Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Know When To Hold Em' - Know When To Fold 'Em - Touche Caroline!

Know when to hold ‘em – know when to fold ‘em. This is great advice in poker, life and also in business.
As I was thinking of writing a blog about the importance of knowing what NOT to do and how it is just as important as knowing what to do, I got this post from a very sweet friend and business woman who has made a life changing decision. She is going to close the retail sales of her product at the end of the year, take a break and re-strategize the business model. This take guts ladies and gentlemen. And as a consultant and executive in SMBEs to Fortune 500 businesses, this is seldom done, when often it should be.  
As those of you who have worked with me or know me from my blog(s), I  consult in three areas: marketing, operations and business strategy. The very easiest thing to do is tell a client that most things are fine but if they do “this” and/or “that”, their business will rebound, survive or grow. The MOST difficult conversation (remember this is often with the person who is paying you) is to tell the client that it is time to pull up the tents and go home.
Now, don’t get me wrong, most businesses still have life left in them, but some have run their course or LTV (Life Time Value). You see LTV not only applies to a singular product, but it applies to a complete business model sometimes. The ship has sailed – as they say. Some businesses have a short life span and others longer ones.  I’m sure that you can think of products (which entire businesses were set around) that no longer exist. Let’s do some easy pickin’ and call out beta and vhs. They had their time. There were businesses (especially manufacturing niches) that were built around them and now they are gone. Some of them were able and had the capital to retool for newer technologies, but some did not and had to see the handwriting on the wall and do the unpleasant but necessary action of closing the doors.
 I applaud the ones that ask for help (like from someone like me) when they see things declining and call for help early enough to get help and an outside and unbiased opiniom. (Yes, even though they pay the bill, I am honest and tell them the bad news too! –I’m not saying it is easy ;) – but I do it.) And if called in early enough, often the business can be saved with minor, sometimes major tweaks. The exception to this is when the news of change is met with resistance.
There are organizational structures where staff resistance can put you right out of business and it is so unfortunate, because those employees don’t see that they are resisting themselves right out of a job! In this volatile environment a “go with the flow” attitude is best for everyone. The worst scenario is when the resistance to change comes from the top. When this occurs, the best advice is an introduction to a good bankruptcy attorney and inform the client that this is the Option B to change. Most choose change. Unfortunately, some don’t and I wish them the best and leave a detailed change strategy in their hands (along with the BK attorney contact info) and leave. I’ve watched ships sink and it isn’t fun. So unless I am hired specifically to close up shop, which I have been several times, then I prefer to leave it in the hands of its leader and wish for the best. After all – miracles do happen! Although there wasn't a huge resurgence and demand for vhs, there could have been, right?!
So enough about my views on this and onto a real life example of a leader taking an extremely bold step and closing shop to take the time to re-strategize. Bravo to you, Caroline! I know you will reemerge with greatness –whatever that may be for you in the future.
Here’s a repost of her blog. It is boldly written with heart, brains and thoughtfulness and I commend the decision. (I also happen to love the product – which leads me to make a small plug for the DEAL you can get on it now as they sell off inventory. The product is a t-shirt with a positive affirmation written backwards. So, as you look in the mirror—as those of you who do affirmations and follow law of attraction concepts know you are to do – you can read your affirmation to yourself. It is brilliant, creative and fun and I do hope to see the product return sooner rather than later.
So please take a moment and read this repost and if you like affirmations, you will find one that speaks to you or perhaps will help an ill friend or loved one and snatch 1 or 10 up at these blow out prices and give freely to friends, loved ones and don’t forget yourself! They make fabulous birthday gifts and as the holidays approach, they are a fabulous gift for that special someone who may need a lift in their spirits and I tell you, wearing one of these shirts will do it!
Happy Thanksgiving and remember to be Thankful, Gracious and Share Your Abundance.
This has been such a very difficult year for so many. We all may think we have been “hit hard”, but trust me, others have it worse. Please visit a local food pantry and even if it is a canned item –drop something off with thankfulness for all that you have.
Repost from:  www.reflectmylife.com

