How To Win An Election…

A few weeks ago my middle daughter (Holly) decided she wanted to run for student body president of her school for next year.

She was nervous and didn’t “want to stand out” much.

Ummm… how’s that going to win an election?

So after pestering her for over a week she finally let me *help* her with her campaign.  Yeah, baby!

I immediately set out building a buzz campaign for her.  Easy pickings since I was targeting grade schoolers 😉

We immediately ran into roadblocks when her school nixed most of our original ideas.  Here’s what stuck…

She was very nervous about her campaign speech.  These days they record them to video first, then broadcast them over closed-circuit TV to the classrooms.  She’d never done anything like that and was concerned about getting it “right”… which is apparently code for doing it exactly like her 4 competitors.

After *much* coaxing and coercing I finally got her to do something the students would be talking about for awhile.  (By the way, in case you can’t tell, I was *waaaay* too into her election… I would take it as a personal affront if she lost).

She did an American Idol parody for her election speech.  A little nervous… but she nailed it.  That was 2 weeks ago and the kids at school are *still* quoting her from it.  Success.

The week of the election I decided to build the buzz-factor a bit.  Every Friday I go to lunch with one of my daughters.  Election week I moved it Monday and showed up with a surprise that immediately got the social network going…

Holly Pres Tattoo 1Holly Pres Tattoo 2 Holly Pres Tattoo 3

Apparently anytime your dad tattoos a campaign ad on his bald head and shows up for lunch it’s an immediate topic of conversation and “walk by” viewings in the cafeteria.

Here’s the cool thing… the tattoos were barely readable from a distance (I’d do them different next time), and it didn’t even matter.  The word-of-mouth was so powerful that before lunch was over everyone knew what they said.

Throw in the t-shirts for Holly and her friends for each day election week and you have a pretty good buzz campaign.  (Of course, it helps tremendously that Holly has the popularity and personality to even be in the discussion to begin with).

Result: Holly’s the new President-Elect of her school for the 2009-10 school year.  That’s hot!

Even better… I got to talk about marketing and persuasion with all three of my girls.  That’s hotter!  I don’t get good opportunities to do that very often.

Plus, as an added benefit, I got to crush little fifth-graders along the way 😉  It’s just like competing against stupid search marketers on the content network!  Woohoo!

I Can Has a PayPal?

Woohoo!  I got my PayPal account back this morning.  It took a little longer than expected… but PayPal was really good through the whole process.

A few tips you can use if you ever run into the same challenge…

Most of the delay was my fault.  Over the years I’ve used my PayPal account for a couple of different businesses.  Because of that I switched the business name, address and website multiple times (since they don’t allow multiple business accounts).

For the most part PayPal doesn’t seem to mind that my account has evolved over the years.  Well, unless they’re auditing my account 😉

It still doesn’t seem that they care whether I switch my account information around… but they absolutely care whether it’s current and matches what I’m doing right now.

The website address on my PayPal account did not match the sales page I was selling from.  Even though that seems minor to me (since I have over 100 websites), it matters when my account is under review.

So if I had to do it again I’d definitely make sure my PayPal website matches the sales page / site where I’m selling from.

Also, I use a virtual mailbox (EarthClassMail.com… really slick) for my physical business address on PayPal.  Again, I don’t think they care.  But it’s awfully hard to validate that physical address.  PayPal needed me to fax in utility bills showing my physical address.  And my physical address doesn’t match my PayPal address.

That slowed things down about a week while we went back and forth and I finally had to sign an affidavit to change some of my core account information to match my physical address and TIN.

So none of it was a really big deal.  But I think I could have cut 2 weeks of delay out of the process if I’d been a little more careful with my account information and its currency.

And I still wonder if I could have avoided this with some advance notice to them.  I’ll probably never know about that.

I do know, however, that it pays to have my PayPal account totally in sync with the promotion I’m running… even if it’s only temporary.  I could have saved a couple weeks… and a little stress, too.

It’s surely not as big of a deal if you have 1 website and 1 product… your account should always be accurate in that situation.  It gets a little more complicated when I have several products across multiple websites.  But a little heads up goes a long way… or so it seems.

Happy day!

