Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Quick Shout Out for Goo Goo Clusters!

Recently a friend and I were bemoaning the fact that over the counter chocolate candy has gone way down in quality.  The treats we savored growing up now taste cheap and waxy, though we had to admit we weren't sure if this is because companies are cutting production costs or our taste buds have matured (we suspect it is a bit of both).

Generally I don't buy a lot of snacks, and these days my cravings tend to go toward home baked rather than prepackaged goodies.  In fact I only buy candy at Halloween or when I go to the cinema.  My friend and I agreed that Reece's Peanut Butter Cups are still holding their own (my usual choice at the cinema concession stand) but that was about it.

However, I have to take a moment to give a shout out to Goo Goo Clusters.  What are Goo Goos, you ask?  Well, Goo Goos are individually wrapped, nougat-y, goopy, caramel, nuts, chocolaty goodness.  Here is the description presented by wikipedia.

I used to pick up a box of Goo Goos on my way back from a visit to my grandparents in Tennessee (Goo Goos are manufactured in Nashville).  Bringing them to the natives of New England I enjoyed watching my friends' faces light up with their first bite. 

A package arrived at my place yesterday via UPS, and as soon as I saw the Goo Goo logo on the side of the box I started grinning my head off.  In honor of Goo Goo's 100th (!) anniversary, my parents had ordered me a commemorative tin filled with yummy clusters.

I have to say Goo Goo has put a lot of extra care and attention into their 100th year.  The enclosed candy tasted better than it ever has.  The quality made it taste like the homemade treats your grandma (or in my case, my grandpa) used to make right in the kitchen.  I love that these candies are created  here in America.  And I especially love that-in a time of cutting corners on quality and customer service-Goo Goo has stepped it up big time.
I encourage you to visit their fun and informative website for all things Goo Goo.  And I hope you'll incorporate Goo Goo Clusters into your holiday celebration before the 100th anniversary celebration is over!

Smoke & Mirrors....Or Are You Just Blowing Smoke?

This topic is an extension of my most recent post.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this one lately and I found the ideal introduction in Mark H. McCormack’s book, On Communicating.  Mark H. McCormack was the founder of I.M.G (International Marketing Group).  He is also the author of What They Don’tTeach You at Harvard Business School, among other helpful books on business management.

I was once invited to dine at the offices of an executive I had known off and on for many years.  The luncheon was served in an elegant room next to the executive’s office.  It was an inordinately formal four-course affair, served by a chef attired in a white jacket who would enter with each new course from a hidden door. The conversation was intriguing.  The meal was splendid.  The whole experience seemed choreographed to soothe guests and impress them.

I know I was impressed-not only by the executive’s hospitality but by the fact that he seemed to have a full-time kitchen at his disposal.  He had come a long way since I first knew him.

At the end of the meal, as the chef refilled our cups of coffee, the host reinforced the impression.  He praised the chef on the richness of the meal, patted his stomach, and jovially added, “I’m glad I’m not eating here this evening.”

A nice touch, I thought.  He made sure I knew he had a chef on staff day and night.
I later learned that the meal was, in fact, brought in by a catering service and that the chef worked for the caterer.                                              On Communicating page 67-68

Managing your own business requires, especially when you are first starting up, a bit of “smoke and mirrors”.  You want potential customers to be impressed with your product or service, and to feel confident that doing business with you will be a rewarding experience.  In order to draw people in you try to pay close attention to presentation and marketing, maybe fudging a few details here and there in your favor.  There’s nothing wrong with this, provided your business can live up to the expectation you have created.
It’s when the smoke clears and your product doesn’t adequately resemble the images and description you presented, or your services lack quality and care, that alerts a customer to the fact all you were doing was blowing smoke in their faces.

A well-known owner of a chain of local spas was once quoted in a magazine as saying, “You have to fake it to make it.” I don’t disagree. Her “faking it” brought her to as close to the top as one can go in her industry.  Let’s face it; the masses beg to be easily persuaded.  They want to be told what to buy/do/think in order to fit in.  So her persistent insistence that she was the way to go brought in a lot of revenue.  In her heyday I decided to give one of her locations a go to see what all the fuss was about.

Nothing I experienced lived up to the mystique of the brand.  It wasn’t that the staff wasn’t nice or the service weren’t okay.  But I quickly realized I could have had just as good-if not a better experience-elsewhere and at a lower cost.  The staff openly talked, including my stylist, about their prior jobs at Super Cuts: a low budget national chain of hair salons.  This is the last thing you want to hear when you are paying what I was for my color and cut.  The stylist’s lack of sophisticated training was obvious.  I left feeling underwhelmed by the end result and never returned.
As time has passed and more and more of her spas have closed, it is obvious the illusion could only be managed for so long before the public grew wise.  This is often what happens with businesses both large and small.  If you aren’t backing up your brand-the image and message you are putting out there-eventually people will stop believing the hype.

So how do you make sure you have substance beyond the enticing aura?  Here are a few suggestions:

1)      Only make claims you can keep

This may seem obvious but it astounds me how often businesses boast about products or services they cannot possibly produce.  Don’t proclaim that you are the only vendor of a certain type of item if this isn’t true.  Don’t announce you are the top rated fill-in-the-blank if this is a lie.  Don’t tell a customer you can get their custom order made and delivered in three days when it will actually take a week.  In the end you are only hurting yourself when you can’t live up to the empty promises.
2)      Delegate. Diminish. Delete

I teach the “Three-Ds” in my time and business management workshops.  As you are trying to build a new business you are ideally trying to build a reputation for being dependable, professional, and personable while offering a stellar product or service.  It is all too easy to follow too many tangents which can only serve to dilute your core mission.  Sit down and develop a business plan.  If there are certain attributes to your business that you know can be better managed by someone else, bring the right people in to handle those tasks.  If there are certain products or services you offer that pull the focus (both yours and the customer’s) off of your primary mission, either diminish the importance of those products and services, or get rid of them all together.

3)      Saying “No” Doesn’t have to be Negative

If a potential customer is asking for something you know you cannot provide, it is better to say no than to half-heartedly say yes and disappoint the customer.  However, saying no doesn’t have to mean your relationship with that person has ended.  There are positive ways to say no.  Try, “I don’t offer that sort of product or service, but let me see if I can find you someone who does.”

Taking half an hour of your time to research and locate some alternatives for that customer will go a long way in your favor.  As you hand off the information, say, “I really appreciate you approaching my business first with this inquiry.  I hope we can do business together in the future.”  Even if you don’t ever hear from that customer again, you have won by staying true to your mission while giving someone a great impression of your business.

 A little smoke and mirrors never hurt anybody, provided one doesn’t choke on the smoke or cut themselves on the glass.  It is up to you to create the depth and consistency of a successful enterprise once the public has been drawn in by the glitz and glimmer of your brand.  Don’t ever make a claim that can be quickly and easily deciphered as misleading-if not an outright lie like the example I opened with.  By giving customers exactly what they expected plus a little extra you forge strong commitments and lasting relationships.