How to make a difference in your customers’, clients’ and readers’ lives

When I was a child I would sit in our courtyard with my two neighbors, a little boy and his sister.  I’d tell them stories that I’d make up about princes and princesses and swords. Most likely because they were too exhausted to move after an afternoon of playing, they would listen to the whole story, which almost always had a plot and an ending that didn’t leave you wishing for a sequel. But they listened and that made me feel like I was making a difference.

I don’t know why making a difference feels good. But what I do know is that we’re all intrinsically uplifters, service givers and difference makers. We’ve all been born with a powerful desire to be of service and to make a difference in others’ lives. Sometimes this desire lies dormant for a long time, until we awaken to it through life experience, circumstances or self realization. Either way, making a difference makes us feel satisfied, fulfilled and connected to one another.

This connectedness we feel, strive for and have to one another is at the basis of business. Think about it, if nobody else existed on our planet today, would you still work in the business you’re in today? You’d have no potential for customers, which means your business would most likely not exist. You’d have no potential to benefit others. Isn’t business about creating customers, connecting with them, keeping the connection with them alive, and making a difference in their lives?

The difference you make is a reflection of what’s on the inside.

A young boy was standing on the street on that beautiful Sunday morning. His mom was in the back, on a picnic chair, reading a magazine. The young boy looked proud and tall next to a blanket on which he laid some old toys and kids’ books, all up for sale. While I could tell his products had been used plenty, they were in great shape. I picked up a book and then, the young boy started explaining why he loved that book and why he bought the whole collection and why he’s had these books since he was three, which was five years ago when his little sister was born, but he kept the books away from her so she couldn’t rip the pages. He stopped to take a breath. How much for the whole collection, I asked. I can have it all for just $5, he said. I left with as many books as I could physically carry, feeling happier than I was before I made my purchase, not just because I’d offer my kids a present that day, but also because the little boy’s enthusiasm naturally made me enthusiastic in return.

You don’t need to be a superhero to make a difference in your customers’ lives. You can do it in the simplest of ways. That young boy didn’t make a difference in my life because he helped me cover a need in my life. I assure you I didn’t need any more kids’ books or toys (even though, of course, my kids would beg to disagree).

That young boy made a difference in my life because, through his personal example of having the courage to sell and talk about his products openly, lovingly, with hope and with grace, he reminded me of sincerity, appreciation and enthusiasm.

 
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Your first and most important customer is You.

From miles away, customers smell the lack of emotional connection business owners have towards their products and business. Nobody wants to buy anything from a person who didn’t buy it herself or himself emotionally first.

It is you who, first and foremost, has to be pleased by your product, your service, your experience and your words. It is you who has to feel proud of what you’ve created. You are your most important customer. It is you who has to love what you’re bringing forth in the world. Create to please yourself, not to please your customers.

Yes, I talk a lot about the art of customers, about customer retention and about customer loyalty. But when it comes to that delicate sparkly space in which you create and make your important business decisions, it is you and you alone who has to feel happy and proud of what you’re birthing. When people work hard to please their customers, they start forgetting who they are and they start losing the unique essence of their business, which is the precise reason why their customers came to them in the first place. Customers will come, no, they will stampede to buy from you, but only if you, yourself, see the great beauty in what you’re selling before you invite them in.

The only people with money who walked by the young boy I mentioned above, were adults, not kids. He could have sold his mom’s belongings instead, to please adults, but then, he wouldn’t have been able to talk with so much joy about his offering, which would have caused him to make less of a difference and sell less as well.

See the perfection in them.

Your customers are perfect beings who have it all, who are abundant in desires, in hope and in everything else that’s good feeling. When you look at them this way, they too will remember to feel that way about themselves. What a great way to make a difference!

Many business owners think their customers would suffer if they didn’t own their product. They think their customers have a big lack in their lives, a lack which must be filled. But, nobody buys anything because they need it. They buy it because they want it. And, nobody buys a second time if the memory of the first purchase brings up the feeling of lackfullness in their hearts. Of course your product, service or ideas will inevitably make their lives better! But, don’t approach them from a place of lack. They don’t want to be helped, they want to be loved.

Stay true to who you are.

A wise tree doesn’t lower its branches when people discover its beauty and repeatedly set up picnic blankets with delicious fruit, champagne and Sunday sandwiches underneath it. Instead, the tree grows its branches even taller and in the process, brings even more satisfying shade to its customers. If the tree lowered its branches, picnickers would get too many leaves in their food and they’d eventually leave.

No matter how many customers love you and adore you and buy from you for life, to continue to make a difference in their lives you have to stand true to who you really are in business. Their comments, their feedback, their words might make you feel persuaded to stand for something else, but do your best to keep on the path that you’ve chosen for your business. You’re on a rocket ship, and those who want to join you will do so, knowing that there’s only one direction you can go, up.

You’ll make a meaningful difference in your customers’ lives when you have the strength and courage to stand upright. You’ll be an example for them to live their own lives with strength and courage. You’ll remind them that they, too, stand for something and that it feels good to remember what they stand for.

