Need a little pick-me-up?

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

 

There comes times when I have some self-doubt creeping in or sales may not be landing in my favor. Other times, it feels like relationships just don’t seem to be clicking. When I start to get a little anxious, I always get that hunger for learning. I wander around the aisles of the bookstore. I get on Amazon and read the reviews you know those “if you like this book you might also love ____”. Lately, everything I’ve read is just meh. Just repetition of the same material and content I’ve heard years before. It had been quite a while since I found a gem of a read. Definitely, quite a long time since I’ve picked up a book that is life-changing.

While waiting on a cell-phone repair, I wandered into a bookstore and this one called out to me, “READ ME!” High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. It’s off to an inspiring start. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to rush home and devour some more.

I’d love to share a few of my all-time faves. This is my go-to list of books I’ve read most more than one time. Some are dog-eared. All have highlighted passages. Some I’ve read 10 times. Not only does the content never get old, I often discover something new messages within the pages. Life situations change and that old text now speaks to me in a different way delivering a new and timely lesson.

Whether you’re looking for a little positive thinking or ready to grow your business to the next level, I hope you enjoy these classics (followed by my two cents).

E-myth by Michael Gerber (Critical for every entrepreneur)
The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
How to Win Friends and Influence people by Dale Carnegie
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Duct tape Marketing by John Jantsch (Practical advice for small businesses marketing that doesn’t cost a fortune)
Positive Personality Profiles by Dr. Richard Rohm (Forever changed my perspective on interactions with others)
10 X by Grant Cardone
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (I had this one on cassette tape in my first car)
Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith
The Bible
Drive by Daniel pink
One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard (Principles are timeless)
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (Give yourself permission to do great things!)
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Fascinating research into top achievers)
Just Listen by Mark Goulston

I’d love to hear your all time faves. I’ll add them to my “MUST READ” list.

 

Contributed by Heather Kuth.

All images are Heather’s own & may not be republished without express written permission.

Social Self-Destruction

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Don’t let this happen to your business!

For the last week, I have been watching a small business self-destruct via Facebook. It hasn’t been pretty and it was totally preventable if the business owner truly understood the power of social media.

I am part of a Facebook group for a vendor I use for my own sewing hobby/ business. The people in the group are not only very active in that particular group, but also in many other related groups. Over the last month, customers have noticed a sudden drop in overall quality of the vendor’s product. Naturally, these customers have reached out to the company’s customer service – but unfortunately, they have gotten less than satisfactory responses. Some customers have even been on the receiving end of responses that are accusatory in nature, with the company blaming their customers!

Customers are understandably upset & are now taking their concerns to the business’ Facebook page, which is common in the “social age.” This is where things are getting ugly. Instead of addressing negative comments & customer complaints, the company deletes them. The company owner has started sending rude Facebook messages to complaining customers, telling them not to post concerns or negative comments to the Facebook page, and going so far as to bring up comments the customers made in other groups.

Yes. The owner is “e-stalking” the customers & monitoring their activity on pages that are NOT the owner’s business page!

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DANGER! DANGER! BAD IDEA!

Further, customers are being banned from the group for “bullying” because they dare to post dissenting opinions. While all of this is playing out, these customers are talking in other groups and even posting screen shots of the messages they received from the business owner. The negativity is getting around and lots of people are talking…which also means that lots of customers are choosing not to shop there anymore. This includes people who have been customers for years and who have spent thousands of dollars with this company – and all of them are now taking their business elsewhere.

This sort of negative attention and resulting customer exodus will certainly have a long-term impact on this vendor’s business. As Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – and you can probably imagine that being insulted by the owner of a company that your dollars helped succeed makes someone feel pretty terrible for a long, long time. In fact, research shows that 39% of consumers will continue to avoid vendors two or more years after a bad experience.

What’s more, a handful of bad customer service experiences can have far-reaching effects – 54% of consumers have shared bad experiences with more than five people. Websites like Yelp! have not only made sharing poor experiences easier, but they’ve also broadened the audience for these tales. This means that even consumers who have not personally been affected by a company’s bad business manners may steer clear of it anyway – as much as 88% of consumers have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision.

