Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When It All Goes to Shit

The life of an event planner is probably no different than the life of anyone who makes business (or personal) plans, only to see them evaporate because does anything ever go as planned?

Sometimes nothing goes as planned, right? When I started thinking about the things in my business that have gone south, they became stories longer than Gone with the Wind, an appropriate title for this subject. Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, winds, rain and even a volcano eruption... union strikes, cancelled flights, power outages. The list goes on.

One story captured the subject of "when it all goes wrong? ..BUT "it all turns out right" and was a great lesson. Rather than retell it, here's a link to the chapter in my book. Enjoy! And just know there is no problem that cannot somehow be solved, or any challenge that cannot be met.

 Andrea Michaels is founder and president of Extraordinary Events, a multi-award-winning international event agency based in Los Angeles. Andrea is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and an in-demand speaker and leading voice in the special events industry. She may be reached viaamichaels@extraordinaryevents.net.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What Is Your Brand, and Is It Authentic?

Branding and its definition are paramount in the strategic thinking of businesses as well as for personal lives. So it's provocative to think about what your "brand" is and if it's truly authentic.

In order to define your brand,  you need to decide what business you are in and what you do best. If you cannot define who you are and at what you are best, no one will take you seriously. Simon Sinek in his book, Start with Why, attests that "Every person, every organization knows what they do, and some know how they do it, but very few know why they do what they do." And it's that 'why' that defines you.

Take Disney for example. The simple idea on which Disney launched Walt Disney World Resorts has never changed. He made it clear that it was "to create happiness through magical experiences." According to Forbes,  Tom Boyles, Senior Vice President, Global Customer Managed Relationships at Disney Parks and Resorts says there are "11.2 billion ways" a guest can interact with the Disney brand through major attractions, restaurants, characters, hotels or transportation, to name a few.

EE's business is simple: we conceptualize, design and execute events. That's what we do. We do it by hiring event partners who are at the top of their field in every discipline in order to deliver a flawless product. BUT... why do we do all of this? Let me give you a personal vision: I want to make a difference; I want to make meaning in all we do. I want to educate; I want to inform; I want to enlighten; and every once in a while I want to do something that changes the world. Like rebuild an entire school in an impoverished area (a long and wonderful story for another time.) EE's brand is to not just follow the trends, but to create them.

Consider this: If you want to find out what your brand truly is, ask someone else. Ask your customers what they think best defines you. If you have a product, do not ask the people who invented it and produced it how it should be branded; ask its customers. If you are building a personal brand, ask your friends who they think you are. When you have these answers you will know how to market yourself or your company. One example was given to me by an automotive brand that saw itself as a luxury automobile, but its customers when polled defined it as a performance vehicle. Based upon its customer base, all future advertising and promotion focused on performance, and sales numbers went up dramatically.

Hot Branding Irons
Think of it this way: Your "brand" is like a branding iron, searing your image into the world with permanence. It's how you will be perceived.

An exceptional speaker at a conference I attended talked about a welcome letter he received from Apple which read "Apple wants you to go and explore and, where you can, swim in the deep end."

What's the brand message? We are untraditional. And if you take a look at Apple's packaging, their stores, their Genius bars, what are they saying? That they deal in simplicity, the ease of using their product. The brand image is carried across all their platforms. 

Think about Starbucks. Theirs is a never-ending quest to innovate and simplify the experience for their customers, and this keeps them on the leading edge in their category of business. Think about Nordstrom's Shoes of Prey where women have the power to design shoes on IPads which are then made to order and can be picked up in the store. This personalized service and custom design capability helps give Nordstrom a competitve edge over other high-end retailers.

Branding Isn't for Just the Big Guys
Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom are all big brands, but branding is not just for large corporations. All businesses can use branding to win a place in both the customers' hearts and minds. Danny O'Neill's air-roasted coffee business, The Roasterie®communicates his company brand and his passion for the coffee bean through his logo, product packaging, Web site, and marketing message. 

