OK, maybe some things from the ’70s are worth remembering

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If you’re old enough to have been thinking that today’s economy seems a lot like déjà vu all over again, you’re not alone – but you’re also probably at least 40-something or better.

Drew Gerber, CEO of Blue Kangeroo and creator of PitchRate.com, says that those of us struggling through today’s economic turmoil can learn a lot from what Burger King did during 1973.

For those young ‘uns out there who might not have caught on yet (or us older folks who long ago decided to permanently erase everything and anything 1970s-related from our memory banks), the advertising campaign was: “Have it your way!”

“Burger King knew that in a tough economy, frustrations were high and if you could give your customer just what they wanted – instead of what you wanted them to have – they’d keep coming back for more,” Gerber said. “With all the choices available today, this personal touch is even more important now than ever.”

If your business model was developed during a “high” or “boom,” he said, you might need to rethink your strategy.

“Think about your buyer and their needs,” Gerber said. “How can you better cater to them and how they use your services? The question you should be asking yourself is: How can I do a better job of letting my customers have it their way? Answer correctly, and everyone wins.”

(Except for folks like me who can’t seem to get that crazy “hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us” jingle out of our heads.)

So, here are eight tips that Gerber says businesses can employ to let customers “have it their way.”

1. Reconnect with old friends and clients: Find out how you can make a difference to what they are up to. Some great ideas can come from listening to what sorts of problems people already in your network are facing. Offering solutions is the shortest road to success.

2. Have it your way and hit the highway: With airline prices the lowest they’ve been in years, it is cheaper than ever to have a face to face – which can make all the difference in this impersonal Internet world.

3. Ask not what your customers can do for you, ask what you can do for your customers: Never underestimate the power of directly asking “How are we doing? What are some areas you see where we can improve?” You might be surprised at the answers.

4. Be creative: Let your personality shine through. If you can find solutions and ideas that are fun and interesting to you, your customers will see it, too.

5. Go above and beyond the call of duty: It is those little extras that don’t cost you much, but have the potential to make all difference. Take a few extra minutes to shine.

6. Surprise: Take a chance and don’t be afraid to follow your instincts down the road less traveled.

7. Shut up and listen: Listen to all of it – the good, the bad and the ugly. Often times your customers have insights and answers they aren’t aware of. Being a good listener helps you ask the right questions and get to the heart of the matter.

8. Acknowledgment: Make sure your customers know that you’re not only listening, but that you’re hearing them. Point out solutions or successes that have come directly from customer feedback and interactions.

And if doing all of the above leaves you just a bit ravenous, remember that you can still get whatever you want, or don’t want, on your Whopper.

Pressed to save

And in another sign of the times that everything once old is new again, it appears that Americans are re-discovering ironing as a way to cut household expenses.

The National Dry-cleaning Association reports a 20 percent decline in business since last September.

But if you weren’t fortunate enough to have two wonderful older sisters to teach you how to get that crisp dry-cleaned look at home like I was, here are a few tips from Betty Byrne, senior home economist and director of garment care at Proctor Silex.

Before you iron. If possible, take clothes out of the dryer slightly damp. Ironing this way is easier on the wrist and provides crisper results.

Collar. Start out with the underside of the collar, gently pulling and stretching the fabric, working from each point to the center.

Yoke. (The area of the shirt that rests on your shoulders.) Place one shoulder over the narrow end of the board, ironing from the center out. Repeat on the other shoulder.

Cuffs. Iron the inside of the cuffs first then the outside.

Sleeves. Iron one sleeve at a time, ironing the outside, or the cuff-opening side, of the sleeves first, and then the inside. Repeat on the other side.

Body. Begin by ironing the front panels; be careful and iron around the buttons, not over them. Complete by ironing the back panel. Give the collar another once over, check for any creases and wrinkles you may have missed.

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Mike.Boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.