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Opportunity in a Depressed Economy

March 27, 2009

With the economy in the gutter, there is a lot to be upset about.  Unfortunately, most of those things are out of our direct control.  So why stress over them.  For every negative this recession brings, there are surely more positives to take away.  I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and blogs sharing the authors’ favorite things about the recession and so I’ve decided to share some of my own.  I believe the only way to survive it without going insane is to stay positive and word harder.  Here’s some opportunities I have found in this depressed economy.

Learning. I’ve been laid off.  I’m working full-time at finding a new dream job, but, I would go insane if it was all I did every day.  I’d also be a lot less productive at it.  The single-biggest take away from this stressful time for me is the learning experience.  Not only have I learned new ways to differentiate and brand myself online which I can apply to my career later, I have learned more than I ever thought I would about digital marketing and Social Media.  I’ve used my free time to watch/attend webinars and read new books.  When I finally do get my break, I will have a whole slew of experiences and knowledge under my belt, I otherwise would not.  You don’t even have to make it about your career.  Find something you always wanted to do but never had the time for and learn it.

Volunteering. Arguably the best piece of news I have heard in months is that volunteer agencies and non-profits are turning people away because they don’t have enough work for them to do – FOR FREE!  That’s incredible.  If you haven’t already, get involved in something.  It’s rewarding and you might even be able to use your talents in your role.  Taproot is a great way to use your business skills for the good of another organization. (www.taprootfoundation.org)

Check out this great article from the NY Times too: From Ranks of Jobless, a Flood of Volunteers

Attitude Adjustment. As I already said, there is no way to get through this thing with a positive attitude.  No way.  It definitely has it’s ups and downs and I can’t say that I’m positive every minute of every day, but, I am more positive and ready to attack the world each day now than I was a few months ago when I was getting up for work every day.  I’ve learned that positivity makes me more productive and happy.  I will carry that quality with me for the rest of my life.  The big stresses of work will seem minuscule in comparison and I will be better equipped to take them on!  Get up every morning and do something that makes you happy.  Workout, read, watch the sun rise, drive, or eat a mountain of pancakes – whatever works.  Then go get after it!

Financial Peace. Another experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life is going from a great income at Ford to living on unemployment.  My wife and I have learned so much already on how to budget and save our money. (Plug – Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace is awesome!)  When it becomes a matter stressful or stress-free living, you really learn how you should be spending, giving and saving.  Never, will I live above my means.  That’s an amazing feeling!  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Creative Growth. I believe that the best creativity comes when there are walls in your way.  You get out of your comfort zone and have to adapt quickly if you want to survive.  Businesses have to come up with new, cheaper ways to reach and engage customers to buy their products.  Job seekers have to come up with new and better ways to stand out from an even larger crowd of applicants.  I created a web portfolio highlighting my experiences and skills to share with employers. (www.bencoy.com)  I also created a VisualCV with the same concept.  VisualCV.com is a great example of a young, creative company getting a great boost with so many job seekers in the marketing trying to stand out.  They’re reinventing the resume.  If you don’t have one already, I highly suggest it. (www.visualcv.com)

Stronger Relationships. When we’re struggling, we look for support.  We look for advice.  When we’re all struggling, we want to give support and advice as well.  I won’t hesitate to stop everything and help a friend with their resume or send them contact information and put in a good word for them.  In my current struggle, I am grateful to have so many friends and family members doing the same for me.  I’m building better relationships and gaining insight from people who care.  It’s a great feeling.  Even people I don’t know, offer their help.  A great example is JobAngels. (www.jobangels.org)  They are building a community of job seekers that want help in their job search and want to help others at the same time.  What a great idea created because of this opportunist’s economy!

That’s it for now!  Time to go out and get after it!  What opportunities have you found in this economy?  Share them with me!

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Inside the Box

March 24, 2009
There is a great book on creativity called The Houdini Solution in which author Ernie Schenck, co-founder of acclaimed advertising agency Pagano, Schenck & Kay, gives a thought provoking account of creative genius.  We’ve all heard the theory – to be creative is to think “outside the box.”  People are always advocating this concept when they want you to be creative, do something new, or come up with some ingenious idea that’s never been done before.  It’s all great stuff, but it’s very broad and difficult to actually define let alone accomplish.There are always restrictions, regulations, limits, customer wants and needs, budget constraints, etc. that form a proverbial “box” you must work within to get the job done.  Schenck flips the “outside the box” ideas and argues that thinking inside this “box” allows for greater creativity due to its restrictions. Only in taking advantage of your surrounding “walls” can you accomplish something no one ever has.   Going further he gives The Houdini 50 – 50 creative thinking concepts and brainstorming strategies which force you to create constraints to work within.

