“Senior Moments” Making A Splash

Jbyrd14j_1Cover_1Smart Marketing client Jackie Byrd’s new book, Senior Moments has garnered her some valuable publicity in the Bowie (MD) Blade-News and Crofton News-Crier. The lengthy review/interview quotes Byrd’s fellow Smart Marketing client, and well-known elder law authority, Thomas D. Begley, Jr. of New Jersey, who calls Byrd’s book "informative, moving, and compassionate." Blade-News editor John Rouse calls Byrd’s weekly column "one of the most popular features in our newspaper." Byrd, who worked for 25 years on Capital Hill for the House of Representatives, and went to law school when she was 50, is already planning her second book, this one on being a caregiver. If you’d like to buy a copy of Senior Moments (only $15.95 plus shipping) visit Jackie Byrd’s website.

Download the Article (Adobe PDF)

Pump Up The Volume

BuycheapipodAs you probably know, Smart Marketing is doing something new called “podcasts” which allow you to download audio files (like some of my presentations, or Smart Marketing client conference calls) into your iPod or MP3 player and listen to them at your leisure. This is absolutely, positively the latest, hottest brand-new thing, at least until next week. As part of that effort, we are doing a series of 15-minute podcasts, in radio-show format, entitled “Smart Solutions” which I did with the help of real-life radio personality Dave Elliott. What if you don’t have an iPod or MP3 player, or don’t even know what those things are? Never fear, audioblog is here. Click below, and listen on your computer.

If all of this proves helpful and people seem to like it, we’ll keep doing it. If it turns out to be another technological annoyance, we will cease and desist. Your feedback is welcome below…just click on “comments.”

Senate to vote on repealing estate tax

Senate Republicans will push for a vote this week on permanently repealing the estate tax even though the GOP appears to lack enough support to get past Democrats’ objections. Here’s my summary of the AP story in Business Week online:

1. They’re going to try to have a vote.
2. Those who want permanent repeal don’t have the votes.
3. Nobody can pin any of the Senators down on where they stand (surprise!) on compromise measures.
4. There are two variables in compromise negotiations: the size of an exempt estate, and the percent of the proposed tax.
5. Ideas on compromise are "all over the page."
6. Who cares, the negotiations will not produce an agreement anyway.

To read the entire article…..click here.

The Screw-up As Opportunity

    Let’s start with this proposition. Everyone makes mistakes. Every company makes mistakes.
    Try as you will to be perfect in the art of customer service, you will fail. ("I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business." — Michael J. Fox) That’s perhaps the bad news. The good news is this. Every mistake is a fabulous marketing opportunity.
    Most business owners fail to recognize the screw-up as an opportunity. They go into a defensive crouch. They seek to convince their customers or clients that it was their fault, or that the company certainly cannot be found responsible, or that the return policy doesn’t cover that — or they do the bureaucratic shuffle, sending you from department to department to department in a vain effort to get your problem resolved. The Blogosphere is full of folks who are fuming at companies that screwed up, but won’t admit it.
    Even those of us who strive for customer service excellence have had the experience of being on the other end of this equation. Somebody on our staff screwed up. Or we screwed up. In any case, there is an upset client or customer on the phone and they are letting you have it.
    It is a normal human instinct to defend oneself. Hey, this guy on the phone is calling me names and telling me what a crappy company I run. Who does he think he is?
    Okay, now get over it. And recognize that what you have here is an opportunity. Why?
    Research on customer service shows that a client who has had a problem, and had that problem fixed to his or her satisfaction, will be eight times more loyal than a client who has never had a problem!
    That astonishing fact means that a screw-up is your opportunity to bind the client to you in a way you never could before. It is an opportunity to turn a “client” into what Ken Blanchard calls a “raving fan.”
    Now that you recognize the opportunity, how do you go about capitalizing on it? Here is the formula. It’s pretty simple, really. First, acknowledge the mistake and the pain it caused your client. Second, apologize sincerely. And third, use the formula “whole plus one” to make things right.    
    I first read of “whole plus one” in Harry Beckwith’s What Clients Love. He touched on it, but didn’t really elaborate.
    Here’s the idea. In addition to fixing the client’s problem (making him or her “whole”), you add a bonus (“plus one”) so that your client feels that you recognize the inconvenience and wish to compensate for it.
    I ran into a beautiful example of “whole plus one” last week at Starbucks. I placed my order and paid, but was standing there becoming increasingly irritated as people who had come in after me got their coffee and headed out the door. It did not help that I was anxious to get to work. It did not help I am terrible at waiting, especially if I have nothing to read. And it did not help that I had not had my coffee.
Starbucks    I approached the counter and asked politely if my order might have gotten lost in the shuffle? I received an immediate apology, I received my coffee promptly, and the young man behind the counter apologized a second time and handed me a certificate for a free beverage on my next visit.    
    Now I was happy he screwed up, not mad. I had my coffee, and my gift certificate, and went away humming and thinking about how much I love Starbucks. That’s how the principle of “whole plus one” works.
    I don’t think your “plus one” needs to be something terribly expensive or valuable. (“Plus one” doesn’t mean “plus ten.”) You might want to scale it to the size of the error and the pain it caused your client. The important thing is that you are showing how much you care about your client and what kind of company you are.
    It is a well-known truism that when things go badly, you find out who your real friends are. Lots of people can act graciously when things are going well. It’s when things go badly that you find out what they — or their companies — are made of. Once a friend has stuck by us during a tough time, we are bonded to that person as never before. Same goes for your company. A mistake gives you the chance to show what a great firm you are.

