Make it Easy for Your Customers

For the last 11 years I have held a clothes swap at my house. It’s simple, I invite about 20-25 girlfriends and they bring everything they don’t want in their house (have yet to have a girlfriend bring her husband or boyfriend – lol) and bring it to mine. There are bags and bags and bags of items people don’t want and they spread them out throughout two rooms and then they all go “shopping”. The women take others items and see their “get rid of” items be picked up by someone. What isn’t picked up by one of the attendees is donated to one of a few local nonprofits (this year Sacred Heart Community Service and St. Justins Outgrown Shop). It’s a super fun day filled with great women, good food and helping others. This year we donated more than 800 items to two different charities. Believe it or not, this year was a small donation year!

The clothes swap has been successful since the beginning and most of the same women are still coming with the addition of a few new women.  This is how my clothes swap relates to your customers – 1) make it easy and 2) make it predictable.

1) Make it easy: These women have busy lives. They have careers, husbands/boyfriends, kids, social lives and so much more going on. They have very little extra time but I make it easy for them…bring in what you don’t want and I’ll do the rest. I’ll sort through all the items so that the appropriate nonprofits get what is right for them. I’ll put items on hangers. I’ll save you a trip to a bunch of locations so that you can hang with a bunch of awesome women while you socialize, shop and eat.

Your customers are super busy too. They have families, social lives and let’s not forget, lots of vendors that they’re working with. Don’t waste their time. When you say you’ll only need 30 minutes, take no more than that. When you give them a document to review, makes sure that it’s in a reviewable format. I think you get the gist. The easier you make it for them, the more that they’ll be willing and want to work with you.

2) Make it predictable: Most of the women who have been coming to my annual clothes swap have been coming for the entire 11 years. They know exactly what to expect ahead of time, during the swap and even the follow up after.

Again, if you say it’ll take 30 minutes, don’t take a minute more. Also let your customer know exactly what you expect out of them. If you’re writing a press release on them, let them know how long they will have to approve it, when you hope to release the press release, what the post press release process will be (media outreach, post to your website, social media…) and any other items. This way they’ll have the opportunity to tell you at the beginning if they can participate and if the time line will work. However, if they have to change the timeline at any point in the process that’s okay. Yes, it’s okay. I know you have deadlines to meet but the customer owes you nothing. You can give them a nudge to speed up the process but never ever get mad, yell or threaten them because they aren’t meeting your timeline. The customer owes you nothing! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Got it?

It’s that simple…make it easy and make it predictable!

Customers Owe You Nothing!

I’ve been working for technology companies for just about twenty years.  My main point of contact is either IT, Marketing or Sales. Getting their time is rare and when I get it, I have to make sure that I use the time wisely. Sometimes I don’t get what I need from them, but I’m always thankful for their time because I know that they have their regular job to do and they also have many many many other vendors that they work with.  My time is precious, but I also know that their time is precious too.

Although there have been many times that I have asked the world of a customer, I know that they have no obligation to do anything for me – even if they are 100% happy with my company’s products or services.  I have never made a customer sign a document saying that they’ll commit to doing x, y or z because I never want to legally contract them to doing something for me.  Rather, I want them to want to do something for me.  Your customers aren’t your children, they are more like the boy/girl that you’re dating. You are also  not married to them and they are not married to you.  Could you imagine during your wedding having to sign a contract that says that you’ll clean the toilets once a week, take your spouse on an expensive vacation four times a year or write you love letters once a month. Wouldn’t you want them to want to do that, rather than making them do it.  When we’re forced to do something, it becomes an obligation and very few people like being obliged.  The only obligation that your customer should have to you/your company is to pay the invoice. That’s it!  Everything else is just icing on the cake.

And never, ever threaten them because they couldn’t do something or had to back out of something.  Don’t dismiss them just because they weren’t able to follow through on a commitment. They are people too and have other things to do than make you/your company look good.

I’ve written it  many times before it’s worth repeating. Customers owe you nothing!!  Nothing at all!!!!  I don’t care if you have sent them shwag for months, you gave them a discount or you remember their birthday.  When they do something for you, the vendor, it’s a favor.  Don’t expect them to make you or your company a top priority.  If they do, you’re lucky and it’s great.

