Delighted By A Doctor

If you can make a customer look this delighted, your business will enter hypergrowth

A doctor asked me to obtain a medical record from another doctor who had seen one of my children in 1997.  A toddler then, my son is about to enter his senior year in high school.

Leave the flowers and “blink of an eye” stuff to Father’s Day.  1997 was a long time ago.

First I had to find the doctor.  I found him practicing with someone else in another town.  He was on vacation when I called, but had private voice mail so I was able to detail the situation for him.

His follow up and his recall were the stuff of service legend.

His first call buzzed my office phone at 9 a.m. on Monday the day he returned.  I had started work, but had gone for coffee.  We played phone tag and he called me a second time before 10:30.

Vendors I pay lots of money to don’t follow up that fast.

“I don’t have easy access to records that old,” he told me, and I immediately began thinking about how I could meet the new doctor’s requirement.

Then the original doctor astonished me.

He told me where I had worked when he first saw my child.  It was a new job, he remembered, and I groaned because I must have really gone on a lot for him to remember that. Then he told me about my two other children.  He got their sexes and approximate ages correct. When he told me we had been house hunting, I almost accused him of having a chart there.

Nope.

He got a couple of facts close but wrong.  But he clearly remembered his patient from 13 years ago.  He placed my life in context then–something I hadn’t been able to do as well in the new situation.

And then he offered to write a letter describing his original impressions and confirming that he had treated my son. That letter arrived less than 3 days after we spoke.

He did all of this–the lightning fast phone calls, the letter writing–free. There is no hope for repeat business, little chance of a referral that far away and certainly little upside in making these return calls a priority on his first day back in the office.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is to consider what it would take to delight people so much they write a blog about you.

Our world continues a frantic pace of interconnected information.   What used to be called “user generated content” in the dark days of two years ago is now simply one of thousands of local review sites.

If you delight people, not just customers but anyone interacting with your business, your business will grow faster than any other way imaginable.

And you get to like what you do.  Because only people who love what they do can pull this off and not burn out before next Thursday.

This is more than word-of-mouth.  It’s delight.

Size Matters For YouTube

The axiom of recall and comprehension rising when more senses are engaged has a factual basis.    A Harvard Medical School publication urges subscribers to actively engage, stating “The more senses you use when you learn something, the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory.”

That’s one reason why YouTube clips go viral more than plain HTML pages.

You may read something you want to share, but when a video plays and engages you with video and sound, the effect is much more pronounced.  And experts say that’s what helps boost memory and retention.

Now YouTube has announced that the new limit for videos is 15 minutes.   Five extra minutes of video is huge.

Success stories surrounding video are all over the web.

A company selling $400 blenders for the home market made its case with a funny viral series and laughed all the way to the bank.

The debut album from an amateur singer pushing 50 years old outsold Lady Gaga and Rihanna on both sides of the ocean.

A teenage and her friends began uploading makeup videos.  Their tutorials go viral and a19 year old becomes Lancome’s video makeup artist.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is that you are probably not doing enough video outreach.   How-tos are big.  So is anything entertaining.  An entertaining how-to is a ticket for success.  Consider these examples:

  • A catering service could shoot video on how to frill up a table for an intimate dinner for two.  How do you get the napkins to do that?  What about the candles?  And, of course, the food.
  • A towing service might show a series of simulated roadside problems and how to deal with each.
  • A consultant can upload past talks that they’ve given to public audiences.
  • Any retail store can give product demonstrations of any merchandise.

We know that big television networks used pretty people, but YouTube has the been great democratizing force in video.  If you have something worthwhile to say, there’s an audience for you no matter what you look or sound like.

And now you have 5 minutes more to get your message across.

Seasonality Also Means Events

If you’re an American small business leader, you can probably rattle off the major events impacting seasonality. Let’s try it together:

Don't rely on fireworks by others. Make your own.

January  - New Year, winter weather much of the country, Dr. King’s Birthday, post Christmas blahs

February – Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, still winter weather much of the country.

