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Finding New Ways to Better Serve Your Customers

By Craig Harrison

Note: This article appeared in ter September, 2000 edition
of City News,the NACE Newsletter for Northern California

Everyone loves a winner. As a society we're quick to model ourselves after other successful organizations. Whether in business, on Wall Street, in entertainment or sports, we see competitors quick to follow the patterns of the current winners. That's OK. After all, there's not much upside in following the losers of the world.

But to really set your company apart from the others it may be less important to model what the leaders do. If you have the courage, creativity and will to innovate, you can blaze your own trail and let others model their strategies after yours!

This month's column is a call to arms for each of you to innovate. I encourage you to explore new, different and creative ways to emphasize your strengths as a business, fill the special needs of your customers or else create new niches you can then dominate.

Are you ready to step outside of the box? Are you ready to re-evaluate your usual ways of doing business in search of better ways? Are you prepared to become innovative in your approach, whether in attracting new customers, managing your staff or revamping your overall modus operandi as a business?

Ways and Means

How are you attracting new customers? Do you use traditional marketing techniques? Has that always been the preferred method of expanding your client base? In today's competitive marketplace you may need to sound a different horn to separate yourself from the competition. Here are a couple of ideas for raising your visibility and attracting new customers:

  1. Create your own holiday and then register it with Chase's Calendar of Events (www.chases.com). You've instantly become the authority on this new holiday or event you created. Now the press will call you and flock to tell your story. Send out your press release. Design your holiday event in such a way that it speeds up a slow time of year or leverages other events or moods prevalent.

  3. Create your own tradition or special event to showcase your company. Invite prospective clients to your open house or uniquely themed gala. Obtain some local press coverage to build excitement and become the talk of the town. Take photos, write articles about it and include drawings, prizes and other hoopla to build good will and generate word-of-mouth marketing thereafter. As it succeeds, turn your inaugural event into an annual gala and build your own traditions, mailing lists and even folklore.
Recently the University of California Athletic Department innovated in similar fashion. Supportive Cal Bear alumni can be found around the world, yet it's hard to gather them to attend any one fundraising or recognition event. That's why their recent CyBear-Auction was so effective. It harnessed new technology, in the form of an Internet auction, to foster connectedness (literally and figuratively) among their ranks. They raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through auctioning sports gear and related items. Now other institutions will copy their success in order to compete!
Innovation Starts From WithIN

Before you hire expensive consultants or even bring Craig Harrison in to unleash the creativity within your firm, tap your own employees' ideas for new and innovative ways of conducting business. The smart companies know that great ideas can come from anyone within their ranks, and they aren't afraid of asking their rank and file. Don't forget to praise, recognize and reward your employees who contribute innovations. Innovations deserve ovations. Your employees will feel valued and take more pride in knowing they've made an extra contribution, and that it's been recognized.

Inducing Innovation...A Labor of Love

To foster and ultimately harvest innovation you must set the proper tone. Remain open minded to the possibilities. Allow scheduled time for brainstorming as a group and suspend judgement when doing so. Such activities do wonders for teambuilding too. Take suggestions seriously, whether through a suggestion box, a rewards program or attention in your weekly or monthly meetings to this creative form of problem solving.

The Hidden Benefits of Innovation

How satisfying to work smarter, not harder! How exciting to innovate. How fulfilling to harness one's creativity and be a leader, not a follower. Through innovation you can stay ahead of the curve. And don't make the mistake of believing that innovation is a luxury. In today's rapidly evolving marketplace you can't afford to rest on your laurels and conduct business as usual. The phrase "innovate or die" is far from over-dramatic...it's prophetic. Be a prophet and predict a profitable future for your company, team and self. Innovate!


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