Author Archives: dobbemarketing

Families Across the World – Rotary Club of Crystal Lake Dawnbreakers Exchange Student Program

Originally published Northwest Quarterly  March 4, 2020 

For the young adults in Rotary Youth Exchange, lessons in love, loss and cultures abound.

Gary and Sue Riegler, of Crystal Lake, are committed to connecting with students and their families globally. Gary is the Rotary Club of Crystal Lake Dawnbreakers’ Youth Exchange Officer, a position that allows him to arrange inbound and outbound high school student exchanges. The Rieglers
have hosted three students of their own.

“Rotary Youth Exchange keeps changing our lives for the better,” says Gary, a Rotarian for more than 20 years. “We love the students like family, and we love seeing them grow into remarkable adults. Though there are cultural differences to share, families
around the world have many similarities.”

High school student Charlotte Egert, 16, of Germany, is the club’s current inbound student. Crystal Lake native Franco Pietramale, 15, heads outbound for France this coming fall. Students arrive in August, before school starts, and return home the following June. Each student lives for three months at a time with a host family, allowing three different families to provide a diverse perspective on local culture.

“I wanted to learn about another culture,” says Egert. “I was interested in learning English well and having the opportunity to travel outside of Europe. I was also excited to live with a supportive host family in another country. I learned that Rotary carefully checks out the host families, which gave me a good feeling.”

Egert began her exchange in August, residing with Ellen and Kevin Bruning in Crystal Lake. Ellen is a retired school principal and previously served as the Rotary District 6440 Youth Exchange Officer. She and Kevin are members of the Fox Valley Sunset Rotary Club, which draws members from Crystal Lake, Algonquin and Elgin.

The Brunings first met Egert when they traveled to Germany for the 2019 Rotary International Conference. Their initial bond was deepened as the three lived together for three months this past fall. “Kevin and Ellen helped me deal with missing my family and my boyfriend,” says Egert. “They encouraged me to make new friends and gave me the chance to travel around the United States. I feel like I am part of their family.”

In December, Egert moved in with her second host family, Dawnbreaker member Kay Stanish and her husband, Jeff. “It’s different at the Stanish home,” says Egert. “They have two sons who attend school with me at Prairie Ridge High School. They are my host brothers, and we are becoming close. I like experiencing different homes.”

As much as things can appear different, though, Egert finds there are also many similarities among families. “I learned that all families, like mine, care for each other, argue sometimes, yet love each other in good times and bad,” she says. “I used to think my parents were the only ones who would argue. But every home has that, and that doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. All homes have happy times and laughter, too.”

Youth Exchange embraces the joys of new friendships and expanded families, as well as the losses and heartaches of life that transcend all cultures. Love and loss are especially challenging when experienced long distance. When Egert’s great-uncle died this January, she couldn’t be present with her family as they grieved the loss. With tears in her eyes, Egert shared memories of her great-uncle at a recent Rotary social, her host families and Rotary members there for support.

Hugs were exchanged, and when tears subsided, members offered their continued support if Egert wanted to talk again or just needed another hug. One day, when feeling sad, she texted her host brother’s girlfriend, who made time to visit, listen and offer comforting hugs. The rituals may differ, yet everyone understands the pain and loss of a loved one.

Rotary Youth Exchange has brought students from many other countries to Crystal Lake’s high schools, and it’s sent dozens of local students to places where they can experience new languages and cultures. Franco Pietramale, a student at Crystal Lake’s Prairie Ridge High School, spent a summer exchange in Switzerland last year. He enjoyed the experience so much he agreed to spend a nine month exchange in France, starting this August. France was one of his ideal locations, but it’s a difficult one for American students to reach. French exchanges require students to speak fluent French. Lucky for Franco that he speaks English, French and Spanish, and he’s learning German, too.

