Could tugboats be the answer for Nashville’s Growing Healthcare Industry?


Nashville is growing at more than double the national rate and, as with any city experiencing the influx of new residents, there are issues. Sure, there’s traffic, and trust me, you can’t go anywhere in Nashville without that being brought into the conversation. However, in this case, the intersection of growth and the existing infrastructure of Nashville is good, very good. In fact, when you take into account the very strong and evolving shift in how we must do healthcare, the growth in Nashville, paired with the existing large companies, makes it a perfect place for where healthcare is headed.  We need out-of-the-box thinking (especially from Millennials) in this conversation to push this shift into being. 

Nashville is known for many things…the generous welcome to visitors who can partake in the arts, music, history, food, culture and nature which presents itself at every turn. Nashville is also known for access to higher education, having some of the nation’s best Universities within walking distance to our city center. But most important for this discussion is that Nashville has a fantastic healthcare presence. CNBC stated, ‘healthcare is a major part of the Nashville ecosystem, with a $38.8 billion impact on the regional economy in 2014.’ It is that very large presence which helps employ, and care for our growing population, which is no short order. On top of healthcare’s help sustaining the local economy it is also a major powerhouse with implications far reaching beyond our city alone, having 18 publicly traded healthcare companies operating out of the city. So that’s one piece of the puzzle and a very major factor in why Nashville is the perfect place to pivot healthcare.

As stated earlier, the next important factor, is that Nashville is growing, and the growth is most noteworthy in that it has a bit of the ‘Benjamin Button effect’. Nashville’s population is growing younger as it is growing larger. Millennials make up 25% of the US population but are over-represented in Nashville, with more Millennials present here than in the general population. This increasingly young demographic is pushing us to think and accommodate differently. Millennials are simply ‘different’ but that’s what makes Nashville a perfect place to watch what happens next in the healthcare space. This is the piece to the puzzle which makes for the perfect intersection for the future of healthcare; “healthcare” is one road. “Millennials” is the other.

The Millennial generation is a unique cohort in that they are connected to each other. They want things delivered in a way which suits them; their needs, their value perceptions and,very often, their space. They choose not to go to products, services or experiences but to have them available to themselves when and where they want. This is as far from a push economy as it gets. This is all pull, so best be ready because healthcare is in for a bumpy ride if  the powers that be don’t take note now before it’s too late to right the ship. The great news is that this generation is an incredibly innovative and forward thinking group. They are willing to put ideas out there to address their needs and desires differently than ever before. They are the engine in innovation.

Here’s where the problem of this most perfect union presents itself. The current model of healthcare is not quick enough to address this shift. It is much like a large ship, and it takes an effort to make that turn and change processes and deliverables in a way which reflects the needs of a burgeoning subset. This lack of agility is what could lead to the crumbling of the monoliths of healthcare and a significant shake-up as we adjust to the new way of moving forward in this space. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can visualize and implement change, yet still lean on the old guard. We can get what we want, how we want it, but still be able to rely on the experience and stability of the current model.

I grew up in Western New York where the waterways were ever present. There were ships aplenty coming down our rivers and traveling about the Great Lakes. It was not uncommon to see an itty bitty (comparatively speaking) tug boat tethered to a great ship in order to help them navigate the waters with a bit more ease than they themselves could muster. It is this analogy which helps shed some light on what  needs to be done and how Nashville is the perfect testing grounds, and potential model, for the new way of executing healthcare.

Innovation is key and fostered quite beautifully in the landscape of Nashville. Yet the issue is that the innovation is being done in a relative vacuum without much consideration for the existing structure in healthcare. Mind you, this is not by design.  Quite simply, validating and executing grand shifting methods of doing healthcare without the financial backing of the giants that dot the healthcare landscape makes it a bit like a tug boat without its ship. It is in this moment, the time when the Goliaths realize they need David as much as David will come to rely on the Goliaths that all could be right in the healthcare world.The ship will be turned because of the help of the tugboat which will, with far more flexibility and agility, navigate the waterway that is healthcare in and beyond 2016.

