The Ever Fickle Customer and Why Customer Experience is Key

thumbs up thumbs downThis blog post was going to be about the nearly perfect customer experience I initially experienced when I rented a car from Enterprise a couple of weeks ago.  I got busy and didn’t get around to writing the post — which, in retrospect, was perfect.

A back-story is in order:  My car — a Mazda 6 which I am reluctant to upgrade because we are preparing to go on a worldwide adventure for a few years —  was making funky noises on a road trip to Whistler in December.  Fortunately, my hubby knows his way around an engine and he thought to check the oil.   We were down to 1 litre, even though we’ve been getting the car maintenance done at the local Mazda dealership since we bought it — uggh.

Ever since then, I’ve been reluctant to take the car on a big road trip, especially if I’m by myself, so I decided to rent a car for a meeting in Victoria, which is a 3 hour drive away.

I was bowled over by my initial experience with the car rental.  I’d booked using CarRentals.com and I really wasn’t expecting much.  However, the day before I was to pick up the car I got a phone call from a representative from Enterprise thanking me for booking and asking if I needed a pick-up.  I hadn’t considered getting picked up but when the offer came I said “sure”.  Pick me up at 1pm.

The pick-up was late — by about 45 min — which was not okay.  I know it’s a small operation but when people have an appointment and need a car, they need to be picked up on time.  Fortunately, I’d given myself an hour “buffer” between when I wanted to leave and when I needed to leave, so I was still able to make my appointment — (only “just” though because I’d left later and I hit rush-hour traffic).

The driver was friendly and apart from the delay, the pick-up was welcome.

When I arrived at Enterprise, the representative was great — and attempted to get me out of the office quickly to make up for the delay.  The guy who phoned me came out of the “back office” and introduced himself, shaking my hand and thanking me.  I was willing to forgive the lateness.

The rental itself went well — I drove 6 hours that day with no complaints.

When I took the car back the next day, there was a sign on the door which indicated they’d be back in 15 minutes — so I went to the coffee shop.  When I returned, the 2 employees who had welcomed me the day before were walking towards the cars and didn’t see me arrive.

I entered the premise — stepping over a small red bucket, a cloth and a spray bottle, which were sitting right in front of the one door out of two which were unlocked.  I waited a few minutes before the guy who had phoned me and welcomed me the day before returned.   He was surprised to see me waiting but quickly “returned” the car.

He asked how they could do better and by now I was no longer excited.

As I was leaving, I had to step over the bucket etc. again (which he had done himself twice — once to go outside to inspect the car — the other time when he came back inside).  I asked him why they were there and I was told that he was attempting to get the windows cleaned but they were busy.

What appears to have happened here is that the initial “wow” was all dictated by either corporate policy or corporate training but there was a disconnect in the rest of the experience.  Again, I realize it’s a small location and there isn’t enough demand to keep multiple people on staff — however, there are opportunities for improvement.

Customer Experience is in Every Business Decision

Next Rental – Approximately 1 week later

My daughter phoned from the ferry to say she was coming early and her friend couldn’t pick her up for hours — and considering my engine was now on the garage floor thanks to hubby, I decided to book a rental car again from Enterprise.  I showed up 15 minutes later and the car was not ready, which is understandable and forgivable.

I was asked to sit for 2 minutes while she washed the car (I was skeptical she could wash a car in 2 min but I didn’t say anything).   About 10 minutes later, I told one of the other employees that I was going to get lunch and I’d be back.
This time I was given a FIAT.

However, there was a problem with the car — on the way home the engine light came on and I immediately pulled over.  I called the office and explained the situation.   Again the experience was less than ideal — first response was could I take the car to the Nanaimo office (no — I didn’t know where it was — and besides the check engine light was on!).

We waited by the side of the road for an answer — we got one — someone would pick us up but it would take at least an hour (I expected 90 minutes).

I asked if it was safe to drive back to the mall because the last thing I needed was another engine issue!  I was told it would be fine, so I drove to Chapters and waited for a call to let me know how long it would be until someone picked us up.

Then I got the phone call — there was no-one who could pick us up.  I could call Roadside Assistance on the back of the rental form but it would likely result in a charge (and they wouldn’t get us home) or I could drive the car back — since the Nanaimo office also had problems with their FIATs giving “check engine lights” coming on randomly too.  In fact 2 out of their 5 cars has this issue — why they were still part of the fleet, who knows.

