Improve Your Business With Your Most Valuable Resource

We have connections all around us.

Do you value each and every one?

Recently I had a terrible customer service (hell, loyalty) experience at a local coffee shop I frequent. Insulted and offended by the owner after asking to reboot their wifi router. This is a common occurrence that a regular like myself, who spends $1k+ annually, would be happy to help fix. Instead, arrogance and ignorance prevailed with him that day and he’s lost my business.

Of course this incident motivated me to write a piece on customer service. Valuing your new customers and especially the repeats and regulars that you can count on.

But with so much competition these days, should we be valuing more than just the folks that have bought something from us?

I say we should value everyone that connects with us in some form or fashion.

Who Are Our connections?

Let’s take a moment to define who our connections are, what their value is, and how we can actually value them:

1. Friends and Family

Do not forget about them. They were the first people we connected with when we started our new business, career, or looked to for support for our cause.

The value of friends and family: There’s an old car sales adage that goes “If you can’t sell to your family, who can you sell too? Very true. But why is that? Because friends and family should give you the time to listen. In most cases, that’s what you need to get your point across.

How to value: Don’t waste their time! Chances are they will stick around for you no matter what.

2. Customers new and old

The bloodline of what we do. Without them, there’s no business. Cherish them, grow with them, and listen to them. They are flying at the 20k foot view of your business. I feel your customer base is one of your most important barometers aside from your own instinct.

The value of customers new and old: Again, Business 101. Your bread and butter. Your life stream.

How to value: Exceptional customer service. Quality product or service. Stay connected. Always be satisfying.

3. Potential customers or leads

Just because they came knocking and didn’t purchase is not cause to discount them. I follow up with a lot of my leads and check in on their projects from time to time. Maybe I can introduce them to another service or maybe they will refer someone else to me. Never give up hope on your leads.

The value of potential customers and leads: Of course there’s that immediate dollar value you can pin on them. However, if you’re a multi service/product business, what’s the value in a lifetime lead? Can you sell them something later? Help them out when they are stuck?

How to value: Have a clear and polite dialogue. If they don’t buy from you, keep them in your pool. Check in from time to time and see how they are doing. Offer guidance or help.

4. Fans, followers, and +1’ers

Arguably one of the most important of your demographics for the last few years. These are the folks that are allowing you into their daily stream and can repay you in many valuable ways. Leaving feedback, commenting on your updates, sharing links, and participating in voting polls are ways you can benefit without a dollar passing between the two of you.

The value of your Social Network: These are the folks cheering you on. +1’ing and Liking you until the cows come home. They could buy from you, help you out, spread your word, and provide feedback. They don’t call them fans for nothing!

How to value: Engage with your audience. Be proactive, reactive, and real-time. Provide great content. They are spending the time to connect with you, make it worth their while.

5. Window shoppers and browsers

Just passing? Poking around? Don’t short them on the chance to connect with you. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward on your website, your social media message, or even the appearance of your brick and mortar store. More business 101 I know – but after a day like today, I think some business owners still need a fresh reminder.

The value of window shoppers and browsers: Not quite ready to engage in a sales dialogue or become a fan just yet. They could go either way, so treat them right.

How to value: Your mission statement is defined. You know what you’re doing. Your “links” are in the right place.

6. The “Lost” customer

Here’s your opportunity to shine. To effect change in a problem. To be the bigger person and rectify what went wrong. 9 times out of 10 people spread the bad news. Ride it if you must, but always be satisfying.

The value of  the “Lost” customer: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Any news is good news. Even when it’s bad. Until it anchors you to the ocean floor in Yelp reviews.

How to value: Step up. Fix what’s wrong. Use it as a platform for change. Damage control and regroup.

It’s up to you

It’s really up to you (us) to keep these firing on all cylinders.

You probably can’t keep up with all your connections everyday, but try what works. Many businesses are built on referrals alone, so you never want to drop your guard and lose one for good.

In the social media world and blogging world, it’s great to build a calendar on when to create content. You could build a second calendar for connection round-ups. Schedule a block out of a particular day for a targeted connection group and reconnect with them.

You may already have identified your connection pool and know the dollar value behind each already. Don’t get stuck catering to just one because it’s more profitable.

Markets shift, you could find yourself needing that strong Social Media connection one day.

What does value mean to you?

Bring in the subjective police. Each business may react differently depending on what you’re doing. I just outlined some really macro level examples. If you’re a mom and pop or small business startup – they should be great fundamentals for you.

The pieces of this puzzle might not fit for you personal branders or internet based businesses out there, but I hope some of it helps.

I’m interested in knowing if these connection types pass the same value to you as they do to me. Do you have a different type of connection? Possibly a different kind of value for one I mentioned?

Remember, you know a lot about success.

[Image hosted on Flickr]

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