Valentine’s Day is a tricky holiday. You can either make your loved one very, very happy or make her very, very angry. It’s a holiday that can make or break a relationship that is still in its budding stages, or cause husbands to spend countless nights on the couch. But, if done correctly, a Valentine’s Day celebration can strengthen your relationship and let her know just how much you love her (and can’t live without her), which makes your daily life better in every way.
For business owners, there are some lessons to be learned from this holiday. You really can’t live without your customers–the last thing you want is for them to break up with you. Think about the following truisms about Valentine’s Day, and apply them year-round to your business.
Remember to Acknowledge the Important People in Your Life
There are husbands out there (and probably wives, too) who completely forget Valentine’s Day. This is disastrous. When she first wakes up, a wife hopes for an acknowledgement of the holiday. When that doesn’t come, she thinks perhaps he will surprise her. Then she sits at work and notices the flower delivery guy dropping off roses at her colleagues’ desks all day, but not at hers. She gets home, hoping to open the door to a trail of rose petals, or a dressed-up husband with a dinner reservation. Instead, she opens the door to find that the kids are starving and her husband is watching sports on TV. Still, she hopes that perhaps he’ll whip out a small velvet box from the jewelry store, or at least a box of crappy grocery store chocolates. When he kisses her forehead and goes to bed at 10:00, she finally understands. He forgot. In her mind, it follows that he must not care at all about her and doesn’t love her at all. Of course, this is not true in most cases–the guy just forgot. But you’d better believe that he’ll be paying for this error for the next year.
As a business owner, the most important people are your customers. Don’t forget to acknowledge them on a regular basis–every day is Valentine’s Day for you. Make sure to sincerely thank them for their business. Don’t treat them with indifference; go out of your way to make them feel appreciated. My Realtor’s brokerage holds four “Client Appreciation” parties every year. The company pays admission to a movie, or a Halloween corn maze, or hosts a barbecue for all past and present clients. As a result, important relationships are maintained and the company generates lots of repeat business and referrals. Figure out a way to thank your customers that is appropriate to your type of business.
If you get halfway through the day and realize that you’ve forgotten to buy your wife or girlfriend a gift, the worst thing you can do is head to the grocery or discount store. There, you’ll find a whole aisle of cheesy stuffed animals and cheap chocolates packed in red cardboard heart boxes. Have you ever tried to actually eat those cheap chocolates? Yuck. They taste like wax. And no woman over the age of twelve wants a 10 inch stuffed beagle holding a “Happy Valentine’s!” heart in its mouth. Really. Head for a quality chocolate shop, or find some quality jewelry or get creative and buy her something you know she actually wants (no, not the expensive stand mixer… now is not the time for that. Find something a little more romantic).
The same principle applies to your business. Sure, it’s a great idea to save money where you can, and this is especially important when you’re first starting out, but you have to be careful. A new store recently opened near me, and the owner ordered really cheap plastic bags. The ink on the bags not only rubbed off on everything it touched–it smelled horrible. When customers first entered her store, all they could smell was the chemicals from the bags. Not a great first impression. She finally ditched them and ordered higher-quality bags.
Pay Attention to Your Loved One’s Needs
A typical Valentine’s Day mistake involves a man buying his wife lingerie. Unless she has actually stated that she wants this kind of gift, don’t do it. She’s not stupid… she knows that the lingerie is actually for you. This just makes you look like a jerk. You also better have a very good idea about size if you buy clothing for her. If it’s too small, you’ll have a wife who breaks into tears when she tries to put on the dress you bought. If it’s too big, you’ll have an angry wife who wonders if you really think she’s that fat. Your best bet is to pay attention to little clues she gives you throughout the year (most savvy women start dropping pretty specific hints about two weeks before the holiday). Did her favorite band just release a new album? Has she been dying to take a new dance class? Did she point out a pretty bracelet in the window of the jewelry store? If you pay attention, you’ll know what she wants.
Your customers also want things. They want quality products or services at a good price. They want caring, efficient customer service. Don’t focus on your needs–give them what they want. If you can’t figure out what these things are, ask them. Survey your past clients/customers. Send them a postage-paid card, or give them a call a week or so after their purchase or service and ask them to give you feedback. Then, follow through with the goodies.