A Little Extra

| January 20, 2015 | Reply

At 211-degrees, water is hot. At 212-degrees, it boils. And as Sam Parker and Mac Anderson point out in their book, The Extra Degree, it’s just that one extra degree of effort (in business and in life) that can separate the good from the great. Just a little bit extra.

Last week my wife and I dropped our teenage daughter off at the movies and decided to kick around the mall for a few hours instead of driving home and having to come all the way back.

Though we don’t normally go into Sears, we had to walk through the store because of the parking spot we found outside the entrance. And while moving through the fitness section, I noticed the sale they were having on treadmills. Mine happens to be about 12 years old and is slipping, so I took a closer look.

Fifteen minutes later, we had dropped $1,500 on a sweet new treadmill (that we really didn’t need), which was to be delivered on Monday (in six days). The kid who (barely) helped us was thrilled to have collected a nice commission bonus just before quitting time on what had been a slow day. He was a nice kid, and I felt good for him.

Fast forward to Friday night ad I’m whipping up a birthday dinner for my wife. Company is coming in 30 minutes, when I see sparks flying around inside the oven window. I turn it off, run downstairs and shut off the fuse, and – in a panic – make an executive decision to cook the dinner (linguini with white clam sauce) in the microwave. Eww.

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On Saturday morning, reality sets in. We need a new stove.

Stove or treadmill? Eat or exercise? “Let’s call and cancel the treadmill.”

“I feel bad for the kid,” Michele says to me. “Yeah, me too.”

The Appreciation Marketing expert in me was wondering what would have happened if that kid had sent a thank you note or even called or left us a voicemail to personally thank us. I have to think that we wouldn’t have cancelled. I am certain, however, that if Sears had delivered the treadmill faster, the sale would have certainly stuck.

So, as it is, we’ll be getting a new oven in a few days and I’ll be hanging clothes on the old treadmill for a while longer.

Still, I feel bad for that kid.

 

Bite Sized Chunks

| January 9, 2015 | Reply

Happy New Year, friends! New-Year-Resolution-photo

I’ve heard it said that the number-one New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. Number two is to make more money or get out of debt. Others include exercising more, quitting smoking or drinking, traveling more, spending more time with family, and insert your own here _____.

Regardless of what your own resolutions are, every single one of them revolves around being better. People resolve to have a better life in 2015, not worse.

And being better is so simple when you do it in bite-sized chunks.

Read a page a day in a book. Do five pushups. Smoke one-fewer cigarette. Put a smaller portion on your dinner plate.

In your business, be more conscious about showing your appreciation. Say thank you more. say thank you in better ways (than just saying it).

Yesterday – after the temperature rose from 1-degree in the morning to 40 by afternoon – I found myself in the mood for a cigar (yeah, I know; but quitting smoking isn’t one of my resolutions!) I went to my humidor, but the cupboard was bare. None left. So I disregarded the urge and went on to other things.

Within the hour (true story), the UPS man came to my door and handed me a small cardboard box. I noticed the return address was a friend (Diana McIntosh) and was puzzled at what she might have sent me. I opened the box to find a single cigar in an aluminum casing! Yes, I also heard harp music and angels chanting (but that was in my head). On top of the gift was a note. It read:

Tommy,

There are certain things that make you think of certain people.

Here’s to a great 2015. Happy New Year!

Paying it forward,

Diana

Now, considering I have smoked a cigar in about three weeks, the timing of both the urge and the gift are a complete coincidence. Or are they?

After immediately thanking Diana on Facebook, and sending her off an actual thank you card, (well not immediately, I smoked the cigar first!) I began thinking of people that I could reach out to and also “pay it forward.” It was a natural reaction.

As it happens, if you take a left at the bottom of my street there’s a small farm with a beautiful giant pine tree which stands near the road. Every year, the family there hires a truck with a lifter and a crow’s nest (I don’t know what they’re called) and decorates this enormous tree with Christmas lights. Its beautiful and I absolutely love to drive past it at night.

It has occurred to me that decorating this tree must bring the family great joy because it costs them time, effort, and money to do it each year. I know this, because I personally get a little lazier with my own holiday decorating every year. I hope this family never does.

