100 Ways to Be a Better Entrepreneur

Topics 91-100

Creating True-Blue Customers

91. After the Sale . . .
Demonstrate that you care about the quality of your service. Call customers after a sale and ask them questions like:

  • Are you pleased with the service you received?
  • What did you like most about working with us?
  • What would you like to see improved?

Without this invaluable information, you'll have a hard time improving your products and services. Besides, when you ask customers for feedback and implement their comments, they feel a sense of ownership in what you're doing and thus become more loyal to your products and services.

Additionally, consistently write thank-you notes. This is a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many entrepreneurs neglect to write thank-you notes-especially when they get really busy. Take the time to show your customers that you genuinely appreciate their business. They'll remember your thoughtfulness because most of your competition won't send out thank-you notes.

92. Hey! Remember Me?
Write old customers personal, handwritten notes frequently. "I was just sitting at my desk and your name popped into my head. Are you still having a great time flying all over the country? Let me know if you need another set of luggage. I can stop by with our latest models any time." Or if you run into an old customer at an event, follow up with a note: "It was great seeing you at the CDC Christmas party. I'll call you early in the New Year to schedule a lunch."

Also, remember special occasions. Send regular customers birthday cards, anniversary cards, holiday cards...you name it. Gifts are excellent follow-up tools, too. You don't have to spend a fortune to show you care; use your creativity to come up with interesting gift ideas that tie into your business, the customer's business or his or her recent purchase.

With all your existing customers can do for you, there's simply no reason not to stay in regular contact with them. Use your imagination, and you'll think of plenty of other ideas that can help you develop a lasting relationship.

93. Toot Your Own Horn
Let customers know what you're doing for them. This can be in the form of a newsletter mailed to existing customers, or it can be more informal, such as a phone call. Whatever method you use, the key is to dramatically point out to customers the excellent service you're giving them. If you never mention all the things you're doing for them, they may not notice. You aren't being cocky when you talk to customers about all the work you've done to please them. Just make a phone call and let them know they don't have to worry because you handled the paperwork, called the attorney or double-checked on the shipment-one less thing they have to do. 94. Beyond the Basics
Do you have a dedicated staff or channel for resolving customer problems quickly and effectively? How about online customer assistance? One of the best ways to add value and stand out from the competition is to offer your customers superior customer service. Customers often make choices between parity products and services based on the perceived "customer experience." This is what they can expect to receive in the way of support from your company after a sale is closed. Top-flight customer service on all sales will help you build repeat business, create positive word-of-mouth and increase sales from new customers as a result.

One simple way to increase the reach of your customer service is to empower your employees. Giving employees some flexibility in handling problems that arise benefits your business in several ways. Research has shown that employees who have this kind of freedom begin to think more strategically about their work and about your business. They endear themselves to your customers because they act as customer advocates. They go beyond satisfying needs to exceeding expectations. And because they are thoroughly familiar with your company's product or service, the company philosophy, the state of the industry, and the ins and outs of good business practices, such employees can "sell" your business again and again, giving you a competitive advantage.

95. Keep 'Em Coming Back for More
With the skyrocketing cost of customer acquisition, it makes sense to focus on retaining and up-selling current customers. It can cost as much as five times more to win a new customer than to keep an old one. Customer loyalty programs (aka reward programs) have become essential in price-sensitive arenas and where there are similar products or services. About half of all Americans belong to at least one.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating a reward program:

  • Choose the right rewards-in-kind rewards (buy five, and the sixth one is free) are less costly and are clearly associated with your business.
  • Tell customers what to expect; this entices them to make purchases toward their goals.
  • Reward your best customers by offering graduated awards with increasing cash value. This turns low-value customers into high-value ones, and it avoids the pitfalls of other types of reward programs, which attract less-profitable price switchers.
  • Reward at enrollment to encourage customers to register, and measure performance by setting goals for the program and constantly monitor the results.

Achieving Your Business Goals

96. Revisiting Your Goals
The value of a goal lies in the way it provides you with a relatively steady, unwinking light toward which to steer in the fog of everyday business life. But that doesn't mean a goal should be as immovable as a lighthouse. You should periodically take a fresh look at your goals to see if they need to be changed or, perhaps, dumped. Changes in your personal situation, such as a desire to spend more time with your family, may cause some goals to become irrelevant to your true desires. Of course, the best reason to scrap a goal is because it's been accomplished.

