How to get more referrals

One of the most frustrating things I heard as a young business owner was hearing time and again a colleague say “I live off word-of-mouth referrals from X thousand clients and I never do any advertising”. I always walked away wondering what I could possibly be missing because I was not getting that many Word-Of-Mouth referrals. I got some, but not that many.

After 15 years in business, I have learned a thing or two and figured out there are essentially three types of word-of-mouth referrals.

  1. Networking – where someone introduces you to someone who doesn’t need your services directly but provides a key connection that leads to work.
  2. Word-of-Mouth Referrals – The traditional kind where someone occasionally says “Yeah, I know someone who services pianos…”
  3. Online Reviews – These are essentially digital referrals that work 24/7 every time someone asks for the services you provide.

The big question is not what works best, you need all three. The big question is what does it take to get your clients to actually do any of it? To understand this you need to understand why people choose not to refer a perfectly good business who did everything right and made them perfectly happy.

If you did everything right, why are your clients still not giving you referrals?

The answer is because they don’t know how. That might sound crazy, but let me explain.

Before your clients can give you a quality lead, they need to know how. You have to teach them how to do it or they will never do it. Sure if their good friend happens to ask they will say something nice, but you have to understand they did it for their friend, not you. So why will they not do it for you? It’s easy. They need to be the hero and everything you are currently doing to get them to give you a referral is all about you and your story, not them. People are never adequately motivated by external motivators like discounts. Sure they might make an impulse decision and collect the bonus bucks, but they will not make a calculated risky move unless they have a compelling reason.

What could be so risky about giving a referral?

Here are 3 reasons people will not refer a business they are perfectly happy with:

  1. Hard work. Building your own business is hard enough, doing it for someone else is a chore. Referring a friend doesn’t even register on my “must do list” unless my friend is begging to “do it now”.
  2. The unknowns. Sure maybe you did great work, but nobody is perfect and something might go wrong with their friend’s experience which could strain their relationship. Think about it, don’t you remember the time you gave someone a referral and in the back of your head thought “Gee, I hope they get the same great experience I got?” – If you pay attention, this is always a factor to overcome when we give a friend a recommendation. Honestly, it is sometimes easier to give a stranger a referral than a friend. But we rarely do either.
  3. I don’t want to be your pan-handler. No one wants to do someone else’s begging. It just isn’t comfortable and no matter how much of a discount you offer I will not do it. Thanks but no thanks.  

So How do I get past all this?

You have to make them a hero and they have to know three things without a doubt in their mind:

  1. Who you need them to refer
  2. How they should do it
  3. Why they are doing it

Most business owners focus on the “how” if they do anything at all. So let’s talk about the things you need to do to put an exponent on your referral leads.

  1. Educate – From the moment they first engage with your company you need to future frame what you need from them by communicating why you work so hard to network with other people. Notice the shift I just made. I don’t work hard to “get referrals” I work hard to “network”. I don’t network with “piano owners”, I network with “people”. This is crucial. If you miss this, you are missing the iceberg under the water.
  2. Educate Again – I have built opportunities into the structure of my business to educate clients at every step of the way. Most of it is subtle, all of it is intentional. By being strategic with my communication I re-enforce the end result I want to see. Before I ring the doorbell I have at least 5 opportunities to engage with the clients and I want them to know that I value networking and value their business.
  3. Tell a story – Take time during your first appointment to share a story about how you have built your business by networking with people, musicians, and folks who might not even own a piano.  Make it natural and keep it true. But just mention the key parts in passing.
  4. Ask at the right time – Don’t just ask, ask at the right time. The moment to ask is after you have had enough time to build a rapport with them and after money has changed hands.  This is likely at the end of your first paid appointment. I do it as I touch the doorknob to leave. I turn around and say “Would you do me a favor…”
  5. Look in their eyes – Shake their hand, make a personal connection, but for goodness sake look in their eyes. If you don’t personalize this request, you are wasting your time.
  6. Make it easy – Whatever you say next better be easy. I ask them if they would be willing to “Do me a favor” because favors are easy, optional, and non-threatening. I am simply going to ask them a question and assure them it will be easy to do.
  7. Ask away & quickly re-educate – “Would you give me an online review?” Nothing more, nothing less. Notice I didn’t ask them to do 3 things. I just asked if they would do one thing and I quickly mention (for the 3rd time) how I have built this entire business on word-of-mouth and online reviews.
  8. Shut Up! – silence, zip it – They are going to say “yes”
  9. Say ‘thank you’ and assure them it will be easy -Thank them for offering to give you an online review and tell them you will email them a link with instructions. You can see the link we email them at http://www.Well-LovedPiano.com/review. At Well-Loved Piano I have this set up as a “canned message” in Gazelle that gets sent as I mark the even completed.
  10. Re-Educate – Notice our reveiw generation webpage shows them how to give us an online review. It is simple and it is yet another opportunity we take to “educate our clients”. Leave nothing to chance, tell them exactly what you want.
  11. Educate, educate, educate – Now the stage is set and you are free to take every opportunity you have to remind them that you are interested in meeting likeminded people who, have an interest in music, who might not even own a piano. All they need to know is that you value networking and you value meeting people.