Is The Customer *Always* Right?

Do you want my opinion?  (If not, you really shouldn’t be reading my blog).  Business owners who buy into the “Customer is always right” myth are fools destined for a special kind of hell where they’re always so close to heaven… yet it perpetually remains just out of their grasp.

Have I just committed Business Blasphemy?

I think not.

I own a business because of the lifestyle it affords me.  I value my freedom.  I value my time.  I value my family.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  Isn’t that why you’re in it?

So here’s the deal… doesn’t it make sense to choose good partners for my business?  People I actually enjoy working with?  If you’ve ever had a “bad” partnership in business you know what a miserable life it can create.  Mismatched goals and visions.  Unfulfilled expectations. Blame for everyone.  And even when you make money doing it… do you actually get the *lifestyle* you are seeking.

And if you don’t know the answer to that… it’s no.

I am NOT a business prostitute.  And I think it’s okay to say that loud and proud.  Nor am I a pimp who will sell my products, services and support to anyone with a buck to give me.

My customers are my partners.  And I deserve good partners.  So do my customers.

So why try and force a relationship that doesn’t work.  I ought to be able to choose my partners just like they choose me.  Right?

All this is in response to a support email I received this morning.  My (former) customer decided it would be a good idea to let me know just how stupid I am.  Wanted to especially make sure I knew that I could “**** off.”  Oh… yeah… and I got a warm-hearted and richly deserved “**** you” as an added bonus.

And then this customer gave me a true gift.  I could either fix the problem (a 20 second fix, I might add) or refund his money.

No contest.

His money was refunded about 2 minutes later.  Please note that it took me longer to refund the money than it would have taken to issue the support response.

I thanked him for clarifying the kind of customer he was and let him know his refund was done.

As expected, he replied back with a nasty email once again making sure I knew how truly stupid I am and how little I must understand business.  Because, and I quote, “Customers are aways right and worth a fortune as they are hard to replace.”

And… “now I know why, you know nothing about business and how they run, or why would you ever auto down grade an PAID client or not apoligize for such a stupid thing to do”  All spelling, punctuation and grammar errors are as written, by the way… I’m not that creative.

So, here’s the deal.  What if my business isn’t just about raking in as much money as possible?  As it stands I’d be more than willing to put my income up against his income if that’s his measuring stick.  I don’t know for sure… but I’m guessing I would run circles around him.

But that’s not even the point.  I’m in business because it allows me to live a life I enjoy.  And that life is largely free of asses and jerks that I don’t want to deal with.  The flip side of that is that I truly love the people I do work with.

Like anyone else, I drop the ball on occasion.  I have customers that aren’t always pleased with my answers or my schedule.

And I also have customers (and non-customers) who are shocked when I give out my phone number and invite them to call me.  And then I talk for as long as they want about business and marketing.  And I give of my time and energy at a level that is totally disproportionate to the product I sell.

Why?  Because I *LOVE* what I do!  Love It!

And I love it because I only  choose to work with customers (my partners) who are a perfect fit for me.

And that, my friend, is a much, much, *much* better and easier way to build a successful business.  And you’ll actually love what you do and be able to pour your passion into it far more effectively.

The funny thing for me is that the software side of my business is a very small part of what I do online.  I do it because I get a rush out of people using my tools and knowing who I am.  It’s a modified ego trip, really.  And if you’re a customer of mine that can be good news or bad.

On the one hand, I’m overly passionate about what I do.  I get involved at a level far beyond the income or price would justify.  When you learn how to tap into that as a customer / partner you’ll think it’s the coolest thing ever and how all business should be done.

And, on the other hand, I’m overly passionate about what I do.  And I won’t waste my time with ingrates and abusive people who somehow think they own me because they paid me a little bit of money.  Have your money back.  It’s not about that (which you can’t really know until you’ve got a little bit of it and you realize it doesn’t change anything).  It’s about the relationship.  And respect.  And doing cool stuff together that we couldn’t do apart.

As a business owner I *absolutely* reserve the right to be in relationship with people that move my life’s mission forward.  I will fire customers in a heartbeat who rail against my vision and purpose.  And I have a much better life and business for it.  Am I wrong?