Earning Customer Loyalty

This time last year, my amazing fiancé (now husband) surprised me for my birthday with a 6-month coaching package from an online fitness coach I’d been obsessed with following for several months through various Social channels. For once, a fitness persona who uses hashtags like “#TeamPants” & “#MyMomFollowsMe”, and is 100% focused on bettering herself and anyone who will follow. It’s not an overstatement to say that Sarah Bowmar has changed my life.

Upon first look at the program (meal plan + cardio + weight training routines), I was completely overwhelmed & remember telling Brian “there’s no way I can actually do this while traveling like I do”. But for anyone who has spent any time with me on the road this past year, it’s clear that where there’s a will, there’s a way – and I’ve made it happen. Even if that means living out of a cooler in a hotel room, or eating MRE-style tuna pouches while driving across Southern Illinois.

But I promise, this isn’t a blog about fitness – in fact, one of the things I respect so much about Sarah has nothing to do with fitness at all – it has to do with her ability to earn customer loyalty – and that’s something we all can agree is a highly sought after skill…

From the moment I discovered Sarah, I was hooked – skimming through all her Instagram posts, Tweets, YouTube videos, and diligently saving her newsletter workouts to cobble together some of the most challenging workouts I’ve ever done – all with material she provides to followers for free. I remember for a split second thinking “why do I need her coaching package, I have everything she does already?”, but I underestimated her – and myself.

I know for many accountants, they’re doing things on their own as well – I’ll often meet a firm who has a great start to their online practice, and I’m so impressed that they’ve done it with little to no resources from Intuit, but it’s clear they’re struggling (and often frustrated). It’s so fun being the one who gets to break the good news to them by sharing everything we can provide to them as part of our managed account team. Ultimately, It’s an opportunity for us to really earn the loyalty of our partners, who have put their trust in us, by putting their clients on our platform.

As I’ve watched Sarah & her husband, Josh, build their businesses over this past year, I’ve seen myself go from “freemium” user, to client, to supplement user, to elite member of their bowmarfitness membership website. I’ve seen her soar to over 1 million Instagram followers (giving back regularly to loyal followers by doing weekly – sometimes daily – giveaways). And I’ve caught myself feeling such a sense of gratitude for what she’s done for me…and through that, an amazing sense of loyalty. There are millions of places I could go online to find more workouts, but I choose to come back to the Bowmars, because they invested in me, and earned my loyalty.

There’s such a sense of accomplishment when I know that partners who previously recommended other solutions have now shifted to QuickBooks Online. Accounting software is just a tool, and they all have debits & credits, but what can set a tool apart from another is the people behind that brand. I only hope that I can be a similar inspiration to the accountants I work with every day. I hope that my managed firms feel valued, appreciated, and even inspired by me as they make huge strides and move closer to the daunting task of taking their practice online. I imagine when many of them first hear my  pep talk, they feel a bit overwhelmed too, but I’ve seen some of my firms make amazing progress this past year, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Throughout the year, I’ve sent progress check-ins to Sarah, and she’s been an amazing encouragement, as well as providing me guidance on things to do differently. Anything worth doing in life is challenging, but having a cheerleader rooting you on sure helps. She constantly makes me feel like she feels proud of the difference she’s made in my life.

In the same way, I absolutely love getting the call or email from my partners telling me “got another QBO for you”, and I love that we’ll often do a virtual happy dance together when a big one comes across. It’s such a great privilege to represent a company like Intuit, and help earn customer loyalty for QBO. I love feeling like I’ve helped make a difference in my partners’ careers…and lives.

Six LinkedIn Photos to Avoid

We see them every day – the announcements in our news feed on LinkedIn saying that somebody “has a new profile photo” – and we’re all supposed to “Like” said new photo. Let’s get real though, as you scan through connections, and especially those suggested connections of “people you may know”, there are some pretty downright interesting profile photos! Today I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting my six least favorite LinkedIn photos.

The Wedding Photo

No, I’m not talking white dress & veil (although, I’ve see those too). I’m referring to the often fuzzy, usually dated-looking shot of a man in a tux (typically cropped extremely close on one side to remove the bride from the image). Not a good look.

