Business Ideas

Hey dude, buy a belt!

Hey dude, buy a belt!

Ok, with three teenage sons I couldn't pass this one up. Hysterical article today in the Wall Street Journal about baggy, low-slung pants tripping up would be thieves. Seems they perpetrate the crime and then as they try to run away holding on to their booty with one hand and their pants with the other things get all tangled up! Next thing they know both hands are in cuffs. One guy tried to jump a fence, most of his body made it over but his pants didn't. The cops found him dangling upside down with his pants around his ankles. Quote from the Police Chief: "He was wearing underwear, thank goodness."

So with the baggy-pants thieves as inspiration, here is the question of the day:

"What stupid things am I doing that keep my business from growing?"

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking. If you think of others, feel free to add to the list:

  1. When was the last time you asked your customers what they thought about your service?
  2. How often do you pro-actively communicate with your customers?
  3. What would compel your customers to tell their friends about your business?

If you can't come up with good answers, you may as well be dangling there on the fence next to Mr. Baggy-pants.

Do you remember your customers on their birthday? On their anniversary? Do you give special notice to recently acquired customers? Promoterz does. Learn more

Real Small Business, Real Word-of-Mouth, Real Improvement.

Real Small Business, Real Word-of-Mouth, Real Improvement.

I don’t mean to bite the hand that feeds me, but I’ve noticed that we of the small business/entrepreneur blogging world talk a lot about word-of-mouth and other great business principles, but rarely do we write about actual experiences from small businesses applying the stuff. My goal is to change that with some real case studies of real businesses applying great business principles and enjoying the benefits. Here is my first attempt.

Chuck & Joan Matheny own two Sport Clips locations in greater Phoenix. Sport Clips is a hair cut place that caters to guys. Every stylist chair has a TV tuned to sports, all the décor is sports related, and they have an “MVP” service that includes a hot towel and a neck massage. Their motto is “Guys win.” If you’ve never been comfortable in the fru-fru world of hair salons, this is the place for you.

Anyway, last September Chuck was looking for a way to improve the performance of one of his locations. It had a great staff and a good location but wasn't performing like he hoped it would. Rather than pay for traditional advertising, Chuck decided to focus on encouraging his existing clients to spread the word. Four months later, without spending a dime on advertising, Chuck’s weekly sales were up well over 20% and have continued to grow.

From the client's perspective, Chuck's program starts with a simple invitation received at the conclusion of their service. The invitation is the size of a business card. It includes the stylist's name and offers a free service upgrade in return for visiting a web site to provide feedback. "Our feedback survey is extremely short," says Chuck. "It literally takes our clients less than sixty seconds to complete. Our goal is not to get feedback on every little thing, but to learn if the client is happy with the service and start an ongoing dialogue."

The ongoing dialogue is initiated with the last question of the survey that asks if the client would like to receive additional information and specials from Sport Clips. Nearly 90 percent of those that provide feedback choose to receive additional information. That’s a pretty good “opt-in” rate. Once customers opt-in, Chuck uses technology to stay in touch with them. First-time customers automatically receive reminders via email, including a discount coupon, every three weeks to encourage loyalty. Every customer that signs up receives a birthday greeting from Chuck including a discount on their next hair cut and Chuck regularly sends out email specials associated with holidays or other events.

The Sport Clips client experience is remarkable and worth talking about in and of itself, but Chuck also takes extra steps to encourage his clients to tell others about their experience. Each time a client completes a survey or receives an email from Chuck they are given the opportunity to forward online discount coupons to their friends along with a personal message. Thirty percent of the clients that join Chuck’s program take advantage of the opportunity and send an invitation to their friends.

Chuck's efforts have paid off in many ways. His stylists love the customer feedback and take greater pride in their work. He knows who his most loyal customers are and can contact them without paying for advertising. And, most importantly, his customers are actively telling their friends to try Sport Clips. All of which have lead to healthy growth.