So I pulled out my personal stationery and wrote them a heartfelt thank you. Did I mention, I don’t know these people an have actually never even seen them before. I just wanted them to know that they bring joy to more than just themselves by lighting up that Christmas tree ever year. I urged them to never stop.

I felt so good as I pulled over and put the envelope into their mailbox last night.

These are some of the things that I intend to do more of in 2015. Yes, I have my grand list of ways in which I can get better this year. But – always most important – is the list of ways in which I can express my appreciation and gratitude to the people who make my life better just by being in it.

You’re one of them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to drop and do five pushups.

The Value of a Customer

| December 23, 2014 | Reply

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 10.52.36 AMSo what is the (dollar) value of a lifetime customer?

Clearly this depends upon what type of business you’re in, but Appreciation Marketing® has always maintained that more attention should be spent building relationships with your past and existing customers than drumming up new business.

And while this philosophy might cause a sales manager’s ears to burst into flames, we’re sticking to it!

In 1998, for my fifth wedding anniversary, my wife wanted an “upgrade” to her engagement ring. Having been young, inexperienced, and broke when I purchased the first one (I think I sold baseball cards to find the $2k) – I agreed that it was time. New York City, here we come!

My first visit to the Diamond District was akin to one of those street fairs you see in Aladdin. There were jewelry stores up and down both sides of the street, and there were “hawkers” all over the sidewalks trying to get your attention and bring you into their store.

We ended up visiting a few before purchasing a new ring for more money than my first four cars cost me combined. It was my first and last visit to the Diamond District in NYC. I’ve never gone back.

Finding that store again today, 16 years later, would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Virtually impossible. But wait just a minute . . .

For the past 16 Christmases (this one included) I’ve received a Christmas card from “my friends” at Salvatore & Co Diamonds and Fine Jewelry at 55 W 47th Street (#39) between 5th & 6th Ave. So I CAN find that store again! And though I have zero plans to go back anytime soon, if I ever do . . . I’m going to see Michael Salvatore, Terri Levitsky, Peter Cardella, Liza Giraldo, and John Sullivan at Salvatore & Co.

Furthermore, if a friend of mine ever asks me about a place in NYC to get diamonds, guess what I’d tell them?

Was it worth the $2 a year that “my friends” at Salvatore & Co have invested in me?

Also got Christmas cards this year from Basel Saad at West Haven BMW, Frank Rocca at Acura of Berlin, Guy Brown at Danbury Mercedes Benz, and John Murphy at Jaguar of Darien.

Still a few days left! I wonder who else will step up to remain top of mind?

Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) from Appreciation Marketing®!

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The Corkscrew

| December 4, 2014 | Reply

IMG_0172My “gratitude awareness” was at its peak, as my family got into the SUV on Wednesday morning for a three-day Thanksgiving getaway.

My wife, two daughters, and yellow lab Buttercup all got up early so we could hit the road before the forecasted snow storm was to begin . . . destination, The Equinox Spa and Resort in Manchester, Vermont.

Grateful for the ability to take such a getaway in the first place, I fully enjoyed the family atmosphere, the hot coffee, and the dime-sized snowflakes that started falling about halfway through our our 150-minute drive north.

Built back in the late 1700’s, the Equinox has housed many of our nation’s forefathers as far back as the Revolutionary War. I appreciated the history, felt the ghosts, ate Thanksgiving dinner at a house once owned by Abraham Lincoln’s son, Todd, and even drank a glass of whiskey from the same tavern as Ulysses S. Grant had.

Coming home, recalling the wonderful (and as always, too short) time we had I began to itemize all the things that I was grateful for. (I know, I’m cursed! LOL) And guess what impressed me most?

On Wednesday night I wanted to pop a bottle of wine I had in my suite. There was no corkscrew. So I called the front desk and asked for one to be brought up. I hung up the phone and looked around for wine glasses and there were none. Within less than two minutes I had a knock at my door. It was a bell clerk with a corkscrew and two wine glasses (that I hadn’t even known to ask for).

In a resort that large, packed to capacity on Thanksgiving, I was shocked (in a good way) to receive “more than I has asked for” in just a few minutes. What’s more, the front desk called my room five minutes later to confirm that I had received my request.

THAT, is called “over delivering” and is the reason – small as it may seem – that I’d recommend The Equinox to any close friend.

