next year, and then five years out. Don’t just look at your own business. Think about what you’ve been reading and maybe even research more.

 

For instance, if self-driving cars and ride sharing apps are reducing the number of new cars sold, that also means people will do a lot less “browsing” while driving. They’ll drive from destination to destination with fewer unplanned stops. How will that impact your business?

 

Never Overload the Slow Days

 

We often see slow times as an excuse to finish up busy work. The truth is, busy work needs to vanish. Priority or growth. Those are your only categories. And schedule this kind of work into only 40% or so of your calendar over these slow days. Leave room for spontaneous opportunities.

 

It’s vital that you look at slow days as an opportunity to prepare for success. That’s where it comes. From the planning you do when the fires aren’t raging.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-chris brogan.pngsized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

For a guy who writes about future concepts and ways we could do business, sometimes it takes me awhile to try new things. chris article contact in contactless world pic.jpg

 

I’d never used DoorDash until the pandemic rolled in. (No, this isn’t an ad for DoorDash.) I’ll talk about them in a moment. For the last 15 years, I’ve shared how to work at a distance. Only now, people are forced to consider that reality.

 

How Do You Do Business in a “Contactless” World?

 

As a business advisor, a lot of what I do is suggest ways companies can develop marketplaces around what they sell. I’m probably most well-known for advocating the use of social networks and media tools like YouTube and podcasting and Twitter for further developing ways to interact and sell.

 

But all this time, it’s been a “gee whiz” and a nice to have.

 

When a global pandemic comes and forces governments to close businesses (most of them small, by the way), now we have to think about what it means to deliver our business remotely. The concept of “contactless” business is now a “thing.” And it has many implications.

 

 

Here are some questions for you to consider:

 

  • If you can’t sell and market face to face, what other ways can you find?

 

  • If people like your face-to-face experience, how can you recreate that online?

 

  • Not everyone loves coupons. How else can you stay top of mind for your buyers?

 

  • If people are watching more YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok while in quarantine, what can you do to reach them?

 

  • Do you have your customers’ email addresses? How will you earn them?

 

Let’s talk about this. On one hand, I know you’d rather things just go “back to normal.” But what if normal wasn’t exactly killing it for you? And nothing in life ever goes “back to normal.” It moves forward. And it changes. And eventually we accept the “new normal.”

 

Digital Business and the Digital Channel

 

If you can’t sell and market face to face, you have to reach people where they are: their inbox and on various social networks. Yes, your buyer is online. My small-town Facebook group is populated by people who are mostly over 50, for instance. B2B people are actual humans and are also online.

 

Once you accept that everyone is online, the question is: how do we earn their attention?

 

  • People like how-to content. The COVID-19 quarantine data shows that people are filling some of their entertainment time with learning and educational content. Is there an angle there for you?

 

  • People like personable content. Can you shoot video showing what’s going on at your business and how you’re serving people?

 

  • People like to belong. Can you reinforce the identity of the people you serve?

 

Before this all happened, the prevailing idea of content marketing was that it existed to give people something interesting to consume that somehow related to your product or service. While that’s still true, the adaptation in a post COVID-19 world will focus more on transporting the more personable elements of your real-life presence into an online package.

 

Understand the New Cadence of Business

 

Part of your job rolling forward is to connect with people using various digital tools so you can keep customers and prospects feeling “warm” about your offerings in between opportunities to purchase from you.

 

This is the new cadence. It’s all about staying connected between sales moments. It’s about showing your support for the community you serve. It’s about being more personable and present.

 

All your functional work to make your business work in a contactless world is still before you. How do you sell? How do you deliver? What happens with the face-to-face parts of the experience? But the way you’ll earn and keep customers involves showing people a human face from a distance using all the digital tools out there.

 

Oh, and let me tell you about DoorDash. What made the experience great wasn’t the ordering platform (which was really well done) and it wasn’t the variety of restaurants (which is fine, but you kind of expect that), but instead, it was one detail: constant contact.

 

Every step of the way, I was notified:

 

  • Five Guys has your order.

 

  • Five Guys is making your food.

 

  • Five Guys says your food is ready for pickup.

 

  • Your DoorDash driver is picking up the food.

 

  • Your DoorDash driver is near.

 

  • Your DoorDash driver is here.

 

That level of connection was better than any other detail of the process. I got what I wanted and every step of the way I was kept in the loop.

 

What a lot of people want is a connected experience with a company that matches their views and values. What they need is good fast communication all the way through the process.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

I started helping companies figure out how to manage employees remotely in the late ‘90s. chris understanding article pic.jpg

 

 

The reasons were clear: It saved time, saved money, and improved the potential hiring pool because no longer would a company be limited to talent based on proximity alone. Well, welcome to 2020 and the millions of people working remotely for managers who haven’t once trained or much considered how to be a boss from afar.

 

The Problem with Managing Remote Workers

 

Managers are worried because they don’t have any real systems or tools in place, and they can easily envision a day when deadlines fall all over the floor and they (the managers) can’t explain clearly enough what their remote teams are doing or not doing to fix the challenge.

 

It’s a reasonable fear.

 

But the solution is NOT to bury someone in project management software hell. In fact, there are so many ways to do this wrong that an entire league of management consultants exist just to fix all the bad choices managers are doomed to make in moments like these.

 

Managing Remotely Is About Facilitation – Not Control

 

The goal of management in general is to help your team accomplish their tasks. You facilitate them. Your goal is to make their work environment as fluid and frictionless as possible. You exist to block other teams from interfering with your people. You profit when your team accomplishes their tasks and projects are completed on time and within budget. And it’s your job to know enough about all that’s going on to keep your boss in the loop, but MOSTLY to the tune of “we’ve got this” or “we’re slipping a bit.”

 

Tracking hours isn’t the answer period. That’s primitive. It’s not even worth a paragraph, but oh, here we are.

