The No. 1 Reason for Business Screw-Ups

If you had to guess, what would you say the No. 1 reason was for business screw-ups? Specifically, what’s the main reason for stupid errors, dumb recurring questions, unclear communications, employee un-civil war and blunders?

If you had to guess, what would you say the No. 1 reason was for business screw-ups? Specifically, what’s the main reason for stupid errors, dumb recurring questions, unclear communications, employee un-civil war and blunders?

The Reason May Surprise You!

“Forgetting” is the No. 1 reason for the free-for-all confusion and chaos in business!

How do I know?

Before learning the art of systematization, I was a “professional” at business screw-ups. Yes, an aficionado at business blunders. Not something I’m proud of, because my ignorance cost me dearly!

Did you know, way back in 1858 a man by the name of Hermann Ebbinghaus studied and developed a system to measure “forgetting?”

It’s called the Hermann Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. It’s true!

According to Ebbinghaus’ measurements, people forget two-thirds of the information they receive within 24 hours. I believe it, because I’ve seen it and experienced it.

This being the case, it’s easy to understand WHY employees ask the business’ owner and managers the same questions repeatedly and WHY stupid errors reoccur daily.

The amazing thing is, experienced business owners seriously believe and repeat the myth that there’s nothing businesses can do about “the forgetting curve.” As a result, they say, “People are human; therefore, we must accept ‘forgetting’ as normal, and just deal with it.”

My response to that type of Mom and Pop-business-thinking is, “Tell the airline industry or your surgeon, if they forget something, you’ll understand. After all, they’re only human, right?”

Business Screw-Ups Not Tolerated at American Airlines

When I was a business owner in the printing industry, we printed for American Airlines. At that time, their hub was in Nashville, Tenn. I was always amazed at the amount of detailed information contained in their aircraft service manuals, which we printed daily.

Routinely, we received calls from an American Airlines purchasing agent asking the status of a certain manual, days before we were to deliver it. When we responded, for example, the manuals were 50% completed, the agent would say “OK, scrap them all, invoice us and come pick up the updated version.”

The reason for that was, someone in the organization had identified an issue or error with the manual; consequently, updating was immediate, no matter the cost. Their customer’s safety vastly outweighed the cost of reprinting those just-printed manuals.

The process of maintenance improvement is systematic at American Airlines. In fact, updating maintenance checklists and manuals is continual and routine. Nothing left to chance FORGETTING is not an option!

In like manner, we operated just like the “big boys” at our company. Control Checklists for quality were routine and the process of improvement, continual. If a professional business screw-up like myself can change, so can any small business owner.

You think American Airlines appreciated our quality control checklists? I’m sure they did!

Did I mention? Great systems work!

Why and How to Let Prospects ‘Pick Your Brain’ Online

“Can I pick your brain on social selling, Jeff?” As a B-to-B marketer myself, I cannot afford to say no. Neither can you. Because customers may not want to do it themselves, as we suspect they do. In fact, prospects seeking free advice are often latent buyers or great referral sources. Here are two reasons to let prospects “pick your brain” and a way to give away knowledge that grows your business.

“Can I pick your brain on social selling, Jeff?” As a B-to-B marketer myself, I cannot afford to say no. Neither can you. Because customers may not want to do it themselves, as we suspect they do. In fact, prospects seeking free advice are often latent buyers or great referral sources.

Here are two reasons to let prospects “pick your brain” and a way to give away knowledge that grows your business.

Is It Stupid to Give Away Your Best Secrets?
“What kind of a business owner would be so stupid as to give away a company secret?” asks business owner Jerry X. Shea. He says prospective buyers constantly ask him how he does what he does.

“My answer … ‘that is why you are paying us to do it, because others can’t,'” says Shea.

“In 1992, I purchased a six-year-old screen printing/embroidery company,” says Shea. “We developed a way to print a four-color process on a T-shirt, and as a result I knew we would get the 10,000-shirt job as other shops in the area could not do it. Now why would I want to post on the Internet what it was we did get that end result?”

Because the Internet is an insurance policy on prospects finding what they need—with or without your help. If they want to do it themselves, they’ll find out how.

Businesses have always created and defended competitive advantages. Today, the Internet speeds-up the spread of information and exposes advantages faster. Bottom line: It’s smart to rely less on proprietary knowledge (to drive success).

The DIY Myth and the Damage It Inflicts
“Giving prospects my best advice for free will help them to do it without me.”

Not always. Here’s why believing this can hurt you.

Don’t confuse customers qualifying you with what you perceive as their purchase intent.

The act of seeking out knowledge does not always translate to customers’ wanting to do it on their own. Even in cases where it does “signal” a customer’s desire to do-it-themselves, what they want may change.

You want to be there when it changes.

