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Good News From Small and Medium Business April 22, 2010

Filed under: PC Workstation — Marty Vik @ 3:54 pm

This is good news from the Small and Medium Business (SMB) world.  As more businesses are feeling the need to grow, they are using technology to help them.  The game has really changed when replacing a PC that is 4, 5 or 6 years old.

Meanwhile, the early indicators for this year show PC sales surging. On Tuesday, Intel, the world’s largest PC chip maker, reported the highest first-quarter sales, $10.3 billion, and profit, $2.4 billion, in its history. After digesting Intel’s results, a number of Wall Street analysts said on Wednesday that the PC market could grow as much as 25 percent this year.

In an article posted at Ingram Micro: Channel Advisor, Neha Jalan, an associate with research firm AMI Partners, says the primary drivers for replacing PCs are the hiring of new employees, hardware replacement, productivity boosts via updated systems, and new requirements for updated software.

The Windows 7 operating system offers more capability and updated software offerings, but requires more memory and disk storage.

To really leverage these new capabilities, SMB is looking to also become more mobile.  Laptop PCs are taking a larger share of all PC sales.  Mobility and other ways to make workers more productive underscore the brisk sales.

So how do you plan to fuel your company’s need for more productivity?  And how soon will PC sales begin to translate into hiring? 

Tell me what you think at  Take Care.


March 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marty Vik @ 1:17 pm

The Excellent Gift of Underwear 

Somebody mentioned to me that a birthday gift they received wasn’t much of a gift.  It was practical and useful, not shiny and frivolous.  Then she made the remark, “It was like getting underwear for Christmas.”

Right then I realized that underwear is exactly what I am trying to give to my clients.

I don’t want to provide flashy service or fancy packaging that doesn’t provide real value.  The economy is turning around, slowly, but I don’t think we have gone back to purchases just for the sake of spending money.

Todd McCandless operates the Coffee News of Chesterfield.  Coffee News is a free publication distributed throughout the Chesterfield Community.  Ads are placed on the front or back page of this freely distributed publication.  Each edition is limited to one advertiser per business sector.  Thousands of people, right here in their own community, read Coffee News every week. It’s the “good news” over coffee that appeals to so many.

I think the Coffee News has hit the nail on the head by delivering a simple product that delivers as expected. 

Next time somebody talks about birthday presents, think about underwear.  Something you need, something you use, something that delivers.  Wash after wash.

Tell me what you think at  Take Care.


Who’s Your Rock Star? February 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marty Vik @ 7:22 pm

Who’s Your Rock Star?

When I was spending time in the corporate world, I had a friend named Vanessa.  She was a corporate attorney.  When I did my job well, she called me a Rock Star.  Man that felt good. 

The Blue Man Group has a music tour that gave instruction on how to become a rock star.  Man that was fun.

Obviously, being a Rock Star can be a good thing.  And I have a new Rock Star.

My Rock Star is Bob Schrum.  In the small business world around Richmond, Bob Schrum is way better than the Blue Man Group.  As founder and President of Flagstop Car Washes ( he is serious about supporting a vibrant small business community in Chesterfield County.  He gave an inspiring speech at a recent Successful Thinkers meeting.  He went a step farther by supplying several door prized for the event.  And in his speech he said anybody that wanted a book could stop by his office and pick one up.  Great words, and supported with quick action.

So why should you care about your Rock Stars.  I just want to remind you to tell them.  Don’t wait until you have to complain about poor service.  Instead, tell somebody that they are your Rock Star.  Or try Super Star, Genius, Speedmeister, or Hero.  Make somebody’s day and you will accomplish 3 things.  They will feel better, you will feel great and they will work harder for you.  Everybody wants to be a Rock Star.

Tell me what you think at  Take Care.


Confidence Plus Capability Equal Credibility January 16, 2010

Filed under: Small Business Marketing — Marty Vik @ 1:18 am

I was having conversation with some friends the other day about a silly premise: A 3rd grade student should be able to teach 2nd grader.  After all, they have learned everything and should be able to share that knowledge with somebody else. 