 

Tracking projects and flow is important, but so much software is built in a way to become a job unto itself. Systems that require 20% of a person’s daily attention to keep populated means that you’re eating more than an hour and a half of every eight-hour workday just filling in an app. That’s almost a full day EVERY WEEK lost to “productivity tools.”

 

Facilitate Success

 

What do you really need from your team? Status updates. Deliverables. An adherence to the deadline being the deadline.

 

What do they need from you? Assistance in clearing roadblocks. Resources when deadlines can’t be met. Support when challenges interfere with clear-cut experience.

 

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” - Mike Tyson

 

There are some software tools that do this better than not. I’m very biased (I’ve had past business experiences) about Workfront as a tool because it’s built to allow input from a lot of other tools. One person wants to use Slack and another wants to use MS Project? Perfect. It all threads in. That’s the kind of tool your team needs because it means no one has to change their existing habits in terms of software.

 

There are other products out there to evaluate, and this post isn’t about software, but keep the essential detail: Flexible tools mean easier input and fewer hours wasted on accountability.

 

What is useful are small and simple status updates. In Slack or email or Teams or whatever everyone uses, send twice daily updates on projects. Keep the flow going. Workers be clear on if you’re ahead or behind or on time. Red/yellow/green works well.

 

Further, have brief meetings, not more meetings. An hour isn’t the universal meeting unit of measurement and nor is 30 minutes. Do 20. 15. 10. You’ll be amazed how much people can transfer in 10 minutes if you keep the status updates sharp. If someone’s part in that meeting requires more than a whole ten minutes, that’s an offline 1-on-1 call, not meeting material.

 

Above All Else, Facilitate Success

 

The tools won’t save you. Communication will.

 

Everyone has been gifted more time by removing their commute and all that entails. Don’t fill it back up with monotony. Lead these people to success by facilitating their interactions and give them all that extra time to do even better, more thorough work.

 

Treat your team like the winners they are.

 

You manage the best to deliver incredible results for a company that trusts your leadership. Make sure you preserve that reputation by keeping your team rolling forward.

 

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

To the untrained eye, working remotely looks a lot like doing nothing.manny-pantoja-P2-4kxFhvCQ-unsplash.jpg

 

We stare at our computers, sometimes typing, sometimes video conferencing with people, sometimes taking a minute to watch YouTube. But, I get much more done at home than I ever accomplished in an office with dozens of coworkers.

 

Having worked remotely for years, I’ve developed processes for getting things done. Now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re almost all working from home.

 

Only these newly minted remote workers don’t have processes in place to keep them focused. Most don’t have a dedicated workspace at home, either, because they’re used to leaving home for the office.

 

This alone represents a sudden upheaval of people’s routines. Add the emotional turmoil of a global pandemic and that many people have their kids home from school and you have a less than ideal pilot program for remote work.

 

Here are tips for helping your team succeed while working from home.

 

Talk with your employees

 

To help your people thrive in a new, remote environment, schedule calls with each to see how they’re doing overall (everyone is stressed and anxious right now), then talk about some of the successes and challenges they’ve experienced so far in their career.

 

Combine what you learn from these conversations with your experience working with people in the office and look for patterns:

  • Does this person need a lot of hand-holding, or can he work with minimal supervision?
  • Does she define work in hours or by project?
  • Does he crave the daily social interaction of a physical office, or does he secretly prefer working during off-hours to minimize distractions?

 

Learn what each person needs to be productive, then provide it. Take a more active role managing people who need reassurance. Exchange regular virtual messages with more social employees to make sure they feel connected to the team. Allow a few minutes at the start of any virtual meetings to ask how everyone’s doing.

 

Once you know what people need from a management standpoint, make sure they have the tools to collaborate effectively.

 

Give Your Team the Right Tools

 

Many remote workers experience loneliness and isolation, and research shows many view remote work as an obstacle to forming friendships with teammates. Give your employees the means and opportunity to connect.

 

Here are some tools that can help:

 

 

If you’re already using these kinds of tools, make sure your licenses cover the right number of employees and that your technology can handle the increased use.

 

Get Flexible

 

Your newly remote team is going to need a little flexibility in the well-worn “9 to 5” work structure.

 

Many people have children at home with them who’d otherwise be in school or at daycare. For them, the transition to remote work is happening under the most challenging of circumstances (and with no prep time).

 

Offer employees the flexibility to work when they’re most productive. A little leeway will help reduce stress and increase productivity.

 

Now, let’s talk about you.

 

Ask yourself whether working from home feels liberating to you, or if you feel a bit unmoored without the structure an office environment provides.

 

If you need more structure, schedule blocks of time on your calendar to check in on projects or do deep strategy work. If you’re a “work until the project’s finished” type, you’ll need to set boundaries. Establish your work hours, then abide by them.

 

If you can, set up a physical space just for work, then leave it when your day is over. You might also want to try an approach like the Pomodoro technique to keep you from burning out.

 

One thing to remember: almost everyone around the world right now is in the same stressful situation. Take into account the emotional strain employees are experiencing, and be sure to cut yourself some slack, too.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-chris Brogan headshot.pngsized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

It’s easy to see why we forget about podcasts. Screens dominate our lives. We watch Netflix and YouTube on multiple devices. We skim (never read) articles on our phones (sometimes while watching Netflix or YouTube). Whenever we have access to the glowing glass, our eyes turn in that directionpodcast pic.jpg.

 

But here’s the beauty of a podcast: it’s in our ears. It’s great for when we are driving, running, bicycling, pushing a stroller, or sweating it out at the gym. We can roam the grocery store while listening to a podcast.

 

People are Getting into Podcasts

 

You definitely don’t need to take my word for it. Read last year’s Infinite Dial report, by the same people who handle the exit polling results for presidential elections. The numbers are on a steady rise for people who are consuming digital audio content (and especially podcasts) in their cars and on their mobile devices.

 

As more of us seek ways to entertain and inform ourselves on topics we care about versus whatever happens to be on the radio, the rise of podcasting is only natural.

