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Duane Bailey is a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller® online conversation. He has helped organizations of all sizes drive growth in revenues and market share through the development and delivery of key business messages that resonate with target audiences. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BS in Marketing. He brings 28 years of experience in marketing communications and high technology sales.
My oldest son graduated from Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia the other day. For many of his classmates, it was an occasion marked by feelings of intense pride, quiet anticipation and hope. So it was fitting to mark the end of their high school years and the beginning of the rest of their young lives with a commencement address by Class of 2000 Oakton High School alumnus and entrepreneur Adam “Ace” Moyer, Founder and CEO of Knockaround™.
Ace’s message to the graduates was simple. If you have an idea, follow your dreams. No experience is necessary. With the support and encouragement of family and friends, you’ll figure it out. Sure, the good will come with the bad and there may be times when difficult decisions have to be made. In the end, he told the graduating class of 2013, don’t be afraid to take risks. It will be worth it.
For Ace, his company started in 2005 with the idea of providing customers with classically styled sunglasses in many colors at an affordable price. Knockaround™ sunglasses were designed to take abuse and, as the thinking went, the people who owned them wouldn't mind abusing them because they didn’t cost much in the first place. That idea has since grown to include new models and color choices, limited edition and custom-designed sunglasses, apparel and accessories.
So follow your dreams and, as they say at Knockaround™, “keep looking on the bright side.”
In an instant, I can always tell what my experience is going to be with a brand, company or organization I am interacting with for the first time. In most cases, I can see it. Where I cannot see it, I can hear it. And regardless of whether I can see or hear it, I can almost always feel it. In a word, it’s a smile.
A smile is contagious. It starts with your employees and how they greet one another at the beginning of their work day. It extends to how they greet your customers at every touch point in their experience with your brand, company or organization. You don’t need a magnifying glass to observe it. And you won’t see it measured on any report. You will, however, know it when you see it.
So the next time someone asks you to look into improving your customer experience, start where it matters…at the beginning. How are your employees greeting one another? How often do they smile when they are at work? Can you see the smiles on their faces? Or hear them in their voices? Or feel them by their presence?
Remember, all great customer experiences begin with a smile.
I read an article by best-selling author and syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay (“Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive”) in the Washington Business Journal the other day where he cited research that shows “buyers are not reaching out to contact salespeople and sales organizations until they’re 60-70 percent along in the decision process.”
The simple truth is customers are doing their homework. They are going online and researching the answers to their needs and problems. They are forming opinions on who they think can best help them. Then they are reaching out to sellers for the one thing they cannot get online – a better price.
This is where the value of preparation comes into play. In today’s selling environment, salespeople need to provide value by telling buyers something they don’t already know…answers to questions like:
• What makes you and your products different?
• How can you and your products help me?
• How do you know you can help me?
The sellers who can answer these questions with thoughtful and relevant responses are the ones who are most likely to make the sale, often commanding a price premium even in today’s market. Those who cannot are the ones who will most often find themselves responding to RFPs, attempting to sell highly commoditized products at the lowest price.
In a few weeks, I will attend my 30th college reunion at Fairfield University. It’s hard to believe so many years have gone by since I received my undergraduate degree in Marketing and said goodbye to the place that had been home for four great years.
As I scanned photos of this year’s commencement activities on the University’s Facebook and Instagram pages the other day, it was easy to take myself back in time. I remember thinking on graduation day I had made it. I did it. I had become one of my family's first-generation college graduates. I had no idea what the future would hold. All I had at that point were fond memories, lessons learned from my undergraduate studies and the promise of an uncertain future.
Thirty years later, the feeling I had on graduation day remains with me. I did it. Along with my wife, I have since raised a family, earned an MBA, built two successful careers in business, given back to my community in countless ways and have reconnected to many of my college friends and the place I once called home.
I’ve applied many of the lessons I learned at Fairfield over the last thirty years. Of these, I think the most important is this – in everything you do, always remember to make it about “them.” The people who tend to be the most successful in life are the best listeners. They are sincere, open, honest and responsive to others. They are team players and treat others the way they would like to be treated. They respect the people in their lives and spend time getting to know, understand and appreciate them.
As I look back now and think about it, this is probably the one big lesson the Jesuit Fathers and my other college professors hoped I would take away from my undergraduate experience. You see, making it about “them” is not only the foundation of great marketing, it’s a big part of the Jesuit commitment to service and social justice.
If the measure of one’s commitment to protecting the environment is the number of cars taken off the road as a direct result of an action, this year’s record-breaking turnout of participants in the Washington, D.C. region’s Bike to Work Day is tangible proof of the region’s growing concern for the environment. On a recent Spring day in mid-May, over 14,500 registered riders made a difference by taking their cars off the road for at least one day.
Of course, like so many other causes, events like this would not be possible were it not for the generous support of like-minded corporate and not-for-profit sponsors like Whole Foods Market, Marriott, ICF International, AAA, Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA).
Working together with their local communities, these organizations are leading the way by telling a story we can believe in. It’s an authentic story about sustainability and how individuals can come together to make a difference. It’s also a story about a healthy and safe alternative to driving alone in your car…and about learning to enjoy the ride, as I and thousands of others did. One bike at a time, their participation in this year's Bike to Work Day provides us with a glimpse of the causes they and the people in their communities care most about -- sustainability, health and fitness, fun, etc.
How are you and your organization making a difference in your community? Are the stories being told reflective of your personal and organizational values?