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A black-and-white thinker is said to see only yes or no, right or wrong, good or evil — and nothing in between.

Some suggest black-and-white thinkers view the world without emotion and practice only logical thought. Naysayers sing the praises of the various shades of gray — and the nuances that lie in between.

Children are taught that color represents creativity. Just ask any child about his or her reaction to their first big box of Crayola crayons. Black may work well for an outline but what child can resist the temptation of Shocking Pink, Midnight Blue or Jungle Green?

Before you decide where you lie on the color/thought spectrum, celebrated landscape/nature photographer Clyde Butcher is likely to turn your “black and white” belief system on its ear.

Butcher, an internationally renowned nature photographer who works exclusively in black and white, has built his career on challenging what it means to be a black-and-white thinker while redefining the importance placed on color.

Pay attention to the details

Every businessperson has an environment and resources to care for, a workplace ecosystem that must equally safeguard the needs of stockholders, employees and consumers.
Butcher’s primary goal is to promote and protect our natural environment. Butcher, who first and foremost views himself as an educator, has much to teach.

Responding to the tragic death of his 17-year-old son Ted, killed by a drunken driver in 1986, Butcher made a career-changing decision to honor his child — and life itself — and shun the commercial trends of photography.

“It became more important to pursue what I loved, not what sells,” Butcher says.

Henceforth, Butcher’s artistic soul would forever be expressed in black, white and the seemingly monochromatic rainbow that lies in between.

“Color gets in the way of seeing what is really in the picture. When all you look for is color, you miss the details,” Butcher says.

Rethinking the nature of business

It may be the nature of business to pay careful attention to the bottom line, but Butcher offers an unexpected, thought-provoking spin on the importance of achieving true balance: “Everything in nature has the same importance.”

While maintaining focus is essential in business, of equal importance is the ability to stop and reconsider what shaped that focus in the first place — or Butcher’s beloved “details.”

An advocate of seeing the “big picture,” Butcher prefers his work displayed in large formats.

“When it’s big, you can’t really see it all, you have to feel it. Your eye can’t take in the entire image, which forces you to step in and study it,” Butcher says.

A basic thought process that metaphorically applies to any type of big picture investigation — artistic, business or otherwise. What may initially seem to be of critical importance could ultimately end up clouding your judgment.

Left brain versus right brain

As Butcher sees photography as both science and emotion, he ultimately dares the left-brained (analytical) and right-brained (creative) public to do something profoundly simple: Think.

Whether you see the world in black, white and/or shades of gray — or if you prefer, the colorful land of Oz to Dorothy Gale’s Kansas — Butcher’s lesson is clear: No matter what you do in life, a little extra thought as well as an attention to, and respect for, detail goes a very long way.

For more on Clyde Butcher, visit clydebutcher.com.

Speaker, writer and professional storyteller Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Fla. Visit randallkennethjones.com.

Link up with Randell Kenneth Jones at:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/randallkennethjones
Twitter: @RandallKJones

The customer is always king. It might sound like a cliché, but when you think about it, how long has it been since you actually heard somebody say it?

There was a time that customer service was a given. Remember the scene in “Back to the Future” when the lead character arrives in the 1950s to the bizarre sight of a team of gas station attendants descending upon a car? Audiences roared with laughter.

Most of us have probably noticed erosion in customer service. Perhaps your supermarket no longer offers to help you take your groceries to the car. Customer service is nearly dead in the airline industry — no pillows, blankets, meal service or checked luggage. Unless you’re willing to pay extra for it, of course.

The reality is that customer service has been going slowly downhill for years. As profit margins get thinner, companies look for ways to squeeze out every last penny. This means fewer employees under increasing pressure, doing more than ever before.

Protect your reputation

Despite this disturbing trend, neglecting customer satisfaction is a big mistake. It damages the one thing you can’t buy — reputation — and can even prove fatal to a company.
It’s a fiercely competitive environment out there and people won’t come flocking to you just because you make a fancy widget. Somewhere out there, somebody else is making a widget just as fancy as yours, plus he or she is offering great customer service.

