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Check the Expiration Date

Check the Expiration Date

Feelin’ it? 

That buzz…that energy in the air. Business is rocking’ and rollin’ in the first quarter and Spring has sprung (or maybe there’s just less smog in the air) whatever the reason, this is a great time to check the expiration date. No, not in your fridge or on your shelves.

Your customers expiration date.

Inspired by a recent post from Seth Godin, I was reminded how precious customer shelf-life is and how many companies aren’t paying attention to it. 

Whether you’re audience is B2B or B2C, there’s a real opportunity here–to pay attention. To surprise and delight our customers. To keep them for a lifetime instead of taking them for granted. (Read Seth’s full post here: ) After all, what is the average customer expiration date? If the expiration came and went, what are you doing about that?

What’s one new thing you could do to deliver on your brand promise? What would make your customers stop and take notice? Feel how much “you get them.” Feel special, understood, supported?

On that note, I challenge you to try something new. Fun, free and, promise, it won’t hurt. 

The Challenge 
Make an appointment with yourself and your team and once a week spend 30 minutes brainstorming how you could surprise and delight your customers. That’s it! Just 30 minutes! The cost is zero and the payoff is priceless. A few ground rules: put it on the calendar, cell phones off and laptops closed during, just a pad of paper and a pen/pencil. Be present and remind your team, “there’s no bad idea.” The results will surprise you. The real key here is what you do afterward…put the ideas into action. Immediately! Talk is cheap.

As Seth says, “think lifetime, all the time.” 

I think this goes for more than just our customers… What do you think about that?


Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

communities: foster passion


Who’s The Bomb?
Festool, a leading producer of power tools, is headquartered in Wendlingen, Germany, where most of its power tools are produced. The company was founded in 1925 by Albert Fezer and Gottlieb Stoll to manufacture woodworking machinery. Festool invented several well-known woodworking tools including the first portable chainsaw, the orbital sander, the Domino jointer, and the portable circular saw with guide rail (called a track saw). Why is Festool fuknawsm?

Mind-blowing because…
“Festool – Passionate People Designing The World’s Best Power Tools” is the opening video on Festool’s YouTube channel. Passion emanates from Festool and is powerfully reflected back from its customers, or as they renamed them: owners. Owners have a unique forum: the FESTOOL OWNERS GROUP (F.O.G.). F.O.G., a People-to-People (P2P) wellspring of user-generated feedback, imagery and content. It helps Festool keep its finger on the pulse of its most involved customer: brand influencers. Community insures Festool maintains a relevant and innovative advantage in three key ways:

Festool redefined their customers and launched the FESTOOL OWNERS GROUP (F.O.G.). F.O.G. embodies a passionate collective: external customers and dealers as well as internal employees. The FESTOOL OWNERS GROUP exemplifies community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

The sections and boards on the FESTOOL OWNERS GROUP site are a banquet of information for every segment of the collective: external customers and dealers as well as internal employees.

  • Tools, Accessories and Reviews
  • How To’s
  • Tool Problems
  • Jigs and Enhancements
  • Wish List
  • Ask Festool
  • Sales & Dealer Area
  • Member Projects
  • Other Tools and Accessories
  • Other Tool Reviews
  • Building Materials
  • Hand Tools
  • Finishing and Painting
  • Woodcraft, Crafts, Home Improvement, Other Projects

With F.O.G., Festool has created a 360º view of everything that could interest their most avid brand influencers. The most popular board: Festool Tools & Accessories

The success of the the FESTOOL OWNERS GROUP is driven by passion. Owners connect online and offline for the same reason: they are passionate about Festool. F.O.G. is a space for expressing that passion in a variety of ways: product feedback, project pictures, and wish list requests. From these interactions, Festool has an active, real-time supply of information to drive sales, new product development, existing product enhancements, and improvements in customer service at every level. The community is also a unique area for passive sales support: “how-to’s”, new/improved product information, product reviews, and project-specific information. In a move reminiscent of “Miracle on 34th Street” where Macy’s begins referring customers to competitors to get what Macy’s doesn’t carry, Festool also reviews other power tools, as well as hand tools. In the movie of course, Macy’s watches their own sales soar, when customers realize Macy’s passion for it’s customers outweighs its own passion for profit.


Chemistry Baby!
New product ideas. Existing product feedback. Testimonials. Brand-evangelist-first-adopter attention, influence and engagement. Testing environment for new product soft-launches or social media strategies. Project imagery and stories from product owners/users. Unique content found nowhere else: all of this while connecting with your best customers on a deeper, more meaningful level.

That’s customer chemistry.

