Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stop the Selling!!

I recently went to lunch at one of my favorite local spots, where I consistently enjoy tasty meals, good company, and a nice atmosphere.

I was first to arrive and got a table for our group.  The waitress asked me what I wanted to drink.  I said, “water.”  She told me about two types of special teas I should really try.  I said, “They sound nice, but I want water.” She ran off to get me tea.  I stopped her as she ran to the kitchen.

With water in hand, she told me about the day’s specials.  I interrupted her, trying to spare her the trouble, and mentioned it was Ash Wednesday, so I wasn’t eating meat.  She continued, confident she could sell me on chicken.  I reiterated that next time I would try it, but not today.

When my friends arrived, the selling continued.  Nothing could be mentioned without multiple upgrades being suggested.  “Would you like avocado?  Bacon?  Cheese?  A side salad?  A large, instead of the small?  I don’t want you to go hungry!”

Often, suggestions can make a meal better.  However, when it’s especially obvious you’re trying to add to my bill, rather than my experience, I get irritated.

Eating lunch shouldn’t feel like buying a car.

No matter your industry, consider playing it cool and easing up on the aggressive pitch.  Suggestions aren’t bad, but customers are more likely to return and buy more when they enjoy their experience and know you’re looking out for them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dear Diary

A professional contact at Del Mar College’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) introduced me to an entrepreneur with tons of experience and technical knowledge.  This small business owner worked for a large corporation and is now starting his own business while working full-time and going to college.  He is pursuing a government contract to work at a local military base and was new to the government’s procurement process.

Early last week, this entrepreneur was wondering if this contract “wasn’t meant to be” because he didn’t know how to responded to a Request for Proposal (RFP).  However, in less than a week, we developed a technical approach and finalized a proposal that was shipped ahead of schedule.  The craziest part?  It was really fun!

Like everyone else, I watch the news and hear depressing and discouraging things about the economy.  However, seeing the enthusiasm and strong work ethic of this entrepreneur, and being able to help him, inspired me and gave me hope.  This individual represented the gumption and grit of the small business owner, who is very much alive, well, and ready to achieve.

The shoes of an entrepreneur are an uncertain, interesting and exciting place to be.  Sometimes I know things.  Other times, I learn something new.  There are ups and downs, highs and lows.  But spending time helping clients achieve their goals is icing on the cake.

In the words of Little Orphan Annie, “I think I’m gonna like it here!”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What's in a Brand?

A lot of people get excited about branding.  It’s like an art project for grownups.  And who wouldn’t be excited?  It signifies a new beginning.  It’s fun to be creative and produce a sexy new image that incorporates all that your organization is and aspires to be!

But is rebranding always practical?

I worked with a company that had limited marketing dollars and was very surprised to see people advocating for a trendy rebrand suggested by a consultant.  Not only were design fees unaffordable and unbudgeted, but undisclosed costs associated with updating marketing materials, signage, and other branded items would send costs through the roof.  Worse still, none of that expense would have helped bring clients in the door.

Rebranding is an investment, and more so than not, the return on that investment just isn’t there. 

Another company I worked with didn’t know when to stop.  Every year, color pallets changed, requiring disposal of old materials and time spent redesigning and printing new ones.  First, they asserted color was the trend.  The next year, it was white space.  Then, it was back again to color.

Consistency is key to successful branding.  Frequent changes can cause additional expense and confusion among consumers.

Although an updated look can be refreshing and necessary, sometimes rebranding projects become an expensive distraction.  In such cases, our time could be better spent developing the reputation and consistency of our brand instead of changing it altogether.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

You Know What I Don't Like?

I don’t like Valentine’s Day.

I know… it’s supposed to be romantic and sweet.  But sometimes it feels more like a predictable marketing ploy. 

As a singleton, I hated Valentine’s Day.  (A college friend of mine referred to it as “Single Awareness Day.”  I thought that was especially awesome.)

Last year, my then fiancĂ© and I went to a nice dinner and noticed other couples in the restaurant were not even speaking to each other!  We enjoyed our dinner and company, awkwardly laughing and wondering why no one else seemed to want to be there.

I was recently listening to the radio, and the DJ made a fantastic suggestion.  What if we made Valentine’s Day more about others… all others, instead of just those who expect it?  What if we make a genuine effort to show people, in general, just how much we love them?

Last year I surprised my then fiancĂ©, parents, and grandmother with breakfast tacos and a visit really early in the morning.  I was a little too chipper at Stripes and got plenty of funny looks from refinery workers.  But the smiles and surprises were priceless! 

Showing appreciation for others doesn’t take a lot of time or money.  It only takes thought.

So this Valentine’s Day, spread the genuine love!  Consciously recognize and acknowledge the important people in your life.  And don’t forget your coworkers and clients.  An honest smile or kind word of thanks can go a long way!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's Personal. It's Business.

Early in my career, I was determined to climb the corporate ladder.  I read countless books and sought out every mentor I could find.  I learned a lot.  I also picked up some terrible advice. 

Years later, a former colleague mentioned that when we worked together, I always turned down opportunities to go to lunch.  I didn’t recall turning down lunches, but knew immediately why I had.  A book I read said women in the workplace should avoid being overly social to be taken seriously.  So, I put my head down and made work my top priority, no matter what.  In the process, I alienated a colleague.  It was nothing personal.  It was business!

Work certainly should have been my priority at the office.  However, I made a mistake in not recognizing just how personal business is, and should be!

People decide whether or not to buy our products, support our initiatives, or build team morale.  How we treat clients either brings them back or drives them away.  Whether we’re dealing with colleagues, clients, or vendors, people and our relationships with them make things happen.  More important still, as people move, change jobs, and get promoted, they will most surely cross our paths again. Although goals, budgets, and profits often become a primary focus, strong relationships with people help us do business better.

I’m not sure who said it first, but whether it was Donald Trump or the Godfather, the idea that “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business” is absurd.

Business is always personal.