Posts Tagged ‘business tips’

Secret Handshake? Why Rituals Are Critical to Your Business Culture

10-5 company rituals smallDoes your company have a secret handshake? Probably not, but you may want to think about creating one. Look at any sports team and see the special things they do before, during and after a game. They prepare and celebrate in a way that is unique to them.

I saw one of the best examples of this while I was traveling to New Zealand and witnessed the national rugby team, The All Blacks playing a match. Their ritual of doing the legendary Haka, a native Maori dance before each game is legendary.  Paolo Guenzi, an Associate Professor of Marketing, Bocconi University in Milan, Italy states in Harvard Business Review that “It expresses the team’s pride in their heritage and teammates. Neuroscientific research shows that rituals like the Haka trigger feelings of connectivity, timelessness, and meaning, which stimulate mental flow states. These, in turn, reduce anxiety and increase energy and focus.”

This has also been tested by Francesca Gino, associate professor of business administration, at Harvard Business School. He conducted a series of studies and got people to do tasks that caused anxiety. Half the subjects had to perform the stress-inducing task without performing any ritual, while the other half were taught a ritual to carry out before the task. According to Professor Gino, the ritual in itself can be nonsensical. For example, Gino had one ritual in where the participants were asked to draw a picture of how they were feeling, sprinkle salt on the picture and then tear it into five pieces. He reveals that “we saw lower physical arousal and there were real differences in performance, [among those performing the ritual]…Ritual puts you in a mindset of ‘I am going to do this’.”

Rituals in a company are such an important part of any culture. It makes all employees feel like they are part of an exclusive club. Like in sports, it creates a share social identity which drives the team to deliver a better and happier performance.

A company that I worked at had a ritual of giving annually a Mercedes luxury car to the top sales manager. The following year, if another manager won the car, the previous winner had to drive the car to the new winner’s location wherever they were in the country. This ritual gave an incentive not to lose the prize each year since the managers were spread around the U.S. Similarly, top sales performers at Mary Kay Cosmetics are awarded driving privileges of pink Cadillac’s.  Some companies ring a gong when a new sale is made. 

At Gentle Giant, a Somerville, Mass.-based moving company, they host "The Stadium Run" up and down the stairs at Harvard to highlight its culture of hard work. For this team, it has become a rite of passage ritual for new movers.

Here are rituals every small business owner should add to their company:

  1. Awards ceremonies. A lot of companies give out prizes for outstanding performances. But, the successful organizations go one step further and give awards for things that are a bit more quirky with some elaborate pomp and circumstance. For example, the "Passing of the Pillars" is an important ritual at Boston Scientific's facility. When an employee has a tough project, they are "awarded" a small two-foot high plaster-of-Paris pillar to show that they have the support other team members.
  2. Team building exercises. These may be company outings, contests or sports team activities. They can be specific exercises that get them to solve a problem working together. These should be done in an open, creative and non-judgmental environment.
  3. Celebrations. This can revolve around holidays or birthdays. But, a more effective ritual is to create a company’s unique celebrations: Formal Fridays, Milkshake Monday, Pina- Colada hour, Ice Cream Sandwich day, and Crazy sock or hat day.

Let some of the rituals happen organically from the employees. Observe what the group does naturally and then reinforce them formally. A secret handshake may actually do the trick!

4 Tips on Mentoring Employees for Everyone’s Benefit

Without inspiration from a former boss, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos might not be where he is today. In a mutual mentorship, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg turns to Washington Post CEO Donald Graham for advice on being a CEO; Graham turns to Zuckerberg for social media advice. But effective mentorship does not have to apply only to top brass. Nor does the mentoring relationship have to be formal or all-consuming — and the best partnerships are mutually-beneficial.

Here are four tips to help you learn the essentials of mentoring and how to do it for mutual benefit.

1. Mentor/Mentee Matches Often Begin Informally

Mentorships often begin when you offer a bit of advice to someone or when a person comes to you for advice. Whether a co-worker approaches you to learn your secret to handling difficult customers or you offer shortcut tips to a local print shop owner to improve scheduling, you are a mentor.