While it’s true that we live in an increasingly bottom line-oriented business environment, never forget that your customers are human beings, not just commodities from which you derive revenue.

Give customers what they want

Customers yearn to be taken seriously, listened to, treated with respect and admired. In addition, they desire to be prosperous, happy and loved. To be successful, address these needs and make it your No. 1 priority.

Assume that customers are listening very carefully to what you say, both in one-on-one interactions with staff or by the overall attitude you convey as a company. If they feel you don’t really care, they’ll look for other alternatives.

The power of people

Money is tight in every business, but think twice before cutting back on things that affect customer service. One of my pet peeves is the inability to get a human being when calling a company. Automated attendants are fine, but if a customer wants to reach a person, that option should be made immediately available.

I work in the world of direct response shopping, in which customer service — including being able to get a friendly operator on the line — has always been a priority. This might explain why the industry has continued to do well, even as much of the retail sector has struggled. Even so, extra incentives, such as reduced or free shipping and money back guarantees, have come increasingly into play in order to attract and keep customers.

Running a business is tough and there are a million things that are out of your control. But as customer service continues to deteriorate, take advantage of the situation to differentiate your business. Remember how your mother probably told you to, “Treat others as you would like to be treated?” Success might not always be that simple, but it’s certainly a good place to start.

Tony Little is the founder, president and CEO of Health International Corp., and executive chairman of Positive Lifestyle International. Known as “America’s Personal Trainer,” he has
been a television icon for more than 20 years. After overcoming a car accident that nearly took his life, Little learned how to turn adversity into victory. Known for his wild enthusiasm, Little is responsible for revolutionizing direct-response marketing and television home shopping. He has sold more than $3 billion in products bearing his name. Reach him at guestbook@tonylittle.com.

Learn more about Tony Little at:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/TonyLittleFanPage

Twitter: @TonyLittleReal

 

One-to-one communication problems often can be resolved by understanding your communication style through the styles of others. Effective managers do this to make other people understand them, be receptive to ideas and lessen their resistance to change.

The work of psychologist Carl Jung offers a framework that managers can adopt to improve communication. Jung found that people tend to have one of four communication styles: thinker, feeler, doer and intuitor.

Our navigational styles form patterns of behavior recognized by others through the way we write, dress, speak, act and think. Let’s examine navigational styles and see if you recognize yourself.

Thinker

Thinker style of navigating relies heavily on reasoning and logic. Thinkers have a strong sense of linear time; past, present and future are connected in a logical sequence. If the facts don’t fit in this order, they are likely to be ignored and discarded.

The thinker’s strength is in analyzing data and using it to solve problems, often with a variety of solutions. Other people view thinkers as rational, objective and unemotional.

Feeler

A feeler’s style is anchored in feelings and emotions. Users can’t separate their emotions from a situation when making decisions. They are very aware of moral issues/dilemmas, and they show more empathy and compassion for people than the other styles.

Feelers tend to be more traditional in their approach to solving problems. They think best when people are around and they feel they are contributing.

Doer

No other style has the ability to perceive the present moment as fully as the doer. The doer is considered the most practical and pragmatic in making decisions. This navigational style is results-oriented and likes useful — not theoretical or conceptual — solutions to problems.

Doers can absorb vast amounts of data about what’s happening around them and use it to get things done quickly. Doers tend to be better at making short rather than long-range decisions.

Intuitor

The intuitor lives in the future — a world of concepts and ideas, rather than actions, feelings or logical thought. This style is more at home with what will be then with what is or was. Such a person is able to see the potential in a situation or person.

The intuitor is easily frustrated with routine in detail. To others the intuitor may appear flighty and unrealistic; but this person can be inspired about the future as quickly as the doer can initiate a project, the thinker can evolve a new theory and the feeler can recognize the effects of a decision on the people involved.

Once you’ve identified the other person’s navigational style, you can modify yours so there is less friction and your styles become complementary.

