Category Archives: business

thoughts and stories about business

Everyone Hates…

VOICEMAIL

There I said it! No one likes voicemail. I had this conversation with some people this morning, about a half hour after which I called one of those people and guess what? I got their voicemail!Does ANYONE answer their phone anymore? Do people just let every call go to voicemail under the assumption that they’ll get back to them?I get this a lot at work. “I called you last week and left a voicemail.” To which I reply “No you didn’t.” Then they protest, “Yes I did. It was on Friday.” After that my standard answer is “Sorry, It’s impossible we don’t have voicemail r even an answering machine!”I know your probably baffled by this. Our theory is if we’re here we’ll answer, we have three phone lines that all roll over so if they are all busy you’ll get a busy signal and call back in 5 min. If there is no answer we’re not here so call back in the morning. The key is actually answering the phone and helping your customers!

Finding You Sherpa

I’ve heard a lot of people who are becoming the “social media professional” at their place of employment because they are already on Twitter or have had a blog for a while and I’m not on board with this attitude.Sure they might be the most knowledgeable person around but they may not be the right person for the job. Now I have to say that sure everyone has a different opinion as to what each company should be doing in the social media space but there are a lot of right and wrongs for everyone.I do believe that anyone who is going to be the go to person for social media should have a blog, be on facebook and use Twitter but this does not a social media Sherpa make.I’ve had some discussions with people to try and come up with a way to qualify people and it’s not an easy task to accomplish. There are a lot of snake oil salespeople out there as well as a lot of people that deserve a lot more attention for what they are doing. The big question is how can we make it easy for those looking for a little help in this space to find the person who is right for them?

You Can Have Too Much Choice

So I read the Long Tail a little while back, one of the ideas is that when there is infinite choice sales from nice items combined are greater then the hits. I think this is a bit situational.

I Agree

I agree with the when your talking about items like books, CD’s or DVD’s. For one you can’t argue with hard numbers from Amazon! And in theory because you are looking for something in particular You’re trying to find an obscure album from whoever, or a DVD copy of Soylent Green!

I Disagree

One example in the book is about cars. Sure there is 1K models of cars but you see you know when you go out looking for a car that you want a 4 door sedan in the 30K range. When it comes to choosing a colour for that sedan this is where you can have too much choice. See you may want red but if there is seven reds that choice becomes daunting. Go look at the colour pallet for new cars, there is likely one one, maybe two reds.

Real World

I’ve heard this story a pile of times, so now it’s your turn. My Dad always tells this to people. Long before I was born, before my Dad was even my age, my Grandfather used to run a general contracting business. One of the jobs he did all the time was kitchen renovation. When it came time to pick the colour of the counter tops, it ALWAYS took the homeowner (read: wife) days (weeks even) to pick the colour. See there were hundreds of sample colours to choose from. So here’s my Grandfather, new job quoted waiting to go ahead and start on it waiting on a colour choice before he can get to work. Now my Grandfather was a pretty smart guy so after not long he and my Grandmother sat down, sorted through all the colours and picked the nicest three or four from each general colour. Now with a choice down to considerable few he rarely waited more then overnight!

How Much Trust Is Good?

Shelf crash 1

Photo Credit library_mistress

So I was in Ottawa for a few days a while back. We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites, I’m not linking them because overall they sucked. We had a big group and when it came time to settle the bill it was a nightmare to say the least. Anyways I did see something that sparked me to rush to get my notepad out so I’d say it was worth it.

So What Was It?

In the lobby they have a Book Loan shelf. It’s basically just a book shelf with a sign. They allow you to take a book, no sign out required, under the agreement that you return it next time you’re there or at the next Country Inn and Suites. It’s 100% Trust Based. I found this to be a fantastic idea for a few reasons.

The Obvious

It encourages you to come back to their hotels. You might like the idea of books available to you. They even had kids books so maybe your children liked it.

Trust

First reason is they trust their customers enough to be honest. Even for a very small ticket item. Sure they probably loose a good number of books, but if they factor that into the total cost and add a single dollar to each stay it’s likely more profitable. AND it stands out to people, even if they never borrow a book.

Emotions

Finally it moves your decission to an emotonal level. In some way you’ll likely want to return to keep up your end of the moral deal! Any time you can bring emotions to the equation you’ll have a better chance at winning! Why do you think you never let on to a salesperson that you really want the item your bartering over?

