Business Innovation

Taking Care of the Golden Goose

Taking Care of the Golden Goose

Came upon an interesting post in the Life Insurance Agent Blog. The title of the entry is The Lie About Leads. Buying and selling leads is big business in the insurance industry. Do a Google search on "Insurance Leads" and you will see what I mean. Just like any other business, finding new customers can be an expensive and time consuming process. Here is a quick primer on lead terminology from the Life Insurance Agent blog:

Cold lead—this is worthless—it’s a name from a mailing list broker. The person may meet certain criteria—e.g., age, income or household value. Above that, it’s just a name, like a name from a phone book.

Warm lead—the person has requested information by completing a card, an Internet form or expressed interest with no coaxing. Your best prospects will always be the ones that take action on their own, with no one convincing, no coaxing, no call from a telemarketer.

Telemarketed lead. This is supposedly a warm lead with interest in meeting—they tell you that the prospect is waiting for your call. I doubt it. Few people have the time and inclination to talk to telemarketers on the phone and sales people.

Set appointment—this can be a very valuable lead but ask how the appointment was made. Did the prospect first call from an ad or direct mail offer and then a telemarketer set an appointment? That’s good because this prospect took the initiative.

I think he makes some great points but may have left off the most important lead of all: a referral from a happy customer. Even the most qualified lead listed above has no clue about you--your honesty, your integrity, your ability to deliver great service. On the other hand, a lead that comes from a happy customer, that lead comes with your customer's reputation attached. That is, your customer likes you enough that they are willing to put their reputation on the line with their friend on behalf of you and your business. Countless surveys have shown that referrals are without a doubt the most powerful influence on just about any purchasing decision.

Does that mean that there is no place for buying leads? No, not at all. Especially when you are getting started. You have to keep your funnel full. What it does mean, is that every lead that you successfully turn into a customer is a golden goose. Your highest priority should be to take care of that goose so that it continues to lay the golden eggs of referrals well into the future.

Think it doesn't work? Tyler Slade of Canyon Lands Insurance, one of our PromoterZ™ customers, gets a 9 or 10 from 95% of his clients when asked how likely it is they would recommend him to a friend. Not surprisingly, he has received referrals from 60% of his clients. It works.

So here is my blatant PromoterZ plug: Apply some modern technology to your client care tools to make sure your geese are being well tended. PromoterZ™ will make sure they are happy, send information to them regularly, send them a birthday greeting, and collect referrals. Check it out: www.promoterz.com. End of blantant plug.

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

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.

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

Keep an Eye on Your Tail

Keep an Eye on Your Tail

It is hard to overemphasize the importance and long lasting effect of reputation. As humans we seem to have a natural belief that things don't change. Once we've developed a perception of something, it is pretty hard to shift our perspective. Here is a quick quiz from a recent post in Tom Guarriello's blog:

Which has more crime, San Diego or New York?
Which country has the highest per capita income?

If you answered New York and the U.S. you would be wrong. New York used to have more crime but not any more. Now it just has the reputation.

And where does the U.S. rank on per capita income? We're number 5 now behind Bermuda, Luxembourg, Equitorial Guinea and Norway. We used to have the highest.

So what does this have to do with our businesses? Well ask yourself what reputation does your business have and, perhaps even more important, what kind of reputation are we building every day? When a customer has a problem, how do you find out about it? Are you proactively asking? And when you do become aware of a problem, do you solve it or avoid it?

Your tail is growing--make sure it is the one you want.

Unhappy customers tell on average 22 other people. If you ticket price is $50 that is $1100 in revenue. How would you like to know before they tell 22 others? Learn more

Gas $2.55 a Gallon!

Gas $2.55 a Gallon!

That's right, you can still buy gas for $2.55 a gallon. Only drawback? You have to drive to Evanston, Wyoming to get it. Nothing against Evanston, I've been through there several times. Problem is that it is a long way from most places people live. Why is gas so cheap there? There appear to be two reasons. First, Wyoming fuel levies are the cheapest in the country and second a family of entrepreneurs by the name of Call.

Ruel Call started in 1937 with a small gas station and then in 1960 launched his own gasoline brand, Maverik, which now has about 175 stations. They helped pioneer self-service pumps and gas station convenience stores. In the mid sixties O. Jay Call launched another discount fuel retailer called Flying J. It did $7.3 billion in sales last year at 160 truck stops.

In 2003, Kristen Call, 36, a daughter of one of the Maverick Calls decided she could apply internet technology to cut more costs and keep prices even lower. The concept: pay for your gas online or at an unmanned kiosk at an unmanned station. The company is called iFuel.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, iFuel didn't stay open long. It opened in Evanston offering fuel at 10 cents per gallon less than Maverick, but it didn't catch on with the locals. Many weren't on the internet yet and seemed confused by the concept. In addition iFuel used indoor key pads for their kiosks but didn't install them indoors. Ever been to Evanston in the winter? The key pads froze up and wouldn't work. Kristen is now focused on selling the internet payment software to big box chains with gas pumps.

So what is the take away? First, let's hear it for entrepreneurs! Want a real solution to gas prices? Turn a bunch of entrepreneurs loose on the problem--not congress.

Second, timing may be everything on a concept like this. I could be wrong, but I think if a chain of gas stations offered a 5 to 10 cent discount on pre-paid fuel purchased online they could do very well. Where do I join?

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

Give Your Business a Quick Physical

What are the three most important things to look at to determine the health of any business? Is it income? Return on Investment? Book value? Revenue? If you could only look at three measurements what would they be?

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, was recently asked that question. These are his top 3 which he says apply to any size organization:

1. How satisfied are the customers?

Do the customers want to come back? Do they like my stuff? Are they willing to refer me. Learn by doing surveys and get out of your office to talk with your customers. Become known as the person that always wants to know.

2. How satisfied are the employees?

Is my message getting through--is it in their blood? I need the most engaged energized people in the world.

3. How much free cash flow is available?

It's simple. You need more cash coming in than cash going out. Net income is for accountants, it is full of assumptions. Cash has no assumptions. It gives you true flexibility and is the one thing that frees you.

I really like Jack's list. I've been involved in organizations that have lacked one or more of the three. They didn't last long. If your employees aren't satisfied, it is doubtful that your customers will be. And if your customers aren't satisfied, the free cash flow can't be positive for long.

The real question is do you know the answer to each of the three? I'm betting you are very familiar with your cash flow situation. Every month those bills come due and you have to pay them some how. But what about employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction? Are you systematically and regularly getting a read on how your customers and employees feel?

You can listen to Jack's comments on the topic by downloading a podcast he and his wife (former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review) produce called "The Welch Way." It is free and available on iTunes.

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