A few years ago I wrote about Being a Confirmation Emailer which outlined how helpful it is just to let people know that you received their email. Confirming email receipt and responding to emails in a timely manner helps to provide great service. Unfortunately our culture seems to have started using emails to go back and forth on minute items, when a phone call would have been best. Instead of this back and forth, we should just pick up the phone and connect as humans.
I believe that in the future, the companies that promote a ‘pick up the phone’ culture will have greater success and customer loyalty than those that don’t. I have recently experienced a situation that exemplified this perfectly..
I was working next to a salesperson who was working a deal and had received an email with questions from one of their prospective customers.
The following events then ensued:
He did not immediately respond to the email, as this would have been impersonal.
He picked up the phone to call and answer questions live.
When the voicemail picked up, he left a message letting the prospect know that he was calling to answer his question.
Then he followed up with answers in an email.
If the prospect would have answered the phone during the initial call, the salesperson would have answered the questions and still followed up with an email recap. Now that is service!
One place that this problem seems to be running rampant these days is in support and I will be the first to admit this offense. A common practice for companies that require you to purchase separate support packages is that they will provide their customers with a phone number to call them. However, it means that they will not conduct any outbound calling to respond to or follow up with these issues. Simply put, if you don’t purchase their support upfront, you are out of luck.
Lets clarify what phone support should mean… I can call you to open a support ticket and get help when needed, including a friendly and helpful phone call if that makes the most sense. It doesn’t mean that when I file a ticket through your portal, that you only email me and can’t call me. If a quick phone call would address the issue rather than spending an hour going back and forth through email, then that’s what should be included in the solution.
It is my goal to personally do better about picking up the phone and making a real connection. It is also my goal to build that culture into the organizations that I manage. Do you pick up the phone and dial?
The customer discovery process has taken hold and the future entrepreneurial leaders are using it to learn more rapidly than ever. In programs like Flashpoint and StartupGauntlet, entrepreneurs interview hundreds of people to hone their product and vision. Through these programs, they are getting out of their bubble and getting real data. Next, they need to do it for the business.
In speaking with startup entrepreneurs, I hear many common threads that create various concerns about viability. A few examples I commonly see and hear are:
1. The entrepreneur is going to grow the business using social media.
A few questions to this assumption would be:
How many Twitter followers turn into a customer?
How many Facebook likes turn into a customer?
How many leads come in from a large social media campaign?
Have you ever run a social media campaign?
2. The projected revenue numbers are made up or based on what the entrepreneur needs them to be.
Lets say that you are starting a brick and mortar shop:
What is the revenue of other businesses that are exactly like yours?
What is the revenue of other business similar in footprint, pricing and nearby where your store is or will go?
Just like with customer discovery, in business discovery it is important to come up with multiple hypotheses, then go out and get real data to prove or disprove it. Do you have a business discovery process?
A few nights ago I attended the FourAthens mentor panel which was a great discussion around what mentors are, do, and are looking for in mentees. The panel also included a few mentees that provided experiences as well as their thoughts on the mentor/mentee relationship.
Here are a few takeaways:
Mentors are there to mentor the person and not the business.
Advisors mentor the business.
Mentors should be willing to open the rolodex.
Mentors have different styles so find the one that works for you.
Don’t ask mentors to get on sales calls, make documents or “work” your business.
It is ok the ask for advice in the mentors area of work but don’t treat them like a consultant.
Don’t be closed minded, you are supposed to have hard conversations.
As entrepreneurs we are always learning and growing. Once we are enlightened in one area we find out that there is just as much to learn in another area. This is why I enjoyed what I consider the quote of the night. Being a first time entrepreneur is a “Fog of Unknowing”.
The final take away from the meeting was that most mentees are looking for three types of relationships or assistance. They are mentors, advisors and consultants. The mentor and mentee need to agree on which role is being filled, up front, to ensure a good working relationship.
I recently read an article from one of my favorite local professional bloggers that wrote about diversifying income streams. In the article he posed a very important question which was “If my #1 source of income was gone tomorrow…. what would I have left?”
This struck me as a pretty powerful thought and exercise. If my #1 ___________ was gone tomorrow…….. what would I have left? The next question is, what would I do? Planning for disaster isn’t a fun task and takes a lot of deep thought. Unfortunately this type of planning and exercise doesn’t happen enough in businesses.
Here are a few questions that I asked myself:
What if my top engineer left tomorrow?
What if my top top salesperson left?
What if my #1 business revenue stream was somehow cut off?
What if my best strategic partner went out of business?
Have you asked yourself these questions lately?
These loses could be devastating to many businesses. In fact, there was a time when this would have been totally catastrophic to my own business.
Yes, now it would be a huge blow to lose some of my key people. We are somewhat of a family and we work well together, but that does not mean that I am blind to the fact that they are talented and someday they may choose to move on. This is reality in today’s business world.
The one thing I and many successful business people I know do to lighten the blow when this does happen, is to always look for new talent.
Building relationships with quality people in all avenues of your business will allow you a pool of people to pick from when a position does open up. It is much easier to ask somebody you know, and know their work, to come work for you than to hope the right person comes your way after a position opens. Networking is the key to keeping the candidate pool full at all times.
Obviously you don’t want to live your life or run your business based on fear but you should be asking yourself the hard questions and planning accordingly.
About a week ago my wife received a call from a trash company that was trying to gain more customers in our area. They offered to provide the same service that we were currently receiving but at a lower price and with an additional large trash can for recyclables. Although we weren’t really looking to switch companies we would be getting more value at a lower price so we accepted their offer.
