Monthly Archives: March 2010

What Do You Mean You Won’t Split the Check?

How many restaurants are struggling for business these days? How many Mom and Pop establishments are struggling these days? Think how many Mom and Pop restaurants are struggling these days in the face of competition and a tight economy, not to mention, franchise marketing and chain locations on every corner? So imagine my surprise when I found myself facing the refusal of splitting a check in a small establishment in Waxhaw, NC.

How about a reality check for small business owners:

Your credit card processing fees are not the customer’s concern

That was the reason given for not splitting a lunch check of three people that was over $40 total. If you can’t handle the cost of doing business get out of the kitchen!

Friendly service actually brings people back for more business

There was no indication while we were ordering our meals and drinks that splitting the check was going to be a problem. This was not brought up until we were going to settle the bill as we were leaving. Surprise! Might as well say, “Oops, the menu prices are actually one dollar less than the actual price.” Needless to say I will not be going back, nor were others at other tables also upset with this policy.

When you close your doors it wasn’t the economy

When this little establishment no longer has enough customers to cover the overhead, they are most likely going to blame the economy. I can only envision the weeks leading up the eventual demise – “No sir we can’t heat your food, that just costs us too much money.”

Most businesses close as a result of a disaster, a shift in the method of doing business (want to be a phone book salesman?) or leadership who are not in tune with their community and customers.  Frequently customers are lost because of basic oversights by leadership. Having a policy refusing to split a lunch check is not just an oversight; it’s downright stupid in the face of growing competition and shrinking discretionary dollars.

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The Pause that Refreshes

In 1948 Coke used this marketing slogan to position their product as something to quench your thirst when you take a break from your activity. Whether you are working in the fields, factory or at home, this message suggested this is what you should do when you take a break.

Today employees still need the occasional break from their workload, but we are in multi-tasking times, so give them something to learn with their Coke.

Not only do our employees need a pause to refresh them, they need a pause to refresh their training and learning. Why not at the same time?

Learning is a daily pursuit for growing organizations, and it only makes sense to have employees training daily on product knowledge, technology updates, or customer service skills.

Establish 15-minute training modules with proficiency pop quizzes at the end to ensure at least short-term retention. Profile a product, list the features and benefits of the product, offer two suggested scripts to sell the product, and then offer a 5 question pop quiz on the material they just learned.

The employee gets to disengage from the workload for a few minutes, they get a cold drink to enjoy and your employees become just a bit better at what they do. Why not make this a daily occurrence? Imagine the learning that could happen over the course of a year.

Before anyone argues that isn’t much of a break, we all multi-task even when relaxing. Make the training user-friendly, purchase the refreshments for the employee, and have recognition a la foursquare badges when they complete modules successfully.

Game learning and short-burst learning are ways to incorporate an ongoing learning culture into your organization.

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My “I Did” beats your “I Will”

Every January a slew of new ideas, planned changes, and resolutions are posted, tweeted or bandied about as commitments are made that this is the year of doing things differently.

Right about this time of year people fall into one of two categories: Those who have stuck to the resolutions they set three months ago or those who made a passing effort only to be found back where they started.

For those who have stuck with the new ways of living, leading and loving life, I take my hat off to you and applaud your ability to break through bad habits, old thinking and the inertia of life.

For those of you who seem to have landed back on the launching pad I offer three suggestions:

  1. There is nothing magical about January. Do it now.

Beginning new habits, methods or approaches on how to live your life can begin at any time. Sure you may feel frustrated or embarrassed by not living up to your first of the year intentions but that is no reason not to start fresh today. Regardless when you start to take action, your “I Did” will always trump someone’s “I Will.”

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5 Ways to Build Customer Trust

Customers want to work with organizations they can trust and trust is a scarce commodity in these economic times. Not only are people more distrustful of organizations because of our economic situation, as well as  because there is so much misinformation filling the media as well as online. So what does a customer do? They look for businesses desiring a trust-based relationship. Businesses that cut the BS and be honest, listen and respond to customers are the ones who will rise above the noise of information and grow their businesses. How are you building trust for your organization with your customers?

Check out this short video for 5 ways to build customer trust.

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It’s Take Action Thursday!

I’ve noticed between this economy, new game apps on iPhones and the exciting distraction of the impending Spring weather people are getting less done and further behind. Make today Take Action Thursday!

