The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Friday, January 15, 2010
Volume 15 | # 352
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Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance. » Bruce Barton

Warming Up Potential Customers

The Houston area saw several nights of temperatures in the teens last week. A plumber friend of mine told me that on Saturday morning you could drive around and see which homes had certain makes of sprinkler systems. Dozens had burst and were putting on a mini-Bellagio fountain show.

Thankfully, my sprinkler system held out. But when my wife awoke with a headache over the weekend, she became worried about carbon monoxide. Granted, the three carbon monoxide detectors in our home disagreed… but, better safe than sorry. And one of our heating units is the last of the “original” equipment in our home and likely on its last leg anyway.  So we called a local AC company.

An older gentleman named Johnny showed up at our home bright and early the next morning. After manipulating the maze in our attic to get to that heater, he thought he saw a crack in the unit. If that were the case, he would have to shut it down immediately. (That’s the law.) He had me come over to see for myself.

Then, after a few body contortions to get a better look, he found that it was only rust. (Not good, but not as bad.) He ran tests with his meter all around our home just to be sure.

While he had it open, Johnny cleaned the furnace and inspected its major parts. He was with us for 45 minutes. When done, he explained that we were okay for now but should consider changing the unit before next season. I thanked him and got ready to write him a check.

He said, “Mr. Martin, I’m not going to charge you for this visit. But I’ll write up an estimate of what it would cost to eventually change the unit. We’d appreciate it if you’d consider us when you decide to have the job done.”

I thanked him and smiled, appreciating his long term view. He could have fairly charged me a hundred bucks or so, and I wouldn’t have flinched. Or, he could have told me that if we hire him, he’d then deduct the cost of that maintenance call from the bill.

Instead, he made a pure goodwill gesture to position himself for the $7,000 job that will likely happen soon. With lots of local competition, he and his company are now going to get the first shot at doing future work for us. And I honestly can’t foresee using anyone else but his company.

Goodwill gestures are often the smartest “marketing” investments a person or business can make.

What investment will you make this week?

More Input Produces More Output

A recent headline in USA Today caught my eye. It read, “There’s a psychological reason you’re happiest on weekends.” My mind immediately jumped to things like no alarm clocks, no shaving, and firing up the barbecue grill. But the column by Sharon Jayson detailed research that suggests there may be one or two more relevant factors.

Specifically, the study’s co-author cites “autonomy and relatedness” as being the driving factors of why most folks are happier on weekends. The researchers found that most of the group felt more autonomy on weekends (away from their “jobs”). Even if they were engaged in strenuous work, they were typically happier than when doing work they felt they had no say and little flexibility in.

They also found higher levels of relatedness (connection) between the study group and the people they spent time with on the weekend.

At first blush, a manager might think that this is not very usable research. We’re not likely to start giving folks carte blanche to choose when they’ll work, what they’ll do, and who they’ll work with.

Sure, areas of our jobs require adherence to strict protocols. We can’t allow folks much autonomy when it comes to back office operations. However, there are almost always levels of “flexibility” possible within our marketing, service, and sales practices.

When we see that people have a tendency to work harder and happier when they feel that they have at least some autonomy, I’d suggest that we look for as many ways as possible (and feasible) to give some to them. I’ve long pointed out to some marketing purists that staffs who are given the freedom to personalize some of their marketing almost always take greater ownership of the results.

At a minimum, maybe try the following. Regularly ask your team(s) if they can think of better ways to do X, Y, or Z. Now and then, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to uncover new or better ideas that were there for the asking.

Team members will also be more likely to continually be thinking of ways to improve the effectiveness of their regular tasks. Even when there are no “improvements” that can be thought of at the moment, teams will be reminded that there are well-thought-out reasons for why and how they do the tasks they do.

And folks are almost always more engaged in their activities when they buy in to why they are important in the first place.

We don't know who discovered water, but we are certain it wasn't a fish. » John Culkin

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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