In fact, those few minutes may mark the entire mentor relationship. But, it may also mark the beginning of a long-term mentorship.

2. Scout for Likely Candidates

The ability to promote from within an organization is valuable, whether you run a small business or manage a department within a multi-national conglomerate. Why seek outside candidates when you have promising employees that already have experience with the company processes and culture? The key is to identify the employees that show promise for advancement.

If you are a small business owner, you probably already know the potential of your staff. Managers at large companies, on the other hand, do not have intimate knowledge of all of the people around them. If you are a large-company manager, you might suggest company-arranged (and funded) lunches to help spot the up-and-comers. These are the people who think beyond their job descriptions. They may regularly come up with money-saving ideas and they generally recognize that departments outside their own are affected by every decision. Their ideas consider this big picture.

3. Understand the Difference Between Mentoring and Training

Mentors help develop people into their best selves by guiding them to capitalize on their own abilities and attitudes. So, while you would train a person to follow steps 1, 2 and 3, you might mentor employees to make decisions by requiring them to practice their reasoning abilities.

Have you ever felt frustrated when someone answers a question with a question? This is known as the Socratic Method and it is very appropriate in mentoring. When a mentee asks how to handle two employees that need the same resources to meet identical deadlines, for example, this is the time to ask some questions. Are the deadlines equally important? What are the consequences of missing each deadline? Are there ways to share the resources? Do not tell mentees what you would do; teach them to think it out for themselves. This is the difference between mentoring and training.

Training develops a skill set — bookkeepers learn where to put the debits and credits, sales people learn the details of the product line, and everyone learns where paperwork goes for processing. Good mentors may recommend additional training, but great mentors might wait until their mentees recognize that they need training — and ask for it.

4. Know What's in it For You

Mentorship relationships are beneficial to mentors, too. If you are a work-overloaded manager, a talented mentee can take some of the load off, even freeing you up to better focus on high-level tasks. You also gain the loyalty of someone who is likely to help you in some important way in the future.

Still, if your company requires you to take someone under your wing, it is important to be clear on the benefits that you will receive. Will you receive monetary compensation if the mentorship creates more work? Or, will your mentoring efforts make it possible for you to move up the ladder while you groom your replacement? You might undertake an informal, short-term mentorship purely for altruistic reasons, but it is reasonable (and necessary) to expect more from a formal relationship.

Mentors Need Mentors, Too

You have many abilities to pass on to promising employees — particularly if you want to retain them over the long term. But don't forget that mentors need mentors, too — even the top gun. If you own a business or run a large organization, recognize that there is a vast array of resources outside of your company doors. As you network with other business owners or executives, don't be afraid to ask for advice to help you further your short- or long-term goals. And, don't be afraid to offer advice, either.

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Connection with Your Customers

10-14 Customer relationships smallYour first sale may feel like a huge validation of your vision, and your first passel of sales may leave you feeling confident. As much as you treasure sales though, it’s your customers that make your business run smoothly. While many of your customers will only buy from you once, other customers will give you repeat business. And once you establish a relationship, they will happily buy from you again and again as long as you continue to deliver great service and products.  So what can you do as a small business owner to build, support, and encourage a long-lasting relationship with your customers? Here are six habits that guarantee they’ll keep coming back for more of what you offer.

1. Make Good on Your Promises

If you promise to fulfill an order, you must complete it in the timeframe you promised. If you said the product will be delivered in a pink box by a bear, and it gets there in red box delivered by an ox, you have failed. Yes, the delivery made it and most customers will appreciate that, but by not following through as you promised, you’ve already damaged trust.

2. Find a Balance Between Value and Profit

When you undervalue your product or service, the quality of your offering will be questioned. Also, if you set the bar too high, you may miss part of your market by charging too much. As a business owner, it is important to fine tune this balance; charge too little and you won’t make any profit; charge too much and people will go elsewhere for the same product at a lower price.