Through Rotary Youth Exchange, Franco is developing not only his language skills but his leadership abilities. “Someone who puts in effort for what they truly want to achieve and who inspires others: that’s a leader,” says Franco. “Even when experiencing bumps in the road, they take advice to improve in a disciplined manner to prepare them for their path in life.” Franco believes it’s important to focus on leadership at an early age, so one can benefit self and society.

Rotary Youth Exchange is a program of Rotary International, which was founded in 1905 by Chicago attorney Paul Harris. The global service organization has 33,000 clubs and 1.3 million members. Rotary members are community volunteers who serve for the betterment of world peace, literacy, polio eradication, safe water and many more causes. The Rotary Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and is recognized by Charity Navigator around the world as one of the best foundations.

Gary and Sue Riegler have embraced students from many cultures and countries, including Germany, Poland, Belgium, Spain, France, Japan and Brazil. They have enjoyed learning about loose teas, Belgian chocolate and German holidays. They’ve enriched their lives with international travel. “With so many differences in culture and backgrounds, we love learning from each and every individual in the exchange,” says Gary. Sue finds there are some important similarities among all of these students.

“They are so brave,” she says. “Each one of the students faces challenges during their exchange and has risen to the occasion. Health issues, sports limitations, language struggles, homesickness, losing a loved one back home – all types of difficulties can occur during the time of the exchange.”

The Rieglers believe that, by overcoming life-changing obstacles in a different country without parents near, these students have grown to be more self-reliant and confident. “We have kept in touch with most of the exchange students over the years,” says Gary. “Some with letters, email or Facebook, and for others, we have visited their homes and families. It is very rewarding to see them become doctors, business owners, community
leaders and parents.”

Print & Video: A Perfect Marketing Mix

Originally Published Northwest Quarterly March 4, 2020

In the classic novel “Fahrenheit 451,” author Ray Bradbury depicts a dystopian future where books are outlawed and burned. The characters are then bombarded by videos, instead. Bradbury once explained that his 1953 novel was a commentary on how mass media reduced interest in reading.

Thankfully, today the value of video and its role in mass media may provide us with a happier outcome than the future Bradbury warned us about. Video is integral to our daily lives in many ways. Television was initially promoted as a medium for entertainment; in the 1950s, one small set was watched by the collective family. Today, video is selected and consumed individually for most people every day; for some, it’s just about every minute.

Why is video so popular? It is very, very effective in entertaining, educating and influencing. Human nature is attracted to the multi-sensory experience, not to mention the personal examples of how, why and what other humans value. Think about your last encounter with video. How were you
influenced by the images, music, voices and messages?

If it’s not already, video should be a working part of your marketing plan and strategy. We consume a vast assortment and quantity of videos throughout an average day. As we do so, marketing videos evolve and improve as the variety increases and our attention span shortens. How can your business use video to capture them attention of your target audience and get them to take action?

Viewers today are seeking a quick message: one minute for Print & Video: A Perfect Marketing Mix an average commercial, 15 to 20 seconds for a Facebook or YouTube video. Quick videos segue to an action: click through for more details, visit our website, order now, sign up, make your
donation.

If you haven’t noticed yet, Northwest Quarterly Magazine now has a video component to its print publication. Readers download the free app Wikitude and use it to bring the pages of this magazine to life. Northwest Quarterly is the first publication in the region to utilize this energizing and engaging advantage to reading a magazine.

Live action gives readers a more exciting perspective on an advertiser’s message. The instant click-to-action provides the advertiser with measured results.

Return on these ads is growing exponentially. No need to find the website, because this feature can take you directly there. Buy tickets, make a reservation, view samples, read reviews or find other ways to capture your target audience.

Ray Bradbury might have viewed video in a brighter light if he’d seen the positive partnership Northwest Quarterly Magazine has created between the print and video worlds.

Small-Business Marketing Strategies – To Target Teens, Influence & Advocate

Do you want to capture some of the billions of dollars spent annually by the United States’ 42.13 million teenagers, ages 11-19?

