Be Remarkable

Building trust - insights from my mechanic

Building trust - insights from my mechanic

I have a little '97 Dodge Neon that has been "enjoying" the heat about as much as the rest of the country and began overheating. I took it to Hefners and dropped it off with no fear. I had no worries they were going to be looking for ways to overcharge me or do something unnecessary to fund their vacation.

This kind of trust only comes through experience. On one occasion they explained I had a slow leak in my AC compressor system that would cost about $1000 to fix. However, they suggested topping off the coolant and watching to see how long it lasted to determine if a fix were worth it. Turns out it lasted for about 6 months. So I decided to pay $30 every 6 months rather than $1000. It would take 16 years to make the repair worth it! (probably be using hovercraft or something by then anyway).

I have gone in before and they just tweaked something and charged me nothing! I left the car at a repair place and came back and was charged nothing. Ask anyone that is lucky enough to know Hefners and they will tell you the same kind of stories.

Hefners is not a pretty place, they don't talk to you much, it is not in the nicest neighborhood. But they are honest, look to save you money, and keep you informed and I have been going there for nearly 20 years. They treat you like you are a family member with a car problem.

Are your customers feeling that way about you? What can you do to give them experiences that build trust. This is something that doesn't come from catchy copy or flashy fliers or wizzy webpages or slick salesmen, it comes from experience. With it you will succeed, without it you won't.

[OK, for those of you nearby that want to get some of that Hefner goodness here is their contact info: Hefner's Auto Repair (480)969-8291 they are on 502 N. Center Street, Mesa, Arizona 85201]

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The Miracle of the Reservoir

The Miracle of the Reservoir

I grew up in the west and now live in Arizona. There is a simple rule for growing things out here (this rule applies everywhere but is more obvious in the arid west): if it doesn't get water it doesn't grow. Early settlers fought their neighbors over water rights knowing that land without water wasn't worth a plugged nickel. In addition to fighting, they went to work and figured out ways to divert and contain spring runoffs, rainfall and the flow of rivers and creeks to use in dry times. They built dams that created reservoirs then built a network of canals and ditches to get the water to the fields. Wallah! Arid desert became fertile farmlands. Fly over the west today and the benefits of the reservoir and resulting irrigation are obvious in the green irrigation circles that dot the land.

Now think about your marketing and advertising efforts. Paying for advertising can feel like paying somebody to do a rain dance--you're not at all sure what you are going to get. But sometimes there is no choice. So you pay and with some luck some new customers fall from the sky. With a lot of luck maybe a lot of customers fall from the sky. Then comes the moment of truth: do the customers run off like a flash flood leaving only a little green in their path? Or have you built a customer reservoir that they peacefully flow into to be tapped again and again ensuring green for many years to come?

How do you build a customer reservoir? First let's be clear, the reservoir metaphor only goes so far. While it is possible to build a dam to trap water, trying to trap customers is a recipe for disaster. Your goal is not to trap but to create something customers want to be, and remain, a part of. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be remarkable-Find out what is most important to your customers and then be absolutely amazing at it.

  2. Be inviting-Identify your customers and invite them to be part of something great. Make it easy for them to join.

  3. Be persistent-Make the effort to stay in touch regularly, if you don't someone else will.

  4. Be contagious-Make it easy for your customers to tell their friends about your business.

  5. Be attentive-Ask your customers what they think, listen to what they have to say, and continue to make your business even more remarkable.

The early western settlers learned quickly that without reservoirs they couldn't survive. The same is true of business today, rain dances alone aren't sufficient.

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Get Your Business Found on the Web

Get Your Business Found on the Web

Our company creates it’s own products, like PromoterZ, and we also do custom web development. I recently completed a site for an Arizona real estate company, The O'Keefe Group, that sells remarkable homes in the Scottsdale area, most of which are in the luxury golf communities of Desert Mountain, Estancia, Mirabel, and others. They need a site that provides credibility to their expertise, portrays the properties/product that they list in a good manner, and gets found in search engines. A fairly common need for many businesses.

There are many factors in web design and development that affect these issues and some of them are conflicting. One of the big conflicts is between beauty and word content. Have you seen CraigsList? Lots of words, no beauty. If you want to be found in the search engines here are three simple things to keep in mind:

  1. Have relevant content. There is no substitute for this. If you want a search for real estate in a particular area to list your site among the most relevant, your content better state it—in words. In this case pictures are not worth a thousand words, in fact they can be worth nothing. The more relevant content you have the better.
  2. Use URL/addresses the engines can get to. You need to make sure that all of your pages can be found by the search engines. You do this with a site map or other linking techniques. Poorly formed dynamic urls like http://yoursite.com/?q=bad77399ykkkahjhdyyy7&poo=oops77778888884444333/more-stuff-here/umptysquat=777777 (you get the idea) are hard for the search engines to eat and many don't get indexed and stored by the engines so the content on those pages are unknown by them. There are exceptions, but solutions that offer better formed urls are the way to go.
  3. Get links from related sites to your site. This one takes some time to perform. You want to get links from related sites back to your site. Again, more is better. If 10 is good, 100 is better, and 1,000 is better yet. How many do you need?, more than your competitor. You can get these by asking webmasters and site owners, writing articles and posting them to ezines, etc. Some will occur naturally, particularly if your're creating content regularly with a blog, provide RSS or other sydication means, and develop a following with it.

