Burnt Door, Portland, OregonKnow how to kill your business fast? Serve up some great content, get people excited and talking about you and wanting to buy your stuff and then deliver stuff that doesn’t match the quality of the content. Or stuff that doesn’t solve the problems the content addressed. Or use bait and switch tactics. Or turn on high-pressure upsells for crap. Or forget about customer service. Or make it REALLY difficult to talk to you or a live body. And pretty much treat your customers like it’s a privilege they had the opportunity to even give you some of their hard-earned cash. Forget about delivering on any promises you make. And for good measure, why not yell at your customers to really seal the deal.

As a business owner, it’s not likely that you’ll do these things. At least not intentionally. But many small businesses aren’t equipped to scale. And as you grow, it seems harder and harder to keep your customers happy because you don’t have time to take care of them. They’re focused on solving today’s problems that they don’t plan for tomorrows. LIke when you get busy and can’t handle all the details yourself. And then hire a warm body but fail to train them on how you expect your customers to be treated. To keep in touch. So you have to always find more. And repeat the cycle.

I won’t mince words. Content marketing takes time. Time to create and time to see results. Don’t think that just because you’re not buying advertising and you can do it yourself that it’s free. There’s a time cost. And while you’re working on your content, you still have to mind the store. Customers always have options. Even if you’re the only game in town (not likely if you do anything online) they always have the option to not buy from you. To not buy anything.  Running a business is a daunting task, isn’t it?

To be successful, here are the keys to the kingdom:

  1. An incredible product or service that meets a need or fulfills a desire. Make it the best you absolutely can because options abound.
  2. Competing on price is not a good differentiator unless you have a distinct edge. Most anyone can undercut you and you’re on a quick trip down.
  3. A magical customer experience. Make your customers day each time they interact with you. It’s so rare that we have a good customer experience that this pays off hugely. And it’s a tough thing to do day in day out. Never underestimate the power of great customer service.
  4. Make it super easy to do business with you. Make yourself easy to reach. And clearly state your hours and response times. Set expectations up front and then deliver. Don’t make people dig for your address or phone number.
  5. Over deliver on your experience.
  6. When you screw up, apologize. Fast. Take responsibility and never pass the buck.
  7. Don’t let rude customers taint your experience. Not everyone’s a great fit for you. I know it’s hard to give up business – especially if you need all you can get, but really painful customers can diminish your ability to delight the good ones. If you can, refer them to your competition. Especially if you’re in the service business.
  8. Price at a premium but deliver value. People really will pay for great products and service if they believe they’re right for them. Especially if your products help them earn more money. You know that old ROI thing? Cheap products that don’t solve problems are just that. Cheap. But costly if they prevent a business from achieving their objectives.
  9. Focus on the relationship. No matter how mundane or unemotional a purchase might seem, it’s always emotional. People do business with people they like. And people they’re aware of.
  10. Great content, consistently delivered that builds trust, credibility and authority to build the relationships and the interest that converts into sales. While this is the starting place for bring people to your sitestep, you need to have all of the above worked out beforehand. Because once they’re here, it’s show time!

Is there more to it? Sure there is. You can make it as hard as you want. But the basics always matter. Do everything as simply and elegant as possible and only add complexity when simple doesn’t get the job done. I think many of us like to hide behind fancy tools, formulas and programs – making excuses for why we can’t do something. If you hear yourself saying if I only had X then I could do Y better. Hogwash I say.

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