It’s Time To Dust Off The Ol’ Suggestion Box
What do you think of when you hear the words “suggestion box”?
You probably picture a quaint, cobweb-covered container or a Black Hole from which nothing ever emerges.
But in today’s competitive market, management can no longer ignore the insights and brainstorming of employees.
Ideas from employees can eliminate inefficiencies, reduce turnover, and enhance customer satisfaction.
Of course, management needs enough humility to maximize this potential.
At one retailer in the Nashville area, low-paid workers in the cavernous warehouse endured bitterly cold winters year after year. The store manager merely chuckled when reminded of his broken promises to build an office in the warehouse. Chuckled, and continued providing expensive kerosene for a heater that sent 99 percent of its warmth to the high ceilings.
Finally, during the “honeymoon phase” of hiring a new warehouse supervisor, the boss relented and paid for materials, so employees could build their own office. The office is now cozy with just an inexpensive electric heater.
The employees could have been spared years of hardship and the company could have saved hundreds of gallons of fuel if not for the boss’s “if I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you” attitude.
Even in a small business, the people at the top can’t possibly know (and remedy) all the day-to-day aggravations, annoyances, and wasteful practices that employees and customers face – unless there is a well-publicized “suggestions” search.
Here are some pointers for such a program:
Set ground rules
It’s a waste of everyone’s time if the suggestion box is inundated with pie-in-the-sky demands such as “Pay us more!” or tightly targeted smears such as “Make Judy in Purchasing stop wearing that awful perfume.” Employees need to know that their suggestions should be specific, concrete ways that management would be able to afford raises – or less personal guidelines for maintaining professionalism and co-worker harmony.
Tailor the program to individual personalities
Some employees may want only the boss to know their suggestion. Others (for fear of reprisal) may want total anonymity. Still others may really crave the spotlight for their innovations. Don’t force anyone into a one-size-fits-all mold; ascertain what works best for each employee.
Trumpet visible results of employee suggestions
A cookie-cutter pep talk about employee participation goes only so far. So, if employee advice has enabled you to enjoy 300 accident-free days, keep insurance premiums steady, double the Christmas bonus, improve the parking lot, or snag that coveted customer you’ve been chasing for five years, be sure everyone knows such things don’t occur in a vacuum.
Share the wealth
Some improvements are so intangible that it’s hard to put a dollar amount on them. But if it’s demonstrably true that an employee’s suggestion has directly enabled you to cut utility costs by 25 percent or land a million-dollar customer, don’t begrudge him a slice of the pie. A slap on the back and a Dollar Tree trophy cup won’t suffice. Think about an expensive jacket, a family meal at a ritzy restaurant, or a paid vacation.
Spread participation as broadly as possible
A good idea is a good idea, regardless of the source; but it’s counterproductive if employees get the perception that the same individual, team, or department is always getting management’s praise. Don’t create co-worker friction by giving the impression someone is the “boss’s pet.” You may even have to visit various work areas and think out loud, “I’ll bet someone here is sharp enough to solve Problem X…”
Make awards for suggestions recurring but not regimented
If management makes a big deal out of soliciting and rewarding employee input on a single occasion and then never mentions it again, employees will (justifiably) view it as a half-hearted “dog and pony show” gimmick to give the illusion of open-mindedness. On the other hand, if you straitjacket yourself into recognizing a “Suggestion of the Month” or “Suggestion of the Week,” you will face diminishing returns and fading enthusiasm. Most likely, the “low-hanging fruit” of glaring problems will be dealt with early on. Employees will feel stressed out if they must routinely top themselves every time they turn around. They will become dismissive of the entire program as increasingly nitpicky, “Mickey Mouse” suggestions are lauded.
Most workplaces are saddled with a culture that sees the suggestion box as (a) an exercise in futility connected straight to the incinerator or (b) an opportunity for backstabbing individuals at various levels of the hierarchy to steal an idea and claim it as their own. But, if month after month and year after year, you build a reputation for at least studying every reasonable suggestion, it will become second nature for rank-and-file employees to share their perspective. Companies have Human Resources Departments, not Interchangeable Cogs Departments. Treat your employees with dignity and compassion. Morale, productivity, and profitability will soar.