“Expert?”

So if you know me at all you’ll know I have a big problem with Expert being used with Social Media, or any other new Web thing! I have a few reasons for this.The one I want to focus on is, this stuff is too new for ANYONE to be an expert! If your marketing yourself, sure you want to pump yourself up, hell I’ve done it, in the title bar I had Social Media Expert for a while. Mostly just for SEO rank but that’s a whole different story. I understand that, I’m not a big fan though. On the other side if your looking to hire someone to do the work OR consult don’t fool yourself, the person your working with may know WAY more then you when it comes to Social Media but they are far from an expert. I’m always amazed to find out new tools that have been around for a while that I didn’t know about. One person can’t know everything in this space. Does that mean they wont get you results? Of course not! Can someone else do a better job? Maybe, maybe not. There are a lot of different ways to market your product so everyone will give you a different answer.What you have to do is find someone you feel you can trust and listen to them, it’s not a bad idea to seek second, third, etc. opinions but don’t be surprised if you get different answers. Ask questions from anyone your talking to. Ask if the first guys plan would work, if second guy shoots it down completely maybe guy two sucks. Go with your gut! Hey, this stuff usually isn’t like blowing your whole budget on a TV campaign so you can play a bit and if the guy you got isn’t showing a progress, can him!Whats your feeling? Had any luck? How about horror stories?

Scared Customers

So I attended PodCamp Michigan on the weekend, had a great time despite the abundance of what seamed to me to be sales pitches disguised as presentations. Don’t get me wrong I know everyone likes to toot their own horn but sometimes you just have to get to the point. Aside from that I met a bunch of VERY cool folks that I look forward to getting to know better via Twitter, FB, etc. Hope a few will also make it to a MeetUp here in London as well as PodCamp Toronto, there was some interest!But as usually PodCamp isn’t the topic of the post. My topic is leaning to the business side of things, and it comes from something I noticed while I was across the border.Basically we Canadians were scared to use our mobile phone, mostly their data feature, while we were on the US networks. I have to ask is that the best way for your customers to behave? Should you set up a system under which your customers are afraid to use your product or service for fear of the charges that may result? I don’t think so! You want your customers to be happy, the more they use you, even the odd time when maybe it’s costing you to provide the service,  the more you’ll make in the end!

Stop Using You Credit Card

I’m going out on a limb here and asking you to join me in my fight to stop using Credit Cards. I’m going to keep my purchases on it to a VERY minimum. I don’t use mine much anyways, I can’t remember the last time I used it in person. If there was another way to pay for things online I could do with out completely.Anyways, lets get on to why I think we should get rid of them. There are two reasons from both sides of the fence. One from the consumer perspective and one as a businesses accepting credit transactions.First I’ll tackle the simple one. It is absolutely crazy the way that they are screwing the general public. With the crazy interest rates and they practices of raising limits. They are preying on people who don’t know better and can’t stop them selves from spending. I can’t count the number of friends who got credit while in school and maxed cards out very quickly and are still paying on them today. I think this practice is worse south of the border where there is less regulation on who can offer credit which has lead to more card issuers and people have more cards. Look in your wallet. How many cards do you have? Why do you need 3 or 4 or 5? Because then you get more credit that you’ll be paying off until your dead? You should have a card in case of emergencies. They do come in handy, and like I’ve already stated, there’s no other way to shop online in most cases!On to my second point. There are changes, I don’t know if this is happening outside of Canada, but as of TODAY it’s here. Used to be that when a merchant accepts a credit card for say $100 (round numbers to make it easy) they pay a percent or two fee to the credit company. So as a merchant you loose a buck or two on that transaction, usually no big deal, in most cases it’s factored into the price to begin with (a point that is increasingly pissing me, as a cash customer, off).The credit companies have just, suspiciously at the same time, changed the way they charge merchants. After years of introducing Air Miles, Points, Cash Back programs to entice consumers to get their card and use them, they are now passing on that expense to the merchants. As a merchant you used to have to sign on to the Air Miles program, which meant you paid a bit more fee but customers would shop there because you were giving out miles. I’m totally fine with that. But after that they took it a step farther, you can now get money back on every purchase and guess where that money is coming from now?Now they are jacking up the fees they charge, and I’m not complaining about them raising their fees. If they all go up it’s still a level playing field. What I don’t like is not knowing what I’m paying. You see under the new system, each and every card could be a different fee and it varies a lot. On top of that the same card from day to day can carry a different fee. See they have this “high spender” flag, it’s not a specific card, it’s a flag on any card that can change after just one transaction. So say Tom walks in to my business with $10 in goods, we charge his card pay our 2% then he goes to the Buy More to but a new home theater system for ten grand and his card get flagged as a “high spender” card. Tomorrow he comes again and buys $200 in gods and now with the new “high spender” designation we pay 3 or 4% (or more it all depends)! How can they justify that?I don’t like these practices. I personally don’t like owing them money either. I’m going to make an effort to stop using my card. I’m asking you to join me!