 

That becomes my first piece of advice: start learning about podcasts by seeking a topic of your interest.

 

Look up a show that catches your interest. Google Play has a podcast section. Apple has a podcast section. Spotify is investing more every year to add even more podcast content to their platform. You’ll find what you want if you search.

 

Find a show on yoga or Texas hold-em or true crime stories (a surprisingly popular podcast genre) or one about your favorite show, new or old.  A guy I know runs a Babylon 5 podcast about a show that hasn’t been on for decades and few watched even in its prime.

 

From here, you’ll learn about the value of listening to podcasts.

 

Where’s Your Podcast?

 

The effort required to produce a podcast isn’t all that intense. (Disclosure: I offer a jumpstart program for just that.)  Since 2005, I’ve launched (and eventually shuttered) six or seven shows and I have a new one starting soon. It’s that easy to make one, and that easy to take one down.

 

The work to produce a simple podcast is minimal. You can do the actual recording on a smartphone if you can find a quiet place (like a closet) to record. Or you can do interview style shows by recording a Zoom or Skype call. Background music isn’t hard to find (I use Epidemic Sound). Editing is as easy as cut and paste. 

 

But What Will You Talk About?

 

Here’s where you can shine. Your podcast can be about exactly what your customers and prospective customers most want to know about. If you sell dog grooming, maybe you do a show called “Between the Cuts” that gives general dog health and grooming tips for people to follow between visits.

 

If you sell ventilation systems for buildings, maybe you make a show for facilities managers called “Go Duct Yourself.” (Okay, that’s a bit irreverent, but I predict it would get a lot of pick up.)

 

The point is that you have a massive amount of freedom to make exactly the kind of show that customers and prospects would benefit from having. Shows like this keep customers warm between sales. They improve usage of the product. They sometimes even solve simple customer service challenges by educational means.

 

In fact, if you want to stretch the concept of podcast and not create an ongoing show, you can record 8 or 10 episodes of a “boxed set” and use it as a lead generation or on-ramping tool, or as a way to warm people up for the product they’ve purchased.

 

Their Ears Are More Ready Than Their Eyes

 

There’s far less competition to reach someone’s ears. You can encourage someone to take you to the gym, play your show on their morning commute, or tune in every time they go grocery shopping. The ear’s the limit in this case.

 

But really. Why not? It’s a strong opportunity to reach an otherwise overwhelmed prospect.

 

Give it a try.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-chris Brogan headshot.pngsized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

I just survived Super Bowl Sunday as I’m writing this. I live about 100 steps from a small-town grocery store. Right outside, stuck in a little clump of February 1st snow, was a girls-on-desk-looking-at-notebook-159823.jpghand-made sign: Get Your Girl Scout Cookies Inside.

 

It’s the second of February, for Buddha’s sake! Most people’s willpower for their New Year’s diet resolutions is as dirty and stunted as the snowbank that sign was stuck into. Sure, I went into the store for berries and carrots and a veggie platter.

 

But if you think I came out of that store having purchased just one box of Thin Mints, then you don’t know a single thing about my willpower.

 

I bought two boxes of Thin Mints, one of the lemonades, one shortbread, and whatever that coconut one is called.

 

Why? Because these girls did a bang-up job of selling me on this. They asked, “Are you having people over for the Super Bowl?”

 

“Yes,” I lied. My two kids and I were the “people.”

 

“Oh, then you know they’ll want these! Maybe for the halftime show!”

 

Entrepreneurship - Learn from A Kid

 

Kids are so much smarter than we are. They don’t worry as much (about the same things grownups worry about, at least). They don’t care about whether they need an LLC or an S-Corp. They don’t rush to Staples to print business cards and buy up some variant URLs.

 

They act like entrepreneurs:

 

  • Here’s a need

 

  • I can fill that need

 

  • That need generates a reward

 

  • Sure, there’s some risk but I’ll try it

 

  • I’ll fix what breaks

 

That’s it. That’s how kids do what they do. They want money to pick up a new game for their Nintendo Switch? They walk around and ask, “What can I sell?” “Who needs something?”

 

My kids are 14 and almost 18. They’ve had Redbubble accounts and Bandcamp accounts and all kinds of platforms where they can sell art and music and creative products online for years now. They spread the word with their friends. But because they’re kids, especially teenagers, they make it all “no big deal” and just talk about it matter-of-factly.

 

Kids Don’t Care About Forever

 

One absolutely beautiful detail about how a kid treats entrepreneurship is that it’s about serving a customer and their need, not about building some kind of “forever” business. Grownups treat it that way because it’s the most often cited example. Companies form in someone’s garage and then go on to become blue chips and massive.

 

But plenty of companies do their job well and then vanish. Netscape changed the world by delivering the best and most people-friendly Internet browser back in the day. It changed the world. And then shut down, all within five years.

 

What we forget to think and believe and accept is that we are not our companies. That’s the point of entrepreneurship. We serve a need. We work to fulfill that need. We create or shut down companies to support the structure of that need fulfillment.

 

Kids Aren’t (as) Self Conscious

 

Kids just put it out there. Sure, they can be shy. But kids just say, “Hey, I made a thing. Want one?” They know that people either do or they don’t. And for the most part, they don’t tie their self-worth to the product they’re selling. Even (and this is vital) if what they’re selling is their own creative output.

 

Kids are willing to sell because they think you might also have a similar need or interest. They’ll tweak their product to match your need. It’s not exactly about landing the sale. It’s about whether you helped out.

 

Kids love to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment, but when they lose, they don’t fixate on it as much.

 

And that brings me to a very important point: kids are more used to failure when they’re younger because they’ve had fewer deeply life-changing experiences as a result of failure.

 

It's worth learning this part alone.

 

Entrepreneurship is Vital, Even for Employees

 

For well over a decade, I’ve taught big companies to think more like an entrepreneurial endeavor. Why? Because corporations get too locked into any one system and forget the simple rules of entrepreneurship: there aren’t any rules - just sell someone something they need.

