Tip Sheet: March-April 2014

Focus on birthday

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, probably didn’t send you a Christmas card last year. He concentrates his energies on birthdays. Why? Many businesses send Christmas cards to their clients, but few send birthday cards. And, says Ferrazzi, “Everybody cares about his or her birthday!” If you have a limited marketing budget, consider skipping holiday cards this December. Instead, try handwriting birthday cards to your favorite customers ... and include a cash-off coupon. Or call them. Or leave them a voicemail. Your customers won’t forget it when you remember the one day of the year that’s truly theirs.

If you’re in a smallish community and have an older client base, be sure to check the local obituaries once a week. This habit can help you avoid awkward moments and perhaps win you some sensitivity points. Have a staff member check local newspapers and online services (like Legacy.com) used in your community to see if any of your clients have made this bleakest of lists. If you do see a client’s name, be sure to remove that patient from scheduled appointments and recall lists. It’s the right thing to do. And don’t forget to send a condolence card.

Finished dispensing a new pair of glasses? Of course, you want to make sure the client knows that you’re available and happy to help to fix any issues with their new eyewear. But you don’t want to get involved in an endless series of minor adjustments if you really don’t have to. Choose your words carefully. Don’t plant a negative seed by saying something like “If these don’t work, let us know and we can tweak them.” Instead try: “Be sure to let me know how much you love them!” or even a more neutral “If you need me for any reason, don’t hesitate to contact me.”

No advertising force beats word of mouth. Want to identify good candidates to spread the word about your business? Joe John Duran, author of Start It, Sell It and Make A Mint tells of a businessman who tests customers by asking if they know a good restaurant he can take his wife to. They can’t think of one? OK, not a good person to ask for referrals. They give you a name? There’s some potential. They tell you a restaurant, tell you to use their name while making the reservation, and check back later to see how much you enjoyed it? This is clearly somebody who feels good about helping people. And a great candidate to spread the word about your business.

You’re probably on the lookout for staff right now. As you search, keep in mind this simple reminder from Jim Collins, author of Good To Great: “When in doubt, keep looking.” (This is absolutely true of fulltime staff ... for temporary staff, you can get away with bending a little.)

Want to liven up your overly formal direct mail letters or email bulletins? Michael Corbett, author of The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising, says that you need to stop thinking about the thousands of anonymous customers who will be reading your message. That will inevitably make your prose stiff as a redwood tree. Instead, imagine you’re writing all of your messages to your cool Aunt Bessie. That should loosen you up enough to get the words flowing.

If you think you’re being productive and making progress, author and management guru Tom Peters suggests you ask yourself a question: “What have I done this year?” Answering that question succinctly puts the focus on your big achievements — or lack thereof — over the past year.

Another good job interview idea from Selling Power magazine: have a little accident. Tip over a trashcan, or spill a cup of coffee on your desk. If the job candidate immediately leaps up to help ... well, then they have cleared another hurdle in the interview process.

The keys to a successful radio commercial: Use your own voice and make your point quickly to grab short attention spans. “Wizard of Ads” Roy H. Williams also offers this advice: Talk faster, say more; use big ideas and present them tightly; introduce a new mental image every three to five seconds; use fewer adjectives; say things plainly, bluntly even; and emotion is good. Even negative emotion.