3. Focus on Quality

Whatever specialty you offer, be it goods or services, the quality of your offering will deepen devotion. Yes, you can obsess about details that make you lose focus on the big picture, but you rarely will go wrong when you improve the quality of your product. Ask your customers how you can improve their experience and take action on her suggestions.

4. Stay in Front of Difficulties When They Occur

Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, you will make mistakes. The more quickly you acknowledge them, the more quickly you can correct them. Never let your customer tell you about a problem that you already know about. Reach out to your customer and alert her if you know your shipment is late or you’ve sent the wrong item. Don’t depend on the customer’s lack of attention to amend the situation. You will gain respect and appear extra reliable.

5. Show Appreciation

It really is as easy as saying or writing “thank you for your business.” Of course, if you want to do more, I don't think there is a customer alive who will discourage that. Create a loyalty program, special flash sales, discounts on large orders, gifts with sales, and referral benefits are all ways to show your appreciation. Birthday specials, trunk shows, or exclusive benefits are extra ways to say “Thank you!”

6. Keep in Touch

Don’t just close the sale and move on. Your follow-up after a completed transaction is key to repeat business. You need to find out how everything went. But if a customer hasn’t purchased in a while reach out to them. You don’t even have to bring up future business. You can thank them for past order or share a tidbit of information to reconnect. Just touching base can motivate a past customer to think about your brand again.

Making the effort to build a relationship with a customer will pay off long term. It takes such a small amount of effort to keep a customer happy and buying, just make the effort.

Become a Stage For Customer Interactions

In my last article, I discussed how to make it easy for your customers to share their impressions of your business. Today’s theme is related: helping customers connect with each other as they together experience your service. 

People shopping in a retail store.While your business may be the star of your life, for your customers it represents something different.  It will never, as a matter of fact, be the center of your customers' lives. Only your customer, and the people your customer cares about, will every hold that position.  So a business often insinuates itself best into a customer’s life, memory and loyalty by being a backdrop to the story of their lives, as experienced with their friends and family. By learning from them, learning about them, and then getting the heck out of the way, or at least out of the foreground of the experience.

Restaurants, for example, provide the setting for marriage proposals, love affairs, breakups, arguments and, according to every mob drama I’ve ever enjoyed, the occasional professional hit. Not to mention the more prosaic: business meetings, shared sunsets and outings with coworkers. This isn’t isolated to foodservice setting: Airlines, hospitals, even the DMV, can be settings for the drama that runs through customers’ lives. Embracing this reality can allow your business to become very powerful, by helping customers to live out the drama and fantasy of their lives with the people who matter to them.

“My goal in life is to make you a hero to your spouse,” luxury hotelier Mark Harmon tells me. If Harmon were more shortsighted, he might set his aims on something more conventional: making his hotels the most profitable properties in the luxury hotel market, for example. But Harmon focuses on his customers’ goals rather than his own. As he puts it, “The touches we add [help] make for a memorable time together here. This is important, and we take it seriously. In the big scheme of things, how often as a couple do you really—I mean really—get away from the kids and get to connect, in a stress-free setting? We’re honored that guests let us be the setting for that, whether or not it’s technically what you’d call a special occasion.” Harmon feels his Auberge Resorts’ success is built upon the relationships his guests have with each other while enjoying Auberge’s service. It’s an astute and effective way to serve today’s customers.

For the fraught, high-stakes referral healthcare that Mayo Clinic is known for, treatment often becomes a socially complex, multigenerational affair. Mayo addresses the inclusion of family members and loved ones through design. Every exam room is designed to encourage collaboration and commiseration. One simple change has made a big difference: Each consultation room, as Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic author Leonard Berry has observed, features a specially designed, multipurpose couch instead of a couple chairs that only two can use and are rarely plentiful enough for everyone who needs to be present.