   
   

Secret Weapon Revealed!

The (now not so) secret dating weapon from my youth, Ellie — professionally known as  Eleanor K. Sommer, EditorialEllie_sommer_19_july_05_003_small Director, The Center for Applications of Psychological Type — has revealed herself in a comment on my previous post, "Marketing Lessons From The Singles Bar." I thought many of you might miss it, so I’m posting it here (Photo by Gail Ellison):

Ah, the good old (er, rather, young) days. What a surprise blast from the past!

At the risk of "outing" myself as the secret WMD (Winning a Man a
Date) connection, I post here my continued support of this method for
both marketing and dating, although my husband frowns on the latter.
For me, it is now a one-way affair. I have assisted several other
single male friends in this endeavor, but alas, I come home at the end
of the evening and snuggle up to my date of century.

P.S. Trusted third-party endorsements are always rewarding, which is
why many marketing experts suggest giving people two business cards:
one for the person you know or have recently met, and one for person’s
friend — the potential new client.

Marketing Lessons From The Singles Bar

When I was young and single, back when people still used typewriters and pay phones, I had a foolproof method for picking up chicks — er, I mean, for meeting nice single women. Men envied me and offered cash payments to know my methods. But I told them nothing. I had a secret weapon. I had a gal pal.

Here’s the way it worked. My gal pal, Ellie — who was as interested in meeting eligible men as I was interested in eligible women — and I would go to whatever watering hole was currently popular with singles. Since we genuinely liked each other, we had fun, and perhaps more importantly, we appeared to be having fun. Because we were not sitting by ourselves looking lonely, and because fun attracts others, we often gathered a crowd. If not, it didn’t matter. I would turn to one of the single guys at the bar and engage him in some sort of inane sports conversation. At an appropriate moment, I would introduce him to Ellie. I would make it clear in a subtle way, that she was not my girlfriend, but that I thought she was great. Meanwhile, Ellie would do the same for me with the single women in the place. I knew her tastes in men, and she knew mine in women. She would assure the women that I was a great guy, trustworthy, fun and not an axe-muderer. I would assure the guys that she was fun, not certifiable, or a gold-digger, or whatever else they feared. I always conveyed ultimate respect about my gal pal and made sure the guys understood I was not introducing them to a one-night stand.

We never pressed. If our "marketing plan" was a failure, so what? We had a fun night out together. But it was almost never a failure. In fact, it was insanely successful. We had a constant stream of attractive and interesting dating partners. None of your angst about "How do I meet someone?" for us. Now someone has seen the commercial potential in this approach and created a sort of "rent a gal pal" business (which I saw on ABC’s "20/20"), called wingwomen.com.