 

Strip it down to these five guideposts:

 

  • Here’s a need
  • I can fill that need
  • That need generates a reward
  • Sure, there’s some risk but I’ll try it
  • I’ll fix what breaks

 

From that, you’ve got a chance of teaching grownups to be as good at running a straightforward business as a kid might. It’s worth the effort.

 

Oh, and if I put the Girl Scout cookie boxes in the recycling, it’s almost like we didn’t eat all of them.

 

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by chris Brogan headshot.pngsharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Do you ever feel that you’re the only business out there who can’t invest much right now, and who believes a recession might be around the corner?

sophie-rey-CkJu0b3Kt_M-unsplash.jpg

 

And if your hunch becomes reality, does your business have all it needs to survive – and perhaps thrive?  There are three questions you should ask yourself when thinking about what you have versus what you want:

 

The first question is this: who does this help?

 

If something helps customers (especially the acquisition of more customers), that’s likely where your dollars should flow versus when it’s something that improves the quality of business and life for employees.

 

The second question, will this make us money?

 

Let’s say you run a business that accepts cash and credit/debit cards, but your customers are saying that if you accepted alternative funding like Venmo or PayPal, they’d be more inclined to do business with you. Naturally, it’s worth considering.

 

Hardest of all to answer is can we make do?

 

I’ve never met a company that doesn’t hate its current website design. Usually the second day after you launch a new website, you start to hate it. The layout is wrong, or you worry people can’t find what they need and so on. Almost always, your site is “good enough” to earn attention and guide people where they need to go.

 

And sometimes, thinking about making do requires creativity.

 

Resourceful People Thrive in Tough Times

 

It’s amazing what we think we need until we’re forced to consider operating without it. When I launched my business in 2009, I had an office in Massachusetts and an office in Maine to house my small team. We rolled along doing our work for a while before three important details dawned on me:

 

1. Rent costs a lot.

2. No customers ever came to our offices. We went to them.

3. Working at home is almost everyone’s preference.

 

I saved about $8,000 dollars a month almost instantly. Now, your business might not be something that can be run virtually. You might have to find another area to be resourceful and clever. But it’s out there.

 

Does your business really need a printer? Think about the money saved in ink and paper expenses monthly. Are you traveling to four or five conferences this year? Can you skip two?

 

Make Do In Marketing and Advertising with Technology

 

Marketing and advertising can cost a lot of money. Or it can be free. You might be inclined to think that paid efforts are better than free. Sometimes, that’s a very true fact. Other times, our free efforts land us more success than when we spend.

 

Is what you sell something visually appealing like food or clothes or even construction? Instagram is a great platform to earn some attention that can translate to business.

 

Have you used LinkedIn to publish interesting articles and videos? More and more people are slowly learning that LinkedIn isn’t that old site where you stick a digital copy of a resumé. It’s a thriving content hub where people go to learn and explore.

 

Recommended Reading:  Top 5 LinkedIn Strategies to Grow Your Business

 

Do you have a YouTube channel? YouTube is the No. 2 search engine in the world (Google is No.1 and they own YouTube). Publish how-to videos and interviews with satisfied customers and behind-the-scenes videos and so much more. This costs nothing more than some time, getting a little better with your smartphone, and being brave.

 

Recommended Reading: Tips and Tricks for Fast, Easy Video Content

 

Don’t forget Facebook. In my small town, a very small local store throws events so often that you wonder whether they ever have a “regular” day without one. The events are free to post on Facebook, and with just a little bit of ingenuity around thinking up themes, they have a constant stream of people stopping by the store for the themed experience that matches their interest.

 

Read articles from Mari Smith, Premier Facebook Marketing Expert

 

Spend a little time on Twitter search (search.twitter.com) and type in your locale and see what comes up. A restauranteur friend of mine used to “stalk” people coming to Milwaukee and then personally invite them into one of his four restaurants. It got him on ESPN, then another larger news story, and eventually brought him so much success he can hardly catch his breath. All from Twitter searches (and good food).

 

Constraints Are your Creative Best Friend

 

To stay on the theme of restaurants a moment longer, it turns out that most of the restaurants succeeding right now are those with smaller and more specific menus. Barring the typical Chinese Restaurant experience which has endless pages, most of the growing food chains in the U.S. sell just a few items and do it well.

 

By looking at your business the same way, you might find areas to consider cutting to focus on growing one aspect even more.

 

Constraints are great for being creative. If you must do more with less, it pushes you to consider methods and means that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

 

Can you make do? Of course you can!

 

You’ve got a lot to offer your customers, and they look forward to seeing you ride out any potential recession and make it through to better times again.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better chris-brogan-headshot.jpgsupport modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Sometimes, when I write for you, my customer for worthy content, I look around to see if there’s a trend emerging worth considering for your business. tim-mossholder-JfO62I4YRnY-unsplash.jpg

 

Today was like that. And I concluded maybe the time for making everyone love your brand is over. Work through this with me. It’s important.

 

Be Who You Are and Who You Want to Attract

 

There’s a weird fast-food war going among sellers of chicken sandwiches.

 

One company is thriving because their food is high quality and because they are very open about their religious values. While another has had much success introducing a tasty alternative for those who don’t want to support the other company.

 

In the sneaker business, one shoemaker supports a man who has made headlines standing against police violence. It’s a strong stance and revenue has gone up a lot because of it. Yet a different global firm sold sneakers made from ocean clean-up materials and easily sold 2 million pairs.

 

You don’t have to pick the same fights. You can support what makes sense for your brand.

 

Yet one detail is true: You must support something these days.

 

Reflect Your Buyer

 

This isn’t a piece about what’s right and wrong. Your business is yours to run.

 

Some companies thrive because of their commitment to inclusion. My schoolmate Doug Quint successfully launched a food empire with his Big Gay Ice Cream company, which started as an ice cream truck in New York and is now a regional staple in restaurants and grocery store freezers.