You may not think the relationship-conduit model applies to every business situation, but it applies quite widely. The True Value Hardware store and the CVS Minute Clinic seem purely functional at first glance, so putting a priority on facilitating customer relationships there appears beside the point. But even mundane, transactional situations common to the Minute Clinic or a hardware store can be improved by keeping an eye out for how relationships among customers can be facilitated. A Minute Clinic is a lot more comfortable for the patient if the patient’s family has a place to sit as well; the same goes for a customer at True Value if there are changing tables (for when you bring the family) and aisles wide enough to accommodate a shopping companion who gets around via wheelchair.

5 Ways to Improve Your Communication with Your Customers

If you want to keep your customers happy and loyal, it isn’t enough to offer a groundbreaking new product or service anymore. The customer experience has to be memorable and surpass their expectations, and this starts with offering exceptional customer service.

There are five key principles we subscribe to at Nextiva to ensure we are providing the best customer experience we can. Over the years, we’ve found that it is the little things that make all the difference in the customer experience. And thanks to the help of technology and cloud communications, many of these principles will be easy to implement in your business.

1. Act human and always add a personal touch to the customer interaction

Do you like talking to a robot? I would think (and hope) that you said “no”. As consumers of products and services, we want our interactions with the company we are buying from to feel genuine and personal. The little touches such as calling someone by their correct name and remembering their preferences will go a long way. While a script or general guideline may be necessary for certain job functions, don’t be afraid to let your employees inject some of their personality into their interactions with your customers. Also, go the extra mile whenever possible and make your customer feel like you genuinely care about them and their needs. The bare minimum isn’t enough anymore and will cause you to lose customers to your competitors.

2. Integrate your CRM with your phone system

It’s a fact of life that the majority of people dread calling a company’s customer support. So rather than slowing down the process by having to ask your customers for their name and account details, integrate your phone system with your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Cloud phone systems have made this easy to do and it will significantly improve interactions with customers, as well as save your customers (and your team) valuable time. The Nextiva App for Zendesk is one example, but there are a variety of options out there and many of these integrations are free, or come with a small fee, depending on the systems your business utilizes.

10-1 Customer Communication smallThe main benefit of integrating your two systems is customer records are at your team’s fingertips the minute they answer a call. You can reference past calls and check-in on other questions or concerns the customer may have had in the past. Additionally, this will help management identify trends in customer calls that can be used to create change—from updating messaging and communication to revamping processes and user tools.

3. Follow through

Do what you tell your customers you are going to do. How many times have you been promised a follow-up email or call back and never received it? Your customers’ time is precious, and they are counting on you. Don’t make them follow-up with you, instead provide them with the information they requested when you said you would. If you don’t have an answer or all of the information for them, at least check-in to let them know you are still working on it. This goes for all departments in your organization, but especially sales and customer support. This also builds trust between your business and your customers, which leads to a better overall customer experience and customer loyalty.

4. Remember them!

Without customers your business would cease to exist. It is important to show that you appreciation them. This can be done in a variety of ways, from a special promo offer to a simple email or phone call. At Nextiva, we send a "Happy Nextiversary" email to the businesses we serve on their “anniversary” of being a Nextiva customer. It’s a fun video where members of our team thank our customers for their business and remind them that we are always available to help with anything they may need.

To implement something like this at your business, pick a milestone, event, holiday, etc. to show that you value their commitment to your business. It’s even better if you can offer them something that will encourage them to continue doing business with you, such as a complimentary service, discount on their next purchase, or an exclusive access to your new product and service before anyone else.

5. Create a customer referral program

Reward your customers for bringing you more business via a referral program. Consumers are smarter than ever, and they are much more likely to believe a recommendation from a friend or peer than they are from a billboard or banner ad. An endorsement from your customers is the most important marketing tool in your arsenal and the more you reward your current customers for promoting you to their network, the more likely they will be to continue sending business your way.

But it isn’t enough to simply have a referral program; you need to make sure your customers (especially those that are happy) are aware of the program and its benefits. Send emails, have your sales and account management teams mention the program when speaking to customers, share on social media, etc. The options are endless, and do what works best for your business.

