Franchise

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.

Promoterz is the hands-free, word-of-mouth marketing service that takes care of the details so you can focus on business. Learn more

Customer as Emperor

Customer as Emperor

From Japan comes the tradition of oshibori. Oshibori is the Japanese word for the rolled up hot towel you receive after eating at an authentic Japanese restaurant or at the conclusion of an international flight. If you have never experienced a hot towel after a long flight, it is as close as you can get to a refreshing shower in the comfort of your seat with all your clothes on. What does it have to do with growing your business? It's remarkable.

As noted, you might expect a hot towel in a Japanese restaurant or on a flight but how about in the dentist chair just after the hygienist has stretched your mouth into unnatural shapes to chisel that last piece of plaque from your teeth? Nice and warm, with the light sent of lemon--that would be remarkable wouldn't it? How might that change what you tell your friends about your trip to the dentist? Simple thing. Only costs a few cents. But it could lead to a number of referrals. What would your customers tell their friends if you gave them a hot towel?

According to Jason Stark of White Towel Services, the majority of his customers are dentists. Dentists that understand that filling your cavity is a commodity--any one of a thousand dentists could it. But having a remarkable experience in their office--that is something that nobody can compete with.

So what do your customers remember about your business? Do they experience something remarkable enough to tell their friends about? For some businesses it might be their concept. For example, Entrees Made Easy provides the ingredients and recipes for several meals to its customers making it easy and quick for them to create great tasting home cooked meals. The concept is new, innovative, and needed in today's hectic world. Those that try it can't wait to tell their friends.

Thankfully, an innovative new concept isn't the only way to be remarkable. The sad fact is that good service is so rare, any company that does provide it is remarkable. I read just yesterday in a column by John DiJulius about Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (27 restaurants in 7 states). What I read wasn't about their food or their concept (though with further research I learned both are amazing). What I read about was their customer service. They seem to realize that indeed the customer is the emperor and the emperor doesn't like to be told "no." Their promise: "The answer's yes..now what's the question?" Given their growth, I think their customers remember that kind of service and find it remarkable enough to tell their friends.

Still wondering what is remarkable about your business? Here is a suggestion: ask your customers. Ask them if they would recommend you to a friend and if so why? Then listen carefully.

How ever you figure it out, do it quickly. Being remarkable is not just a good idea--it is absolutely required for any business to both survive and grow.

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

Stupid Things Stupid Businesses Do

Stupid Things Stupid Businesses Do

Of course businesses aren't stupid, in fact the people in the businesses aren't stupid (I'm being kind), but they become stupid as the people in them act stupidly. How so? I’m about to explain. Before I begin I must say that I have been inspired by Pam Slim’s Open letter to CEOs, COOs, CIOs and CFOs across the corporate world.

Stupid businesses don’t grow right. They treat their customers badly. It’s likely that they don’t want to but they do because they have an environment of treating people badly. Employees are treated badly and they, in turn, treat the customers in like manner.

  1. They don’t care about the customer
  2. They’re rude or inattentive
  3. They do bad work

I know there are reasons they act this way. I was in a store recently and the cashier was so worn down that she looked like a zombie. Glassy-eyed, she hardly knew I was there. She couldn’t ring a particular item up right and offered no solution to the problem. No help. It was fun to pull her out of it and find a smile, but that was for a moment and then she was back to longing for the day to end.

Last week my daughter saw an employee at a Subway drive everyone out of the building. Literally. “I’ve had it with this place!”, she said. Once she got everyone out she locked the door!

That comes from above. Managers are above. Stupid managers make stupid businesses. Stupid managers:

  1. Overwork employees
  2. Command in all things
  3. Don’t accept feedback or suggestions
  4. Frequently criticize and nit pick
  5. Rarely give praise or recognition
  6. Lazily expect subordinates to do their work for them
  7. Yell and act in a mean manner

That creates an atmosphere for stupid employees. I have a son that works at a grocery store. His manager takes 10-15 smoke breaks a day. He comes back and finds that a yogurt container isn’t facing the right way and goes ballistic. It’s sad. Another son works in a clothing department. His manager always has it in her mind that the women’s part of the department is trashed. “Get over there and clean it up, it’s terrible!” Whether it is or not, that’s her message. It’s never right, it’s never good, and she doesn’t want to hear any different.

Above managers in the small business world are owners. Stupid small business owners make stupid small businesses. Let me put emphasis on small, I don’t mean small in size here, but small in quality and integrity.

  1. They provide no real incentives to perform well
  2. They are self serving without real regard for employees or customers
  3. They underpay, giving only what they have to

I’ve seen a business owner pit manager against employees, lie to customers, negotiate in bad faith, and do all things for their own aggrandizement and benefit. The business started in a great, innovative way but became small because of the owner.

Stupid businesses are remarkable but not in a positive way. The famous line from Forest Gump is true, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Stupid businesses don’t grow like they could, like the owner would really like them to grow. They can be planted in a good spot, sprout and start, but they will never get the powerful fertilizer of referrals or the life giving water of returning customers to grow into what they have the potential to become.

The Happiest customers tell on average 8 other people. Who are your happiest customers? Promoterz knows. Learn more

Small businesses main problem? They need more customers.

Small businesses main problem? They need more customers.

In September of 2005 our company sponsored a survey of small businesses in the service areas. The purpose of the survey was to ask the business owners, many of them franchise owners, what their significant business hurdles were. The key areas of the survey were customers, growth, technology and research, and employees. You can see the complete results here.

There are many things to be learned by studying the results that you can see here, and I hope you'll find them interesting and helpful. It will probably come as no surprise that the common problems facing service businesses are:

  1. Finding new customers does not occur fast enough
  2. Growth of revenue is also not as fast as desired
  3. Cutting through the advertising chaos to reach customers is difficult
  4. The internet is providing little benefit to small businesses
  5. Issues regarding costs and working capital are also significant.

No real surprises but it does highlight the need that small business owners have to gain new customers and get the ones they have to purchase more often. Doesn't that solve most, if not all, of the issues they identified?

The question is how to do it. Our suggestion?

The internet provides a powerful tool for communication and advertising that small business and franchise owners aren't using enough or effectively for marketing. It's called "internet marketing" or "online marketing" and it can include "email marketing". It's likely that small business owners don't know how to use internet marketing as the internet is seen as a big nebulus thing with no tie to location and most small businesses are tied to one location.

The business principles we espouse, regardless of the vehicle used to enact them, are:

  1. Making our businesses remarkable by taking great care of customers
  2. Listening to and acting on what they have to tell us
  3. Giving them a megaphone to tell their friends and colleagues.

It's a simple formula for success and it works. The internet provides a very inexpensive and effective means of doing so when you use the right software tools.

If you are not regularly staying in touch with your customers someone else will. How do you stay in touch? Learn more

Hot franchise business growth area

Hot franchise business growth area

It seems that Americans are putting their money where their home is. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard recently reported in their 2005 report “The Changing Structure of the Home Remodeling Industry” that homeowners and rental property owners spent $233 billion in 2003 on home remodeling. Wow! Due to the long work hours many homeowners are keeping they’re looking for help, not only with renovations, but also with home maintenance chores. Following the money trail many small businesses have started up to meet these needs and some are franchised.

CNNMoney.com highlighted seven such franchises. They are:

Garage Tek
Designs of the Interior
Kitchen Solvers
Mosquito Squad
Floor Coverings International
Spring Green Lawn Care
Home Team Inspection Service

Find your happy customers and put a megaphone in their hand. 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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