If you do this, people will choose to introduce you and give you their personal networking leads. It doesn’t mean they will be good at organically weaving your story into their conversations, that is a topic for another day. But you will have accomplished a lot. During this time their online review will serve as a 24/7 mega-phone for your business because they become the hero, not you. They will use your story to inspire someone that is a game changer.

Coming Soon…New Master Service List

One of our most requested features is being released next week! We are calling it the ‘Master Service List’. The Master Service List has been a backburner feature for over 18 months! We started the planning & design last year and progressed with development earlier this year as we broke ground on our new UI (User Interface), which is being rolled out throughout 2018.

The Master Service List solves a key problem inside Gazelle, better integration between scheduled services, invoices, & eventually other parts of the program. The most noticeable part of this feature will be a drop-down menu of services on your invoices.

What is the Master Service List

The Master Service List is a global list of all the services you provide to your customers.  When we started planning this feature we decided to design this as a new feature from the ground up, because prior to this we did not handle services in a uniform way.  As a result, a few different parts of the program will be migrated over to use the Master Service List in place of what we have now.

This is how services used to work:

MSL

This is how they will work in the new Master Service List

MSL New

 

What has been improved?

By creating a centralized way of handling services we are able to simplify a number of different parts of the program.

  1. Invoices – When creating invoices you will be able to select from saved services instead of having to manually type the same service over and over again
  2. Self-Scheduled Consistency – When building your self-scheduler you will be able to pull services from your Master Service List and have consistency between the services your clients select and the services that appear on their invoice.
  3. Condition Reports – In the new user interface the Master Service List will make building Condition Report templates much easier and simple to use.
  4. In-App Reporting – In the new user interface in-app reporting is going to be a central feature. We are making it easier to see things like how much revenue you have scheduled for the coming week, and how much you had scheduled in the past. The Master Service List is a critical backend feature that will power these reports.
  5. Internationalization – All items in your Master Service List will be fully internationalized and include user input translation strings for customers who serve bilingual communities.

Will this feature be available in our Old UI?

Yes, thanks to the overwhelming number of requests we fielded over the past few years for a drop-down service menu on the invoice page, we will be integrating parts of this feature into the old UI. Inside the old (existing) UI you will be able to:

  • Manage groups & items in your Master Service List
  • See a drop-down menu of services when creating invoices
  • Pull items from your Master Service List to Schedule an Appointment
  • Integrate Master Service List Items into your self-scheduler.

What does the future hold?

Now that we have the Master Service List in place, we are one step closer to being able to improve and simplify a number of features within our new UI. This includes things like:

  • Condition Reports
  • In-App Reporting for projected revenue
  • Quickbooks / 3rd party Accounting Integration
  • And deeper internationalization of the app

MSL 3

What are we working on Next?

After the release, we will be turning our focus to simplifying our settings pages (a smaller project) and then the calendar as we redesign it to be even more map-centric (A massively large project).  This is going to be one of the biggest features we release in 2018 and we are excited to start working on it so early in the year. We have some really exciting things in store and cannot wait to show you what we have planned.

Many thanks to everyone who has provided feedback over the years. If you were one of the many people who criticized our existing invoices, calendar, complexity, etc… we listened and continue to do so as we work to simplify Gazelle and improve our features. We can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and get to work!

The Gazelle Team

 

How to engage Existing Clients for Growth

If you are not losing clients in your business, something is not right. I remember when I first started my business I survived by trying to get everyone to stay on a regular service schedule. It hurt every time one of them said: “No thanks, don’t call me ‘I will call you’ …” They all had a reason but it was never very comforting for me to hear those dreaded words. Today I am managing existing clients very different than I did years ago, and my life and business is better for it.

What you are currently doing is broken

I know you probably feel otherwise, but if your way of managing clients is not radically different than everyone else, then the truth I am about to share is going to sting. Now I am not saying your current process is irredeemable. Even in my early days I somehow managed to not screw *everything* up. But my mountain of past mistakes is piled high with #FacePalm moments mixed with a few success stories.  Today the stench and emotional pain I feel from these past mistakes are like scar tissue in my brain.

Losing clients is a sign of life

If you are living and breathing, your client list will atrophy. it is just a part of life. Even long-time clients will eventually move on. In a piano service business if you are doing everything right, then over the course of 5 years, 40%+ of all your clients will disappear. After 10 years less than 30% of your clients will likely be around. After 20 years less than 10% of your client list will still be calling you for service. We call this “churn” in the software world, “client attrition” in other industries. Either way, it basically means that you need to constantly be culling the dead wood from your client list or it will rot and cause more pervasive problems in your business.

You don’t need deadend clients

If you are keeping deadend clients around, they will cause you to make poor business decisions. Imagine you have 1200 clients and you are trying to figure out how to grow & manage your business. If you don’t know that 900 of those clients are never going to call you again, then you are about to make a very ill-informed decision. The only way to know who is “Active” and who is “Inactive” is to contact them an ask “Hey, are you still interested in servicing your piano?”. Additionally, if you have a healthy “Active” list then you can take this data and create a “Look-Alike Audience” on social media to try to find new clients who look like your best clients. You can’t do this if you have deadend clients hanging around.

Online Reviews are about more than just getting new clients…

If your client gives you an online review, they will be singing your praises long after they leave your active client roster. So get online reviews! Google, Facebook, Yelp, … anywhere, everywhere. Treat online reviews like the hen that lays your golden eggs.

This plays into engaging your existing clients at a future date because if they publically volunteer a commitment to “…tune my piano again in 6 months…” then in 6 months they are 2-3x more likely to do it. You will be surprised how many people say in their review “I will have them come out again in X months….” So get online reviews and pile them high.

(Note: If you can’t get at least 30-50% of your clients to leave you a review, then you are doing something wrong. But that is a topic for another day)

Always Ask, never “remind”

Talk to any colleague and you will find that they are likely doing some type of reminders as their clients come due for service, but usually not enough and they are going about it all wrong. For starters, the piano technicians I know usually hate this part of their job. It is awkward and often filled with rejection. I mean let’s be honest, it sucks when 40% of your clients tell you “No thanks, we are not going to value our piano like you want us to…” But it doesn’t have to be this way. You are probably unknowingly conditioning your clients to say “no” by saying “I am calling to remind you that your piano is due for tuning…” If this is what you are doing, you are in good company because this is exactly what I said for years. So let’s unpack why this is such a bad approach:

Ask them to tell you what they intend to do rather than reminding them what they should do

Save yourself the heartache and just stop saying “…I am calling to remind you your piano is due for a tuning…”. It is too easy to say “no” or “not now” to this question. Instead, say “Hi Sally, this is Tim from Well-Loved Piano, I was out there X months ago and was calling to see if you are interested in keeping the piano serviced” – a little hint, almost no one says “no” to this initial question unless they really are literally not interested in ever servicing the piano again (aka they sold it).