Here’s what Generation Z spends its money on: Food: 24 percent; clothing: 19 percent; cars: 9 percent; accessories and cosmetics: 9 percent; shoes: 8 percent; video games: 8 percent; electronics: 7 percent.

Business owners, community partners, educators and employers seek to capture the attention of teens. Uncovering their motivation includes listening as well as monitoring technology use. Entrepreneur Magazine guest reporter Mercer Hendersen is a successful teenpreneur and shared her preferred platforms to reach teens: Snapchat and Instagram.

“Snapchat is fun, with filters and features from dog ears to geotags,” Henderson wrote. “Brand filters are most likely to be used if they interact with a user’s personality. Instagram has builtin relevancy because what is shared, posted and liked is more lasting than Snapchat. Teens curate feeds to make their personal brand relevant to their followers.”

Break through to your teen market through strategic and compelling posts. You have only 1 or 2 seconds to capture attention.
The value of influencers and advocates evolves over time and can be difficult to track. What is popular today may not be of interest in three months, a fact that is true for most adults, too.

Teens seek a combination of up-and-coming teen personalities as well as currently well-known teens. Curating a “collective image” of creative, smart, fashion-forward influencers, teens seek to become influencers and advocates themselves.

If your business cannot afford to retain the services of an existing influencer, you may cultivate your own advocates and influencers within your geographic niche.

Trendy smartphone mockup mobile phones. Template for infographics or presentation. Vector illustration

Locally, teens were the target audience for the Text-A-Tip crisis text line in the McHenry County area. The program is known as MCHELP and is a combined effort of McHenry County Mental Health Board, Community Foundation and the former Centegra Health System, now Northwestern Medicine. The purpose is to give teens access, via text, to professional counselors in times of stress, anxiety, depression, fear and crisis.

When adult leaders planned to market the program, they sought focus groups of area high school students. The youngsters were brutally honest and expressed their disdain for the name Text-A-Tip. Students recommended calling it MCHELP, since that’s what adults had been calling the overall project.

“Text-A-Tip sounds like a narc hot line,” students told us. “Students are on Instagram and Snapchat, not Facebook. Don’t waste money on newspaper or billboards; we don’t read them.”

Students enlightened the adults about internal school communications, which may include radio or TV programs, key websites,
links and events. Next, these youths were asked to help communicate the value of the app to their peers. Student clubs developed events such as Download Days to promote the app in their schools.

These young people became the influencers for the MCHELP App, and they’re now committed to making the app important. They influenced their peers while advocating to professionals how best to connect with their demographic.

The Download Days were successful. Fidget spinners with the MCHELP logo were given to those who showed they had the MCHELP app on their phone. Games were used to hook attention and start the conversation. As a result, the MCHELP App was downloaded by many new users.

The app was launched 18 months ago. Download rates are gaining momentum, as are the daily text requests coming from
students in need. The McHELP App provides text and voice access to crisis counselors as well as McHenry County Mental Health resources and 2-1-1 Social Services.

More information about MCHELP can be found at mc708.org or on social media at MCHELP.

Enduring Love

THE BLAZIERS HAVE A SPECIAL SPARK

One of McHenry County’s most well-known couples is Rosemary and Bob Blazier. Their names are etched on several buildings, and they have both served tirelessly to demonstrate love for their community. Yet, many people know little about their 73-year romance.

Bob Blazier met Rosemary Riva in 1946 while both were college students at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Bob asked a friend to arrange a meeting, but the encounter ended abruptly because Rosemary was dating someone else. In the fall of his sophomore year, Bob saw Rosemary cross the street heading for a movie. He left his fraternity brothers across the street and re-introduced himself to her. That meetingwent much better. The couple went on their first date on September 9th, and Bob stole a kiss. “He was fast,” laughed Rosemary. After that, she was
smitten.

The couple had much in common. Both Physical Education majors, they loved music, good food, and good books. Bob gave Rosemary his fraternity pin that first year. “The second summer, I worked hard loading freight train cars and made enough money to purchase a tiny diamond ring,” said Bob. “It was a beautiful ring and I loved it,” gushed Rosemary.