 

Maybe your buyer comes from a different upbringing than the whole Brady Bunch life that was reflected so often in advertising. Maybe they didn’t see people that reminded them of themselves in commercials or representing products they love.

 

Be Bold but Mean It

 

In 2019 and beyond, more buyers than ever say they prefer to buy from companies who share their values. But if your company doesn’t reflect any obvious values, how will someone know that they align?

 

The idea of this piece is to ask you to think about who you support and who might find strength in your alliance, and it’s to dare you.

 

You don’t have to be controversial, but please find ways to connect with and support people who will benefit from the association. Microsoft, for example, supports many different groups, including women in the gaming industry and fostering gaming inclusively for people with physical disabilities, and more. Where’s your group?

 

Put the Eggshells Away

 

Put the eggshells away and support a group that you feel aligns with your company’s beliefs and values. Purpose and beliefs and just plain support are the way forward.

 

Be more than just another place we can buy from. Be the place we want to support any day of the week. Your customers want to believe.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better chris-brogan-headshot.jpgsupport modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

I’ve long been a big fan of ‘90s and ‘00s hip-hop music and I often make friends suffer through my quoting of lyrics. So small biz community, why not make you think about this hip-hop wisdom with me?

 

I promise there’s a small business nugget of great importance to you in this story. black-and-silver-cassette-player-159613.jpg

 

I Need a Doctor

 

In February of 2011, musician and business mogul Dr. Dre teamed up with another rap legend and protege Eminem and singer Skylar Grey to release the song “I Need a Doctor.” Now, I’m sure you played this a lot when it came out, but here’s a refresher.

 

The idea behind the song is that Eminem is pleading with Dr. Dre to come back to music and release the very, very, very long overdue next album he’d been promising fans for years. Here’s a little snip of lyrics I want you to read:

 

But you’re either getting lazy or you don't believe in you no more

Seems like your own opinions, not one you can form

Can't make a decision you keep questioning yourself

Second-guessing and it’s almost like you’re begging for my help

Like I'm your leader

You’re supposed to f---- be my mentor

I can endure no more

I demand you remember who you are

 

That last line: I demand you remember who you are. That’s the heart of the nugget.

 

Eminem is saying that when you get lost and start second-guessing yourself, go back to your roots and reset. Get your feet under you.

 

It’s important and useful advice. Unless it’s not.

 

Maybe We Didn’t Need a Doctor

 

At the time of this song’s release, Dre was working on other projects. Five years after “I Need a Doctor” came out (where Dre promises he’s back), he launches Beats by Dre and releases premium headphones to the world. They’re an overnight hit. He sells the company to Apple for over a billion dollars.

 

He thrives in a whole new direction, a “pivot” as the kids call it.

 

Dre released only one more album in 2015 when the movie “Straight Outta Compton” came out. It debuted at No. 2 and sold enough units. But it wasn’t exactly like the old days.

 

It didn’t matter. We didn’t need a doctor. Or at least, let’s say it this way: Dre knew where he was going even though no one around him was ready to accept that’s where he’s headed.

 

That’s the other big yellow highlighter I need you to take from this:

 

People won’t always see where you’re going, and they might inadvertently try to hold you back.

 

Your notes, then, should read like this:

 

  • I demand you remember who you are - go back to basics any time you feel indecisive.
  • People won’t always see where you’re going - your vision comes to you long before others see you at the center of it.

 

As a small business owner, sometimes you get thrown far off the deep end of ideas. You chase what customers need and that can muck up your business. Sometimes we add and add and add and lose sight of what our business needs to be (I demand you remember who you are). 

 

Other times, we should accept people won’t see the next big turn in the road and that we’ll have to earn our way into people’s minds once we start executing a new vision (they won’t see where you’re headed).

 

This isn’t some list of five ways to get people to answer an email. It’s more than that. The risk is that you’ll just read this and take no action. But if you had even five minutes, I challenge you:

 

Are you back in your roots? And are you working on your vision?

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support chris-brogan-headshot.jpgmodern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

One of my clients sells a small appliance to help people sleep better by creating an improved oxygen flow. She’s a dentist and has decades of experience with medicine and science. When she talks about this product, she can go on for hours about the appliance’s health benefits.

 

But I gave her a different approach to consider.pexels-photo-963056.jpg

 

There’s Your Brain and There’s Your Belly

 

We all want to think we buy with our brain, but that’s so rarely true that I swear there’s a “brain lobby” out there paying for advertisements to make us continue to believe it. We buy from our belly, our guts. We buy from desire, more often than not.

 

Sure, when you go to the hardware store to replace a blind the cat knocked down in a frenzy, there’s not a lot of belly there. But when you buy a coat, a new car, a pair of shoes, or anything where one of the options is “I don’t really need to get this,” it’s your belly that does most of the thinking.

 

So why, then, do we try to market from the brain? If I tell you the easiest way to lose a lot of weight is to eat whatever you were going to eat but also add eight cups of broccoli to your daily consumption plan, you’d hate the advice. Even if you like broccoli. But it’s reasonably good advice (barring some medical afflictions).

 

But if I tell you that you can eat a cookie every day and drop some weight, you’re all over that cookie. (There was a cookie diet, and at least two companies sell protein cookies instead of bars the last time I checked.)

 

Bellies Buy. Brains Justify

 

Your brain works to justify things. But what I love to tell my clients is always the same: once you hook the belly, the brain just needs the paperwork to sign off.

 

In a business-to-consumer setting, you have to convince the significant other. In business-to-business, you might have five significant others to convince. But it works both ways.

 

We use our brains a lot when we don’t want to buy something, or when we feel threatened. We use our brains when we find ourselves startled into a sales pitch when we weren’t ready for it.

 

That’s why the smartest salespeople (and marketers) work on the belly first. Our bellies talk to our hearts, to our fantasies and to the prospect of possibility. We love language that helps us see ourselves in the future we want to imagine. And once we’re done with filling up the belly, we give the brain the paperwork it needs to close the idea.