If the other person is a thinker, prepare to work with him or her by being armed with all the facts. This makes you look credible and helps develop a rapport so you can explore the alternatives to solving a problem.

If you’re dealing with a doer, realize this person makes decisions quickly. Don’t overwhelm this individual with the same amount of facts you would provide the thinker.

If the other person is a feeler, be prepared to listen to feelings. However, once you build a relationship with this type of person, you’ll be rewarded with the feeler’s greatest strength — loyalty.

Jay Nisberg is an internationally known management consultant recognized for his work in strategic planning and growth management with professional services firms and privately-owned businesses. He is the author of the “Random House Handbook of Business Terms” as well as the “Random House Dictionary of Business Terms.” Nisberg is the longest active member of Accounting Today’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in the Accounting Profession.” He is the co-author of “Stratagem: Simple, Effective Strategic Planning for Your Business and Your Life,” published by Smart Business Books. Contact him at jaynisberg@snet.net.

Link up with Jay Nisberg at:

LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/15QJnrn

 

 

We can always count on Northern California to generate a good debate. On one hand, we saw Yahoo eliminate work-from-home arrangements last year, and on the other, the city of San Francisco passed the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance on Oct. 8.

Essentially, this ordinance and a similar law recently passed in Vermont grant employees the right to request flexibility or predictability in schedule, and the employer is compelled to respond by either granting or denying the request in a prescribed time frame. Both measures have heightened scrutiny of flexibility and what it means to create an effective workplace.

Smart, forward-thinking companies in Florida should consider offering flexwork options without being compelled by law — because it just makes good business sense. There is overwhelming research that shows flexibility leads to higher engagement, retention and productivity as well as lower absenteeism, stress levels, health issues and operating costs. In fact, four out of five workers say flexibility is important when considering a new job.

Tangible benefits

High-profile examples abound of tangible benefits to corporations. Consider Aetna, where nearly half of workers use flexible workspaces. They shed 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving about $78 million per year. Unilever’s Agile Working initiative resulted in a 12.9 percent reduction in selling and administrative costs, along with a 10.2 percent increase in revenue.

SAS has effective workplace programs that have led to a 37-year string of revenue growth and profitability, employee turnover rates of 2 to 4 percent versus the software industry average of 22 percent, and savings of up to $70 million a year in hiring and training costs.

The rise in flexible workplace initiatives is also supported by several demographic trends:

  • One in five U.S. workers currently provides eldercare, necessitating schedule flexibility and/or predictability for the caregivers;
  • Growing workforce participation of millennials and digital natives, for whom flexibility to work from anywhere, at any time, and from any device is a foregone conclusion; and
  • Men are now reporting higher levels of work/life conflict than women, driving up pressure for flexwork from all workers and not solely working women, according to the Families and Work Institute.

Flexibility options abound

Interestingly, we currently see far more flexwork offered for white collar and salaried workers than in the realm of blue collar, hourly and shift work. That’s partially because managers have a harder time envisioning what flexibility looks like for such workers, but there are a litany of great options that do not involve working from home.

One of the biggest long-term motivators at work is the ability to control one’s destiny. In order to stay relevant, organizations must have a flexible culture where realistic work patterns meet the needs of employees and employers. The ultimate goal of any flexible workplace strategy is to help leaders attract, retain and engage top talent.

It’s up to all parties involved to align on communication, collaboration and accountability practices that ensure smooth execution for colleagues, customers, managers and other relevant constituencies.

Karen May, vice president of people development at Google, put it well: “Imagine a world where most organizations were the best place to work. Imagine what we could be getting done on the planet if it were true.” As a Floridian, I say, “Imagine what we could be getting done in Florida!”

Shani Magosky is a flexible workplace consultant, executive coach and productivity expert who has worked in numerous industries, for venerable institutions and unknown startups, in a range of economic environments from bubble to recession, and in revenue-producing, advisory and senior managerial roles. She resides in Fort Lauderdale and can be reached at shani@vitesseconsult.com. For more information, visit vitesseconsult.com.