The wedding was in June 1949, one week after their college graduation. It was held at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Spring Valley where Rosemary and her parents were members. Employment was the next priority and Rosemary was the link to Bob’s first teaching job in Jacksonville, Illinois. Then known for its very progressive P.E. program, Jacksonville schools had a P.E. teacher for each school.

Once settled in their two-room Jacksonville apartment, Rosemary was recruited by the Illinois School for the Deaf. She quickly learned sign language and did it so well the other teachers complimented her on her ability to communicate. Bob and Rosemary advanced quickly in their careers. Bob taught four years in P.E. and was promoted to Assistant Principal after completing his graduate studies in Clinical Psychology. Bob’s impressive resume was circulated by a search firm as an example of candidates needed for Crystal Lake Public Schools. As a result, he was asked to come to Crystal Lake in 1962 to serve as principal at Lundahl Middle School.

Jacksonville had been home to Rosemary for 13 years. She had her work and her many friends, and she was also quite a talent in competitive golf and bridge. Leaving was difficult. In recruiting Bob to Crystal Lake, the school board offered Rosemary a position as physical education teacher, a career she truly enjoyed. She served as a P.E. teacher until 1968, then became a Girl’s Counselor until her retirement in 1984. Life’s journey is full of unexpected twists, and the Blaziers’ turn at parenting was different than most. In 1965, Bob shared with Rosemary an article he read in the Chicago Daily News about several “unadoptable” children. The couple had earlier filed a request for adoption of an infant, but the story had them thinking about the older children who were left behind. “It was heartbreaking to read,” says Rosemary.

An idea had sparked to life, and it turned to action when Bob was at the Chicago Public Schools Administration Center for
a meeting: while waiting for a colleague, Bob came across the CPS newsletter which featured an ad for adopting a seven-year-old boy who was in the foster system.

“I came home and told Rosemary I felt that we should make the call,” Bob said. They spoke with social worker Laura Epstein, who cut the red tape and made the connection with 7-year-old John. “It was John who interviewed us, and we were hooked,” remembers Rosemary.
John had been in the foster system since he was 18-months old. After two-months of visiting the Blaziers on weekends in their Crystal Lake home, the adoption was finalized on July 1, 1965. “Having been in many foster homes in his short life, John handled his adversity well. He never spoke negatively about the people who may have treated him poorly,” explains Rosemary.

“John was, and is, a great athlete, and a wonderful blessing to us,” said Bob. The family thrived in Crystal Lake. Bob and Rosemary serving on many committees and boards, and giving mtime, talent, and treasure to many organizations. John grew up and married Amy Fantner, his high-school sweetheart.

The young Blaziers have followed the example of John’s parents’ marriage, and are approaching their own 35th wedding anniversary. Over the decades, Bob and Rosemary served the community in many roles. Bob went from school district leadership to hospital administration. He was Vice President of Northern Illinois Medical Center in McHenry, which evolved into Centegra and now is Northwestern Medicine. Rosemary was instrumental in forming the Women’s Cancer Care Complex, now known as the Sage Cancer Center.

In the 1990s, Bob took on the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce and led as President for 17 years. He retired from the Chamber in 2008 – but was not ready to fully retire. Home State Bank recruited Bob and he continues to work there. Three years ago, on her birthday, Rosemary suffered a stroke which kept her in the hospital for 100 days. Bob, John, Amy, Blaziers’ granddaughters, and many friends spent countless hours giving Rosemary encouragement and love.

“Recovery and rehabilitation are a slow process that can be frustrating,” Rosemary sighs. Bob, her greatest cheerleader, says “She is a fighter and has great faith. Her physical therapists were happy to have her because she was always smiling, enjoyed the exercises, and never lost her ‘spark’! She can always light up the room.”