 The conversation was actually a bit more serious than it sounds.  The question was around how long you have to work at something to be considered an “expert”.  There are a couple schools of thought.  One is the 3rd grade teacher camp.  Timothy Ferris approached this in his outstanding book, The 4-Hour Work Week.  Part of his story involves ways to build expertise quickly.  A soon as you have developed some skill level, use it.  Using it will help you build more.  Don’t wait until you are 65 and retiring to be considered an expert and reap the benefits by slowing down or traveling.

 Others in the conversation were a bit more traditional.  Expertise was gained by developing deep knowledge on a subject.  You are an authority when other experts ask you for advice.

Like most issues, there was a middle ground.  Michael Moore of Strategic Persuasion ( painted a picture using his words.  “Who is the King of Rock?” he asked.  Elvis of course.  “Who is the Greatest of All Time?” was the next question.  Ali, naturally.  Then he closed the sale by asking us “Who said so?”   We looked around at each other and realized that they said so themselves.  And both of them could make a good argument based on their accomplishments.

Hidden in that conversation was a great lesson.  You can gain the credibility to make a statement like that based on your capability.  And you have to be pretty confident in yourself.  But now, think about a boast that is not so far out.  For example, we can help you regain two hours of family time every work day.  Or how about a claim that your marketing gets a caffeine boost with the Coffee News.  The claims are made because they can be substantiated.

So here is where the conversation ended.  Expertise is gained over time, but you don’t have to wait until you know it all to use it.  In fact, you should use the expertise you have to help your clients.  And then continue to build your expertise and capability.  When you are confident enough to claim your skill based on capability, you will have the credibility to be seen as an expert.  And your customers will continue to look to you for help.  Isn’t that what everyone, even 2nd graders, really want?

Tell me what you think at  Take Care.


9 Ways to Speed Up a PC December 22, 2009

Filed under: PC Workstation — Marty Vik @ 9:21 pm

Here are 9 Ways to Speed Up Your PC

By following a few simple guidelines, you can maintain your computer and keep it running smoothly. This article discusses how to use the Windows tools to maintain your computer.

Hardware Problems May Cause a Slow Computer

Before you go too far in trying to diagnose a slow computer, make sure that your hardware is in order. That means unplugging your computer from the network (if it’s on one) and restarting. Assuming that didn’t make a difference, a little housekeeping may be in order. Dust accumulates readily in vent holes and inside the computer. Keep the ventilation ports as clear as possible. You can do this with a vacuum cleaner, a Q-tip, or compressed air. You may be surprised by what your computer has accumulated!

Proper airflow is exceptionally important to a computer. Newer processors are very small and powerful, but they can get hot.  If the computer isn’t receiving adequate ventilation – either because the vent holes are plugged with dust and debris, or because the fan isn’t working – you can quickly run into performance problems due to overheating.

Also, don’t assume that the fan you see on the back of the computer is the one you need to be concerned about. The fan you can see is usually associated with the power supply. To be sure, the power supply needs an operational fan and if the power supply fan isn’t working you should replace the power supply, but the processor often has its own fan or cooling system. You need to make sure this is in good working order at all times. To inspect the processor fan, you’ll need to crack open the computer case. Basic hand tools – notably a Philip’s-head screwdriver should do the trick. Consult your owner’s manual for more information on opening the case.

1. Free up disk space

The Disk Cleanup tool helps you free up space on your hard disk to improve the performance of your computer. The tool identifies files that you can safely delete, and then enables you to choose whether you want to delete some or all of the identified files.
Use Disk Cleanup to:

  • Remove temporary Internet files.
  • Remove downloaded program files (such as Microsoft ActiveX controls and Java applets).
  • Empty the Recycle Bin.
  • Remove Windows temporary files such as error reports.
  • Remove optional Windows components that you don’t use.
  • Remove installed programs that you no longer use.
  • Remove unused restore points and shadow copies from System Restore.

Schedule:        Run weekly or schedule.

2. Speed up access to data – Defrag disk drives

Disk fragmentation slows the overall performance of your system. When files are fragmented, the computer must search the hard disk when the file is opened to piece it back together. The response time can be significantly longer.

Disk Defragmenter is a Windows utility that consolidates fragmented files and folders on your computer’s hard disk so that each occupies a single space on the disk. With your files stored neatly end-to-end, without fragmentation, reading and writing to the disk speeds up.

