World Book Day!

It’s my favorite day of the year… it’s World Book Day!

For the past 20 years, April 23rd has been identified as World Book Day by UNESCO to celebrate books, authorship, and copyright. This day was chosen because it is recognized as the anniversary of the death of both Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes (although Cervantes actually died on the 22nd).

Because Janelle and I are authors, avid readers, and book collectors, World Book Day has become a holiday of great celebration at our house — more than any other (traditional holiday) of the year.

This year, I’m taking the day off of work and spending the day reading — at home, at the library, and at Chapters.

(And, truth be told, I also like that it’s sort of quirky to make a big deal out of it. After all, many organizations and governments establish specific celebrations/commemorations/observances for each day of the year.)

I’ll be reading some business books (including at least one of these business books), an array of other non-fiction topics I find interesting, and probably some financial fiction.

So while you’re reading this post, I’m probably in my living room reading a great book, drinking coffee, and talking about books with Janelle.

Happy World Book Day everyone!

Toastmasters – A great organization for personal development and growth

Fifteen years ago I joined Toastmasters. At the time it was for a combination of improving my public speaking skills and to do some networking. I enjoyed it and would recommend it the experience anyone. After a year or two at the club, I moved to a small town that didn’t have a club so I wasn’t able to attend… and then I forgot about the experience altogether.

But recently a client mentioned that he was attending Toastmasters and it reminded me of the positive experience I had when I first attended. Now that my wife and I once again live in a larger urban center, I checked online and there are many Toastmaster groups, including one that meets at a really convenient time just down the street from me.

So I showed up at the meeting and was immediately reminded why I love Toastmasters. The group was welcoming and friendly, very inclusive, and totally devoted to mutual improvement. I’m definitely rejoining.

So, what is Toastmasters? It’s funny because I think the average person, if they hear the name, might vaguely think that we sit around and do toasts and practice speeches. But it’s really about personal improvement.

The meetings are somewhat formal (there are introductions and the minutes of the last meeting are read) and yet they’re informal enough that it doesn’t feel stuffy. We introduce ourselves, we do have speeches but we also practice impromptu speeches, we evaluate our presentations, and we learn new things.

When I first attended 15 years ago, it was to practice my public speaking skills and for networking, and those are reasons that I’m going back. But there’s more this time ’round: it’s to receive feedback on how I present; it’s to learn new things; it’s to improve some leadership and management skills (which are getting rusty because I run my own biz); it’s to brush up on Robert’s Rules Of Order (which I abhor but understand the importance of); and eventually it might lead to a position of leadership in the group where I can hone my skills of public relationship, financial management, etc. Toastmasters exposes me to a number of scenarios that I’m encountering in my life that I need to improve (such as impromptu speaking opportunities and additional volunteer leadership roles).

If you have a Toastmasters group in your area, you should check it out. You can try it out for free (there are dues when you become a member but they’ll welcome you to at least check them out at no cost).

It’s something I really look forward to each week!

Too many business say they WOW their customers… but few actually do

I hear a lot of businesses talk about giving “WOW” levels of service. But I just don’t see it all that often.

I think we’re at a point now where businesses say that they’re committed to WOW levels of service only because it’s expected that they say it – as if it “WOW Service” is the default text in every website template.

I’ve railed against the assertion of giving “great service” before and I think a similar thing is happening to the word “WOW”. Businesses are devaluing the term because they’re overusing it but falling short on what it really means to WOW customers.

What does “WOW” service really mean?

WOW service should mean that you are delivering a level of service that is so unexpected and shocking that customers exclaim “WOW!”

But what it’s come to mean is: businesses are delivering exactly the same level of service that they always do, which doesn’t really set them apart from the competition and definitely doesn’t WOW the customer.

Does your WOW service really WOW?

  • As the prospective customer moves through your sales funnel, do they express surprise at how much value you give away prior to the sale?
  • During the transaction, does the customer express surprise at how great of a deal they’re getting?
  • After the transaction, does the customer express surprise at how much you continue to serve them even after they’ve already paid?

You need to answer yes to at least one of these (and preferably all three) if you are going to truthfully claim to WOW your customers.

The very best business advice I’ve ever received

There’s a lot of business advice out there. What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

I can’t think of better advice than this: Solve a problem.

It seems almost too simple but I can’t think of a better way to start and grow a business than simply to solve a problem.

Every successful business solves a problem. Sure, the problems that each business solves may vary in its severity and impact on our lives but they still solve a problem. The local donut shop solves a very different problem than a life insurance company, and you could argue that the problem solved by a donut shop isn’t quite as severe or impactful as the problem solved by insurance.

This simple business advice has 3 specific applications, at least one of which will apply to you right now and can help grow your business dramatically:

3 IMMEDIATE ACTIONS

  1. Your business doesn’t solve a problem. If your business is struggling, there’s a chance that you don’t actually solve a problem. Perhaps you’ve started a business that is more of a passion project or hobby, and you might even have a couple of customers come in who share the same interest. But if you don’t have enough customers, you might not actually solve a problem. Can youarticulate what problem you solve? If you can’t, take a look at the customers who have come through the door and the reasons that they buy.
  2. You don’t know what problem you solve. Hopefully you do solve a problem. If your customer base is inconsistent and it fluctuates in terms of both income and profitability then there’s a good chance that you solve a problem but don’t really know what that problem is. Ask your customers why they buy from you.
  3. You don’t effectively communicate the problem or the solution. Often, marketing is focused on what you do rather than the problem and your solution. (This is the classic features-versus-benefits problem that exists in a lot of marketing). It’s common but, fortunately, it’s also the easiest to solve of the three I’ve listed here. Your marketing needs to hammer home the problem and establish its severity to your audience, and then your marketing needs to build a case for why your solution provides the best value to them. (And if you’re already doing this then it’s just a matter of doing more of it and doing itbetter.

If you want to grow your business (and what business owner doesn’t???) then one of these 3 actions will apply to you.

What I’m working on this week (Apr. 13 – 17, 2015)

Good Monday morning to you! Hope you had a great weekend. Mine was good: On Friday night Janelle and I went out with some friends to the Prairie360 whiskey bar where I had a Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18 year old whiskey… so good!

On Saturday I hammered through some work, and then on Sunday I wrapped up a huge project in the morning that had been hanging over my head for a while and then I wanted the NASCAR Sprint Cup race (which ran Saturday night but I recorded on my PVR).

Now I’m back in my chair hammering out work. Here’s what’s cooking for me this week:

  • I’m wrapping up a couple of ebooks for clients — 2 ebooks for real estate investors and 1 ebook for a financial advisor.
  • I’m getting content into 3 print books for clients.
  • I’ve got a BUNCH of autoresponders I need to put together for a client — he works in a couple of different real estate investing niches and we’re building out some autoresponders for each niche as well as some ways to add value to his clients once they do a deal with him.
  • Got some web copy to finish up for a couple of real estate investors.
  • And in my own biz I need to finish a book I’m writing plus put the finishing touches on 3 talks I’m giving over the next couple of months.

Oh, and at some point I need to clean out my gutters. So there’s some non-work stuff, too!

Stay productive!