As Zig Ziglar would say, “it’s the part of the blanket that hangs over the bed that keeps you warm.”

The big question would be, what do YOUR customers think about after doing business with you? Trust me, if they’re as impressed as I just was, then you’re in great shape!

* Full disclosure: The corkscrew / wine glasses gesture overshadowed the poor-to-mediocre service we received at dinner just 45 minutes later, proving you don’t have to be perfect to leave a positive impression!

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Lazy Decisions

| November 20, 2014 | Reply

In a sudden “wine emergency” last night, I leapt from my office chair, grabbed my coat, and slipped on some loafers (none of which matched my sweat pants and tee shirt). In Connecticut, liquor stores close at 8:00 pm (though some stay open until 9).closed-sign

As I sped out of my driveway, the clock in my car said 7:53.

If I take a left at the end of my road, I can make it to my favorite store where I’ve been going for ten years and where I’ve spent a minor fortune (probably financing the owner’s vacation home somewhere). If I take a right, I can make it to a store on the other side of town that actually does stay open until 9:00.

Almost by habit, I take a left.

As I screeched into the parking lot, I was pleased to see that it was still 7:58. But before I made it to the front of the store, I noticed my man Ryan turning off the lights and locking the front door. I hit the horn.

As I ran up to the locked door, Ryan was walking down the aisle away from me. I pounded on the door. He didn’t turn around.

To be fair, if he had known it was me he would have let me in. But that’s not the point.

Angered, I got back in my car and drove all the way across town to the one place that stays open later.

As I was driving home, I thought how stupid I had been for not just going to that “other store” in the first place. From now on, I probably will.

From the Appreciation Marketing standpoint, you must realize that even the tiniest inconvenience to your customers might result in them going elsewhere. Remember, they ALWAYS have the choice to go elsewhere.

Is Yours Worth Catching?

| November 10, 2014 | Reply

Driving through Newtown on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but be affected by the woman, dressed in a traffic cop uniform,  gyrating, in the middle of the street. 

As I drew closer I recognized her as Kathy (Ballwig) Holick, class of 84 Newtown High School.Screen shot 2014-11-10 at 9.34.07 AM
There she stood, in the middle of Church Hill Rd, grinning ear-to-ear and directing traffic with a twinkle in her eye. When she wasn’t directing  cars into and out of the St Rose Church parking lot, she was just dancing and waiving to the cars passing by. All of them.
Though I don’t really know Kathy, I found myself smiling, chuckling, honking, and waiving myself.
Even several minutes after I had passed, I was almost embarrassed as I caught myself still smiling, alone in my car.
I have no idea what a job directing traffic pays, but I’m pretty sure they don’t pay extra for the smile, the dance, and the attitude.
The next morning, I saw her there again. This time I actually was pulling into the parking lot where she was working. I stopped to watch for a few minutes and was just overwhelmed to witness how many drivers-by smile, honk, and wave to “Kat the traffic lady” as they pass.
Growing up, I remember the slogan “Nicer in Newtown.” More recently, it’s “Newtown, We Choose Kindness.”
Bravo, Kat.
I love seeing people who choose to adopt your amazing attitude and outlook on life.
Reminds me of the quote, “Attitudes are contageous. Is yours worth catching?”
Yours certainly is.
I Appreciate You!
PS. I guess the Appreciation Marketing question of the day would be . . . would it be good for YOUR business if people left you smiling?

Taking the High Road

| November 3, 2014 | Reply

When I was a kid, my mother always used to tell me to “take the high road.”

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To a kid, especially a boy, that usually meant being a wimp and letting somebody get away with something. Clint Eastwood would ride into town with his cheroot and his pancho and exact his revenge on all the bad guys. I’m supposed to let them all off the hook? I never understood.

We live in a society – especially now with all the reality TV garbage – that glamorizes an eye for an eye. “Revenge is sweet,” and “payback’s a bitch!”

So what about this “high road” stuff? What is it, and why would anybody want to take it?

Somebody has done something nasty to you. You have this pit in your stomach and you can’t stop thinking about it. You’re consumed with negative feelings, anger, and even depression. You want justice.

Today’s easy way out is to lash back on social media. Bad move.

The Appreciation Marketing expert practices taking the high road. And, trust me, it takes a lot of self control.

