“Love Genuinely”

“Who loves ya baby?”
“Who loves ya baby?”
In the beginning, a business starts with an idea. And if you’re a typical entrepreneur, you develop a love for what you do that drives you on.

For example, maybe someone you know can’t unflutenate their wasteng. Everyone knows a flutenated wasteng is bad news. It causes pain for those afflicted by it, and so you work to develop a process that unfluenates wastengs to a stellar degree. Your process genuinely is the “quick and easy” way to unflutenate wastengs.

In the midst of the time and energy that you put into developing this process, you develop a real love for it. And you can’t wait to tell the world what your new process will do for them.

This is where content marketing comes in.

For a time, your first customers are your first love. And they feel the love, to be sure. You can’t wait to be with them, and they can’t wait for you to come around. They subscribe to your materials, and refresh their inboxes constantly while they wait for news of your next offering.

But then, over time, a business starts to take its customers for granted. Maybe the first generation of entrepreneurs, who loved the business, move on, or pass away, and another generation of leadership comes in and changes things; later, yet a third generation comes in and loses all memory of the first love that drove the business on.

This would be bad news indeed.

But it gets worse. The third generation of leadership, who has not only lost all love, but has lost all memory of the love, hires some high-powered sales and marketing executives to figure things out. These individuals may be proficient, but they don’t have the love for the customers that drives them on. They don’t have the love for your process.

Two things are needed for Love

According to Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and now globe-trotting business guru, the most important thing you can have in business is “authenticity”.

The most powerful thing you can do is, well, be real. As in not phony. As in grappling, sweating, laughing, and caring. As in authentic.

That works in real life, but of course, when you talk about search engine optimization (SEO), it seems as if Google is looking for that sort of genuineness in its current search algorithms.

A second concept was articulated by Steve Jobs in this 1993 Wired interview:

To design something really well, you have to “get it” You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.

What does grok mean? According to Wikipedia, the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein originally coined the term grok in his 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land as a Martian word that could not be defined in Earthling terms.

Quoting the novel:

Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science…

To return to our example above, you and your customers share the ailments associated with fluenated wastengs, and you work with all your might unflutenate them. You have more than empathy for such sufferers. You love them.

The real joy is when customers love you back: advocacy is considered to be the Holy Grail of social media. Customer advocacy can really help you multiply the return on your efforts. It takes all of the above to a new audience and leads to word-of-mouth praise, online and offline.

Customer Service Technologies to Watch

As a person in the midst of the job search as well as seeking project work or contract business, I’m interested in finding signs of life in the economy. One area where companies ARE investing right now are Customer Service Technologies.

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports:

Companies are trying harder to please customers amid the recession — and it appears to be working. The American Customer Satisfaction Index, a widely followed survey conducted by the University of Michigan, is at a record high. Other surveys also report gains in customer satisfaction. The results are unexpected, because customer satisfaction typically declines in a recession as companies cut costs, says Bruce Temkin, a vice president for Forrester Research Inc. In this downturn, though, he and other analysts say companies are protecting spending that affects customers.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Sprint Nextel Corp began a service-improvement plan at the end of 2007. Call-center operators now are rewarded for solving problems on a customer’s first call.
  • Cheesecake Factory Inc last year added an online customer survey to its “mystery shopper” program to assess service in its 146 restaurants. “Chief Executive David Overton cited the service initiative Thursday when Cheesecake Factory reported second-quarter earnings that topped expectations, though net income fell.”
  • Comcast last year introduced software to identify network glitches before they affect service and to better inform call-center operators about customer problems. The tools, and more employee training, helped Comcast cut repeat service calls 30% last year.
  • US Airways Group Inc. last year deployed hand-held scanners to better track baggage, part of an effort to improve reliability, convenience and appearance.
  • Southwest Airlines Co. recently introduced a system that allows customers waiting for a call-center operator to hang up and receive a call back, without losing their place in the queue.

Forrester Research suggests that 57% of large North American companies employed an executive in charge of customer satisfaction in 2008, up from 27% in 2006.

“The best time to start a company”

Cathy Mosca posted a New York Times article on TomPeters.com entitled “The Self-Employed Depression.”

Now, maybe I’m just too new to the ranks of the “self-employed” to be so jaded, but the Wall Street Journal today posted an article entitled “Processing a Software Idea Into a Suite Job at Google” — a story about how Sam Schillace, an engineering director at Google, got that way.

Serial entrepreneur Sam Schillace had been writing software professionally for 16 years when one of his ideas caught Google’s attention. Within seven months, he had sold his online word-processing program to the search-engine giant, where it joined an existing online spreadsheets program to form Google Docs. Now, he oversees engineering for Google products including Gmail, Picasa and Reader.

That’s a much more hopeful article — very positive about the need for perseverance.

Schillace says, “You start a company because you have an idea that you think will be great for some customer — and great ideas are always worth doing, even in a tough market. It’s also the case that many big companies are started during downturns and benefit from the added focus and discipline that’s necessary. So it might actually be the best time to start a company, if it’s the right idea and it’s done well.

Admittedly, Google represents a world that most of us don’t have the skills to aspire to. But there’s also a whole lot of ground between Google and “depression.” That’s ground that most of us can take, to one degree or another.

Here’s what I recommended the last time I was in this position:

… when I started, I almost had to be frantic about getting paying work. I can’t say it enough: pursue new work furiously. By that, I mean you should do all you can to  make sure you are doing an effective job of selling yourself, and not worry about much of anything else. Even if you’re not comfortable selling yourself, it’s the one thing you should be doing with all of your might. In my case, I did everything that the job search professionals recommend in order to get new work – networking, cold-calling, mass-mailings – and I put a great deal of effort into all three of those methods. I ended up getting work from all of those sources, as well as from other sources.

From Breaking Free, The Quest, pg 96.

on having a diversity of clients

“There’s no greater security than having a diverse client base,” Irish Tom said….

My thought was that I could offer harried marketing managers the opportunity to take such hectic times off their hands, (whether on a monthly or quarterly basis), and give them the opportunity to bring more order into their lives.

I also recognized that there were peaks and valleys in workload, such as at times before conventions and sales meetings, when there were scrambles to get many things done on time. “I can help you get those projects done, and there is no need to hire another staff person who will only sit around and waste time during the off-peak periods,” I would say.

As well, I imagined myself sitting down in front of a potential client and saying, “Mr. client, you should use me because I’m the best person for this job. No one else will bring more competence and enthusiasm to this project than I would bring. If this has been a headache project for you, then your headache days are over. If you’ve had a lot of turnover, I can bring a kind of stability that even a full time person can’t bring, because I’m taking the long view; I want to be doing this for a long time.”

From Breaking Free, The Quest.