When I started my company eight years ago, back when I was a student, I had no idea of the learning curve I would face before I might actually make it. Today, as I continue to run my firm as well as speak to and advise other startups, I continually go back to some of the lessons I learned through direct experience (many times, the hard way) and through helping other companies avoid the same mistakes.

Related: How Listening to Your Gut Can Make You a Better Founder

From all the years I’ve been an entrepreneur, a few of those lessons stand out as defining moments in my career. They also represent moments in the trenches when I had to make a significant change, to either my business infrastructure or my personal mindset, in order to advance to the next stage in my company’s growth. Here are 10 of those lessons from my personal experience:

1. If you don’t start delegating as soon as your budget allows it, you will burn out fast.

One of the most important lessons for me as a founder was that you need to spend as much time as possible, as soon as possible, in building teams. You may be able to last a year or so as a one-man show. But if you’re seriously growing your business, you will not be able to wear all of those hats on your own. You can only hoard your cash and keep your overhead low for so long. Start reinvesting into team building and the dividends will multiply.

2. Shoot for goals that are 10 times bigger, and actually believe in them.

A lot of times, it takes just as much effort to close a small deal as a big one. The only barrier is your own thinking. Further, if you build your business plan around a goal that’s ten times larger, and take that much more action, it’s a lot more likely that you will hit and surpass your original goal anyway.

3. Do the stuff you don’t want to do.

In almost every case, the stuff that you least want to do is the stuff that is most important to do. I learned very early on that I needed to suck it up and do those boring/hard/not-fun tasks if I was ever going to move the needle. Even when you delegate what you’re weak at, you still end up with something on your to-do list you don’t want to do. This is what separates the best from the rest.

4. There are some things you shouldn’t do.

I spent a lot of time in the beginning doing tasks that I shouldn’t have been doing simply because I tend to be a taskmaster and perfectionist. Now, each morning, I review my to-do list; and if there is something there that ultimately isn’t necessary and consequential, I either delegate it or eliminate it altogether. Focus on the top two-to-three areas where you can make the most impact on your business.

Related: 7 Management Lessons From a 7-Time CEO

5. Watch out for information overload.

I love to read, and I read a book per week. But I’ve also learned to be careful about overloading myself with too much information. There are a thousand books about everything out there. Find a few really high-quality sources of information that serve you and drill down on them. Read them over and over and immerse yourself in them. Implement what you learn and then move on to your next source. Don’t get lost in the bog of information out there to the point that it keeps you from taking action.

6. Know your ‘why.’

You’ve got to know why you’re doing this, and it can’t just be money. There needs to be a reason beyond financial goals that pushes you to get up and do this every day. Building a company is hard, and lots of obstacles will make you want to give up. You need to have a reason for hanging in there that is much bigger than the problems you are going to face every day.

7. Recognize that many wins were originally far-fetched ideas.

Oftentimes, the idea that you think is least likely to work or is too far-fetched is the idea that becomes your next home run. Whether it’s that potential client that you are unsure about contacting because he or she is out of your league, or that marketing campaign you never thought could work, just do it (while managing your downside) and let results dictate what’s a good idea or not.

8. Measure everything.

The only way to improve anything is to measure it every single day. Why? Measurement brings clarity and awareness.

9. You need only one service/product.

When you are a fledgling company (and especially if you’re an agency), don’t waste time, money and effort trying to offer 20 different services. Sell one service and become the best at it. Down the road, an expansion will be much easier when you have the cash.

10. Keep in touch with everybody.

Always look at every contact as a relationship, and not just a transaction. Keep in touch with as many contacts as possible on a regular basis. Send personal notes, articles you think they’ll enjoy (such as this one!) and holiday greetings. Relationships are critical to long-term success.

Related: Unlikely Lessons From Building a Multi-Million Dollar Social Business

How up-to-date are you on the latest marketing terms? It can be tough to keep up with the fast pace of change in digital marketing, as new tools, techniques and tactics pour through your social feeds and inbox almost daily.

We’ve got 8 terms that are either new or experiencing a resurgence in digital marketing, to help you stay afloat.

Cross-channel marketing

Cross-channel marketing is a strategy that allows brands to connect to their audience across devices, websites, social networks and more. Brands that engage in cross-channel marketing ensure that their message is seen by their audience, wherever they are.

Why is this important? The number of digital touchpoints that consumers encounter is increasing by 20 percent annually, so it is important that brands have a presence anywhere their audience could potentially engage with them.