So here lies the perfect intersection. When Goliaths extend their hands and David is afforded the bandwidth to continue to innovate, we will see the shift happen faster and more effectively than if these two powers don’t meet. As it stands, when they remain staunch and ‘siloed’ little gets done, or at least gets done quickly. The ‘bigs’ are too large to affect change in the near future and the ‘littles’ often lack the funds or validation to move their innovations efficiently and effectively forward. We are in ‘that moment.’ A paradigm shift is upon us and we need to have processes in place that tether the tugboat to the barge in order to get to a more patient-centric, better, faster, more innovative way to distribute and attend to our healthcare needs. 


Communicating in the New Millennium


Strauss and Howe’s categorization of the Millennial puts the birth range from 1982-2004.

As the world spins faster and faster into the digital age, companies need to know that they are communicating with two distinctly different consumers and workers. Baby Boomers and Millennials find themselves trapped in lockdown of miscommunication. They may speak the same language, but a translator is needed to bridge the gap of understanding. Particularly in marketing to these consumers and in hiring boomers and millennials, businesses must approach each group with the care and uniqueness that sets them apart.

I’ve made it easier for you to find the distinctions that drive each generation and then how to communicate, motivate, and cooperate with these two groups of people.

baby boomers-6Baby Boomers

Born approximately between the years 1946-1964, these 52-70 year olds came into the world during a time of conflict. World WarII was barely in the rear view mirror, and many of their parents, those of our Greatest Generation, fought in that war so it was never far from conversation. The Vietnam War — a highly contested and volatile war —trailed closely behind, while the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. dominated the news. These boomers experienced social changes in women’s rights, birth control, and abortion. During their formative years, the Berlin Wall was built and the Cuban missile crisis kept them practicing drills at school.

They were also born during a time of expansion. The world saw the 1st man on the moon,
Televisions became more widespread and available to the masses, and
suburbs were created. Boomers lived during the time where the adage of work hard and reap the benefits was never more true. The economy was booming and people were living well after the war, up until the early 70’s. This set of kids saw their parents going to college and working in ‘traditional roles’ in traditional fields, for them it was unlikely their parents were entrepreneurs.

This is a generation that:

Is patient and not at all entitled – They saw their parents work for all they got, and they had those same expectations instilled in them. They were raised by the Greatest Generation who lived as though at any moment the bottom may fall out again. They were conscientious spenders and hard workers.

Had a voice – This is the generation of marchers/protesters and flower children. They saw great conflicts in their life times, and the pump was primed for them to jump in and lend a voice and a hand.

Are collaborative workers – They learned when you join forces through their marches and protests that there is more strength in numbers and that followed them into the workforce. They were happy to work as a team and leave their own interests at the door for the greater good.

Put themselves last – this generation was far from coddled as their parents were busy re-establishing their families, getting educations and making a new life for themselves. These kids were independent and were expected to step up and help the family as a whole. These kids are also the ‘sandwich generation’ – carrying for both their kids as well as their parents, this, in and of itself, left little place for ‘me’ time.

Experienced death differently and less ‘intimately’ than generations past:  Aging in America became a business during this time. While the process started in the mid-50’s to establish elderly homes it was really in the 60’s – 70’s that this business model burgeoned and started to take in great numbers of our older population. Baby Boomers watched their parents…their heros…die in homes and institutions unlike any generation prior. For example when Boomers were children they likely saw their parents tend to their grand-parents through the end-of-life in their own homes. It was not unusual to see Grandpa take up residence in what used to be the family living room. Therefore this new ‘outsourcing’ of end-of life put both an emotional stressor on their shoulders, as they felt as though they were abandoning their parents, and a fiscal stressor on their pocketbooks. Now, with life extended they had to cover costs for nursing homes and/or they had to build in travel expenses to visit their continually aging parents possibly across many states. This was far from an intimate was to die, this was death in the age of commercialism and capitalism.

Are fiscally aware but not necessarily prepared – this generation saw great growth in the economy and for some time tremendous strength in a growing middle class but if they didn’t, or weren’t able to, prepare accordingly for a rainy day, this generation also saw the dramatic shrinking of that very middle class with the passing years. Boomers also experienced a significant shift in power and the reality of our dependence on other countries for things so important to our everyday lives as oil. This generation remembers quite vividly the gas shortages and the lines at the pumps with their babies in tow, during the 70’s. They also had the aforementioned hardships of carrying for multiple generations which often depleted their savings and the likelihood that they would over commit to savings such as 401Ks, according to The Fiscal Times (October 2015), ‘the average retirement portfolio… has just $136,200 in it.’ This severe shortfall has led this strong and capable generation to rely heavily on the promise of social security.