Who will be there when customers change their minds? Who will they turn to when switching from, “Oh, heck, I can do that” to “Oh my, that didn’t work quite like I expected” or “Oh my. I had no idea it was that complicated.”

You should be there. You can also structure the (free) knowledge to foster prospects’ change in mindset.

Beware. Avoid the following:

  1. Misinterpreting customers intent to buy. Don’t presume customers want to do (themselves) what you want to be paid for. They may be qualifying you or the challenge they face.
  2. Over-valuing your knowledge. Avoid believing what you know is more valuable than what your knowledge DOES for clients.

Effective Content Helps You Filter Leads
Should every interaction have a financial return? Of course not. However, your time is valuable and in limited supply. Let content do the heavy lifting for you. Let blogs, white papers, video tutorials nurture prospects toward or away from buying.

Effective content marketing on YouTube, blogs or LinkedIn is all about using words to let customers:

  • get confident in their buying decision and/or ability to buy (at all)
  • self-select themselves as leads to be nurtured
  • change their mind and not do-it-themselves—returning to a trusted adviser (you)

Success is not determined by how much knowledge a business gives away. Your success is based on the material effect your advice and knowledge have on prospects.

We cannot afford to say no when customers ask for free advice. Because the act of asking does not always signal a desire to do-it-themselves. Plus, even if they are in “DIY mode” they may try, fail and come back to you—the clear, proven authority.

In my business I try to remind myself daily: Few people are willing to pay for my knowledge … but many are willing to pay for what my knowledge will DO for them. My knowledge isn’t my competitive weapon; my higher level of service is.

“The world does not pay men for that which they know. It pays them for what they do, or induce others to do.” —Napoleon Hill

Go Deep!

If you only read one thing from me this year, this would be it: One of the biggest mistakes I see from businesses large and small is trying to do too much in mobile. When they just get started they think they need to attack all aspects of mobile at once. Their mobile website, SMS, LBS, apps, search, mobile rich media … The list goes on.

If you only read one thing from me this year, this would be it: One of the biggest mistakes I see from businesses large and small is trying to do too much in mobile.

When they just get started they think they need to attack all aspects of mobile at once. Their mobile website, SMS, LBS, apps, search, mobile rich media … The list goes on.

If you look at some of the most successful brands doing mobile, EVEN the small businesses they focus on two … maybe three platforms within the mobile space and focus on that until they can’t focus anymore.

That’s what I call “going deep.”

As a small business owner you can’t be everywhere … It’s actually not even in your best interest.

You need to spend the time on what generates results for your business. Basically, the things that put money in your pocket.

So, when you’re getting started in mobile … heck, if you’re already executing mobile programs, I’d suggest you scale back and focus on two to three efforts until you’ve really mastered them.

It will allow for you to focus your efforts, your time and your money into things that you’re giving a chance to grow.

Giving 10 percent to 10 different mobile channels won’t deliver the results you’re looking for.

As a small business owner, you should go deep with your mobile website and SMS first. If you’re adding a third, I’d recommend email.

Between those three channels, you can create systems that turn prospects into customers and turn those customers into repeat customers.

Why waste time in the beginning spreading yourself too thin?

To be successful with mobile your best bet is to go deep.

4 Things Mobile Users Need

With the speed at which mobile technology and innovation is occurring these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up. With more and more consumers adopting smartphones or tablets and relying on them in everyday shopping decisions, it’s put them in the driver’s seat. As a business owner, it’s your job to keep up.

With the speed at which mobile technology and innovation is occurring these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up.

With more and more consumers adopting smartphones or tablets and relying on them in everyday shopping decisions, it’s put them in the driver’s seat. As a business owner, it’s your job to keep up.

The best way to keep up with mobile consumers is to understand their needs.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an interview I had with Brad Frost, a thought leader in the responsive design community. He broke down what is essentially the mobile hierarchy of needs.

He used the pictured pyramid to discuss a mobile user’s needs as it relates to a mobile website; however, I believe these needs apply to more than just mobile Web …

In fact, I think these four needs are key to business success when integrating mobile into the business.

1. Access

At the foundation of the pyramid, you have Access. As Frost will tell you, this means giving the users what they want. When we’re talking about mobile Web, this essentially means giving them the info they are looking for. If they came to your site for tips on cooking the perfect steak … they should be able to find that.

As for overall mobile strategy, you need to consider what your mobile customer needs. Can you give them access to tools that will help them in their lives? Can you give access to specials or coupons while they are on the go?

Access is the first and most important component of success with mobile.

2. Interaction

As Frost mentioned in our conversation, interaction usually results in navigation as it pertains to your mobile website.

Simply, can the user get around your site to accomplish the desired result?