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And this doesn’t even include all of the review sites where your business may be listed!

The owner of the company I’ve been watching implode on Facebook could have handled it so much better simply by being transparent over social media. Addressing customer concerns in real time and in a public space makes them feel appreciated & important, and other customers who witness the exchange can rest assured that they will also be heard if they have a problem. Peter Roesler at Inc. offers some good advice:

“A key tenet of good PR is that whenever a company makes a mistake, they need to make an honest effort to acknowledge the problem, apologize and ameliorate the situation. Trying to hide or ignore a problem will only make the effects worse in the long run. This is especially true with complaints on social media networks. Ignoring, deleting comments from, or banning consumers with a legitimate complaint only makes them angrier and they are likely to attack the social media page, or the brand itself, in other ways. For example, they may use a friend’s profile to continue posting negative comments, ad infinitum. They may also take their angry comments to a review site or list the business with a scam site.”

The message here is clear: if a business doesn’t properly manage its social media and proceeds to ignore the concerns of customers, then it is just digging its own grave.

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Contributed by Jodie Hook
Jodie

 

 

 

 


Image sources: 1, 2, 3 & 4

 

This Week in Advertising: Feb. 15 – Feb. 21

Welcome back to RSVP’s This Week in Advertising feature! This regular series includes the news tidbits from the advertising world that interested, excited, or amused us this week. We’re glad you’ve joined us – let’s see what happened This Week in Advertising:


  • Let’s kick off with a quick lesson in what NOT to do when your company is on the receiving end of some backlash: Seasalt & Co., a company specializing in Photoshop tools, posted a bizarre ad featuring an ominous-looking tree with an even more sinister noose dangling from one of the branches, ostensibly to promote their latest line of graphic design tools…somehow. When the responses they received were less than flattering, the company began threatening legal action against those who complained, then eventually deleted their social media accounts, only to resurface later, with their Facebook page scrubbed clean of the ad, the responses to the ad, and any reference to the ad. A halfhearted and confusing apology (predictably) soon followed, and we suspect the clean-up will continue in coming months. The moral of the story? Think before you advertise, and take criticisms to heart – preferably without unnecessary legal threats.
  • At the other end of the tact spectrum, online retailer ModCloth is known not only for selling high-quality clothes in kitschy cuts & prints at affordable prices, but also for promoting realism & body diversity in their advertising – they were the first company to join a pledge against using Photoshop on their advertisements to create “unattainable body images,” and the company frequently uses images of everyday customers wearing their clothes in catalogs. They continue this tradition with their 2015 swimwear campaign, which features actual ModCloth employees instead of models. The ads include women of various heights & shapes, and have generated quite the social media buzz on Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr.
  • ModCloth may not care much for Photoshop, but millions of graphic designers the world over do, and use the program to design & create the eye-catching ads we see in our daily lives. Adobe is celebrating its iconic design program’s 25th anniversary with a vibrant 60-second ad set to Aerosmith’s “Dream On”, which will air during the Oscar Awards this Sunday evening.
  • Oh, did we mention the Oscars are on this Sunday? You can prepare for the big night by watching the stirring, emotional ads the Academy developed to promote Sunday’s show – just have some tissues ready.
  • Oscar-night ad spots are as coveted as those nestled in between plays on the Super Bowl, and American Express alone will be airing four ads, each costing the credit card company around $2 million dollars. These commercials will feature various celebrities – who are also AmEx clients – talking about their rises to fame & overcoming the obstacles that stood in the way of their dreams…dreams that are now worth $2 million dollars.
  • We know this isn’t *technically* advertising-related, but we can’t help but be fans of Mad Men, the hit AMC show that has transfixed millions over its seven-season run. The show, set in the dog-eat-dog world of 1960s advertising firms, begins its final season on April 5th, and the first trailer indicates that the swinging-sixties have given away to a very sideburn-ed & plaid seventies. Catch the spot here, and be sure to tune in to AMC on April 5th – it’s certain to be memorable.

    Contributed by the RSVP Staff
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“Dealing” with Customers

grumpyIf you are “dealing” with your customers and clients then you are doing it wrong.