What We All Can Learn From MasterChef Junior

I’m sitting here watching MasterChef Junior and I’m smiling because it’s a very refreshing show.  As one child (they are all young kids) succeeds, they all smile.  When one receives criticism, they all grimace and feel the pain.  They are all a team, yet they are all competing for the same prize…the title of MasterChef Junior. One ity bitty little girl just said to a competitor and teammate “I would serve it at my restaurant”. Seriously!?  That’s amazing.

What happens between being 8 1/2 years old and how ever old your are now that makes us stop publicly praising those whom we work with and for? When did we lose our inner child? When did we start thinking that there’s not enough success to go around that we have be mad at those who do well? As working adults, we’re so focused on winning and doing better, getting more and going faster, that we sometimes forget to slow down and see who is around us.  See who is holding us up.

Whether it’s your customer, teammate, co-worker, friend or family member remember that there is enough to go around. Whether it be joy, success, money, love, success we all get there through teamwork and supporting each other. So next time you start to thing “Grrr, so and so just got a promotion!” Stop and rephrase your thinking to “That’s awesome that so and so just got a promotion.”

Good things happen when we’re good to others. Be good! It’s easier than you think.

there's enough to go around



All the world needs is pizza!

I was at home last week and watched the Ellen DeGeneres Show and they were spotlighting a kid (he’s in his 20s) who left Wall Street, moved home to Philadelphia and with no restaurant experience, he opened a pizza joint, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza.

At the beginning of January his little pizza joint had 599 “likes” on Facebook. Today, just a week after the Ellen Show, they have just under 10,000!!!! That’s insane. Normally I’m not a huge proponent of “followers” or “likes” because it doesn’t truly show engagement. (Side note, there are benefits of having followers and likes but many times the numbers are overrated…but that’s a different post). However, in this case, I’m making an exception and it’s because of why this little pizza company is gaining so many followers that I’m writing about them now.

Today I was at home and there was one bad thing after another on the news…a hospital shooting in Boston, a freeway collapsed in Cincinnati, gas leak down the street from my house, all of different magnitudes of bad news. There’s very little positive or happy news on the TV, and then I remembered seeing Ellen’s show on Rosa’s Fresh Pizza.

What makes Rosa’s different is that they are giving their customers (and now non-customers) the ability to easily and quickly help those who are hungry.  It’s this simple…you buy a $1 slice of pizza and you tell the person at the counter that you want to buy another $1 slice for someone who is hungry. You then get a sticky note (just today 3M  provided Rosa’s with a whole lot of sticky notes…woot woot!), write a message on the note, stick it on the wall and when a hungry person walks in, they go to the wall, take a sticky note and trade it in for a slice of pizza. That’s it!  That’s all it takes to make a difference in someone’s life…a positive difference. It’s such a great story and it’s fantastic to hear that thousands of folks have heard the story now (thank you Ellen) and are now following this little pizza shop. And, the shop is now getting in money from people nowhere near Philadelphia to help feed the hungry. Check out Rosa’s Facebook page to see and read the stories. I dare you not to smile and give a huge sigh of “wow, people really are good!”

This week I challenge you to two things! 1) Spread positive news. When you’re about to tell your neighbor/friend about something bad that happens, stop, and think of something positive to say. We need more happy stories. 2) Do something good/nice for someone to pay it forward. When I cross a bridge in the East Bay (an actual bridge, not an analogy), I always hand the toll taker a Starbucks gift card for $10 and sometimes I pay for the car behind me. It makes me feel good, I love seeing the reaction of the bridge toll taker and seeing how long it take the car behind me to realize what I had done 🙂 (side note…did you know that bridge toll takers have one of the highest suicide rates of any job?)

Check out Ellen’s blog post here.

Check out the Ellen interview here.

Pay it forward my friends, pay it forward!


Rosa’s Fresh Pizza Sticky Wall


Science vs. Art…or both

I recently spoke to a few members of a Marketing team and although they had great Marketing ideas, they had trouble getting adoption from their Field and Channel Marketing teams. They couldn’t figure out why – great ideas, great team members, great product, great corporate revenue…

As I started asking questions, I quickly realized that they considered Marketing to Field and Channel a science. You do A and B and C will automatically happen. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Marketing to Sales people and Channel partners isn’t a math equation, it’s a lot more than that…I’d say they have half the equation down pat. But, the other half is completely missing and in 2015 it’s a shame to say they are definitely not the only Marketing teams that have this problem.

