This is a true story given to me by Les Philips of Index Wealth Management. Thank you Les, much appreciated.
A few years ago Les had two Italian brothers as clients who lived in St Helens, Lancashire and were owner-managers of a very small carpet shop. In the town there were the usual ”big boys” offering discounts and ultimately trying to drive the independents out.
These two brothers had a very loyal customer base, got most of their business through recommendations, received a good deal of repeat business and were easily able to resist the onslaught of their more powerful competitors. In short: they did extremely well for themselves.
Les enquired as to how they had achieved such success in a highly competitive area and their answer was amazing. It turned out they had a very simple way of differentiating themselves from the competition which was also a highly effective and yet very low-cost marketing engine.
Every time they supplied and fitted a carpet, and without additional cost, they would remove all the doors adjoining the carpet, shave the appropriate amount off the door’s, re-hang them and then vacuum up. Then they would return to their shop and handwrite a thank you letter to the customer, thanking them for their business and hoping that they were satisfied with the care, product and service.
They also explained that as a small business they valued their custom very much and stated that referrals were their lifeblood, and if satisfied would they mind telling other people.
There is an old saying that as an entrepreneur you must expect nothing until you’ve created value for others. These guys lived a fantastic life by doing just that!
We once stayed at the Forte Hotel in Florence. A great hotel in every way: service, position and overall quality were all excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. As usual I had taken a book to read, as I recall it was on the Medici family who ruled Florence for many generations – now they really knew how to run a business!
Anyhow, I started to read it on the first night but was very tired and only managed a few pages before folding over the corner of the page (hope my mother never reads this – shame on me) to mark my position.
We spent the next day trudging round the sights of that most beautiful and majestic city before returning to the hotel thoroughly exhausted. When we entered the room the maid had clearly been in and the place was perfect but something struck me as odd about my book. Upon closer inspection I noticed that she had folded the page back and instead marked my position with a beautiful leather Forte Hotels book mark.
A small thing really but what message does it convey about Forte Hotels?: thoughtful, observant, proactive, attentive, well trained and customer focused. Powerful stuff when you come to think about it.
Sometimes the small things can communicate much more about you and your organisation than the big things and in many cases, just like the book mark, at a negligible cost.
Quite often I am asked by young lawyers or accountants or other professionals how they can stand out from their competitors for business development purposes. They seem to think it is next to impossible to achieve this but I take a different view.
Let me introduce you to Ben who works for my company. He is a good analyst programmer but then we employ lots of good analyst programmers. He specialises in CRM but he isn’t the only one who has a niche subject in our firm. If you meet him he is a very friendly and normal person but what makes Ben stand out is he writes a blog on CRM which gets over 200 hits a day. Within his world is very well known and respected. Behold the power of blogging!
When I mention blogs as a way of standing out from the crowd and making business development easier I tend to get the same two objections: no time and not enough material. I hold no truck with either answer I’m afraid.
Time: This blog entry was triggered by an email I received from Ben on Friday. On the way home I began to think about what his blog had done for him and by the time I arrived home this entry had pretty much formed itself. It then took me about 20 minutes to write it down and another 10 minutes to knock up the graphics. Done!
To start with if you committed half an hour a week to produce one blog entry and dispensed with any graphics and pictures you could officially claim to be an active blogger. Welcome to the frontier world of social media.
Subject matter: I think when you enter into the spirit of blogging the problem is that you will find too many subjects to write about not too few. Take a look at the diagram below.
Starting with your area of specialisation – tons of material there. What developments and news are taking place in your sector; what books and papers could you review; what new ideas (some of which can be yours) are beginning to emerge. Really the list is endless so don’t give me the old “I’m not sure what I’d write about” excuse.
For a small investment of time every month you can raise your profile and become a recognised voice in your particular niche. Not only that but Blogging is a very useful aid in business development. No better way to establish your credentials than by pointing a prospect towards one of your blog entries on a subject that they have shown interest.
So come on. Build your brand and strengthen your business development armoury: start blogging today. You know it makes sense!