 

Two Different Languages

 

Bellies like different words than brains. A belly wants words like:

 

  • Hunger
  • Desire
  • Sexy
  • Champion/Winner/Boss
  • Optimal
  • Professional
  • Unique

 

Brains, on the other hand, prefer sensible words like:

 

  • Affordable
  • Effective
  • Secure/Safe/Protected
  • State of the art
  • Reliable

 

And so on.

 

Look at how various products are marketed:

 

  • Buick: At the heart of every Buick SUV is you - belly
  • Milwaukee Sawsall: Best in class performance - brain
  • Four Seasons Hotel (NYC): A landmark hotel on billionaires’ row - belly
  • Lenovo Yoga: Smart, sleek and secure - a mix of two belly, one brain

 

The more you start looking for this, two distinct experiences will happen for you:

 

1. You’ll notice more when people are trying to appeal to your belly and you can decide whether to let them.

2. You’ll believe you’re now immune to marketing to your belly (and you’ll be wrong).

 

Marketing works because our brains and bellies want it to work. We need shortcuts throughout our daily processing of information so that we can decide whether we want to devote any time or effort into thinking about something.

 

You might be a “buy a bag of black socks” person or the “I love funky fancy socks and I show them off at conferences” type. Marketing lets you choose which person you want to be and how you want to feed those interests.

 

How are you selling to people? Are you aiming for their bellies or brains? And why?

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support chris-brogan-headshot.jpgmodern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Years ago, when I ran an event with Jeff Pulver, he told me, “You live or die by your database.”

 

hivan-arvizu-soyhivan-MAnhvw0nDDY-unsplash.jpg

He meant the list of prospects, customers and companies acquired over time and through hard work. The contacts in your phone. Your email newsletter list. Your alumni databases from college. These are all databases you have access to in one way or another. But what value does that bring?

 

It’s Always the Database

 

I recently started a partnership in a company where we build skill and knowledge transfer using augmented reality tools for big companies like manufacturing, aerospace, and so on. As it happens, I’m friends with someone from Boeing, know a guy who builds massive supply chain projects for big companies, and I have a list of about 600 highish-level people in other places that should also be a good start for this project.

 

I have these because I nurture relationships all the time, and not just in my business vertical, but anywhere someone is doing interesting work and might be a good ally later on. The more I reach out and connect with people in various verticals, the more I earn the opportunity to offer up my services where it makes sense and I can be helpful.

 

It takes more than just striking up conversations, though.

 

What to Do and How

 

No matter the size of your business, you can do what I’m about to recommend. And you can use whatever you want for this kind of project, but if you use something built for the job like customer relationship management (CRM) software, there will be all kinds of benefits, such as  the ability to take notes, search, gather group information, and so on. Hubspot offers a free CRM software program. Zoho has one that’s free or inexpensive. If you search for “free CRM,” there are plenty. Or heck, just open a spreadsheet and fill in someone’s name, email, phone, and then a spot for notes with dates and you’ll be ahead of the curve.

 

Let’s say you’ve picked the tool for the job (it’s okay to change later). The next goal is reaching out, connecting and nurturing contacts. This isn’t all that hard. You can do a little of this each day. Pick 10 names of people you know (I’ll explain who this is further in a moment) and reach out in some form or another. Call or text or email. Drop them a line.

 

What should you say?

 

“Hi (important person)!

I’m just reaching out to check in. I wanted to know what you’re working on and see if I can be helpful. What’s new and exciting in your world?”

Can’t wait to touch base,

(Your name.)”

 

Something like that. Vary it up. Try different messages. But note what I’ve done. The message isn’t selling anything specific. It’s offering to help. It’s asking about the person. The most important part of making connections is being personable about it and not sounding like a sales creature.

 

How often should you connect with the same person? Once a month is usually plenty, believe it or not. So, if you’re doing 10 contacts a day, that’s 300 a month. You can even cycle this to be once every two months. But that’s still a lot more contacts than you’re making right now, I can bet you that.

 

Who Should You Contact?

 

Most people think this is easy: reach out to customers and prospective new customers. Well, sure. That’s definitely one group to reach. But it goes further than this.

 

Reach out to past coworkers. Reach out to peers in your industry. Connect to people in other industries and geographies. Look to people you aspire to grow into being and look for people who are just getting started. I find people’s contact information on Twitter, on LinkedIn, through Google searches, and then I start with a personable introduction letter. This has served me well over the years.

 

And because you’re only doing five or maybe 10 of these contacts each day, it’s not all that super challenging. Your goal isn’t anything in specific beyond making contact and getting conversations started.

 

But Won’t This Snowball into a Crowded Inbox?

 

People stun me when they ask this question, because think about what you’re asking. “A lot of people are giving me their attention and offering an opportunity to connect. Will that be too much?”

 

NO. Never.

 

It’s the best thing in the world to have lots of active conversations with people from all over. Especially when you finally start piecing together ways to help others.

 

Imagine you talk to someone in Lawrence, Kansas, who just lost her job as CEO of a dairy plant. You hear from a friend in Bend, Oregon, that they’re looking for someone to run a new bottling operation for their beverage company. Kapow. You can offer to make some introductions. The more times you’re at the elbow of helping others, the more opportunities just naturally start clicking into your own life and business.

 

It’s About the Database

 

And by that, I mean the list, and by that, I mean people. It’s about keeping a lot of connections warm, and nurturing relationships at a variety of levels. This keeps your business alive in multiple ways, and it gives you many more ways to help others thrive.

 

This is the kind of extra work that brings business success if you give it a try. Are you ready?

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

My better half is launching a new skin health business. As part of the process, she ordered labels from an online vendor and the  experience was horrendous. Though she’d ordered with what she felt was plenty of time, the company had several hidden and unexplained steps that ruined her experience. They didn’t deliver.

 

customer-explaining-golf-clubs-1325735.jpg

This all could have been avoided if the company laid out and explained a much better workflow for their prospective buyers. No matter your business, almost every customer needs more hand holding than what they’re getting right now.