After that call we had to call the current trash company to cancel our service and apparently the person on the other end of the phone was not happy about our switch. She proceeded to tell my wife that this was a bad decision, that this was a large company pushing little companies out of business and that we would regret when we pay fuel surcharges at a later point. These were all good points and needed attention but that is not the point of the post.
What it really comes down to is selling value on what many would consider a commodity. Following the recap from my wife I thought to myself, how did this smaller and likely more agile company prove their value while we had the service and would that have kept us from switching?
The fact is that the savings were minimal and the extra can, for times of need, was a bonus. This means that a little more value from the original company would have easily kept us from switching. This begs the question; “What value could they have provided, this is just trash service, right?”
They could have done any of the following things:
1. Called me at a regular interval to make sure we were satisfied with the service.
2. Called occasionally to make sure our trash cans get put back in the right place and aren’t laying in the street after service.
3. Offered to get our trash cans if they weren’t at the curb on trash day ( how many times have you forgotten to get the trash up? )
4. Offered one emergency pickup a quarter. This would be great after entertaining guests.
5. Given me a tight time range that they would show up each week in case I forgot to get it out the night before. I could then know if they had gone by already or not.
I am sure that there a many other ways this company could have provided value which would have kept me from switching, but they didn’t.
What are you doing to provide more value than you competitors? Are there things you know that you should be doing but haven’t had the time to do?
The range of services that we offer are typically geared towards managing leads as they come in. But what about paying for leads to make them flow in?
Pay per lead services are something that I have been aware of for a long time but always thought would be too expensive. There is also the fear of the unknown that kicks in and many questions that arise like:
What if I am paying for poor leads?
How many other people are getting the same lead?
Is this expensive or standard?
After a recent customer engagement I discovered that there are companies having large success by paying for leads. They receive a lead and quickly follow up with the customer to understand what they are looking for and then move them into the sales cycle.
Have you had success paying for leads?
What services did you use and which one did you like best?
After highlighting Adroll in Adroll Retargeting Gets Noticed I decided I should highlight one lesson that I learned as well as my plan for the next iteration.
I have been testing LinkedIn, Adwords and Facebook ads along with Adroll and one thing that never happened on the first three services was an outrageous charge for a click. After being charged a ridiculous fee for a few clicks on Adroll I had to find out why. It seems that LinkedIn, Adwords and Facebook make setting a max bid a requirement and if it isn’t then it stands out very well when building a campaign. On AdRoll there is no max bid option visible until after the campaign is launched. So lesson one of using AdRoll, make sure you set a max bid or you will get a surprise.
When I started my first campaign I selected a large number of sites utilizing 8 different ad sizes. After 85,000 impressions a few things stood out. There were two sites with click through rates that were roughly 4 times higher than all other sites. In conjunction with the higher click through rates, the cost per click rate was near the lowest. A few quick clicks showed that both of the sites were using the same size ad.
My next iteration will focus on building awareness and will be a standard campaign. I will launch a new campaign targeting the sites above using the single banner ad. The more focused site targeting and lesson learned will ensure that I get a more efficient campaign and without skewed metrics from a few unusually high click costs.
This month we launched CRMState.com a service that specializes in monitoring SugarCRM. There is a vast assortment of server monitoring solutions available but we ( Atcore Systems ) wanted to utilize our knowledge of SugarCRM to build a monitoring system that is application specific. The fact is that I can choose 1 of hundreds of server monitoring tools to monitor my server but none of them are SugarCRM aware. They don’t know the application, the features and all of the additional non standard types of monitoring and suggestions that can take place to enhance the software.
In version 1 we changed up the standard monitoring and instead of monitoring for the page to respond we verify that specific words show up on the login page. This insures that not only the server and database are up but that the page is showing as it should. It is in our roadmap to take on page checks to another level but we will talk about that in our next update.
Another monitor feature we added was fatal log alerting. Fatals shouldn’t happen very often, except in certain scenarios, if your SugarCRM instance is healthy. We monitor for fatals and alert the user based on their alert configuration. This may seem somewhat standard for a logging system but we have plan to take it much further in the near future.
Perhaps the biggest impact this has in relation to SugarCRM monitoring is that the service specializes in SugarCRM monitoring. With that focus we can continuously add SugarCRM specific checks, build in suggestions and keep up with the pace of SugarCRM releases.
We recently launched CRMState.com a service that specializes in monitoring SugarCRM. With that launch we decided to compare multiple online advertising services, one of them being Adroll. We decided to throw Adroll in with some top competitors such ad LinkedIn, Facebook and Google for two reasons. The first is, it was recommended by a partner that we trust. Secondly, and more interestingly, was that they offered Retargeting.
We will be publishing some information about the results in the near future but needless to say the CPM and click through rates are significantly higher on people that are retargeted. To top it all off, everyone that knows about your site or has recently been targeted will contact you and send you screenshots exhibiting where they saw your ad.
We look forward to telling you more about Adroll in the future but until then I recommend setting aside a little budget to try it out.
Disclosure: This is not a paid post but we did use the referral link. If you liked the information above and decide to try Adroll, please click our link to register and we will keep the tips coming.
At a recent networking event I was completely amazed when an individual contributor from a nearby Lowes showed up and introduced themselves at one of the round tables. I am not speaking of a director or contractor salesperson but an individual contributor that works on the floor in a specific department who is out promoting the company. In an age where personal connection means more than ever, this person went out and made connections.
What are your employees doing to help make personal connections?
Do you provide incentive for individual contributors ( non sales ) to go outside the walls of the business?
- No public Twitter messages.