So what’s the problem? The “art” is missing. Marketing to Sales and Channel partners is also an art. You cannot have a team focused on creating Marketing programs that just push those programs out. You absolutely absolutely absolutely must have a relationship with those folks to whom you are giving the programs. I can’t emphasize this enough!!! You have to understand their goals, what motivates them, get their input and feedback and just know them. Believe it or not, it sounds easier than it really is.

I’ve been at many companies where the Marketing team has no idea who the Sales teams are and couldn’t name four Sales people. Marketing teams where they haven’t spoken to anyone on the Sales or Channel team in months, yet are focused on helping them sell more. Does that make any sense to you? I really hope not!

I don’t care who you are, where you work or what you do for work, if you don’t have a connection with people, your fantastic ideas will fail! It’s that simple! Anyone remember “new Coke“? This example might be a radical one, but you get the point. If you’re goal is help people, talk to them.

Field and Channel Marketing is both a science and an art. Metrics are important but you also have to have a relationship with the stakeholders. Doesn’t matter how fantastic your program is, if you don’t have end user buy in, it’ll flop.

Austin, Death and Being Human

“Thank you!” How often do you say those two words…and actually mean it? And I mean really mean it.  Not the assumed, “Here’s your coffee” followed “thanks” while not looking at the person and walking out the door.

I was recently in Austin, TX and let me tell you, those folks are amazing.  I was overwhelmed by those working in the stores and restaurants.  They asked questions and were really interested in the answer.  I’m so used to being the Bay Area where a natural response to “Hi, how are you?” is “Hi, I’m fine.  How are you?” but not meaning it because I (or the other person) is walking out the door while answering it. It was uncomfortably reassuring that they wanted a real answer.  Weird that it was uncomfortable, right? Why should it feel so awkward to have someone ask me how I am and mean it?

This past weekend I was in Detroit for my Auntie Joan’s funeral.  One thing that she was known for was her kindness towards others which was shown in hand written notes.  She’d write a note to say hi, happy birthday and, as I found out this weekend, to congratulate my cousin for the birth of their son.  What was funny was that she was so fast to write a congratulations note that she wrote “Welcome baby Cormac!”  By the time the card arrived, my cousins had renamed their son to Kiernan 🙂  She was just that fast!  But the important thing to remember is that she took the time to write a note to someone rather than texting or emailing.  She took the time to show her appreciation for a new nephew and to congratulation my cousins by finding a card, writing a note, addressing it, finding a stamp and them putting it on the envelope and finally mailing it.  There was much more involved that just opening up email, writing a few words and hitting send.  She made it personal.

At the end of the day, we’re all human.  We want others to notice when we have done well.  We need constant feedback that we’re on the right track and we want to feel appreciated.  We like to hear “thank you” but only when it’s genuine.

As we, in the States, get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, thank you!  Thank you for reading my blog, thank you for forcing me to write and thank you for your interest. If I had all of your mailing addresses, I’d send you a note.

I challenge you all in the next week to compliment someone, even if it’s just a thank you, but really mean it.  Make eye contact, say it sincerely and see the response you get.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Granny Lesson

My mom and dad have seven grandchildren. Three live in the US and four live in Ireland. The ones who live in the US live relatively close to my parents so they see each other often. The grandkids in Ireland, however, don’t have the benefit of being with my parents much. But, that hasn’t affected their relationship. The kids Skype with my parents on a weekly basis so that they can see and speak with each other. It’s as good as living down the street.

One of the last times my mom went to Ireland, my youngest nephew, who was three at the time, saw her in the airport and went running up to her and gave her a huge hug. He knew who she was and was thrilled to know that his granny was going to spoil him for the next week or so.

I have channel partners all over the Americas. We email often and have good, productive, email exchanges. However, it’s the phone calls and in person meetings that are the best. We can relate to each other and there’s something about sitting in a room with someone and hearing their voice that changes a relationship. Words written in an email can be taken so many different ways so if you don’t have an established relationship, then words can easily be taken the wrong way. When you sit face to face or hear a voice over the phone, you can get the tone of the voice and can really get a better understanding of what the person with whom you’re speaking, really means.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have built strong relationships with my channel partners over the phone, and of course email, that when we meet face to face, it’s like we’ve know each other for years, understand each other and give each other hugs. (For the record, I don’t suggest hugging people you don’t have a relationship with and if you’re unsure about it. A smile and handshake will work just as well.)

My challenge to you,  get out of the email rut, stop texting, walk over to someone’s desk, pick up the phone or hop on a plane and meet someone face to face. The bond that you build can be as strong as my nephew’s and my mom’s.