How “bullets” can bring business of Biblical proportions
Were you aware that the Bible, as originally written, wasn’t broken down into the convenient chapters and verses we’re accustomed to?
It gets more daunting. There weren’t even spaces between words.
Yes, the letters all ran together, which made dealing with those scrolls a tedious task for priests, scribes, and later translators.
Can you imagine the typical 21st-century reader (his attention span diminished by glossy brochures, pop-up online ads, scrolling TV blurbs, 10-second radio jingles, billboards, flashing signs, bumper stickers, product-promoting T-shirts, etc.) relishing the chance to dig into such an overwhelming block of text?
If he thought anything at all about two tablets, it would be two tablets of Tylenol instead of two tablets of stone.
Of course, today’s Bibles have large print, red letters, maps, illustrations, marginal notations, dictionaries, concordances, and other features to make them more accessible and user-friendly.
Certainly, if you’re a businessman with a product or service not quite as urgent as escaping Egyptian bondage or fighting Philistine giants such as Goliath, you’ll need a user-friendly message, too.
They’re not quite as attention-grabbing as burning bushes, but well-done bullet points (with the right mixture of bold fonts and italics), paired with a headline that speaks directly to the customer, can be the secret to making your ads “pop.”
Notice I said “well-done.” When a prospective customer devotes a few precious seconds to scanning even the most graphically pleasing message, he is not going to be impressed by vague, trite blurbs such as “Unbelievable prices,” “Friendly service,” or “Wide assortment.”
Your prospective customer had already heard such claims ad nauseum since he was a toddler. He has probably been stung by assurances such as “it’ll pay for itself” and “high quality.” He has probably hired an incompetent, unmotivated employee or two based on a friend of a friend assuring him, “Charlie is a good guy.”
Sure, a clever pun might buy you an extra split-second of attention; but if it’s superficial, you still won’t make the sale. Thou shalt not put all thy eggs in the cute wordplay basket.
If your prospective client thinks of you at all as he tosses your flyer into the wastebasket, he will assume (a) that you are too lazy to write better copy, (b) that you are taking his business for granted, or (c) that you really don’t possess any substantive advantages to differentiate you from your many competitors.
Whether you prefer to break up your text with big dots, asterisks, numbers, letters, or emojis is a matter of personal taste. The real secret to bullets is providing specific, verifiable, customer-oriented information in bite-size chunks.
From all indications, the honey-like manna that the Israelites ate while journeying was both easily digestible and gave them the strength to do what needed to be done. Your message should offer the same benefits.
I have faith that you really do have a message. Because a run-of-the-mill, face-in-the-crowd operation with nothing unique to offer would just plug along with mediocre sales no matter how much it spent on advertising.
You, on the other hand, if you are justifiably proud of your business, should be able to articulate the reasons for your pride and fortify your ad with a barrage of easily understood selling points that make you invaluable to the customer.
Not every point is going to convince every prospective customer that you are the Promised Land they have been seeking, but something should make the waters part and reveal you as just what they’ve been looking for.
Even without Charlton Heston’s booming voice, you can draw business with true statements such as:
- “All products 100% made in America.”
- “Zero percent interest for 48 months.”
- “All mechanics are up-to-date on manufacturer certification.”
- “Named mid-state’s best restaurant by the Daily Tribune for 15 years in a row.”
- “Not 100% satisfied? We pay return shipping!”
- “We are the city’s exclusive authorized dealer of (insert brand name) products.”
- “The city’s only automotive shop with this year’s Hunter alignment system.”
- “Yes, shoes up to size 17 are guaranteed to be in stock!”
- “Styles or models out of stock in our showroom? We will deliver them to your door within 24 hours.”
- “All equipment is plug-and-play, with free 24-7 technical support.”