It sounds like the sissy’s way out, but consider  that no matter how badly someone has wronged you – there’s no amount of revenge that can undo their transgressions. No good can come of your revenge. Only more hurtfulness. Sure, you may feel a sense of satisfaction, and it might even make you feel like Clint Eastwood in front of your friends, but it will always do more harm than good.

If your goal is to “feel better” or gain a personal satisfaction, then take some pride in the fact that you were big enough and strong enough to travel that “high road.” When you laugh at the bully, you disempower him (or her).

I know, your situation is different. Somebody really wronged you and you feel justified in paying them back. Well guess what? I’ve been betrayed too. I’ve been stolen from, lied to, mislead, and gossiped about too; all unjustly. Don’t think I haven’t plotted and fantasized about recompense. I’m human too!

My favorite line from my favorite movie (Casablanca) is where the sleazy local crook, played by Peter Lorre, sits down with Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and says, “You despise me, don’t you Rick?” Without hesitation, Bogey fires back, “If I ever gave you a thought, I probably would.”

Acid destroys the container in which it is stored. Victory is the supreme vengeance in life.

There’s this thing they call karma. If you react with vengeance and fury, you can bet that the same negative forces will push back against you. If you react with kindness and forgiveness, the world will sit up and take notice and karma will pay you back in kind. (Not to mention the karma that will visit the person who wronged you).

Let it go! That jerk who deserves your wrath doesn’t even exist in your world! Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive.

Which one will you be?

When Blowing Leaves

| October 29, 2014 | 1 Reply

I find it interesting when people are conflicted. A lifetime of conditioning and a seemingly-endless swim against a negative current sometimes leaves us jaded and oft times even cynical about the goings on in our lives.

I have a friend who was diagnosed with cancer last winter and has been going through a difficult time in 2014. When a mutual friend sent a group text a few weeks ago asking if anybody would like to get together on Saturday to clean up Billy’s leaves – I was quick to reply, “Absolutely!”  outdoorpowerbuddy-gas-leaf-blower-blowing

When I woke up this past Saturday morning, I had forgotten. It was a sunny and beautiful fall Saturday and I was having coffee with my wife when it struck me – and when it did, I really didn’t feel like going. But I put on my sweats, loaded rakes into my trunk, and went anyway.

I’m not much for manual labor (in fact, full disclosure, I don’t even do my own leaves), but I can honestly say that I’ve never had such a great time “working” in my life. It just felt great.

As I swung the hand-held blower, putting the final touches on a long day by clearing off the driveway, it occurred to me that a rather large strip of grass between the driveway and their next-door neighbor’s house had a lot of leaves as well. So, without questioning, I just went about cleaning it up. Halfway through, Bill’s wife confirmed that I was clearing the neighbor’s yard and not only would they not even appreciate it, but they’d probably complain. “They’re not very nice.” I figured – hey – I’m halfway through, and its not that much trouble. So I finished it up, realizing I’d never even meet these people. Call it good karma.

I was shot when I got home four hours later, and my muscles ached for another two days afterward (still sore right now) but – as I said – I can’t remember being so pleased with myself. My friend appreciated it so.

Did I expect anything in return? Absolutely, one hundred percent . . . no.

Sunday morning, however, when I went into my nine-year-old daughter’s church classroom to pick her up I received an ovation from the teacher and students. I wasn’t sure what it was for, until the teacher commended me for “helping my friend.”

“How did you know?” I asked her, stunned. “Your daughter shared it with the class this morning,” she told me.

Wow, something rubbed off. I wasn’t even aware that she had noticed. That may have felt better than the actual task had.

Oh, and those “unfriendly” neighbors, whose leaves I cleaned . . . they left a bottle of wine on my friend’s doorstep with a thank you note!

The Appreciation Marketing champion takes the opportunity to do for others with no thought of getting something in return. I’m certainly no saint, and don’t do these types of things nearly enough. But when I do, its these kind of stories that often result.

When in doubt, just do the right thing and you’ll always feel good about it.

Hint: You always know which is the right thing.

How Would YOU Handle it?

| October 17, 2014 | Reply

Not every one of us will have the opportunity to be hired as CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. Each of us, though, does hold the title of CEO of our own life. We all, to some degree, face many of the challenges that the “big-time” executives face every day and are faced with decisions. These decisions do one of three things. They either move the company forward, move it backward, or are deemed inconsequential.