 

Make Everything More Explicit and Clear

 

When you buy coffee from your favorite place, you know how to order it. But you know that from experience, not because it’s laid out in any useful way. But many new restaurants are smarter about this. They set up their menus to clearly explain the concept.

 

Look at Chipotle: you pick the way you want the food packaged (burrito, salad, tacos, etc.), what kind of protein you want (beef, pork, chicken, etc.), then your veggies, your salsa, and any extras. It goes left to right. There’s nothing fancy. (Yes, I know guac is extra.)

 

Business at every turn can and should be simple and explicit. When I work with marketing clients, I explain up front what the process looks like, what each session will look like, what I do and don’t do for their company, how they pay, what to do when there’s a problem, how to terminate the contract, and more. It’s explicit. It makes every single part of the process known and understood.

 

What Point Do You Want Them to Take Away?

 

My friend Tamsen Webster is a master at helping professional speakers and organizations improve how they talk about themselves and get their ideas across. In one of my earliest training sessions with her, she told the story of a group of investors pitching their company as a great place for startups to seek funding.

 

The second slide showed the team (most of them between ages 40-75). The team’s idea was that people would see the slide and think, “Wow, now that’s a lot of experience!” Instead, the slide worried young startup entrepreneurs who thought that the team wouldn’t “get” their new ideas.

 

Tamsen said this: Be explicit in the points you want people to take away from the information you share.

 

If you intend for your customer to think that your website offers easy step-by-step ordering, then spell that out. The risk if you don’t is that they’ll mistake simple for unsophisticated, or clean with “lacking substance.” And so on.

 

Be There Every Step of the Way

 

People have an amazing capacity for feeling out-of-sorts and confused. Think of any time you spend in an airport. You’re perpetually in a state of uncertainty. Is this the right gate? Do I have the right documents? Am I going to have everything I need? Where do I go again?

 

It’s so important and easy and helpful to your customers to simply guide  along the way. Hold their hands. They’ll appreciate it so very much.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

No matter the size of your business, there’s a customer experience journey to be had. You might not think about it that way, or talk about it, but even a lemonade stand has the opportunity to deliver good and bad customer experiences. What separates two businesses with good products often comes down to which one gives their buyer a better time.

assorted-buy-customer-159991 (1).jpg

 

The Journey Often Has the Same Touchpoints

 

A customer experience almost always follows this path:

 

*Event* - Something happens that makes someone a prospective buyer. And then:

 

    • Awareness - customer finds out your product/service exists
    • Evaluation - they decide if you’re the right fit for the job
    • Purchase - the actual mechanics of acquiring your product or service
    • Onboarding - the process of getting started with your product or service
    • Retention/Referral - what you do to keep them or earn more customers

 

I mentioned a lemonade stand above. Let’s use that to map one of these:

 

*Event* - You’re thirsty OR you see a stand on the side of the road.

 

    • Awareness - You see the stand.
    • Evaluation - Is this what you want to drink?
    • Purchase - The price might matter (Do they take cards?)
    • Onboarding - Not a lot here for this example. They hand you the cup.
    • Retention/Referral - Maybe you tell someone else about the stand.

 

Apply This to Your Business

 

Even with that super simple business, you can see a customer experience journey. I suspect your business is a bit more complex than a lemonade stand, but you can apply the same map to it in order to develop great customer experience. Let’s use the little plan again:

 

*Event* - What happens that prompts someone to decide to work with you?  Are you even sure you know?

 

    • Awareness - Are you marketing your business? How do people see what you sell? WHERE do they see it? How often?
    • Evaluation - What do you do to help people see the difference between what you sell versus a competitor?
    • Purchase - Is it easy to buy what you sell? Do you make the experience enjoyable? How fast does your buyer get what they paid for?
    • Onboarding - What do you do once they’ve paid? How do you make them feel welcome? What gives your customer the sense that you’re in this together and there to serve them?
    • Retention/Referral - It’s so much easier to get a referral or keep an earned customer than it is to acquire new ones. What can you do to help that process?

 

Completing Your Map

 

A lot of times, people have one or two of these touchpoints figured out. Often times, however, there are parts that are very unclear. For instance, I find that many companies aren’t really clear on what *Event* might trigger someone needing what they sell. For some businesses, that’s easy. If you replace auto glass, it’s clear that a piece of glass had to break. If you sell life insurance, there are much more complex triggers to be considered.

 

The “awareness” and “evaluation” points of the map are about marketing. If you’re not putting your business out there to be seen, people will be less aware. If you’re not helping show people the difference between what you do and what someone else does, they will pick on cost or convenience. Knowing how better to position what you sell (the evaluation point) helps you justify a higher price point, for instance.

 

My buddy Joe opened a barbecue restaurant in Milwaukee, but he used only top-quality cuts of meat (BBQ is usually about saucing up cheap meat). The difference was there, but it cost more, so he had to really sell the story of high-quality cuts and an elevated dining experience.

 

 

The “purchase” map point sometimes yields an advantage for customer experience. If you can make it easier to buy from you or easier to pay you or easier to hand over what you’ve sold than another company, this can win you more business.

 

Not every product or service requires “onboarding.” If I buy a hot dog from your stand, I don’t need much in the way of direction. Or do I? What if you set out the condiments with little suggestions about flavor combinations to build? Show me how to dress my own Chicago dog (veggies all over it - don’t forget the sport pepper) or a Sonoran dog (bacon and beans and salsa).

 

“Retention/Referral” points to the area of marketing I find most companies do the least work to secure. You’ve bought. Now leave. Sure, sometimes, someone will say “come back again” or something similar, but that’s the extent of it. Work in this one category can definitely land you more business and improved revenue. How will you keep them coming back for more?

 

 

Work Your Map

 

As you sit with these ideas, try jotting it out for yourself. Don’t just read this and move on to something else in your day. Give yourself five minutes to map whether you’ve considered your customer experience journey for what you sell. I can bet you’ll learn something that might yield more results and revenue.