You deal with problems. You deal with issues. You deal with drudgeries.

Customers are none of these things.

I cringe anytime I hear someone say they need to “deal” with a customer.  I feel bad for both the customer and that person who doesn’t love helping their customers.

You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. – Laurie McIntosh, writer, editor, and facilitator for Business Training Works, Inc.

Our job is to help our customers.
We are here to advise, guide, comfort and support our customers.

By removing “deal” from our vocabulary we can really start working with our customers. We learn what they need and how to be better in our business.

Our customers are why we are here.

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. – Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com

MSN did a survey in 2013 and found that Amazon was ranked highest for receiving the most ‘Excellent’ ratings, with a total of 57.3% (a full 14.7% higher than the #2 ranked company, Marriott), but this isn’t really news – they’ve been topping charts for a while now. When you hear great quotes like this coming from their CEO, it’s easy to understand why.

So make customer service a priority, and see just how far it can take you! You won’t be disappointed, and neither will your customers.

Contributed by Jodie Hook.

Jodie

By Golly George! Who Built That Fence For You?!

 

My favorite clients all say, “We grow mainly by word-of-mouth.”

Excellent!  That must mean you do your job well. You deliver on promises made. And best of all, your customers like you!  A word of warning however — word of mouth is not what it once was.  Gone are the neighborly over-the-fence chats of the 1950’s.  Families don’t set roots in small hometowns for generations like they once did. College, career changes and snowbird retirements are spreading families out across the nation.  Clientele age and naturally drop out of your prospect pool.

Don’t count on referrals as the only source for qualified leads or risk losing the lifeblood of your business.

Good news!  You can capitalize on your strong word-of-mouth and satisfied clients by turning them into a direct mail advertising message that works.

We have proven formula to help you achieve remarkable results.  The success of your direct mail campaign will be influenced by three things: the list, the offer, and the design.

 The List

Be laser focused and target prospects who look and act like your clients.  What makes referrals great is that people generally befriend folks who are similar to them. Their sameness makes your job of closing the lead that much easier.  Understand your customer and mail to those just like them.  You need consumers who are able, ready and willing to buy. One of the most desirable demographics today is the mass affluent, the 21% of homes that are responsible for 60% of spending. They are the 98% of homeowners that are twice as likely to buy, and when they do, spend 3.2 times more.**

 The Offer

What offer can you make the conveys real value to the reader? We often get asked “How much should my offer be worth?”  We advise: Without giving away the house, what is the most unbelievable offer you can make?  If your ideal customer received your postcard today, what offer would motivate them to take action today?  Remember the stronger the offer, the greater the response.  What is trending in your industry now?  Can you entice the reader with that?   Follow the lead of marketing giants and use BOGO (buy one, get one) deals or percent off sales or cash back offers.  By now, everyone recognizes the trademark blue and white Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off direct mail offer.  Consumers want to feel like they are special and getting a deal.

 The Design 

While the artwork is important, the headline and message are more critical.  What can you tell me that will captivate my attention immediately?  What problem can you solve? According to John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, “Tell stories. People love stories. Often even complicated ideas can be made simple through the use of a story. Talk about how your clients use your products or services.”  Avoid platitudes and generalizations like …”World’s best cabinets” or “Quality service, affordable prices.” Boring!

287 is the average number of meaningful branding and advertising messages seen daily. People are tired and bored of the everyday, the mundane, and the expected. If your message doesn’t resonate or impinge with the consumer, will they even notice it?*

This simple three-step formula can begin to fill your marketing funnel with new and interested prospects.  Once you turn your new leads into clients don’t forget to keep your referral train rolling. Make asking for them a part of your selling process.  Jantsch shares “One of the best ways to leverage the power of referral marketing is to make the providing of referrals an expectation of every client relationship.”

Still concerned about your message? Download the free white paper: 8 critical mistakes to avoid when marketing your product or service.

Contributed by Heather Craaybeek.

