Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sweat the Small Stuff

I needed to purchase a volunteer recognition piece and chose to support a local small business.  My budget was small, but the company agreed to help.  After weeks of being unable to get a response by email, I scheduled an appointment to come by and talk in person. After confirming my appointment, I arrived but was told to come back later.  They were going to lunch.  Before leaving, they added that my project wasn’t worth their time, and that apparently, they were in the business of charity too.

A few days later, I called a local print shop to get a quote about another project.  I was told my project wasn’t worth their time. 

Recently, I drove to three hardware stores when I couldn’t find what I needed online.  At each store, my questions were referred to another department.  Eventually, I was sent back to the internet.

Scenarios like this are far too prevalent. 

Great customer service is imperative and the little actions and efforts we make reinforce our reputation and brand.  Our behavior dictates whether or not clients will return.  It impacts what they’ll tell others about us.

Our businesses cannot be all things to all people.  When mutually beneficial relationships do not exist, clients should still be treated respectfully and professionally.  Even if we are unable to help, we can often make recommendations or referrals to lend a hand.  Handling situations like these well could even end up increasing brand loyalty or leading to a new opportunity.

It’s worth sweating the small stuff.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peace. Love. Phoebe.

I have been looking forward to teaching a “Stress Management / Yoga” class for City of Corpus Christi latchkey staff.  But 150 people?  Dressed in jeans and tennis shoes?  With rows of tables and chairs in the way?

I did tons of research to prepare, and finally felt ready.  But the day of the training, my A/C was out for the fourth day in a row.  And the cat was stuck in a mattress box spring.

As I walked into the training session, my nerves calmed.  I started my presentation.  But my first PowerPoint slide was blank.  I continued talking.  Another blank slide.  Recognizing my audience was young, tired, and ready for lunch, I adapted my plan and made fun of my problems.  I cracked jokes, stayed upbeat, and moved along like nothing was wrong.

I ended the training with a short yoga class, and after relaxation, much to my surprise, the class burst into applause!

My experience got me thinking about the importance of focusing on client needs.  It isn’t always easy.  Sometimes, we’re just not in the mood.  Sometimes, client’s needs aren’t quite as clear as we had assumed, so we have to look a little harder.  But doing business well requires putting personal and professional distractions and preconceived ideas aside.  We have to understand our customers and recognize that meeting and exceeding their expectations come first. 

When we do, they take notice.

And so you know, Phoebe the Cat is fine. 


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Need to Vent

While surfing the web, I was struck in the gut.

Online rating systems should give consumers a realistic idea of what to expect from businesses.  Instead, many platforms are used by angry individuals set on slander.  And rather than telling you about their experience, these people provide minimal accusatory details, if they have the courage to provide any information at all (beyond a minimum ranking).

The post that angered me outrageously stated that a local business treated her like she “wasn’t white enough.”  Additional details were not provided.  But because I am working with the company, I took the comment personally.  I know the staff.  They work hard and mean well.  I also know they 1) don’t discriminate and 2) aren’t even white!

People who make comments like this get under my skin.  They don’t want to be constructive.  They want to be hateful under the protection of anonymity. 

Some review sites offer the ability to turn off rating capabilities or respond to comments.  Google Plus seems to be trying to eliminate the ability to hide behind a screen name.  However, I offer two suggestions I hope we will all keep in mind.  As consumers, let’s take online reviews for what they are worth.  (Many times, very little.)  More importantly, when we have good experiences, let’s take the time to rate that local business highly for a job well done.

We must all be honest if any truth or value can come from online ratings.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Wonderful World of Search Engine Optimization

It’s amazing how fast technology advances things.  And although I know my marketing stuff, technology changes that stuff.  So, rather than become an old dead elephant too soon, I’ve taken to studying Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

SEO is fun.  It helps organizations improve their search engine rank, and consequently, visibility to prospective clients.  However, my research has left me shocked at how few local businesses actually take advantage of all SEO has to offer. 

Simply having a website does not guarantee prospective clients get a chance to see it.  Websites that look cool and function well might not have been made with the intent of driving prospects to your site.  In fact, some local companies aren’t even visible when you Google their business name!  Seriously… some local companies aren’t even visible when you Google their business name!

Search engines use algorithms to determine your website’s relevance to an online search.  Some things, like how long your site has been live, can’t be controlled.  Other variables related to keyword placement, content, and links, can boost your relevance significantly.  Developing content and strategically placing keywords within your website appeals to search engines.  And although some industries and associated keywords are more competitive than others, simple steps can still improve your website’s visibility.

Sure, it can be challenging to learn or do something new, but SEO gives your business a huge leg up in a competitive market where it’s easier to stand out than it seems.