So, for example, one prospect might be planning to pay cash and couldn’t care less about your financing options; but if he has been railing against the influx of foreign-made goods, your “American-made” blurb is going to compel him to take a second look.
Another prospect might not demand a particular brand from you, but a chance to avoid paying through the nose for returning defective products would really resonate.
And so forth.
Don’t leave your potential customers wandering in the wilderness.
Your advertising should show concisely and convincingly that you can work miracles for them.
Mind Your Own Business!
The concept of minding your own business means that while you are grinding away at your day job you need to be investing in your future and minding your own business. Pretty soon you’ll be able to walk away from that day job and mind your own business full time.The best way to do this is through the acquisition of real estate.
Let’s take a quick look at where you are losing all your money-taxes. Taxes have been around since 1913 in the U.S. (earlier in England).
While the original intention was to only tax the wealthiest of the population, obviously that’s trickled down to the masses, including those in poverty.
Now, keep in mind the more money you make the more taxes you pay. The wealthy know a way of getting around this-form a corporation. Corporations offer tax benefits and protect you from lawsuits. To learn more about this talk with one of our business coaches or your attorney.
We’ve all heard the golden rule of: Pay Yourself First.
But, many of us don’t do it. Until you learn and put this rule into effect, you won’t have any chance of getting out of the rat race. What this rule does is force you to come up with more income to pay your expenses.
There are some key areas of finance you should learn about, taking classes is one of the best ways to do this. Here are the basics you should learn:
It pays to know how to read financial statements. When acquiring businesses or assets you need to quickly see the financial standing of the company you are acquiring.
Many grown adults do not know how to balance a balance sheet. In the long term, this knowledge will pay off for you and your business.
This skill will sharpen with experience. Talk to investors and observe how they play the game.
Know the laws of Supply and Demand. No business owner can do without understanding these basic principles of the market. Bill Gates saw what people needed. Open your eyes to opportunities. Look at what sells and who buys.
Do everything you can to grow your business within legal boundaries. Know your corporate, state, and accounting laws.
Once you know these areas of finances you can make them work for you. The rich practically invent money. You have to know where to find a great deal. Let’s continue with real estate. Look for houses in trouble or find the court in your area that handles foreclosed, police impound or other real estate situations. You can either renovate and sell or rent for residual income.
So, essentially there are two main types of investors:
- Those who buy pre-packaged investments
- Those who create their own investments
You know which are the most successful. In order to be one of those people, you need to know what to look for and how to respond.
- Find a good deal other people have missed.
- Raise the capital needed for the transaction.
- Put together a svelte team to execute the plan.
There is risk involved in every acquisition. The goal is not to avoid the risk, but to respond to the risk with confidence and a steady hand.
If you need help identifying potential money-makers, where to get the capital you need and how to put together a smart team, try our FREE test drive to gain access to our resources and tools.
Prepare for Lift Off!
Last time I gave you a laundry list of tips and tricks you can use to make your word of mouth program work for you. Hopefully, you’ve taken a look and decided which ones are the best fit for your company, products, services and target customers, so you can put them to work in your word of mouth campaign.
We are going to wrap up this series on word of mouth where we give you the specific steps to create a word of mouth campaign.
Now, let’s take a look at those steps:
- Seed the market. Find some way to get the product into the hands of key influencers.
- Provide a channel for the influencers to talk and get all fired up about your product.
- Offers lots of testimonials and other resources.
- Form an ongoing group that meets once a year in a resort and once a month by teleconference.
- Create fun events to bring users together and invite non-users. Saturn, Harley-Davidson, and Lexus have all been successful with this approach.
- Develop cassettes, videotapes, and clips on your Web site featuring enthusiastic customers talking with other enthusiastic customers.
- Create custom CDs for each potential customer.
- Hold seminars and workshops.
- Create a club with membership benefits.
- Pass out flyers.
- Tell friends.
- Offer special incentives and discounts for friends who tell their friends.
- Put the Internet to work.
- Do at least one outrageous thing to generate word of mouth.
- Empower employees to go the extra mile.
- Encourage networking and brainstorm ideas.
