5 Ways To Add Value For Your Customer (That Won’t Cost You A Thing)

In the service business world, it can be easy to convince yourself it’s all about price. You have potential customers who end up going with whichever company quoted the lowest price and customers who abandon you when a Groupon pops up or an Amazon Prime day offers them 40% off of Amazon Home Services. How can you compete and make a decent living when you’re being undercut on price left and right and that’s all customers seem to care about? Offer more.Man-Being-Offered-Money-In-Exchange-For-Idea

More? What do you mean more? I can’t afford to lose money on every job!

No, I’m not saying you should not charge for products or time, but there are some things you can do to add value for your customer that don’t cost you. Let’s look at some examples:

#1 Clean Up After Yourself

You may think it’s a given that service business crews clean up after themselves, but truthfully, it’s not. Simply by taking precautions to make sure your customer’s property and home stay clean throughout and that you leave no traces behind is a great way to add value that doesn’t make you any less profitable. It may take a little more time to put down drop cloths or vacuum up after a job, but it’s not going to take up your whole day. Just include a little buffer for cleanup in your appointment windows.

#2 Offer To Move Furniture

If you’re a house painter, a flooring guy, or you perform some other home service that may require the moving around of furniture, offer to do it for the customer if you’re physically capable of doing so. This can be an especially valuable service for the elderly and is just one way to make the job less stressful and less of a hassle for your customer.

#3 Go Ahead & Do Small Add-On Services

Did your customer mention needing or wanting a small service performed sometime in the future? Offer to do it while you’re already there and have the products needed. If you’re a painter, this can be offering to go ahead and touch up baseboards while you’re in the home. If you’re a chimney sweep, this can be offering to go ahead and fix a damper that’s missing a pin. Offer to change out a light bulb that’s burned out or swap out an air filter. If you’re open minded and listen to your customer, you’ll likely find it easy to identify small ways you can add value and provide additional services without breaking the bank or wasting time.

#4 Educate Your Customer

One thing you may take for granted as a service professional is your knowledge. You have years of experience and education in a field that most people know nothing about — sharing some of that knowledge can add value to your customer’s life. If you’re a chimney sweep, this may be educating your customer on the best tips for seasoning your wood or getting your fire started. If you’re a house painter, this may be letting your customer know that wiping down a painted wall (especially if it’s a darker color) can leave streaks if a wipeable paint is not used. If keeping their kids’ fingerprints off of their walls is something that’s important to them, recommend a paint product that’s made to be wiped down or washed. These small tips and suggestions can lead to happier customers, and all it takes is a little attention, listening, and sharing.

#5 Be On Time Or Call If You’re Going To Be Late

You might be amazed at how many service professionals are perpetually late and don’t take two seconds to call the next customer and let them know. Most customers will understand that things come up and schedules change, but if you don’t take the time to call and let your customer know you’re not going to make the agreed upon time, your customer will feel disrespected. Make every effort to be on time to each and every appointment — and when things don’t go according to plan, make the phone call, apologize, and let them know when they can expect you and that this isn’t the norm.

What are some ways you add value to customers? We’d love to hear them!

Commit To Making 2018 The Year You Want It To Be

The year is coming to an end, and it’s time to reflect. It’s time to ask yourself: Do I want next year to be different or do I want more of the same? Do I want to grow or stay at this level? Is there something I’d like to work on that could make me a better leader? Are there classes or certifications that could make us a better company that offers better service? Is there a recurring issue in our company that we need to nip in the bud? Is it time to put systems in place?

Asking these questions and reflecting on the answers can bring enlightenment and awareness, but don’t stop at reflection — commit to the change you want to see. Don’t make a resolution — make a commitment. Don’t decide that you’ll try to do something, decide that you will do something.

We’ve heard the greatest minds say this, including our little green friend, Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” But knowing this doesn’t stop us from pretending, does it? It doesn’t stop us from half-heartedly setting resolutions or goals, without any sincere or thoughtful plan for execution. We do it all the time. We say “I’m going to start eating better.” But do we clean out the fridge and make sure that the house is filled with healthy food options? Or do we keep the bag of Cheetos conveniently within reach and justify ordering pizza “before the coupons expire?” There’s a difference between committing to change and hoping for change.