I expressed my concern about driving with a check engine light on and that I didn’t want to be held responsible if the engine failed.  I was assured that I would not be held responsible for anything should it happen.

A simple trip to pick up my daughter at the ferry — about 75 minutes away — turned into a completely stressful event.

I returned the car the next day — Good Friday — when the location was closed.   I put the keys into the return box, only to get them stuck.  I couldn’t open the return box door to see if the keys had dropped.  I phoned and left a message that someone should come and fix the box since I couldn’t confirm the keys had been “dropped” and if anyone else was returning that day they may not be able to return theirs.

(BTW, don’t even get me going on the fuel options — I’ve tried the return it as you got it and the return it empty, neither of them makes sense for the customer.  Enterprise… fill the car up before you rent it!)

Since Friday (it’s now Monday), I have heard nothing — nothing at all — and to me this is the most disturbing part of the customer experience.

Enterprise started off sooo well, yet I had a hell of a time with my last rental and no-one has even called to offer me anything — no thank you for letting them know about the key problem, no thank you for letting them know the check engine light went off when I got back home, no thank you for renting from them, no consideration as to the stress caused by driving a car 100km with a check engine light on, no apologies, no credit — nothing — not a word.

I have another car rental with Enterprise next week — and I wonder why.

Customer Experience Lessons

“Corporate” can dictate policy, procedures and practices and they can be followed with great results (as experienced with the first few  touch points I had, forgiving the delay in pick-up)

However, without a team absolutely on-board with the vision, the mission, the values and — most importantly —  a desire to deliver the best customer experience — a positive customer experience is not going to happen.

Update:  Last weekend I rented again from Enterprise.  I received the phone call 24 hours in advance again — but no offer to pick me up.  I showed up and spoke with the manager, Ryan.   My purse was open and he noticed the contract I had brought with me.  He asked about it and I said that I’d like to talk to him about what happened with that rental.  I explained the stress, the inconvenience etc. and he apologized.  He asked what I’d like — I said, I’d like you to write this rental off.  He said he couldn’t but what he could do is give me this rental (a 3 day rental), an upgrade and a tank of gas.  He also told me I could return the car to the airport which would alleviate the key drop problem I encountered.

I talked about customer experience and why consistency was so important.  I offered suggestions and let him know this is an area of expertise for me.  He kept checking in with me to ensure that he was meeting my expectations.   All, in all, he did everything he could and this experience makes for a great case study about why getting it right in the first place is a lot easier than attempting to fix it afterwards.

If you’d like to know more about how to transform your business or reinvent your life, contact Carol or check out how to work with Carol

What lessons do you take away from this experience?

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Creating an Emotional Connection – P&G

Creating an Emotional Connection Increases the Opportunity for Customer Engagement

When you create an emotional connection with your customers and/or prospects, your ability to increase your customer lifetime value (CLV) is higher because emotional connections are a necessary element for having a relationship — and relationships are needed for customer engagement.

In the olden-days, when people shopped locally, it was easy to have a relationship and connect with your customers on an emotional level because you knew them and they knew you.  Local marketers who adopt this philosophy today certainly attract more “loyal customers” than those who don’t and they have the ability to win back certain customers who have chosen to shop big-box or online.  B2B marketers are also wise to make the emotional connection with their customers too — after all it is a person who is making the purchasing decision.

However, what do you do when you are a multi-national consumer brands company?  How do you create an emotional connection to the company that provides toilet paper, diapers, toothpaste and the like?   I know I’m certainly not emotionally connected to my TP — unless of course there is one sheet left on the roll — and I cannot think of one consumer product in my home that gives me the warm-fuzzy of emotional connection.

Which leads me to this video from Proctor and Gamble — which had me in tears this morning.   P&G understands that women are — most often — the decision makers when it comes to many purchases for the home (unless, of course, there are no women in the home!).  P&G knows we women also tend to me more emotional than men and  P&G understands that Moms often feel unappreciated when it comes to their roles while raising children.  So, they create videos to pull at our heart strings with videos like this one.

Will this video result in me buying more P&G products?  Likely not, since I am not particularly brand-loyal when it comes to consumer goods.   I also couldn’t tell you which brands belong to what company, so is this video useful?