When to run Disk Defragmenter
Schedule:        In addition to running Disk Defragmenter at regular intervals—monthly is optimal—there are other times you should run it too, such as when:

  • You add a large number of files.
  • Your free disk space totals 15 percent or less.
  • You install new programs or a new version of Windows.

If this is your first defrag, do it after the disk clean up twice, then a disk defrag, and then another disk clean up. It is suggested to defrag your hard drive weekly.

For best results, run defragmenter last after performing all other steps. 


3. Detect and repair disk errors

In addition to running Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter to optimize the performance of your computer, you can check the integrity of the files stored on your hard disk by running the Error Checking utility.

As you use your hard drive, it can develop bad sectors. Bad sectors slow down hard disk performance and sometimes make data writing (such as file saving) difficult, or even impossible. The Error Checking utility scans the hard drive for bad sectors, and scans for file system errors to see whether certain files or folders are misplaced.

Schedule:        If you use your computer daily, you should run this utility once a week to help prevent data loss.

4. Protect your computer against spyware

Spyware collects personal information without letting you know and without asking for permission. From the Web sites you visit to usernames and passwords, spyware can put you and your confidential information at risk. In addition to privacy concerns, spyware can hamper your computer’s performance. To combat spyware, you might want to consider using Microsoft Windows Defender, which is included in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, and is available as a free download for Microsoft XP SP2. Alternatively, there are other free anti-spyware software programs available.

Remove Spyware and Viruses

  • Spyware and viruses are a leading cause of computer slowing.
  • Update and run your spyware and virus software at least weekly.
  • If you do not have tools installed to protect against malware, spyware, and viruses, download a free copy of AVG (free for personal use). Also, Microsoft’s Windows Defender is a widely-used anti-spyware tool that is currently distributed freely for users with a “Genuine” copy of Windows. Windows Defender is also included with other Microsoft services and products such as Live OneCare and Vista.
  • If you have a particularly difficult infection, try using the Google Quick Virus Remover.  It is a free utility that is not a replacement for commercial products, but can be helpful for removing some of the most common viruses.

 Viral and malware infections are often the first conclusion that users jump to, often without scanning their computers. A reasonably competent anti-virus program can usually find some evidence of infection. If you’ve run your anti-virus program and it’s coming up empty, there are a few reputable sites on the Internet that will scan your computer and give you some independent results. Be careful however. Some sites run fake anti-virus scanners in an effort to sell you products you don’t need.

Trend Micro, a well-known name in anti-viral products, has an online scanner you can use to check or double-check the results of your virus scan.

Schedule:        We recommend that anti-virus and ant-malware programs run daily and are always on when you are on-line.

5. Change display settings that take processing power

Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 have settings for visual effects that make working with files,  folders and applications more fun to look at or easier to read.  These include animated menus and transparent windows.  These use the processor heavily and slowdown the PC. Right-click the My Computer icon on the Desktop and click Properties. Click Performance, then Visual Effects.  You can set the options for best look or best performance.  Choose performance and see if it makes a difference.

6. Try a big USB drive and ReadyBoost

If you’re using Windows 7 or Vista, you can use ReadyBoost to speed up your system. A new concept in adding memory to a system, it allows you to use non-volatile flash memory—like a USB flash drive or a memory card—to improve performance without having to add additional memory.  This can be helpful.  It indicates a possible need to install more permanent memory.

7. Stop unwanted Start-Up programs.

Disable any programs you do not want load automatically.

To stop unwanted Start-Up programs.

  • Run msconfig.exe
  • Choose startup tab
  • Select and uncheck programs you don’t want to run on startup
    • Open control panel, select Control Panel Home view, Programs: Change Start Up Programs. Make sure you start with your user programs, but look at all programs if necessary.
    • Disable any programs you do not want load automatically.


8. Consider adding memory if appropriate

Additional memory can speed up process time.  However, it is not a guarantee.  This option is the first option that definitely costs money.  If the PC workstation is less than 3 years old, consider adding memory up to the maximum suggested by the vendor.  Do not exceed the maximum, it will be unusable and can actually slow down performance.  Also, try to keep all memory slots used with same size modules.  For example, if you already have 2 512meg modules, do not add replace one of them with a 1 Gig module, and bring the total to 1.5 Gig.  Mismatched memory or open slots can also slow down processing.