Intention Vs. Determination: What’s The Difference?

Think of a time when you really wanted to do something; when you felt like you’d just die if you didn’t do it. Did you do it? Now think of all the New Year’s resolutions you’ve made and not kept over the years. There was a difference in your mindset and your level of commitment, wasn’t there? What was the difference? One was a determination, while the other was an intention.Dandelion-Growing-In-The-Sidewalk

Intention will get you through the easy times, but when things get hard, you need more than that. You need resolve. You need commitment. You need determination. Intention only gets you halfway there. With intention, if it’s easy you may do it; with determination, even if it’s not easy, you’ll do it, or at least give it everything you’ve got. And really, that’s what determines your success: whether you push through in the hard times.

So put some thought and purpose behind 2018. Think about the changes you’d like to make, the goals you’d like to reach, and the things you’d like to accomplish, but personally and professionally — but take it further. Plan how you’re going to get there and put safeguards in place to help you maintain determination and drive when the going gets tough.

Tips To Help You Succeed This Coming Year

Here are some tips as you head into 2018 with intention and commitment:

  1. Brainstorm and write out some actionable steps you can take to get you closer to your goal. Start small and detailed. Breaking a goal down into actionable steps can take time, but the thought and planning invested up front will pay off greatly over the long run. If you only give yourself big, vague steps, you’ll feel overwhelmed and a bit aimless and unsure of what to do next. Visit this list regularly.
  2. Tell friends and family about your plans and ask them to hold you accountable and provide encouragement and support. We all need encouragement and a little extra push from time to time, but if no one knows what you’re trying to achieve, no one will be there to provide that support and push when you need it. So, share your vision and your plan. Tell your employees, your family, your friends — someone you know you can count on to provide tough love and hold you to your word.
  3. Start and end your day with focus and intention. Whether you write it on your bathroom mirror or just take a moment to think about your goal when you first wake up, you need to make sure it’s front and center in your mind at the start and close of your day. Keeping your eyes on the prize will help you stay focused and driven, day in and day out.
  4. Do it for future you. It may seem kind of silly, but think of the future you when you don’t feel like working towards your goal. Think of, not just reaching your goal, but how that will feel and what it will mean for your life, your family, your employees, and your community. With that in mind, you’ll have an easier time seeing the hard work through.
  5. Celebrate milestones and successes along the way. Don’t just celebrate when you reach the big goal — celebrate all the little victories, too. Taking the time to reflect on the progress you’ve made and enjoy how far you’ve come will help prevent burnout and give you a real sense of accomplishment that you might otherwise lack. Even if you don’t reach your end goal in the time frame set, if you celebrate all the successes along the way, you’ll see how much closer your hard work is getting you to your goal and have the zeal to keep up the hard work.

Are you ready to get started? An old Chinese Proverb puts it this way: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” There’s no time like the present — get to work! Best wishes for a great year ahead. See you in 2018!

Our Favorite Podcasts: What We’re Listening To On Those Long Holiday Car Rides

Heading out of town for the holidays? Don’t spend the drive bored out of your gourd. Check out some of our favorite podcasts — they’re sure to keep you entertained and make the time pass. Scenic-Winter-Drive

Blue Collar Proud Show— Obviously we’re a little biased about this one, but if you’re looking for great insight, advice, and stories tailored to you as a service business owner, we think you’ll like the BCP Show.

This American Life — This podcast is hosted by Ira Glass and is a great podcast for getting unbiased stories, expanding your horizons, adding to your knowledge, and seeing real journalism at work.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History — For history with a twist, this is the podcast. Dan Carlin explores historical moments, asking questions and making interpretations that you won’t find in a history book.

