The Power of a Personal Network

Ben's Mazda

Ben's Mazda

They say life can change in the blink of an eye, but you never really appreciate how true that phrase is until someone blinks.

On July 7, 2011, at 4:30pm, life blinked for my 20 year old son, Ben and the ripple effects of that blink reach beyond comprehension.

He was hit directly in the driver’s side of his car while crossing an intersection by a woman driving 50 mph. He had thought the intersection was safe to cross, a two lane divided highway, because from his view, he only saw a tractor in the slow lane. It wasn’t until he was in the middle of the intersection that he saw the woman in the high speed lane. It was too late for either of them to change their course.

She is fine. Shook up, jarred hard by the air bag deployment but was treated and released.

My son will be fine…eventually.

His internal injuries are such that the best they can hope for now is stablizing him while they focus on his collapsed lung and allow the multiple fractured pelvis to heal. In three months they will see if additional surgeries will help to reconnect the many internal parts that are currently not functioning normally.

It is at times like these when you learn how valuable your network is and the interconnection you have with other networks. As I waited through the night for word from the surgeons, 12 young people literally and figurative surrounded me with their love for my son. The next day 19 of Ben’s friends waited outside ICU patiently for their turn; two by two, to sit by his side and hold his hand.

Ben’s network began a cross over, friends connecting with me on Facebook, liking my comments, emailing me, asking to put my cell phone in their phone. The generation gap bridged, hugs exchanged and the networks of myself and my son are forever connected.

The prayer chains of more churches than you can count around the country began sending up powerful prayers on Ben’s behalf. People began calling, email, texting, Facebooking, Tweeting and visiting with offers to help, food, hugs, cards, flowers, and prayer.

But then the help became more concrete.  Offers to take my teenage daughter for a few days, wheelchairs, shower seats, crutches were offered, legal assistance, counseling – all help from my network that has been carefully built over the years. Customers, peers, friends, neighbors – the offers have been unbelievable.

I am sharing this because in this blog I often talk about the power and value of building customer relationships. When you treat customers, employees, vendors and peers as friends, they not only buy from you and refer you, they line up to offer their assistance when life blinks.

My gratitude is overflowing. My heart is so full with thanks and appreciation and wonder at the generousity of those in my network. For all of you who have reached out or simply saw a status update on Facebook or heard through the grapevine and offered up a quick – “help Ben get better” I am so very grateful.

I hope you never have to know the full extend of your personal network. But do know – without a doubt – that your network is a powerful gift. When you reach out to build relationships, you just never know how they will benefit you or make your life richer.

Thank you to all of you!

One week later - Ben's First Walk

One week later - Ben's First Walk

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It Takes a Village: Revamping A Website

women writing happyIf you have ever revamped your website or started over from scratch, you know the challenge of thinking through all of the details from functionality, design, content, and who to trust with the project. As a website writer I find myself in the position of shoemaker – focusing on writing content, consulting and training my customers and leaving my own site to grow old and stale.

As the new year approached, I decided to tackle the site myself, transferrinng the URL and the content from a web host company to my own hosted site and combining one of my blogs into the company site. It became more of a challenge than I expected and I first thank the members of the Akron Blogger Community for their monthly tips and encouragement.

I then met Crystal Pirri at a visioning workshop and liked her fresh approach and can do anything – especially anything technical – attitude, and I asked her to help me think through the process.

Crystal is an excellent example of what it means to go above the expected.

  • She offered advice and counsel for free – she is a great brainstormer
  • She taught me how to do many of the technical tasks that most would have charged for
  • She provided all the tools I needed to work on the site
  • She offered suggestions and advice and examples of what the site could look like

At the end of the day, I said – here – take it and she did. She had already proved her knowledge and expertise and the fact that she was willing to give away her knowledge for free secured my trust. I gladly provided user names, passwords and the contents of my checking account (no – she was very reasonably priced for the value!) so that she could make her website magic.

She build the site on WordPress.org so that I could work along side her by adding content and the plugins and widgets that I desired. Together we did pretty darn good, if I must say so myself. I then forwarded the link to a few trusted people (including Mom who found a typo) and they offered additonal suggestions and advice.

It was a true group effort.

It is perfect? No – it is a work in progress, but it is functional and a fine representation of who I am as a website writer. Thanks to a team of very special and gifted people.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

One last note – there was a piece of technical training that Crystal provided and I took notes but then when I went to repeat what she’d taught – I forgot the first step. How did she respond? She made a three minute video that walked me through the steps so that I now have the tools necessary for the future.

Crystal has fed me for a lifetime. This is my little thank you note to her!

Deborah and Crystal

Deborah and Crystal

Check out my new site:

AllWrite Ink: Ohio’s Best Website Writer.

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Hand Written Thank You Note – A Big Mistake

note

Have you ever sent a hand written note to a customer? A thank you letter? A birthday message? Emily Kelly had this to say about how she uses some old fashion methods to connect with her customers:

Emily Kelly • I firmly believe in the power of “paying it forward”, giving others genuine compliments and sowing affirmation as a regular practice. You’d be surprised how far it goes. I also practice the age old art of hand written thank you notes and calling when promised. These things have really worked for me … probably because few people do them anymore, and just like price and demand … if it’s rare, it’s treasured!

