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If your business disappeared tomorrow…

If your business disappeared tomorrow…

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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