Archive for January, 2010

When Toyota gets it wrong…

When the manufacturer long upheld as a shining example of Gemba kaizen and the use of PDCA, quality management and all things ‘lean’ gets it wrong, it does so in the unrelenting glare of the global media!

Toyota car recall hits US, Europe and China pulls no punches and shows the far reaching ramifications not only to Toyota but, by implication, the impact on its workforces and their communities in several countries around the world.

In contrast, when small businesses get it wrong, ‘it’ can often be contained, kept under the radar and fixed with minimal brand damage.

The good thing about the Toyota situation that we can and should all take on board is:

There’s not the slightest element of “Not our fault” or heads in the sand from the company. It’s “Let’s get this sorted out.”

Putting ourselves in the customer/client position: What kind of company would we be inclined to stay with?


Make your website work for you!

Reading an article this morning that said: “Many small business owners do not have the complete range of skills required and are forced to learn as they go along.”

Well there’s a surprise ;-)! It went on to say:

“A recent survey we carried out at Made Simple Group clearly showed that marketing, and specifically improving visibility to generate new business, were key concerns for many.

In the face of this, it is indeed a surprising, if not extraordinary, statistic that fewer than half of all such businesses have a web presence.

Furthermore, of those small entities which are online, it is estimated that a large proportion are failing to promote their businesses properly.”

Making the most of your website presence is one area where the Davids of the business world can successfully compete against the Goliaths, so why shouldn’t you? It’s far less down to how much money you throw at it than how wisely you invest whatever budget you have. Your ‘budget’ is going to be a mixture of your time and maybe some money to be most effective:

  • What do you want your website to say about you to whom?
  • What do you want it to do?
  • How will the people you want to visit know it’s even there?

Regular visitors will know we don’t as a rule promote business services here. Yet today we’re making an exception, mainly because this particular one gives so much away upfront and proves that the team behind it really knows its stuff.

There’s a lot to read up on and try for yourselves at nikkipilkington.com, so you may want to bookmark it and come back to it several times…


Competition and Selling: Where’s the Focus?

I was catching up on reading earlier and thought I’d share links to a couple of blogs I subscribe to.

They’re both written by American males yet there the similarities probably end… you’ll see each has his own distinct slant on life and business and the way the sites are used.

I found this one from Chris interesting and it’s pertinent to any business. It’s central theme is: Compete with yourself rather than against the competition and it’s an approach that makes a lot of sense.

Though I’d add a caveat to it saying: Instead focus on what your customers a) need and b) think would be ‘nice to have’ (would they pay the extra for b)? What value would they place on it? Do the sums add up for you?)…

His business is largely online and he actively encourages participation from the site’s visitors – as you can see from the comments.

When you read the title of this post you’re expecting him to say that it’s a no-no. Quite the reverse – the message is: Get with it!

Jeffrey is passionate about selling. And he approaches it from some weird and wonderful angles. Some may seem way too OTT but there are usually gems that you can adapt and use in a way that suits you.

He’s not looking for dialogue with the site’s visitors: it’s a showcase where he freely demonstrates his skills… and encourages you to buy if you want more…


Build a PROFITABLE business

Does this title sound daft?

    Read the following true story then tell me…

    Although this is about a company providing medical services, the horror is nothing to do with what happens to the patients. It concerns a small company that provided:

    • A 24-hour turn around service of laboratory tests results to the private medical sector – Doctors and laboratories that didn’t have the necessary equipment to process the tests or staff qualified to “read” the results.
    • A similar service to the commercial sector, where it would provide a specialist nurse to perform the same test on employees at the workplace and return the samples to the service provider company which would then process and “read” the results and report back to the client company medical department on the findings, usually within seven working days.

    The straightforward lab work was the bread and butter business that kept the company going on a day-to-day-basis, whereas the onsite visits to ordinary companies that were prepared to look after their staff in this particular area were the icing on the cake.

    Over time, two laboratories came to provide the lion’s share of the bread and butter business and negotiated their rates for the service downwards again and again – this was despite the fact that the individual “reading” and reporting on the findings was a skilled task that took the same amount of time per sample, regardless of the rate charged. Several people, employees especially, pointed out to the owner that it was bad business practice to keep giving in on the rate per sample, but to no avail.

    Ultimately one of the laboratories was placing such demands on the service provider for increasingly high volumes at such a low rate that it was fairly easily able to potentially cripple it by withdrawing its custom. Faced with this the owner of the service provider sold its company, its staff and its client base, to that laboratory for a pittance and just walked away from the business.