Touch base with them far more often than you are

If you are not giving your clients at least 8-12 reminders a year, you are not doing it enough. I am not talking about pestering people, I am simply saying that our clients live busy lives and you are doing them a service, so let’s make it feel that way:

  • Give them plenty of notice. A month in advance shoot them an email that simply says “Just a heads up, I will be touching base soon to check in on you and your piano”. We call this ‘future framing’ the conversation.
  • Remind them more often around their due date and less as time goes on
  • Build strategic pauses into the rhythm so that after 4-6 attempts there are some weeks/months they don’t get anything from you.
  • Balance automated email/text message reminders with personal phone calls and postcards.
  • Never stop reminding them until they ask you to stop. Once they are more than 90 days overdue you should be touching base at least a minimum of once every month. Once they are more than 6 months overdue you should be touching base 4-6 times a year.
  • Check the verbiage of all your emails/call scripts/texts/etc… Make sure everything is client focused, brief, and to the point.
  • Get over your fear of upsetting your clients. If your attempts to touch base are not a blessing then the problem is with you, not the client. Change it up, fix what is broken, and press on.

Signs you have some room to grow

If you don’t hear back from the majority of your clients within 30 days of their due date, then you are doing something wrong. This doesn’t mean everyone booked an appointment. It just means that within 30 days of their due date you know whether:

  • They are ready to book now
  • They are not ready to book and you have rescheduled their reminder
  • They are not going to service the piano again and should be removed from future reminders.

We don’t have time in this article to get into how you should phrase each email/text/phone call. However, if you want any help just reach out to support@gazellenetwork.com and we will be happy to help you audit your process and recommend some changes.

 

 

Simplicity

Simplicity is something we are choosing to focus on at Gazelle and my service business Well-Loved Piano. It is  something we all need in our life and business. At Gazelle we are simplifying everything about our product. At Well-Loved Piano we are simplifying our product, our message, our marketing, and our company. Why?  Because I have matured as a business owner and I have discovered there is a huge price to pay for complexity.

All businesses simplify over time, the ones that don’t will die. So how are you doing? Does your business pass the “Simple” test?

The simple test: Is it “easy”? 

The simple test kills more of my ‘great’ ideas than anything else. I learned to apply this test by listening to Dewey Jenkins, the owner of the largest HVAC Company in the Southeast. Mr. Jenkins turned an $800,000 company into a $50,000,000 company by asking one question “Is it easy to do business with us?”. I thought so, As a matter of fact I was so impressed every time I engaged with his company that word quickly got around I wanted to talk to him. One day my phone rang “Mr Barnes, this is Dewey Jenkins, I hear you want to talk to me…” I dropped everything. Over the next 30 minutes I became the student and asked every question I could think of. That was 2 years ago and I am just now starting to bear the fruit in my own life and business.

Simple is a philosophy, not an end product

In 2014 Luke introduced me to a different type of simplicity when we created Gazelle. He introduced me to people who have influenced him like Jason Fried and DHH who founded a company called Basecamp, Ruby on Rails, and 37Signals.com.  Luke taught me that simplicity is something you never actually achieve, it is a way of life. I started to realize that I had been learning this lesson the hard way at Well-Loved Piano. Both Gazelle and Well-Loved Piano are each at different stages of simplicity. But with every passing day, we are growing by cutting out everything that is not necessary and focusing the way we run our business.

Simplicity comes with time

You cannot bypass the effect of time. Your company will either become more simple or more complex as time moves on. It is the difference between a healthy manicured rose bush and a wild overgrown tangled mess. As business owners this is true of our business, but you are the gardener, not the rose bush.  Look at Dewey Jenkins, after 30 years he talked to me like he was still trying to simplify his company.  He achieved great success because he never stopped trying to simplify.

Simplicity comes with maturity

If you are a business owner and your business is not simple, then you are really bad at running a business. I say this as a business owner who spent the first 15 years being really bad at running my business. I figured this out about 2 years ago and I have spent every day since trying to ‘fix me’ and ‘fix my business’ so that we can thrive together.