The Splendid Table — We’re all food lovers here at Spark Marketer, which is why we love this podcast. Host Francis Lam and his guests explore all-things-culinary and passionately discuss the culture and power of food.

Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People —  In this podcast, comedian Chris Gethard gives callers one hour to share whatever they want. The only rule: he can’t hang up first.

The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe — In this podcast, our guy crush, Mike Rowe explores tales with a twist and provides an unfamiliar look at things and people you thought you knew.

Revisionist History — Take a second look at things past with Malcolm Gladwell, author of several books, including Blink, The Tipping Point, What The Dog Saw, and David & Goliath, to name a few.

RV Family Travel Atlas — If you like to get the family together and see the world from your RV or car, this podcast is a must listen. You’ll hear reviews of campgrounds, gear reviews, kid-friendly travel tricks, tips on what to do when your trip doesn’t go as planned, and more.

You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes — In this podcast, comedian Pete Holmes hangs out with comedians and musicians and gets them to share their secret weirdness. It’s kind of like getting your favorite comedians drunk, setting up a tape recorder, and putting them in a room with their best friend.

Us & Them — You know all those topics that are taboo because they’re so divisive? This podcast touches on them all.

The Unpodcast — Husband and wife, Scott and Alison Stratten share stories and discuss all the things wrong in the worlds of customer service and marketing. And since poor service is the norm, there’s always something to talk aboot (they’re Canadian and they’re lovely).

The Joe Rogan Experience — In this podcast, comedian Joe Rogan talks with musicians, comedians, actors, film producers — you name it.

The Dinner Party Download — No one wants to be the bore or the uncultured one at a dinner party, and this podcast is designed to help you avoid being that guy. Each episode is themed and includes a joke, a strange snapshot from history, a cocktail recipe, an artist, an etiquette rule of thumb, a trending food, and a song. If you’re a theme-loving host/hostess or you dream of being one, this is a great podcast for you.

Read To Lead Podcast — There are a lot of leadership and business books out there and you could never read them all. Get the Cliff’s Notes in this podcast, where you’ll hear some of today’s greatest non-fiction writers discuss leadership, business, personal development, marketing, and more.

The Pen Addict — If you’re a stationery and pen nerd like the Jessica’s, this podcast is for you. That’s literally all they talk about and it’s WONDERFUL.

The Minimalists Podcast— Looking to declutter and cut out things in your life that you just don’t need? Check out this podcast — it’s all about living better with less.

WTF with Marc Maron — In this podcast, comedian Marc Maron and his guests get philosophical, without losing their humor.

Lead With A Story Podcast — In this podcast, you’ll hear some of the most successful executives and leaders out there share their insight on creativity, sales, customer service, leadership, and more.

Off Camera with Sam Jones — This podcast was created to offer an intimate and inside look at what makes some of the greatest artists so great. This isn’t your TMZ snapshot of a celebrity, it’s real conversation with the real humans we often forget they are.

Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield — Online marketing strategist, Amy Porterfield, and her guests offer insight into what makes an online business thrive and provide tips and strategies to help you build an audience and sell more of your product or service.

Stuff You Should Know — For the curious minded, this podcast is a must. Whether you’re wondering if a head transplant is really a thing or you want to understand the science behind empathy, it’s all here.

Serial — Sarah Koenig goes in depth and follows a single story from start to finish over a series of episodes. Season one is a favorite here in the office.

The Brainfluence Podcast with Roger Dooley — If you’re looking for science based life and growth hacking tips and insight into neuromarketing, persuasion, and consumer behavior, this podcast is for you.

S-Town — From Serial and This American Life comes a podcast about a murder in an Alabama town. Follow host Brian Reed as he investigates…

Building A StoryBrand with Donald Miller — Since Donald Miller is a local, some of us have had the privilege of attending a StoryBrand workshop. But thanks to this podcast, now you can get tips on clarifying your brand message and growing your company without heading to TN (although the workshop is definitely worth it).

Lore — Where do our superstitions come from? This bi-weekly podcast aims to find out.

