How a Birthday Gift Can Make You a Million Dollars

July 20, 2009

gift-main_FullThis coming Saturday will mark the day I was born 25 years ago, MY Birthday!

Thinking about my birthday, and birthdays in general, I became interested in what a birthday gift can mean.  And I am not talking about gifts that you or I get for each other.  I am talking about a company or business that gives gifts to their clients and customers.

I wrote a post about a month ago about information.  The more you know about your customers, the better you will be able to serve them.  Knowing their birthdays is a small, but potentially important part of that.

If you know your customers’ birthdays, you have options.  You can send them a discount on your products and services as a thank you for being a loyal customer.  Or you can get them a gift, apart from what your company offers, that really makes an impact.

What if you sent a gift certificate to all your customers for their birthdays this year?  You could do it through email, and make it $20 or less.  How much would that cost you?  I think you will end up pleasing enough people, and generating some real long term customers, that it will more than make up for the cost.

But instead, what you sent something concrete?  What if you sent something that you knew most of the recipients would use?  And what if you branded that product so that when they used it, they were helping to spread the word about your company?

You could send a t-shirt, a hat, a computer accessory, a cell phone case, or anything else that people use on a daily basis.  On it, you could put a slogan that would resonate with people, along with your company name and website.

Chances are that…

1)the customers that receive this gift will be thankful for it because they are not used to a company going out of their way to give back, turning them into more loyal customers, 2)some of those newly loyal customers become brand ambassadors, actively telling their friends and associates how great your company is, and
3)the branding that goes along with the product gets people talking, or at least noticing you more.

It is a generous gesture that fits right into a solid marketing plan.  Do something out of the ordinary for your customers and they will take notice.  And the more they take notice, the more likely they are to talk about your brand.

So maybe one birthday gift can’t make you a million dollars, but giving back to your customers on their birthday could prove to be a pivotal part of developing lifetime customers and start some positive word of mouth marketing.  I know if any companies did that for me this Saturday that I would take notice.

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Home Depot vs. Lowe’s: Where is the Difference?

July 6, 2009

battle-homedepot-lowes-200x267drWhen multiple companies operate in the same space, the space has to be big enough to support them all, or one of the companies will eventually differentiate themselves and prove victorious at controlling the market.

 

Sometimes, the market is big enough to support more than one leader.  And when this happens, you most often see two companies that are so similar, it is hard to tell them apart.

 

I saw a commercial for Home Depot this morning, and without seeing the television screen, I assumed it was for Lowe’s.  They both say the same thing, the voiceovers even sound the same (even though Lowe’s tries to use Gene Hackman’s voice to stand out).

 

It got me to thinking, what is the difference between the two companies?  I have shopped at both, purchased from both, and been satisfied with both.  But after thinking about it, I can’t come up with one single point of emphasis or difference that would cause me to choose one over the other.

 

Both have brand awareness, but has either worked towards brand loyalty.  You would think that one of the two companies would try to differentiate themselves in such a way to gain market share over the other.  But, from what I can tell, both are satisfied sharing the market with the other one. 

 

There is a danger in becoming too complacent.  If neither company is actively pursuing an industry that they can dominate, where is the innovation and creativity coming from.  There is no motivation to change and grow.  Eventually a new player can come along and stand out from the rest of the industry.  And when that happens, it may be too late to change and adapt.

 

These two companies may be comfortable coexisting in this way, but if you own or operate a company, you should be very careful how similar you are to your competitors.  Standing out is the best way to build awareness and loyalty at the same time so you can grow and keep your customer base.


Fostering Innovation through Internships

June 18, 2009

baby-businessIt’s that time of the year again when companies are starting to take on summer interns.  College kids all over the country are looking to gain valuable work experience in the industry they plan to work in, with hopes of the added cash bonus to survive the summer.  And companies all over the country are looking to fill minute holes they have at the bottom levels of the business.

It’s the typical cycle. They will get hands on experience, you’ll get someone to fill out paperwork, and come August or September, everything will go back to normal.  Nothing changes.

Now, what if you rethink what an internship is all about?  What if you let yourself believe that summer interns could actually do something important?

Think of it in a couple of different ways.  First, there is the “fresh eyes” perspective. Interns are brand new to the company, and unlike those employees that have been working in the business so long, they have not been trained into routines and habits.  They can see things as they really are, everything that is good, and everything that is bad.  Throughout the summer give them opportunities to voice suggestions, open complaints, and communicate back and forth with employees on every level of the organization.  This gives the interns a real voice within the company, which is very valuable to them.  But it also gives you a chance to see the company from the outside again, and will open up some very real suggestions of how things can be improved.

Second, there is the “do something new” perspective.  You’re company works without interns.  So now that you have the interns here, why not use them to do something that you were not doing before they got here.  Have them test out a new system or product.  Have them handle a series of focus groups, design surveys, contact old customers.  Maybe there is a new market that you are looking into.  Send them out with a top level employee to do research and analytics.  Use their motivation, curiosity and desire to learn to open up new doors for you and the company.  There is always ground level work to be done in any new venture, so why not get it done while you have the extra man power.

View summer internships as an opportunity not only for them, but for the business as a whole.  You can get ideas rolling, new projects off the ground, and create a whole team of brand evangelists by giving them real responsibility and creating an opportunity for them to grow.

