The entire customer experience has got to impress

The other day, I told you about my first experience with a neighborhood lawn care company.

There’s a little more to the story.

The national franchises that returned my calls the first day also gave me instant pricing. They told me exactly what it would cost for the number of treatments my lawn would get.

They were able to price it quickly because they both had access to a satellite photo of my property. I guess, from looking at the photo, they could estimate the size of my yard.

Measuring Wheel.  Too bad it can't measure the value of a customer experience.

Measuring Wheel.
Too bad it can’t measure the value of a customer experience.

It doesn’t really matter exactly how they did it. All I know is that they answered my questions satisfactorily: Can you kill the weeds? Can you make my lawn green? How many treatments? What’s the price?

On the other hand, when I finally reached the local guy by phone, I was told that someone would stop by “sometime next week” – which I initially accepted.

But after reaching the franchises, and getting immediate response, I called the local guy again. After I explained the situation (on Friday), I was told that they would try to get someone to stop by on Monday.

So, a guy did get to my house on Monday morning. He pulled out a measuring wheel from his truck and walked the yard. He then went back to his truck and calculated square footage and pricing. When he emerged, the price he quoted was a lot more than one of the franchises.

So, not only did I have to wait four extra days for a quote, when I finally got it, it was significantly higher.

To say the least, pricing is an important part of the overall customer experience.

After all that, the decision wasn’t difficult. Every vendor promised to rid my lawn of (most of) the weeds and all of the grubs. All three will make my grass beautifully green.

But to justify a considerably higher price, the neighborhood company really had to impress me in some other way. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

(By the way, the experiences with the national programs weren’t perfect. For example, neither would email their quotes).

Now, you know I love small business. I know how hard small business owners work. But there’s a better way. You can be more efficient and responsive. The technology is available to help you manage your time. (You can see satellite photos, too, can’t you?)

How many other jobs have you lost because you haven’t responded well? What’s the dollar value of the loss – not only this year, but for a lifetime?

Create Your Own Alter-Ego Super Hero to Promote Your Business

Fresh small business marketing ideas are tough to come by.

Here’s a new one you should think about: Craftsman Tools and DC Entertainment partnered to publish a custom comic book to promote a new power tool system. It’s called “Craftsman Bolt-On System Saves the Justice League.” It tells the story of how a handyman saved the day by stopping the evil villain, The Key, from stealing records from the Justice League headquarters (read the comic here).

That got me thinking.

Super heroes have super powers. They’re protectors. They’re idolized. They’re depended upon.

To many of the people you serve, you’re a super hero.

Why not have some fun and promote your small business at the same time?

Create your own alter-ego super hero

Partner with a local writer or cartoonist to create a short story or comic about your business and products. If you can’t find a local writer, find one on elance.com.

Base the plot on real-life situations that you’ve experienced. Tell the story of how you helped someone solve a tough problem and saved the day in your community. Demonstrate the value of working with you.

Be sure to have fun with it. Make it a mystery or a thriller or a love story. No boring stuff allowed.

But here’s the key: Be honest. Don’t exaggerate the power of what you do.

Save the work as a PDF and make it available for online download. You should also print a few hard copies. Then promote the story with a press release. Have a “meet the author” party.

The story will get people talking about your business. It will be passed around town.

Get creative. Tell true stories that showcase the problems you’ve solved. Show that you’ve got a sense of humor.

You can bet that your competitors aren’t super heroes.

Every Small Business Owner Should Act Like a Radio Broadcaster

There’s a lot of effort today by big businesses to “engage” their customers in conversations.

Small business owners haven’t quite adopted that approach – yet. But I suggest that you think about what might happen if you actually stop selling so hard and start communicating with prospects one-to-one. Try forgetting occasional one-way push marketing and remembering two-way attraction. See what happens when you devote your efforts to first becoming a trusted adviser and friend.

Let’s Look at the How Radio Industry Does It

Radio hosts engage their listeners in many ways. They strive for ongoing, two-way, give and take communication. To do that, they not only answer phone calls, but they get opinions through online surveys and polls. They converse through Twitter tweets and Facebook posts. And listeners send e-mail and text messages whenever they want to.

(By the way, this strategy helps the station, the listener and the radio program’s advertiser because all have greater access to each other).

Expanding Exposure

The conversation is ongoing and multi-channel. Listeners communicate using multiple kinds of handy devices. It’s clear that we can be connected at all times if we want to be.

The Dennis and Callahan Show originates on WEEI radio in Boston. You can also catch a live stream on the station’s website. And to expand exposure, the program began simulcasting on NESN cable TV earlier this year (which is good for both WEEI and NESN).

Listeners communicate with the hosts through traditional phone calls, but they also tweet and send e-mail and text messages.

Don’t Stop Innovating

Engagement won’t end there. Innovations will continue to develop that provide greater access to programs and involve listeners.

For example, Jelli is “100% user-controlled radio.” Listeners control the playlists of their favorite local programs through “real-time voting and game elements.”

Jelli turns listeners into “active users.” It’s designed to “drive engagement” with the audience, build a “social community” around the station, generate “excitement” in the market, and produce higher ratings as a result.

One radio station owner, Gerry Schlegel, president of the LKCM Radio Group, told FastCompany, “We want to transform the market in Las Vegas by engaging with our listeners directly through the web and mobile, and building a strong community around an amazing music experience.”


Have the Same Objectives As a Radio Broadcaster

Aren’t they, or shouldn’t they be, the objectives of every small business owner – to have a following of active users, to drive engagement, to build a social community, to generate excitement, and to produce higher ratings (more sales)?

All of the tools that broadcasters use are available to every small business owner. All are inexpensive and, used together, have a compounding effect and measurable ROI.

A small business marketing strategy should include mechanisms for communicating with followers regularly (depending on the product or service). That means a website that engages (not a static brochure or billboard site), audio and video podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and text messaging at a minimum.

Act like a radio broadcaster. Start conversing with individuals. Develop your following. See what happens.