The Command Zone — Unless you’re a mega-nerd like Chris, you won’t get the podcast or even the description of the podcast. I think it has something to do with the game Magic, the Gathering?

My Favorite Murder — Avid true crime story fans Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark talk about murder, crime stories, and death. Just a little light listening…

The EntreLeadership Podcast — Listen in as great minds discuss everything leadership and business related, from hiring practices to procrastination.

Hollywood Babble-On — Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman catch up on Hollywood and celebrity news, do some great impressions, talk movies, and babble on about a variety of things.

How To Do Everything — Wondering how to do something? Whether it’s dating, leaving a good voicemail, finding water in the desert, or quietly opening a Velcro bag, this podcast will help. What will callers ask next?

Hello From The Magic Tavern — This fantastical and strange podcast features interviews with wizards, monsters, and more.

Freakonomics Radio — Think like a freak and learn about human nature in this podcast, brought to you by Stephen J. Dubner, the co-author of “Freakonomics.”

Smart Wrestling Fan  — This podcast will make sure you don’t miss a thing in the wrestling world, whether your thing is WWE, NJPW, or Lucha Underground.

Manager Tools — For insight on becoming a better, more effective manager and tips you can implement right away, check out this podcast.

Better Friendship Through Podcasting — Listen to friendship developing and deepening in this podcast with real life friends Adam Ellis and Kristin Rossi. It’s all about two friends getting drunk, asking each other questions, and catching up.

Edumacation — Kevin Smith & Andy McElfresh set out to learn something, sometimes stopping to meow both popular and obscure songs.

Wow. We’re weird. What are some of your favorite podcasts?

How To Improve Work-Life Balance As A Small Business Owner

Ah, the work-life balance: Is it just a myth for small business owners or can you actually have a successful business and an enjoyable life? Well, it is possible if you just accept a couple of things:Evenly-Balanced-Scale

Work and life will never be totally separate.

If you want to be able to completely abandon your work the moment the clock hits 5:00PM, owning a small business is not right for you. The reality is, your personal and professional life will always overlap. You may be in the middle of dinner with the family when you get an email or an idea for how to make the company more efficient. You may be in the middle of a job when you remember you still need to get a babysitter for Friday night. Accepting the overlap and learning to manage it and remain in the present is the key to feeling balanced and centered. What do we mean by “managing” the overlap?

Let’s say you did have an idea for how to make the company more efficient mid-dinner, mid-conversation. You could sit there, half-listening, while you mull over your new idea in your head, OR you could say, “I’m sorry but I just had an idea for work. Do you mind if I jot it down really quickly so I can give you my undivided attention?” Most of the time, your significant other, kids, or whoever you’re having dinner with will appreciate the fact that you want to be completely focused on what they’re saying and will allow you the time to do what you need to do to clear your head. And since it’s 2017, you don’t need to scramble to find a notepad — you have one in your phone (which we know is always with you: you’re a business owner). Quickly jot down your idea or make a reminder for yourself, and then let go of it so you can focus on the present.

What about when you’re on the job and you remember you need to find a babysitter for this week’s date night? Stop what you’re doing (if possible), and set a reminder on your phone for your lunch break or for the end of the work day. Once you’ve set a reminder, clear your head and get back to business.

You may also want to try the notepad or reminder method when your mind is racing in bed. It’s easy to miss out on much-needed sleep when you’re a business owner, but if you aren’t rested, you can’t bring your best to the business, to your employees, to your customers, or to your friends and family. It seems that bedtime is when all of the ideas and reminders of what you should do, need to do, or needed to do come flooding in. But don’t lie there trying to hammer them all down or spend hours worrying about whether or not you’ll remember them in the morning — jot them down in your phone or in a bedside notebook and let go of them. They’ll be there for you in the morning.

The scales will tip more heavily to one side at different times.

Wait, doesn’t balance imply that the scales are always evenly weighed? Yes, but the realistic business owner will need to be a little more flexible with his or her definition of balance. Some days, the scales may weigh more heavily on the work side of things, while on other days, they may weigh more heavily on the personal life side. The scales will always shift from time to time, but how you prepare for and handle the shift will make all the difference in how balanced your life feels during these changes.

