Archives for March 2005

Generous Offer From A Million Monkeys

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

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How’s that for a headline that makes you go "Huh?"

Douglas Johnston over at a million monkeys typing just finished his D*I*Y Planner version 2.0. If you’re still using the paper planner method, like me, you’d do well to check it out. Besides, he’s offering it for free. And from what I can see, it looks great. Thanks Doug.

"The D*I*Y Planner is a set of free do-it-yourself templates, covers,
documentation and other gear for creating your own highly customised
and tweakable paper planner system."

Need Writing Inspiration – Try Book Meme 123.5

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

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Do you think Mac fans want to see their team kick the shit out of Microsoft and Dell? Do you think iPod fans gloat about their team’s dominance over the Creative Zen? Take it from a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. When you win. Your fans win. When your fans win. You win. 

From Jake (communityguy) via Theory Canal and Jennifer Rice:

Book Meme: 123.5

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

My book: Creating Customter Evangelists by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba.

Fifth Sentence: "Take-it-or-leave-it fans have morphed into a raucus group that encouraged the team to reach the second round of the NBA playoffs in 2001 under coach Don Nelson."

How many "take-it-or-leave-it" customers do you have on the books? Unlike Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks referenced above, you probably don’t have the luxury of being the only team in town. If your customers are leaving you, they’re taking someone else.

"C’mon," you say. "This is business, not professional sports." You’re right, and how totally amazing would it be to have a raucus group of customers who not only stay with you, but also – because they are raving fans – want to see you win?

Podcasting Is Significant For Solopreneurs

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

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There’s a tremendous swell of interest in podcasting. For many reasons ranging from downright, unmitigated narcissism (that’s me) to preaching the word (amen) to making a buck (ka-ching) to creating world peace (ahhhh). And everything in between. Oh hell. It’s just fun.

The biggest problem for would-be podcasters is figuring out how the hell to do it. And it looks like that problem may soon have a much simpler solution in the form of Odeo (website. cool name – a spin-off of audio perhaps). Odeo (blog) is the brain-child of "Google alumnus" Noah Glass and Evan Williams, the 32 year-old founder of blogger.

For an idea of how Ev and Noah are trying to simplify podcasting for everyone, you can read Jason Calacanis’ post today titled Odeo podcasting software/portal demo by Evan Williams.

Podcasting is significant for solopreneurs. Period. Here’s why.

1. Transportable Content – if you create a podcast, your network can listen to it anywhere they want. Why? Because they can download it to their mp3 player. You can also transfer your recordings to CDs and offer them to your network. You no longer have to go the "traditional publishing" route to get your ideas/content into audiobook form. If you do a one hour talk, give away or sell CDs that expand upon the the ideas offered in the talk. Hand out CDs as audio business cards.  There are so  many ways to feed your network this way.

2. Passive Revenue – It’s great to have a full house of wonderful clients. At the same time, it’s a  financial hamster wheel. If you want the revenue to continue, you have to keep the the clients coming. You have to keep putting in the hours with those clients. For some people, that works. For others, it might be nice to cut your work-load down by 40% without a comparable reduction in revenue.

3. Brand Equity – quality content goes a long way toward establishing you as the expert in the hearts and minds of your network. And that’s the goal. To make yourself the go-to gal/guy when  the need arises. 

4. Social Equity – there’s a level of personality that comes through in speech, which the written word fails to capture. People get a better sense of who you really are when they hear you engage in conversation. When people feel as though they know you personally, they’re that much closer to doing business with you. Assuming they like you.

The opposite will also happen. Assuming you do it right, you’ll turn some people off. And the beauty of that is you filter out incompatible clients. But with all that passive revenue, will you really care?

That’s all I can think of right now, and I’m sure there’s more to be said about it. Feel free to add to the list in the comments section.

In addition, I have to say this. Podcasting is not a panacea or some cure-all for your business building challenges. You’ll still have to do the work of building a network. You’ll still have to be very focused and clear about the value your bring to that network. You’ll still have to create valuable content for that network. The beauty of podcasting however, is you can also involve your network in the content creation – via interviews, recorded teleclasses, R&D calls, etc.

Some Other Podcast Resources

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

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I neglected to offer a link for the software I mentioed yesterday. Sorry. Thanks Jake (communityguy). You can get info about Magix Music Maker 2005 here.

Also, there is another program called mixcastlive that is apparently designed just for podcasters. I’ve not used it yet, but I’m investigating it further.

Finally, Audacity is a free, open-source program for recording/creating and working with sound files. It’s a pretty well-known program among geeks and podcasters. You should check it out if you’re gong to get into recording your own stuff.

"Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing
sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and
other operating systems. Learn more about Audacity… "

Forget Customer Service. Think Experiential Marketing.

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

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Harry Joiner repeats an old joke that, unfortunately, contains more than a seed of truth. In the joke, a man chooses to spend eternity in hell rather than heaven because Satan did such a fantastic job of selling the "hell experience." Naturally, the situation ends badly for the guy:

"Immediately, Satan’s sales rep reappears and escorts the guy to
hell, where he’s shackled to a stone wall. ‘Here’s your new home!’ the
man is told. ‘But wait! You can’t do this!" the guy yells. ‘I was here
just yesterday, and everyone was having a wonderful time. What’s going
on?’