How they need to be reached and communicated to:

  • They still read newspapers and rely on the TV for their news.
  • They prefer face-to-face interactions over being buffered by forms of technology
  • They are happy to make due and while they have proven themselves to have a voice; they also believe in the greater good and tend to not want to make waves.
    • This tends to keep this generation a bit quieter than the millennial and more likely to ‘do as they’re told’.
  • They tend to have have more scattered families therefore are more likely to feel the need to maintain their independence and not have to rely on others for their well-being.
  • They tend to choose quality over quantity of life as they saw the harm done to their own psyche as well as the well-being of their parents due to the options and institutionalization of the end of life (noted above).
  • They are not quite as adept at researching their options and tend to lean on others who are ‘at the helm’ be it in commerce or healthcare. They want to be involved in decisions which keep them healthy and capable but are overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available to them.
  • Offer a support team to help in major healthcare decisions and the ability to decide how they’d like to proceed.


Born approximately between the years of 1982-2004, Millenials are between the ages of 12-34 years. There is a great discrepancy on the range for this generation but for the sake of defining the borders of the generation we’ll ascribe to the categorization as set by Strauss and Howe. They were born during a time of connectivity. The internet was growing…exponentially. The Berlin Wall came down, unifying Germany and offering hope to the world.

While born into a time of unification it was also one of great uncertainty and lack of control of ‘others.’ There were bombings (Olympic Park, Unibomber, 911), and the OJ Simpson’s highly televised ‘chase’ and trial brought a new level of ‘reality TV’ into our homes. Drama was everywhere and now instantly accessible 24 hours a day. AIDS was an epidemic, and school shootings began, starting with the Columbine High Shooting, and continued.

This generation of Americans are technologically versed and fragmented. This was truly the MTV Generation; they never knew a world without music on TV.
The internet was accessible – AOL (1985) and email became a part of their world. Many were never aware of a ‘before the internet’ timeframe. News came predominately from TV and the Web, with Newspapers taking a back seat.

This is a generation that is:
Connected – Millenials are always connected to others and by various devices. “Smart” devices (phones, watches, cars, appliances, etc.) are responsive—or work across platforms or other devices at once— and support the use of multiple use as they thirst for a connection to the world.

Multi-taskers – Due to the multitude of devices at their disposal along with managing their ‘off-line’ existence, they’ve become amazingly adept multi-taskers.

Involved and wanting to give feedback – This generation relies heavily on others who came before and also, a type of a trickle down effect, are more willing to give feedback to those who may follow. They feel their voice has value, and they want to share opinions. This generation was likely raised in a household where things often revolved around them unlike the generations prior which were not nearly as child-centric. The generation proceeding them, Generation X,  was full of ‘latch-key’ kids so the parents for this generation tended to over compensated for this one. I believe the benefit of this is a stronger more confident voice for this generation which is in direct dispute with the other option and misnomer, the ‘Me Generation’.

Community oriented and ones who wish to effect change – As per the reasons above, they have a level of self-confidence not seen in past generations and with that a belief that they truly can change things. Consequently, there is a willingness to try to find opportunities to succeed often in niche ways (entrepreneurial) not seen possibly since our Greatest Generation (Those who grew up during the depression, fought in WWII and went on to build what is ‘modern-day’ America).

Comfortable with self-expression – Again their level of self-confidence leads to their ability and willingness to express themselves how they see fit —whether it be body adornments such as tattoos or piercings or freer expressions of themselves sexually. This freedom extends to other behaviors and groups as well and affords them a higher level of acceptance for people of other faiths, ethnicities and race.  For them, all is permissible within the realm of being true to themselves.

