Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Tom Jackobs, who has been an entrepreneur for over 30 years. He has started, purchased, closed, and sold businesses. Tom’s successes and failures enable him to advise his clients on real-world situations to improve or start their businesses. For more info: www.TomJackobs.com.
SmallBizlady: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE RAVING FANS?
Tom Jackobs: The world is full of mediocre and “good” experience… even ‘great’ experiences. Have you ever asked a friend how they enjoyed a certain restaurant and they responded, “Yeah, it was good”. OUCH! As small business owners we need to stand out from the crowd and be outstanding, we want people to talk about us voluntarily.
SMALLBIZLADY: THAT SEEMS LIKE IT WOULD TAKE A LOT OF PLANNING TO DO?
Tom Jackobs: Actually, it’s all about the little things, the details make the difference. Like remembering a client’s birthday, or wedding anniversary, or sending flowers with a loved one passes away. Several years ago, I was flying on my birthday (which wasn’t uncommon since I flew almost every week. I was queued up waiting to board when my name was called over the loud speaker to the counter. When I got to the counter the United agent handed me a card and said, “I understand it’s your birthday, happy birthday from all of us at United.” When I boarded the plane the flight attendance all wished me a happy birthday as well… and gave me a few drinks to help me celebrate. It took them an extra 5 minutes to do that, but I’ve been telling everyone about my experience with United for years now.
SMALLBIZLADY: HOW CAN WE MAKE THAT A SYSTEM IN OUR BUSINESS?
Tom Jackobs: And that is the key. It can’t be just the business owner making a difference, it has to be everyone in the organization. Ideally you set the culture and provide examples of “experiences” you expect your employees to provide to clients and prospects. Then reward great behavior when it happens. Having a set system will not allow your employees to be creative so I always recommend giving examples and setting a few boundaries and let them decide how they want to proceed. Ultimately you have hired the right people during the interview process who will embrace a culture of “experience”.
SMALLBIZLADY: YOU ALSO MENTIONED PROSPECTS, TELL ME HOW WE CAN CREATE AN EXPERIENCE FOR THEM.
Tom Jackobs: This is something which is dear to my heart, because so many business owners forget that the client experience starts with the initial contact with the business, not when the prospect becomes a client. As part of the sales process we have to provide an exceptional experience that is remarkably different from the competitors. Like responding to prospect within minutes of an inquiry… not hours. Even the way we answer the phone, “It’s a great day at XYZ Business, how can I make you smile”. That is also a pattern interrupt, so we can take control of the conversation as well as provide a lasting impression.
SMALLBIZLADY: HOW CAN WE MAKE SURE WE HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO HELP WITH THIS MISSION.
Tom Jackobs: This is an area I struggled with a lot with my fitness business early on. Then I found a great way of hiring people, I like to do a group interview and then ask each of the interviewees to present to the rest of the group why they would be a great employee. I don’t observe the presenter but rather the rest of the interviewees to see how connected they are to the speaker. I want people who take a genuine interest in other humans. Those are the employees who are going to do the little things to create a positive experience for prospects and clients.
SMALLBIZLADY: WHAT TYPE OF RESULT HAVE YOU SEEN WITH THE RIGHT CLIENT EXPERIENCE PROCESS IN PLACE?
Tom Jackobs: There are several positives I’ve witness by putting this in place at my own as well as my clients’ businesses. First of all, the clients are ambassadors to the business and freely refer business…in fact, over 50% of new business typically comes from a business who has a great experience. This lowers the overall client acquisition costs including any advertising and marketing activities. The other benefit which surprised me was better overall morale of the employees too. People like helping people, and when you can do that freely at your job, it is very rewarding.
SMALLBIZLADY: What about financial impact?
Tom Jackobs: There are 3 ways to increase a business’s revenues:
- increase the leads
- you do that with great referrals
- to get clients to buy more
- when they love you, they will spend more with you
- is to get clients to come back to you more frequently
- this last way is largely ignored by most business owners
However, when you have raving fans you can invite them back more often and this doesn’t cost you any additional marketing dollars.
SMALLBIZLADY: WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES A BUSINESS MAY FACE IMPLEMENTING EXPERIENCES?
Tom Jackobs: At first, there is resistance with realizing this is the LONG GAME, not a quick fix you can do for a month and turn everything around. If a business has never done this, it will take time and CONSISTENCY to implement and start to see the returns. The second is the cost, it may cost a little money to do some of the “extra” things for clients, like giveaways or cards. But these are very small investments compared to the what it takes to acquire a new client
SMALLBIZLADY: HOW COULD SOMEONE GET STARTED?
Tom Jackobs: Probably, the easiest way to get started is to find a small touch like sending birthday cards to clients. Resist putting an offer in the card, it will dilute the message. And every business can do this and see a reward. In my opinion it needs to be a physical card, not an email. Then build from there.
SMALLBIZLADY: What about for prospects, how could we start an experience for them?
Tom Jackobs: Follow up, follow up, follow up. Start with just responding immediately. One of my clients always asks new clients why they chose her business. Most of them say “because you actually followed up with us”. It’s sad but the bar is set really low, so when you can stand out from the crowd you will win!
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