9. Perform a registry cleaning 

It is not recommended, but you can try a registry cleaner if you want performance.  These tools may increase speed, but can cause a multitude of other errors.  Some errors include stopping the programs you need to work from functioning. Only do this as a last resort.

  • Back up the registry first and take the copy off line. 
  • Make sure you list all programs that must work flawlessly so you can test them afterwards.
  • Follow all instructions completely.  Do not skip steps or try to speed up the process.

Do an internet search on “slow PC”.  There are plenty of people and companies that offer ways to speed up your PC.  Search for “registry cleaner” and you will find software that does it and people that warn against it. In the end, you may find that a computer that is more than 3 years old can be replaced with one that is more capable and faster. You have to be in a position to reload all the software you use. But it can be a lot like moving to make you clean out the attic. Afterwards, the attic is clean and you like the new house better. That just means there is more room to put the new stuff you buy.

Give me a call if you have any questions.

Merry Christmas from the Turtle Pond


Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch December 11, 2009

Filed under: Small Business Marketing — Marty Vik @ 2:51 pm

 “Come on up and have a sniff.”

 Last week I happened across an expert at the elevator speech.  You can read lots of advice on how to prepare an elevator pitch.  Plenty of people tell you how to practice, when to use it, how to stay prepared, how long it should be, etc, etc, etc.

 I would like to take a minute and alert you to a place you can see a master at work.  Last week I saw all of that advice heeded, and practiced, over and over.  I was at the Mistletoe Market Place.  But it could have been any flea market, farmers market or bazaar.  Because the real pros at giving an elevator speech are the people that give it hundreds of times each day.  And they give it to get results.

 “It’s handmade goat milk soaps and skin care. I make everything from scratch, I even milk the goats by hand.”

 The Business School at Pepperdine suggests knowing yourself and your audience as the first step in perfecting your speech.  Answers to the following questions can help you knock your 30 second speech out of the park.  Let me tell you how the owner of Wild Heaven Farm did it.

1.   Who am I?

The farm stand atmosphere in the market did most of this job for her.  She had ample signage and the product was displayed perfectly.  The soaps and balms were arranged neatly where people could see them and get to them, after they worked their way through the large crowd.  While her speech was practiced, it sounded fresh every time.  I stood back while my wife inched her way toward the front of the line.  I felt like I got to know the owner better each time she repeated her pitch.

2.  What do I offer?
Obviously, the soaps were the main attraction.  “Central Virginia’s only REAL handmade goat milk soaps” she would say.  But you can buy soap anywhere.  The pitch went on to make sure I was clear on the difference.

3.  What problem is solved?
Adding milk to soap alters its pH level, which helps to maintain the pH of healthy skin. It is also uniquely compatible with human skin.”  It was clear that the soap was gentle, cleaned well and helped skin stay healthy naturally.  I understood the product right away.

4.  What are the main contributions I can make?
Normally, the person giving the elevator pitch has one person as an audience.  In the market atmosphere, you have several at once.  And 30 seconds from now, you have another group ready to hear from you.  The owner picked out the people near the front of the line and spoke to the products they looked at.  For each product, she had a detailed snippet of information and could relate how it would help that particular customer.  She clearly understood her product and how it would make a contribution to their well being.

 5.  What should the listener do as a result of hearing this?
Each potential customer was asked to sniff or try the fresh squeezed product.  The products really sell themselves once they are sampled.  The call to action started each visitor down the path toward a purchase. 

 I spoke to the owner as my wife began collecting soaps, butters and balms.  She said she needed to say her pitch so often that the booth owner next door could take over if she had to step away.  She approached her business seriously, but with a light touch and a happy attitude.  I could have stayed there longer, just hearing her use her elevator pitch to turn visitors into customers.  She was a master and I learned a lot just in the 10 minutes I spent with her.  And I think everybody could benefit if they can learn from somebody as effective as the owner of Wild Heaven Farm.

 I encourage you to do the same.  Spend some time with a master, ask a question or two and keep your ears open.  I ended up spending $40 dollars on real Virginia Goat Soap.  It was the best class I ever took.


