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The Burger King thing and when it’s not your idea

A franchise, I think, is both big business and small business.  I’ll explain myself in a moment.  According to InvestorWords.com, a franchise is:

  • …A form of business organization in which a firm which already has a successful product or service (the franchisor) enters into a continuing contractual relationship with other businesses (franchisees) operating under the franchisor’s trade name and usually with the franchisor’s guidance, in exchange for a fee ….”

[picapp src=”d/a/2/4/Burger_King_Opens_6099.jpg?adImageId=7533708&imageId=4987767″ width=”234″ height=”148″ /]From the corporation’s point of view, its entire network of franchise locations equates to its big business profile.  From the point of view of an individual franchise holder at a specific location, this is that individual’s small business venture.  So, you could argue that a Burger King franchise is both big and small business.

I was prompted to think more about last week’s business news about the fact that a large percentage of franchise holders for Burger King are going to/thinking about suing Burger King corporate for the  $1 double cheeseburger promotion .  You kind of get the feeling that the marketing folks at corporate thought ‘wow, what a good idea,’ while the individual franchise holders thought ‘hey, nobody asked me!’

I mention this because of what the checkout clerk at my grocery store said in conversation yesterday as I was paying for my groceries.  I’ve been shopping at this store for the past six years so the checkers and I are familiar enough to chitchat as she scans and I bag…seems young people don’t want to get grocery bagger jobs anymore and more often than not I’m bagging my own groceries…I’m not complaining, just pointing it out.

Anyway, the checker mentioned that she had taken her sons with her this past Saturday to one of the Burger King locations in our area-we have two.  Talk about a new fan and potential new customer for this company!  She said she doesn’t usually go to this franchise, but because of the special deal, she thought she’d try it.  And she was pleased!  In her words, [I don’t have a photographic memory, but this is very close]: “This was one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had.” She appreciated the fact of the value and quality versus price.

I’ve written before about what customers want: quality, value and a reason to return.  This unusual promotion by Burger King met, for this customer, these three key things:

  • in her estimation, the double cheeseburger was of high quality
  • and, not only was the quality high, it was an incredible value – she received far more for her money than what she initially expected
  • Burger King gained a new customer, at least in the short run, because she said she plans to return, that she didn’t realize how good the burgers were

So, this promotion, while not popular with the franchise holders, was successful in the mind of one customer.

What I find interesting is that this fast food eatery would use the loss leader of one of its quality menu items.  Grocery stores use this marketing method all the time, but they have thousands of items in the store…a fast food place has few items in comparison.  I love that term loss leader, as it is so descriptive.  It is a consumer item that is sold at a loss with the hopes of leading in new customers/retaining current customers.  But I don’t know of very many small or home-based businesses that can financially afford to use this marketing technique.

It’s kind of fun when the world of business, news headlines and real life all come together at the check-out line at the grocery store.

 

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What do Chevys, Paula Deen and Walmart have in common?

From time-to-time I write about what customers want. I’ve written about the 3 Key Things Customers Want and I’ve written about having enthusiasm for your own product – are you aware that there are small and home-based business owners out there trying to peddle products and/or services about which they are not excited nor passionate?  How can you give a personal testimony about something you don’t like or use yourself?  But I digress.

[picapp src=”3/a/f/c/Salad_with_a_e0d9.jpg?adImageId=7117953&imageId=5067630″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]I’m a customer and today I’m writing about three new-to-me products that I find have – for me – quality, value and give me a reason to go back:

1.  Chevys Fresh Mex restaurant – a new salad, the “Grilled Wedge Salad.”  I couldn’t find a description on the website’s menu so I phoned my town’s location.  The price in my area is $8.99 and if you want chicken with it, it’s one dollar more.  A fellow named Bruce helped me and said this is a special that’s only been out a week or two.  We happened to stop in our Chevys this past Saturday and I was intrigued enough to try it…it was delicious!  I very seldom brag on the products of other businesses unless they happen to greatly impress me.  For whatever reason this salad did…so much so, I went back on Monday and had it again.  I didn’t have chicken with it; rather, I asked for a side of 4 ounces of grilled shrimp.  OMG – it was very good.  The idea seems to be to take two hearts of romaine and lay them on the grill then top them with various condiments and put the whole thing on a light pond of Ranch dressing.  That plus some chips, salsa and iced tea made for a great lunch.