To communicate this passion, O'Neill includes his entrepreneurial story on each packet of coffee beans he sells. It starts with "I can tell you when I fell in love. It was November 22, 1978. On that day, as a foreign exchange student in Costa Rica, I picked my first coffee bean in the mountainous, volcanic, coffee-growing region around the Poas volcano. I fell in love with the country, the people, and the coffee. Fifteen years later my passion for great coffee could no longer be denied, and The Roasterie was born..." 

Danny O'Neill is an example of what Sally Hogshead in her wonderful book, FASCINATE, How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist, means when she states: "Brands live inside communities, not corporations. Your brand lies inside conversations and aspirations. A brand lies in workplaces and schools, inside homes and dinner table conversations. Brands aren't static; they are living, breathing things that organically change and evolve as new people join the conversation." 

Brand Rules to Embrace 
Madonna has branded and re-branded her image and style over the past 30 years. She is a fearless master of her brand and message, and she set the branding tone for all other celebrities to follow. Below are the branding rules she has created for herself. Click here if you want details on each bullet point.

  • Stand for something
  • Always deliver
  • Be clear about what you want
  • Be a work in progress
  • Don't be afraid to bloody a few noses
  • Don't be afraid to stand up for your beliefs

Andrea Michaels is founder and president of Extraordinary Events, a multi-award-winning international event agency based in Los Angeles. Andrea is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and an in-demand speaker and leading voice in the special events industry. She may be reached via amichaels@extraordinaryevents.net.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Power of the Customer Satisfaction Survey

I wanted to share more brilliant insight from Shep Hyken. So, as I always do, learn and enjoy! -Andrea Michaels

The Customer Experience

How important are customer surveys? Peter Drucker’s old saying comes to mind: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Those surveys can give you a lot of data that you can use to improve virtually any part of your organization. There are two important parts to a customer survey that we’re going to cover today:
  1. Asking the right questions on the survey.
  2. What to do with the answers once you get them. Here’s a hint. If you don’t do anything with the answers, they probably aren’t the right questions to use on the survey.
Asking the right questions should be easy, but it’s not. The right questions aren’t about collecting as much information as possible. It is about collecting the right information. Information that you can use. If you can’t use it, don’t ask for it. Otherwise, the data becomes clutter.
The second part of our survey topic is about doing something with the data you get from the surveys. This is a golden opportunity to validate your efforts or find areas to improve. And as mentioned already, if you don’t use or can’t figure out what to do with the information you get from the survey questions, the questions are probably irrelevant – a waste of time for both you and your customer.
While numerical surveys, like rating something on a scale of one to ten, give you great insight to overall satisfaction levels of your customers, there should be opportunity to get opinions from open-ended questions. If you’ve been following my work, then you know that one of my favorites is what I call The One Thing Question, which goes like this:
Is there one thing you can think of that will make doing business with us better?
If the customer gives you great ratings and still has a good “one thing” suggestion, then you have an opportunity to improve on greatness. Still, any “one thing” suggestion is potentially a great suggestion. Furthermore, it may give you some insight into what your individual customers might want or need, allowing you to customize their experience.
Here’s a story to illustrate this concept.
I recently stayed at the amazing Silver Baron Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah. I had a great chat with Mary Ann Empey, the manager of the property. We talked about surveys and she shared with me a great example of how she used information to impress one of her regular guests.
This guest had stayed many times at the Silver Baron for his family ski trips. After each stay he filled out the resort’s survey with positive ratings. Except the last time. While the ratings were still great, in response to one of the open ended questions he commented (or complained) that there weren’t any 20 pound dumbbells in the workout room.
Mary Ann, who reads every comment card, wanted to right what the guest thought was wrong. She immediately went out and bought two 20 pound dumbbells and kept them in her office – for over a year – until the guest returned. Upon his arrival she presented the weights as a gift to the guest, who was surprised and couldn’t have been happier.
Think about this. Good questions give you good information. It’s what you do with the information that’s really important. And, while the responses may give you insights to the general customer experience, sometimes it’s the extra comments that can give you the opportunity to create a customized experience, one that endears you to the customer and gets them to come back again and again.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact  www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken.