How to Turn Yourself Inside Out: Baring your business’ soul

22 09 2011

Turning your internal business message external(This one’s for you, David…)

Every business has a soul. They do.

That soul is a hearty blend of mission, values, standards, practices, policies and the characters of its owners and employees.

The way your company communicates those core truths within the organization is its internal message. And internal messages are a compass and a conscience all rolled into one. When an opportunity or dilemma presents itself, the internal message helps dictate whether and/or how your company acts on it.

Remember the Nordstrom legend about a dissatisfied customer who demanded money back on a pair of snow tires? News flash: Nordstrom does not sell tires. But because of their “customer is always right” internal message, the employee refunded the amount, and Nordstrom went down in history.

And on a recent, Las Vegas business trip, my husband and I struck up a fascinating conversation with one remarkably persistent street vendor. Her company’s internal message was “our customers are only here for a weekend and they’re about to blow all their cash in the casinos… SELL NOW, SELL NOW, SELL NOW!!”

Sharing that internal message “internally” is challenging enough because every staff member has his or her own motivations, expectations and interpretations. But your business has a “significant other” that also wants to know what you’re about. And this group means business… literally. It’s your customers!

So, how do you make your internal message external?

That’s What Marketing is For
Every print ad, billboard, logo, website, Facebook post, brochure, business card, etc. – when designed intelligently – shares some part of your internal message with your customers.

It can be as obvious as stating point-blank, “We treat our customers like family”. Or it can be more of a suggestion, like a story about an employee donating his kidney to a customer in need. Or it can be as subtle as a welcoming color choice in the logo, inclusive wording in your brochure or family photos on your website.

But Beware the “Telephone” Effect
Do you remember the game “Telephone”, where a person whispers a message into their neighbor’s ear, and it continues that way around a circle of people, back to the originator of the message? By the time the message makes it back to square one, it’s diluted to within an inch of its life. In many cases, it doesn’t even have a handshake acquaintance with where it started.

This is the same problem a business owner has to contend with. The first “whisper” is to the staff and marketing, as an internal message. The staff and the marketing pros then pass it on to the customers. And as the customers share it with friends and family, who share it with other friends and family, you exponentially lose control over what that message becomes.

The best way to combat miscommunications is to start out with messages that are so simple and so intuitive, that they’re hard to mess up in the first place!

Frankly, it’s easier to say “DMT Artistry, LLC will always complete your projects on time,” than to hope they’ll remember “DMT Artistry, LLC will work weekends, evenings and holidays, if necessary, to ensure that a client receives their project in the time frame specified on the agreement form, as approved by all parties.”

When the Line Goes Bad
Suppose your message does get warped. The only way you’ll know is by consistent monitoring.

Keep tabs on customer review sites to see what people are saying about your business. Listen to your employees’ conversations with your customers. Read the comments people are posting on your Facebook page. Poll your customers.

The best resolution is prevention, so nip bad or incorrect messages in the bud.

DMT CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK:
Pick a company – yours, if possible. Take a good, hard look at the marketing and the customer experience, and then at the external company reviews. Based on the former, what do you believe makes up that company’s “soul”? Based on the latter, what do other people believe is the “internal message”? Do the two coincide? If not, what could be done to get everyone back on the same page?

This post is a hat tip to my twin brother and professor of entrepreneurship, who recently taught his students about the role of “internal messages”. You’re pretty darn cool, Dave, even beyond your association with me…

Dawn M Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com

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Choking on Butterflies: The pretty v. practical compromise

4 08 2011

Choking on butterfliesI saw someone choke on a butterfly once – my husband, in fact, though we were dating at the time. It was on a mountain biking expedition that this kamikaze Lone Ranger of the insect world fluttered headlong into my husband’s unsuspecting mouth. It wasn’t pretty… for either him or the butterfly, but it sure made for a memorable date!

Businesses choke on butterflies daily. Only their butterflies aren’t winged insects. They’re the fluff and glitter and show that bedazzle their customers into a purchase. They’re the colors, and sounds and snippets of wittiness that draw attention to what you do or sell.

As humans, we’re all susceptible to the influence of beauty, whether that beauty be a gorgeously arranged display, a stunning store model, a picturesque shop location or a brilliantly designed ad. And, visual beings that we are, this facet of marketing is critical.

Where problems arise is when a business focuses too much on its “butterflies”, and not enough on its content. No matter how flashy your marketing may be or how exquisitely your store may be laid out, if there’s no substance to your offers or no real purpose behind its presentation, there’s nothing to keep your customers coming back. And at that point, you’d better be prepared with the Heimlich maneuver, because your business will be choking on butterflies.

