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Custom Coaching for Results March 26, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Bronder On People, Management.
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Want higher performing employees? Customized coaching is one of the ways to increase employee performance. The Big Dogz know all about custom coaching. They send their managers to special training to teach them how to do custom coaching! Here’s how it works:

Every employee has a capability to perform a certain task. The employee capability is made up of two components — knowledge and desire. The knowledge component is the employee’s awareness of how to do the task. Do they know what steps are necessary to do the task at a satisfactory or higher level of performance? The desire component is the employee’s willingness to do the task. Willingness is related to motivation, confidence and benefit to the employee. High performing managers coach their employees by customizing their coaching based upon an analysis of these two components.

Knowledge
Let’s look at the knowledge component first. Of course you need to specify the task as a SMARTER objective so it is clear to the employee what you want. (See Getting the Results You Want Wednesday, February 28, 2007.) If an employee does not know how to do a particular task, then you as the coach must provide instruction and closely monitor the execution of the task. You may assign a more experienced person to coach the employee or you may do it yourself. As the employee develops the skill necessary to do this task, then you back off and let them do the task with less supervision. If they are already skilled at this task, then you leave them alone and let them get the task done without you looking over their shoulder.

Do not confuse an employee’s overall knowledge and ability with the knowledge required for a specific task. Just because a bookkeeper is good at reconciling numbers does not mean they will be good at creating a sales presentation. In fact, most of your high performing people will not tell you that they do not know how to do a task. They are highly motivated and will try to figure it out for themselves. This situation can cause them to become frustrated and produce poor results. They may perceive you as “dumping” on them. There is also danger in providing too much knowledge coaching when the employee is already competent at the task. The name for this type of coaching is called micromanagement — and we all hate being micromanaged! The consequences for not customizing your knowledge coaching is that the task will not be done when you want it and you will not get the result you desire — more wasted time and money. In addition, you will damage the relationship you have with your employee.

So how do I determine if an employee can do a task at the high performance level I desire?

  • Have they done it before?
  • Ask them to explain to you how they will do what you ask.
  • Watch them for a short period of time.
  • Ask them questions about the task, like “How long do you think this will take or who will you get to help you?”
  • Have them start the task, then report status to you.
  • Watch their reaction when you ask them to do the task.

In summary of knowledge component coaching:

  • The lower the knowledge component, the more instruction you provide and the more frequently you check to see if progress is being made.
  • The higher the knowledge component, the less instruction you provide and the less frequently you check to see if progress is being made.

Desire
The second component of custom coaching is the employee’s desire to perform the task. In dealing with this component the coach focuses on the employee’s motivation, confidence and understanding of the benefits for performing the task. The approach is exactly the same as with the knowledge component. When these factors are low or missing, the coach provides more of them. When these factors are high, the coach reduces focus on these factors.

Here are some examples:

  • Assume your employee’s confidence in performing a task is low. As a coach you would provide encouragement, feedback and opportunities to prepare. If the employee’s confidence is high, then you would state your confidence in the employee and tell them you know they will be successful.
  • Your employee may not understand why a particular task needs to be done. In this scenario, you would provide classic selling to convince the employee that the task is necessary and beneficial to the company or even to them personally. If the employee already understands why the task needs to be done and is willing to do it, do not “over sell” them. Think about a time when someone was “over selling” you. How did you feel about that person?
  • It is always an effective technique to align a task assignment with an employee’s motivation factors. When you do this alignment, let the employee know you are addressing their motivational needs. When you give the assignment to the employee say something like this “Jim, you said you wanted to learn more about how the sales department works. Here’s an assignment that will allow you to meet all the sales people.” If you use this technique and you are not addressing the employee’s motivational needs, then you take the risk of de-motivating them.

If you provide too little or too much coaching for the desire component, you could adversely affect the result you will get — more wasted time and money. You will also damage the relationship you have with the employee.

So how do I determine the desire level of the employee?