- Run special sales.
- Encourage referrals with the use of a strong referral program.
- Use a script to tell people exactly what to say in their word of mouth communication.
These are all amazing ways you can get the word out about your products and services and start a word of mouth campaign that takes on a life of its own. Before you can release your word of mouth campaign out into the world, you need to go through the checklist to make sure you’ve covered all the essentials.
Here’s your word of mouth campaign checklist:
- Are all of your communications sending the same simple message? If it can’t survive word of mouth, it’s not a compelling story.
- Is your product positioned as part of a category? Ex.”A dandruff shampoo that doesn’t dry your hair.”
- Are your examples outrageous enough to be shared?
- Do you enhance your materials with success stories from real people?
- Are you using experts effectively and in an objective manner?
- Have you created mechanisms so people can follow up on the word of mouth they hear, as well as simple ways of inquiring or ordering?
- Have you made the decision process easy for customers?
- Have you created events and mechanisms so that once a year your prospects hear about your product, and it is easier to try or buy?
These are all essential elements to take keep in mind when taking a second or even third check over your word of mouth campaigns. I hope you’ve found this series on word of mouth to be a great resource and are getting ready to put it into action for your own products and services.
Remember, if you need help with anything in this series, try our FREE test drive to gain access to the best resources, tools and business coaches you can find.
Decoding WOM Messages
Today’s lesson will talk about how word of mouth messages are delivered and how you can influence those messages.
There are essentially 3 methods of word of mouth:
- Expert to Expert
- Expert to Peer
- Peer to Peer
When experts are talking about your products or service you will usually receive an amazing rush of sales and new customers, so obviously this is one of the best things that can happen.You can also help to facilitate this by offering free products to experts for them to review.\
Expert opinion can also bring about new ideas that help to fuel new products, services, and operating systems within your company. If you take the time to change or develop the opinions of even a small group of experts, you will have the opportunity to help your market explode.
There is a standard word of mouth delivery system that, in most cases, takes a few years.
But, you can speed this up into only a few weeks. The standard system is:
- First impressions from an expert
- Organized trial of your products or services
- Pooling peer experiences
It’s important to know exactly who is advocating for your products and service. Take the time to find out who they are and reward them. While you may already have a customer service system for filing complaints, do you have one for compiling praise? Most likely not. If you take the time to show these people appreciation, they will help take your products and services to the top.Some of the ways you can show them appreciation are:
- Invite them to a customer appreciation dinner
- Offer to videotape their testimonials
- Ask to interview them for feedback to improve with
- Offer them a premier customer membership
- Ask them to join a referral incentive program
There are lots of things you can offer your biggest fans to help spread the word about your products and services.
Conventional media has been around forever and while it can still be effective, it’s lost a little of its luster over the last few years.
There are a few reasons for this:
- 1. Expensive and doesn’t necessarily return results
- 2. Boring, lacking something fresh and new
- 3. Too short of a time slot to offer enough information
While these are all true, there are ways you can make conventional media work for you. For the information to be effective, it needs to be presented in the right sequence, comes from the right sources, be relevant to the target customer, be credible and be delivered at the right time in the medium.
We’re going to switch gears a little and talk about the two phases of the product adoption cycle. Traditional media is great for taking you through the information stage where you can offer the information you need to your potential customers, but it’s not so great for measuring the results of those efforts.
Without these results, you can’t fine-tune your marketing and therefore can easily miss the boat and lose potential customers and waste a whole lot of money. Once a consumer has the information they need, they’ll go through a verification process as they analyze whether or not the purchase was a good one. They generally get their information through:
- Direct experience with the product
- Interaction with peers using the same product
- Experts’ experience
- Scientific journals and other resources
- Independent reviews and opinions
You can accelerate this process by:
- Providing your own demo’s and free trials
- Offer them indirect experience through the experience of others
- Offer a good true story that can be passed around
Once you have the ability and are able to work through these concepts, you will be able to target your customers much better. If you need help with any of this along the way, try our FREE test drive to gain access to our experienced business coaches.