It is hard to overstate the importance of third-party credibility in the professional world, and the business that comes from referrals.  Such business come in the door largely "pre-sold" and with a very low acquisition cost. It is also psychologically powerful. Your confidence and motivation are bolstered by being sought out, rather than having to sell yourself. And most attorneys hate selling. Whatever you might say about yourself is suspect, since you are (correctly) assumed to have a self-interest. Whatever someone else says of you has enormous credibility.

The trouble is, most people go about growing their referral network in the same way they once went about dating: totally by chance. If they happen to meet someone, and if that someone happens to become a great relationship, great. If not, well….there’s always the Seinfeld reruns. Most of them just moan in envy about the other guy or gal who has such great referral sources, and how they wish they had the same.

Don’t leave the growth of your referral network to chance. Have a plan. Have some techniques. And execute it consistently.

And, hey, if you happen to be single, the folks at wingwomen.com will tell you that the method described above still works.

Giving A Hostage To Fortune

    On January 1, 1986, I moved to Europe.
     A few days earlier, on Dec. 27, 1985, gunmen killed 16 and wounded more than 100 during simultaneous twin terrorist attacks at Rome and Vienna airports. I flew into Paris Charles DeGualle.
    On April 2, Palestinian terrorists calling themselves the Arab Revolutionary Cells detonated a bomb on TWA flight 840 as it approached the Athens airport, opening up a hole in the cabin and sucking out four United States citizens, including one infant.
    On April 5, Libyan terrorists bombed a discotheque in Berlin, killing three U.S. servicemen and injuring 230 others. In response to this, the United States bombed Tripoli and Benghazi, attempting to kill the Libyan dictator Moammar al-Qadhafi.
   Images_6 On April 25th -26th, the world’s worst nuclear power accident occurred at Chernobyl in the former USSR (now Ukraine). The Chernobyl accident killed more than 30 people immediately, and as a result of the high radiation levels in the surrounding 20-mile radius, 135,000 people had to be evacuated. It also spread a radioactive cloud over much of Europe.
    In September of 1986, I went to Paris to celebrate my 36th birthday. On September 8, there was a bombing at the Poste de l’Hôtel de Ville de Paris. On the 12th, the day before my birthday, there was a bombing at a cafeteria of a department store. On the 14th, the day after my birthday, a bomb exloded in the Pub Renault a block or two down the street from my hotel. On the 15th, there was a bombing at the Préfecture de Police de Paris. On Sept. 17 there was a bombing on Rue de Rennes. As I recall, the bomb was in a trash can.  On the 18th I decided to get the hell out of Paris. 
    Of course, these are only the attacks that took place in Europe. There were others that year, in Pakistan, Korea, Israel.
    I remember the feelings I had. It was sort of like walking along and having a 2,000-pound safe crash intoImages1_1 the sidewalk beside you. You don’t know quite what to feel except relief that you are alive — and outrage.
    I think of that as I contemplate the carnage visited on our British cousins, and I grieve for them, and I am outraged with them, and I think about the fact that my 12-year-old son and his mother are leaving on Sunday to go to Paris, and then to other parts of France. And I think that next Thursday is July 14, their national holiday. And I think about how France has the largest Muslim population in Europe.
    And I worry. A lot. Because the world is periodically insane. And because when you love someone, you give a hostage to fortune.

The Best Ideas

I have found, over the years, that my clients, their ideas, and their collective experience are a wonderful resource to each of my other clients. That is, the value of this network is a significant additional benefit to the value of a relationship with Smart Marketing. Never is this more clear than when one of our clients comes up with an idea whose effectiveness is so evident that one is led to exclaim "Why didn’t I think of that?"