The answer is yes — and no.

Yes, this video is useful because it’s been viewed nearly 20 million times.  It’s got over 30,000 “likes” and over 3,000 comments.  It’s an engaging video which is increasing the exposure to the company and its brands.  …  and let’s not forget that I am one of who-knows-how-many who are sharing the video on my website!

However, if the intent is for me to buy their brand, I’m afraid it won’t work because, although I will probably remember this video, I still won’t remember what individual brands it represents.  Even as I type this a mere 5 minutes after watching it, I am struggling to remember what the diaper brand was and the more I rack my brain to remember, the more I realize I can’t remember any of the brands.  Perhaps it was the tears running down my face.

Was it a good use of their marketing budget to create this ad?  What do you think?  I’m the first to admit that I’m not a specialist in consumer brand marketing or consumer brand engagement — as you can likely tell — so I’m going to switch gears back to what I do know.

I know that it’s important to create an emotional connection between your customers and your business and it’s easier to do that when your business is not a multi-national consumer products brand!

Find a way to connect with your customers — on a personal level — on an emotional level — so that they will come to you to purchase because they know you will have their backs and because you share the same values.

It doesn’t matter if you have a B2B company like I do — we have always “had the backs of our customers”, we’ve always made an effort to get to know them as people, we’ve always done whatever we could to make them look good for choosing us over the competition.  If you have a restaurant, or a medical services practice, or a niche manufacturing facility — it’s exactly the same.  People choose to buy based on emotion and rationalize their purchase decision.   When you figure out how to connect with your ideal customers on that emotional level you can expect to see increased profit through referrals and repeat purchases.

Until next time — I’m off to find some tissues — not quite sure what brand we have here though 😉

What lessons do you take away from this experience?

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F.O.R.C.E. Formula™ for Business Transformation – Reach

F.O.R.C.E. Formula ™ for Business Transformation – Reach

The F.O.R.C.E. Formula™  is a comprehensive review and action plan for transforming 5 primary areas of business that are ripe for transformation.  Regardless of whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, a seasoned entrepreneur, a small business owner, a professional services provider or a leader in the corporate world, the F.O.R.C.E. Formula™ transforms the way you do business.

Within each of the 5 primary areas for business transformation there are 5 key elements and within those 5 key elements there are 5 actions, activities or questions to be answered.

In this video Carol explains the R in the Formula — Reach

How are you expanding your reach in a way that is both profitable and engaging?  How are you leveraging your expertise and the expertise in your business?  Are you using social media platforms to engage with customers and prospects?  Do you have a mobile marketing strategy and plan — everything from a website that looks good on a mobile phone, to using text messaging, a mobile app and even Near Field Communication?  Who are your ideal strategic partners to expand your reach?  Who can you partner with to enter new markets?  How can you get your non-competing but complementary products and services into the hands of another business’ customers?  Do you have products or services that can be licensed?   Are you leveraging new media platforms such as podcasts, Hangouts on Air, Kindle etc.

In this module – which is a big one – you will learn multiple ways to increase your reach with little more than commitment on your part and a small budget for tools or specialized services.

What lessons do you take away from this post?

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F.O.R.C.E. Formula™ for Business Transformation – Operations

F.O.R.C.E. Formula ™ for Business Transformation – Operations

The F.O.R.C.E. Formula™  is a comprehensive review and action plan for transforming 5 primary areas of business that are ripe for transformation.  Regardless of whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, a seasoned entrepreneur, a small business owner, a professional services provider or a leader in the corporate world, the F.O.R.C.E. Formula™ transforms the way you do business.

Within each of the 5 primary areas for business transformation there are 5 key elements and within those 5 key elements there are 5 actions, activities or questions to be answered.

In this video Carol explains the O in the Formula — Operations

Your operations are — in a nutshell — the way you do everything.  Do you have defined systems and processes for everything so that your training is simplified and your consistency is enhanced?    Where is your focus with your decisions and decision making?  What are people complaining about?  What is your business model or business models?  Do you have passive and/or recurring revenue — either as your primary business model or a secondary business model?  Do you have a well-oiled sales machine?   Are your vendors and partners in alignment with your business mission and values?  How can you leverage your relationship with them?