Listen to Your Heart  - by Carline Yacu of  www.reflectmylife.com

Listen to your heart. This concept is so simple and so powerful, yet it’s application is often times so difficult.
There are several concepts in life like this…though simple in theory, they are incredibly challenging to execute.
Losing weight for example.
In order to lose weight, this must occur:
Calories consumed < Calories burned
Simple concept, yet not so easy to do.
Saving money for example.
In order to save money, this must occur:
Money spent < Money earned
Simple concept, yet not so easy to do.
I believe we struggle with these concepts because there are so many other things that play a role in our decision-making. We have been trained to seek immediate gratification, which is why we are so easily swayed by external factors. Our desire for instant pleasure blinds us from focusing on our longer-term goals. Well, I suppose I should speak for myself!
Have you ever had a very healthy day, and just when you were getting ready to pat yourself on the back for being so disciplined, your co-worker or roommate walks in with a piece of rich, delicious, moist, succulent chocolate cake?
UGH! The temptation!
Have you ever been so diligent about your weekly spending and then, just when you thought you were in the clear, an opportunity comes up to go to a killer concert or have dinner with out-of-town friends?
UGH! The temptation!
It’s all around us, all the time. Which is why these simple concepts are often SO hard to abide by.
Well, the same is true with listening to your heart. The concept makes sense and sounds so simple, but I have found that even its application is challenging to live by.
In fact, I have found that it takes more courage to listen to your heart, than not.
Why? What temptations keep us from listening to our heart?
• Temptation to do what’s easy?
• Temptation to do what other’s expect you do to?
• Temptation to put on a happy face, when deep down, you know something is wrong?

As I started thinking more and more about this, it became crystal clear that we don’t listen to our hearts because of fear.
• Fear of getting hurt
• Fear of failure
• Fear of what others might think
• Fear of succeeding
• Etc

(well, at least for me!)
I realized a fear that has managed to weave itself in and out of my life is not having the approval of others, essentially not being seen as a “success.”
So, I have decided not to allow my fear to own me. Instead, I am going to dance with my fear. As I acknowledge its existence, I will lead the dance.
I think you will be shocked with what I am about to tell you. I have been wavering on this decision for a while and in the end, I have decided to follow my heart…despite what others may think.
After a lot of sleepless nights, tears, tangled thoughts, and deliberation, I have decided to stop selling Reflect products and services in 2011.
This decision has not been easy as I genuinely love our products and services and believe whole-heartedly in them. The reality is that it has been a challenging market and I need to make a decision that makes sense for everyone, including myself.
My heart has been telling me that there needs to be a change to our product offering, but my mind has been pushing me to make more sales calls, network more, add better functions to the website, and keep persevering.
I have accepted that I need to listen to my heart.
I am still committed to our mission and vision of helping people live a better life. My personal purpose is 100% aligned with Reflect’s purpose, so Reflect is not going away; it is just going to re-emerge in a different light, and potentially through different vehicles.
I don’t have those answers right now, but I know that in January 2011, I will be taking time to reflect (pun intended!) in order to better serve my amazing customers and the world. This is what my heart is telling me to do.
Although I didn’t have a home-run with Reflect from a business/financial standpoint, I know that I hit the ball out of the park when it comes to building relationships with my customers and other friends in the personal development field.
Because of you, this journey has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Thank you. My journey is not over however; in fact, there is a part of me that believes it is only beginning!
The Reflect Blog/Facebook/Twitter pages will still exist as I’d love to share my adventure with you and communicate with you on a regular basis! I plan to deliver valuable content and stories that you can hopefully relate to and benefit from.
I have an amazing mentor, Pete, who has been by my side from the inception of Reflect. When I told him my feelings, he recited this quote to me:
“…if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” –Teddy Roosevelt
So, like I have, I challenge you to listen to your heart, dance with your fear, and step out of the stands and into the ring. Though the journey can be emotional and uncertain, it is empowering and remarkable all at the same time.
Thank you so much for understanding and I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, November 15, 2010

“Can't Afford to Market Right Now - Check Back in Six Months”

How many marketers and business coaches are hearing, “I just don’t have the budget now. Check back with me in six months”?
And, how many businesses who really need help (and who may not make it another six months without marketing or business coaching) are saying this?
          Here’s the sad but true story that I recently read a version of and thought it was so appropriate for today’s business environment that I had to share it. You may have heard it before, but it is worth reading again. In fact, it might make a good holiday card  - LOL!

