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Appliance Medic – Marketing by Great Customer Service

Appliance Medic ServiceSo our dryer died over the weekend.  And I must have spent three days trying to find an Orange County repair person/shop/service that could a) actually do the job and b) do it at a  fair price.

I called my local repair guys first.  Each of them came over and said they could not do it because it was a gas dryer but would recommend someone.

Both of their recommendations did not work out for a variety of reasons.

So I went online and started poking around Yelp.  I typed in “appliance repair” Irvine and to the top popped Appliance Medic Service.  Over 50 reviews and an average star rating (AVERAGE!) of 5 stars.  I read the reviews and they were glowing.  These guys get it, I thought.  Let’s call them.

I call.  It’s 9:30 at night and what do I get? A live person.  And not just anyone.  The owner.  We talk and I tell him the issue.  He says he will come over and give me a free estimate.  I say free as in FREE?  He says yes.  We make a time for the following morning.

Appliance Medic Service Owners

Owners Doug Scott and Lamberto Pico of Appliance Medic Service

Lamberto Pico and his partner Doug Scott show up on time dressed in hospital smocks.  Appliance MEDIC right?  They are having fun at work – I am smitten. They take a look at the dryer.  They see the problem right away. They give me the price. The price is 2x less than other quotes I have received.  They fix it in 20 minutes.  They process my payment on their iPhone.  I am swooning.  Then they tell me their story.

They both got laid off a few years back and took a flier on starting their own appliance repair company.  They don’t do any advertising or marketing.  They just do what they say they are going to do and watch the Yelp reviews pour in. They are smart, personable guys.  They work hard.  They care.  They are rare.

Customer service sounds easy.  Everybody talks about it.  But very few walk the talk.  Lamberto and Doug do.  Call them the next time you need a repair.

Bryan Elliott Snags Seth Godin To Speak in Orange County

This is an update to an earlier post.

Bryan just officially secured Seth Godin to speak in Orange County on Wednesday March 2. Great work Bryan!  If you would like to attend you can buy tickets here.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more formidable marketing talent in Orange County than Bryan Elliott.

Bryan has created two massive social networks for Orange County, LinkedOC and SoCal Action Sports Network.  If you visit his LinkedIn profile, you’ll see that there are a lot of influential people that think very highly of his smarts, energy and commitment to community values.

Bryan Elliott LinkedOC

Bryan Elliott of Socal Action Sports Network

Bryan works his tail off and is the kind of entrepreneur Orange County needs more of.

In fact, if you are looking at all with open eyes at the future of work, Bryan embodies a modern approach.

He does not sit around waiting to take orders, to be told what to do or complain that there are no jobs out there.

He imagines, creates and executes.

He just does it.

And that ain’t easy because of what Seth Godin describes as “The Lizard Brain” in his latest book Linchpin.

Seth opens up this blog post on The Lizard Brain with the following:

“How can I explain the never-ending irrationality of human behavior? We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don’t read that book the boss lent us.”

Seth Godin

Marketing Mastermind Seth Godin

It’s a great book.  It sits next to my desk every day with dog-eared hand-written notes inside it.  It is everything you need to know to get off your ass and make something happen.

Which leads me to the purpose of this post…Bryan is battling his own lizard brain and yours and mine too, to try and get Seth Godin to speak in Orange County on March 2nd.  Here is the info:

When: Wed. March 2nd, 2011. Time: 7:00-9:30 pm

Where: In Orange County, to be announced shortly

Vip’s Only: Reception from 6:45-7:15 pm

General Reception: 7:00-7:30 pm

Seth’s Keynote: 7:45-8:45 pm

Networking: 8:45-9:30 pm

For only $99 you can hear one of the most influential and important business minds in the world today.  Seth Godin doesn’t leave the New York City area for very many reasons and Bryan has convinced him to give us some of his time.

Go here to buy your ticket.

Should You Climb on the Groupon Bandwagon?

GrouponThe success of Groupon is staggering.  40 million subscribers in 150 cities around the world.  From startup in 2008 to the recent offer price of $6 billion by Google.  It’s no wonder that Forbes declared Groupon as the fastest growing company ever.

The PR message they push is that they care deeply about two things:

a) giving people a new reason to rediscover or be introduced to interesting local vendors

b) helping small businesses

In fact, if you caught the ever eccentric, never-a-dull-moment Andrew Mason (Groupon CEO) on Charlie Rose recently, he flat out stated the Groupon was “a savior for small business”.

This is chutzpah and quite likely a sort of unspoken mission statement for the 3,000 Groupon employees, many of whom are cutting deals with local small businesses every day.

But let’s be honest.  You don’t get to $500 million in revenue in two years without a pretty healthy focus on making yourself a truckload of money.

In fact, one of Groupon’s founders Eric Lefkofsky, states on his blog that “for most people who are interested in business or attend business school, the primary motivation is simple – to get rich.”

And even though Groupon is “get rich quick” for it’s founders, they sort of stumbled onto the “quick” part and it’s not a fad.

Groupon is not going away.

So what is a small business to do?

First you’ll have to get in line.  Some cities have a six month waiting list.

Then, once you get over the intoxication of the new car smell, just know that you are dealing with some pretty savvy characters and it’s caveat emptor all the way.

Results for small business have been mixed.  Entrepreneur has an article about that here.

A general rule of thumb seems to be that if you have a service business you are more likely to end up on the net positive side of the ledger than if you have a product-based business.

This is because you split revenue 50/50 with Groupon.  And because Groupon encourages offers that are at least 50% off.  And we all know that margins are bigger in service businesses.

Groupon also runs the transaction so you can guess who gets paid first. So they have no receivables and they get to manage the float which brings them more revenue.