Here is a short list of 10 actions to take today to hit your business with an energy shot to propel it forward with a burst.

1. Take action on something that has been sitting on your desk all week. Make it happen!
2. You know that crap that is piling up on your desk? File it, delegate it or throw it away.
3. Write one Job Well Done (JWD) note to an employee and mail the handwritten note to their home address. You will make their week next week, I promise.
4. Set one Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to get done by the end of this quarter. I mean BIG!
5. Call your buddies and plan a cookout for Saturday night and party like there is no tomorrow.
6. Now you have a party to look forward to. Get your ass back to work and focus — HARD!
7. Pick one employee to energize. Ask them insightful questions about their career and show you care, and want to help them succeed.
8. Forget a heavy lunch today. Take a brisk walk for an hour then eat an apple with peanut butter at your desk.
9. Notice you missed your post-lunch coma? Great! Be more productive than you thought possible on a Friday afternoon.
10. Call a customer or client just to wish them a great weekend and let them know how pumped you are about your job.

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How You Upset the Overwhelming Favorite

Why do they call it March Madness? Did you watch the amazing basketball games this weekend? There were more amazing upsets that hats in church on Easter. These upsets once again prove that the experts don’t always know what they are talking about and no matter the odds; the little guys can beat the big guys at their own game.

It doesn’t just have to happen on the basketball court.

The little guys can’t out-spend or out-locate the larger competitors, so how can you act like the basketball teams winning the upsets?

Have the confidence to your core that you can win

Never has an overwhelmed team won a game when their pre-game thought of – we are going to get smashed. They all came out with the attitude of proving the experts wrong and giving it their best performance.

Look around, are your team members giving it their best performance? Are they bought-in to the concept of winning against the odds? Are they acting like deep down they have something to prove?

Deliver a great performance

Many top organizations are like many highly ranked basketball teams: They have so much talent they can overcome a periodic bad performance. In business I see large companies make money in spite of themselves, purely by volume and size.

The little guys know they don’t have that room to be sloppy. To win you have to be delivering a top performance and hope to catch the favored team in a low performance day. That combination is how big upsets happen (right Kansas?)

There is nothing you can do about when you catch the other guys sleeping, the only think you can control is delivery your great performance to give yourself a chance.

Focus on the little things.

In college basketball it is well known that defense and free throws win important games. Neither is going to show up on a highlight reel of spectacular dunks but to put a basketball spin on a golf saying; you dunk for show and defend for dough. The little guys do the little things well when they win the big games.

Small business owners, use the March Madness upsets as the inspiration for how to bring down the big competitors and create your own upsets. It’s time for some March Madness worth cheering about in our economy as well.

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3 Ways to Get “Lucky” in Business

A business growth strategy isn’t sitting and waiting on the phone to ring and hope customers just walk in. You must hustle, be agile and adapt to change in order to make your own luck. Leadership makes luck, because luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Looking for ways to make your own luck in business? Check out this short video on the 3 Ways to get “lucky” in business.

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We Need Mettle Detectors, Not Metal Detectors

I seem to live in airports these days and I’ve probably walked through hundreds if not thousands of metal detectors designed to keep our skies safe. What we really need are Mettle Detectors to keep our companies safe.

We need our organizational leaders in business and government to have the mettle (the character, fortitude and courage) to rise to occasions they are being called to take actions for. Wouldn’t it be great if we had these electronic archways leaders could walk through so we could detect who really has the mettle to accept the challenge and do their best?

What would a mettle detector look for?

Grace under pressure

How do leaders react under pressure situations? How many pilots faced with ditching a plane in the Hudson would’ve handled the situation with such a calm and determined demeanor? The best indication of possessing that ability is to look at prior actions. I dare say Capt Scully Sullenberger was never perceived as a “cowboy” in the skies prior to that flight. I imagine his flight record was impeccable.

How are your organization leaders acting in the face of the financial crisis we are facing these days? Sadly, our government is demonstrating with each hearing they are more interested in placing blame than in finding solutions. This a mettle failure on public display.

Solid accountability

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Who is Your Mayor?

Last year the buzz at SXSW ( was Foursquare and a year later 450,000 people are eager participants in the location-based phone app that is changing the marketing picture for businesses by placing it in the hands of customers.

What is foursquare?