The last thing you need to know about goals is that they are just that-goals. They aren't preordained events that will occur whether or not you work toward them. In other words, just having a goal of reaching $10 million in sales doesn't mean you'll achieve it. Nor should the accomplishment of a goal be considered absolutely necessary to your personal well-being. Some goals are more important than others, but it's not wise to be so committed to a given goal that, if you don't achieve it or it's not all you hoped it would be, you'll be emotionally destroyed.

97. Loosen Up!
If setting and achieving your goals isn't fun, then why bother? Let your imagination carry you away to your greatest and wildest dreams, and don't limit your possibilities. Play with your goals; try being outrageous and notice how that feels. Making goal-setting a joyous activity improves your chances of achieving your goals-and setting new ones that will challenge you to reach even greater heights.

And if you fail? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and create a new goal. We've all set goals we've failed to reach. As a result, many people create enormous mental barriers when they think about goal-setting, turning goals into yet another opportunity to fear failure or blocking themselves from aiming at what they truly desire. A "failure" is only a failure when you learn nothing from it.

98. The Power of Visualization
As you begin to write down your goals, place yourself in the future-and make it seem real. Write down the date by which the goal will be accomplished, then stop, close your eyes and imagine that you are there. Visualize yourself as clearly as you can-what you are wearing, where you are, what you are doing. How does it feel to have accomplished that goal? Make the vision as real as you can, involving all your senses.

When you write down your goals, write in the present tense. For example, if your goal is to open a restaurant, write as if the restaurant is already successful. That is, "My restaurant, (and put in the name here), is a hit! We're booked solid every night of the week. I've been interviewed in five local newspapers and have had dozens of calls from people who want to know if I'm franchising the concept. Everywhere I go, people tell me how much they love our food!"

Additionally, write down your vision of your ideal life. This is your grandest vision of your life and your world as you would live it at your highest purpose and potential. Let your imagination run wild and create the biggest picture possible for yourself. Are there real-life circumstances that might keep you from your vision ("I can't afford it," "I don't have the right training")? Pretend they don't exist and see what you can come up with when your possibilities are boundless.

99. Creating Targets Worth Reaching
When looking at new goals, make sure they have the following qualities:

  • Specificity. You stand a better chance of achieving a goal if it's specific. "Raising capital" isn't a specific goal; "raising $10,000 by July 1" is.
  • Optimism. Goals should be positive and uplifting. "Being able to pay the bills" is not exactly an inspirational goal. "Achieving financial security" phrases your goal in a more positive manner, thus firing up your energy to attain it.
  • Realism. If you set a goal to earn $100,000 per month when you've never earned that much in a year, that goal is unrealistic. Begin with small steps, such as increasing your monthly income by 25 percent. Once your first goal is met, you can reach for larger ones.
  • Thinking short- and long-term. Short-term goals are attainable in a period of weeks to a year. Long-term goals can be achieved five, 10 or even 20 years from now; they should be substantially greater than short-term goals but should still be realistic.
  • 100. Plan for Success
    At its simplest, a goal is just something you aim for. But goals are powerful contributors to successful business growth in several ways. To begin with, the process of setting goals forces you to think through what you want from your business and how growth may-may not-provide that. This process helps suggest directions for pursuing that growth, which can greatly improve your chances of achieving your goals in the first place.

Goals also give you a framework within which to work. This tends to focus your efforts by helping you rule out actions that won't contribute to achieving the goals you have set. A very important part of that framework is a timetable. Any good goal has a timetable, and that timetable will influence your actions profoundly. For instance, if your goal is to retire by age 50, you'll know that any growth plan with a payoff that won't occur by your 51st birthday is not one you'll consider, no matter how attractive it might otherwise seem.

Lastly, write your goals down and make a cribsheet to post in a place where you'll see it every day-a bulletin board by your desk, your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator. You may think you'll remember your goals five months or five years down the road, but a visual reminder will do wonders to help you stay focused on the goals you've set and on the tasks you need to complete on a daily basis to reach those goals.

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