I agree.  A hand written notes says that you took time and gave it some thought. Unlike e-cards or computer generated messages, a hand written note is personal.  But just be careful that you don’t try to take short cuts with those personal connections.  It could come back and bite you!

I recently heard the story of a woman who received a thank you note with a hand written message from her MALE insurance agent. She and her husband have been long time customers of this agent and the thought of a hand written note was a good one. Problem? It was written in a flowery, hearts dotting the “i” hand of his female secretary.

The idea was a good one.  The execution? Not so much. In fact, the customer said that “I’m now questioning his ability to personalize his service to me if he can’t even sign his own note cards.  I’m thinking of shopping around and all because he delegated the note card writing instead of taking the time to write the note himself.”

Thinking about sending a note to your customers? Great idea – but make sure you don’t try to delegate the assignment of building relationships to a member of your team. You wouldn’t delegate dinner with your loved one to a neighbor, would you?

I’m just saying….

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Build Customer Relationships with a Thank You

Put customers first

Today is my 300th blog post and I just want to say thank you for those that subscribe, those that are first time visitors and all of the rest of you who stop by on occasion to read my blog postings.

This past week I asked the question – how do you say thank you without using the words and Patrick Hazlewood had an awesome answer:

Although every interaction with the customer is part of the “sale” or “sale process,” including post-sale follow-ups or customer service responsiveness, not everything must be a sales pitch. We engage customers by listening to them, interacting with them, and then acting upon we learned.

What makes a sale, the individual who says “hello” and may point you in the right direction, the one who helps you find the style, color or initial size of choice or the individual who runs back to get you the appropriate size for you?

We say thank you by making processes better, products better or easier to use/open, producing new products that fit needs or meet desires (even if previously unknown by the consumer). We say thank you for your business by being honest, prompt and efficient in recalls or fixes/corrections. We say thank you by listening. Thank you.

I just love his message.  So many simple yet powerful ways to let our customers know how important they are to us and to our business!  Thank you, Patrick, for your wisdom

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Make or Break Moments Recognized

Top Customer Service Blog

I just learned that Make or Break Moments has been recognized as one of the Top Customer Service blogs for 2010 by Awarding the Web sponsored by Online MBA programs.  I am thrilled!  Thank you so much for this recognition.

Here are the top ten winners:

Change Forge

Customers Rock

Get Satisfaction

Service with a Purpose

Customer Service and More

The Social Customer Manifesto

Whos Your Gladys

Dennis Snow’s Blog

Amazing Service Guy

Blog Customer Serviceen

Visit Awarding the Web for the complete list of winners.

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Giving Back – Share the Benefits

shareI’m not one to give with an expectation of getting.  In fact, I’m not a very gracious “getter.”

So I was recently befuddled when I received this lovely recommendation after giving a presentation at Podcamp Ohio:

“I attended one of Deborah’s speaking sessions and she is amazing! I learned a great deal from her regarding social media marketing, organizing my time better and walked away with a lot of tools. She is engaging and fun as well!” June 20, 2010

Sheila Clover English , Social Network Committee Chair , International Thriller Writer’s Organization

I didn’t know Sheila.  Has that happened to you?  Someone gives you a recommendation on LinkedIn and after you accept it for your profile page, you are automatically given the opportunity to do the same in return.

Only problem is – I don’t know Sheila to give her a recommendation.

So I emailed and said thank you and said – I’d love to return the favor – any thoughts?

She responded back – yes – I have a radio show, would you be willing to be a guest and then you can see what I do and if you are so inclined – you can give me a recommendation.

I was thrilled.  Absolutely.  Just tell me when and where.

Sheila’s online radio show airs on Thursdays and she offered me the date of August 12, 2010. And then she gave me the best birthday gift ever…

“Would you be willing to be on a panel with Chris Brogan?”

Would I????  You betcha!  Bonus.  The giving just keeps coming back and back and back.  It is a sharing of opportunities that benefit both parties.

For the six of you in the world who don’t know Chris Brogan (My Mom and kids were three of them.  I was jumping up and down and they didn’t understand the magnitude of my joy), Chris is the owner of New Marketing Labs, his blog is ranked #3 in the world on the top 100 Marketing Blogs and he has over 140,000 people following him on Twitter. Best selling author – noted speaker – he is a gem in the industry of marketing and social media.  His THREE WORDS are a classic strategy to focus your year and I’m a big fan!

This all happened because Sheila GAVE me a high compliment with a recommendation.

I wanted to GIVE BACK to her and wasn’t sure how.

She GAVE me the opportunity to help her and in turn provide a way for me to GIVE her a recommendation.  Bonus!