Tips To Help You Stay Safe While Shopping November 27, 2009

Filed under: PC Workstation — Marty Vik @ 5:11 pm

When I saw the pictures of shoppers standing in the rain so they could start shopping at midnight, I knew I was missing that bargain gene.    I am as cheerful as the next shopper during the holidays.  But standing in a cold rain made my mind wander to a list of things that can go wrong on a shopping trip.  Being sleep deprived, wet and crowded into a line were at the top of the list.

What I did think about was ways to avoid the lines and the problems.  So here are some safe shopping tips if you go to the mall for your gifts.  If you are joining the ranks of cyber-shoppers, I have included a few tips to help keep you safe and secure also.  I hope it helps.

Shopping Mall Tips

Park in well-lit areas, near sidewalks or walkways. Avoid parking near garbage bins or around the sides of a building where the view of your vehicle is obstructed.

Shop with a friend.  This not only helps maintain safety, but it can make the experience more fun.  Take the time to grab a cup of coffee or tea and catch up.  Now that’s good shopping.

Have your car keys ready as you approach or leave your vehicle.  Consider making a few trips to the car to drop off packages instead of collecting a large bundle that you have to deal with.  Make sure you can easily maneuver if you are approached by a thief or carjacker.

Stay alert to your surroundings. Don’t use the phone in the parking lot.  Carrying bags and talking on the phone can distract you.  Make sure you look for potential dangers like people following or cars backing out into traffic.

Consider using the valet service if you are at a shopping center alone at night. If you do, leave the valet only the ignition key. Keep your ID, registration and proof-of-insurance documents in a wallet or purse.

Put packages and bags in the trunk or out of view. Use something to cover the gifts if you must leave them in the back of an SUV or station wagon.

Don’t play the hero.  If you are threatened by a carjacker or thief with a gun or weapon, give up whatever they are requesting and don’t argue.

For more information, contact the Mall Security office for specific tips or see one of these sites:

Saginaw News – Tips to Keep Shoppers Safe

ADT Safety Tips: Holiday Shopping Mall Safety

Security Products: Tips: Stay Safe While Mall Shopping

National Retail Federation Safe Shopping Tips (PDF)

On-Line Shopping Tips List

Here’s a list of tips you should consult when shopping online.

Shop From a Secure PC.  Don’t use a public PC to shop.  Be careful with the shared PC in the family room if it is used by teens or others that don’t follow safe cyber-surfing. Make sure you look for the lock symbol that your browser uses to indicate a secure session.

Protect Your Privacy.  When you shop, make sure you know what the company will do with your name, e-mail address, phone numbers or other information you provide.  Read the Privacy Statement and shop somewhere else if you don’t like what you find.

Shop At Sites You Trust.  Shop at well know sites or vendors you have used before.  Be careful when shopping on-line auction sites or using a search engine.  The price may be better, but it may be false economy if you don’t know who you are shopping with.

Use Your Credit Card, Not A Debit Card.  Credit cards will enforce a liability limit.  Debit cards do not always have the same protections.  Check with your bank or credit union to be sure.

Use Alternate Payment Methods. Consider working with your bank or credit card issuer to get a one-time-use number.  These can be issued so that you do not expose your credit card to any further purchases.  You may also use PayPal which isolates your credit card from the on-line vendor.

Use e-Mail Alias to Cut Down On Spam. Sellers will often require that you post an e-mail address with every purchase.  It is a great idea because then you get an invoice, or further promotions, delivered to you.  But it can be overdone.  If you want to complete the order, but have control over spam in the future, try e-mail Alias.  Just add the vendor’s name to your e-mail address.  This works with Google Mail and Verizon accounts.  Check with your provider.  Here what it looks like. 

Let’s say your e-mail address is JoeBlow @ and you are shopping at EarthWormsAreUs.  Instead of JoeBlow @, try JoeBlow+EarthWorms @  This way, you will get the e-mail and you don’t have to manage hundreds of e-mail accounts in the future. 

