Creating Value – Part III

Belief.

A Belief that you have and share, about the marketplace, about your customers – this is the third big powerful wagon to hitch your business to.

How you view me shapes our relationship. Back to Seth Godin’s Tribes: don’t just understand me: believe in me, uplift me. Speak to your customers with a shared language and beliefs and values. Find the stories and associations that work for your people.

I love this one. You are a smart, powerful woman who can compete in a man’s world by being yourself.

Together, you and the book are shutting out the cacophony of the world; you are in independent thinker in the sea of sameness. You are resisting!

My customers love where they live, they have a sense of place. They have memories about these special places.

Know your customers intimately, and express your shared belief about your marketplace in:

  • tag lines
  • images
  • thank yous

Find the stories and associations that work for them and for you. Here’s one more:

So that’s the 3 “wagons” you can hitch your business to, in order to create big value that justifies higher margins for a small business:

The Big Idea

  • Problems in your marketplace
  • What do your people want?
  • What hasn’t been pillaged?

The Future

  • What’s in the future that you can identify with?
  • Where can you take your customers that they want to go?
  • Occupy the high ground early

A Belief About Your Marketplace

  • Who are your customers?

What stories and associations work for them?

Make this a topic at your next BforB Round Table conversation!

Creating Value – Part II

The BIG Idea.

As discussed in Creating Value – Part I, Chevy is using The Big Idea – patriotism – to sell their cars.

The Big Idea is often a value that is widely shared by your customers – hence the need to know them really well. Your Tribe, in Seth Godin’s phrase.

Here are a couple more:

Imagination!

The tag line for this baguette is, “ready to bake at home.” Comfort! Cosy nest!

Soroptimist International is committed to, “Improving the lives of women and girls, locally and around the world.” The Big Idea is Gender Equality.

Now here’s mine:

I personally need to feel like I am putting down roots in the place I live; I need to be connected to my community. I was telling a business coach about the toy store I used to co-own, in a small town where people wanted the small town feel. “Sure we were selling toys, but really we were selling the white picket fence.”

She said, “Isn’t that what you’re still selling?”

I slapped myself upside the head and went, “Oh duh! Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – it’s not just me, it’s everyone. I am selling a sense of belonging.”

Finding your Big Idea:

  • What is happening in your marketplace; What are the problems? At Soroptimist, we tackled 2 problems: young women who need to make their first home, and older people needing to downsize. So we created Anney’s Closet, and the mundane explanation is a free store, but the Big Idea is Passing The Torch.
  • What do your people want, that you can give them – adventure? Healthy food? Taking care of their parents or partners?
  • What idea hasn’t been pillaged (Being Green?) When in doubt, go with a classic.

I’ll leave you with a couple more I found:

The Future

The Future is the second big wagon to hitch your business to, in order to create big value. In The Art of War the Chinese general Sun Tzu said, “ Occupy the place of conflict early.” For example, water tables are dropping in the US Southwest. Therefore, water is a precious resource. I can associate with water conservation: occupying the high ground in the place of conflict.

Panasonic ads show the technology to its fullest potential, it brings you into Star Trek. This is the future of play, and Panasonic brings you there NOW.

The tagline for this annual biking event with over 10,000 participants is “Move the City.” You can be part of what cities will be like in the future.

One Soroptimist program is all about the future, based on research showing girls with access to mentoring are far more likely to achieve their dreams:

I’m taking a different approach, similar to Moleskine:

Moleskine is incredibly successful at mixing romance and history into their product. The future is one-world, one-size spandex spacesuits, and rush rush rush.

So my high ground is being ready to respond when people get fed up with the generic world. These paper calendars say, “My life is not disposable.” They are calendars for keeps, about a meaningful life.

Finding your Place in the Future:

What is our world coming to? More importantly, your customers’ world:

  • What’s in the future that you can identify with?
  • How can you advantage of what is going to happen?
  • Where can you take your customers that they want to go?

Creating Value – Part I

Most of us in Business for Business Networks own or are a part of small business, with relatively low volumes. That means, to make money, we need to have high margins, fairly high prices. That means, in turn, that we have to offer our customer BIG value. How do we do it?