What lessons do you take away from this post?

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Career Reinvention

Is a Career Reinvention in Your Future?

hate-jobAs a consultant who helps businesses become more profitable by leveraging the relationships they have with their employees — and as a previously miserable employee — I know how challenging it is to have employees in the wrong role, at the wrong company and managed by the wrong supervisor.

From your perspective as an employee, being in the wrong company, the wrong role and/or managed by the wrong supervisor is no fun at all and from the employer’s perspective it’s expensive and potentially disastrous.   A misalignment between employee and employer is also the cause of unnecessary stress and health issues on behalf of the employee while also being a cause of lower productivity and profitability for the employer and nobody wants that!

Wearing my miserable employee hat for a moment, the reason I was miserable was that I was “stuck” in that job.  There were no other comparable jobs that paid as well in my community and as a single Mom I needed a well paying job that also had regular hours.

Feedback and recognition — two elements needed for employee engagement were lacking.  I did not have one performance evaluation in the 9 years I worked for the company — although I was suspended on my birthday once — I won’t forget that day!

I did not have any opportunities for advancement (perhaps it was my attitude 😉 — another driver of employee engagement (ugh)..

… and I had no idea what the mission or the vision was for the company and I certainly didn’t know how my role fit in — and I had a few roles within the company over those 9 years.

My managers didn’t manage — I really don’t know what they did — and my supervisors ranged from being great to downright horrible.

My trust in the abilities of senior executives was lacking (trust is another driver of employee engagement!) because the executives gave absolutely no indication that they cared about anything other than wheeling and dealing — which resulted in huge bonuses on top of their salaries.   I never saw an executive — ever — in my 9 years there, so they had no clue what was really going on “in the field”…

… And then there was the “plan” — the strategy for efficiency which changed like the wind — first we centralized, then we decentralized then the focus was back to centralization — which was my fortunate “out” including a severance package.

I suspect many people who read this Career Reinvention blog post can find themselves nodding their heads in agreement to what is happening in their world.

If you are one of those people who are miserable at work too and you are ready for a career reinvention — which is in the best interest of both you and your employer — allow me to offer you a suggestion or two:

  1. Know what you want.  What do you want for your life?  What is your ideal lifestyle?   What does your ideal day look like?  Your ideal week look like?  Who are you working with?  What are you doing?  What are you feeling?  Where do you live?  What are your clothes like?  Do you have children and if so, where do they go to school, who do they hang out with, what are their goals for their life?  Become very clear on what YOU want.
  2. Figure out your gap.  The role of every consultant, marketer and salesperson is to figure out where the “ideal customer” or “prospect” is now compared to where they want to be and then they propose the bridge over the gap.  For your career, where are you now?  Where do you want to be (see question #1)? How do you close the gap?
  3. Create your plan.  Using what you’ve uncovered in the first two steps, how are you going to close your gap — realistically — how will you fit in the training, mentoring and experience you need?  Are you able to take a leap right now or do you need to be more conservative and methodical?
  4. Treat your career like a business.  Yes, a business — you are the CEO of “Brand You” — the strategist, the sales person, the service person and the cheerleader for your career.
    1. If you intend to stay with the same company but in a different role — do the same “gap analysis” you did with your career but instead do it for the company and present it to them.
    2. If you see a company you’d like to work with, connect with people inside of the organization — LinkedIn is a great place — to find out what it’s like to work at that company.  Be friendly, be transparent and be honest about why you are contacting people and ask for their opinion.  Realize that the person you contact won’t open up to a complete stranger on the first contact, so tread slowly and carefully.  See if you can connect with the person on Skype or a Google Hangout — so they can get a sense of who you are.  Have specific questions — not an interrogation — but questions to help you determine if this organization is a better fit for you.  Questions framed well are obviously better.  Questions such as “It’s really important to me that I have the freedom to _______, is this something that happens at XYZ company?”  The more people you can speak to, the better — after all, every person has his / her own “stuff” going on too.
    3. If you were a sales person, what would you sell to the company to make it better?  (BTW, you ARE a salesperson!)
    4. If you were a consultant, how would you improve the business? (BTW, you ARE a consultant — you know ways to make a business better!)
    5. Create a business case  and a sales pitch and pitch yourself as the one and only specialist who should be considered for this role.   Be memorable (in a good way!).  Note that you should have done some “sleuthing” before this pitch — find the hiring manager on social media (not the recruiting person) and make note of what he/she shares.   What is his/her name (use it!)?  Is he/she active in any charities?  Does he/she participate in sports?  The arts?
    6. When you get the interview — mix it up.  Without being obnoxious, ensure that you have the opportunity to pitch your plan.  Tell the hiring manager why you requested the meeting — remember you did request it when you created your pitch — and then have a conversation.  You will likely have to humour the “usual” hiring questions, however, it’s also important that you show the research you’ve done and also interview the hiring manager.  You want to be sure that you can work for this person, in this role at this company in  a way that gets you to that ideal life / lifestyle you imagined.
  5. Show them that you want it — in this world of computerized resume / cover letter scanners and other “non-humanized” recruiting, show the person you want to work with that you have done your homework and why they should hire you — even if there is no current job posting for what you want.  Your passion and your resourcefulness will get you places that you can never imagine.
  6. Don’t give up — in any sales role it usually takes multiple pitches in different ways to close a sale.  Don’t give up if the response is not positive on the first try.  Remember, this is what YOU want — it’s coming from your ideal lifestyle, your dream life.  If this is what you truly want — the perfect company for you and the perfect role for you — your tenacity will make you memorable and remarkable.
  7. While you are not giving up — find ways to continually improve.  Would writing an article — or better yet — a book help you?  Would appearing on an expert panel?  Would volunteering for a non-profit in a role similar to the one you want, give you more experience?  Would taking a course give you that little “oomph” you were missing?