When considering your overall strategy, creating campaigns that allow consumers to interact with you and your business will often lead to deeper engagement and increased conversion opportunities.

3. Performance

Performance is often overlooked—mainly because marketers make too many assumptions about our user.

Your users won’t always have the fastest Internet connection and, despite that, expect your site to load faster than the desktop, although that rarely happens when looking at most mobile sites vs. their desktop counterparts.

Your mobile strategy should be focused on performance, as well. When I think of performance from a strategic standpoint, I think of giving the users what they want as fast and efficiently as possible at my lowest cost.

4. Enhancement

At the top of the pyramid, we have enhancement.

As Frost explained, mobile is inherently different from desktop. Mobile browsers can do things that desktop browsers cannot.

If your customer needs to complete a mobile Web form, you can offer your user different keyboards to help provide important info, such as a phone number.

When it comes to strategy, it’s important to remember mobile is different. Thus, you must consider how you can leverage that in reaching your goals. Can you use location or the accelerometer to give extra value to your customers as you begin to better understand their context?

Whether you’re developing a mobile website or looking for guides as you develop a winning mobile strategy, moving forward with the hierarchy of mobile needs in mind puts you in the best position to succeed.

As a small business owner, this can be your advantage. Because, quite frankly … many big brands fail to do this today.

Now it’s your turn … What are you doing to satisfy your customer’s mobile needs?

7 Customer Survey Tips, or How to Know Your Customer For Increased Leads & Profits

Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you, one of the most important rules of thumb is “know thy customer” (KTC). For many years, I’ve found the best way to KTC is implementing periodic customer surveys, then creating a “customer profile” sheet. 

Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you, one of the most important rules of thumb is “know thy customer” (KTC).

Knowing who your customers are—not just on a superficial level, but also on a deeper level—is fundamental for business longevity. It can help your business with most any targeted marketing efforts such as social media marketing (communities with like-minded interests), direct mail and email list selection, copywriting, media buying, affiliate marketing and more. It can also help with bottom-line goals such as bonding, lead generation and sales.

For many years, I’ve found the best way to KTC is implementing periodic customer surveys, then creating a “customer profile” sheet. Ideally, you want to survey at least two times per year, especially after large attrition or list growth.

The profile sheet is important, as it’s a quick reference of your “Joe and Jane” customers, as well as your ideal ‘target’ lead. After all, your prospecting efforts should be a reflection of your current customer base.

But surprisingly enough, not every business knows how to effectively implement and data-mine its online surveys and the respective results.

Here are some quick tips to get the best performance from your customer surveys for business growth and retention:

1. Keep surveys easy and short. The ideal length should be no longer than 10 to 20 questions and questions should be easy to answer. That means thinking of typical questions and having pre-populated multiple choice answers that only need a mouse click.

2. Go 360. Questions should cover demographics, geographics and psychographics. Also, for potential joint venture or advertising opportunities, it’s smart to also ask some competitor and purchase-behavioral type questions.

3. Segmentation is key. Send at least two separate emails to your list. One survey to paying customers and one survey to non-paying customers (leads). It will help later to have these two segments separated when you review response results. If one segment is less responsive than another, you can isolate future “bonding” strategies.

4. Offer incentives. I like to offer free, immediate and easily accessible gifts for survey participation after completion of a survey. Once users submit their last response they are redirected to a download page to free reports or similar. People are taking time out of their schedule and should be “rewarded” accordingly.

5. Be creative with the email subject line. I’ve found that response is greater if the focus of the subject line is more on the reward, rather than the goal. Readers respond better to the mention of freebies and gifts (the “what’s in it for me”), than asking for survey completion. Survey subject lines are viewed as clinical and boring, thus glared over in the inbox.

6. Embrace online tools. Use an easy, cost-effective online survey, such as SurveyMonkey.com. There’s different options and price points, varying on need and robustness. But ideally, you’d want to be able to collect emails and tie responses down to the user (email) level.

7. Allow feedback. Always have an “other” field for open comments. People like to either vent or add praise, so don’t limit them with only having all multiple choice. I tend to make this option the last question.

If you’ve set up your survey correctly where you can drill down responses to the user (email) level, you can then created “buckets” (categories) of common themes. For example, buckets could be based on RFM (recency, frequency or monetary) or on other categories such as interests.

You can then use this information for database marketing efforts and send more personalized messages to your list by group (or “bucket”). This targeted marketing approach has been proven to increase open, click, response and conversion rates by more than double!

Not surveying your list is really doing a disservice. You are not really getting to know your customers; thereby, aren’t offering your best editorial or promotional messages, or creating the best products.

If you’re truly looking for better retention, more customer engagement, and increased sales or leads, then make the time to survey your list.

If you’ve never done this before, then you’re truly leaving money on the table, my friend.