It’s time to rethink internships.  They are only around for a couple of months, but they are the future of the workforce that you are grooming.  Treat them that way and the company will be all the better for it.

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What Ever Happened to Trust and Honesty

June 9, 2009

trust me I'm a docter-786643There will always be things in place to keep us honest.

Doctors and Lawyers have malpractice to keep them from making mistakes, not following procedure, and not taking care of those people they are there to take care of.

The government has the people they represent to keep them in check because they will always be up for re-election again.

CEO’s have a board of directors and large groups of investors to make sure they are doing the right things with the company’s money or else a replacement will be found.

It seems we are kept as honest as we can be because if we stray too far off course, we risk losing a title, or some power, or our money.

But what about just being honest?  What if elected officials, doctors, lawyers, bankers, and CEO’s – the people that we need to trust in order to successfully grow ourselves personally and professionally – were just honest people.  Maybe it’s just a matter of greed, and it will never be perfect.  And I know I am lumping large groups of people in where they don’t belong, but it just seems that if we have to fear people in power then we are never going to dig our way out of tough times.

Trust is an important thing.  It can mean the difference between success and failure.  So let’s put honesty back in its place.  You don’t need us to keep you honest.  Just do it.

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Celebrating Milestones with your Public

May 26, 2009

Milestones_sideThis post takes something personal, and expands it to an idea that every business can follow.  I noticed earlier today that a comment on my last blog post by Jake Samuelson, author of the blog My Geeky Side, was the 200th comment that I have received.  Though that is not a stat that I actively track, it is nice to see that the conversation aspect of my blog is picking up as more readers continue to come to the site.  It was a stat that I wanted to share with you because it is exciting to see a growing readership contribute more ideas.

With regards to that, I strongly believe that sharing company milestones with customers and the general public is a great way to build your brand, market yourself, and generate a dialogue with the press and the people.

When a company announces that they just reached 1 million customers, or just sold their 500th widget, etc. it tells people something.  It gets them involved in the company, letting those people that are already customers know that their business is valued.  It lets potential customers know of your success.  “If 10,000 other people are using their service, it must be worth while.”

Sharing information publicly, either on the website, a corporate blog, with a press release, or company newsletter, gives you strong outreach.  It is marketing, without coming off as marketing.  It makes people aware of your brand and aware of your success.  It is the best way to grow based on past success.

Celebrate these milestones, not only with an announcement, but by giving something back as well.  Tell people that when you hit 1,000 units sold, you will have a special free or discounted offer.  “So many people like this that we have decided to give it away for free on this day.”  Promotions like that, based on current and projected success, spread the word.  It adds to the story that your company is telling, and defines what you are all about.

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A Case of the Mondays

May 11, 2009

office-spaceA surefire way to bogged down by routines is to come in every Monday morning after a nice relaxing weekend and do the exact same thing you always do.

Most people use the better part of Monday before noon to clear their inbox of all the emails that have accumulated over the weekend, update yourself on the to-do list you carried over from last week, and catch up on some work that you left over from Friday.  And before you know it, you are moving through your week the same way you do every week.  And even though this is what feels comfortable and efficient, it will never create the need or desire to create or innovate.

So here is a thought.  In order for your business to thrive and grow, you need to be thinking outside the box.  To help spur new thoughts and creative vision, you need to do something different.  Use Mondays as routine busters, because if you take the time to throw yourself off a bit, then your mind will have more freedom to roam and create.

Take your breakfast at a place you’ve never been before.  Stay away from the computer.  Read a magazine article.  Take a pad and a pen and just start making lists.

Keep your mind active, but also free to wander. Take a walk, listen to music, keep your distance from work.  If you have the ability to stay out of the office, this is the time to do it, though you can certainly do these things at the office as well.

I know that eventually you have to get to your emails, you have to finish those boring, endless tasks that you’ve been chipping away at, but there is plenty of time for that as you move through the week.  A little time to think on a Monday morning can be just the medicine you need to help avoid the weekly routines and help you concentrate on the big picture.

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Carpooling Service…from an Oil Company?

May 1, 2009

carpool_sign_500The good people over at Springwise continue to point out some of the most innovative startups competing for your attention, and today, they had one that really caught my eye.

“In March 2009, Galp Energia launched Galpshare, a carpooling platform where commuters can create a profile, specify their daily route and find others heading the same way. Users can also list their musical preferences and interests (politics, sport, business, etc.), helping them find people they’d enjoy sharing a ride with.”

The most interesting thing to note here is that Galp Energia is the largest oil company in Portugal.  It’s strange to think of an Oil company as part of the solution for energy efficiency.

I commend them for stepping up to the plate and designing a service that is forward thinking and helpful.  A quick look at the website and you can tell that it is still relatively new, but there are a number of members.  The free site could obtain some significant advertisers as the network starts to grow.  It is the perfect example of a company innovating outside the boundaries of their current business model to position themselves in a new market and become more sustainable.

Hopefully this is more than just a PR ploy to gain some friendly attention, and they are in this for the long haul.  Maybe other companies in a similar situation will start to take notice and deploy similar business strategies.

As more companies see the value in becoming environmentally conscious, we will see a growth in the “green economy” that will help society as a whole.

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