How to Implement Goal Setting in Your Small Business

I know what you’re thinking: I am tired of not moving things forward enough in my business. I’m here to tell you that the reason why this is happening is because you are not measuring yourself against business goals. Are you one of these people who says, “Why set goals if you never end up meeting them?” Or you know you should set goals, but you haven't quite gotten around to it (like backing up your data or keeping your antivirus software up to date). I encourage you to shift your thinking about goal setting. When you take the time to set goals and follow through on those, it is an investment that pays. Here are six ways to look realistically at your business and create meaningful business goals.

1. Analyze the Current Situation

Look at where you are right now and ask yourself: are you where you want to be? It is imperative that you are clear with yourself about your current circumstance regarding money in the bank, accounts payables, your sales pipeline, and your processes. Once you have established what the present looks like, only then can you plan for the big picture and set goals against it.

2. Create a Roadmap

Focus on long-term goals in a five-year benchmark when you develop your goal roadmap. These reach goals have a place in your overall goal setting, but it is essential to set some clear, attainable milestone goals in the short term . Just as an undergraduate sets a goal toward earning a bachelor's degree before applying to grad school, your road map should include goals you can achieve sooner rather than later that will help you accomplish those long term goals. You may even find that creating yearly measurable goals helps you clarify your vision even further.

3. Break It Into Small Bites

Create short-term tasks to achieve your goals for the next year. Creating monthly and weekly sales goals will help you move the needle on your revenue goals. Need to increase sales? Set a goal for increasing cold calls, social posts and direct outreach such as attending meetings. Need to get people to your website? Establish a content development system and start an editorial calendar. Need better subscription numbers? Work on developing a new free download for your website. Remember: you can’t achieve your goals if you don’t take steps toward making them happen.

4. Stay Focused

It’s not enough to set goals. Now you must make substantial efforts to attain those goals. For example, if you are going to be developing content, set aside one day a week to do that. Be proactive and set deadlines for your milestones in order to achieve those goals. It’s easy to get distracted or discouraged, so keep trying even if you miss a milestone. One of the best ways to stay focued is to avoid or eliminate distractions whenever possible.

5. Work Hard

This is a time when hard work determines your outcome. So many entrepreneurs spend a lot of time working on their day-to-day activities and don’t allocate enough time and resources to commit to achieving their professional goals, and then they wonder why they failed to accomplish those goals. There is a direct correlation between the amount of energy you put toward a goal and its results. Set your biggest goals first, they the annual goals, then the monthly and weekly goals. Once your organize your time this way, you will see a difference in your business.

Is Speed the Best Way for Small Businesses to Attract Customers?

The fast casual business model enjoys continued success for a reason that goes beyond low prices: customers are busy people who see time as money. Every minute that they spend waiting for service is a minute lost to other daily activities. This same concept holds true for any business — from store-fronts to consulting services. But in some cases, faster service can cause a speedy customer exit. Before taking action to accelerate your operations, you have to ask three basic questions to make sure that your changes attract customers, rather than deter them.

1. Will Speed Reduce Quality?

The first question may seem obvious, but you really need to carefully forecast the product or service outcome before you decide how to go into high gear. Maybe speeding up will give you advertising bragging rights because you can deliver custom widgets in half the time of your competitors. If you save time because of a unique manufacturing process that continues to deliver high-quality widgets, you'll have loyal customers. If you reduce production time by eliminating time-consuming (but important) quality assurance checks, however, former loyal customers will stay away in droves when their widgets break down moments after their purchase.

2. Does Speed Require that One Size Fits All?

Next, ask yourself if you can deliver the precise product or service that your customers need at high speeds. Just about every product requires some degree of customization; grocery stores even offer potatoes in a range of types and sizes. The real question is whether your product or service lends itself to offering the right variety right off the shelf or if you need to customize the product to make every sale.