  • Ask them.
  • Watch their reaction when you discuss the task.
  • Pay attention to their motivation factors
  • Listen to how they speak about the assignment
  • Ask them pertinent questions about the task.
  • Ask them how they feel about getting the assignment.

In summary of desire component coaching:

  • The lower the employee’s desire component — lack of motivation, understanding or confidence, the more encouragement, selling and motivation factors you need to provide.
  • The higher the employee’s desire component — high motivation, understanding or confidence, the less encouragement, selling and motivation factors you need to provide.

High performing managers use custom coaching to get the most out of their people. You can too. Experiment with this technique over the next thirty days to see if it can work for you. The rewards are huge!

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Harnessing the Potential of your Customers-Part 1 March 26, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Keeping Your Customers, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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dirksphoto.jpgHumor me a moment while I state the obvious: Your customer is worth a lot. Every customer creates more than just a ‘sale’. Every customer and every transaction with that customer creates many different opportunities for you, the small business owner.

What can a customer create besides a sale? How about customers that help you create marketing ideas? Or new product and/or service ideas? Or customers that become an extension of your sales force? Increasing your profitability starts with how you are harnessing and utilizing the available potential from your customer base.

Creating a business model that includes the ability use your customers in ways that help you profit and grow is something even the big dogz don’t always do well. In fact, in some areas, such as retail, few of them bother to harness the resources they already have in place that would enable them tap into the ‘customer potential’.

Case in point. I go to a well-known and large sporting goods store near my home. I purchase something and at the register, they ask me for my zip code, which I dutifully give them. Now, they are asking me for my zip code (and only my zip code) so that corporate marketing can make sure they are including their weekly sales flyers in the right zones.

Is that all I have to offer them? Of course not. On the surface, I’m nothing more than a zip code. Since I frequent this store, they should know what kinds of purchases I make throughout the year. If they tracked my purchases to ME, the real, individual, bonafide customer, they’d probably find a pattern. I buy lots of fishing gear and usually certain kinds. Armed with that data alone is worth its weight in gold…you think?

So this retail big dog, with it’s access to resources, hasn’t figured out how to really get to know ME, their customer. What could they do if they took the time to know me better?

They could:

1. Encourage me to buy more of what I like to buy at their store.

2. Encourage me to buy items that are similar to what I usually buy but don’t.

3. Encourage me to feel ‘special’ by providing me with ‘exclusive’ offers.

4. Link & encourage more of my family members, who also have purchasing power, to buy at their store.

5. Create events that are exclusive to customers who spend as much as I do at their store.

6. Encourage me to tell my friends just how great their store is.

7. Encourage me to tell them all about my buying habits related to what they sell or could sell.

They could get more mileage out of me but many of the big dogz don’t. I laugh when they ask me for my zip code. I laugh harder when they encourage me to get one of their ‘discount’ cards but never go beyond asking me for my zip code. What a waste.

What an opportunity for you, the small business owner. How much is your customer worth? More than you think.

I think I’m going to dedicate the next couple of blogs to this topic. It’s worth it.

TV Advertising: Not Just For Big Dogz Anymore!! March 16, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Small Business Advertising.
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dirksphoto.jpgHow can I effectively use TV advertising in my market like the big dogz do and do it on small business budget?

In the past, most small businesses wouldn’t even contemplate TV advertising. Creating commercials and then buying the airtime could easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you have a few bucks for advertising, you’ll do what you can with local newsprint, radio, or maybe dabble in direct mailings.

So, TV advertising has been pretty much out of the question for most small businesses and within the exclusive world of the big dogz. Enter an internet-ad agency called Spot Runner.

Spot Runner (www.spotrunner.com), is most likely the first internet-based ad agency that provides a very cost effective way for small, local businesses to participate in TV advertising. Here’s how they do it:

First, the service is internet-based. So you can get an entire TV ad program up and running from your PC. You choose from a library of thousands of 30-second TV ads and personalize it for you business. They have ads for a wide variety of business categories. Everything from Arts to Sports is available. You can preview any ad you want. I went through a few of them and they are professionally done and sharp. In particular, I looked at a fishing tackle ad under “Sports & Recreation”. It was an exceptionally well-done ad that would put any of the usual local “car dealer” ads to shame (you know, those ads you see on your local channels that look a few bars below professional).