What's The Point? CommunityIn the transactional model of communication, people are connected through communication and engage in transaction. Each of us is a sender-receiver, not merely a sender or a receiver. Communication affects all parties involved, and is fluid/simultaneous like in-person conversations. Effective communities can create similar results in an online environment. Create passionate community conversations that involve and benefit everyone: external customers and dealers as well as internal employees and departments.


Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| Leave a comment

culture: from the inside out

FUKNAWSMWho’s The Bomb?
RW Lyall in Corona, California manufactures products serving the fuel gas markets of North America, excelling at assembly, fabrication, coating, painting, blasting, welding, and is highly skilled in designing custom machinery. Why is RW Lyall fuknawsm?

Mind-blowing because…
RW Lyall’s philosophy is to provide personal, professional and financial growth for customers, employees and suppliers alike. With an inclusive family-oriented culture, Lyall built a dedicated internal workforce while simultaneously enriching strong external supplier relationships. They put philosophy into action by embracing LEAN Manufacturing techniques normally associated with the auto industry. 

Family-oriented culture + innovative manufacturing techniques make RW Lyall a unique company to be a part of, and to do business with.

The double-punch of culture + innovation galvanizes employee efficiency and investment, supporting and driving overall company visibility and profitability.

Organizations outside their industry routinely call for interviews and tours of RW Lyall facilities to witness lean manufacturing in action. This extends RW Lyall’s culture by keeping employee engagement high and turnover low, all while feeding Word of Mouth.

Chemistry, Baby!

According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), only 12% of Americans 16 years and older have been with their current employer for more than ten years. In fact, according to The Gallup Organization’s latest research, actively disengaged employees — the least productive — cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity.

What keeps employees at a company for the long haul? Companies that recognize their role in contributing to employee’s quality of life have realized that money is not a motivator for long term success. In his book: DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink discovered three things that influence workers more than money and contribute to their overall job satisfaction: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
A culture promoting autonomy, mastery and purpose has built-in ROI3 – return on influence, innovation and investment. The proof: a 40+ year history of stability and five generations of employees on staff.

Culture from the inside out = customer chemistry.


What's The Point? CultureWhile the element of culture is internal, it can have significant impact well beyond your company, or even your industry. Discovering and developing your unique company culture creates a brand experience that extends beyond employees, customers or even suppliers.

Make your presence felt.


Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| Leave a comment

identity: color outside the lines


Who’s The Bomb?
National Gypsum the second largest producer of gypsum board (drywall) in the United States. Gypsum has been around for a long time. In fact, it was used as a plaster in the Egyptian pyramids! Today, gypsum is used in a variety of ways: as wallboards in building (drywall), as a soil conditioner, and even as a filler ingredient in many foods! FUN FACT: The average person eats about 28 pounds of gypsum in a lifetime. Why is National Gypsum fuknawsm?


Mind-blowing because…
National Gypsum created a stand-alone identity system for it’s Gold Bond® BRAND of drywall products with a signature color. Not just any color, but the one and only, Original Purple™. Not content with simply a trademarked color, they brought it to life with the “Ask For Purple” identity and campaign: Authorized PURPLE® dealers, Ask For Purple on Facebook and Twitter (@AskForPURPLE), and an entire site dedicated to the line of purple drywall products,

Original Purple™ Power. Color increases brand recognition by up to 80%. People make a subconscious decision about a product within 90 seconds of initial viewing. Between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone. (Source: Why Color Matters)

Starting with Original Purple™, a new identity was created, optimized and expanded into the “Ask For Purple” campaign to drive interest from end users to dealers:  logo, tagline, website, media kit, spokesperson, shopping lists, installation tips, interactive brochure, video, and social media engagement on Facebook and Twitter.

Driving interest from end users to their dealers was the first of a two-step strategy. Step Two: expand engagement by empowering distributors as authorized PURPLE® dealers, forming an exclusive dealer community.

Chemistry, Baby!
All the other colors are just colors, but purple seems to have a soul. Purple is not just a noun and an adjective but also a verb – when you look at it, it’s looking back at you. (Uniek Swain)

National Gypsum took a product that is largely invisible to the end user and gave it life by making it visible and accessible. The Ask For Purple campaign is a call to action at every point in the sales cycle. Optimizing every element of an identity system creates a connection-rich experience for dealers, as well as end users.

A whole new way to look at walls, that’s customer chemistry.

what’s the point?
Reframing your brand identity as a system of interconnecting elements, galvanizes the bonds between individual components (eg. vision, story, logo, tagline, name, voice, personality, content, products, services, spokesperson), sustaining customer experience cohesion.

Cohesion is the framework for consistency, which in turn, establishes familiarity and ulimately, trust. Building this type of connection into the customer experience is an effective tool for eliminating obstacles to communication and purchase. 


Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| Leave a comment

I’m With The Band


I'm With The Band

I have a secret: I’m a groupie. For Northern Tool + Equipment. They’re not a band.

I fell for Northern Tool + Equipment as soon as I read their story.
Donald L. Kotula started the company – his picture is on the “company info” page. He reminds me of my grandfather. He has a 5 o’clock shadow and his company baseball hat cocked slightly to the side – a giant wrench is leaning against his shoulder. I’m certain he knows how to use it.

From the beginning of his career, Mr. Kotula has had a make-it-yourself mentality: he started making tools that were needed, but didn’t exist. Let me repeat that: he started making tools that were needed, but didn’t exist. From the looks of Northern Tool + Equipment, that’s worked out for him okay.

Like my grandfather, Mr. Kotula exemplifies a person who lives in awareness, resourcefulness and action. His story is personal. It weaves together milestone life/work experiences as if they were effortlessly leading him to this future: his home town identity; working for his father recycling industrial debris later used to make unavailable equipment; starting his own business as a teenager refurbishing and selling used hydraulic components; earning a degree in business and finance; working as an accountant; and finally returning to the first business idea he had originally been drawn to when he was young: tools. Its the story of how his business came to be, with a strong thread of family throughout. It’s personal. It feels like it always has been. I like being connected to something like that. It makes me remember what’s important in my life; what I’m connected to.

That’s why I’m a groupie for Northern Tool + Equipment. I’m always interested in what they’re doing and what they have to say. I love going to their site and seeing what’s happening there. I’m consistently drawn in.

Voice the personal story of your business. Inspire people – give them something personal to connect to. The groupies will start showing up.

Make your presence felt.


What’s Your Story?
Do you know the history of your brand? Was it’s path a straight line or were there some twists and turns? Can you describe the time before it existed? Were there specific events leading up to the IDEA of it? Why it was conceived? Who created your brand and why are they unique? What did it do that no one else was doing at the time? Was it popular immediately, or did customers need to warm up to it? How did it initially serve people? Is is still functioning in that way, or is it different now?

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Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| 2 Comments

Space Shuttle to Mars—Now That’s Customer Service!

Starbucks, visionary leaders! 

I don’t go to Starbucks for the coffee. 

Let’s face it, I can pick up a coffee from the local Yum Yum Donuts down the street. Why is it that I’m willing to possibly go out of my way, wait in a line and pay more money for a cup of coffee? It’s all the details surrounding the actual purchase of said coffee.When I grab a cup of joe anywhere else I get just that, a cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup. The end. At Starbucks I get a coffee experience!

How Starbucks Builds Trust

Starbucks knows me. They know you. They know us so well, in fact, they’ve created an experience we didn’t even know we wanted. They took the simple act of selling coffee and turned it into an art form. That’s what building trust is all about. Getting creative. Going above and beyond to consistently surprise and delight those that you love. In business it’s turning the act of selling into the art of serving. Starbucks has done this successfully by paying attention to the details surrounding the coffee. 

Consistency – coffee how you want it every time in any store all over the world
Availability – locations everywhere, including the grocery and the airport
Atmosphere – relaxed, warm and inviting
Sound – familiar tunes and new artists provide background entertainment
Trained Associates – not just coffee servers, but baristas who know coffee
Extras – healthy snacks, hearty sandwiches and decadent confections that pair perfectly
App – find a location and pay with ease
Community – local flavor breeds familiarity
Rewards – spend money, get free stuff
Communication – consistently sharing what’s happening

Notice, I listed nothing about coffee—their claim to fame.

Experience a Connection

People buy from people. People buy an experience. Every company, whether B2B or B2C, is similar to Starbucks. The unique opportunity exists to create a more powerful connection at every customer touchpoint. Fascinate, surprise and delight, just like Starbucks. Doesn’t that sound like alot more fun than “selling”!

Creating this kind of experience takes more than just special cups and a fancy title for your sales people. It takes real planning. And not the kind that happens at the annual company budget meeting. It takes clear positioning, strategy, creativity and a willingness to step outside our comfort zone. In his bravest and most challenging book yet, The Icarus DeceptionSeth Godin explains why true innovators focus on trust, remarkability, leadership and stories that spread. Starbucks has successfully created a trust by focusing on the customer experience. By being remarkable. By making their customers part of their brand story.

It’s time to re-examine every customer touchpoint and design a more remarkable customer experience, like Starbucks. It’s time to stop pleasing and start serving. Let’s surprise and delight in 2013. Whose with me?  

(Excuse me, I’ve got to finish my venti iced coffee with cream now—aaaaahhhh!)

Make your presence felt.


Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| 1 Comment