    Don’t let this happen to your company!

    1. If the service you offer is based on the experience and expertise of your people, stick to your guns and charge a fair commercial rate. The chances are that any company prepared to undercut you will either be offering an inferior service or they won’t survive long – in either case you stand a good chance of winning your customer back in time.
    2. If you have already allowed one or two customers to take over 50% of your resources or more (in this case it was nearer 80%) at an unfavourable rate to your company, take immediate action:

      Go look for other valuable customers to spread the load. If necessary diversify your market or your offering. Once you’ve built your customer base back up at rates you’re happy with go to your two bullies and say that unfortunately you can no longer provide them with your service at their current rate. They’ll either find a cheaper service and that’s okay as you can now manage without their custom (and it will free up resources for you to keep busy with replacement customers) or they’ll pay you the going rate.

    I wish you a successful, profitable business!

    Don’t forget to add your comments – or perhaps you have a story you’d like to share…


Pain-free selling: Jeffrey’s view

I just received the introduction to an article by Jeffrey Gitomer in my mail box and would love to link you to the full article but, sadly, the site won’t allow it. So I’ll direct you to his site home page instead. You might want to see other stuff there.

Anyway, in the article I’m referring to he talks about how the whole idea of basing a sale on identifying pain is maybe not the best premise. On first read I found it hilariously spot on the mark.

On second read I realised how many people have ‘jumped on the band wagon’ of identifying pain to the exclusion of virtually any other reason as to why a customer might buy. Trouble is, unless you’re very, very good at this technique, you end up coming across as a snake oil salesman.

I’ve met one guy who is very good yet, without exception, anyone can spot the people he’s trained a mile off and they don’t have anywhere near his finesse. And guess what? They sound phoney, nobody likes their attitude or approach and they fail.

“… if you want to find pain, become a doctor” – is Jeffrey’s sound advice that really hits home.

So, if you’ve been going down this path and getting nowhere, why not STOP right now? Adopting this no-nonsense approach can free you to instead use sensible, gentle conversational questioning techniques to find positive bases for people to buy from you…


When did you last ask for a referral?

Who do you think will be more predisposed towards you: Someone who doesn’t “know you from Adam” or somebody who has been referred to you by a person they respect?

Especially in times of economic uncertainty people will be careful who they spend their money with. So if you think it’s non-u to ask for a referral, isn’t it about time you got over it?

Another thing is that a customer who refers a potential client to you once could and would refer many more if sufficiently motivated to do so.

American research has shown that the average person has an immediate scope of influence over at least 50 similar people. That’s potentially 50 new clients from each existing satisfied customer. Yet the average satisfied customer only tells three people of his or her good experience.

So the moral of the story is:

Ask for referrals and reward them appropriately.


How much do first impressions count – update

When I grow up I’m going to be-.

I thought I’d check out the mobile airtime company that was hassling me. I found two different sites on the Internet, both in the same style, though different colours, and identical head office contact details. Neither had information about key people in the company (so maybe the guy who called me really didn’t know the name of the Managing Director) but that was easily overcome with a little help from Google.

On one site the company described itself as one of Europe’s leading contact centres with capacity for more than 600 operators over 36,000 square feet of office space and a turnover in excess of £22+m.

On the other site it was one of Europe’s largest and most respected mobile phone specialists with capacity for more than 300 operators over 16,000 square feet of office space and a turnover of in excess of £20+m.

Something was niggling away at the back of my mind so I went back to double check my facts a few days later and discovered that the two sites had “morphed” into one!

The company has apparently decided that it is first and foremost a contact centre and adopted the size and number attributes from that site. So that settles it then. However, it obviously decided it liked the colour and content of the mobile phone specialists’ site. And it has kept the gem that was on that site last week:

“We genuinely believe our people are our most important asset and our highly trained and motivated team is committed to supporting the companies principle’s of providing the highest levels of customer care” (the bold is mine).

Out of interest, how many people, at what level in the company, do you suppose were involved in contributing to that brand identity exercise before it got sign off?

I’m happy to admit that my English grammar is by no means perfect but, please, nobody spotted that “companies principle’s” should have read “company’s principles”??? So the tips that emerge from this example are:

  • Don’t rely on spell checks to pick up grammatical clangers
  • Get a third party who hasn’t been involved in crafting your wonderful words (someone whose command of the language you respect) to proof read for you before you “go public”

Meantime, the activities of my fast-talking female “friend” at the company have, so far, been effective. No more calls trying to sell me an airtime contract!


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