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Take your business from ordinary to 'Wow!' in no time
Take your business from ordinary to 'Wow!' in no time
Practical strategies to create 'top of mind' positioning among your best prospects
I have to share a conversation with you that I had with one person who I respect a great deal because I think it's an amazing rags-to-riches story, which is perfect for this Labor Day weekend.
It's one of those stories that anyone with a pulse would say, "Wow!"
I'm talking about legendary business coach, speaker and author Nido Qubein and what continues to impress me is how he's transforming entire companies ' and now a liberal arts university ' so that anyone who comes into contact with his businesses or college can't help but be impressed.
More importantly, he has lots of terrific advice for anyone trying to increase their sales in a slow economy.
First, I need to give you some background. Qubein (pronounced ko-BANE) came to the U.S. from Lebanon at age 17 with only $50 in his pocket searching for a college education. Every morning, he taught himself 10 new words that he wrote on a 3x5 card while attending college in North Carolina at what is now High Point University. He is also the college's most recent president (more about that in a moment).
After graduate school, he started a very successful business selling youth leadership publications and then launched a speaking and consulting career. His business savvy led him to start a bank in 1986 and he now serves on the board of BB&TFinancial, a Fortune 500 corporation with more than $115 billion in assets. He’s also chairman of Great Harvest Bread Company with more than 100 franchises in 41 states and he serves on the board of La-Z-Boy, the retail furniture giant.
Most recently, he added president of High Point University to his already impressive resume where he’s turning around the small private, liberal arts college.
First on the to-do list: raise $10 million!
On his first day of work, he told everyone the university needed to raise $10 million in 60 days to build new classrooms, renovate the stadium and invest more money in the school’s scholarship programs. What would you do if you needed raise $10 million in just 2 months? That's another story in itself, but the short version is that it call comes down to what he calls "positioning." More about that in a moment. His result: $20 million raised in half the time – 29 days. In fact, they raised, $60 million in 14 months.
What does this have to do with you and your business, especially in a slow economy?
Three questions to help put the power of Wow! to work in your business:
1. Ask yourself: “If someone was in the marketplace to buy what I have to sell, would they think of me first?”
2. If prospects do think of you first, why? If not, ask: “What do I need to do so they think of me first?”
3. Then, determine how you want your customers to communicate your positioning to their friends. “What would they say?”
“When times are down, one must examine how we are positioned in the minds of those who are likely to do business with us and is that hurting our business or is that enhancing our business?”
Nido Qubein, President, High Point University
What would your customers say?
I love how he framed the question to his team: “Let’s say an 18-year-old student at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina, was talking to a friend of theirs in Chicago, Illinois, and they were saying, ‘We have a lot of building going on and by the way, we have this really great new building going up. Let me describe it to you.’ How would that 18-year-old describe the building?
“Would they say, ‘It’s a big building with restaurants in it?’ Would they say, ‘It’s a building where I can go hang out with my friends and really have a ball; that’s where I spend most of my time and I just love this building. It’s amazing how I feel when I’m in this building’? …What would they say?”
The next question he asked the team to answer was even more important: “What do we want them to say and how do we then communicate the message? How do we then position the building? How do we then position the relationship in a way where people are saying the right things about us in ways that can get us the results that we want?”
“How are we positioned?”
“That’s what I mean about positioning,” Qubein says. “When times are down, one must examine how we are positioned in the minds of those who are likely to do business with us and is that hurting our business or is that enhancing our business? How can we improve it?”
That approach has produced some amazing results at High Point. The freshman class tripled in just two years, revenues doubled and the student retention is up 10 percentage points.
Visit the campus for the first time and as soon as you pull into your designated parking space, an electronic sign flashes your name and hometown on it and says, “High Point University welcomes you.” Sculptures of Socrates, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Madam Curie and Benjamin Franklin are scattered throughout the beautifully maintained campus. A student ambassador gives you a private tour of the campus in a golf cart and offers you a cold bottle of water branded High Point University.
Walking by the academic buildings, classical music plays over the outdoor speakers along the promenade. The student ambassador will also show you how the school models its values of generosity, joy and fellowship. You’ll see the value of generosity at a kiosk where students can get free water and snacks all day.
Next, you’ll find an ice cream truck that gives out free ice cream every afternoon to students and the ambassador will tell you it’s about the value of joy. Talk about abundance thinking!
Then you’ll get a tour of the cafeteria where an orchestra or a band plays on the stage every day at lunchtime while students are talking and eating. The ambassador will point out to you that this is about the value of fellowship.
Qubein adds, the ambassador will probably tell you, “You know, it used to be that students would go into the cafeteria, gobble down the food in ten minutes and leave. Now they go in and the environment is so conducive and so welcoming that they spend a solid 30 or 40 minutes on average in the cafeteria. Now they bring their wireless laptops, they talk to friends, and they listen to music. Food is no longer the primary destination point. It is fellowship, making friends, and building relational capital.”
That’s the power of Wow! You can see students telling their friends about it and how others would want to experience an environment like that for themselves.
Put the power of Wow! to work for you
How do you apply those concepts to your business?
Create an environment that people will want to experience what you have to offer. At Great Harvest Bread Company, for instance, they don’t give out “samples” of bread, they give out “amples” – big chunks of bread you have to share.
Qubein challenges his franchise owners to think about how they would attract customers if they had to charge $2 admission just to get into the store. Then, he asks them to consider those ideas that don’t cost much money but do generate revenue, word of mouth advertising and repeat business?
How do you apply the power of “Wow!” to your business? Create an environment that people will want to experience what you have to offer.
Find ways to impress your customers and make them say, “Wow!”
Appoint yourself a personal librarian for some of your customers and clients and send them copies of your favorite books. Call customers on their birthday, just to say “happy birthday!” Send a box of Godiva chocolates to a customer or client just to say, “Thanks.”
At Brand Launcher, we send cards to clients for no particular reason with a CD of classical selections from Mozart, Chopin, Vivaldi and Beethoven from www.soundline.com. They don’t sell direct so call my office if you want to place an order.
We also have fun with some of our gifts. We send a pair of giant scissors to customers to help them “cut through the red tape.” We send a giant ear as a funny reminder to do more listening.
Zombie finger puppets are another funny reminder to not do the same things over and over. There are tons of more great ideas at www.McPhee.com
Whenever you get off the phone with a customer or client, send them an email or something in the mail. ACTION ITEM: Never get off the phone without talking about the next step you’ll take with them in the relationship.