For me this salad met my definition for quality – the salad ingredients were fresh and very tasty; value – what I received for the money I paid was reasonable; and as you can already see, I did return.

2.  Paula Deen 5 qt. Covered Saute – The story here is twofold: (1) I’m of an age that my kitchen cupboards are filled with an archeology lesson’s worth of old pots and pans; and (2) I’ve just re-discovered my love of cooking.  I’ve been cooking since age 8 when I began helping my mom in the kitchen and have gone through periods of both loving and loathing my kitchen.  There have been days when the very thought of having to think up one more menu was more than I could take and I phoned for pizza delivery.  However, something this past year has reawakened my culinary creativeness and I’ve been having rather a lot of fun trying new recipes.  But there is something sad about trying a new recipe using beat-up pitiful pots and pans.

I regularly used this old, dented quite large wok-type pan for just about everything.  But last week I took a good look at it and realized it was probably doing more harm than good to my cooking efforts so off to the store I went to find a replacement.  Because I was also in the market for a new slow cooker – mine went on the fritz and would only cook on high – I went to my local Walmart.  Found the slow cooker I wanted at a good price.  Then I began to peruse the cookware.  I haven’t purchased any new cookware in a great many years.  I may want to get a cast iron fry pan one of these days and Walmart had some already seasoned, but not this visit.  There were several brands of cookware and in prices ranging from the very economical to a range of $30 to $50 per piece.  And then I saw it: a large, covered pan in a really pretty blue color.  The brand was “Paula Deen,” one of the many famous cooks I’ve seen on cookbook covers at the bookstore.  I saw that Walmart offered a selection of single items as well as boxed sets of this brand.  My budget this week only allowed one item so I chose the 5 qt. covered saute in a pretty blue.  I’ve already used it three times since Saturday.  It meets my qualifications for quality and value and I will go back and get more Paula Deen-branded cookware.

I did do some research on the internet about this cookware and the only negative comment I found was someone’s displeasure that the cookware is made in Thailand.  And, yes, right on the cardboard sleeve for the piece I purchased it says: “Manufactured in Thailand for Meyer Corporation One Meyer Plaza, Vallejo, CA 94590.” [Meyer Corp. also manufactures the Rachael Ray brand cookware.] I’m all for things made in the USA, but I also believe we live in a global economy.  One of my next door neighbors was born and raised in Thailand.  She goes back every summer to visit her family and has told me wonderful stories about her country.  Her mother came out one year, she speaks only Thai, but she and I managed to connect over the fact that we’re both grandmothers.  So, I don’t have a problem with the fact that the Paula Deen cookware is manufactured in Thailand.

3.  Puritan brand solid twill shirt –  Coincidentally, my third product of mention that is new-to-me I also found at Walmart.  Funny, my dad used to say “We’re going to The Wahl Mart.”  For dad this was a trip right up there with visiting the tool section at Sears.  I have certain items I purchase at certain places and, like any other consumer, I comparison shop and I look for bargains.

On this particular day I was just wandering around in the store.  I’ve never previously visited the men’s clothing section of Walmart as I purchase my husband’s clothing at other retailers.  But this day I was drawn into the department because I caught a glimpse of a striking color shirt…a deep reddish burgundy.  I like to wear a man’s long-sleeve shirt as a light jacket or overshirt and thought this might be a great color for my own wardrobe if the quality was okay.  I’m not going to disparage Walmart and its brands here, but I don’t go into a discount store expecting high quality in clothing.  Having said that I was very surprised at the quality of this shirt.  The brand is Puritan, which I learned on Wikipedia, is one of the brands that Walmart carries.  The shirt is made of solid [cotton] twill – a heavy-duty fabric that holds up well to wear.  I liked the look of the shirt, it appeared to be well made and came in several colors.  I tried one on and the fit was good for my needs.  I bought two.  That evening I had my husband try on one and he liked it so I returned the next day and bought three more.  This item met my definitions of quality – in manufacture and materials; in value – the shirt was $9 – I almost ignored it because the price was so low; and I had a reason to return – to purchase more.  I’ve already washed these shirts and they came out just fine.

Their purchases notwithstanding, customers want for their money quality, value and a reason to return.  Give your customers those three things…as well as the added value of good customer service and your business will be ahead of the curve.

