Why Should I Be Your Customer?

I often ask my clients to answer, “Why should I be your customer (client or patient) (CCP)?” from the point of view and value proposition of their ideal CCP’s, not their point of view.  That question is also featured in many of my seminars and workshops.  In fact, I posted a blog in October 2015 entitled “What is Your Product or Service?” which expanded on that very important question.  I just finished an article in the December 2018 edition of Builder magazine entitled “Closing The New vs. Existing Divide” by Vincent Salandro which offers another very practical take on this subject. While focusing in on the factors that lead home buyers to buy newly constructed homes rather than existing homes, the article presents a statistical approach to understand home buyer preferences and how a builder might increase their market penetration.  The article quotes data from the Zillow Group New Construction Consumer Housing Trends Report 2018 to make a strong case for developing a very deep understanding of the value proposition of the ideal customers of new home builders. The Zillow Group report found that while 38% of potential home buyers considered buying a newly constructed home in 2017, only 11% purchased one.  In delving deeper into the data, the author expands on many of the factors that would be useful in refining a builder’s definition of their ideal customer.  Some of the factors included where:

  • Age – new home buyers tend to be older
  • Ethnicity – 74% of new home buyers self-identified as Caucasian/White
  • First-Time buyers vs. Moving Up or Downsizing buyers
  • Geography

The article goes on to look at the top fourteen reasons buyers purchase new homes.  Such factors as:

  • Everything is new/never used – 48%
  • Ability to customize features of the home – 23%
  • Ability to have smart home features – 6%

These were a great look at new home builder’s customer value proposition. Finally, the article looked at how new construction home buyers shop for their home.  Most who purchase newly constructed homes relied on technology, 68% using a laptop or desktop and 46% using mobile devices to shop for their home.  Only one-third of new home buyers used mobile, much less than buyers who purchased existing homes. What does this have to do with your business?  To answer that, I have a homework assignment for you.  I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • How well do you understand your ideal Customer, Client or Patient? – When is the last time you gathered any market statistics that might be used to refine who your ideal CCP is?
  • How well do you understand ALL the various factors that make up your ideal CCP values? – Have you asked your CCPs why they buy from your company?
  • How well do you understand how your ideal CCPs found you? – Are you “hanging out” in all the places you should?

My colleagues and I are well equipped to assist you to better define, understand and find your ideal customers, clients or patients.  The better you are at serving them, the more successful you will be.

2017 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of The Obvious Part 4

Paul Dunn continued with his presentation by switching gears to speak about the concept of price anchoring. He presented a case study based upon the fact that most people remember the last thing they see or hear.  The case study involved adding eight words at the end of a price quotation for a product or service img_9693-small img_9696-small Result: 30% conversion rate for price alone, 90% conversion rate with the addition of those 8 words! Paul finished up by returning to his original concept by saying “The shortcut to more is to MATTER more.” img_9713-small img_9714-smallimg_9716-small And a quote by Richard Branson img_9720-small   A very impactful speaker who spoke briefly the afternoon of the first day and then returned to speak to the coach’s conference (day 3) was Trav Bell, the Bucket List Guy (http://www.thebucketlistguy.com/).
  • After saying that a bucket list is about what you learn about yourself during the journey, he had the entire audience participate in two hands-on exercises:
  1. We were given 10 minutes to begin writing our “reverse” bucket list – a list of things, adventures, accomplishments, and people we had already met or achieved that we were proud about. We then shared items from our list with a partner.  This was a great exercise, one which I completed on my return flight to NY.
  2. After presenting his acronym MYBUCKETLIST as a framework for our bucket lists:

Meet a personal hero Your proud achievements Buy that special something Ultimate challenges Conquer a fear Kind acts for others Express yourself Take lessons Leave a legacy Idiotic stuff Satisfy a curiosity Travel adventures

Trav gave us 15 minutes to select a letter, add an item to our list and then act on that item.  Many in the audience signed up for guitar lessons or made pledges to their favorite charity.

Both exercises were empowering and great examples of coaching.  I highly recommend you seek out a partner, or coach to create both bucket lists.

Trav concluded by saying “People are dying at 40, being buried at 80.”  Don’t be one of them.   Another presenter to the coach’s portion of BEF was Traci Diaz of Break Free Consulting.  Traci gave us many ideas, one of which stood out:

The Central Question to ask yourself several times each day is: “What choice can I make, and action can I take, in this moment, to create the greatest value?”

  The BEF was concluded by Brad Sugars.  Brad stretched everyone’s vision by challenging everyone to create their 100-year vision!  He reiterated an Owner’s/CEO’s/ Leader’s responsibility to enroll and inspire their team:
  • Vision – 100 years in the future, if the mission is accomplished
  • Mission – the value your company brings to the world
  • Culture – the rules of the game
He reminded us of the ActionCOACH formula for success Dreams X Goals X Learning X Plans X Actions = Success It is useless to lead a team that is not confident and productive Productivity comes from passion and focus Realize that the better you get at _____ the easier it becomes – tackle the difficult to make it easy. After drawing the following flipchart, Brad added that you MUST be congruent with your identity, or create MORE identity img_9728-small A case study example of expanded identity:

A doctor raised his identity from doctor to entrepreneur who happens to be in the medical business.  Result – went from one office with him as the only provider to nine offices with more than 400 providers.

We coach for break-throughs, not just learning.   After the conference, I observed a great example of communicating a Unique Value Proposition in the parking lot of my hotel: img_9772-small img_9771-small I hope you have formed your own BFOs from this blog series. The 2018 Business Excellence Forum will be in San Diego from February 18th to the 20th.  If you wish to join me and about 700 other business owners, CEOs, leaders, executives and business coaches, or if you would like to accelerate your success, please contact me or any of my ActionCOACH colleagues.  Our mission is to create

World Abundance Through Business Re-Education

2016 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 1

I must say, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) gets better each year.  There were more than 500 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance.  With that many attendees, there were plenty of formal and informal exchanges of ideas and best practices. This year’s forum had some amazing keynote speakers whose presentations yielded many Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs).  The following are some of the BFOs that struck a chord with me.  I am sure that some of these will have a similar affect on you. Our first speaker was world-class branding expert Sally Hogshead www.howtofascinate.com (yes, that is her real name “With a name like mine, I had to be successful.”) discovered a new way to measure how people perceive your communication, through the Fascination Advantage® system. Sally is the author of two books “How The World Sees YOU” and “Fascinate – How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist” Before researching the science of fascination, Sally rose to the top of the advertising profession in her early 20s, writing ads that fascinated millions of consumers. The title of her presentation was “How to FASCINATE: From First Impression to Lasting Value”
  • Over deliver in One area – Stop trying to be all things to all people
  • You do not have to fix anything – you do have to accentuate your most valuable areas
  • Avoid your competitive disadvantages
  • Every time you communicate, you are either adding value, or taking up space!
  • IMG_7875 small
  • Sally told of going to an theme park where she saw a ticket booth that sold tickets to two rides.  The orange ticket was for a ride with multiple safety warnings.  There was a long line at the entrance to the orange ride.  The other ticket was green, there were no safety warnings posted about that ride.  Also, the was no line for the green ride.  She went on the orange ride, it was great.  Later, she got curious and went on the green ride.  She found the rides were IDENTICAL.  The business point is the theme park understood their target customer’s value proposition and desire for a little danger.  Do you completely understand what your target customer values?
Our next speaker was serial entrepreneur Troy Hazard, www..troyhazard.com author of several books including “Future Proofing Your Business” and “The Naked Entrepreneur”.  The title of Troy’s presentation was “Purpose, Passion, People & Profits”
  • Always respect the business corrections and cycles
  • There are 4 cycles
    1. Your Revenue
    2. The Economy
    3. Your Industry
    4. The emotional cycle – market sentiment
      • Opportunity occurs where these cycles converge
  • In addition to understanding the value your business brings to your market, you as a business owner, must know what you want your business to do for you
  • Every day Troy asks himself and his team the following two questions:
    1. “What is your greatest success and what can I learn from it?”
    2. “What is your challenge and how can I help you?”
  • The five keys to leadership he learned from being a father (E I E I O)
    1. Engage energetically
    2. Inspire greatness (strive to have tomorrow be better than today)
    3. Evoke conscious thought (give everyone a voice)
    4. Involve everyone (don’t under estimate before you understand)
    5. Organize Yourself first
  • Use your ideal (3 – 5 years from now) organizational chart to challenge your team to become who they need to be to fill the positions above them
This is just my BFOs from about 60% of the first day of BEF.  The best Troy Hazard BFOs are yet to come.  To be continued …

How Complex Is Your Business?

