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Old 19th April 2010, 01:18 PM   #1
Allectus
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 49

Default Know Your Business - 3 Tips

I must share two odd stories related to customer service and knowing your business. As I travel the U.S. helping small business owners manage their businesses I also am a customer of other places such as airlines, car rental agencies, hotels, department stores, malls, etc., where I am constantly aware of how businesses manage their particular businesses. For example; Starbuck's Coffee.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I stopped into Starbuck's in Austin, Texas. Nice store, busy, typical Starbuck's until the barista called me "dude". Yes, dude. I have spent a great deal of time in Texas over the years and no one has ever called me dude. Can you believe that? Starbuck's allows their associates to call customers dude?

The barista was trying to get my attention to give me my Caramel Macchiato and called me dude rather than the name the counter person had placed on my cup. Amazing.

Another funny story is that I have spent these last couple of weeks in a small town in Minnesota on a semi-vacation with friends where there is no Starbuck's around but there are two coffee shops similar to Starbuck's. One is called Dunn Brothers coffee and the other is called Caribou Coffee.

Anyway, I went to Caribou Coffee the other day to get a Caramel Macchiato and when I placed the order the counter person asked me if I want the Macchiato the way they make it or the way Starbuck's makes it. What?

Is it me or was that a dumb question? First of all, this town does not have a Starbuck's within 125 miles. Why would you ask your customer if they wanted YOUR product or service like something else? Why would you remind YOUR customers of your competitor? Besides, this location of Caribou Coffee doesn't have the mentioned competitor within 125 miles. Why would a business do that to itself?

That's like me asking my clients if they would want me to balance their books the way Accenture does it. Duh, well let's call Accenture.

Anyway, I thought these stories funny, odd and interesting from a marketing perspective. Rather, know your business, know your product and most importantly, know your customers.

Tip #1
Understand your product or service. Know what it can and cannot do and sell it relative to its potential. We are in business to make money for ourselves not promote our competitors by reminding customers they should buy from someone else. Marketing refers to this as "differentiation". What sets your product or service from your competitor? Whatever it is, sell it because of that differentiation. What' the difference between Starbuck's Coffee and McDonald's coffee? Sell to it.

Tip #2
Design your business around your customers wants and needs rather than what you believe customers are looking for. In other words, ask your customers via surveys or plain old questions what they need from you as a supplier. GE does it all the time. GE has built their appliances around what consumers want via the survey cards that fall out of every GE appliance. They actually take those comments and suggestions from consumers and tailor the majority of their appliances to what consumers want and need. Why can't we do the same as small business owners? I have seen many businesses produce and sell what the owner wants rather than the customer where the owner eventually asks me what went wrong. Produce and sell your product or service to satisfy your customers wants and needs. It's the old Field of Dreams movie quote, "if you build it, they will come".

Tip #3
Look at your business via a SWOTT analysis. Google this marketing term for more details but the acronym stands for;
Strengths
Weakness
Opportunities
Threats
Trends

This basically means that we must consistently review our business and its product/service offering to understand the strength of what we are as a business to identify and correct our weaknesses as a business. And you get the rest. As much as this is a basic marketing term, a SWOTT analysis applies to all aspects of our business where we can determine corrective action relative to our business goals.

Our ability to train employees and understand our customers better derives from a SWOTT analysis.

Good luck everyone,

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Old 23rd April 2010, 01:05 PM   #2
cfoservices
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Join Date: Apr 2010
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Default

Boy Allectus, with respect to those two examples you gave, that is certainly the difference between an employee and an owner. If the owner of the business was present and listening to those two examples the owner would have blown a gasket. However, it can also be about good management whereby you train your employees on what to say to customers and if the employees do not comply you cut your losses and get rid of the ones who are not in compliance. It is challenging however because as a business owner you just cannot be everywhere at once.

By the way those are good tips!

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