Heather

 

 

 

 

 

 

*source: Jay Walker-Smith, president of the Marketing Firm Yankelovuch

**source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey

Perspective from “the New Guy”

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Being a recent graduate of Centerville High School has been an accomplishment and success.  I decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in marketing at The University of Cincinnati.  I felt that the co-op program at Cincinnati offered me the best chance for success in the “real world.”  Having completed my freshman year at The University of Cincinnati, I feel as if I learned a good amount of information about not only marketing, but business in general.

I have just recently started working at RSVP this summer.  Working at RSVP will be a great opportunity to contribute to this business, develop practical real-world experience, further myself in my long-term job search and enhance my resume this summer.  It has been my first real job in the career path that I have chosen.  As I started working at RSVP, I felt as if I needed to prove myself to my fellow employees and demonstrate that just because I am the boss’ son, I can “bust it” and earn their respect in the office.  I have started working part-time, with my first of several assignments being converting hundreds of businesses paper files to our new paperless database.

While I am converting files, I feel that being the new intern with a fresh set of eyes in the business, I can offer new ideas to the company, and more efficient ways to do daily tasks.  Even though I lack experience in the workplace, I feel that I can make up for it in creative and new ideas, and energy and passion for life.

Being “the new guy” allows me to be in a position where I can challenge and inspire myself and others to excel, while simultaneously generating new ideas and process improvements for the RSVP business.  That is a perspective that I have now, and hope to maintain throughout my career.

Contributed by:
Anthony J. Sucato
University of Cincinnati
Carl H. Lindner College of Business

 

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Being Responsible When It’s Not Your Responsibility

Responsibility

 

Recently a client shared a story with me. They had ran an ad with another company and the other company accidentally inverted some digits in their phone number. The client signed off on the proof without realizing it. They didn’t think it was something they needed to worry about because they had ran the ad before. When the mistake was discovered later the company told my client they weren’t liable because the client approved the ad.

While that is technically right, it is also so wrong.

Clients should feel that their vendors are looking out for them, proactively working to not make mistakes and fixing any if they do. They need to feel their vendors have their backs.

Before we run an ad for a client we check every single phone number and website, every single time we run the ad for them, even if it is the same ad we have always run for them. Some might ask “why would you waste your time doing that when your clients have already approved their ads?” We don’t view it as a waste of time. We are in business to help our clients grow. We help do that by looking out for them, even though we don’t technically need to. We’re responsible when we don’t need to be because it’s the best thing to do for our client and because it’s right thing to do.

 

Contributed by Jodie Hook.

Jodie

Police Rides, Blindfolds and Art: How Each Helps Inspire Leadership

leadership

I had the good fortune recently of taking a leadership class at a local university. Alright, if we’re being honest with each other I wasn’t happy about driving the hour down to this night class after working all day.  That is, until I sat down for that first class. I knew this was going to be no ordinary class the minute it started.

I learned two major life lessons under the watch of my exuberant and charismatic professor.

The first life lesson I learned in this class was that we need leadership – and all kinds, very badly. I’m not just talking about in positions like politics. One of our assignments was to do a police ride along – and when he announced that this was one of our projects, I saw more than a few heads shake, obviously unsure about having to do it. But those very people were probably the ones who learned the most from it. It gives you a whole new perspective about leadership. It shows us that we need leaders in each aspect of our lives.  Whether you run a business, a department, or a family, your leadership will touch those around you, and if you do it right, the energy you exude will wind around those you lead and lift them to whole new levels of motivation, cooperation and productivity.

Second lesson? The phrase ‘that’s just how it is’ no longer applies to my life. Everyone knows school is a pain, and if you ask nearly anyone they’ll tell you they ‘don’t miss those days.’ Well, if they’d taken my leadership class, they certainly wouldn’t feel that way. From timed team art projects to being led around campus by my peers while we were all blindfolded (near some light traffic, I might add), we learned through experiences, and not a book, what leadership meant. He challenged us in a way that no professor had ever done for me, and he made school fun again.

If every professor had his passion and energy, I guarantee grades, attendance, and undoubtedly, tuition would go up. The point is, he could have made a PowerPoint, and he could have simply lectured like every other class, because that’s just how school is. It certainly would have been easier, and still earned him a paycheck. But he went above and beyond, and he challenged what a ‘normal’ class should be. He showed me that things don’t have to be ordinary. They truly can be extraordinary.