Employee advocacy

Employees that use their own social presence on networks like Facebook or Twitter to positively discuss and promote their company are engaging in employee advocacy.

Why is this important? Employees are the face of a company. By allowing them to openly discuss what they think about where they work, companies can humanize themselves and become more relatable.


A term invented by Google, micro-moments are the instant, real-time events that trigger consumers to turn to search or social. Answering questions like “How do I fix…” or “Is it worth the price…”, micro-moments happen in a split second, and require marketers to deeply understand the desires and motivations of their target audience.

Why is it important? Micro-moments describe actions that consumers take every day. Any marketer that wants to connect meaningfully with an audience actually looking for their product right now should incorporate micro-moments into their strategy.


Personalization is a marketing strategy that requires a company to learn the personal traits, motivations and preferences of their consumers, and deliver content that is customized to match.

Why is this important? Consumers will be more willing to engage with a brand if they feel that brand matches their values. By personalizing content, marketers can foster increased loyalty among their audience.

Real-time marketing

Real-time marketing is a strategy that involves publishing timely content as news and events occur.

Why is this important? With the immediate nature of social media, brands that can quickly create relevant content as news breaks will often get increased exposure, word-of-mouth and recognition.


Remarketing is the process of following up with consumers that have interacted with your content. Sending a follow-up email or engaging in a sales call after a customer has downloaded a whitepaper is an example of remarketing.

Why is this important? Remarketing means you’re connecting to consumers who have already engaged with your brand at least once. This means they will be more receptive to your communications.


Retargeting is a form of marketing technology that allows you to show your ads to your audience across the entire web after they have visited your website. This relies on cookies to work, as anyone who visits your website is “tagged” and will be shown your ads when they leave.

Why is this important? If you are using paid advertising, you want to leverage retargeting. Because your ads will be shown to people who have already visited your website, each ad will be more effective at reaching an audience that is already aware of your brand.

Social intelligence

Social intelligence goes beyond demographics and enables companies to know their customers on a more personal, significant level. Some of the intelligence that companies are tapping into today include common pain points, favorite brands and preferred topics of conversation.

Why is this important? In order for brands to truly connect with their audience, they must know who that audience is. Social intelligence takes “big data,” which can often be overwhelming and lacking in context, and helps marketers better understand their audience.

These 8 terms are our top picks for trends every marketer needs to know. What would you add to the list?

Source: 8 New(ish) Digital Marketing Terms to Know

I travel almost every week if I am lucky because most of my consulting is done in the field with my clients. Since I fly so much I have “status” with several airlines and frequently receive an upgrade to “first class”. I really believe if you call something “first class”, your customer has high expectations for their experience and the “first class” experience better consistently equal a 5 star over the top customer experience!

Recently I was returning from a client engagement in New York City and was upgraded to “First class”. This was a Friday evening flight and while it had been a great week with a great client I was looking forward to a relaxing flight in first and a couple glasses of red wine on the way to Atlanta. The experience I received was anything but “first class”!

Customers today have high expectations for experience grounded in the great experiences they have received across all facets of their life. The impact of this is they have raised the bar for great experiences and continue to do so at a rapid rate. Organizations that aspire to deliver “first class” service experiences must understand and stay ahead of customer expectations. Unfortunately the flight attendants on this flight were far more interested in delivering the minimum level of service so they could get back to socializing with their associates than delivering outstanding service.

When we have high expectations based on previous experiences with an organization we tend to have our service radar on high. I have to admit my service radar is on high most of the time given what I do. I began to notice we weren’t receiving “first class” attention very fast when it took forever for the flight attendant to bring us our first beverage. It went downhill from there. When I took my empty glass up to the galley to get a refill and found the entire flight attendant crew hiding in the galley to eat and socialize I knew they didn’t get it and we were lost for the evening!

Customer expectations continue to rise significantly (up 33% in the last 12 months according to recent research) and show no signs of stopping. Customers compare their experiences with our organization not just to competitors but to experiences they have received across their entire life. What are you doing to make sure you understand your customers’ expectations on an ongoing basis? Have you provided the tools, training and leadership to ensure all your employees consistently deliver the appropriate customer experience? I you are going to call it first class it really better be first class service!


John R. Patterson is a renowned customer loyalty speaker and consultant. He has co-authored three books with Chip Bell including the award winning international best seller Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What To Do About It. Find out more about John at www.johnrpatterson.com/.

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