For example, if you know you’re heading into your busy season or something at work requires you to put in several long days of deep focus, let your family and friends know. If you tell your significant other, your kids, and your good friends that you’ll be M.I.A. for a week or two (or a season), they’ll be much more understanding than they would be if they were left in the dark and feeling ignored. Remind them of how important they are to you and how important your time with them is, and make plans to get some quality time in before or after your focus session.

Of course, no one can survive a long period of ALL work and no play. To avoid burnout and feelings of being off-balance, make sure to set aside at least some time in your day and week for family, friends, hobbies, and relaxation. Whether that means a crossword puzzle with your morning coffee, 30 minutes of pleasure reading before bed, a lunch-time phone call with your wife or husband, or a scheduled movie night with the family, make it happen. Sometimes, as little as 15 minutes of unwinding can make the buckled-down days feel a little more balanced.

So yes, in our opinion, a balance can be achieved. Is it a perfect balance? No, not by a long shot. But you can truly have it all if you just set your priorities, communicate with the special people in your life, and remain flexible and realistic about things.

What do you do to maintain a feeling of work-life balance? We’d love to hear from you!

The Grateful, Thankful Leader

Thanksgiving is a funny holiday. It seems today, it’s more about marking the start of the Christmas shopping season than anything else. Yes, we might get together with family and friends, have a good meal, eat and maybe drink too much and, if we’re lucky, get four days off. We might also participate in the annual “What are you thankful for?” tradition and be very sincere. But we have one question: why do we wait for this one day in November to give thanks?Pumpkin-Apple-Pinecone-Harvest-Fruits-On-Table

We ask that with something specific in mind: the growing attitude that being grateful and gratitude in general plays an important part in our lives, our leadership, and our businesses. The opening paragraph of “Gratitude: The Leader’s Most Underused but Powerful Tool” located here asks the question,

Gratitude? I mean, yeah, it’s great, but not really crucial for a leader. Why gratitude? And specifically, why would it make the list in a list of leadership tools?”

Answer: “A growing body of research has uncovered the extraordinary impact of gratitude in every area of life…Gratitude not only elicits behavior in the person who is expressing it, but it also elicits response in the person who is receiving it.” In other words, gratitude is beneficial for you, as well as others in your life. It’s good for your person. It’s good for your relationships. It’s good for your business.

It’s easy to spot a grateful leader. In fact, we can identify them long before we even meet them. How? We observe their company culture. There are always signs.

The first sign is the way their social media presents to the world. It’s full of praise for employees. It’s full of thanks for every customer who mentions them or reviews them. There are encouraging words and shares and likes. This is a pleasant person to follow on Facebook and they usually live up to their online persona.

The next sign of a grateful leader comes from the employees themselves. Walk into this place of business on any day, at any time, and you are likely to see employees going about their work with a smile. They are cooperating with co-workers, being helpful, and always expressing appreciation for the way others contribute to the work. There is probably a board somewhere, which tracks company wins. There is a drawer with stationery and stamps for writing quick thank you notes to customers and vendors. The whole place just feels steeped in sincerity and appreciation. And that’s before the leader ever shows up.

The signs of a grateful leader are found in everything he or she touches. That’s because gratefulness spreads over everything, like a warm blanket, insulating us from the chill of the world. It holds us and keeps us. It buffers our interactions and lifts our spirits. There is no doubt, gratitude is good for all of us, and the grateful leader can make it possible for others to benefit. A grateful culture starts when the leader intentionally cultivates gratitude.  

So for this year’s annual Thanksgiving post from us, Carter and Taylor, we want you to know that not a day goes by that we are not grateful for all of you: clients, employees, family, and friends. Without you all, Spark Marketer would not be what it is today. We also hope, for those of you who are the leaders in your business, that you take gratitude to heart, knowing it is good for us all.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Taylor & Carter