Why is it so prevalent that a person wakes up under a marketed blanket on a marketed mattress and pulls off marketed pajamas then bathes in a marketed shower, brushes his/her teeth with marketed toothpaste, washes with marketed soap, puts on marketed clothes, drinks a cup of marketed coffee, drives to work in a marketed car and when asked to spend money on marketing, states that they can’t? ironically, when the business’ sales eventually decline, he/she markets the business for sale!

How do you overcome this obstacle? One way is to forward this to those with similar behaviors. Not a subtle approach – but one that can hit home and change attitudes and then behaviors.

After all, “Continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome is a sign of insanity, right?”    

Good luck!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homage To Our Veterans

A very dear friend, Irene Brennick, author of "Bring Your Audience to Their Feet" is multi-talented and wrote and performed this tribute to everyday heroes like our Vets.  Please take a moment  on this special day and listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ad-tNkoRvSo

Feel free to pass along to anyone you know who would enjoy it and please especially take a moment and pass it on to a Vet or a Vet's Family so that they do know that there are those of us who appreiciate their service, sacrifice and dedication to our country.

Thank you and thank you with great admiration and appreciation to our Vets and their families.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Revitalize Inactive Customers – Now Is Definitely the Time to Do It! Here’s How To Get Started

This is primarily used for B2B (business to business) clients but can be effective for B2C (business to consumer) as well. If you have the contact info for your “lost” customers, you are a head of the game. If you don’t – shame on you and start NOW.
The best way to approach this is objectively.
What you want to do it find out why they are not buying from you anymore. Don’t assume it is just the economy. Many things are needed so why aren’t they getting them from you?
There Can Be Many Reasons
·       Has the contact changed?
·       Did you/your company do something to upset them?
·        Do they believe or perceive that they don't need what your company offers anymore?
·       Or??
If you take a very objective, conversational approach by contacting them and asking them WHY they don't do business with your company anymore, you will receive many different answers.
 Each of Those Answers is an Opportunity
·       If the contact has changed, you have the opportunity to introduce yourself and your company to the new contact and be sure to emphasize the benefits of why your company is the best resource for their needs. This one can be one of the hardest sells because often the new contact has past providers that they are loyal to. In this case, it is best to get to a face to face meeting to review the savings, “over the top” service or other miracles that you have pulled off for their company. It is time to toot your own horn. People want to do business with someone who treats them special and by doing your homework and presenting a, “we care about you and your success,” approach, you have a better chance of them giving you a try over the person they have done business with. If you can, find out who the preferred vendor is, be sure that your presentation includes advantages of your company that the other company cannot provide. DO NOT make direct comparisons. NEVER bash a competitor. But if you do your skillful due diligence, you can present advantages without even mentioning the other company’s name. If you can, ask for a presentation time slot with others present – like the new person’s boss. This will potentially give you another advocate in the room and the boss will appreciate the effort you are going to to regain their business. If you’re lucky, they will apply a bit of pressure to the new person to buy from you. DO NOT do this without the permission of the new person. You could risk alienating them if you go around or above them.  
·        If your company did something to upset them – fix it. Fall on the sword if necessary. This is not a market in which one can take the low road. Even if the “error” was not your fault, suck it up and make it right.
 More Valuable Outcomes to Finding Out Why
·       One good reason to find out why the customer is not buying from you anymore is that if you collect the data in a database (even an excel doc if you aren't a techie), you will find patterns and trends as to why people have stopped doing business with your company.
·       If your company has changed whatever it is that caused people to stop buying from you, it is time to do a new campaign to all customers -- past and current-- to let them know how and why you are better now. If your company has not changed whatever it is that caused desertion, then you should bring the data to the attention of people in your company who can and will fix the problem. Remind them that if they don't fix the problem, the same thing will continue to happen. This is not a market in which losing customers can be taken lightly.
·       You may also unveil lifecycle information. You might find that a significant portion of the dead customers all left after a specific period of time-- say many left after 3 years. This will give you a lifecycle prediction for your existing clients. You need to work on extending that time period.
·       With this information, another opportunity presents itself ...find a way to re-engage your customers just before the 3 year period. We did this for a major luxury auto company and we found that the customer began shopping six months before their lease was up. So we engaged with the customers around 9 months before their lease was up. We offered them loyalty discounts. We refreshed appended data and complimented their accomplishments and tried to up sell them if their financial status had changed. It worked, we reengaged with this customer and with a little homework, we spoke to them as individuals. (This is where a full blown CRM/Loyalty Program is worth its weight in gold. If you are tracking all of their interactions with you, including web history, you can customize your approach to appeal to them directly.) DON’T send the same canned letter to everyone. I smacks (loudly) of insincerity. Take advantage of the data available to you, give it some thought and utilize POD (print on demand) to customize each communication to your customers.
·        If you find a clear lifecycle in your dead customers, it is a sure sign that you need to deploy or vastly upgrade your existing loyalty program.
·       One last thought, if you can get access to each customer’s purchasing habits i.e.; what did they buy from you, how often, what did they look at on your web site, what did they call in and complain to a service agent about, etc., study this info before you engage with them. The data will help you in your conversation with them and they will feel very special that you know about their specific account.
This is just a start in re-engaging with your inactive customers, but I hope it adds some insight into the importance of working at reengaging your customers. We are all aware that it costs more to gain a new customer than keep an existing one, so the benefits and payoff are well worth it.
If I can be of service to you or your company in collecting data, writing a script to begin the discussion of reengagement with your customers or if you need assistance developing or improving your loyalty programs or campaigns, please feel contact me.
Don’t just let your customers disappear – go get ‘em!
Good luck!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Six Reasons Why You Should Hire A Consultant in Q4 During A Recession