"Satan’s sales rep says: ‘Yesterday you were a prospect …

"’Today you’re a customer!’"

More often than not, the customer service function is disconnected from the sales and marketing function of winning customers. And I’m not here to beat up on customer service people. Their job isn’t easy. After all, most of the people they talk to are complaining about something, and when you work in that kind of environment day-in and day-out, it’s easy to develop a defensive posture.

However, I am here to beat up on the concept of customer service. It’s an outdated concept that’s rooted in the notion that customer service is about solving customer problems. While it’s true that solving the problem is part of the formula, the larger context to consider is the customer’s experience. I can get my problem solved, yet still have a terrible experience.

As an example, I went to a restaurant with my daughter yesterday. Olive Garden. Normally a pleasant experience. Good food. Relatively low price. Pleasant atmosphere. Service above average (usually). This day, however, not the case. From the get-go, the waitress was surly. Direct. Abrupt even. Bordering on rude.

She brought the initial appetizers, but forgot the bread sticks and grated cheese (problem). After I realized she forgot them, I asked nicely if she could bring them. Really. I was very nice. She brought them and offered some bullshit excuse for why she forgot them. In a surly tone, no less. Did I wait 45 minutes for a table just for this (it was a busy day)? Problem solved. Experience sucked.

Fortunately for Olive Garden, I’ve had enough pleasant experiences with them, and I’m willing to overlook this bad one. It was a very busy day after all. But what about the next time?  Every experience your customer has becomes part of the brand (the customer’s gut feeling about you).

Forget customer service. Think experiential marketing.

How Far Do We Go For a Customer?

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

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Something happened at work today that has me baffled. A guy who bought an RV from me a couple of years ago came back to trade it in for a newer one. What baffles me about that is WHY he did so. See, after he bought the first one, he had several problems that, despite my very best efforts, weren’t handled to his satisfaction.

I can remember at one point he threatened to get attorneys involved unless his problems were addressed and handled as they should have been. In my opinion, they never quite were, and I’d suspect he felt the same. Still, no attorneys were ever involved, and here he is today acting like we’re old friends. Weird.

When his problems arose, some within the dealership argued that he was too demanding. It was a 10 year old trailer he purchased after all, and if he wanted no problems he should have purchased a new unit. They argued that he was impatient when necessary parts were on back-order and unavailable for months. When he threatened to call his attorney, they just said "do what you have to do." I can find the place of agreement with all that, but you still have to wonder if we could have gone farther to satisfy this customer.

Needless to say, this customer’s experience was far from acceptable to him, and he made that very well known to me and the people for whom I work. I was sure I’d never see him again, let alone have him show up today saying: "Hey Michael, we’d like to upgrade to a newer camper. What have you got for us?"

I guess I could have asked him what made him come back to us after all that. But you sort of want to avoid drudging up stuff like that, especially when you’re not completely sure your company did all they could have done to handle the situation better.

I still wonder about the whole thing. I guess I come from the philosophy that says "the customer is always right." Although I have seen times where that philosophy is just way too unrealistic, just as some customers can be unrealistic. But where do you draw that line? Do we cut off a demanding customer when we believe in our heart of hearts we’ve given enough? Or do we set no boundaries on keeping a customer satisfied?

I’m guessing there’s not one right answer here, but I’d love any thoughts you might have.

In the case of this customer, perhaps he came back because, despite his sub-par experience, we’re still the best he has available to him. Or we’re the closest. Or I – personally – handled him respectfully and sympathetically. I’m really not sure, but I think I’ll ask him the next time I see him.

You May Not Need a Business Blog

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

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Interesting post by Paul Chaney over at Radiant Marketing. Paul, btw, is a big blogging evangelist, consultant and founder of the Professional Bloggers Association. In this post he confesses:

"Though I never thought I’d hear myself say this, not every business needs to blog . . ."

You might think that’s a blasphemous statement from someone in Paul’s position. But it’s not. I agree with him completely, despite my previous fanaticism about blogging.

I have a very good friend, Helaine Iris. She’s a business coach. She doesn’t NEED a blog (although I contend it could make her life easier). Helaine doesn’t need a blog because she’s done – and continues to do – everything necessary to build a successful practice.

1. She’s built/joined a network of people who share similar interests, and she’s positioned herself as someone who can serve their needs effectively, which she does.

2. She engages with her network on a consistent basis, and she’s become the go-to person for small business owners in her community/network.

3. She becoming well-established as an expert in her field. Reporters are beginning to ask for interviews and articles from her, and she’s being invited to do speaking engagements. Even though she doesn’t market herself as a speaker or writer.

With a practice that has doubled in the last few months, she’s nearly at a point where she needs to consider either referring people to others or establishing a waiting list. Good problem to have.

What’s making her successful is that she’s connecting with her network and serving their needs. That’s what really matters. There are many ways to connect, and blogging is just one method to help you do that.

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