I started my business under the auspices of the government’s Self Employment Program, with stellar business coaching from The Reger Group. One of the presentations was on just this: Creating Value. It helped me to see how I was doing that in my business, and how I could do more.

By the way, I am also a Soroptimist, meaning I belong to the best women’s organization in the world, dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls. I’ve seen how Soroptimist offers members, volunteers and donors BIG value for their time and money. I thought other Business for Business Networkers might get something out of the ideas, so over the course of a few blogs, I’ll share what I’ve learned.

Here’s one example, the one David Bell at Reger started with:

What is Chevy actually selling?

Patriotism!  If you own a Chevy, you are a full-blooded American.

There was even a song – the theme song to NBC’s “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” (1957 – 1962):

See the USA in your Chevrolet

America is asking you to call

Drive your Chevrolet through the USA

America’s the greatest land of all

Etc etc for 3 more verses/ refrains . . .  Isn’t that priceless? No matter what we think of the Excited States of America at the moment, you have to admit that in 1957 – this was brilliant. A business can hitch themselves to a much bigger wagon than selling cars, and elevate what they are selling to a much higher level of value – and price.

Stay tuned for “The Big Idea” in part II – of which patriotism is one.

Customer Service And The 80/20 Rule

During our Round Table Conversation at Business for Business Nanaimo North this week, we discussed the importance of quality customer service, and building customer relations.

  • How do you define customer service for your business?
  • Do you have a system and skilled people in place to provide quality service?
  • Do you treat your customers like you would like to be treated?

There are various definitions of quality customer service, but I like this one by Paul Mckinney in Study.Com:

“Customer service is the act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met. Customer service is meeting the needs and desires of any customer.”

What are some of the key elements of quality Customer Service that are important to your clients?

If you want to be proactive I suggest that you talk with your present customers who continually buy your products and/or services, and ask them what are their expectations and why do they continually buy from you.

Why guess – go directly to them and ask pertinent questions for their honest feedback.

What are some of the characteristics of quality customer service?

  • Promptness: Answer promptly and deliver promptly. Under promise and over perform.
  • Listening: Customers need to feel that you have listened to them and heard their needs. Even if you cannot solve their problem they have been heard.
  • Patience: when dealing with their problems take the time to ask questions and ensure that they agree with your interpretation of their needs. Provide competent service instead of rushed service.
  • Politeness: Saying ‘hello,’ ‘good afternoon,’ and ‘thank you very much’ are a part of good customer service. For any business, using good manners is appropriate whether the customer makes a purchase or not.
  • Product knowledge: Know your products/and or services in depth. Then you can best help solve your customer’s problems.
  • Be positive: Your tone and words need to convey positive actions. Statements like “I can’t or I will not” are negative in nature and reduce confidence in you resolving their issues. “I can or I will” convey positive actions and reduce customer anxiety.
  • Professionalism: Training your staff in quality customer care skills and monitoring their progress will ensure a level of professionalism. Professionalism shows the customer they’re cared for.
  • Personalization: using the customer’s name provides recognition and a personal touch. Customers feel that you are focusing on them and their needs.

Social Media

And then there is social media.

Social media can be a great way to expand your business but it can also be a curse. In today’s internet world of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. you want to ensure that you have more positive reviews than negative reviews.

Since this is a critical area these days I suggest that you contract or hire the experts who live and breathe in this part of the world. People are people and you do not know what side of the bed they got up on that day.

They could have a valid reason for a complaint and you need to hear it, recognize it and verify it clearly with them. Having a skilled customer service rep on top of it every day is critical in controlling a positive image and showing your ideal customers that you take action.

Pareto Customers

You may have heard of the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) that states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In business, roughly 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.

In your social media relationships, you want more than 80% positives and less than 20% negatives. Even when people read negative comments about your company, your ideal customers need to see that you are actively trying to resolve problems that really do apply to your company’s products and /or services.

Also keep in mind that there are good customers and bad customers. Drop your bad customers (or send them to your competition) and attract more good customers with your words and actions.

