Small Business and the Customer Experience

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(Sponsored by PRINTING United) This week on 2 Regular Guys, Aaron and Terry will be talking with Dana Curtis from Biztool. The conversation will cover small business entrepreneurship, the experience your customer sees, feels and touches with your business, and ways to develop your own business strategy.

Our Success GroupOur regular listeners know this, but 2 Regular Guys are all about garment decorating, a bit of fun, and no rants or lectures or selling. We are not doing this for our employers, but rather for our industry. Since February 2013, The 2 Regular Guys have been the first and the most listened to garment decorating industry podcast on this planet! We are humbled by all of you tuning in each week. We work hard to bring you information that will make your business better, and our industry better. Take a look at our incredible weekly guest list and you’ll understand where this industry goes for news, interviews, and the heartbeat of garment decorating. Thanks for listening!

News

Dad Joke – Two snails got into a bar fight…

It was a real slug fest

Customer Experience

Aaron:  Dana Curtis is the founder and CEO of Biztools, a strategic consulting firm that helps small businesses multiply revenue through improved customer experience and pivot to new markets. Welcome to the show Dana.

Terry: Dana, let’s start with defining what customer experience means to you?

Dana: My view of the customer experience is the journey a customer takes from the moment they learn your name all the way through the purchase process until they: A) forget who you are, or B) think about doing business with you again – at which point they start a new experience.

It is the sum of their encounters with your business across all channels. It can be a windingly complex sales cycle over a period of months with multiple touchpoints, or it can be a quick search right before popping into your shop in person.

In some cases, you may never be aware of them at all.

Aaron: What’s the one most common mistake a new business owner makes when it comes to designing their customer experience?

Dana: There’s a couple I can think of, but probably the most common is trying to do too much and be all things to all people. Half measures get half results, and the single hardest thing new business owners must deal with is building Brand Equity. A simple definition for brand equity is the answer to the #1 question every prospect asks: “Why You?”  

It’s simple to understand, yet the most difficult question to answer.

You simply can’t do everything, so by stretching yourself too thin, you either make promises you can’t keep, or you don’t earn enough revenue to sustain the business.

There’s a reason the “average age of successful entrepreneurs is 45”, by that age they know how to slow down and draw lines in the sand. 

Terry: Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of customer experience. What is the process for a garment decorator to create a better “customer experience”?

Dana: I approach this problem in 3 parts – essentially the beginning, middle, and end of the journey I just mentioned.

Beginning:

I like to have my clients walk me through their customer journey. Most don’t have one. Their initial response is usually “I get a phone call or an email” or “somebody fills out a form on the website”. If they have a retail space, you can also add “somebody walks through my door”.  

What I counsel my clients is the first time you interact with your customer in person, they are halfway through their journey. They have already formed an opinion about the business.

Middle:

After we have this conversation, I ask my clients “what do they think of you?” Most don’t know.

Their response is usually, “how should I know?” – which is completely ok, by the way.

When you look at the most successful brands, in any space, customers know exactly why they shop there.

Walmart vs Target? Price vs Style. Walmart shoppers go there because Walmart is the “Low Price Leader”. You may find things at Target that are actually cheaper, but Walmart has established themselves as the price option. Target leans more towards style with their influencers and flashy marketing, store layouts, and bright vivid branding colors. Again, Walmart has influencers and excellent branding, but the decision has been made in the mind of the consumer. It’s very easy to check boxes and simplify things.

End:

Lastly, I ask my clients to explain the buying process. This is by far the element of the conversation they are most prepared for. Every business needs to know how to capture revenue and provide a product or service. This question needs to be answered before you open your doors or publish a website.

What I’m really interested in is what happens when the process fails? What do you do when something goes wrong? None of my clients has ever had an answer for what to do. They always give me some version of “we handle it” or “we improvise”.

This is the most dangerous moment.

Establishing a relationship with a customer is always about trust. They need to know that taking a chance on you is worth it. They need to know that whatever problem they are trying to solve will be handled with complete transparency and give them the comfort to hand over payment. They need to know that you are in complete control of providing the product or service that attracted their attention in the first place. They need to know that you know what you are doing. 