How they need to be reached/communicated with:

  • Meet them on their terms, where and when they want and bring them into the discussion and decisions – Don’t talk to, or sell them.
  • Utilize many avenues of communication from internet/social media, tv and lastly print.
  • Prove how working with, buying from or partnering with you affords them the opportunity to effect change and make a better world.
  • It’s not aways about the bottom line financially for them as much as it is about where the rubber meets the road and what it means for the greater good.
  • Lead them through their options and allow them to mix and match things as they see best suits their needs be it on a purchase or their own well-being/healthcare.
  •  Incentivize them to give positive feedback so others, like them, will follow suit.


If you still aren’t sure how to cross the generational divide, the magazine Gold Digest offers some more specific advice on how to play golf with a boomer versus a millennial.


Beyond The Buzz


Disruption, gamification, synergy, showrooming, pivot. It seems as though hot new buzzwords surface and saturate our vocabulary and twitter accounts every time we turn around. But beyond the buzz, what are these words and phrases really all about? Let’s take a deeper look.

From the assembly line to the boardroom, buzzwords have been circulating the workplace for generations. Throughout the years, academics, marketers and consultants have invented countless buzzwords to accommodate the changing times and given entirely new meaning to old words. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, British psychologist Raymond Cattell repurposed the popular buzzword word synergy, which was originally a Protestant term for cooperation between the human will and divine grace. Today it’s one of the most memorable and frequently used buzzwords in the business world.

Unlike regular everyday speech, buzzwords present a sort of love-hate scenario. It’s important to know what they are and how to use them intelligibly in your industry, but overusing them can create a sense of insincerity or pretending. We have to think about buzzwords like a dash of salt – just a little bit can take a dish from good to great, but when you use too much it can ruin the entire meal. As a general rule of thumb – use your buzzwords wisely and remember that a little dash can go a long way.

As a sociologist, the use and deeper meaning of buzzwords in today’s corporate culture continually fascinate me. While many may view corporate jargon and buzzwords as meaningless, trivial speech, it actually reveals a great deal about individuals and how they view their work and profession. Buzzwords can help workers feel more emotionally connected to their “tribe”, and can also provide a sense of ownership and pride. In a world where our lives have become so inextricably connected to the internet, buzzwords can also help marketers and individuals shape their personal brand. By identifying and utilizing strategic buzzwords through the use of hashtags and social media, we now have the ability to self-identify and align ourselves with other thought leaders and experts in our industry. But before you go on a hashtag craze, first determine which buzzwords matter most and why you want to use them in the first place. Just like any fad or trend, when overused they risk the danger of becoming trite and losing their true meaning.

Beyond all the buzzwords and noise, sometimes it’s simply a matter of going back to the basics. According to marketing expert Tom Fishburne, “Sometimes the most powerful way to talk about a new product or business is Plain English. The more innovative your product actually is, the less you’ll need to use buzzwords to justify it.”

Whether you’re launching a product, re-branding or building a new business, be real, be unique and let your true voice do the talking. Buzzwords will come and go but quality, authenticity, and character will stand the test of time.




Beauty is in the Eye of Beholder…or is it?

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, a phrase coined in 1878 by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.  It’s an innocuous quote, as it stands, however, I dare say we have bastardized it to the point that we are hurting ourselves, and our morals; the very fiber of who we are a society.

This is not my typical blog post, and for that I seek your forgiveness, however, as of late, things have really touched me to the deepest core of my ‘sociological’ self.  The news, and our everyday media, is laden with stories and images that portray ‘beauty’ and I simply ask the next time you view something as beautiful consider not only ‘the why’, but ‘the how’.

It is ‘the how’ that most concerns me.  ‘The how’ is the process that folks knowingly forge ahead, and act upon, as they seek ‘beauty’.  A tiny waist, a tan visage, a most perfect tomato, a horse with a winning gait; all beautiful, right?  Sure, on the surface all those things are coveted by our culture, they have become our very definition of ‘beauty.  However, I ask you to take a step back and consider ‘the how’; how did that woman, or man, achieve that most ‘perfect’ size body?  What lengths did one go through to tan their ‘hide’?  Why does that tomato look as though painted by Rembrandt not by nature’s paintbrush?  How is it that the beautiful Tennessee Walking Horse, with those most trusting eyes and strong stature, presents with a gait that may well never have be seen had it not have been ‘trained’?