– Chris agrees with me about giving recommendations but only to those you can actually vouch for.  He wrote this today on his blog:

Only Recommend People Whose Work You Can Vouch For

I’ll say this once: if you recommend someone and can’t really vouch for their work, you’re just setting your own reputation up for a blow. Don’t do it. LinkedIn and I disagree in the area that I’ll link to anyone (are you and I LinkedIn? Connect with meand use linkedin @ chrisbrogan . com as my email address). But I’ll never recommend someone whose work I don’t know enough about.

However, just like my experience with Sheila – just because you haven’t worked with them doesn’t mean you can’t in the future.  A simple email of “help me know how I can learn about your business so that I can recommend you” has led to a new friendship, business relationship and the chance to meet Chris Brogan over the Internet! 

How can you reach out to someone today to make a difference and build that relationship in further?

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The Land of Ungratefulness

I was at a meeting recently and Candace Benson, owner of Camp Tech, said that she talks to her students about the “Land of Ungratefulness.” 

Are you the Mayor of Ungratefulness?  she asks them.

I loved the visual of a town, a country, an entire land of people who are ungrateful.  It reminds me of  my favorite line from Billy Crystal’s movie City Slickers in which the character played by Daniel Stern, when arguing with his wife says:

“If hate were people, I’D BE CHINA!”

Another amazing word picture that says a lot with few words.

Ungrateful.  How often are we ungrateful of:

  • Our customers when they have demands
  • Our employees when they do something wrong
  • Our boss when they ask too much
  • Our industry when it doesn’t respond like we’d hoped
  • The little things in life

The economy is tough and we can find ourselves wallowing in the land of the ungrateful.  Perhaps we need to take a deep breath, lift our head from the myriad of everyday tasks – look around and find all that we should be grateful for.

  • Repeat customers
  • A smile on the UPS carrier’s face
  • Our employees who come to work every day, even when (just like us) they’d rather stay in bed and avoid the snowy, cold winter weather
  • The opportunity to solve a customer’s problem

I am reminded of the grace my Father said every morning over his Cheerios.  “Thank you, God, for bringing us safely through the night and for the gift of another day.”

hmmm. Each day is a gift for which we should be thankful. 

I believe it is a choice we make – this decision to be ungrateful or thankful.  And our customers, our employees, our vendors and especially our families can easily tell over which land we preside. 

So I ask you:  are you the Mayor of Ungrateful Land or a resident of Thanksgiving-ville?

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A Time of Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.  So what are you thankful for today?

Family

Health

Friends

A Job – any job that pays

Talents

Opportunities

Imagination

The ability to give back

Building relationships

Making a difference

Today as you gather around the table and share a meal with those you hold most dear, take a moment and reflect on all your many blessings.  I count you, dear reader, as one of mine.

Many blessings to you and yours on this Thanksgiving day.

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Shampaine-Bish Franchise Development Makes Connections

sb logo

Reports that the economy may be turning have begun to give us hope; the light is almost visible at the end of the tunnel.  Yet, businesses are still cautious with their purse strings, banks are careful and the employed are (for the most part) grateful.

Is this the time to start a business?

Dan Bish(a former colleague from Pearle Vision) and his partner Rick Shampaine think so.  They just announced the opening of their franchise development business:

Shampaine/Bish Franchise Development; connecting franchisees with the right franchise opportunity.

Both have a long history of helping franchisees and have amassed a substantial network with whom they sent this exciting announcement.

Here’s what I love about their message:

  • They clearly know who they want to help
  • They identified why they should be the ones to help
  • In two short paragraphs they explain their message and specifically tell the readers how they can help:  SPREAD THE WORD

The best part?  They offer an incentive.  A referral program.

We’ve talked about having referral programs – we’ve seen some work and some that don’t really do the trick. 

Dan and Rick value their connections– their network that they’ve worked hard nurturing over the years.  As such – they have created a referral program that has teeth.  Refer a potential franchisee to Shampaine/Bish and if they purchase a franchise they’ll send you and a friend anywhere in the WORLD for a week.

A referral program valued at $2,000! 

Don’t like to travel?  Not a problem – they’ll hand you a check.

How’s that for a referral thank you?  Are you motivated?  Aren’t you all of a sudden going through your address book and LinkedIn contacts to see who might want to buy a franchise?

Dan and Rick understand that if they are going to ask for help – they need to make it worthwhile.  They are clearly stating:  your help is incredibly valuable to us.

But that’s not all.  In Dan’s letter to his network he offered a personal promise:

We’re looking for someone who’s driven – someone who doesn’t take “NO” for an answer and who won’t stop until they’re successful. I’d like you to tell them about the service we offer, at no cost to them. And because the referral comes from you, I promise I’ll personally interview them and keep their best interests in mind.

People often hesitate to give up their contact information because it’s their name, their reputation.  Dan understands and offers his promise that he’ll personally take care of them.

Have you reached into your network to uncover prospects?  How do you thank them for their assistance?  What have you found works? 

Thinking about starting a referral program?    Darrell Zahorsky has written an article offering 7 Sure Fire Tips to a Referral Program.

Know someone that is interested in buying a franchise?  Call Dan Bish or visit Shampaigne/Bish Franchise Development. 

Check out the details for the referral program.

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