While working with one of my clients whose medical practice has been growing very rapidly, the subject of maintaining organizational focus and culture came up.  As our discussion progressed I was reminded of a few flip charts Brad Sugars, the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH, presented at one of our conferences.  Brad first drew a two person company with one direct connection between the people. That flip chart looked something like this:Two Connections The next flip chart showed a three person company that had three direct connections between the people, looking something like this:Three Connections His third flip chart was a four person company with six direct connections: Four Connections Brad’s final flip chart was of an eight person organization showing twenty eight direct connections. Eight Connections My client, with a stunned look on her face, saw this and said “No wonder I’ve had so many problems controlling the growth of my business.” Just to recap: connections table The simple formula for this is:

Direct Connections = ((Number of People * (Number of People – 1) / 2)

Using this formula it is easy to see that the level of complexity in a company grows at a much greater rate than the company’s growth rate. Is your business starting to look a little bit more complex than perhaps you realized? So how are we to grow our businesses, maintaining organizational focus and effectiveness?  There are four key things you must accomplish in order to grow in control:
  1. Have a clear company Mission, Vision and Culture (MVC) – A strong and clear MVC that is aligned and congruent with your company’s Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is the cornerstone of healthy consistent growth.
  2. Communicate and Educate – You must constantly communicate your MVC and UVP to your team, both internal and external, and to your customers, both existing and potential. You must educate new team members and potential customers about your MVC and UVP and the Why behind them (Read Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why” for further insight).  And most importantly it is absolutely essential that you eat, sleep and breathe your MVC and UVP.
  3. Plan your organization – Although many like to promote flat organizational models, completely flat organizations quickly lose their effectiveness as they scale up. Thus it is vitally important to plan the organizational structure of your company.  At one end of the scale, completely flat will not allow for effective growth, at the other end of the scale, old fashion command and control will compromise creativity and nimbleness.
  4. Be Proactive – Most companies grow organically, without very much forethought or advanced planning. Too often companies reach the point of no return structurally and fail.  All of my clients have a vision of how their companies will be structured working backward from three to five years in the future.  You should do the same.
My ActionCOACH colleagues and I will be happy to assist you to develop your MVC, UVP and Organizational Structure, all of which will prepare your business for exceptional growth.

What is Your Product or Service?

As promised in my last Blog “Is Your Business Commodity or Value Based?” I would like to discuss the definition of your product, the total definition of your product, the real definition of your product.  First, a little background.  I have too often encountered business owners and professionals who stop at the obvious definition of their product, “I’m a pediatrician, I provide medical care to kids,” never either consciously or unconsciously going deeper.  And if the owner doesn’t fully understand what his or her company is delivering, what are the chances that their team consistently delivers the complete product?  That is why I consider understanding of the complete definition the product or service of a business one of the fundamentals of having an exceptional business. In my last Blog, I said “Once you have determined your clients, customers or patients (CCPs) definition of value, you must marry it to your product or service in order to have your UVP (Unique Value Proposition).”  Without a genuine UVP, you are doomed to playing the features leap frog game with your competitors.  So how do we marry our CCPs definition of value with our product or service? The answer is simple, but not easy.  You and your team must answer “Why should I be your customer?” from the customer’s point of view.  One way to accomplish this is to try this exercise that I use with my clients; make a list of 100 reasons someone who fits the profile of your ideal, not your only, customer should do business with you.  The easy part is putting the first five or six on the list.  After that it gets progressively more difficult.  I must be honest and tell you that only one client has gotten to 100.  After eliminating the duplicates, we got down to a list of more than 80 value elements, each of which were part of their Total Product Definition (TPD). Returning to the pediatrician, in addition to providing medical care to kids, her TPD includes such factors as; ease of parking, short wait times for appointments and in the waiting room, waiting room decor and activities, how friendly is the team, is the office child and parent friendly, to list just a few of the more obvious examples.  Note that the list should include both tangible and intangible items.  The tangible items, such as very short wait time, are easier to copy than intangible items such as having a friendly office atmosphere. Once you have determined your TPD, you must constantly communicate it both internally and to your CCPs.  That means you and your team must live it, breath it, understand it and consistently deliver the TPD to your market.  Your TPD is your competitive advantage, the deeper and more detailed it is, the harder it is for your competition to duplicate. My ActionCOACH colleagues and I will be happy to assist you in developing your Total Product Definition.