What you focus on expands — a brilliant lesson I learned from my mentor years ago.  So focus on this ideal lifestyle, this ideal life you want.  Make decisions based on this “dream” and never, ever give up.

As you go through your career reinvention plan, remind yourself that leaving a job that makes you unhappy is in your best interest, the best interest of your loved ones (no-one wants to live with someone who is miserable!) and of course, you are doing your current employer a favour by “releasing the job” for someone better suited.  (Full disclosure — I say the same to employers — release the employee so they can find a better fit for themselves — but doesn’t it sound a whole lot better for you to “release the job for someone else”?!)

On a scale from 1 – 10, how willing are you to take these steps to get out of the job you don’t like / want and to reinvent  your career?  (btw, if you are finding deep resistance, check out the blog post on the Quadruplets of Discontent and see which one is showing up for you.)

Do you need a career reinvention?

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F.O.R.C.E. Formula™ for Business Transformation – Foundation

F.O.R.C.E. Formula ™ for Business Transformation – Foundation

The F.O.R.C.E. Formula™  is a comprehensive review and action plan for transforming 5 primary areas of business that are ripe for transformation.  Regardless of whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, a seasoned entrepreneur, a small business owner, a professional services provider or a leader in the corporate world, the F.O.R.C.E. Formula™ transforms the way you do business.

Within each of the 5 primary areas for business transformation there are 5 key elements and within those 5 key elements there are 5 actions, activities or questions to be answered.

In this video Carol explains the F in the Formula — The Foundation

The Foundation is your starting point — how you got to where you are at today and setting your benchmarks.   The foundation contemplates  you as a person and how you fit into the leadership role; while it also looks at where you are at with 2 of the key indicators for your business success — employee engagement and customer experience and it benchmarks key transformation financial metrics.

What lessons do you take away from this post?

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Super Simple Marketing Plan

In this post, the last of the Super Simple Plans to reinvent your business or to launch your business quickly we are creating our super simple marketing plan.

If you missed the Super Simple Business Plan post, click here.

If you missed the Super Simple Marketing Plan Preparation post, click here.

What you’ve done so far is get very clear on your vision, mission, strategy, ideal customer and what you are going to sell in a way that differentiates yourself from others.  Now it’s time to create your Super Simple Marketing Plan – based on Guerrilla Marketing concepts — so you can get going.

