Mentors, coaches and the like are not really that easy to come by – at least, the ones that you like and trust and can build a lasting rapport with even when, or especially when, you’re paying them to be an advisor.
I’ve spent the past few months mulling over a business problem, spinning it around in my mind like a Rubik’s cube, trying to solve the riddle with very little success. Each time I thought I was close to the answer it receded like a mirage in the shimmering desert. Yet all the while I was plagued by a persistent knowledge that the solution was simple and it was right there within my grasp. How annoying is that? Well, if you’ve never experienced anything like it, it’s maddeningly so. If you have, then you know precisely what I’m talking about.
As a business consultant I am rarely at a loss about what to do when it comes to my clients’ or other people’s business issues, always ready with solutions and helpful suggestions and advice. When those issues relate to my own business, however, all of a sudden I’ve got a great big blind spot; it’s like I’m a juggler learning to perform with one hand tied behind my back and the other pinned at my side—in other words, it’s a challenge.
Now, there’s no shame in admitting you need professional help—I wouldn’t have a business if that weren’t true—and most service professionals of one kind or another seek out mentors, coaches, advisors, therapists and so on from which to gain greater insight into their profession, hone their craft, if you will, and continue to advance and deepen their expertise. But mentors, coaches and the like are not really that easy to come by – at least, the ones that you like and trust and can build a lasting rapport with even when, or especially when, you’re paying them to be an advisor to you or your business. Again, I should know.
As an expert it’s also important to continually monitor the field, stay up-to-date, and know what other experts are doing, so with both the desire to find a qualified advisor and check out the competition I began attending quite a number of free business coaching or strategy sessions either via teleseminar or webinar over the past several weeks. In short, I was on a hunt to find the needle in the haystack, the prince among frogs.
What I found and learned was this:
What do you think? Have you found free teleseminars and/or webinars a useful tool in solving your business or career issues? I'd love to know how your experience compares to mine, so get in touch.
Setting up a mechanism for consistent feedback from your customers is a critical element of sustainable success.
It’s definitely the time of year to be reflective and contemplate what you could have done differently, should be doing better, and would like to be doing hereafter. In the spirit of such soul-searching times, I thought I would relate a recent experience I had with a prospective client whose success relies on repeat and referral business.
During the course of our conversation about how to increase sales, I suggested that Bob (not his real name) could build his business by implementing a follow-up survey of no more than 5 questions delivered electronically to customers shortly after their experience in his shop. Bob thought that would be a huge imposition to his customers. I suggested he ask his customers at the point of sale if they would be willing to participate, assuring them that the survey was very short. Again, he rebuffed my suggestion, believing his customers would never go for it.
Finally, I asked Bob if he felt it was an imposition whenever he was asked for feedback as a customer. He thought about this and said, “If I don’t care about the company, then yeah, I guess, I don’t really want to be bothered filling out a survey.” “So,” I said, “is this how you think your customers feel about you and your business?” I knew the wheels were turning then, and why Bob was so resistant to the idea of asking customers for feedback wasn’t about his customers’ feelings, but his own fear. And, I think he realized it, too.
What if the worst thing happened and none of his customers was willing to participate? Or, what if he got negative comments back? Either way, his customers would be telling him something he really needs to know, and that’s the key—knowledge. If you don’t know what’s preventing your customers from doing more business with you, how can you overcome it? Like any one will tell you, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one and this is no different in business.
Setting up a mechanism for consistent feedback from your customers is a critical element of sustainable success. The trick is in asking the right questions in the right way via the best system for your customers and your business.
For more information or to determine the feedback mechanisms and processes that are right for you and your customers, contact me today.
Is Pinterest worth your time and attention? The short answer—it depends.
A client recently asked me about Pinterest; someone had suggested she should use it to build her business and she didn't know anything about it. Now, if you're in technology, consulting, marketing or something related, you may be shocked she'd never heard of the latest online success story. But, if like me, you're used to dealing with small business owners, or professionals who exist almost entirely outside of these fields or who don't have a lot of free time to surf the web, then hopefully this won't surprise you in the least.
As for my client, she's got her hands full servicing her own clients and managing her existing business development and marketing avenues. So I don't blame her one bit for not keeping current with the latest "greatest" whiz-bang online I'm-not-sure-what-it's-for-but-everybody-should-be-using-it tool in the hopes that maybe it'll pull eyeballs to her website or blog or Facebook page or motivate enough of the right kinds of people to engage with her in some form of social media so that, fingers crossed, at some point, when they trust her, they'll feel safe enough to want to meet her in person and then, perhaps, buy something from her.
Hey, I barely had the patience to write that paragraph, so, no, I don't blame my client at all—it's why I skipped Pinterest myself, and a whole host of other "fad" media channels, when it first began to register all those many months ago. But, my client's business is lifestyle-related and one that could actually benefit from putting her design aesthetic, personal style and personality on display in a social media forum; so Pinterest is a good option for her.
Because of my client's interest I set up an account so that I could understand how Pinterest works and evaluate how well it suits different types of business needs.
I started by selecting a pre-set category--Books Worth Reading—for which I figured it would be fairly easy for me to add a few pins. It wasn't hard to accumulate a handful of covers of books from my favorite poets and all time favorite novels I'd read and would recommend to just about anyone. Okay, but that's an easy category for someone with an MFA in Writing. And truth be told, I'd already spent more time on Pinterest than I'd planned and only had one board with a handful of pins—this is something I like to call "the rabbit hole effect," which you may know better as "the time suck" of many social sites.
The next thing I did was create my own category, one related to my business, which I called Customer Experience. Here I must confess I ran into what I consider a bigger dark side of Pinterest from a business perspective. I entered a series of search terms, including "customer experience," "customer strategy," and "customer education." What I felt in response to what appeared on my laptop screen each time, well, I'm not sure there's a word for it—or, more precisely, one word for it. I was left glassy-eyed, dizzy and with a kind of gnawing sense of despair. One thing was for sure; I wasn't going to put any of those search terms into Pinterest again. Now, of course, I can add wonderful visuals that I find online to my board to represent any and all of those terms and to augment the dearth that exists currently on Pinterest, but I don't usually find a lot of those, which is probably why there aren't any (or many) on Pinterest either.
And there’s the rub. The stuff that I would love to find on Pinterest isn’t there, like great visuals expressing or explaining the customer experience, which I know exist because I’ve seen them.
So, is Pinterest worth your time and attention? The short answer—it depends. If, like my client, your business or career is highly dependent on your sense of style or design, or it's easy to transmit your message through pictures, then, yes, check it out and start showcasing who you are. If, like me, it's kind of tough to represent your value in visuals, then you may want to pass it by in favor of more useful communication tools.
If you're using Pinterest as a business development tool and experiencing success, I'd love to hear about it—feel free to contact me.