‘The why’ is so engrained in us as a culture, we’ve worked centuries to get to our most refined, narrow definition of beauty.  Yes…consider that a tiny waist is a sign of malnourishment and weakness in many a culture (as it was ours not too long ago), and a tan face is seen as weathered and worn…a perfect tomato is seen as suspect because everyone knows that fruit borne of natural means, just like people, suffer some blemish and a horses gait, oh, those beautiful and kind creatures, they were not meant to walk, work or be treated as they are simply for us to look upon them and judge them within the scope of what we define as beautiful.  Now, mind you, there are those that present and uphold our standard of ‘beauty’, naturally, and for that I give no condemnation, it is for the others, those that have to work too hard, do things unnatural, inhumane, or simply amoral, that I beg the questions of, ‘why?’

Rethink beauty, redefine your standards, reset your internal compass and consider beauty in a more natural form.  Allow for blemishes, allow of deviation from our current set of norms, give each other, yourself, all creatures and nature a break and consider ‘the how’ when you assign your stamp of beauty.  For this, you will not only find life a bit easier, but in fact, a lot more beautiful.


Techniques – Honor Diversity (#3 of 3)

Suggestion Three – honor the diversity

Groups are as different as the folks who sit around those oblong tables.  Don’t jump to conclusions just because you’re sitting around the table with a group of teachers (typically more friendly than others), anesthesiologists (typically more guarded than most), or banking customers (typically more hostile than others) because even though there are those generalities or even stereotypes, those can be quickly blown when you realize each and every one of those anesthesiologists, teachers or customers are just people:  people who live their lives above and beyond their interaction with your clients’ products or services;  people who deal with family happiness’s and challenges;  people who come from different races, religions, creeds, genders, cohorts, etc.  Sure, package them into subsets, draw enough assumptions to build your guide and frame the discussion, but once you sit down with 8-10 strangers sitting around you, take off the gloves, heck, if you have to, take off your shoes too, and look at them as individuals who need to be treated as such.  And, never forget, the guide is just a guide.  A moderators’ guide is a fantastic jumping off point but it’s the nooks and crannies that you explore, while you’re in the group, learning about your respondents as people that will bring you those gems that every client will be pleased to have gotten.


Last, but hardly least – reap the rewards and the surprising extras!

So, all the very best to you as you moderate a group, or hire a moderator to tend to your project.  But as you’re doing so, take a moment to remember that people are just people and they all come to your table with aback story.  The job of the moderator is to decipher where these folks are coming from as effectively and efficiently as possible.  Thus informed, you can then get down to brass tacks.   Dig into the guide and make sure you come out of there having answered the clients’ objectives and, in a perfect world, even gleaned insights well beyond the barriers of the guide.  Of course, for me, my biggest reward isn’t hearing from the client how thrilled they are with the groups (now, dear clients, don’t get me wrong…I love making you happy but my responsibility to you is to get unguarded information from your customers/clients/employees and that’s what I’m bound to do) but from the respondents themselves.  When you have respondents walking out of your groups thanking your for having invited them, there simply isn’t much that is more rewarding.  You know when respondents say ‘thank you,’ they trusted you enough to open themselves up and share their honest opinions.  You know you mined those gems which will serve your client well, and that, dear reader, is the key, no, it’s the technique of all techniques, that puts you heads above the rest.  Know your project, understand the objectives, learn the clients’ product or industry but, above all, moderate a group which will leave the respondents leaving happy having been there.

Techniques #2 of 3

Suggestion Two – Wear MANY hats

No group is a cakewalk, but they are fun, challenging and productive if you know how best to proceed.  So, as to what technique(s) I employ, I guess I’d have to say I’m part moderator (adhering to the needs of my client), part therapist (gathering insight into my respondents’ stories, their past…what they bring to the table and breaking down walls), part friend (put them at ease, validate their concerns) and part parent (keep them on track, after all we do have a guide to get through and everyone knows there’s no dessert (their incentive) until dinner’s done).

Of course there are many other hats I wear during the course of a group but these are present at most every one.  I’m good cop/bad cop, mom/dad, Frick and Frack, all rolled into one.  You have to be.  You need to be as flexible, agile and complex as those individuals sitting around your table.