Foursquare is a smartphone application that allows the user to “check-in” to an establishment and get points for doing so. With the right combination of check-ins a person unlocks badges and scores points. This “game” is shifting how word of mouth on businesses is transferred.

Anyone can enter a business into Foursquare, in fact the first person to enter a business into Foursquare gets additional points, meaning as a business owner you may not even be aware you have a foursquare page. I recently entered the Anytime Fitness location I am a member of and told the owner I had just done this. She gave me a blank look as I explained how it worked and what it could mean to her business. She blew it off.

Why is Foursquare important?

Every time a person checks into a business using the Foursquare app they have the opportunity to enter a comment or a tip about the business. Foursquare also allows the user to set up notification to all Facebook and Twitter friends and followers they have. In my case that means when I check into a business 1100 Facebook fans and over 6800 twitter followers see what I enter.

Bad service? I let almost 8000 people know in an instant. Do a great job for me? I let 8000 people know! Research shows repeatedly how word of mouth marketing is considered the best and most reliable and with the new technology friends comments become instant information to thousands.

Grab opportunities

The person who checks into your business most frequently with Foursquare becomes the “Mayor” I am the Mayor of a local grocery store, a local lunch spot as well as a hotel I stay at in Louisville, KY and Gate B4 in the Louisville airport my flights always use.  What should this matter to a business? Plenty.

Customers love to be the insider and foursquare users take great pride in being the mayor of a place. Want to drive good word of mouth? Treat your mayor special. Giveaways, thank you notes, even marquee recognition gives an organization a chance to be part of the game, while also driving positive word of mouth.

Imagine the next time I check into the Louisville hotel I am the mayor of that I am greeted with, “Mr. White thank you for being a gold member (which I get every time I check in here) and I see you are our current mayor! Here is the chocolate coin for being a gold member and as mayor you get breakfast complimentary.” You think I won’t be telling close to 8000 people about my mayor breakfast?

Foursquare is an emerging marketing opportunity savvy businesses will enjoy creating customer insiders who will spread the good word.

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Marketing Requires a Creative Mind and a Strong Stomach

Marketing your business in this economy requires a strong stomach and a creative mind. Why the strong stomach? Most executives cave into the knee-jerk reaction of cutting marketing budgets when revenue slows down, which only exacerbates the revenue situation by not getting the word out to customers and prospects. When in fact, organizations should be increasing marketing efforts in challenging economic times.

The most common complaint I hear: But I don’t know if my marketing is working or not? Then maybe you are doing it wrong.

Traditional marketing:

Newspapers, television, radio, email and a website are traditional marketing methods that will not set an organization apart unless the content is extremely good or unique. Creativity still gets the message through on these old school tools. Flo for Progressive insurance, Vince for ShamWow and Budweiser’s Clydesdales have messages that cut through the noise and their revenue proves that.

If you choose to use tradition marketing bring the creativity and lots of it. Frequency is also the key, although it can be expensive, consumers notice the unique.

Toward the edge: Web-based marketing

I mentioned a website is traditional marketing because there are literally millions of websites being added in the time it takes to read this article! Websites are old school marketing. The key to web-based marketing is how you drive traffic to your website (and it better be designed to keep the visitor there!) Search engine optimization, multiple links and social media feeds should be the focus of any marketer trying to drive traffic to your “awesome” website. And, if it isn’t awesome in the mind of the visitor: It won’t matter how much traffic you drive to it, you are failing in your marketing.

I mentioned social media because that is fast becoming the best way to touch prospects and customers while also driving them toward your website. Facebook, twitter,, and Hootsuite are social media tools that should be in your marketing quiver. Millions of people are active in social media and it is not only here to stay but will be driving the next generation of search engines based on peer review. If you’ve not already joined the social media party you are lagging behind great marketers.

Out there: Game marketing

When someone says they are the mayor of Starbucks do you have any idea what they are referring to? Foursquare is a location-based phone app where a person can check in when they visit an establishment and the person who checks in the most in the last two months is given the title of Mayor. It is a game where not only can people check in but they give reviews and tips for their foursquare friends to see. How are you treating your mayor? What customer comments are being left on your foursquare listing?

Tomorrow I’ll go into greater depth on foursquare, but I bring it up here to point out how marketing is becoming the domain of the customer and the evolution of marketing is changing rapidly. Get creative and develop a strong stomach because the new economy rewards the best in the business and crushes those who are clueless.

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