 

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The value of having a blog on your business website

I think the time has come for home business owners to consider having an internet presence if they don’t already; and at the very least -but most important – should be a webpageSimply put a webpage “…is a document connected to the World Wide Web and viewable by anyone connected to the internet who has a web browser….”

Couldn’t be simpler, right? It’s akin to putting up a roadside sign promoting your business.  In the real world the roadside sign lets people who don’t normally travel in your neighborhood know your business exists.  If the sign is a good one, the sign will tell you what the business’ name is, what the business is about [produce, auto parts, tax preparation], where the business is located [address, phone number],  and when the business is open [times/days of operation].

Your webpage roadside sign can tell passersby the same information plus much more.  It is the signage that introduces your business and it is the front door.  The web traveler who finds your business webpage will be able to see on the “home page” all the pertinent information much as the roadside sign does, but it also invites the person into the business.  Your site could be informational only, such as the example of the company for which my brother works – Delegata, or it can be its own storefront, such as the Oakland Chocolate Company.

I think one good addition to a business webpage is a blog. Again simply put, a blog is an ongoing, chronological conversation between the author and the reader.  Simply put.  So why have a blog on your business webpage?  Some of the value points include:

  • Interaction with customers and prospective customers – if you allow the comments feature on the blog posts, you can get feedback from your readers; be aware some of it might be negative, but all feedback has value.
  • Staying engaged with your business – having a blog on your business website brings you to your site on a regular basis; I think the value to that is (a) it allows you to keep the page(s) updated and (b) lets you see what your customers and readers see…over time you may want to tweak the site for better accessibility – always remember that there is global competition out there.
  • Product info and product/customer stories – you can use your blog to give customers/users helpful information about the products in a fuller way than simple catalog-like listings can give.  You can also relate helpful stories (the positive ones) that customers send you – sometimes a customer comes up with a unique use for a product that is worth sharing.
  • History of your business – people like to know the origins of a business – who started it, why and where; also, perhaps the history of the products or aspects of the products themselves.  Two really good examples of this are an interesting website I found while researching ancient mosaic art, Mosaics in Greece that has a page giving the history of mosaics…it’s short and sweet; and one at the Winsor & Newton website which has quite a bit of historical information.
  • Added value: a blog is a great place to give your customers and prospective customers added value such as: a) ideas for use of products – this could include recipes or hints and tips; b) industry trends and other information.

There is one caution about writing a blog – be careful of making unsubstantiated claims about your products or services.  A silly example: you have a home-based business selling vitamins.  You are an independent distributor and have a webpage to which you added a blog.  In a post you make claims for your vitamins, like they “cure” disease.  Unless you can provide research data and other “official” proof, making this kind of claim can get you in hot water.  My advice is to stick with the warm fuzzies about your products.  Rather than making claims, tell your readers why vitamins are important.  Give your readers information about nutrition and the benefits of taking care of yourself.

If you don’t have a website, you can get one at online sites such as GoDaddy.com – which by the way, has its own blog.  You can design your own site or hire it done.  Learning to blog just takes a bit of work.  One good resource is ProBlogger.com.

A tip: once you get your business webpage established and start your blog, “Twitter” each post…it will drive more traffic to your blog and more people will learn of your business.

 

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Customers want more than products and services

Customers purchase the products we sell.  Customers pay for the services our business provides as a product offering.  For instance, customers of an independent contractor for a cosmetic direct selling company will purchase products: lipsticks, blush, skin creams and other related items in the product line.  In another example, customers of an independent consultant for an insurance direct selling company will purchase both a product (insurance package) and services (ongoing consultation).

Rarely, however, do customers only buy the product or the service.  Customers also want:

  • personal attention
  • ongoing relationship
  • loyalty
  • customer service

One very important way that any business can grow is by increasing its customer base and one way to do that is by customer referral.  A satisfied customer is likely to tell his or her family and friends about:

  1. a great product or service they’ve purchased
  2. the positive purchasing experience they enjoyed
  3. satisfactory follow-up customer service they’ve received

Personal Attention – this is a golden opportunity at the point of sale between the business person and the customer.  At this particular point in time, the customer is very important.  This customer has the potential of representing many more potential customers [those possible referrals].   During this transaction:

  • don’t rush the encounter; if this is a buying situation, take time to make sure the customer has all the information needed to make an informed buying decision: have you made the customer aware of all the color options?  Size options?  Flavors?  Any other information about the product(s) that could influence whether they purchase or not?  If this is a service, such as an insurance consultation, try to have the customer feel as though they are a valued contact and not just another “sale.”  Take time to get to know your customer: what are their goals and objectives for the consultation?  Have you given them enough information for them to receive full benefit from the consultation?
  • be gracious and courteous – this person has value to your business and deserves the niceties of please and thank you and is there any other way I may serve you?  All too often it is easy to forget that as business people we need our customers, they don’t need us…not specifically us unless we are the only business on the planet offering our products or services and even then they could always do without.