A moderator with a monotone voice and a one size fits all philosophy need not apply.  Sure, you’ll get through the moderator’s guide with that type of person at the head of the table but will you get to the heart of the matter?  Will you gather honest input? Will you break down the barriers that just about every respondent enters the room with and bring them into your world enough to share space in a safe and unguarded way?

Focus Group Techniques – #1 of 3

Suggestion One – Start a conversation by identifying the nature of your groups

I can almost hear you ask … A conversation?  How do you do that?  Well, assess your group.   Do you have a friendly group?  They could get a bit chatty so tread carefully on the whole bonding thing.  Perhaps they are a guarded or ‘anxious’ group?  Take a couple extra minutes before you jump in, no need to rush.  Trust me… using a few extra precious moments up front, before you set in to the business at hand, will serve you well in the end.  Then there’s the hostile group – hmmm, why do you think they are hostile?  Are they sad, scared, and/or angry?  Listen for clues to figure out the genesis of their hostility – is it something directly related to the topic at hand, your client, the industry that you’re discussing?  Or is it bigger than that?  Maybe things have changed in their geographic area/within their company and it’s affecting the respondents around your table.  Validate their anger, sadness or fear, give them a moment (just a moment!!) here and there to air their frustrations and continue to stay the course.  This is the type of group you can’t manage with precision (or an iron fist) because flexibility (and kid gloves) is the only way to get them to open up.  In fact, if you try to shut themdown, you’ll practically hear the clicking of the mortar shovels building up those walls.

Don’t be fooled

So, you have groups which are friendly, anxious, hostile, and then, on occasion just an easy going group.  Oh, that’s great you say, right?  No, there are potholes here too.  An easy going group can be complacent and complacency leads to the following; leaning back in the chairs, doodling (and not necessarily the productive kind), day dreaming, etc.

More ‘techniques’ to follow throughout December…my little way of spreading the holiday ‘giving’ throughout the entire month.  Happy, happy, merry, merry and a HoHoHo!

FOCUS GROUPS: The ‘Technique’ Question

I’ve been doing focus groups for over a dozen years now so it’s fair…it’s fair that people ask me ‘what technique do you use?’  I actually take it as a great compliment but, truth be told, I don’t use ‘A’ technique’.  Nope, not a one!  Okay, so now I’m digging a hole I fear I can’t get out of, so let me clarify.  I use MANY ‘techniques’, if you want to call them that.  How many you ask?  Okay, now we’re talking.  I use just about as many ‘techniques’ as I’ve had respondents, and clients, and then, of course, the combination of each unique respondent and each client’s project and….okay, so you get it.  Techniques are as varied as respondents, clients, projects and any combination of the aforementioned.  The trick is to not pigeonhole one’s self into any one technique – it’s as ill-suited as the flavor of the day or the trend of the year.  Your respondents will see right through any ‘technique’ you throw at them.  Loosen up, get to know your respondents, read their body language, build a relationship, tear down walls and start a conversation.

Check back throughout December for suggestions and my recommendations to making a focus group unique, efficient and, honestly, an event your respondents will be happy to attend.  But, in the meantime, I wish you and yours nothing but health and happiness this holiday season.

It’s not just about getting them in the door…

Foot traffic is good.  No, foot traffic is GREAT!  Who wouldn’t agree with this?  You’ve probably said these very words: My business couldn’t exist without it.  I need people through my doors.   Ah…all absolutely valid comments, but if that’s the end of our business plan, then I disagree. Now, don’t get mad – I propose further discussion before we both can agree.  Let’s do a little “they say/she says” and see if we can’t sort this out.

They say (yep, you might likely include yourself in ‘they’) that traffic is vital.  Here’s what I hear:  My business would perish without it.  Warm bodies circulating throughout my establishment make it all work.  I will do anything, absolutely anything I can in order to make this happen.  I tweet, I post, I bargain, I grovel, I beg, I pray, I wait.  I’ve done everything I can do, right?

SHE says:  great thinking and superb effort.  Kudos!  But, now let’s talk about what you’re not doing and see if that disconnect is forcing you to continue to have to tweet, post, bargain, grovel, beg, pray, and wait.

Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself.  Now be honest!