Learn more about Vitesse Consulting at:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lifeworkinfused

The size of the service sector, global competition, rising labor and technology costs and demanding customers all force companies to create excellent customer experiences.

The challenge firms face today is knowing their customer’s definition of service quality and how to deliver that at a reasonable cost to create superior customer value.

Customers use service encounters to assess the quality of a firm’s offering. So, how can we “wow” customers? 

It’s all about the service experience

Seventy percent of customer defections are due to service problems. Improving service quality is like taking vitamins, eating healthy and exercising regularly. Although the results may not be immediate, long-term benefits are significant. Service quality is not a “quick fix,” but rather a way of life for companies who are serious about improvement. Here are 10 recommendations that can lead to superior customer value:

1. Co-create services with customers. Learn what customers value by incorporating the “voice-of-the-customer” into the service development process.

2. Focus your improvement programs outward, on market “break-points.” By defining and mapping episodes (service cycle), you can see the service experience as the customer sees it. Realize that customers view service as a totality, not an isolated set of activities.

3. Create a tangible representation of service quality. Hertz Gold Plus Rewards communicates a premium, value-added bundle of services to business travelers seeking a hassle-free car rental experience.

4. Use teamwork to promote service excellence — service workers who support one another and achieve together can avoid service burnout.

5. Create a “service-bias” based on key SQ determinants such as professionalism, attitudes/behaviors, accessibility and flexibility, reliability/trustworthiness and service recovery.

6. Develop metrics that are specific in nature, such as a 95 percent on-time delivery, customer wait time or order processing time.

7. Employee selection, job design and training are crucial to building customer satisfaction and SQ. The ability to respond quickly, competently and pleasantly to customers needs to be a priority.

8. Reward quality efforts in marketing. Seek opportunities to reinforce quality behaviors when they occur. Reward employees on the basis of commitment and effort, not just sales outcomes.

9. Think of service as a process, not a series of functions. Service quality occurs when the entire service experience is managed and the organization is aligned to respond accordingly.

10. Integrate customer information across sales channels. The information made available to online and offline service representatives should be consistent.

Checklist — improving service quality

1. Does your company really listen to its customers? Give a specific example of how good listening improved the service experience.

2. Reliability means performing the promised services dependably and accurately. On a 10-point scale, where 1 is unreliable and 10 is perfectly reliable, rate your company and explain why.

3. How well does your company perform the “service basics?”

4. How effectively does your company manage service design — systems, people and the physical environment? Provide an example of how lack of planning in one of these areas resulted in a “fail point” during a customer encounter.

5. Service recovery refers to how effectively companies respond to service failures. Cite an example when a service failure occurred and how it was handled.

6. Teamwork is an important dynamic in sustaining service workers’ motivation. How can you improve teamwork in your organization?

7. Internal service is crucial to service improvement, as customer satisfaction often mirrors employee satisfaction. To what extent does your company assess internal service quality? ●

Art Weinstein, Ph.D., is chair and professor of marketing at Nova Southeastern University and author of Superior Customer Value: Strategies for Winning and Retaining Customers. He may be reached at art@huizenga.nova.edu or (954) 262-5097. For more information, visit www.artweinstein.com.

Link with Art Weinstein on LinkedIn http://linkd.in/1hQcrHJ.

Thursday, 21 November 2013 15:21

Why you can’t treat social media like a road trip

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The idea of driving aimlessly seems glamorous in movies and songs. In reality, few of us get in a car without knowing how to reach our destination. We’ve created smartphone apps, GPS devices and satellite mapping to make our trips as efficient as possible and to avoid what we know to be an inconvenient, expensive outcome — getting lost.

I bring up this idea because many companies using social media have inadvertently become lost drivers. They start using social platforms with the goal of reaching some number of likes, retweets or shares, but as they embark on their social media strategies, many experience a disconnect between the content they post, blog and tweet and their progress on measurable business goals. These companies are driving without a roadmap; they just don’t know it.