Yahoo Tips for Safe Shopping Online

Washington Post Tips for Safe Online Shopping Shopping Tip List


Networking events are a waste of time November 25, 2009

Filed under: Small Business Marketing — Marty Vik @ 3:36 pm

If networking is viewed as a chance to catch up with friends, networking is a waste of time. Throw a party instead.
If networking is viewed as 90 minutes of sheer terror, then networking is a waste of your time. Go see a movie instead.
If networking is viewed as a way to improve your chances of landing a new customer or a new job, then networking is time well spent. Oops, I forgot to qualify that last statement. Networking is time well spent if you prepare.
Winston Churchill said “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” Dwight D. Eisenhower offered the same advice when he said “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” With planning being so important, let me offer some prerequisites and a plan for a networking event.
• Begin to consider everything you do as an opportunity to network. People have gotten business because of a conversation in line to buy groceries.
• Create at least one 30-second “elevator pitch.” You may consider creating 3. One 10-second speech with your name and company tag line. A second 30 second speech that summarizes who you are and what you’d like to do professionally. Finally, if you get an entire minute, make sure you can cover the benefit of doing business with you and how you differentiate yourself. More on how to use these later.
• Always have plenty of business cards with you. If you are in job transition, considering carrying a current résumé you can send upon request. Business folks can also carry a tri-fold brochure from your marketing kit.
• Have access to your calendar and a note pad. Make sure you are ready to make an appointment and can follow up.
Now here is the program. Remember G A P. It stands for Goals, Actions and Proof. At the end of the page I have a sample plan you may use as a model.
Make sure you know why you are attending the event. It may be that you are new to the job market and you want to see how things work. You may also have a small business and are looking for customers or referrals.
Also, understand the event. A political campaign stop or a hotel opening offer different opportunities than a Chamber of Commerce meeting or a career transition session. Understand the people that will attend the meeting and how you can connect with them.
Think through the actions you will take to satisfy your goals. If your goal is to talk to ten people you didn’t know before, the corresponding action may be to look for new faces. If your goal is to say “Thanks” to 5 of your clients from the past year, your strategy…well you get the picture.
Be as specific as you can. Make sure the actions you take will support your goals.
Make sure you understand how you will know if you met your goals. Meeting 10 new people may be a great goal. You could measure that by collecting 10 new business cards. That is the proof. If your goal was instead to generate 10 new business leads, you may need more than a business card. Your proof could be that you have set up 10 follow up appointments.
I encourage you to set goals that make real progress. I mentioned earlier that you may want to have 3 elevator pitches. If you make aggressive goals to meet and do business with people, than you will definitely have the chance to use all three. Use the 10 second speech when you first meet somebody. If when you introduce yourselves and your tag line doesn’t make a connection, don’t feel bad about exchanging business cards and moving on. Remember, they probably have goals for the meeting also.
If there is a possible link, say more about yourself and let your new friend know what you do and a little about your strengths. If you both see ways that you can help each other grow professionally, make sure you are crystal clear about how you can help. You may not have a chance to quote it word for word, but knowing it well will help you apply your skills to their business needs.
Take a look at the example below and let me know if you think it would help you prepare for your next networking event. In fact, let me know if you think it is rubbish, also.
I am always here to help and I look forward to hearing from you.
PS: Don’t forget to celebrate when you hit your goal! More on that later.

Goal: (Networking Event – Technology Club Meeting)
1. Introduce myself to 15 new people.
2. Create 3 new prospects.
1. Look for 20 people I have not met before.
Introduce myself with my 10 second elevator pitch.
Exchange business cards with all 20 people.
2. I will introduce 5 new acquaintances to somebody I already know.
3. Use my 30 second speech with at least 10 people.
4. Set up at least 5 follow up meetings.
1. I have 20 new business cards.
2. I have entered all business card information into my Contact Manager.
3. I introduced 5 people without spending more than 5 minutes in any conversation.
4. I have booked 5 follow up meetings.


5 Ways to Keep Your Customers November 19, 2009

Filed under: Small Business Marketing — Marty Vik @ 1:26 pm

Today there are all sorts of lists.  I recently sat with some friends and we talked about how small business owners can help keep their customers happy.  Keeping customers happy means keeping them as customers.