You will fail without simplicity

You need simplicity in your life. That is why one of our biggest goals at Gazelle is to help you simplify your life. We know we have not arrived, we know there is a lot of hard work ahead of us, and we know that our success hinges on whether or not you are able to simplify your business in the years to come. If we are going to thrive we need to help you simplify. It really is that simple.

New Self-Scheduler Feature Launches Today!

We are excited to announce Gazelle’s new self-scheduling feature is here! It will be live for everyone on Feb 28, but you can turn it on early by clicking here.

new scheduler image

Watch the Live Demo

Full Internationalization

  • Every bit of our new User Interface is being built for internationalization and localization. IE – On this scheduler the Dates & times are displayed according to the country you reside in.

New/Better Language Support

  • The Gazelle Self-Scheduler is now in 5 languages: English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese! The scheduler will auto-detect the language setting of your customer’s browser and default to the language of your choice.

Better Map Centric Display

  • Better visualization of the addresses clients enter

Easier Selection of Dates

  • Better visualization of the times you have available and presentation of alternative dates that favor your scheduling preferences.

Better Mobile Experience for your Customers

  • Almost half of all self-schedule reservations are completed using a mobile device. This new UI provides a much better user experience for your customers especially when they are using a mobile device.

War on Spam; and Gazelle’s Contribution

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There is a war on spam and the good guys are winning.  Here at Gazelle, we are making some changes to do our part in this struggle.

New standards have emerged that require changes to be made to the way we handle sending email reminders. We believe things are moving in a positive direction and our inboxes will be thankful the Internet is fighting back hard in this ongoing war on spam.  

The Problem

Over the past 15+ years, it has become increasingly common for spammers to hijack your identity and send thousands of emails claiming to be your.email.address@xyz.com.  This confuses consumers because the email appears to come from someone they trust. Historically, email providers like Gmail have chosen to tolerate 3rd parties sending email on your behalf because there are legitimate use cases. But this is starting to change.

New standards like DKIM are now being implemented that will affect the way Gazelle is able to send email on your behalf.  If we do nothing, the prognosis is grim. In order to maintain our +98% email deliverability rate, we must comply with the new DKIM standard. Once major players (like Gmail) adopt the DKIM standard we can easily predict +40% of our emails will fail. Gazelle is essentially getting caught in the crossfire of new standards designed to curb SPAM. 

The Solution

There are a lot of ways to prevent SPAM, and we are following all the current rules defined by industry norms.  But on January 15, 2018, we are moving to fully adopt the DKIM standard. This move means we are holding ourselves to a higher standard before we are required to do so. In terms of fighting spam, this is a great thing and it will even improve your customer’s experience with Gazelle email reminders. 

What will be different?

Prior to this change, email providers like Gmail would attach a notice “From: Your Company Name via gazellenetwork.com” when an email is sent using a 3rd party provider who is not fully DKIM compliant.  Eventually, they will stop doing this and just block the email outright.

View of a non-DKIM Compliant Email

dkim 1

 

View of a DKIM Compliant Email

After Gazelle’s change on January 15th, email providers will treat us like a normal email and will drop the “…via gazellenetwork.com” notice.

dkim

Customizing Your New Gazelle Email Address

After January 15th, all email will be sent from YourGazelleEmailAddress@gznmail.com. You can customize your new Gazelle email sending address in your account “Settings” which will help identify your business to your customers. If you don’t customize your Gazelle email address before the deadline, we will simply choose one for you based on your company name.

Please let us know if you have any questions. We are committed to ensuring a smooth email delivery experience for you and your customers.

 

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma Preparations

In preparation for Hurricane Irma, Gazelle is relocating one of our secondary servers 500 miles to the west and taking several precautions.

As many of you know, we run Gazelle on multiple servers around the world that are each housed in buildings able to withstand a Category 5 Hurricane, Flooding, Earthquakes, and prolonged power disruptions. One of our primary server locations is in Virginia which is projected to be hit by Hurricane Irma next week. Today Gazelle is temporarily adding a server to our mix that is located in Ohio to ensure uninterrupted access from our customers around the world.

We would like to wish everyone the best, especially our friends and customers, who are in the path of the storm. Stay safe, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

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