 

 

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About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

When a company makes a mistake, what do you as a customer want? It’s easy. You want acknowledgement that something happened. You’d love an apology. And you want the company to act to resolve the problem.

 

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These are the “Three A’s” that I learned from teaching customer service years ago. More so, in all aspects of the business, we want something other than the plastic perfection portrayed by PR and advertisers.

 

We Want the Real Thing

 

In a recent New York Times article about the Gen Z pop artist Billie Eilish, it was reported that the singer forgot the lyrics to one of her own songs at Coachella, the massive concert event. Instead of skewering her, the live audience and millions of YouTube viewers erupted with loud support for what they took as Eilish being human. And as bizarre and otherworldly as her music and videos might be, right there beneath the angsty exterior is a strong sense of “I can relate to this person.”

 

Companies should highlight and promote their quirks, their unique employees, the stuff that makes them specifically who they are. Good or bad. A crabby company president might be perceived as humorous as long as their interactions are straightforward and spelled out ahead of time. Can you imagine? “Our president can be grumpy, but she’s also great at solving your challenges.” I’d trust that far more than a fake smile or clip-art people all over your website.

 

While I’m on the subject of websites for a moment, don’t use clip art. Multicultural people shaking hands over an office table is generic. So are happy old people at your counter. Look into using real pictures of real people and make the site even more believable.

 

We CAN Handle the Truth

 

Sorry, Jack Nicholson. We’re ready. When dealing with customers, it’s imperative that companies communicate and interact with a genuine, sometimes-flawed, human point of view and perspective. We want people with real names at the company to represent the brand. We want to reach out and connect with these people before, during, and after the purchase process.

 

Oh, and if your small business is just you? Then say “I” and not “we.” That “we” for just one person was a tactic back in the 1980s. It just took a while for people to catch up.

 

When your company makes a mistake, make a clear and straightforward apology and don’t try the old cover-up routine. There are too many examples of companies being found out, and then trust is shattered.

 

“People Won’t Want That”

 

I’ve been studying how culture and companies keep trying to map their reality to something from decades ago. It’s interesting to watch entertainment for one marker.

 

  • “People won’t go to a primarily African American superhero movie.” - Black Panther nets $1.34 billion.

 

  • “People don’t like female superheroes.” - Captain Marvel just passed $400 million.

 

This happens all the time on Main Street, too. We think that “people” won’t want a barber shop that also pours whiskey, but then someone opens a unique store concept and it thrives for that reason. It’s not the same as everything else.

 

Times are changing faster than ever before, and a lot of what used to be a “known good” is in flux. But one trend that companies must adapt to or risk running afoul of the world around us is that you must strive to create the most “real” version of what you offer and how you represent yourself and the company.

 

Be personable. Be quick to apologize when you’re wrong. And deliver an accurate depiction of who your company is and what it represents. Your buyers will appreciate it and that will reflect in your efforts to retain customers and earn referrals.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Whenever you hear about some big advertising campaign or catch a clever commercial on TV, it’s easy to think: “But I’m a small business. I can’t do that. They must have an astounding budget.”

 

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You’re right. It can cost quite a lot to build what a company needs to be seen in the modern age. But I want to share that marketing with little or no budget can still earn big results if you use a little creativity, some personalized effort and free internet tools.

 

Here are five ways you can build strong customer and community engagement:

 

1.  Launch monthly events - No matter what you sell, there’s a reason for people to gather. I live right beside a smaller, old-timey hardware store. If they had monthly or weekly events like “Simple Fixes” where they show us how to change out a bathroom faucet, it would work well. Make the event about the product or about the kind of people the product serves. You might sell insurance. Maybe your event could be “Small Business Meet & Greet.” There are plenty of options.

 

2.  Publish an email newsletter - My No. 1 marketing technology after all these years is a personable, well-written email newsletter. I’m advocating for a “looks just like Mom sent it” plain old black text on white background email template. And instead of sending the random “junk drawer” of whatever you find online, think about what your customers might actually want to know more about. You deal with accountants? Teach them how to sell packages instead of just billable hours. Make the newsletters reasonably brief (300 words or so) and to the point. It’s your option whether you end with a call-to-action of some kind (but I would).

 

3.  Shoot Brief Videos - Five seconds, 30 seconds, a minute at most if you can do it. Use your smartphone to shoot small videos. What should you cover? How-to answers. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Interviews (super brief) with employees. Video testimonials where the story is about the customer, not about how great you are. “Show and tell.” Post them on YouTube and/or on your website.  [Check out How to use Compelling Video On Social Media for your Small Business by Mari Smith for some great tips.]

 

4.  Send Personal Messages to Your Best Clients - My buddy Mick runs a gaming and comic store. In the old days, when he was selling more comics (and I was buying some), he’d email me or tweet me pictures of new comics that came out on Wednesday. Not “the” comics but “my” comics, the ones I’d care about. That one move can be copied and stolen by almost any business. Send specific one-on-one messages that engage and encourage your customers or prospects to come in and visit. It makes a difference. These can be in email, text, private Facebook messages, or postcards for all it matters.

 

5.  Build a Great Onboarding Process - A lotof customers express frustration with the “purchase and forget” experience they have with lots of smaller businesses. They buy a product or a service and the company stops interacting right there. Depending on what you sell, a great way to engage and reach people and earn their continued business (and referrals) is to follow up after a sale to see how things are going, to provide how-to instructions if that makes sense, and to offer any further assistance. There’s a wealth of “next sales” hidden in those connections.

 

What I love most about these recommendations is that nothing here takes a whole lot of time to put together, nor does most of what I recommended cost money. Time? Yes. Effort? Absolutely. But not much (if any) money.

 

If we want to sell and serve the best in our community, we will need to build better levels of engagement. It’s simple but not easy, and you can do it.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

chris-brogan-headshot.jpg

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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