7 Sentence Marketing Plan

marketing scrabbleAll the prep work you’ve just done now translates into your 7 sentence marketing plan.  If you have more than one product for more than one audience you can and should create one marketing plan for each but let’s just create one for now

The Specific Purpose of My Marketing is to:  (start with a verb/action word. For example get people to sign up for a free consultation)
The Competitive Advantage I Want to Stress is:
Our Target Audience is:
Our Ideal Customers (for This Product/Service) Are: (complete for each product/service)
The Marketing Tools to gain exposure and to lower Our Customer Acquisition Cost are:
 Our Niche in the Market is: :
Our Marketing Budget Will Be ______ % of Our Projected Gross Sales in Year One.

Now that you know what you are selling and how you are going to market, it’s time for you to get going!  In future posts I’ll explain why your customer experience is so critical to your success.  Until then…

What do you think of this Super Simple Marketing Plan?

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Reinvention – Did You Let Your Inner Child Play?

Reinvention – Did You Let Your Inner Child Play?

Reinvention is all about doing things differently than the way you are doing them now — when was the last time you embraced your inner child to see where your future could be?

What lessons do you take away from this experience?

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Have You Judged Someone Then Regretted it?

There are many times in our lives when we misjudge or fail to appreciate the greatness in people. As children, our parents are usually the first people we choose to judge. I did it — still do at times — and my children have done this to me to.

Watch this powerful short movie and then go hug those you love!

If it’s not too late to love and appreciate, so I encourage you to do so now.

And, if your window of opportunity has passed, send the love and appreciation to the Universe.

… and of course, leave comments about this post below!

What lessons do you take away from this video?

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Super Simple Marketing Plan Preparation

marketing scrabbleIn the last post about the Super Simple Business Plan, I explained how important it is to be thorough yet quick to get your business going or reinvented — money loves speed.  Business is moving so quickly these days that those who waffle will be left in the dust — as will those who don’t see where things are headed in their market.

Today’s post is all about a super simple marketing plan.  I am a Guerrilla Marketing practitioner who learned from the Father of Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson.  I am the best-selling author of Guerrilla Tourism Marketing which I wrote, published and marketed in 2012.   One of the Guerrilla Marketing concepts is to create a simple marketing plan, which will be the subject of the next post (so be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed!)

To prepare for your super simple marketing plan, answer the following questions.

Super Simple Marketing Plan Preparation

What Are Your Business Goals for Your Desired Lifestyle?

Express your business goals, in terms of the amount of income (profit) you want each month and the number of days off you want each month.  Regardless of your current situation, write down what your goals are.

Year One

The amount of net profit I want is $_____________________ per month.

I want ___________ days off each month.

Year Three

The amount of net profit I want is $_____________________ per month.

I want ___________ days off each month.

Year Five

The amount of net profit I want is $_____________________ per month.

I want ___________ days off each month.

What Products Will I sell?  To Whom?

You should be thinking of multiple products to sell, from easy decisions through to large commitment.

We are going to sell [What product/service] to [Ideal Customer]  because it solves [specific problem they are urgently needing a solution for] problem for them.  We are going to charge [$x and frequency] for this product and service.

We are going to sell _____________________ to _________________________ because it solves _________________________________ problem for them.  We are going to charge ____________________________________ for this product and service.

Do this for every product / service you intend to offer.

What Are the Benefits of Doing Business With You? 

This list is extremely important because you will list all the reasons why your customers will benefit by doing business with you.  Be bold, be brave, stick out your chest and give it a double-fist-thump.  Now, in the next three minutes, list every possible benefit you can think of.  Just brain-dump, do not edit at this point.

The benefits of doing business with my company are:

What Are Your Competitive Advantages?

From the list you just created, there are many benefits that will also apply to your competitors.  So choose the items where you are different than your competitors.  This is what you’ll focus on in your marketing campaigns.  It is your positioning.  That is a huge competitive advantage and great for positioning.

What Are Your Target Markets?

The more markets where you can target your marketing, the more profits you will earn.  You may have only one target market but many of us have more than one market.

What is your Customer Lifetime Value (CLT)?

Customer Lifetime Value is how much a customer will be worth to you over the number of years they are your customer. Note that you may not know this now but it is a metric that you need to track

What Is Your Elevator Pitch?

Imagine you got into an elevator and someone asked you what you do.  In the time it takes to get to your floor you need to express yourself in a compelling, unique and intriguing way that will make them hold the door to ask you for more information.   So, what do you do?  What is your elevator pitch? 

What do you think of this Super Simple Marketing Plan preparation?  

Share your thoughts below in the comments …