Ongoing Relationship – this concept is especially true of people who are independent contractors with direct selling companies…you rely on repeat business – you need your customers to buy-use-buy again your products and services.  This is also true of many professional types of businesses: doctors, lawyers, dentists.  As business owner, you want to develop an ongoing relationship with current customers:

  • check in with your customers at some time-frame after their purchase: (a) to make sure they don’t have any lingering questions; (b) don’t already need to buy more or upgrade or add to/on; (c) to let them know you appreciated their business.
  • if appropriate for your business, send your customer list holiday greeting cards, birthday or anniversary congratulations; also, remind your customers of annual appointments, or tune-ups or upgrades in service.

Loyalty – this is a concept we often think customers ought to have towards our business.  I propose that the opposite is true: we should be loyal to our customers.

  • alert your current customers to new offerings, improved products or services before anyone else will hear the news…give your customers the opportunity to purchase something new and/or improved first…even offer a discount if appropriate.  This will make your customers feel valued.
  • alert your customers to important changes in your business: location, times of available service, new ways of contact – maybe you have a website where they can purchase from your business.  Make sure your customers always have up-do-date and pertinent information regarding your business so they (a) feel as though you find them of value to your business and (b) they have the information they need to keep coming back as customers.  There is nothing worse than finding out that a longtime customer referred your business to a friend only to have the friend not be able to contact you because you neglected to keep the customer informed on a change of phone number, or website address or email address or physical location.

Customer Service – every business of every type and stripe needs excellent customer service protocols.  When a customer has an issue with your products or services they need to be able to get these issues resolved satisfactorily.  That old saw of the customer’s always right is not correct; however, customers deserve:

  • attention to problems with products and services– it’s never fun to have to make an exchange or refund a purchase price, but two things are important to remember: (1) a disgruntled customer will tell others about their dissatisfaction and could lose you both current customers and future customers and (2) your business’ reputation is on the line.  If you offer a refund policy then honor it; if you offer 24-hour service, then abide by it.
  • attention to shipping and delivery issues – make sure your business has a function built-in to deal with shipping and delivery mishaps.  This has to do with good faith.  For those businesses whose products are shipped and delivered by outside vendors, realize that the customer has paid for the products and in good faith expects that you will see they are delivered in a timely and safe manner.  When something goes wrong, offer a replacement.  Not only that, offer the replacement sent 2nd day air.  The point is to keep that good faith with your customer.  Again, its your business’ reputation on the line.

As business owners, we know that our customers are our life blood…without customers to purchase our goods and services we have no business.  Value your customers and see them as part of your family of commerce.

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Twitter’s news brings thoughts of customers

For some reason I can’t quite explain, I find yesterday’s news story about Twitter Inc.’s infusion of money very interesting.  This is a company, an organization, that is only 3 years old…just a toddler in the world of business, but is making headlines around the world.   The news story says, …The investment values the 3-year-old company at $1 billion, even though it has yet to generate any meaningful revenue, let alone profits….” And for some other reason, this made me start thinking of home businesses and customers.

The article says that Twitter right now has “…more than 54 million worldwide users…” which I can attest to…not that I know 54 million people, but of the 700+ followers that I currently have for my Twitter account, there are indeed people from other countries of the world.

I found the news story interesting on two counts:

  • that the company has yet to produce any meaningful revenue, even profit, yet it has millions of users
  • it has millions of users

In the current economic climate, I know of some home businesses [which I mention because this blog concerns itself home-based business] that are not making a profit.  They’ve lost customers because their customers have cut back on spending.  Also, home businesses have people who are “interested” in the products or the opportunity [if it’s a direct selling business the opportunity itself is one of the products]…but right now these are not paying customers.  Kind of like Twitter Inc.’s users...we are not paying customers are we?

