November 20, 2010

Saturdays in the Office

When I was growing up and dad had to go in on a Saturday he would take me along. We'd buy the New York Times at the newsstand kiosk operated by Al, a retired boxer, and read it on the subway. We took the D train to 42nd Street and walked past Bryant Park and the library to his office building at 50 E. 42nd.

He put me to work running off press releases on the mimeograph and doing the mailings. He taught me his method for doing mailings that I have taught to assistants over the years. Run the envelopes through the Addressograph. Tri-fold about five press releases at a time and stack them up. Line up the envelopes with the flaps extended. Stuff them all. Then line up five envelopes at a time so you just see the glue (no self-stick yet). Take a damp paintbrush or sponge and paint the glue wet, then seal each envelope. When all the envelopes have been sealed, take a sheet of fifty stamps (always commemoratives - they attract attention), crease them at the perforations in both directions and divide into strips of 5. run each strip over a wet ceramic roller (no self-stick yet) and apply.

For lunch, he would take me to a coffee shop on Madison Avenue for a hamburger special: hamburger with fries, a little serving of coleslaw in a pleated paper cup, pickle slice, and a Coke. Even better, sometimes he'd have it delivered and we'd eat in the office. That and 25 cents was my compensation.

I long for those days.

November 15, 2010

When Sales Is Also Customer Service

New to the area, I selected a new dentist this April and went for a cleaning. As I was checking out, they had me address a postcard to myself that they would send in six months to remind me to call for an appointment, a common practice. All they then needed to do was correctly file the postcard and mail as scheduled.

I received the postcard, and kept intending to call for that appointment. I've done that before, and eventually I do call and make the appointment, but it could be a month or more late, despite my intentions to stay on a six month schedule.

This time something new happened. A week after I received the card, the dentist's office called and asked if I'd like to make an appointment. I was grateful they did, and made the appointment.

Perhaps it's always been the practice at this office, or perhaps business is slow. But they provided a service by reaching out to me, and made a sale at the same time.

What can you do to increase sales and leave your customers thanking you for doing so?

November 07, 2010

No Reply

It's happened again.

After moving to a new area, I needed to find snowplowing for my driveway. I searched online and found a few decent looking websites for small business that do this, among other services. Only one offered an email address. I sent a message and got no reply.

A friend in the real estate business who works for a local office of one of the big franchises, had someone send a test inquiry about one of his listed properties. The inquiry didn't come to him as he expected it would. It came to another agent...who replied two months after the inquiry had been sent.

More times than I can remember, I have sent inquiries to local and national businesses, using email addresses on their web sites and sometimes web forms, indicating a desire to do business with them, and have received no reply.

I have left voicemail messages with contractors and others, requesting quotes or information, and received no reply. Some of them have big Yellow Pages ads. Why?

I'm not sure why you would publish an email address or a phone number, or even have a web site, if you don't make it a constant practice to respond to people who are interested in your business.

Even if business is good right now, it may not be tomorrow. The people you insult (and it is an insult) by not responding will not call you the next time they need work done. And they will not tell their friends about you, at least not in the way you would like.

The message is clear:

If you reply to inquiries -- potential customers -- you will stand out from the crowd. Even if you do not win that business, you will be remembered.