  • Are you focusing on your customer?
  • Are you focusing attention on what you sell, how you sell it, and if your customers even want it?
  • Have you asked your customers if they value you; if they would choose you over another, even if the other was lower priced, or closer?
  • Have you built a relationship with your customer?  Do you have their loyalty?  Or, are you a magnet for the bargain shopper who just spotted you on their last check of their e-mail inbox or social media wall?

Oh, wait a minute; before you get upset let me continue with the social media discussion.  Truth is I’m really not that insensitive.  Heck, I like a tasty daily offer presented to me via my e-mail or my social media network as much as the next.  Yep, gotta admit it … I love a deal!  Who doesn’t?  Offering opportunities via social media is a GREAT idea.  Really, it is, even though every other article out there tells you it isn’t.  Seriously, just google it.  You’ll find A LOAD of naysayers absolutely, resolutely, undeniably against working social media which discounts their product/services to drive foot traffic.  But (now here’s where you listen carefully to what SHE says), if done right, with reasonable limits and a follow-up plan (while never losing sight of your current customers) you’re good to go.  Sure, continue to tweet, post, bargain, grovel (it never hurts), beg, pray, and wait … but be proactive at the same time.  Think through your campaign and take it to the next level.  You know, that’s the one where you ask – What do we do once our customer arrives?

Contrary Customers – Let them go…

This is a hard one to swallow but…let them go! Really, some customers are fantastic, lots of them are better, but difficult ones, or maybe best to say those without your vision, need to be let go.

There’s a rather well-known business book which gives you the authority and the okay to let them go, and I agree. After re-reading my copy of ‘Raving Fans’ I was reminded that while it’s important…no, imperative, to create ‘raving fans’ it’s also important to let go of those whom you simply cannot please. ‘…You have to know when to ignore what the customer wants and, if necessary, tell the customer to take his vision elsewhere to be fulfilled.’ Now, don’t look at this as a free and easy pass to release ‘difficult’ but potentially viable customers. Face it; only in heaven do those customers not exist! The key is knowing when to cut ties but to not do so before trying your best to convert said customer into a raving fan.

A company’s objective is to put forth vital products and/or services. A company’s responsibility is to make customers happy not only because it is always a good course of action (making others happy with your product/services) but because happy customers turn into repeat customers who spread the word which then leads to other customers looking for your kind of customer care. Now doesn’t that sound fantastic? Not only are you keeping a satisfied customer you’re likely bringing on more because your customer, turned ‘raving fan’ tells others and your customer base grows simply because you’re pleasing your current customers.

Now the hard part…how does one do this? Look back with me to a date night with my family last night at our local boutique frozen yogurt shop. Now, I should preface this by letting you know this isn’t your local dip and dash type place. This is a true hands-on, participatory experience. You choose your base from about 12 gourmet choices, serve yourself, and then step forward to the candy, cookies, fruit, hot fudge and other trimmings. Offered a plethora of sweet, crunchy, and gooey gastronomical choices you then personally build your very own creation. And, I might add, receive sticker shock at the weigh-in check-out! But, heck, that’s all part of the fun!

Here’s another thing that you must take into account, I live south of the Mason Dixon line where winters are relatively mild and this concept even works mid-February. However, I hail from north of here…Buffalo, you know the place – yes, that  place – where we ‘enjoyed’ snow the majority of the year and when it wasn’t snowing it was threatening to snow (or so it seemed!) Now this particular frozen yogurt concept wouldn’t survive on the rather abbreviated summer up north unless an owner added in other offerings (hot cocoa, lattes, etc.) to mitigate the effects of frozen tundra – ok, I exaggerate! But…hold the phone…should they? Let’s remember the concept was to afford your customers an experience, a true-hands on event…a way to express themselves creatively through food.  

While telling your customers to ‘take a hike’ or find their fix elsewhere may not make sense, there needs to be a true connect between your vision (in this case, a quaint, upscale, unique experiential yogurt shop) and theirs. If those two do not connect, don’t be offended. Just do your best to keep the clients you’ve attracted and make their moments in your shop the best, most memorable yet. Oh, and choose your location wisely…wasn’t that lesson one in all business classes…location, location, locations…but I digress.

Learn your market, stick to your vision (if you find it’s viable within the confines of your locale) listen to customers and make your customers happy so you can grow your business with the help of others who have a shared vision with your business concept.