If  Twitter is a company, then who are its customers?  Makes you wonder about the definition of customer:

  • someone who purchases a commodity or service

So, if all 54 million of us who tweet [send the 140 characters or less messages] on Twitter are not purchasing its services, then we users aren’t Twitter’s customers –  are we?  Then who is?

A good basic, foundational business question to ask of yourself is just that: who are your customers? Who are the people who will pay money for the goods or services you produce or provide?  It is through the medium of customers that revenue is generated and profit obtained.  You could make an equation:

  • business profitability = products&services x people who buy them

Math is not my long suit but I’m hoping that Twitter Inc.’s owners and stakeholders [those who have a share or interest in an organization] will figure out a way for Twitter to become profitable so that it can pay its employees and keep innovating.

When I was young I never dreamed of something like the internet and I certainly never dreamed of anything like Twitter.  I find it fascinating.  I have a prediction, based on only what I think: should Twitter turn its users into customers, it’ll lose…big time.  Rather it makes sense to me for Twitter to put advertising somewhere in its world.  Facebook does, YouTube does.  Again, both of these social media have users who do not pay for a presence, but do offer users and others ways to advertise their goods and services.  That’s our market system at work.

Here’s a question: Do you use Twitter?  For what?  Social interaction?  Business?  If not, why not?

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You really do have to advertise your business

If you are in business, you have to advertise.  If you hope to make a profit, you have to advertise.  If you want people to know about your business, your product or your service…you have to advertise.

Advertising is letting people know…it’s disseminating information that you think people need in order to:

  • find you or your place of business [whether a physical building or an internet address]
  • know what your business has to offer
  • make an informed decision as to whether to visit or purchase or hire…whatever it is you want customers to do

Advertising has little to no cost and has big costs:

  • word-of-mouth doesn’t cost a penny, but is extremely valuable – you need the goodwill of your current customers with the hope of getting referral customers
  • publicity doesn’t cost more than time, paper and postage: press releases, flyers, car decals, business cards, your business’s web address in your email signature, social networking online
  • ad space is where the money comes in: whether ad space online or in your local newspaper or other types of publications or radio and television

You could do billboards and sidewalk sandwich boards.  You could even hire those folks who’ll put on those costumes and dance on street corners.

Regardless of what your business is, you do have to advertise.  You do need to tell people what your business is all about and why they need your product.  Or service.

If you have a home-based, network marketing business or direct selling business…you do have to advertise.  Whether it’s face-to-face telling folks about your business or putting up ads online using Goggle’s adwords, you have to find a way to drive customers to your door.

So…what part of your current business plan addresses this all-important component?

**here’s my advertisement: for information about a great home-based business visit my website.

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Are you your own best customer?

If you have a business, are involved in commerce in any way, you have customers.  Customers are the people who pay money for the products or services or combination of products and services that your business offers.  For instance:

  • an automobile dealership: your customers are people who (1) purchase/lease cars/trucks from you, and (2) pay for the services that your dealership offers in car maintenance
  • a grocery store: this one is obvious, isn’t it?  Your customers are people who come in to purchase the goods that are for sale within the store
  • a dentist: dentists are businesses also.  Your customers are people who pay to have maintenance on their teeth
  • the lady or gentleman who sells insurance, scrapbooking supplies, juice, cosmetics [and many more products] as independent distributors/contractors/consultants: your customers are people who buy your products and/or services
  • all of the above are themselves customers of the wholesale houses/companies from whom they purchase the goods and services they sell

The question posed today is this: if you have a business — any kind of business of any size — are you committed to it to the degree that you are your own best customer

What is a “best customer?”  Let’s address that question first.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a “best” customer is someone who:

  1. loves your product or service enough to be a repeat purchaser
  2. loves your product or service enough to refer their family and friends to you
  3. loves your product or service enough to look forward to improvements or new additions to your product line or service offerings…your best customer will usually be the first to purchase these

Are you your own best customer?  Do you:

  • use your own product(s)/service(s) on a consistent basis?
  • tell everyone you know about your products/services because you (1) believe they are the finest available and (2) you are genuinely excited about them?
  • brand yourselfwith your business and vice versa?  Does your car have stickers, banners, magnetic signs, window decals?  Do you carry business cards, website?

It is my belief that one of the essential ingredients for success — especially for the independent distributor/contractor or consultant with a home-based business — is to be your own best customer.  If those around you can see your enthusiasm for your product/service, can see that you believe in it enough to use it yourself, then you give credibility to your sales claims.

What is your opinion?

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