Today, Bob and Rosemary count their many blessings: family, friends, community, fun, music and laughter. They share seven decades of life’s journey, and although there are ups and downs, they have kept calm and carried on – a personal mantra for them. Spending time with the Blaziers, talking about life, family, and romance instills renewed faith in long-lasting love. Bob and Rosemary will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this June, continuing the joyful journey they have shared together.

Photograph by Nancy Merkling

The Secret Sauce of Economic Development

Small-Business Marketing Strategies

Economic development sounds like a boring topic, but after 30 years in the business arena, those two words together attract my attention. They are equivalent to “The Secret Sauce and Magic Grease that Bring Money to our Community.”

It’s all about making money through business:

  • Creating incubators to foster new business
  • Attracting businesses to the region
  • Growing businesses
  • Sustaining businesses in tough times
  • Retaining businesses in your community to provide jobs
    and customers
  • Connecting businesses to enhance local prosperity
  • Locating businesses in areas that are accessible to workers,
    technology, transportation and distribution

Collectively, our county and state governments seek to attract, retain and expand business growth to improve the quality of life for residents. It’s a team effort comprised of manufacturers,] retailers, government, academia, entrepreneurs and corporations. Leaders from each of these factions join to strategize on the region’s unique attractions to businesses and workers.

National networks for economic development also serve in the implementation of growth strategies. For example, most of the area’s municipalities have an economic development director or manager. They participate in national retail business expos to connect with major retailers seeking new locations in places like Rockford, Machesney Park, Crystal Lake, Barrington, Cary, Johnsburg, Elgin or the Tri-Cities, for example.

Beyond retail and franchise businesses, there are global networks for manufacturing companies that assist in site selection worldwide. Local economic development teams may be working with a German, Swiss, French or Asian company seeking a new U.S. headquarters. Local sources can submit available land and existing buildings to a global site selector, creating something like a Craigslist for commercial property and warehouses.

Starting out as an entrepreneur, your vision is narrow. Many decisions are based upon the limited scope of your expected growth. Collaborating early with regional economic development professionals can expand your potential.

Beyond seeking services to help you select location, financing, vendors and resources, economic development groups can help you to build your customer base, expand facilities, and widen your networks.

Once your business is established, you may consider volunteering to serve on the local EDC. I found being an investor, and later a board member, in the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation built my network and business while informing me on growth in the region.

As a strategy for generating and retaining members, the MCEDC created a Business Champions award program. Divided into levels by number of employees, county businesses are nominated and recognized for their creativity, tenacity, endurance and commitment to the community. Honors are bestowed at an annual dinner where over 500 people attend to hear the stories of their colleagues as well as a national keynote speaker.

Take the time to recognize the opportunity available to you and your business by connecting with your regional Economic Development organization. Here are a few around our area:

  • McHenry County Economic Development Corporation
  • Lake County Partners
  • Elgin Development Group
  • Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance
  • Cook County Economic Development
  • Rockford Area Economic Development Corporation
  • Growth Dimensions (Boone County)

Consider adding the Secret Sauce and Magic Grease to your business plan that is Economic Development. It may be just the ingredient you’ve been missing.

Marketing Strategies: Gratitude, A Truly Valued Holiday Gift

Now is an ideal time of year to show your clients and vendors how much you appreciate their contributions.

Sue Dobbe-Leahy The season for giving and gifting can add stress – especially when it’s one more responsibility at your business. This year you can reduce your stress and actually inspire others with the gift of gratitude.

Expressing gratitude allows both the giver and receiver to experience a terrific feeling. The cost is little and the memory of that feeling endures.

Physical gifts like baskets, flowers, candies and calendars are enjoyable to receive and useful throughout the year. Select gifts that reflect your business, mission or passion – or choose something that’s relevant to your audience.

Your corporate gift budget may be limited, yet the gift you give might last a lifetime if you express true gratitude.

Take a moment to share your appreciation for those whom you wish to gift. Clients, colleagues and vendors all impact your success. Write a note customized to their unique contribution.