Sound familiar? If social media isn’t working for you, your social media approaches may be missing a fundamental component: an effective content strategy. Here are three ways a solid content strategy will enhance your company’s social media success.

 

A like is just a like
All social media engagement is not created equally. To be successful, the social media activity that you generate needs to support your marketing goals — whether you want to improve employee engagement, boost customer conversions or build interest in a new product.
Creating a content strategy before you engage in social media will help your business clarify the specific marketing goals you want to achieve through content, as well as what messages you need to communicate to reach those goals. This process will ensure you get the right likes, shares and retweets from social interactions.

 

Social is a vehicle
Social media is a vehicle for sharing compelling content with your audience, and it doesn’t work if you don’t know what issues, topics and trends your audience finds compelling. Part of developing a content strategy involves learning how those you are trying to reach want to be talked to. Where do they go for information? How much time do they spend online? What kind of content are they looking for from your industry?
By getting to know the interests and pain points of your audience (customers, employees, shareholders, etc.), you can develop tactics to reach your online audience more effectively, saving you time and enhancing your company’s social influence.

 

Relevant content is meaningful
Kings of social content don’t become that way by luck. They use strategic tactics to connect with their audience through the right channels at the right times. More importantly, they make these connections meaningful and memorable by posting and sharing strategic, relevant content that their audiences desire.
When you deliver social content that your audience members find valuable or interesting, they’ll reward you by sharing your content, engaging with your business and, ideally, helping to promote your reputation as a thought leader in your business or industry. A content strategy allows you to do that by providing a roadmap for what kinds of informative, helpful, educational or creative content you need to make meaningful interactions.

As a recent Huffington Post article put it, the golden rule of the web is clear: “To know us better is to sell us better.” Ultimately, being successful in the social media space means taking the time to map out what success looks like. In this sense, a solid content strategy is not only an important component of any social media strategy, it’s the key to driving the results your business wants.

 

Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business and SBN Interactive. Reach him at mmarzec@sbnonline.com or (440) 250-7078.

When Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was the CEO at Sunbeam in the late ’90s, he had a reputation for ruthlessness. Besides massively downsizing the company, he was also known to intimidate everyone around him and resort to yelling and fist pounding.

While extreme, Dunlap’s behavior is an example of the type of “dictator” leadership that used to be fairly common in the C-suite. Rules were rules, there were no exceptions for anything and people were just a line item on a budget. Need to cut thousands of jobs? Don’t think twice about it.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Christ-like leader. This leader focuses more on building people up rather than tearing them down. This type of leader understands that there are rules, but sometimes to do the right thing, the rules need to be broken. For example, during the economic downturn, some Christ-like leaders went well beyond what was called for to make sure laid-off employees were taken care of.

They made sure they had the use of office resources to look for a new job and did everything they could to lessen the hardships. They weren’t required to do this; it was just the right thing to do. They saw employees as human, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.

Does it cost money to take the more humane route with your leadership? Yes and no. From a short-term, bottom-line perspective, it probably does cost a few more dollars to help people through a hardship. But long term, it can pay dividends. By treating people with respect and doing the right thing, it helps eliminate animosity toward you and your company from both the ex-employees and current ones. Maybe there are some good employees who you wanted to keep, but couldn’t afford. By showing compassion, when the economy turned around, they were far more likely to consider coming back than if they had just been shown the door with little regard to their well-being.

And what happens when these ex-employees end up in key positions in companies that could be customers? Do you think an ex-employee who you mistreated is going to buy anything from you or recommend your company to someone? It’s a small world, and what goes around often comes around, so it’s always best to treat people as best you can.

You can lead like a dictator and still get results. But do the ends justify the means? Will you conquer all, only to find yourself alone with no friends, the equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?” Or will you have an epiphany and realize there’s a better way to do things?