There are a lot of tools out there to help you create a great site. If you have a lot riding on your site you probably want to use a competent web developer to create your web presence and get your site in front of people. The web can be a powerful tool for your business.

If you are a real estate agent check this out at the Real Estate Tomato.

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A Tale of Four Failed Restaurants

A Tale of Four Failed Restaurants
What is the most compelling thing about your business from your customers' perspective? Is it remarkable?

I visited my home town recently and noticed that four, fairly-new restaurants were out of business. Restaurants going out of business is certainly not news--it happens all the time--but these four should have survived and thrived, but didn't.

Case #1: Joe's Crab Shack. Located at perhaps the busiest intersection in the area, Joe's opened just two or three years ago. Joe's is a chain of restaurants. As the name suggests, they serve crab and other seafood in a fish camp atmosphere.

Case #2: Lucky Buns. I believe this was a local entrepreneur's project. Built a beautiful building (see picture) on a nice busy street near a freeway off-ramp. The food was hamburgers and ice cream.

Case #3: Chevy's. Also seemed to have a great location and built a nice building. Chevy's is part of a chain and serves Mexican food.

Case #4: Juanita's. Another Mexican restaurant. Pretty good location in a busy commercial center. They built a very nice building to provide that "old Mexico" feel.

All four restaurants opened with great fanfare and significant crowds. Within a few years they were all closed. Why? I have no inside information. I haven't talked to the owners or any one else, but I have a hunch. In addition to remarkable facilities, good locations, and plenty of publicity they all had one significant thing in common: mediocre food.

I lived in the area when all four restaurants opened. I ate at three of the four exactly once. I never ate at the fourth because I had friends that did and told me it wasn't that great. In the restaurant business location and atmosphere may bring them in, but it is the food that brings them back.

How does it apply if you are not in the restaurant business? Make sure you know what will bring your customers back and then focus on making that aspect of your business remarkable, the rest will take care of itself.

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Learning from the Best: George Washington

Learning from the Best: George Washington

I read a great article recently about George Washington. As I read about his amazing leadership characteristics it occurred to me that they are the same characteristics any entrepreneur or business leader needs to succeed. So, in honor of the celebration of Independence Day, here are a few leadership lessons from George Washington.

The article I read was based on a speech given by the author David McCullough at BYU. You can read the article here. here.

Age Though we have no control over our age, it is interesting to note that George Washington was 43 when he took command of the Continental Army. Because most pictures of him were done at an older age, we often think of him that way. He wasn't when he led the "rabble in arms" against the British.

Vision McCullough notes over and over that Washington was a man people wanted to follow--some of which I'm sure is due to the other characteristics noted here, but he also had a vision of "the glorious cause of America" was able to instill it in others.

On December 31, 1776 all the enlistments for the entire army were up. Every single soldier was free to go home on January 1, 1777. Most were planning to. Their families were suffering, they were suffering, they had done their part "for the cause" and were now planning to go take care of their own. Washington called the troops into formation and offered them all a $10 bonus (about a month's pay) if they would enlist for another six months. The drums rolled and Washington asked those willing to stay to take a step forward. Nobody did. He rode away and then turned and road back to them and said these words:

My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.

The drums started rolling again and the men began stepping forward. Washington raised their vision beyond the suffering, lack of pay, and uncertainty to the "glorious cause."

Courage The first year of the war was a disaster for the Continental Army. They were soundly defeated in Brooklyn, and only through miraculous events managed to get 19,000 men and their horses and equipment across the East River in the dead of night to escape capture and complete defeat. As the army retreated across New Jersey its numbers were depleted by disease, desertion and defection. By the time he reached the Delaware, Washington had 3,000 men and they were all in miserable condition. Charles Wilson Peale, the famous artist, said he had never seen such miserable human beings in all his life.

Washington must have been overwhelmed. Cornwallis and his troops were headed for Philadelphia and it seemed unlikely anything could stop them. McCullough puts it this way:

Most everybody concluded that the war was over and we had lost. It was the only rational conclusion one could come to. There wasn't a chance. So Washington did what you sometimes have to do when everything is lost and all hop is gone. He attacked.

The result was a victory at Trenton and then at Princeton. According to McCullough it was "one of the most important turning points , not just in the history of the war, but in the history of our country and consequently, of the world."

Integrity Above all else, George Washington had integrity. According to McCullough:

Washington wasn’t chosen by his fellow members of the Continental Congress because he was a great military leader. He was chosen because they knew him; they knew the kind of man he was; they knew his character, his integrity.

At the conclusion of the war, George Washington could literally have been king, but he didn't pursue his own glory. What did he do? He turned back his command to Congress. When George III heard he might do this he said, “if he does, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

Washington had a vision of what could be, the courage to pursue it boldly, and the integrity to be true to it no matter the cost or the temptation. As business owners our causes may not be as glorious or as history changing, but they never the less require the same characteristics to succeed.

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