“Thanks for referring ABS Industries to me. We are working on an exciting project because of your recommendation.”

“Our company experienced a record year, in part, because of the trust you showed in giving us your account. Thank you from all of our associates.”

When notes like these are attached to a tin of nuts, basket of goodies or bottle of sparkling cider, the note will be savored.

Studies by behavioral economist Dan Ariely reveal that money is not the only motivator. Most people thrive when they believe they are making progress and have a purpose. Ariely’s theory was proven when employees became more creative and productive after receiving positive feedback.

Work will still be work, yet with an infusion of gratitude, we are reminded how much we matter, how our effort counts and how our service is valued.

Think how appreciation affects you in your business and personal life. Imagine your experience when someone sends a gift with a letter that details why you are a valuable contributor to their success. Key words might include:

  • reliable
  • initiative
  • tenacity
  • creativity
  • good leader
  • idea generator
  • treasure

More important than the gift is the message that accompanies it: the sincere “Thank You.”

A customized note is the most effective method of connection. Handwritten notes are best, but typed documents, emails or text messages, if crafted carefully, can melt hearts and make a relationship that lasts.

Take time to prepare the note that expresses a specific reason for your appreciation. Consider saying something like:
…for ongoing support and trust.
…for joining our many satisfied clients.
…for giving us a chance to prove our expertise.
…for making the project run so smoothly.
…for saving time and money for our operation.
…for being a vital part of the team.

Tell someone why they are valuable to you and you will see them blossom with more-valuable behavior. Provide an infusion of gratitude in the business process and you will see more pride and ongoing enthusiasm.

And if your budget or schedule don’t allow for a gift-giving program this holiday season, don’t dismay. Gratitude gifts can be sent in January to start the New Year. February is a good time to share your love of your clients and colleagues. March is perfect for a pick-me-up gift of gratitude. April allows you to “spring” forward with a fresh perspective. May just may be the right time to give. June can burst out all over in positive energy. July is a hot time to let others know you value their effort. August is time for budgets and planning. September celebrates Labor Day – shouldn’t you? October is a good time to drop a positive note. November is Thanksgiving. December ends the year but begins the time for gratitude.

Whenever your gift-giving time suits you, include a precious note that expresses how much you treasure the recipient. You’ll be surprised at how much positive energy will come back to you.

Marketing Strategies: Make New Noise and Get a New Marketing Plan

Leaders in business are planning their marketing budgets for 2017. Can you hear the collective groan? Planning can be an exciting adventure if you incorporate a fresh perspective. But groans are in order if your plan is to mirror last year’s marketing to achieve a different result. Get a new plan and make some new noise that your audience will applaud!

Over the past couple of years, you probably added social media to your marketing mix, mostly because it’s inexpensive and everyone hopes that something will go viral.

Here are some common social media marketing efforts of mid-sized businesses:

  • Facebook posts by the summer intern
  • Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts with initial posts (again, done by the intern)
  • YouTube channel with just one video

These tactics are valuable to your marketing effort, but only if there’s an overall strategy behind these actions. When was the last time you evaluated your strategy and created a comprehensive marketing plan?

Still trying to recall? Then, it’s time to revisit your image and message.

Start at the bottom. The foundation of your marketing strategy – of your business image – is the overall brand. The past five years have brought a drastically changed marketplace and new methods of doing business. Has your business evolved?

Richardson Corn Maze, in Spring Grove, is billed as the World’s Largest Corn Maze and has become a global tourism destination. This farm is a multi-generational family business that was homesteaded in 1840 by Robert Richardson. In 2001, the family introduced the annual corn maze.

Each year, the maze concepts become more creative and complex. They’ve incorporated popular culture that appeals to a broad audience, with subjects like sports champions, comical themes and seasonal themes.

Beyond the corn maze, Richardson’s Adventure Farm has added amenities that allow the entire family to enjoy fun, campfires, music, s’mores, warm cider and a barn full of country fun. Last year, a 50-foot tall observation tower and a 50-foot slide were added.

