New Year; Now What?

By Sharon Worsley

A new year and a new decade are now upon us, so have you given any thought yet to what you might do differently in your business moving forward?

In my years of consulting with different businesses, one thing that I see is that many of them start to shut down their efforts to continue to grow their business in December each year, then expecting to make a running start at the beginning of January and attempt to catch up for lost opportunities in the last month of the previous year.

They will tell me things like ‘no one does much business at the end of the year,’ ‘it’s too close to the holidays,’ or ‘I don’t want to bother our customers so close to year-end.’ They are, therefore, missing out on potential business and opportunities to grow their business.

I was recently speaking to a group of business owners, asking them how they formulate their ‘customer experience.’ By that, I mean once they acquire a new customer, client or patient, what type of process do they take the customer through to ensure not only continued business but perhaps selling them more products or services and increasing the frequency of the sales.

Many admitted that they don’t really have any formal plans yet wonder why they are not as profitable as they would like to be.

As we are just coming out of the holiday season, one area I would suggest you look at is your most profitable customers and how you show your appreciation to them. When I was working in the hotel industry, we would often send or deliver gifts during the holiday season to those clients who brought us in the most business during the year.

I often felt that we were missing an opportunity to stand apart from not only another hotel in the city they might be working with but also other types of vendors. During the holiday season, many vendors will do the same thing, and therefore the customer receives several gifts, cards or invitations to lunch.

However, what about the rest of the year? What are these vendors doing? Often nothing, as they are awaiting the holiday season to show their appreciation, after the business (sales) has already been received.

So, on occasion, we would call up a client and offer tickets to the Blue Jays, Raptors or to a Leafs game for them and a partner. Or perhaps invite them to the hotel to join one of us for lunch or dinner for no specific purpose other than to show our thanks for their faith in us providing great service to their colleagues and guests.

What if this year you act differently towards your customer base, and show your appreciation in some way throughout the year? How might that separate you from the competition and, more importantly, instill a sense of acknowledgment and gratitude from your customer?

I still fondly remember one experience from many years ago when I was a buyer for a meeting planning company, which involved me seeking out hotels in various cities and countries then negotiating on behalf of our clients.

Unexpectedly I received an email from the head office of this major hotel chain that one of their local 4-star hotels located near my home was going to give me a special experience.

The chef of the hotel reached out and let me know that he would be creating a 5-course meal for me and up to five of my friends in my home. He and the sous chef arrived early and set up in my kitchen. Each of my friends decided to dress up in evening gowns and suits to celebrate this special experience.

It was the most amazing evening. Even though it was many years ago, I still remember that night and am grateful to that hotel chain for providing this special experience, to the point where I continue to refer business to the chain despite no longer being in the hospitality and tourism industry.

Now, some of you might say that you are not permitted to offer any sort of appreciation to your customers, or maybe it might be too expensive to do something.

I know of lawyers for example who are not permitted to offer referral fees to anyone other than other lawyers or paralegals in the same province. However, some lawyers I am associated with have found a creative way to show their appreciation and still be compliant with regulations in their industry, by doing something like a customer appreciation event with food and drink.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of creativity and thinking outside of what everyone else is doing to create something memorable for your customer base.

If you do this successfully, then you have the chance to create ‘raving fans’ for your business. That means that they might mention your business to their family, friends, colleagues, associates or their customers. This could mean added business to you; business that you did not have to spend on things like advertising, sales staff or your own time to obtain.

Make this your chance to show up differently this year to your customers.

Points to Ponder

• Do you have a customer experience journey mapped out that includes showing your appreciation for your customers choosing to work with you and your business?

• With so much competition in the marketplace, no matter what your business or industry, what can you do to be different than your competition in the way you acknowledge your customers?

Perhaps do some research on your best customers and find out more about them such as their favourite drinks, food, sports team, music etc. so that you might be able to customize an experience for them.

Sharon Worsley, The Business Development Ninja™, is the creator of the R7 System™ to Flood Your Business With Clients Today, Tomorrow and Beyond. Sharon also consults and coaches peak performers to excel as leaders. To learn more, contact Sharon at info@sharonworsley.com

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