To make this decision, you have to carefully analyze your customer needs. If you sell vinyl siding, for example, sky blue might be a perfect choice for some homeowners, but others may need gray mixed in to blend more naturally with the roof color. Offering stock colors allows you to complete installations more quickly, but it will send many customers to other vendors. If you can speed up the color customization process, however, you offer the kind of speed and flexibility that can attract a broader range of customers.

3. Can Speed Alienate Customers?

Not all time is created equal. Customers don't want to waste time, but they often view the time that you spend with them as a commodity. Service businesses are often particularly tied to time, with medical offices being a primary example. Patients typically (and correctly) place more trust in doctors who spend more time with them. Time is as much a part of the product as a cure. Cut down on that time and patients may feel like they are part of an assembly line. Unless you have no competition, they will look for another doctor who shows greater respect for patients.

Waiting time, on the other hand, is dead time for customers and there are usually any number of ways that you can provide services more quickly. Medical offices show respect for patients by getting them out of the waiting room and into treatment rooms more quickly by providing nurses who handle preliminary tests before the doctor walks in. If they are located in shopping centers, they may provide patients with 15-minute warning pagers. Auto parts stores can dedicate a separate line for customers with time-consuming questions. Customers ordering specific parts can zip through the process — order-takers at the counter quickly deliver a list of parts to order-pickers, who rapidly fulfill customer needs from a well-organized warehouse.

Efficiency is Always a Worthwhile Goal

Time is money for your customers and for your business, so it makes sense to constantly look for ways to deliver high-quality products and services as efficiently as possible. Even if you can't advertise "the world's fastest service" or "customized wedding gowns while you wait," your customers will recognize your company's value and pass the word along to others. Remember that word-of-mouth is often the best advertising of all.

How to Retain Talented Employees In Your Small Business

9-23 Retail employees smallIn your business, your team is everything. Even if you follow the guidelines from my blog on how to hire your first employee on the best practices for hiring and interviewing candidates, some bad seeds will still find ways to slip through the cracks. It’s not just poor workers who will affect how your team pool changes. Millenials, who comprise the largest generation currently working, have exhibited a trend of job-hopping in search of the best job with the highest compensation. The goal for you, as a small business owner, is to prevent your most talented employees from jumping ship. Here are some tips for how to retain your best and brightest employees.

1. Think Long-Term

If it’s financially impossible to increase an employee’s compensation, you need to remind him/her that one day it will be. Be sure that all of your employees have a concrete idea of what your vision is for your business and what role they’ll play in helping your get there. Make them understand why you do what you do. If you voice how much you believe in yourself and your team, the desire to stay working for you and helping you reach that goal will follow. If you treat your employees well, they’ll trust you enough to know that when you become successful, so will they.

2. Compensate Fairly

Depending on the skill and education levels you require for your position, compensation will play a large role in obtaining and keeping talented people in your circle. A paycheck and its accompanying benefits are a huge factor when workers consider leaving for another employer. Do you offer health benefits, a retirement package or an annual review during which good work is rewarded with a raise? You should consider all of these things and figure out compensation that is fair to keep you best employees

3. Give Perks

While small business owners have the desire to compensate employees very well, we all know money can get in the way. If you can’t financially afford to pay your employees exactly what they deserve, figure out what else you can do to balance the scale. Sculpt a laidback, but professional, work culture where creativity and inter-office friendships are encouraged. Offer paid vacations and sick days, maternity and paternity leave or the use of your equipment for an employee’s side project. Time is free, and if you feel that your employees might deserve more than what they see in their paychecks, there’s no harm in offering other benefits to them.

4. Offer Growth Opportunities

Talented employees are people who crave responsibility and growth. If you’re sure an employee is someone you want to keep on your team, offer him/her the opportunity to take on more challenging and engaging work. This will keep your employee interested while also preventing the job from becoming mundane or predictable. Keep your talented employees on their toes with more demands. They will see and feel the trust and faith you have in them.