Aaron: Why is it so important to get the customer experience right?

Dana: No startup ever won the price game without ridiculous venture capital funding. I’m guessing that 99% of garment decorators got into the business without backing from Tiger Global Management. Absent a history-defining patent that completely flips the technology or the business model upside down, any business owner needs one thing – a customer. Customers want value. When they can’t identify value, they default to the one thing they do know: price.

I’ve had many an argument with small business owners about this. It’s because it’s the single most difficult conversation to have with a prospect. I acknowledge this. When all the customer want to talk about is price, it’s because you haven’t defined anything special about your company, or they have a competing offer, neither of which will sustain your business.

Getting the customer experience right builds a customer relationship. A great experience gets them to tell others. It also gets them to pay your price. People will pay more if they like you, this is a proven fact. Go to a retail store and watch the sales process. If a sales specialist spends 15 minutes with a prospect, and they can’t provide what the prospect is looking for, the prospect will say “do you work on commission?” That’s a bond between humans. That’s classic Quid-Pro-Quo. The time and effort taken to make someone feel special tips the balance in your favor. It’s humanity. It’s the only thing left separating small business from Amazon. 

Terry: Tell us about your business, Biztools.

Dana: Biztools is a strategic consulting firm. We help companies get off the ground. We always say “you have to nail it before you can scale it”. Most of our clients have less than 5 employees and they have identified a few good clients, but they are having trouble figuring out what to do next. They’re stuck.

We help them get unstuck.

There’s no magic wand that can fix a business, you need to hit the problem from multiple angles. We take a multi-prong approach working collaboratively with the client.

We look at the customer experience first and foremost. Then we look at the market. We work with the client to identify the target customer, then we put together a profile for how to find that target and how to speak their language. We identify the competition and figure out where to position the client to separate them from the rest of the pack. We figure out why their current customers are doing business with them, and we leverage that.

Then we go to work on consistency and the books.

It’s very difficult to replicate a process from web to phone to email to chat to social to in-person. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what modern customers want – everything needs to match.

Lastly, we look at the books. Everyone deserves to start a business, not everyone deserves to stay in business. Cost control leads to cash flow issues and cash flow is the death of every small business. We nail the cost structure of the business so that we know where every dollar goes, then we have flexibility to talk about marketing and pricing.

The consulting fee typically pays for itself with the increased profit within a few months.

Most of our clients outgrow us within a few months and that makes me smile. 

Aaron: How can people find you?

Dana: Biztools has a LinkedIn page and we’re on the web at www.biztools.biz

You can also read my weekly column in Graphics Pro magazine GRAPHICS PRO

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#5Things

5Things

5 Things customers get wrong when purchasing garment decorating equipment

From Dana Curtis

  1. It’s a capital expense, treat it like one. Take advantage of any tax write offs or deductible business expenses. Everything that thing does pays for the business; capture every penny. Uncle Sam doesn’t waste any time going after you!
  2. If it’s not a “consumer product”, there is no Magnusson Moss act protection. The warranty is sacred to these manufacturers, they need to protect their costs just like you do. Follow instructions and don’t deviate just to save a few bucks. You also won’t get access to the service manuals or the service parts (pending current legislation). They can still keep those from you. 
  3. Buy the extended warranty, for as long as you can. Your business relies on this equipment, you can’t afford down time. You also can’t afford surprise expenses if you don’t have surplus cash lying around. 
  4. If you can buy direct, do it. Otherwise negotiate training and maintenance with a dealer. Everybody wants the lowest price but a receipt won’t fix your machine for you or make someone pick up the phone when you need help.
  5. Every machine is made of components that will fail. If they are listed as “consumables” get backups and have them on the shelf. If they stop working as they are supposed to, the manufacturer will tell you “replace it and see if that fixes it.” For everything else, if there is no lifetime warranty on the part, that means there is an expected duty cycle, usually in thousands of hours. Ask what the duty cycle is – this is the time the part is expected to perform without failure. If your machine has a motor with a 2,000 hour duty cycle and you run the machine 40 hours a week, you can expect to replace that motor just over the one year mark, and it won’t be under warranty! See above, buy the extended warranty.  

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