Each 30-second ad costs you $499…that’s it. The same ad, if you tried to hire a professional ad agency to do it, would literally cost tens of thousands, if not more. You couldn’t produce a better ad than Spot Runner has for that price.

After I selected an ad, I told them (online) about the demographics I am targeting. Then Spot Runner asked me where I wanted to run the ad, so I chose my zip code. It gave me the option of running ads in Orange County and/or the greater NY area. I chose both.

Then I could set my advertising budget and determine the number of weeks I wanted to run the campaign. Then, with a press of button, Spot Runner developed a full TV campaign that I could review. My 4-week campaign would cost me $1990 (plus the $499 for the ad) and would run 123 times on such channels as TNT, TV Land, USA, etc. For each network, Spot Runner told me how many spots would run on each and the dayparts (when during the day the ads would run) for each network.

Wow. Where else can you find a way to run 30 second spots for about $16.17 per spot? Spot Runner is the answer for the small business owner who wants to maximize their exposure in their markets for a price that they can afford. You want to run with the big dogz? Check out Spot Runner.

You & Co-Creation March 4, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Co-creation Marketing, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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dirksphoto.jpg“What can I do to increase my sales, grow my profitability, create more foot traffic or inquiries, and engineer some ‘buzz’ around my business, etc.?”

There are many things you can do. Here’s one to consider very seriously:

Your customers and potential customers. Your current customers and your potential customers are more than just a wallet or purse that opens and closes. They are a source of small business energy that is rarely harnessed in ways that can generate more visibility, sales, and profits.

The big dogz are just starting to catch on to what is being described as ‘co-creation’ with customers. Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power magazine (www.sellingpower.com) noted in the October 2006 issue “Brands no longer view customers as targets with a wallet, but as co-creators of exciting and profitable solutions.”

What does this mean for your business? Let me give you an example from the big dogz first. Gschwandtner focused on Timex. “To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Timex conducted a global design competition: ‘Timex2154: The Future Date of Time’. Designers from 72 countries explored the future of personal and portable timekeeping and sent in 640 surprisingly creative entries.” What a great way to create a real ‘buzz’ about Timex and get people outside the company to help!

In another example, Doritos created a campaign that invited consumers to create a 30-second commercial to sell Doritos. Anyone could create an entry with nothing more than their video camera. Then they had online consumers vote on which they thought was the best.

Why did Timex and Doritos do this? They did it in order to created excitement around the product (or brand) and GET THEIR CUSTOMERS TO PLAY AN ACTIVE ROLE. Anytime you can create ‘buzz’ around your business and give your customers a part in it, your business wins.

How does this apply your small business? Let’s say own a woman’s fashion store and you want to create something that will help you give you store more visibility and foot traffic (more sales).

Co-creation answer: How about putting together a fashion design contest, sponsored and hosted by your store? Think about it. You create the vehicle that allows customers (and potential customers) an opportunity to have some fun in a fashion competition. The top prizes could be gift certificates to your store. Want more exposure? Make sure your local paper, radio station, and TV station know about it. The local media might even be interested in supporting it. Cap it off with a very public fashion show held at your store or other (low-cost) venue.

Here’s another example for a local sporting goods store. Why not have contests for the most innovative fishing lure design? Have an adult and kids division so you can get more potential customers involved. Why not call a lure manufacturer and see if they wouldn’t want to help sponsor it and/or judge it?

Give them nice prizes (don’t skimp here) to motivate them to participate. Use the local media to make sure you get maximum exposure before, during, and after the event (more on that in another blog).

Anytime you can get your customers and potential customers involved in your product, store, or service, you help to differentiate yourself from the rest of your competition. You create foot traffic, interest, and dynamic ‘buzz’ that ultimately leads to more customers, sales, and profits.

Trust me, your competition isn’t thinking about this. Do it and run with the big dogz.