The Richardson family polished their farm fields and uncovered a sparkling gem. What’s hidden in your business inventory? How can you evolve your products and services to appeal to more and different audiences? Don’t groan when marketing budgets are expected. Rather, take the time to investigate what you have, and do so with objectivity in mind.

Invest in a critical review of your business brand and current message. Consider an external consultant who can collect the proper data and assess the situation objectively.
Explore:

  • Who is your best client?
  • Who is a potential secondary client?
  • What is your geographic reach?
  • How is your marketing mix working?
  • How has your sales process evolved, or how should your process evolve?
  • Does your key message click with your clients?

The answers to these points can direct your strategy and planning. Identifying and attracting your best audience with a fresh perspective can rejuvenate your business. Taking what you’ve always done and reframing it into something new can be exciting and rewarding.

You may have a World’s Largest Corn Maze of your own. With a little creative investigation and strategic planning, an exciting new business opportunity can emerge for you.

How to Win Loyalty? Learn It and Earn It

How effective is your business at earning and maintaining customer loyalty? Susan Dobbe-Leahy, of Dobbe Marketing in Crystal Lake, explains why loyalty is essential, yet fragile.

What are you doing to build loyalty with your clients, customers and community?
Points, discounts, savings and perks will bring folks back to your business, but it’s personal relationships that form a true bond.

Your client remembers the free shipping on the last order, samples of new products and free insurance included with travel. These are components of the connection, but loyalty is based on delivering on expectations and forming trust.

Loyalty can be lost quickly with one bad experience – especially if the personal connection is not in place.

For example, Noodles & Company recently revealed it has survived a major data breach for Indiana and Illinois locations. As a credit card customer of the delicious noodle-rific franchise, I am going to carefully scan my past and future bills, but will that breach prevent me from visiting Noodles & Company? No. The friendliness and service are excellent. The food is a healthy choice that tastes like a guilty pleasure. I will be back, with cash, ready for my next purchase.

Like Target recently discovered, Noodles & Company will have to rebuild trust and loyalty, but it will recover. The company’s product and customer service are first-rate. Management and staff have excellent training. They are given information and instruction to handle inquiries about the breach from corporate – starting with apologies and concluding with solutions. Their customers know what happened and what to expect next.

Listening and responding to others, in the moment, builds a connection that endures problems and withstands overtures from competitors.

Ordering your lunch can be a joyful experience when the server makes you feel special. No points need to be collected or cards punched. Yet, if given, the perks are appreciated. Remember these basics of human interaction and note they cost nothing but a little time and effort:

  • Smiles are free, yet so valued
  • Eye contact is a sign of respect and caring
  • Cheerful inquiries make a connection
  • Helpful responses reflect an effort to please
  • Manage obstacles with grace and candor
  • Complete an exchange in a positive manner
  • Follow-up and follow-through demonstrate sincerity

Business-to-business, business-to-consumer and everyday connections are more productive when pleasantly presented.

Loyalty starts with you, whether you are CEO or bussing tables. It’s important for people to feel they are important to you and your business.

Set the example as a leader in your business, family or network. Demonstrate your ability to listen, learn and serve. Every positive encounter can lay a brick in the bridge of loyalty. When problems occur, there may be a pause, a time of concern. With continued attention to detail and personal connections, you can rebuild relationships.

Life is long, the world is small. Building bridges that link us for the long-term is smart business and smart marketing. Over time, you may attract new people to your business. New demographic groups may see a need for your product or service. Many times we see competitors evolve into business partners or collaborators. This can happen if your personal relationships are building bridges of communication instead of walls of isolation.

Loyalty starts with understanding what members of your target group want and need, then giving them what they expect and sometimes a bit more.

Are you learning the loyalty needs of your clients, colleagues and community? This is an ongoing process. Then, you must continuously evolve to earn it.