March – Spring is coming, pre-Easter and Passover for much of the country

April – Likely Easter and/or Passover, spring in full bloom

May –  Memorial Day, gateway to summer, Mother’s Day, college grads

and so on.  You know this drill.  There was a florist in our family, and I can tell you now, decades later, when those flowers were going to be flying out of that store.

But events make up seasonality just as much as the calendar, and you ignore their potential to your own detriment.

This idea comes hot on the hot on the heels of Hitwise’s Heather Doughty writing that Word Cup searches are starting to spike.  Of course they are, you grumble.  That sports thing is really big now.

But read Heather’s piece in its entirety and learn a couple of things about this event that apply to many similar events.   She writes that there are 68 different queries related to the word “schedule”.  There are also many queries related to the top 50 players.

How can you use this information?

Be imaginative.

You don’t need to run a sporting good store or bar to capitalize on this kind of intelligence.

If your website includes hours, include a World Cup schedule.  Better yet, include a World Cup schedule with some value added property like when games are on in your area and on what channel.

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If your site has anything to do with books, run the same schedule, but include nice beautiful links to books about the players.  Promise overnight shipping for nominal fees.  Would you rather have a lower margin customer on a sale and a new name on your house list or stick to your guns for $5.95 shipping?

Brainstorm the World Cup.  There are geography applications, television schedules (different from game schedules), cultural pride issues and countless others.

Your takeaway for today is that the World Cup is a huge global event and traffic surrounding that event impacts your seasonality perhaps more than the thermometer.  Think about the other events in the next two years just like we did with seasonality to start:

The Summer Olympics start in London in July 2012.  That’s just about 2 years.    It’s still too early to plan, but not too early to put on your seasonality calendar.  Start planning July 2011.

The Academy Award nominees are announced at the beginning of the calendar year and the show takes place in late winter.   Count on tens of millions of American viewers plus international audiences.    Figure out what applies to your business as we did the World Cup and start planning.  But remember that the event is when the focus happens.  Maybe you’re doing your own event in the buildup to to the event.

March Madness–the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament–should be on your calendar every year.  Bookend the festivities with St. Patrick’s Day and either spring or a religious holiday depending on your business.

Super Bowl Sunday is February 6, 2011.  Start before the NFL season.  Let your customers pick their favorite teams to go all the way and have a drawing based on who picks the game’s winners.  If you run a local business, the extensions are endless:  house cleaning, catering, babysitting, lawn care and appliance sales come immediately to mind.  There are dozens of others.

The issue here is not to say as one client recently told me that “This is our low season.”   Sure, there are seasons that are better, but by engaging in the world’s events, the water cooler events, you can catapult your small busines into relevance year ’round.

But these aren’t events that you should plan as they’re happening. Get them on your calendar now.  Buy a pizza or three and brainstorm later this week.

How can your business participate in four major events in the next 12 months?

Now what time does Greece open against Korea in the World Cup?

Google Maps Adds Local Info To Street View

I’ve been talking about this day for years.    And although Droid wasn’t out then, one of the favorite BS topics around search conferences was how Google could leverage Business A to advertise or at least contribute data.  The answer is a mashup of Droid, Google Maps and Business B willing to advertise.

The actual news part

Google announced today that Street View will have local business annotations.   Street View is that nifty section of Google Maps when the traditional maps disappear and are replaced by photographic images of the area.   Street View now has those little boxes from Google Places overlaid on the images.  Take a look at the image below that Google is using on its blog.

The wildly speculative part

So this is a terrific upgrade to functionality.   I’ve asked more than once while looking at Maps, “Hey what building is that again?  No, not in this picture.   Even an East Coast guy like me recognizes San Francisco landmark buildings.  But look closely at the photo.    Now you can see individual businesses in those buildings.