Positive actions retain and attract customers and negative actions or inaction cause customers and potential customers to leave.

Happy customers are your future! Take care of them to ensure future growth.

John Boudreau, Nanaimo North

How ‘Authentic’ is Your Made in Canada Corporate Gift?

You’ve been tasked with buying a gift for a visiting executive, your event keynote speaker, or maybe a foreign dignitary. Your goal is to find an item that portrays quality, represent Canada’s uniqueness and culture, and reflects your corporate values. But where do you start?

To buy your precious gift, you are not likely going to the local tourist shop to buy some tea towels with images of loons and beavers. You need to find a reputable dealer who is well connected to original and genuine Canadian-made gifts. They can help you through the myriad of authentic versus knock-off items that can result in a misguided purchase.

Here are a few things you need to consider; is it really Made in Canada? There are government rules and guidelines around professing that a product is Made in Canada, but they are not always apparent when it comes to labeling. For example, an item might be designed in Canada but actually made in India or China. Or, a base object has been brought in from offshore and painted or altered in Canada. The details are not always visible, so be sure to ask your product source for what they know, or what they can find out.

Based on the Canadian Competition Bureau, here are few guidelines to consider:

For a product to be labelled “Made in Canada“, the following need to happen:

  • at least 51% of the total direct costs of production is Canadian
  • the last substantial transformation of the good needs to happen here in Canada

For a product to be labelled “Product of Canada” the following guidelines apply:

  • the last substantial transformation of the good occurred in Canada
  • 98% of the total direct costs of producing or manufacturing the goods have been incurred in Canada

Alternative language is often used to be more specific about product origins like, “Assembled in Canada with foreign parts” or “Sewn in Canada with imported fabric”. Although there are varying subtleties based on food, textiles, and other categories, here is a simple example of what a ‘Canadian’ chutney product might look like:

  • Packaged in Canada – nominal processing in Canada
  • Chutney was produced in bulk in the US, but placed in jars and labelled in BC
  • Made in Canada – a Canadian entity does the key processing
  • Labels might say ‘Made in Canada’ from domestic and imported ingredients”, if a BC food processor used fruit and vegetables from The Okanagan and cane sugar from the Caribbean.

Product of Canada – the whole supply chain is in Canada

The chutney could qualify for this designation if, for example, they used fruit and vegetable ingredients from the Okanagan and Manitoba beet sugar. The ingredients, processor, and assembly is all in Canada.

Made in Canada or Canadiana?

More and more companies are using Canadian Made gifts when promoting their businesses. The quality of them are far superior, with high perceived value. The recipient feels more appreciated and valued. These gifts are an important part of building a business network, especially internationally.

But are you giving a Made in Canada gift or just something depicting Canadiana?

Your local tourist shops are full of Canadiana, products showing icons of our culture. The Mountie t-shirt, or moose coffee mug. Maple leaf pens and candies. And replicas of First Nations art on a keychain.

The shop inventory will be 95% made offshore.

Some shops will have serious, authentic First Nations art, but the shop worker won’t know if it’s truly Made in Canada, or only partially so.

How to Ensure Native Canadian Art Is Genuine

Most authentic First Nations art comes with an enclosed information sheet or card with a bio of the artist, and description of the piece. However, there are still some things to be aware of. Soapstone carvings are absolutely an iconic First Nations art form. Genuine native carvers put an arctic igloo icon on each piece to show that the artist is First Nations. But, there are also great soap stone carvers who are well known but are not native. If that is important to you, look for that native logo.

Someone like artist Sue Coleman paints watercolours with native symbols in them. She is not First Nations but incorporates traditional designs, and is famous for it. Other examples show bowls made offshore but hand painted here, and purses made in Indonesia but the native design is applied here.

The price point will also tell you if it’s genuine or not. Genuine First Nations art works will have a higher price tag than a knock-off Canadiana item.

How Do You Find the Truth?

Find a reputable dealer! They will source genuine high quality products. You need someone who has studied the laws, rules and guidelines; someone who knows how to get the answers to ensure authenticity, or at least what the supply chain sources are. To many people that is extremely important.