Time, effort, and money required? The invitation cards that Chuck’s stylists hand out are business cards ordered from Vistaprint. They run about 4 cents a piece--four color both sides. Chuck uses PromoterZ for his online survey, opt-in list management, outgoing email and online referral generation needs. Cost: $50 a month. In terms of time required, Chuck spends a few minutes each day responding to customer feedback. Once a week he shares feedback with his managers as part of his manager meeting. He also spends some time each month deciding on a special offer to send out to his loyal customers. This month? Fathers and Sons that come in together get a Free MVP upgrade for Dad and a half price haircut for son.

The growth of your business will be determined by what your customers say about it. Do you know what they are saying? Learn more

Are You Holding Your Bathroom for Ransom?

Are You Holding Your Bathroom for Ransom?

I was on the road over the weekend and found the stupid business idea of the week--no make that century. Driving on the interstate to Flagstaff, Arizona (beautiful place if you have never been there) and needed to stop for a bio break. Sign on the business establishment's front door: "Our Bathrooms are for Paying Customers Only!"

Now I know exactly where that sign came from. An employee, maybe the manager, maybe even the owner got tired of trying to keep the bathroom clean and seeing people walk in and out without buying anything. Simple conclusion and solution: "No more free loaders! The bathroom is a benefit reserved only for those people that buy! Toilet paper doesn't grow on trees! Let's get a sign up, that will save us some money and some time!" So up goes the sign telling potential customers that they are an annoyance and if they want relief, they've got to pay.

I would love to compete with the guy that made that decision. I'd make my bathrooms glisten and smell of sweet things. I'd hire a teenager to stand outside the bathroom door and hand road-weary travelers a warm towelette to refresh themselves. I'd invest in some big signs on the interstate that say "Come use our sweet smelling bathrooms--absolutely free!" Then I'd sit back and watch my suppliers try to keep up with the demand.

Would some travelers come and go without buying anything? Sure, but I would smile and thank them for using my bathroom. Why? Because I know there is no way they are going to be able to keep my remarkable bathroom a secret. When a person asks how their trip went, they are going to say, "It was long, but we found the greatest place to stop. They actually give you a warm towlette and then they thanked us for using their bathroom--and we didn't even buy anything!" And when it is time to make the return trip, where do you think they are going to stop? At my remarkable sweet-smelling bathroom and chances are this time they are going to buy a tank of gas, a bag of jerky, and a 32 oz soda!

Here is the point, whether your business is on the interstate, the internet or any location in between, the name of the game is traffic. The more people that walk through your door, the more you are going to sell. The best way to build traffic is not to hold free services for ransom. Have you ever seen anyone happy after paying a ransom--even if they get what was promised? No! More likely they feel violated and manipulated. So don't do it! Be the good guy and make more money at the same time. If you've got something free and remarkable you can offer, don't hold it ransom, get it out in front and use it to get more customers to walk through your door then make sure they have a remarkable experience. Soon your sweet-smelling bathroom will be world famous...

When you pass out a Promoterz bounce back card you automatically build an accurate customer list, increase repeat sales, increase referrals and prevent lost business. Pretty powerful little card. Learn more

Listen and Grow!

Listen and Grow!

Jackie Huba from Church of the Customer, cites a study that concludes that customers that feel listened to are more likely to spread positive and unsolicited word of mouth. The study was done by Communispace, a company that creates and manages online communities. Key findings:

•82% of community members said they were more likely to recommend the company's product's than before joining the community.

•54% said they were more inclined to purchase the company's products since joining the community.

Though we've done no studies to prove it, we find the same thing to be true with our PromoterZ clients. Those companies that use the service to ask for customer feedback consistently generate more referrals than those that don't.

So do your customers feel like you are listening? Asking is certainly the first step, but I have personally completed a number of customer surveys and never felt like anyone was listening.

In my mind, the critical step to show you are listening is to respond. Simply acknowledging that you have received their feedback and are considering it will let your customers know that someone really is listening--and they in turn will start talking to others....

Get customer feedback, generate referrals, and increase repeat sales for as little as $150 a month. Learn more
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Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

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