You need your employees and they need you too. You will run across your fair share of bad employees during your time as an entrepreneur, but when you begin adding really valuable, talented employees to your team you need to know how to hold on them. It will be the best thing you can do for your business.

Grow Your Business by Facilitating Social Sharing

In most commercial arenas today, sharing by customers is the order of the day.  Before a purchase decision is being made, while it is being made, after it has been made. In the travel industry, this change is particularly striking: there’s no longer a clear before, during and after. It’s all “during,” and the “during” is spent with your friends and loved ones, wherever in the world they may be. Friends are, in a sense, always along for the ride: kibitzing, advising and being advised by you as they plan their own trips while you’re taking yours. Boston Consulting Group has attempted to quantify this: “For a four-day leisure trip, the average consumer spends 42 hours online … dreaming about, researching, planning and making reservations, and then sharing their experiences while they travel or when they get back home.”

This holds true as well for retail, where girlfriends share selfies from the dressing room so offsite friends can help with fit and style. In dining, customers share course-by-course photos of their meals (“foodographs”) in real time. In live entertainment, fans attend concerts and switch perspectives throughout, between the unmediated live experience and viewing or streaming it on their video camera’s tiny screen.

Even in healthcare, tweets and status updates from inside the ER are not unheard of, notably from professional athletes who suffer serious game-time injuries. Getting medical opinions from offsite friends and family members before and even during some procedures is far from rare to boot.

This is a multigenerational phenomenon: Even the venerable Silent Generation has long moved on from shooting slides and loading them into carousels, often thanks to the influence of their younger, more tapped-in family members. Customers today of all ages shop, dine and travel socially, thanks in no small part to smartphones.

Other technological factors include customers’ now effortless ability to share their experiences and reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, as well as the ease of organizing friends, families and unaffiliated interest groups online in ways that result in real-life meet-ups, dinners, dates, drinks and events.

 This socialization of consumption extends beyond what might traditionally be considered friends. Even ostensible strangers—online followers and brands’ online reviewers—are in many cases trusted by younger customers more than the information that comes directly from even well-established brands

Customers today live and consume in a world of search and social. People look for authority online and from acquaintances with similar experiences, perspectives and backgrounds. This is quite a shift in how customers end up making their buying decisions. Buyers include their circle of acquaintances, both the physical and virtual kinds, in practically all their commercial activities—which has a real effect on what ends up getting purchased, and how it ends up being experienced.


Since social consumption is a fact of life for and with today's customers, why not build it right into your product or service? Here are two inspiring examples:

• Hotel 1888 in Sydney, better known as the “Instagram Hotel,” facilitates social sharing throughout its customer experience, with predetermined “selfie spaces” and an “Instagram walk” that they’ve mapped out for you. By celebrating the role of the hotel and its environs as a backdrop, 1888 makes sure it gets in the picture as well.

•   Drybar, the “blowout bar”  that has transformed the haircare industry with its runaway success (they’ve grown from 4 locations when I first encountered them to nearly 40 in the U.S. and London opening soon)  encourages relationships between its customers in several ways. With permission, Drybar posts before-and-after photos of customer blowouts on Facebook and Instagram, whereupon fans critique and comment on the transformations, in some cases selecting certain winners to “hang” on Drybar’s Facebook-based wall of fame. The Drybar mobile app has sharing functionalities built right into it as well. When a customer makes an appointment, she’s invited to share it with friends (who may parlay this originally solo invitation into a real-life Drybar meetup). And offering these social media features works especially well for Drybar because the company follows through by making its physical space conducive to gatherings beyond the solo flyby or two friends catching up. The comfortable, open yet sound-level-aware layout in Drybar makes it a natural choice for birthday parties for nearly all ages as well as for girls’ nights out, bachelorette parties, sweet 16s and more.


So start thinking about how you can turn your business into a stage for customers to share, online and offline, with the people who matter to them.  It will help your business matter more to them–which will matter a lot, in the end, for the success of your business.

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