During this holiday season, think about your leadership style and the long-term effect it has on people’s lives. If this exercise makes you uncomfortable, then maybe it’s time to change how you lead. ●

What would it take for a company to succeed if its leader could effectively do only one of the following: innovate, instigate or administrate? We all know that an innovator is the one who sees things that aren’t and asks why not? The instigator sees things that are and asks why? The administrator doesn’t necessarily ask profound questions but, instead, is dogged about crossing the “t’s,” dotting the “i’s” and making sure that whatever is supposed to happen happens.

Ideally, a top leader combines all three traits while being charismatic, intellectual, pragmatic and able to make decisions faster than a speeding bullet. Although some of us might fantasize that we are Superman or Superwoman, with a sense of exaggerated omnipotence, the bubble usually bursts when we’re confronted simultaneously with multiple situations that require the versatility of a Swiss army knife.

Business leaders come in all shapes and sizes with various skill sets and styles that are invaluable, depending on the priorities of a company at any given point in time.

Every business needs an innovator to differentiate the company. Without a unique something or other, there isn’t a compelling reason to exist. Once those special products or services that distinguish the business from others are discovered and in place, it takes an instigator to continuously re-examine and challenge every aspect of the business that leads to continued improvements, both functionally and economically. It also takes an administrator — someone who can keep all the balls in the air, ensuring that everyone in the organization is in sync and delivering the finished products as promised to keep customers coming back.

As politicians and pundits of all types have pounded into our heads in recent years, “It takes a village to raise a child.” All who practice the art and science of business have learned that, instead of a village, it takes a diverse team working together to make one plus one equal three.

On the ideal team, each member possesses different strengths, contributing to the greater good. The exceptional leader is best when he or she is an effective chef who knows how to mix the different skills together to create a winning recipe.

In many companies, however, leaders tend to surround themselves with clones who share similar abilities, interests and backgrounds. As an example, a manufacturer may have a management team comprised solely of engineers, or a marketing organization could have salespeople who came up through the ranks calling all the shots.

If everyone in an organization comes from the same mold, what tends to happen is, figuratively, one lies and the others swear to it. This builds to a crescendo of complacency and perpetual mediocrity.

There is a better way. Good leaders surround themselves with others who complement their capabilities, and savvy leaders select those with dramatically different backgrounds who will challenge their thinking because they’re not carbon copies of the boss. This opens new horizons, forges breakthroughs and leads to optimal daily performance.

Strange bedfellows can stimulate, nudge and keep each other moving toward the previously unexplored.

To have a sustainable and effective organization, you can’t have one type without all the others. While everyone on the team may not always agree, each player must always be committed to making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

The single most important skill of the leader who has to pull all the pieces and parts together is to have the versatility of that Swiss army knife — selecting the precise tool to accomplish the objective at hand. ●

 

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

More than 800 years ago, medieval philosopher Maimonides outlined eight levels of charity, the greatest of which was supporting an individual in such a way that he or she becomes independent. In Maimonides’ view, support was defined as a gift or loan, entering into a partnership or simply helping that person find employment.

Few things are more powerful than philanthropy — especially when its end goal is to better the lives of others. These days, philanthropy, and corporate philanthropy specifically, has assumed a broader role in society.

Today, companies give back more strategically than ever before. They align themselves with nonprofits that foster missions they believe in. The wealthiest people on the planet have even coordinated the Giving Pledge (www.givingpledge.org), where they’ve committed to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

At last count, more than 115 people had taken the pledge. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may be the most prominent names on the list, but others include Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert, Progressive’s Peter Lewis and Netflix Founder Reed Hastings.

Last month, one member, David Rubenstein, CEO and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, discussed the importance of philanthropy during a presentation at EY’s 2013 Strategic Growth Forum.

In his pledge letter, Rubenstein explains why: “I recognize to have any significant impact on an organization or cause, one must concentrate resources, and make transformative gifts — and to be involved in making certain those gifts actually transform in a positive way.”