And you know that really, really nifty feature about searching Google Maps for a business?  How about you search for George’s Pizza, but he happens not to be an advertiser.  Up on your Droid phone pops the lovely Street View with directions and reviews just like it’s shown above.  But Sara’s Pizza, just three blocks away, is an advertiser and has a coupon associated with their account.

*ding*

Up pops the coupon in a little window.  Sure, go have a slice at George’s, but you get 2 slices for the price of 1 at Sara’s.

That’s potentially how an information company leverages two small businesses against each other.   And that’s only one way.

But Google Maps’ Street View is an awesome tool.

Android Suggests Search Results Near You

No tracker in his phone

Sopranos fans may remember Tony getting his hands on a new cell phone and having the GPS function ripped out.

You’ll forgive Palm and Windows Mobile execs if they feel like doing the same.

As Google’s Android adds features every week, the convergence between phone and Largest Search Company Ever blurs fast.   Word out of Google now is that phones using Android will change the search results based on the phone’s location to a degree of granularity we never saw with computers.

If I type the word “pizza” in a Google session on my computer, I’ll receive results about local pizza restaurants, not necessarily about pizza recipes, pizza stores, frozen pizza or anything other than a ranking that can eventually be monetized or propel the company into a data leadership role no other company can match.

Now phones with Google’s Android operating system do the same thing.  Using Google’s Search Suggest feature, the company suggests that

users in the Boston metro area begin typing “Muse”, suggestions such as “museum of science boston” and “museum of fine arts boston” are provided because people near Boston frequently look for these very popular museums

For now, people with Android phones have to opt-in to the service by visiting “Settings” on their search page and checking off  ”Allow use of device location”.

There is no word from Google on how it will use the convergence of the demographics it collects about you, your real-time physical location from your Google Microchip phone, the search information you’re presented and your subsequent real-time actions including calling someone, texting someone, walking to the museum (and just how long did that take you by which route so we can update Google Maps’ walking directions?).

Perhaps Tony Soprano had the right idea after all.

Google Broadens Pay-Per-Call

phone booth

Not a smartphone.

This is a long time coming, and boy, is it big.  Yes, this is Google news related to telephones, but we won’t talk about Nexus One (still).

Google is launching pay-per-call advertising.  Now.

There have always been variants of pay-per-call available, but this shows how serious Google is about invading the local search advertising space.  The program, announced today via email before Google’s other announcement, is arguably more important and profitable in the long run.  Here’s how it works:

  • A business will get a 5th line in a Google advertisement that shows a local phone number on smartphones (or as Google calls them, “high end mobile devices”)
  • Google says they’ll check the phone’s location and show the phone number for a nearby business.
  • The searcher simply has to scroll to your number and click.
  • Advertisers get the full range of analytics and metrics associated with keywords, this time with a telephone call as the conversion.

The best part for advertisers is the cost.  Pay-Per-Call has traditionally cost a much higher rate than a click to a website.  For now, anyway, Google is keeping the rate the same.  That’s quite a bargain for advertisers.

Meanwhile, the infighting with Microsoft continues.  Google described the covered phones as “iPhone, Android, Palm WebOS”, but didn’t mention Windows Mobile.  I asked Brandon Miniman, the CEO of leading smartphone site pocketnow.com, about the omission and the future of Windows Mobile in an Android and iPhone world.

“Windows Mobile is becoming less relevant because version 6.5 offers no big innovations and is mostly unchanged from a decade ago. That said, Microsoft has been working on Windows Mobile 7 for many years. When released in 2010, it could finally bring Microsoft back into the smartphone arena,” said Miniman.

Google Vagaries

There are times when Google or any other search engine seems intuitive beyond belief.  And then there are simple queries that confound me.

Many folks were not surprised but taken a little aback when major local categories such as “pizza” began showing up in results pages.  The search engine identifies the area where the searcher is located and assumes that these very local searches are for the area you’re in now.  That’s not much help if you’re looking for something later in the day or for a trip, but it’s a massive time saver, effectively turning Google into a dynamic yellow pages.
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