DMT Challenge of the Week
Take a look at the layout of your store and your marketing materials and techniques. How much of it is pure show, and how much has a practical foundation for the betterment of your business? How much actually gets across your company mission?

Be ruthless. Cut the fluff. And remember, more customers isn’t necessarily better. Your time and your resources should be dedicated to the visuals and activities that bring you the RIGHT KIND of customers for repeat business.

DMT Artistry gets to the heart of your message, so that your marketing is both visually stimulating and purposeful. Call us to learn more!

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com





Everyone’s a Band Geek… Everyone

20 07 2011

Band GeekI’m not 100% certain why “band geeks” represent the pinnacle of societal dorkdom, unless it’s simply that the sounds they create draw extra attention, but there you have it: band geeks.

I was a band geek. Six years of clarinet placed me squarely in that category. I geeked out over thicknesses of woodwind reeds, marching band choreography, and degree of air flow.

Being a band geek meant that you talked music lingo, hung with fellow “beeks”, fell into micro-cultures and inner cliques (because heaven forbid a sax player should roll with the trumpets, though the trumpet section always wound up dating the flutists… go figure) and generally became recognized as one of THOSE kids.

That last one, by the way, was the holy grail of band geeking. You didn’t belong until everyone else recognized you as such. This is a critical point to remember as you read on.

Sheer Geekery – We’re Surrounded!

EVERYONE is a “band geek” of one form or another.

I came to this particularly unusual theory on a particularly amusing bicycle ride, where the conversation turned to gear ratios, limit screws, cadence and racing tires. No average person, I realized, would have understood even a twelfth of that conversation.

But then, neither would they have understood the horsey chit-chat of my fellow equestrians, the techno-banter of my fellow designers, the title-packed talk of my fellow bookworms, the race chatter of my fellow runners…

Think about it. There are football geeks, grammar geeks, airplane geeks, art geeks, gardening geeks, church geeks and coupon geeks. And you’ve certainly met grill geeks, and goth geeks, and history geeks, and fashion geeks, and movie geeks, and EVERYONE knows at least one Dungeons & Dragons geek. There’s a “geek” title to crown every interest in existence.

Why? Because “geek” is really just another name for “person with a passion”. And that describes us all.

Geeking Out Over the Goods – Why People Buy

Let me ask you a question: Why does a customer who goes into their local sporting goods store for a pack of fish hooks walk out with the new Sonar-Activated, Quasi-Techline Rod Master 2000?

Because when he walked in, he found himself in the middle of a heated who-has-the-coolest-fishing-gear debate. And he added his two cents, and was validated by one or more participant. And he felt like a part of something – like he belonged – and it fed his enthusiasm. And a simple hook purchase turned into a back-slapping, you’re-gonna-love-it, cool-by-association rod purchase. And he drove home in a cloud of euphorically geeked up self esteem.

Don’t underestimate the power of that desire. It can be one of the most powerful reasons people buy.

But don’t take advantage of it either. A customer who’s been wrongly jockeyed into a purchase will eventually feel used and cheated. An embarrassed customer is not a repeat customer.

Moral of the Story – It’s All Geek to Me

Business owners, embrace your inner band geek. There’s a market for what you sell, and a gaggle of geeks for every market. Bring your passion into play, and you’ll draw those people who will best appreciate what you have to offer.

“Mr. Worf, scan that ship.” … “Aye, Captain. 300 dpi?”  ~ Anonymous (Star Trek + graphic design humor… gotta love it!)

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com





Giving Up Your First Born to the Unappreciative: A Business Truth

11 05 2011

Letting go of your "baby"As a parent, there is no one prouder of your children than yourself. And as a business owner, there is no one prouder of your product or service than yourself.

This is as it should be. Properly placed pride makes the business world go ’round. We’ve all experienced a staff that takes no pride in what they do or sell. It’s a first rate disaster.

However, being proud of what we offer puts us in the uncomfortable position of taking every “no thanks”, “not interested” and “meh, it’s ok” to heart. Our work is a labor of love – or a labor of determination, anyway. It is, in essence, our “child”. We’ve put so much of our time, energy and selves into our businesses that a negative response is bound to feel like a personal affront.

Artist types are best known for “this-work-is-my-baby!” syndrome, but don’t be deceived. A car salesman is just as likely to take rejection personally as a composer; a heart surgeon as a graphic designer; a plumber as a culinary genius.

Stop and ask yourself if YOU have ever been taken aback by a dismissal of something you are particularly proud of. If you haven’t, check your body for a door to a microchip processor.

Heaps of horrendous feedback probably means something’s amiss, but the occasional lackluster response is something else entirely.

Since we, as business owners, can’t afford to be derailed every time negativity mows down our tracks, here’s how to keep yourself operating strong under less-than-optimal feedback:

Pre-Approval
When possible, before you even put your product on display or show your client your handiwork, get some honest feedback from a person whose opinion you respect and trust. If there’s something negative to be said, better to hear it from them first, and have the opportunity to make a change!

And if it’s really stellar work – and your client is simply not the appreciative type – you’ll have already received your accolades, which will make letting go that much easier.

Past Successes
It’s a brilliant idea to regularly review your past successes and favorite client testimonials. This helps you remember why you and your business are a success, and puts the occasional poker-faced client in proper perspective.

This isn’t vanity. It’s affirmations. You have succeeded before. You are succeeding now. You will succeed again, with or without that particular client’s rave review.

Exercise first
A little exercise goes a long way toward mellowing your internal and external response to negativity. If you can’t throw a couple stair climbs in before giving up your work to an unappreciative audience, go immediately after.

Be a Success
The more sales you make, the less wrenching it is to lose one to a half-hearted buyer.

Bear in mind, there will always be a little tug on the heartstrings every time you let a “child” go to an unappreciative home but, of course, business is business. Realize that they are showing their appreciation simply by choosing YOU.

The parent of more brainchildren than the old woman who lived in the shoe:

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry, LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com





Handling “NO” Like a Salsa Dancer: The Selling Samba

9 03 2011

"NO" can become "YES". It's all in the sales dance!“Momma, can I have candy?”

“NO.”

“Teacher, may I go to the bathroom?”

“NO.”

“Mr. Executive, may I interest you in my widget?”

“NO.”

“NO” is not a fun word to hear, particularly when it’s issuing forth from the mouth of a potential client.

But “NO” doesn’t always mean “the end of the line.” In fact, “NO” is sometimes followed by the distant creak of a window of opportunity being thrown open. It’s all in how you handle it. Let me explain what I mean… using dance, of all things, as a metaphor.

Ages ago, I signed on for swing dance lessons. It was fast and furious, packed with high-speed twirls and plenty of swinging. Some salespeople are like that. When they get a “no,” they lead their listener a merry jig in an effort to sway their choice. “But what about… ?” “And how about… ?” “Have you considered… ?” Rapid fire questions and topic changes, rather than confounding consumers into an opposite decision, will just confound them, period. And a confused potential client is not likely to become the next devoted purchaser of your product or service.

A few years later, I picked up the line dance bug. Stomping and kicking was uncommonly satisfying. But for the purposes of this article, it’s also reminiscent of the tantrum version of handling “NO”. You know the sort of salesperson I mean – the one who handles rejection with the maturity of an angry two-year-old. Kiss your future business goodbye.

At the occasional wedding, you’ll see me flailing away to rock-n-roll rhythms. It isn’t usually a pretty sight, but that’s the beauty of free form; you don’t have to be good. This puts me in mind of the out-of-control sales technique that not only dislikes “NO”, but completely disregards it. Heavy metal sales folk steamroll over objections as though they never existed. They are the most likely candidates for security escort out of the building.

And then there’s ballet. I never had any interest in becoming a ballerina. Short legs, and all that. Still, it’s remarkable to watch. They float around like feathers – graceful, gentle. I actually used to be this salesperson, handling “NO”s softly and lightly. But like a feather brushed off a piece of clothing, balletic salespeople are too easily forgotten. Their company becomes white noise as a result, and won’t even be on the radar for future business.

But salsa… now there’s a sales dance you can sink your teeth into! It’s highly interactive – a little give and a little take. It engages both parties, and taps into two of the strongest selling tools out there: emotion and imagination. A salsa salesperson accepts “NO” with grace and style, but then tantalizes with just the right amount of intrigue (“hmmm… maybe that widget really COULD come in handy”) to leave the door open for future business. Memorable as they are, this will be the company that wins future business from their listener and will be highly recommended to friends and associates.

Which steps have you been dancing on the sales floor? Has it worked for you? If not, it could be time to learn some Salsa-style selling!

If you enjoy my articles, please let me know! A quick comment or feedback is always welcome, and I encourage you to share this article with someone you think might also enjoy it. Thank you for your readership!

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry, LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com