A reputable dealer will have extensive experience and deals with government, universities, and corporations. Ask for references or to see testimonials. If they are a member of your business network, they can answer those questions in person.

Next Steps

Your gift requirements may also extend to employee recognition, very important clients, or key people in your referral network. By presenting them with a quality, authentic Canadian made gift shows that you care and respect them. Your good will is appreciated and often talked about with their peers, family and friends, when they receive a special gift!

Corporate Gifts that Stand Out

Remarkable corporate gifts from creative cakes Duncan BC

When you think about corporate gifts, what’s the first thing that usually comes to mind? Probably cookie cutter gift baskets at Christmas, right? Traditionally that is the common time to do appreciation gifts. But is that the best time and is your basket really being appreciated and remembered? If that’s when you’re doing your gifting, you are likely not getting the best bang for your buck!

With so many corporate gifts being given at Christmas time you can easily get lost in the shuffle. Often gifting companies are also very busy during that time so even if you wanted something less cookie cutter you’d have to pay a premium.

So where does that leave you then? Not bothering? Certainly not, there are great options to help you be memorable!

To stand out do more personalized gifts for your clients, suppliers, or special connections. This can certainly be a more expensive option, but if you have the budget, it’s the way to go! That said, there are also ways to make it more affordable. If you use the same company for the gifts each time you can make a special arrangement with them with the promise of regular buying, even a contract perhaps. By guaranteeing them regular business they’re more likely to be willing to discuss price discounts.

If you’re able to do the personalized gifts the best way to do it is to find out the time the recipient would most appreciate the gift. Gifting to an accountant? Why not some edible treats the last few days of April when they’re the busiest for tax season? Have a florist to gift to? Similar thought can apply to them near Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day when they’re crazy busy. Find out when they’d appreciate it the most and give them a gift. Not only would it be more appreciated but it would really stand out from the crowd and be remembered.

Don’t have the budget for personalized gifts throughout the year? There’s still a great way to stand out and it’s simply to gift at a different time. Perhaps being thankful at thanksgiving or even ringing in spring with a special treat. It can even be something more personal to you, perhaps your company’s anniversary. Pick a date that works for you and your budget. Many companies can be really quiet during December and not have the budget for gifting then, by picking a different time of year you can pick the time you also have a budget for it!

Any corporate gifting company would be happy to chat with you about ideas and ways to make your gifts special.

So, when you’re thinking corporate gifts next, maybe leave Christmas to just Christmas cards and pick a better time to stand out from the crowd!

Why You Should Blog For Your Business

blogging for business

At Business for Business Networks we are huge supporters of business blogging! We encourage our members to send links to their blogs, or if they don’t have one we are happy to post articles on their behalf on the Business for Business Networks website.

Business owners wonder what specifically business blogging is. Business blogging is marketing to get more online visibility (essentially popping up more and more frequently on social media, search engines and driving traffic back to the main website). All the blog needs to be is a piece of short form content related to your business. It is important to realize that this isn’t and will never be a primary revenue source, it is marketing to support growth.

Market visibility results because more website pages mean more chances to be found in search engines. Blogs create website pages but keep them in a neat section of your business’ website so it doesn’t get cluttered, keeping a user friendly experience. Every new blog article is a new opportunity to pop up in a search, and drive traffic back to your business. To help the traffic on your blog turn into leads have a call to action button (“buy now”, “subscribe” etc. links) at the bottom of your blog page.

Good blogs create a sense of authority by answering common questions, and creating helpful content for their target audience. This generates authority and word of mouth as the articles get shared. Good word of mouth is everything! It also creates a sense of trust because people feel as if you’ve helped them before they ever actually bought anything or reached out to you. Blogs never expire, or go away unless you delete them so they can generate leads for years to come (70% of traffic generated is from older posts, not within the month). Blogs are also a great way to test the waters with ideas or campaigns before going whole hog with them.

At Business For Business Networks we believe in the power of business blogging. Whether you are a veteran business blogger, dabbling, or just getting started, we encourage members to submit their articles and grow!