This will be short! The six reasons are so skewed towards doing it versus not doing it that I can even bulletize them and you will easily see why you should be looking for the right consultant NOW.
  • Use it or lose it. Many budgets are still calendar year and if you don't use funds, they are gone next year. Don't buy into the rhetoric that you’ll be rewarded for saving money. It doesn’t happen. And, if you are a fiscal year budget – you’re half way through the game partner, better get on it to finish strong.
  • Chances are, you are behind the eight ball and are not hitting your Q4 or Yearly Goals. You have two options: 1) fret about it and work to the bone to attempt to make up the chasm (which probably won’t happen and you’ll burn out your team doing it), or 2) take your lump, get an outside viewpoint and an innovative plan to hit the ground running in Q1. Often new, fresh, objective and novel ideas come from the outside looking in. Use a consultant to do this.
  • If you use a consultant now to design a solid plan for Q1, you can spend the remainder of Q4 getting your team amped up, on board and already working towards the new concepts. You may even see an uptick in Q4 if you get at it early enough ;)
  • Stop looking at bringing in a consultant to “look things over” as a threat, sign of weakness or admittance of defeat. Athletes use coaches and specialized trainers when an area of their performance is not at its peak. The human body often requires a doctor to provide an exam to ensure the “system” is running as it should. We take our cars in for a “tune up” for heaven’s sake! Bringing in a consultant; one thorough and knowledgeable in operations, fiscal management, marketing, sales, and employee relations with an imagination and positive attitude is the solution to getting out of the slump we are in. If more businesses got a “tune up” in Q4, our outlook for Q1 as a country would be much better than it is today.
  • The answers to improving productivity, loyalty, profits and new services and products are out there. Hire a consultant with no vested interest in office politics, ensuring everyone likes him/her and is only there to provide objective feedback on what is going well and what isn’t and can provide a solid plan for improvement in Q1 and beyond.
  • As the commercial with the drill sergeant as a therapist would say, “get out of scary mamby pamby land” and make a decision that will change your future outcome.