RudanksySuch is the case with Smart Marketing client Meg Rudansky’s Senior Resource Guide System, a brilliant marketing system, brilliantly executed. A few years ago, Meg had the clever idea to create a local guide to services serving seniors. As an elder law attorney, she would publish this guide in pamphlet form with the imprint of her law office, and distribute them around her practice area on Long Island, New York. So far, so good. But then she had the even more clever idea: to list, in her guide, various providers of these services — geriatric care managers, nursing homes, neurologists, clinical social workers, hospices, home care providers — along with institutional resources like the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association or Meals on Wheels.

Meg found that as she visited these providers in order to gather information for the listings in her guide,Rudanskyport something happened: the beginnings of a relationship. She learned who they were, what they did, and vice versa. Since Meg was publishing a free guide, at her own expense, and since she promised to bring copies for their offices, they were delighted to participate.

Well, you can imagine what happened. Meg’s Guide became an indispensable resource and people (and organizations!) started referring clients to her. In fact, at the end of a year, Meg was able to review her accounts and see that revenue from clients who had come to her through Guide-inspired referrals  totaled over six figures! Not bad for a little booklet that cost a couple thousand dollars to print.

When Meg told me this story and showed me her Guide, I was bowled over. Smart Marketing clients are constantly looking for ways generate referrals. A potential client who is referred represents the very best kind of business. For one thing, such business comes in the door 90 percent “sold” since the potential client has been sent by their trusted advisor, whomever that might be. The acquisition cost for such clients is very low compared to other marketing methods, and how much more satisfying it is to be “pursued” (i.e. sought out by the potential client) than to be the “pursuer” (asking for business).

I told Meg she had to share her system with other attorneys. There was a problem, however. The work Meg had put into creating her Guide was going to be too much to ask from most attorneys. They wouldn’t know how to write it, how to have it graphically designed and printed, and how to go about creating the relationships that are the Guide’s most valuable by-product. The solution: Meg would pre-package all of that for the attorney. All any attorney would have to do is find the local providers of similar services to create local listings. By creating a sophisticated graphic design for the booklet, puting the whole thing on a disk, along with a “How To” pamphlet, a copy of the Guide itself, a certificate for personal consultations with Meg, and a licensing agreement, it would be a simple “fill in the blanks” exercise for any attorney who purchased the system.

Well, it took about eight months, but it’s done, and it is on the market. Meg’s Senior Resource Guide System made a smashing debut at the May conference of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and is now available online. I know you might have a hundred questions —How much does it cost? How do I get my Guide printed? How should I distribute the Guide? — and you can get all the answers by clicking here. If you’d like to talk to Meg directly, email her at [email protected] or call her at 631-725-4778. She’ll be happy to tell you her story and answer any questions you may have.

(Disclaimer: Smart Marketing has no financial interest in LegalResourcesLLC, publisher of the Senior Resource Guide System, nor in the sales of the system itself.)

The Usual Suspects

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, essentially denounced Medicaid planning (and by extension, elder law)  as "legal shenanigans" Wednesday and promised to help stop maneuvers he said are turning Medicaid into an asset protection program, instead of what it was supposed to be: an insurer of last resort for elderly people too poor to afford care.

Of course, we could characterize Grassley’s posturing as "political shenanigans"
but then I guess whatImages_5 teachers do is "educational shenanigans."
Personally, I am into marketing shenanigans.

Here we have all the usual suspects: the mean Republican Senator, the bleeding heart liberal, and the nosy neighbor lady who is afraid that someone in the nursing home is getting a better deal than her. Those of you who practice Medicaid planning should not be frightened by this gasbag for a couple of reasons. First, the bleeding heart  is correct. Until the nation summons the political will to address the problem of long-term care, this crisis will persist. I see no sign of that political will. Second, the more complicated and difficult they make the process of Medicaid qualification, the more people will need attorneys.

And while we’re at it, can someone please explain to me how it is that wealthy people and corporations can employ an army of financial experts to ensure that their tax obligation is as small as possible (and to qualify for every government benefit and subsidy) and that’s okay, but if someone of modest means seeks to use the existing rules to protect their small nest egg for their kids, that’s immoral?

Indeed, at least two studies determined that there was no need to tighten the Medicaid eligibility requirements and cast doubt on the idea that Medicaid spending can be significant reduced by this tactic.