 
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Stay true to who they are.

My husband lovingly told me recently that he understands me much better now than when we first met. He and I just celebrated eight happy years since we secretly got married in the NYC courthouse. But I think what he wanted to say instead was that my emotions, which have become familiar to him over time, don’t make me look like a red alien anymore.

Your customers are people too. They have their own emotions. Staying true to who they are means that you honor their emotions, which makes a big difference in their lives, not just because of the feeling of connectedness they’ll instantly feel, but also because they’re not used to having their emotions acknowledged. Unfortunately (and this is something that is changing in the world) they’re used to feeling manipulated into a transaction, which doesn’t make them feel heard and seen.

Create an experience.

A little book in my bookshelf has been calling me. Finally, I picked it up. It was so good and so juicy that I couldn’t stop reading it. But it was printed in small font and had many words on little, thin pages. At times I wondered if I needed glasses because of how hard it was to follow the plot in this book. It was a reading experience I could have lived without, but it wasn’t a book I could have lived without. It’s true that it was the content of the book that made the biggest difference in my life, but a friendlier reading experience wouldn’t have hurt either. In fact, it probably would have helped me devour the book with even more eagerness and more joy.

The experience you create for your customers will help them enjoy your product, your service and your ideas even more. The experience will make them feel an emotional connection towards your business. Sometimes people remember the experience and forget the product. Experiences do make a difference.

Meaningful moments.

But, it would be overwhelming both for you as well as for your customers if you bend over heels to create an outstanding emotional experience for them in every single moment in which they interact with your business.

There are moments that are meaningful, and moments that aren’t meaningful. It’s the meaningful moments that make the biggest difference in your customers’ lives. What should you do during the remaining moments? Be fair, have common sense, have respect and provide a great service. But don’t spend all your energy devising outstanding experiences, which you could reserve for the moments when these experiences do indeed make a difference.

This is the 80/20 of the customer experience. Spend 80% of your energy on the 20% of customer experience moments that generate 80% of your customers satisfaction. I’ll tell you one of these meaningful moments in a minute, but first, it’s important to...

See your customers as your new partners.

After people buy (anything), they’re more than customers, they become partners.

There are people who stay outside the window, who look in a little bit but who then walk away. They’re prospects. And then, there are the people who are standing next to you, who just made a purchase and who are now looking at you with hope, enthusiasm and an open heart. They’re your customers. They’ve now become your partners.

To make a meaningful difference in their lives, you’ll want to show them you see them as partners. Acknowledge them, because they’ve given you their business. They’re supporting you and routing for you.

 
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The meaningful moment at the end.

What happens all too often is that, instead of looking the person standing in front of us straight in the eye, we look at the prospect who has their face squished against the window from the outside. We may shake hands with the person in front of us, but with the corner of our eye we follow the person who’s on the outside. Why are they not walking in? Why are they not seeing the beauty, the abundance, the glory that my products and services could fill their lives with? And just like that, we miss the meaningful moment at the end, and we lose customers in the process.

You see, one of the most important moments in a customer’s experience with your business is the moment right after people buy, a moment most often forgotten, for understandable reasons, but a moment so important that it directly influences if people will buy again or refer others. It’s a moment of emotional intensity, when you’ll want to look your customer straight in the eye, smile at them, cherish them and show them you see them, hear them and understand them. They want to feel welcomed in that moment, and they’ll remember you if you make them feel that way.

Don’t get customers only to forget them as soon as they buy. Get customers so that you can respect them as soon as they buy. The more respect you show to the customers you already have, the more prospects will walk in the door.

Know your numbers.

It doesn’t sound like it at first, but looking at your customer data, understanding it and being thoughtful about it does help you make a difference in your customers’ lives. Many businesses are accustomed to thinking that their customers are speaking to them through the comments they leave in blogs, through surveys, informal conversations or even expensive customer research projects. That may be true, but the percentage of people who actually speak in this way and share genuine feedback is low. However, 100% of your customers are speaking to you through your customer data. Look at your numbers, learn them, calculate the right metrics and you’ll see right away how you can make even more of a difference in your customers’ lives. Your numbers are the language in which your customers are speaking to you.

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I could write forever about this topic. There are many ways in which you can make a difference. But, I’ll stop here and leave you with a quote I love from Maya Angelou: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” You’ll make a big difference when you make our customers feel differently - uplifted, respected, connected, acknowledged, welcomed, energized, or better in any other way.

PS: I’m writing a book about customers. If you have a customer related story you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear it! Send me an email at hello@builduplab.com I might write about your story in the book if it fits in with my topics (I can disguise your identity of course if you wish so). Thanks so much!

PPS: My training program Lifelong Customers, all about customer retention & loyalty, is now open for enrollment for a limited time. Join me inside!

PPPS: Don’t forget to sign up for my email list!

Big hug and lots of love. Whoever you are, reading this, thanks so much for being here with me today.

Mihaela Akers