Groupon is smart and backed by smart money.  There is nothing else out there right now that has the potential to turn on a firehose of customers like they can. You just need to negotiate yourself a good deal if you decide to use their service.

PS: Another great local service that is similar but has a philanthropic bent is DealGooder.  We wrote about them recently.

Facebook – Take the Blue Pill or the Red Pill

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

Morpheus to Neo – The Matrix

No small business can afford to ignore the opportunities that present themselves on Facebook.

But first they have to unplug from The Matrix.

You may be on Facebook but it probably has you by the throat right now because you aren’t aware of how to really use it.

We have seen some pretty remarkable results by small business owners in one particular category over the past three months.

By using Facebook as a sort of lead generation platform, they are getting customers in the door and increasing sales.

As far as ROI complaints on social media goes, that ship has sailed.  There is a real return on your investment if you are willing to pony up some cash and time.

But you have to be willing to do both.  You have to spend your money and time.  You have to take the red pill.

And that’s the problem with most small business owners when it comes to Facebook.  They think taking the red pill means red numbers.  They fail to understand that decoding Facebook, breaking it down, understanding it and then using it, will get them in the black.

Every small business has to accept Facebook as The Matrix and then take advantage of that knowledge to capture real opportunities to make money.

American Express and Orange County Small Business Saturday Event

Small Business SaturdayIt’s not just Orange County small businesses that can benefit from the American Express Small Business Saturday event on November 27.

American Express is hoping that their partnership with Facebook will create a tradition to rival Black Friday.

They are starting by giving back $25 back to 100,000 card members who register and shop at a small business this Saturday.

According to a national survey, 93% of consumers believe that small businesses contribute positively to their community through jobs and taxes.

And with recent earnings data showing that the country’s largest corporations are reporting record profits, do you need any more reasons to support your local small business?

Nah, better to let the big guys hoard more cash and not plow any of it back into innovation and job creation.

Better to be lazy and not drive an extra two miles to support the parent of the kid your son goes to school with.

Better to hand your hard-earned cash to a conglomerate like General Electric which generated $10.3 billion in pretax income last year but ended up paying (are you ready for this?) exactly ZERO dollars in taxes to the federal government.

Yup, that’s right.

You paid more in federal taxes last year than GE.

Find your brothers in arms.  Find your friends in small business.  Find them this Saturday.

Seven Customer Service Lessons from OC Mazda

OC MazdaYour dad may have drilled it into your head…

“Son, don’t ever take your car to be serviced at a dealership.  They’ll rip you off every time.”

Or you devour all the sites and posts complaining about dealer service.

You know,  YOU JUST KNOW,  if you take your car to the dealer, they are taking you to the cleaners.

But sometimes you get lucky.

Sometimes you find the exception to the rule.

Like OC Mazda.

There’s a reason why owner John Patterson was awarded the Top Leader for Small Business by the OC Register.

John Patterson OCBizBlog

OC Mazda Owner John Patterson courtesy of The Orange County Register

It’s  the way Lynda Nelson engages and interacts through her emails, on the phone and in person.

How Nicolas in the service department works honestly and diligently on repairs and quick fixes that are within your budget.

It’s why they get great reviews on Yelp.

We have written about OC Mazda before.

This time we’re breaking down what they do to create the best marketing money can buy – word of mouth.

1.  It’s the culture, stupid.

You see it as soon as you walk in the door, but more importantly you feel it.  This isn’t an uncomfortable place to be.  People talk to you like you’re another person.  Not a mark.  Not a “prospect”.  Just someone who is looking for some help.  And help is what you get. It’s very very simple.  And very very hard to get right.

2.  Understand what the customer wants.

Everybody talks a big game about this one but actually executing it is something else.  And to experience it firsthand sort of takes your breath away.  Wait, you care that I have a budget for repairs?  You said you can fix that thing for half what my mechanic quoted me?  Now you’re actually doing it?  It’s done? That’s the bill?  Being understood, actually being listened to, is all some customers want. Do that and you have them for life.

3.  Hire great people.

Remember when the Angels won the World Series?  Remember that batting lineup?  No holes.  Top to bottom it was first-class.  Everybody had a role.  Everyone was on the same page.  Same thing here.  It’s not like the guy who sold you the car was cool and the finance person was a jerk.  Or the service guy is nice but the shuttle guy is scary.  They all get it.

4.  Do what you say you will do.

This is another one that is self-evident but hard to execute.  Talk is cheap.  It’s like the Seinfeld episode: anybody can TAKE a reservation, it’s the HOLDING that matters.  They tell you in the service department your estimate is going to be x.  Does it come back y?  z?  Nope, it’s freakin’ x.

5.  Exceed expectations.

Taking your car in to get serviced?  Yeah, it’ll be washed and cleaned inside and out too.  Need to get back to the office…quickly?   The shuttle will take you NOW.  Need to be picked up?  He will be there at 1 o’clock.  And guess what.  He’s there.  Not at 1 o’clock.  At 12:55.

6.  Follow up, stay in touch, the right way.

Now it’s easier to do than ever.  There are no excuses. But do most small businesses do it?  Nope.  And those that do, generally do it poorly.  They act like an ex-boyfriend who keep interrupting your life.   Come on buddy, it’s over.  It was over when you started belching at every meal.  So why are you sending me junk mail now?   OC Mazda does the right thing the first time, then second time and by the third time I have granted them my permission to stay in touch and NOT just interrupt me.

7.  Just remember The Golden Rule.

So I got my hands on the OC Mazda training manual.  It’s huge.  Thick.  Heavy.  Like 300 pages or something.  Funny thing is, every page has one line on it and they all say the same thing:  “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”