I live outside Seattle and it seems like we're getting bad news on a daily basis. First, it's Starbucks laying people off. Then it's Boeing laying people off. Then it's Microsoft laying people off. Then it's Starbucks laying people off (wait a minute…).
Of course, we're not the only ones being hammered by the economy. Everybody else is, too. I wouldn't want to be around Detroit right now.
It's easy to offer the panacea, "And this, too, shall pass." But when you're struggling personally, professionally, and/or as a business, that pablum is the last thing you want to hear.
As a marketing gunslinger, I'm looking for the Magic Bullet, just like you. I want to say in my speeches, in my articles, and in my client meetings, "I have the answer!" That would not only be a good thing for you (if I were right), but it would also make me the guru of the moment. (Word of advice: stay far away from anybody who says they have THE answer.)
Sadly, I don't have THE answer. All I can do is offer honest truths. I offered a few in my last post for 2008 and now I offer a few more:
- Aim for 5. Do not settle for or aim for satisfied customers. Satisfied customers leave ALL THE TIME. Anybody who gies you a 4 on a scale of 1-5 is merely satisfied. In RainToday.com's recent publication, How Clients Buy: 2009 Benchmark Report on Professional Services Marketing & Selling from the Client Perspective, they report:
"It’s tempting to think you’re doing well as a provider if you receive a satisfaction rating of a “4” (“somewhat satisfied”). However, we found that in every service area, Switchers—the purchasers who are open to switching providers—tended to give more “4”s (“somewhat satisfied” ratings). The Loyals tended to give more “5”s (‘very satisfied” ratings). So, clearly, that’s the score you want."
- Keep Building Trust. The value of your services and those offered by other companies will be perceived as being equal — unless you can explain the difference. If that difference is Trust, you will win. You will always win. With trust, they know they can depend on you to do the right thing, in good times and bad. How do you build Trust? By being trustworthy. Yes, it's that simple. Yes, it's that hard.
- Focus on Excellence. During good times, you can get away with mediocrity. During bad times, you can't. Look at everything you're doing from an Excellence perspective. BTW, that might be different from the typical current perspective, "Where do we cut costs?" Yes, get rid of things that have outlived their usefulness (including Stupid Rules & Policies), but don't cut in areas that impact Excellence or Trust.
- Ask Your Customers How You Can Help. Notice I'm not saying, "Tell your customers how you're going to help them." Ask them. Sit down in person. Call them on the phone. Have a quality conversation with them. Do this personally, not by email.
Like I said, I don't have THE answer, and nobody else does, either. But if you're in this fight for the long haul, these answers will help.