Currently, the big or rather, the small box  is the economic recession.  Ask anyone in any field how business is going and they’ll surely tell you “The economy is down…business sucks.”  Everyone in every business is getting hit and the box continues to squeeze us all within its walls.  There’s less revenue coming in which means there’s less in the advertising budget this month.  It’s an opportunity to look at things with a new perspective and find new opportunities to grow.  What are the constraints in your way?  Force yourself to think inside the box.  Not every wall makes it harder to succeed.  You’ll probably find that it’s quite the contrary.

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How are you turning over your customers?

March 16, 2009

When I was shopping around for my wife’s engagement ring, I walked in and out of every jewelry store around and did loads of research trying to find the best ring.  I had done some research ended up choosing Whiteflash.com, an online exclusive retailer.  They have an incredible inventory of diamonds and feature the only online brand of Hearts and Arrows ideal cut diamonds available.

I was able to search the entire inventory online, looking at detailed photos of diamonds and selecting the exact ring that I wanted.  When I had everything picked out, I was still slightly skeptical so I decided to call and speak with a consultant.  I quickly built a relationship with James Ramey, and he lead me through the entire process.

James went above and beyond, making suggestions, sending additional photos and following up to make sure I was 100% satisfied.  When it came time to buy wedding bands, I called James and again was completely satisfied.  He quickly made an advocate out of me and I suggest Whiteflash to everyone I know – not just because they give me $100 for referrals or because I got a ring worth almost twice what I paid – but because of their great customer service.

Recently, I received an email from a different sales consultant at Whiteflash.  It was a generic email stating that he hadn’t heard from me in a while, asking if I was still completely satisfied and telling me of a new promotion.   Having no relationship with this consultant, I have to assume that James is no longer with the company or has moved into a new role.  His client list, including me, has been redistributed.  I have not received any notice, nor an introduction from the new consultant and don’t feel nearly as valued as I did with James.

I know from my experience in the automotive business, that high turnover in your sales team makes it hard to retain trusting relationships between your customers and your business.    What is your sales team doing to strengthen these relationships?  Making habits out of these three steps is a must.

Notify the customer – I think some companies are so worried about making a customer feel like they are being passed around that they don’t want to let them know they are.  Instead of just informing the customer of the change, companies just hope they don’t realize it and just keep coming back.  Customers want to be in the know.  Send an email from the Owner or a Manager.  Include them and they will feel that you care and trust you and their new consultant.

Introduce yourself – This is my biggest beef.  When you meet a potential prospect, you probably don’t hesitate to tell them your name, whip out a business card and explain that you will do anything to help them in their decision to buy.  Why on Earth would you treat a customer who has already trusted your product and your store any differently?  Take that new list of orphan customers and call or email every single one.  Make it a habit.

Follow-up – Again, this is why so many sales people fall short of their goals.  They close a sale and forget about the customer completely.  It sounds like common sense but we get so caught up thinking about new prospects that we forget about the ones who are right in front of us.  This, of course means, meaningful follow-up.  Write things down about your clients.  Learn about their lives.  You need to actually care about them not just about the sale.  Do this and you will have customers calling to buy from you for a change.

It’s all about communication and caring.  Make the extra effort to do this and you’ll reap the rewards.

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First post…what’s in a name?

March 7, 2009

I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting a blog for some time now.  I’ve been told I have a knack for putting the pen to paper in a way that makes people want to read it (I guess that’s for you to decide.) and right now I have a lot of extra time on my hands, so I thought “Why not?”

Just to clue you in, I am currently seeking a marketing/sales position and am always looking to improve my online personal brand presence.  This blog is one way for me to do that but more importantly it’s a platform for me to express my thoughts, ideas, reviews, opinions, etc. for everyone to hear.  For the most part, I’ll try to keep this blog focused on marketing/business posts.

That being said, I have yet to decide what to call this blog.  Ben’s Blog is kind of lame but I can’t decide if I need to include my name in it for the sake of my online presence – this is where you come in.  I would love to have some suggestions on a name for the blog.  Comment on this post, call me, email me, or whatever.  If you have a good idea, I want to hear it.  That doesn’t just apply to this post.  If you could care less what I call this blog and you have a good idea or thought about anything else, I still want to hear it!

I hope you enjoy reading my blog.  Cheers!

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