We could have come up with a list of ten or even 20. But this list is really a reminder list.  There is one tip to practice each week.  (There is an extra tip that is more of a principle.)  In the box below, all of the tips are listed.  Cut the list out and tape it to your monitor.  Then pick a day of the week. Let’s use Thursday.  On every Thursday, do what that week calls for.  That means, on Thursday for Week 4, call up a client to say Thank You for their business.  Nothing more than that.  Be sincere in telling them why you appreciate their business.  Next week, start over at Week 1 with a new set of customers.

Anticipate Problems and Offer Solutions

The conversation started because of interaction I had with an internet Auto Parts company, PartsTrain.  With some auto parts, when you buy a part, you also get charged for the core.  That is the old part that the company can refurbish if you send it back.  I sent a note to their support team because I needed to know how to return a core item.  I also included a note about the purchase process on their site.

About 1 hour later, I got a phone call from support.  Winston wanted to talk to me to be sure he understood my comments.  He then offered a couple work-arounds for future purchases and promised to pass the issue on to his IT team. 

While I was on the phone, I got an e-mail from a different part of support.  They told me how to find the return authorization.  But they went farther.  They went ahead and issued two authorizations, including one for a product that had not shipped yet.  The second authorization was a promise that it would be updated after I received the part.  When I did get the actual part, I also received the authorization along with instructions on how to process them.  Clearly, PartsTrain understands going above and beyond to keep customers.

Maintain Personal Relationships

A Pew Charitable Trust survey completed in 2000 found that many Americans use the internet quite regularly to stay in touch with family and friends.   But think about the last time you talked to somebody after you forgot to return a phone call.  Digital tools help, but there are times when only face to face, or at least phone, conversations are super important.

I got a call the other day from a friend that had changed jobs and is now a financial advisor.  I feared the worse.  What John (his real name) said was he was just calling because he remembered us talking about an event I was to attend.  He wanted to know how it went.  WOW.  We chatted for a minute and then said goodbye.  Afterwards, I felt great.

I am suggesting a two step method.  One, call your customer and say Hello.  Get to know a little about them, their business and their family.  It is great if you can record the names of spouse and children.  Birthdays are excellent also.

Put that information to use by recording it in a CRM tool or some other tickler file.  Then send a card every once in a while.  A hand written note is especially memorable these days.  One way to do that is with Share A Card Now.   A friend named Robin operates the service that you can use to send a heartfelt card that you order electronically. will let you choose a card and text and have it delivered.  You can even use their mailing list and reminder functions.  This is a great blending of the digital and tangible worlds.

Share Information

I got an article link in an e-mail from a friend recently.  It wasn’t about me.  It was about a company in town that affects another friend.  Sending that article showed me that Eric cared about me.  He knows I can use it next time I talk to Steve.  Aren’t there times that you are reading the paper, a book or news online and you say “Wendy should really know about this”?   Send Wendy that article to show you are thinking about her. 

Say Thank You

This one is for my mom.  I don’t think I can count the number of times she told me to “Say Please and Thank You”.  Well, it still works.  And it is good for business.

When you offer thanks, be specific and tell people how it made a difference to you.  “Thanks, attending that meeting allowed me to finish that proposal.  It helped me get a new customer”.   Sending it in a card is more powerful than sending e-mail.  The warm feelings generated by a personal call are always worth the effort.  Don’t forget to follow up with a card or certificate.  Something a customer can hang on the wall keeps your company in front of them all the time.

Be Honest With Your Clients

Here is another point that doesn’t need to be said, but can’t be overstated.  To keep customers, keep informed customers.  Tell them the good news and the bad news, the sooner the better.  Nothing loses a customer’s trust faster than finding out that you have not been up front with them.  Nothing keeps a customer loyal like feeling they are a partner, in good times and bad.

The Challenge

Post this table on your computer monitor.  Make sure you see it every Monday morning.

Each Monday morning, take two customers from your client list.  On the first week of the month, look for a problem you can solve for them.  Next Monday, pick two more and call them personally.   Third Monday, share something with two clients.  At the end of the month, say thanks to two more clients.

At the beginning of the next month, start the cycle over with two more clients.

I think building this habit will go a long way to keeping customers. Tell me what you think at Take Care.

Week 1

Look For Problems To Solve

Week 2

Call Somebody Personally

Week 3

Share Something Valuable

Week 4

Say Thank You


Always Be Honest

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