For anyone who might say, well you’re just out of college, so wait until you’ve been in the real world a while, I’d say to you that I already am. I have been fortunate to find a boss who is open-minded to new ideas and routinely asks how we can make things more effective, cost efficient and creative. If you don’t have leadership like this, don’t give up. Do your part, and inspire those around you to do the same. It will all come full circle; you just have to believe in the extraordinary.

For an hilariously inspiring example of leadership, and the future of it, I encourage you to watch the following video:

Contributed by Ashley Hudson.

 

Why Administrative Professionals are Your Best Friend in the Business World.

Thank you to Virtual Officenters for this accurate depiction of Administrative Professionals!

You rock…and we know it.

How many times have you heard that dreaded sound coming from the copy machine? You know, the sound of paper crunching and the copier making that weird noise that means only one thing? PAPER JAM! As a wave of panic begins to wash over you, you quickly scan the office for the one person who can solve this disastrous problem….your friendly, helpful Administrative Professional!

In my humble opinion, Administrative Professionals are the crux of any work environment. From answering the phones to creating spreadsheets and proofing power point presentations, we can do a plethora of tasks assigned to us at a moment’s notice.

We support individuals, departments and entire offices. We love helping people, making their lives easier and making sure offices run in efficient manner….we are, your best friend!

Make sure you keep that in mind, because Administrative Professional’s day is coming up soon – April 23rd, and you’ll want to make sure you thank those you work with for all they do. Some great ideas are a workspace makeover, buy them lunch, let them work a half day, or a spa gift certificate! Whatever you do, even if it’s just a card, make sure you let them know how much you sincerely appreciate them.

Contributed by Marcella Gillespie

Got bad customers? What to do?

Customers are revenue. The more the merrier. Right?

If you don’t care if your business is just another competitor in a crowded field, then sure, more customers should be your ultimate goal.

The other side of that equation is fewer customers but better customers. Better customers make your business better in the long run. There are a variety of reasons why better customers trump more customers.

Better customers understand your value and are willing to work with you. A good customer doesn’t look at you as an adversary that they need to hold at arms-length and with an attitude of always having the upper hand over you. Because better customers look at you the vendor, as an equal, your relationship together is much more friendly and consultative in nature. Interactions are rarely strained or combative and by extension allow you to get to know your customer outside of the business transactions you conduct.

We would all like to have “better customers” all the time if given the opportunity. Many times it doesn’t work out that way even if we felt like it would going into the initial relationship. So, what can you do about it?

If you feel like the relationship you have with a customer is not what you envisioned going in, then there should come a point at which you must address those concerns. Do that with an honest but non-combative conversation. Suggest to your customer that maybe you are not the right fit for his or her business. This way you won’t be putting your customer on the defensive. It’s likely that your customer wouldn’t have seen this conversation coming and thus will also allow them to realize that perhaps some of the issue is due to their actions. They may take responsibility for those actions and work to make the relationship what it should have been from the start.

Something to consider in this situation is that you may be underestimating the value of what you or your company bring to the table and that the customer may think that losing that value is too much of a risk for them to take. Even if you don’t learn that specifically, within that conversation you are likely to learn from your customer how to handle them or their business in a way that makes the relationship stronger after all.

In the end, if things don’t come to a satisfactory conclusion for you, you can always tell your customer that “It’s only a good deal when it’s fair to both sides”, and end your agreement. It sounds harsh and counter-intuitive in a sales capacity to intentionally lose a customer, but you and your company will be better off in the long run as you can put more productive time and effort into your existing “good” customers and leave behind the angst and dread of dealing with bad customers.

I have actually had competitors call me to tell me about situations they’re having now, with my former client, that were the same situations I had had with that former client. That’s when I knew that any indecision about letting that former client go was now vindicated knowing that it wasn’t anything that I had done wrong, but that it was a bad customer all along.

It may hurt in the short-run to lose that revenue but this one business situation may fit into the money-can’t-buy-happiness category.

Do you have a bad customer story to share? Tell us about it below.