Advertising
Advertising

If your business disappeared tomorrow…

If your business disappeared tomorrow…

20090308-disappeared-business

    If your business disappeared tomorrow, would anybody miss you?

    No one wants to close their doors. But let’s imagine the unthinkable: how would your customers respond if you did have to close up shop? Imagine two scenarios…

    Scenario one: you disappear and no one notices… That would be a disaster, but what would it tell you? Maybe it tells you that whatever needs your service or product fulfilled, a competitor was able to replace. What you had to offer was a commodity, and all commodities are replaceable.

    Scenario two: you close your doors and your customers wander around dazed and confused; they can’t imagine life without you. That would be remarkable, but again, what does this scenario tell you? It tells you that no one else could meet your customers’ needs the way you did. Whatever you had to offer was not a commodity.

    Advertising

    We all want to survive and we all want to thrive. But how cool would it be if your customers needed you to survive even more than you did? What would you be prepared to do to be that irreplaceable?

    Any commodity you sell can be replaced, often more cheaply, by someone else. People selling commodities are always looking over their shoulders. So what is not a commodity? What can you offer your customers that can’t be replaced? The answer is: a relationship.

    A relationship is the opposite of a commodity.

    Relationships are as unique as snowflakes. No two customers, no two businesses, and therefore no two relationships, are exactly the same. They cannot be reproduced – not more quickly, not more cheaply. Not at all. And what cannot be reproduced cannot be competed against. A relationship is the ultimate ‘unique competitive advantage’.

    How do we create a unique relationship with our customers? You can start by answering some key questions.

    Advertising

    1. Who are your customers? Do you really know them? What do they want, what do they hate, what will they splurge on and what do they buy in bulk, where do they live, what excites them, what are their values?
    2. Do you know what your customers value your business for? What brings them through your door? What do you have that they want? What do you offer that makes them choose you over your competitors?
    3. What are your customers’ triggers? What ‘language’ do they speak? What gesture can you make that would make your customers feel like you ‘get them’? What can you bring to the relationship that will make them feel like they are truly important when you do business with them? What words and images speak to your customers?

    Answer these questions with confidence and accuracy and you will already be huge strides ahead of others in your market.

    Remember, the answers shouldn’t be about a product or service! If the only thing that you know about your customers is what your in-store stats tell you, or that your customers value your business for great parking, or that their trigger is a loss leader sale on detergents, you need to ask better questions. Without better answers, your business will still be about commodities. 2-for-1 pricing is not the basis of a great relationship.

    When you can paint a picture of your customer, yourself, and your relationship, in sharp colours, then you have the most important part of creating the customer experience we are after. You are then ready to ensure that your customers have a relationship-based experience every time they do business with you.

    There are many ways you can create unique relationships with your customers. Here are a few suggestions:

    Treat your customers as individuals with names. Who doesn’t like to go into a shop to be greeted by name and to be asked if you’ll have ‘your usual’? Make it a practice to have a conversation with every customer who comes through the door. Exchange names if it is appropriate. Keep a few notes of key conversations, likes and dislikes. Share information about key customers at staff meetings.

    Advertising

    Make your customers feel like they are on the inside. Everyone loves to feel like they are part of an ‘inner circle’. Give your customer insider tips on your industry. Give away trade ‘secrets’ for free; not big ones, not all of them, but enough to let them know that you are on their side.

    Educate. Take the time to provide ‘rich’ information to your customers. Keep them informed about new developments in your industry, and about trends that are affecting the products and services they are buying. Everyone loves being ‘in the know’ and these days, particularly younger consumers, are educated and looking for the ‘back story’ on what they are getting.

    Show your customers they matter more than their money. How did Radiohead and Trent Reznor make a fortune giving away music for free? They understood that relationships with their fans matter more than their money. And their fans reward them royally. You don’t have to give your business away, but you can find ways to go that extra mile without charging for it.

    Get out there. Still on the ‘matter more than money’ theme, though on a larger scale, this is about community service initiatives. Become more than a business, become an active member of your community. Like any great relationship, you get back what you put in.

    Give your customers something to talk about. Do something remarkable for them. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, it doesn’t have to be every time, but it has to be remarkable enough that it makes people talk about you. A little gift, a special delivery, a few more minutes of your time… Whatever it is, be consistently remarkable, and people will talk.

    Advertising

    And most important of all…
    Talk with your customers. There is no substitute for conversation to build a relationship. No survey, no marketing report, can take the place of a conversation. Never miss an opportunity to give customers a chance to talk about themselves, and about the things that have brought them into your business. Ask questions. And when they talk, listen. Really listen. You are listening for two things in particular: anything that gives you more information about who your customers are, and anything that tells you why they are with you now. These two pieces of information are critical, because with them you can continue to feed the ‘great experience’ positive feedback loop. If you know intimately who your customer is, and why they come to you, you are more able to tailor their experience of your business to their needs and triggers.

    The more you can do to build relationships with your customers, the more they will come to feel that you understand them and their needs. You will have crossed that magical threshold where your customers come to you for a relationship and an experience, not for a commodity. They do business with you because they want that experience, and they value your relationship. And that cannot be reproduced.

    If you were to close your doors after developing relationships based on these suggestions, you would be missed indeed. But even better, you will have the customer loyalty that ensures you will never have to close your doors!

    More by this author

    The One Thing You Need to Close the Deal on Change If your business disappeared tomorrow… You Want Engagement? Then Start Being Clear! Are you Satisfied? Searching for a Shared Virtual Workspace?

    Trending in Work

    1 How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work 2 20 Critical Skills to Include on Your Resume (For All Types of Jobs) 3 The Best Interview Questions to Hire Only the Elites 4 How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed 5 15 Smart Ways to Approach Interpersonal Relationships at Work

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

    You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

    Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

    “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

    It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

    Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

    As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

    As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

    Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

    Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

    1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

    When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

    Advertising

    Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

    2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

    Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

    But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

    If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

    Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

    3. Go to All Office Networking Events

    Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

    If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

    Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

    Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

    The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

    Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

    Advertising

    4. Show Initiative

    Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

    Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

    Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

    5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

    Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

    Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

    6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

    A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

    Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

    Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

    A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

    Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

    Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

    Advertising

    These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

    Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

    7. Find a Mentor

    With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

    Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

    Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

    Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

    8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

    After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

    What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

    Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

    Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

    Advertising

    You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

    9. Set Your Professional Bar High

    Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

    Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

    Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

    Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

    The Bottom Line

    Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

    “Half of life is showing up.”

    The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

    Remember, your career is your business!

    More About Continuous Growth

    Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

    Read Next