The Grass is always Green When You water.

No matter which side of the fence you are on, you can make the grass greener. So often I see friends, family and people I know, through business or personal, keep moving around from job to job or profession to profession but they never get anywhere. I think the reason goes back to the old saying “The Grass is Always Greener on The Other Side.”

Handyman with wrench

.While it’s true it always seams that way, I ofter think about how nice it would be to be doing something different, such is often not the case. You look back at our grandparents generation that quite often had one job their whole life, they started there out of high school sweeping floors and taking out the trash and they had a big retirement party after spending a few years in management after climbing the ladder for years..Contrast this to today when people are changing jobs seemingly every other week. What happened to moving up the chain and earning raises as well as seniority? Compound this with the endless string of “Handy Men” that span every profession. “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” seams to come to mind as well. They muck around and make a bit of money doing whatever they want but in my opinion they usually get the job done in the worst way possible..Don’t get me wrong, Handy Men have their place when you want a piece of your deck replaced or a patch in your drywall but ofter they get asked to do a job that a professional should do. My point in all this that in general people need to focus on their jobs and cultivating their own speciality in it..To relate it back to my original thought water your grass to make it greener and stick to your own side of the fence!

Email just isn’t a Player

I love email, in the right place it works great! I know who I can get fast email responses out of when I need them, and if it’s not real important no big deal if it goes unopened for a while. BUT the key is “in the right places!”.In my day job our customers don’t “do” email. Some, or most, have email addresses but you’ll be lucky to get a response in a week! The bulk of our orders are handled via Fax, a great technology for sending purchase orders and custom measurment forms. Because of this the office work flow is setup to efficiently process orders via fax. Email just doesn’t fit. When the one person who handles the “general mailbox” for orders is on vacation guess what, stuff piles up and there is a pretty good chance something will get missed..You may say but Bill there are some great email-fax and fax-email solutions out there. Yes there are, but when two out of 600+ people use it, I’m sorry just not gonna happen. Get with the 1980 people, we still need fax machines..This is aside from the fact that some people get hundreds of emails a day. Few people are efficient enough at sorting and filtering through all that to find those important orders.All I’m saying is know your place, if your customers and you have a good workflow via email then great, but you may have to act as a digital to analog convertor when you pass it on!.One question I do have, how many of you still have fax machines in your offices? What kind of office is it? Tech?

Being a Good Customer in a B2B Situation

I’ve been thinking about how business is done from the opposite perspective then most. I always read about how as a business you have to treat the customer right and whatnot. What about treating your suppliers right?.First off “the customer is always right” is bullshit. My customers don’t run my company I do! There is give and take and we should all be rowing in the same direction but it’s not all going to go the customers way. I am allowed to turn away an order and maybe that will affect your future purchases but that’s my decision. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been handed an order that is our policy to turn away and been told by my customer that I have to take it. No I don’t, if I’m in a good mood and I like you I can choose to accept the order and help you out but believe me what you take that attitude I’m likely not going to help no matter what..This leads to my larger point about being a good customer. Everyone always wants a good (fair) price and great service, I like to think of it as value for your money not just cheap, but what I propose is that you help your supplier by being a good customer and that will enable them to be more efficient and pass on some of the savings that that causes to you..If one of my customers sends me a complete order, all the information I need is there and correct, I can process it effficiently and, one have a better turn around time, two do that for a lower price, and three all of us are just generally more happy doing our jobs! I can’t count the times I get incomplete orders and nothing but flack when I call back to get the information, it only frustrates us both and that’s not productive..All factors effect how well everyone can preform and reach a common goal! A happier end user, which is good for all of us! Just think about that next time you issue a PO!