For years big corporations ruled the world, and the business world – not any more. Most of them are hurting – wounded – dying – or dead.
Big banks, big homebuilders, big auto makers, big newspapers, big stock brokerages, and other “big” companies are under water or treading fast. The only thing sinking faster is the price of their stock.
GREAT NEWS: This economic situation has created the greatest opportunity for small business in the past 100 years. You have the opportunity to topple, or at least outsell and outserve, the giant of your choice. While they’re busy cutting everything, guarding “shareholder value,” and their employees are guarding their desk and their job, NO ONE is guarding their customers (AKA: the lifeblood of their (and your) business). Is that cool, or what?
Here’s a list of what you have to do in order to out-do in these times, and for all times:
Out think. Whatever big companies are thinking, it isn’t enough. You don’t have to go very far to beat them in this department. In most cases just think “for the customer” rather that yourself, your job, or your shareholders. Think “invest,” not “cut.” Think “value,” not “price.” Think “be your best.”
Out hustle. This is easy. Most big companies are about as agile as the Queen Mary. And their employees have a sense of urgency about them that’s somewhere between zero and minus zero. Employees of large companies typically have an attitude of “someone else will do it.” This is your game plan: Get up early. Stay up late. Talk to every customer you have ever had. Schedule breakfasts and lunches six weeks in advance. Let your customers know your new hours start before they get there and end after they leave.
Out sell. Be there for the business, and be there when your customer is ready to do business. This means you also have to be there when they are NOT ready to do business. You can’t just hang around for orders. You have to be a consistent value provider in order to be able to earn the business when the time is right and the time is ripe.
Out serve. Now is the time for all good companies to come to the aid of their customer. (With homage to typing teachers.)Now is the time to INCREASE service and service offerings, not cut back.
IDEA: Next time a customer calls and asks for help or a favor, before they can say a word, you interrupt and say, “Whatever you want, the answer is yes!” This will make them smile, and feel great about asking. Set the tone for positive action with your words, and follow it up with your deeds.
Out deliver. Cut your delivery times in half. No longer is the excuse “The trucks are already loaded” a valid one. Do whatever it takes to deliver what they need, when they need it.
Out humanize. Throw away your computerized answering service before and after hours. And throw away your voicemail. When the phone rings, answer it. This will put you ahead of 99% of all other businesses in the world. Big businesses answer their phones with a computer and say, “In order to serve you better…” Who the hell are they kidding? (Answer: themselves.)
Out communicate. Throw away the “policy manual” and your “corporate speak.” It’s no longer valid in these times. Any fool quoting “policy” or avoiding direct answers in times of economic chaos is certain to lose now and into the future.
Out truth. One day the bank says they’re in great shape. The next day they lay off 30,000 people. All truths are eventually revealed. Why not just start with it? The more truth you tell your customers BOTH external and internal, the more they will respect you, and remain loyal to you.
Out Google. This is the easiest one of all. When your customers go shopping for whatever it is you sell, make certain you’re number one in your name, and at or near the top in your product or service. This is solely dependent on your “Googlejuice” – not your size. When your customer needs an answer or a resource, they Google it – just like you do.
Out surprise. Even in these times you can still be memorable. Create a budget to surprise customers. Anything from a pizza, to lending an employee for a day or two, will be appreciated. And remembered.