Apr 08 2010

One Big Happy Family – The Big Lie

The Assumption

Many business associations promote the idea that, because entrepreneurs are involved in building a business, they are all brothers and sisters… one big happy family. There’s a common bond with interests that bring everyone together.  No matter what their background, two entrepreneurs can get together at a convention to share ideas.  A lot of barriers in the real world vanish during these meetings, allowing people to meet each other and talk, because of their common interest. Nationality, location, race, profession, culture, and other differences do not exist and everyone is treated equally.

If you are a part of the fellowship you are expected to behave in a certain way. At a convention you’re expected to behave like a member of a large family. This usually means sharing and accepting your peers regardless of background. If you break the family “code” you’ll be perceived as insincere and a detriment to the spirit of the organization.

The idea of belonging to a family is a good one. It promotes creativity and can be inspiring to share ideas. BUT, the notion of being brothers and sisters is usually carried too far.

The Danger

Too often the bonding is not based on having a friendship in a real sense, but instead is based on nothing more than the members having a common interest.

Many times the notion of family becomes more important than anything else and overshadows building genuine relationships. I think it becomes a problem when people automatically accept anyone into the family just because they have some degree of like interest. Is it realistic to believe that because we’re interested in the same thing, that this alone makes us equal? No, I don’t think so.

The Magic Convention Example

I read a great story that illustrates the potential problems. A very well know professional magician Fred Kaps was sitting in the lobby at a magic convention. One of the convention attendees approached Fred and asked him to explain one of his tricks. Mr. Kaps politely refused.  Puzzled, the magician asked “Why not, we’re all colleagues here!” Fred laughed and said “Colleagues? Look man, I’m a magician. You are a gardener. We are not colleagues!”

Ouch! The sad part of the story is now the magician feels insulted. He thought Kaps was his equal and that he wasn’t living up to the expectation that it was his duty to give him whatever he asked.  Kaps could have said anything and would have been considered rude… anything other than explaining the trick that he probably labored over for years.

The feeling of entitlement runs wild in the family.  Sorry, but Mr. Kaps or anyone for that matter, owes you nothing! This ignorance is the result of not understanding the value of goals achieved by someone else. Unfortunately, this illusion of equality is promoted by many conference organizers.

“Friendship is a thing of great beauty – but friendship must grow between people. It can’t be instantly installed between two strangers.” ~Tommy Wonder

The Solution

In business, I think we can all agree there are different levels of achievement. Most people know where they stand among their peers. To others it will be difficult to face this truth because of the illusion of fraternity.

Know where you stand and eliminate the notion of entitlement, and you will build relationships with people that will want to help you. Be sure you bring something to the table and help others before expecting them to do the same.

That’s what I think, what about you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Mar 18 2010

Drive Your Customers Away With Email Spam

It’s really easy to do.  Just send a sales message to everyone on your list, two or three times a week.  That should do the trick.  If that doesn’t work, throw in some emails that tell your customers how cool you are and why all your competitors are idiots.  If you really want to get creative, add some insults.  Tell them how stupid they are for not coming back to buy more stuff.  Maybe you could scare them into buying some stuff.  Tell them they will get wigetosis of the frilium and likely die if they don’t use your product or take your advice.

Sound ridiculous?  It’s not!  These tactics really work.  I see it every day.  I subscribe to about 100 email lists.  I see these tactics over and over again.  It’s crazy!  I’m living proof these type of emails get results.  They prompt me to unsubscribe. Leave. Bye-bye. I’m outa here. Don’t contact me again!

But you and I are smarter than that, right?  We would rather nurture our list and keep our customers coming back.  It’s easy to send spam.  Not as easy to stay in touch and provide value.  But that’s OK, because we know it adds to our bottom line over the long run.

I’ll be the first to admit I get stuck when trying to come up with new ways to add value with existing customers.  I consult with restaurant owners, chiropractors, and beauty salons.  Here are some ideas I have suggested for their email campaigns.  They don’t need a website to use the ideas.  As a general rule I ask my clients to send at least one email a week, two at most, to their list.  If I maintain the list for them, I have a strict rule of sending 3 to 4 “useful content”  emails before they are allowed to send a “sales” message.  These are messages that work, in no particular order of effectiveness

  • Tips, tricks, training on using a new product
  • Questions about what they like/don’t like about your product/service
  • Tell stories “A funny thing happened [on the blog], [in the store] today”
  • Employee spotlight mini-bio
  • Happy birthday
  • Calendar of upcoming events
  • Pictures of the staff and their families
  • Comments from other customers
  • Product use ideas from customers
  • Testimonials
  • Recipes (restaurant)
  • Exercise tips (chiro)
  • How to save time or money with something related to your service… without having to purchase anything
  • Holiday ideas
  • Invitation to comment on your blog
  • News in your niche
  • Have a prize drawing
  • Video tour of your office or store
  • Ask for customer photos to share on your website
  • Ask them to rate your emails

Conclusion

Provide value in your communication first.  Your customers will be more receptive to future offers if they know you care about them.

What would you add to this list?  What’s working for you?