Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Marketing Musings: Change Those Lightbulbs

Last week (Week 46) I talked about attention to detail in your business and how that is perceived by your customers. I just stumbled upon this piece from Charles Dunstone who founded The Carphone Warehouse in Europe. Carphone Warehouse has over 1800 stores and Dunstone is worth over £800 million.

Mastery of that kind of detail is a gift. Dunstone, always likeable, belittles it. “Staff know I’m Mr Lightbulb,” he says. “The simplest way you can measure an organization is to walk in and see how many lightbulbs have not been replaced. Look at Heathrow — the greatest place in the world to spot non-working lightbulbs. All it says to me is, nobody cares.”

Charles Dunstone, The Sunday Times, April 16 2006.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Week 46 - Provide a Thrill Factor in a Welcoming Environment

Whatever you deliver, it has to be consistent. Once your systems are in place you will realize that it is not difficult to deliver a consistent service or product as these systems will support you every step of the way. Another way to climb out of the pile of competitors is to actually exceed their expectations. You see, most people expect decent service - that is, they expect you to go through the motions, supplying them, giving them their change and moving on. Not bad, not great, just good decent service.

Most customers will be shocked if you go out of your way to make the transaction a truly memorable event. This “thrill” factor is lacking in 99% of businesses today, which is great for you because it gives you the opportunity to differentiate yourself. Nearly every business success throughout the world counts “creating outstanding experiences” as the one of the keys to their success.

The flip side of this is bad experiences – have you ever called a business at 5:31pm and received a recorded message stating they are only available between 8:30 and 5:30pm? How does that make you feel? Even worse, what if you call back again in the morning at 9 a.m., and the message is still playing? Make sure you DON’T do this in your business. It shows that you don’t have a system and secondly that you don’t really respect the time of those that are trying to call. One thing I have not said until now is that EVERYTHING you do is marketing in some way so you must review your performance in these areas.

Sabotage doesn’t end with your phone system… The final touch to any systems based business is of course the impression you create when someone calls into your premises. Whether you are working from home, an office or even out of the back of a truck, you need to be projecting an image that is consistent with your traditional marketing and the reputation you seek.

What sort of coffee do you serve? Are your waiting room magazines 3 years old? Is your van filthy and disorganised? How does your business look? How does it smell, what is the decoration like – is it visually interesting – is it an inviting space?

There is a newsagent in Sydney who simply uses his business as a distribution point for papers and magazines – absolutely no effort has been made to make the shop inviting. There is mess everywhere, old posters – it always makes me think how little pride these people must have in their business. What about the hair salons that have the 10 year old, yellowing photos in the window? Not only do they look dated and worn – the hair styles have even gone out of fashion!

The usual excuse for this is that the owner simply does not have the money to update their premises. That may be the case, but this lack of funds is ultimately linked to all of the other issues we have discussed week to week. Once some progress has been made toward implementing systems, creating new income streams and running effective marketing campaigns, this situation will turn around and it is then that the premises must be dealt with. Nobody wants to eat in a dirty little diner anymore. Have you recently walked by a fast food shop which has not updated its interior in 10 years? These businesses have no real hope of survival unless they commit the dollars to renovation.

Just like meeting someone face to face, you only get one chance at that first impression. So a dirty restroom or broken piece of furniture may not seem like a priority to you today but think of the long term damage it can do, especially when you recall that each customer is worth a lot more than they actually spend on that day!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Week 45 - What Sort of Boss Are You? Unlock the Secret to Buy-In!

Getting employees to “buy-in” to your vision can be much harder than it seems. What motivates you each and every day may mean nothing to your employees. Each employee must understand what you are trying to achieve and then encouraged to behave in a manner which helps you on your journey. To put it another way, they either work for you to earn money and couldn’t care less what happens to the business long term, or, they treat the business as if it were their own and constantly look at ways of improving the way things are done. The second version is obviously preferable!

Thriving on Chaos author Tom Peters is very blunt: “Every employee must buy in or else you are wasting your time.”

I recall owning a fast food restaurant and early one morning I discovered that the freezer motor had broken down. Pulling out the Yellow Pages I found a fridge mechanic and rushed to call them. After briefly describing the problem, the mechanic’s rough response was “…you know it is double time on Sunday don’t you?” There I was with at least $5000 worth of rapidly spoiling stock on hand and all this guy’s attitude said to me was basically “do you really need me to come out today?” When he did finally turn up, his demeanor was that of an angry bear. I wonder how his apprentice or other employees view his attitude and whether they even care about his business. He did not seem to. If he does not care about his business, how do you think he treats his employees? The guy just didn’t want to be there and of course was never heard from again, despite the fact that fridges broke down at least 3 more times in the months following. This could have been easy money for a friendly business owner with a few simple systems.

Virgin, a role model

One of the more striking international examples of “buy in” is the Virgin Group of companies. Sir Richard Branson has a presence and energy almost unique in the world and he manages to convey this through all of his companies. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about the airline or some project he has simply lent the Virgin name to, nearly all of the employees involved become starry eyed, in many cases accepting below market wages for the opportunity to serve him.

You should be able to come up with a combination of measures to kick start the buy in process in your business. Borrow the energy and fun created in the Virgin culture and mix it with Jack Stack’s methods of including employees at every level. Open up your business, spread the word regarding the figures, including profitability and marketing goals and above all, bear in mind that your attitude is contagious and is reflected in your employee’s behavior. Want others to be excited? You must BE and act excited yourself.

John McGrath is considered the most influential figure in the Australian property industry. He tells us “…a business will NEVER outpace its leader”.