The Glamour Shot

I admit, makeup is a WONDERFUL thing, but let’s keep in mind – LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional tool, not an advertisement for a boudoir photographer, Este Lauder, or Aqua Net. Keep that in mind when selecting wardrobe and makeup/ hairstyle as well as the amount of retouching & airbrushing used in post-production.

The High School Year Book Photo

There should be a field on LinkedIn where you have to insert the date an image was taken…once it hits, say, 10 years old, it should self-destruct. My advice: try to choose a photo that still looks like you. It will help you when you meet people in person if they know what to look for based on a realistic photo.

The Mug Shot

This isn’t your driver’s license or passport photo, people – SMILE! Let’s see some pearly whites! You don’t want to scare off your network or look like you have a tape measure on the wall behind you. Remember, this is often your first impression – make it a good, warm, welcoming one.

The Puppy Dog

Pets are cute. Babies are cute. Cartoons are cute. Would you include any of them on your resume though? Keep in mind that there are appropriate places to use more personal photos (Facebook, Google+, even Twitter). In my opinion, LinkedIn should be all about the professional impression you want to make on your current or future employer, and more importantly, on your professional network.

The No-Show

At least on Twitter you’re an egg. On LinkedIn you’re Jane or John Doe – ambiguous outline human figure afraid to show your face. I’m not sure which is more of a turn-off to me: someone with no photo, or someone with under 50 connections. It’s definitely a close call.

Well, folks – thanks for joining me on this ever-opinionated version of View From My Shoes. Now, excuse me – I’ve got to get back to my amazing photographer, Tina Anjozian regarding some additional touch-ups to my head shot.

The Social Network

After spending the first half of last week in SoCal, then jetting off to NorCal to continue a marathon of meetings, appointments, conferences, and calls, it’s safe to say that the highlight of the crazy few days was the time I had to network with friends and partners. This shouldn’t come as any big surprise, seeing as I tend to be a broken record when it comes to the value of one’s network. So on the heels of a week filled with numerous examples of just how important these relationships are – I figure there’s no better time to post a tribute to a few folks that I have the pleasure of including in my own social network…

To start, my hat goes off to Doug Sleeter, and the entire Sleeter Group team for pulling all the right people together at the 9th annual Sleeter Group Conference (one of the most successful networking shows I’ve been to this year). From Monday evening’s Keynote session featuring executives like Rod Drury of Xero (who came in all the way from New Zealand), Sage’s Himanshu Palsule, and the legendary Greg LaFollette, to Wednesday afternoon’s closing session presented by none other than Rick “The Closer” Richardson (sorry I missed it, Rick – but so happy we got to have lunch!), Doug brought out all the big guns.

For me, the greatest value in a show like that isn’t the things I learn from sessions – and isn’t the prospects that I meet in the trade show expo area. It’s all about the networking time. People always ask me how I manage to keep up with all the traveling I do, and the real answer (even when I’m as tired as I am right now) is that I just don’t want to miss out. There’s nothing better than the ability to spend 5 minutes with René Lacerte – or having the pleasure of catching up over dinner with Jennifer Warawa.

When I departed the conference, I took my networking on the road…my next day started out with one of CPAPA’s 25 most powerful women in accounting, Geni Whitehouse – someone I’ve always seen at shows, and have heard about for years, but we hadn’t had a chance to spend quality time together. As if one legend a day isn’t enough, I ended my evening with one of the only reasons to visit San Jose on a regular basis: Taylor Macdonald just might be in town. Spending time with Taylor is sort of like learning at the master’s feet. I think I turn into a sponge whenever I’m around him, hoping to soak up as much advice as possible…what a privilege I’ve had to be included in his network these past several years.

While all of this was happening, one continuous networker (who I never actually saw in person) that always adds the right color to the mix, Xero’s Community and Coffee Queen – and lover of the best color ever, Catherine Walker was a constant social media presence. People like Catherine are true examples of leveraging social media to shrink miles between a network. While I ran out of time to stop by and share a premium local coffee with her, I somehow still feel connected to Catherine as we exchanged numerous messages on Twitter.

While we can only be in one physical place at a time – we can reach the entire Twittersphere with a simple 140 characters. In my last post I declared that there’s no replacement for face time. While I firmly believe this, leveraging our social network can often create lasting impressions on those relationships we hold so dear.