The following incident happened in real life. How would YOU handle it if YOU got to make the call?  ceo-and-data-analytics

In August, my family and I took a little vacation to Bermuda. Traffic was insane on the way to JFK airport, and the two-hour ride took us four. Still, though, we made it to check-in a full hour before flight time (boarding passes already printed and in hand). Once navigating the slow-moving line, however, we were informed that while we were in plenty of time to make our flight – they would no longer check our baggage! Being a true “Appreciator” and a solutions guy, I calmly and politely went about solving the problem. And for the next 30 minutes I was passed off to one uncaring and unempathetic employee after another in one of the absolute worst cases of customer service I have ever experienced.

Finally, a bystander suggested that we purchase additional carry-on bags at the nearby kiosk and transfer our belongings. I asked the attendant if that was possible and she nodded without expression. So I purchased three overpriced carry-on bags, we unpacked and repacked in the middle of a bustling airport floor, and had to abandon my wife’s large (and expensive) empty suitcase at the kiosk. We then squeezed through screening, ran to the terminal, and made our flight with nine carry-on bags!

Upon returning home, I reached out to the new CEO of American Airlines, Douglas Parker, explaining my experience. Again, in my charming Tommy-style manor, I mentioned that I make a career out of telling customer-service stories (good and bad) and even included a signed copy of Appreciation Marketing. I expected nothing (as is usually my MO), but was anxious to see how my new “story” would end. If I were the CEO, I’m quite certain that I’d apologize (at bare minimum) and say thank you for the book (which is about saying thank you). At best, I’d perhaps offer me and my family a new flight and ask for a chance to “re” earn our business. Especially in lieu of the $500 luggage fiasco.

Drum roll please . . .

I got what I expected (see above paragraph).

Now I’m an intelligent and level-headed guy. But do you think I will EVER book a flight on American Airlines again? Do you think I’ll tell this story at parties? Do you think I’ll tell this story on stages? Do you believe that the CEO of American Airlines’ decision to do nothing moves his company forward, moves his company backward, or is inconsequential? What choice would YOU make? And this guy makes millions!

Our hope is that you – as an Appreciation Marketing specialist – take your CEO position more seriously.

It’s never too much trouble to do the right thing, but it can be very damaging not to.

 

 

Adjust Your Sails

| October 11, 2014 | Reply

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 Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we are rating the people we meet and the events we experience on an ongoing basis.

We do this not only as customers but as human beings.

Our great friend Jim Kohn just took twelve of his closest friends to his “happy place” to join him for his 60th birthday celebration.

In addition to always being up for a good time, my radar was up to see just what makes this place so special to my friend who could vacation anywhere in the world but keeps choosing to go back to Jamaica’s Half Moon Bay multiple times every year. Having been to a dozen islands in the Caribbean myself (Jamaica not having been among my favorites), I was exceptionally curious.
From the general manager, to the service manager, to the bartenders, the beach attendants, the butler, the housekeeper, the cook, and even the entertainment, they ALL know “Big Jim” and treat him like he’s the most-important visitor they’ll ever have. And wouldn’t you know it, he smiles and treats them in kind.
Jim is a retired restaurant entrepreneur whose knowledge of customer service leaves him “cursed” to notice even the tiniest details (good and bad). And THAT is what makes Half Moon Bay his happy place. They don’t make a mistake. And it’s clearly not just “part of the job” there, it’s the culture.
For what it’s worth, the other dozen of us received the same treatment last week as well. We’d all go back (and we will). Not because it’s sunny. There are a lot of sunny places to choose from. But because Half Moon Bay “gets it,” and has created a culture that gives its customers more than they expect – no matter how much they expect – and always with a friendly smile.
The people of Half Moon Bay earned a customer for life when they did the right thing on Jim Kohn’s first visit, years ago.
Then they remained consistent. And they just added a few more.
Understand that people are judging and rating their run-in’s and experiences with YOU, every minute of every day as well.
You don’t have to keep your A-game on all day if you don’t want to. But you may never know when you missed a golden opportunity because of it.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. And if you make your A-game the norm in your life, instead of the exception, you’ll be able to overcome the lapses.