Is Your Business Commodity or Value Based?

While reading Architectural Record the other evening, (Yes, I still keep up with my original profession) I was struck by an article entitled “How to Make Money” with the sub-title of “Firms improve the bottom line by expanding the definition of architectural practice” by Martin C. Pedersen.  What struck a chord with me is the fact that you could substitute any profession, service or product in place of architecture and the core message of the article would still be applicable. So what is the core message of this article?  Basically, your product or service will fall into one or the other of the two (and in reality, the only two) business models based upon the perception of your clients, customers or patients (CCP).  The first and most common model is the commodity model.  When your service or product is perceived to be a commodity, you are forced to compete primarily on price.  In the long run this is a very dangerous game.  There is always someone or some company who will find a way to offer a lower price than you and your business. In that situation, how can you make a profit?  You must build the proverbial better mousetrap.  You must find ways to operate more efficiently than your competitors.  In the short to medium term, this is possible.  However, sooner or later, a competitor will figure out a way to operate more efficiently than you.  Welcome to a game of business leap-frog. To quote Mr. Pedersen’s article, “So how do firms escape the commodity trap and achieve what management consultants call “value pricing,” a fancy term for something fairly basic: a profitable fee? It helps to understand the needs of your clients and speak a common language.”  (Emphasis added)  The alternate business model, based upon offering value has many advantages and one significant disadvantage compared to the commodity model.  On the plus side, your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is yours.  Your competitors may attempt to copy it, but they will find it very difficult to capture the underlying essence and complete definition of your UVP.  Also, you will not be competing solely on price, or playing business leap-frog.  Obviously, if you are not competing on price, your profit margin will be much higher than that of your competition. So what is the disadvantage?  “It helps to understand the needs of your clients and speak a common language.” – This is not easy to achieve and consistently deliver.  Why is this hard?  Because to design your UVP you must determine your CCPs definition of value, not necessarily the same as your definition of value.  For example many physicians value where they went to medical school, numerous studies have shown that patients view this a being near the bottom of their lists of factors they consider when choosing a doctor.  Once you have determined your CCPs definition of value, you must marry it to your product or service (the total definition of your product or service, the subject of my next Blog) in order to have your UVP. If you can design your offering to deliver true value to your CCP, and do it consistently, you will establish a very long term competitive advantage.  If you are looking for assistance in determining your UVP, please contact me or any of my ActionCOACH colleagues.  We will be happy to help you grow your profitability.

What Can We Learn From Our “Almost” Competitors?

