So much is written about marketing for small businesses on tight budgets that it can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What is your budget? Do you have a plan? Do you need to hire a consultant? Do you use print? TV/radio? Web? SEO? Although these are important questions to review, I’m going to propose that they will all fall short if you haven’t covered one of the most basic issues first:
Since first impressions count, what is the very first personal contact your client or customer will have with your company? Will it be a positive experience or one that makes them want to go on to your competitor? Will they reach an employee who is caring and helpful, or one who is robotic, distant and non-caring? Will their first contact be a voicemail that says “Your call is important to us…”?
With that in mind, have you considered how important your employees are in the marketing of your business? Not only is their level of customer service a direct reflection of you, but what they say to customers and prospects, and how they say it, will carry far more weight than your formal marketing plans. In fact, my guess is that if they don’t feel like an important part of your operation, they can quickly torpedo the best marketing plans, without either of you realizing it! Would you like a quick test to see how your employees view their relationship with your company? Read on.
And if you don’t have employees, that doesn’t let you off the hook. In fact, it’s just as important for you to be aware of the first impressions that you create.
Owning a business that relies on employees to represent my company has made me a keen observer of the level of customer service provided by others. As a result, I’ve made some interesting observations that I would like to share with you. (Well, at least they’re interesting to me, so I trust they will be to you also).
Most of you don’t know that I’m an RN (Registered Nurse) by background. In my previous life – MANY years ago – I worked primarily in critical care and emergency rooms. As an employee I knew that it was important to maintain my competency levels, to treat patients and their families with care and respect, and to make certain that my documentation was accurate. (There were a lot of other things, but for now, that short list should suffice).
The reason I mention this is that what never really hit my radar was the idea that I (and those who worked with me) were one of the strongest selling points that our employer had to offer to the public. In hindsight, I don’t think my employer realized it either!!
For instance, we all know that first impressions count! Suppose an Emergency Room has, say, about 25,000 visits a year. From a marketing perspective, who do you think the most important person is? Who is the one person that ALL of these people and their family see? Actually, it will be the receptionist or registrar! And if that person is rude or uncaring, how many people do you suppose will walk away with a negative impression of the hospital, even if the overall level of care was excellent? And how many people will they share their experience with?
On the same token, a friendly, concerned voice will go far to cover errors and omissions. (Malpractice studies have shown that competent doctors who are rude or have lousy bedside manners are sued far more frequently than incompetent doctors who are friendly, concerned and caring! It’s just human nature).
Now bring that to your business or organization: Do your employees give the best possible face of your company to your clients and prospects? Do you know how many opportunities have been missed because of a careless attitude or comment by an employee? Do you know which employees give the best first impression? Keep in mind that even if you make the perfect widget, people may choose to go to a competitor if your customer service people aren’t friendly or helpful.
Have you even considered discussing these issues with your staff to make them aware of it? Have you evaluated them on these qualities? Is that even on your radar when you are considering hiring someone? Do you enable your employees to function and interact at this level? Are you approachable? Do your employees feel they are a valuable asset and listened to, or do they feel they are simply pawns being moved on a board?
Here’s A Quick Test To See How Your Employees View Your Business
When your employees are asked about your company by an outsider, do they refer to your organization as “US and WE” or “THEY and THEM”? For instance, if someone asks your employees what your company does, would their response be:
“They produce widgets that are used in appliances”
“We produce widgets that are used in appliances.”
It’s a small point, but it really is very telling! Employees who consistently feel that they are an important part of your company will usually personally identify with it. Those who feel unimportant or neglected will often distance themselves. You obviously want to nurture the right attributes which, very often is something as simple as being accessible, caring, and open to their suggestions and contributions. (It’s really not all about salary!!)
So You Don’t Have Employees?
That doesn’t let you off the hook! If you are your only employee, then what’s the first impression that people have of you? Are you reachable, concerned and friendly? Or do they have to wade through multiple levels of voicemails, messaging, etc., only to hear the infamous “…Your call is important to us so please leave a message…” (If that’s really you, please call me – I can help!!).
In other words, treat your employees well and make them want to say good things about you and your company. And remember, it’s not all about money. Independent decision making and a realization that they are important to the organization will create far more loyalty than pay raises, (but that’s for another topic).
And of course, if you want to avoid the hassle of employees in general, give us a call at Daybreak. We’ll make certain that your virtual staff is committed to the well-being of you and your business, and we’ll impress your clients on your behalf!
Until the next time,
Daybreak Office Solutions, LLC
Daybreak Virtual Office