One way Rubenstein is being transformative is through “Patriotic Philanthropy.” He has given $10 million to help restore President Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home and underwrote renovations to the historic Washington Monument. Yet Rubenstein’s most noteworthy initiative is the whopping $23 million to acquire a rare copy of the Magna Carta, ensuring it remained in the United States. After its purchase, Rubenstein gifted it to the National Archives.

Not everyone has Rubenstein’s vast resources. But every organization and any individual can make their own impact.

In the workplace, for example, organizations that give back elevate their status perception-wise among competitors and peers. It doesn’t take much. But by being a company that cares, prospective employees want to work for you. For your existing team, deliberate and well-organized corporate philanthropy programs quickly take on a life of their own, becoming a rallying point.

Think strategically and get started by finding your cause. We all have them. They exist at our very core, forming the belief system we live by every day. So why shouldn’t our philanthropy follow that same course? Consider aligning your giving or volunteerism with something you personally believe in or care about; something that fits with what your company does or something that is close to your employees’ hearts.

Most important, get involved and just make a difference. It really comes down to that. One initiative that has always impressed me has been the annual CreateAthon event undertaken by WhiteSpace Creative, a member of the Pillar Award class of 2005. You can read a first-hand account of this year’s program here.

Being a good corporate citizen goes well beyond making good business sense. When you align yourself with causes you care about, whether big or small, you make a difference in someone’s life. And the bottom line is this: It is all of our duties to get involved. It’s no longer a question of if, but rather of what, when and how. ●

 

Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at dsklein@sbnonline.com or (440) 250-7026.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:42

Beyond conversion

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Consider this business scenario: You’ve landed a big account for your company by converting a highly prized prospect into a valuable client. The new client has hired you to handle a specific scope of work and is counting on your team’s ability to deliver work that goes above and beyond.

While nothing is more important than delivering great customer service to satisfy the client, you may not realize that you’re probably overlooking unrealized opportunities to forge a stronger relationship with your customer.

In today’s business landscape, most large companies offer an array of products and services. More often than not, however, your clients use you for a specific service or skill set. And unfortunately, in this scenario, most companies focus solely on the task at hand — delivering what they’ve been contracted to deliver — failing to take ample time to think about the bond they’re creating with the client and what could be next.

In more simple terms, it is one thing to provide service that keeps a customer; it is another to keep that customer and expand the relationship to become a trusted partner.

Provide value in a deliberate way

The good news is that this is an easy fix. Establish a content marketing program that allows you to distribute thought leadership to your clients.

A content marketing program will help you provide value that other service providers may not, and when clients see you as an informational resource and partner, it will be easier to expand the relationship.

Take this example into consideration: You are an insurance provider and your main product is life insurance, therefore most of the communication you have with your clients surrounds that topic.

With a comprehensive content marketing program in place, however, you can educate your clients on the recent trends in the insurance industry and how that affects the individual. At the same time, you can give them an overview of your company’s wellness program and let them know that if they joined, they could reduce their monthly premiums.

As you can see, you’re not just providing your client with the original service, you’re also providing them with both your thought leadership — aka value — and additional offerings.

Personal connections payoff

Aside from providing value to the client with the content you distribute, a strong content marketing program allows you to showcase your brand’s personality. Clients will be able to connect with your brand on a more personal level.

Providing continually updated content through the right channels to the right clients enhances your day-to-day communications. Clients start seeing you as thought leaders and partners instead of just service providers.

It will help you expand relationships and, as a result, generate new business through more products and services.

Show them more than just what they see on the surface — show them how active you are in the community, or how much fun you had during a recent company outing. If may sound trivial, but your clients do similar things, and seeing you connect with the community and/or employees will help forge a more personal connection. You never know; you and your client may support the same charity, organization or team.

Open communication also will help strengthen relationships to the point where you can capture a premium price and eliminate price-jumping clients. Clients will pay more for a valuable relationship than simply look to get the lowest price elsewhere. ●

 

David Fazekas is vice president of marketing services for SBN Interactive. Reach him at dfazekas@sbninteractive.com or (440) 250-7056.

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