Last week, while coaching one of my medical industry clients, I had a major, multi-part Blinding Flash of the Obvious (BFO).  This client’s medical practice has many competitors, both medically and geographically.  One competitor (called LuxDocs in this blog) in particular, has positioned themselves to be “high-end”, charging an annual fee for access to their doctors. Initially, my client did not consider LuxDocs to be a direct competitor even though they address the same area of medicine.  However, as we went down the list of LuxDocs’ actual and perceived value points and benefits, 24/7 doctor access for example, it became obvious that my client offered, or could offer, many of the same perceived high value services and benefits as their “almost” competitor. Our discussion progressed into two areas:
  1. Which of the services and benefits that my client already offers are valued by their patients but are not currently emphasized within their internal perception  or external marketing?
  2. What services and/or benefits could they add that are of perceived high value by patients, but could be offered with low additional cost?
BFO Part 1 – This concept isn’t only applicable to medical practices – substitute the word Customer or Client for Patient and re-read 1 and 2 above.  Now look at your product or service through the lens of what is already included, or could be included, in your offering that are perceived as high value/benefit, but that you haven’t emphasized? BFO Part 2 – Remember, look at product or service aspects that are of high value to your clients, customers, patients or whoever makes up your target market.  This is not necessarily about what you and your team value, it is about what your market values.  In other words, work to understand the entire, complete definition of your product, not just the obvious. BFO Part 3 – This is closely related to the concepts presented in the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.  Add high value items to the design of your product or service while eliminating high cost low value items. Action Steps – As many of my current clients have already done:
  • Completely define your product or service.
  • Make a list of as many; reasons to become your customer, ways you add value to your customer, and benefits, both small and large, of being your customer as you can.  Remember, from their point of view, not yours.  Shoot for 100.
  • Your complete product definition and the list of your value points form a major part of your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). Make sure you constantly and consistently communicate all of these aspects of your UVP both externally and internally.
  • Read Blue Ocean Strategy.
  If you would like assistance with the process implied above or you wish to accelerate your progress toward your business goals, contact me or the ActionCOACH business coach in your area.

There’s nothing so meaningless as …

The other day I was reading an article in the February 2014 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine (yes, I am a few months behind in my reading) that struck a chord with me.  At first I considered writing my own blog post on the same subject, and then I realized that I couldn’t have said it better than John Shook did in the Q&A piece about the lean movement. In his answer to the first question is a fabulous quote that nails the importance of adding value; “There’s nothing so meaningless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”  Of course, the value created must be in concert with the customer’s definition of value. The second answer addresses the value of planning, as does the fourth answer.  Finally, the fifth answer recognizes that planning is an ongoing process. I hope you enjoy this insightful Q&A. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230850

What Can We Learn About Business From James Taylor?

To celebrate the 4th of July I went to Tanglewood in Lenox, MA to see one of James Taylor’s (JT) annual concerts.  JT has been giving concerts on and around July 4th for more than 20 years.  Many in the audience have seen a majority, if not all of these concerts.  In a review of the concert, the reviewer, unknowingly asked the business question … why do so many people, from far and near, fill Tanglewood beyond capacity at these concerts year after year?

The one word answer, one of the keys to long term business success – Consistency!

James Taylor demonstrates consistency in 3 important ways:
  • Consistent Quality – JT surrounds himself with perhaps the very best back-up singers in the business.  In addition, the musicians in his band are exceptional.  The arrangements, both vocal and instrumental are exceptional as well.  Does your business offer a consistent level of quality to your customers?
  • Consistent Delivery – Year after year, although JT is now 64 years old, he makes sure to sing within his vocal range.  He has adopted the latest audio monitor technology all in order to deliver a top quality vocal performance.  His guitar arrangements and the variety of instruments he plays deliver exceptional musical moments.  In addition, he employs up to the minute lighting and sound equipment to deliver just the right atmosphere for each song.  How consistent is the delivery of your business?  If you are not delivering in a consistent manor, you will never build long term success into your business.
  • Consistent Variety – I know what you are thinking, isn’t consistent variety an oxymoron?  Well, in this case, no.  All of the regulars know that JT, while covering the expected bases, such as Sweet Baby James, You’ve Got A Friend, Mexico to name a few, he will also play a variety of songs that a different from year to year.  For instance, this year he performed Twist and a moving arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner.  In addition, some of the songs were played to new arrangements.  This variety makes each year’s concerts unique and therefore must see events.  One of the things James Taylor is known for is the variety of his performances.  This makes him somewhat unique (there are other bands and performers in others genres that offer variety) and ultimately increases the value of his concerts.  What is the unique value proposition of your business?  Do your customers and your team understand the value your business delivers?
James Taylor consistently delivers quality, variety, and value to his audience making him one of the most popular and enduring acts in show business today.  How can you deliver consistent quality and value to your customers?  If you need help with the consistency of your business, call me or one of my colleagues at ActionCOACH.