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Monday, December 31, 2018

Making Customer Service Effective In The Digital Age

What is Customer Service?

Customer service is an elaborate and interactive process of understanding a customer and fulfilment of his needs as per the company's resources, capacity and capability for the product sold or service delivered. In this context, the customer's expectation starts from the time he has purchased the product or subscribed or hired the services. Therefore, customer service is an end-to-end process which begins from the time of sale till the end of life cycle of a product or the service or its usability to the customer. Thus, this concept originates with the customer and ends with the customer.

Synonyms of customer service: customer support, helpdesk, service centre, customer care, troubleshooting team, client service, after sales service, customer helpline.

Customer service is a part and parcel of every organization. For any company to sustain and grow, their focus and efforts have to be channelized towards creation of good customer service team.

Good customer service should aim towards enabling the following:

- Long-time Customer retention

- Loyalty towards Company's products and services

- This in turn should build a customer's trust toward the brand

- Enhancing product effectiveness and its value among the competitors

- Translating to higher sales thereby impacting overall revenues positively (due to same customer buying products or services repeatedly or recommending them to his family and friends)

- Resulting in Company saving its cost of customer acquisition on account of customer churn (which is almost 5 times more expensive)

- Strengthening a positive word of mouth and increasing Company's goodwill and equity

- Leading to less expenditure on advertising, promotion and marketing activities

So, all these efforts will ultimately lead to company's prosperity and increased market share which is beneficial for its employees and vendors and its longevity.

Nevertheless, an unhappy customer is an opportunity and the company should never lose out on insightful experience through the customer's feedback to analyse the root cause of the problem that led to poor customer experience. Further, the company should invest time in reviewing their current working mechanism, getting into process reorientation, improving their product or service, it's features or offers, grooming and training the staff or bridging any gaps that exist as per the customer inputs.

Customer Service Representative, his qualities and the different channels:

Customer service representatives (cse) are the actual brand ambassador for any company since a customer interacts with them on phone, through on-line chat, on company's website or portal, on e-mail, social media and on-line forums, face to face interaction at service center.

A CSE should therefore:

- Speak to the customer politely

- Listen to him

- Give him respect

- Understand his need or concern

- Empathise

- Finally, most importantly, provide solution or an alternative as per his problem or requirement.

Being polite and humble without resolving customer's query won't help. Similarly, giving solution but in a rude tone will also back fire. It's a viscous circle of expectations. Customer wants everything - politeness, empathy and solution. And he is right as he has paid for the product or the service.

Customer is always right and is the king.

A Company has to:

- Keep their CSE motivated.

- They should be trained well in product and soft skills

- They should be able to communicate well with the customer

- Have patience, take ownership and work towards providing resolution to the customer.

Every organization contributes in some way or the other by working for its customers - it could be a B to B (Business) model or a B to C (Customer) model. In the long run, to accomplish its goals, every organization should align customer centricity to its vision and organizational strategy. This is an aspect no Company can afford to miss even a PSU or a Government organization.

Guide to great customer service is extremely simple:

- Remember, it is important to build a good rapport or connect with the customer

- Have qualitative interactions with him

- An intent to solve his problem no matter what.

- Smile while talking to the customer.

- Acknowledge the fact that most of the customers prefer human interaction more than communicating with machines. So, treat the customer the way you would like a service provider to treat you.

Different industries could have different levels of customer engagement as per their business and could have different ways to assess or measure their customer satisfaction.

Customer needs could be different for retail industry with regards to telecom, utilities, logistics, financial, outsourcing, government, healthcare, media, manufacturing, IT, real estate, service industry and so on.

Background of Customer Service: The concept of customer service is as old as early 1800s and it all started with the industrial revolution where products were designed and manufactured as per customer's needs. However, since then, as we have noticed, customer's behaviour has been dynamic, unpredictable and influenced by numerous factors, that's why it is never consistent and is changing even faster than a stock market. Dealing with customers is challenging most of the time as it is like solving a jig saw puzzle every time.

Problems faced in Customer Service due to:

1. Limited authority with each service channel

2. Communication barrier between the customer and the CSE

3. Resolution being awaited from the concerned person/ team

4. Every customer's problem is unique and expectations could vary to a different degree

5. Less staff available to cater to customers (due to leave, absenteeism, attrition) leading to high pressure

6. Technical or unknown issue (with no timelines or alternative available)

7. Company policy that acts as a hindrance sometimes

8. Lack of knowledge or skill

9. Customer reluctance to accept a resolution

10. Competition leading to higher expectations

How do we gauge effectiveness of customer service?

1. On-line surveys (as part of CSAT tool) as a part of buying a product (mostly asking to rate customer's experience on E-commerce websites). CSAT is Customer Satisfaction.

2. Surveys at IVR (Interactive Voice Response) as part of CSAT tool

3. Mystery Shopping by posing as a customer

4. Live and remote monitoring of customer interactions (random sampling) and evaluating the quality of each interaction

5. Feedback calls, SMS, e-mails or IVR calls made to the customers to confirm if their query / concern was resolved or not

6. Analysing and taking action basis customer feedback on Website, Social media, Customer Portal

7. Assessing customer's behaviour towards the brand, its products and services by applying Business Intelligence, Data analytics, Search Engine Optimization and other techniques.
What is CSAT?

Customer Satisfaction Survey is a powerful tool shared by the Service provider with the customer after he has had an interaction with the Customer service representative to rate his experience along with rating on service related parameters including resolution of his problem. This tool is a Voice of Customer that provides an insight on customer's experience, whether it was as per his expectations and anything that was lacking or could have been done better. For most of the companies, CSAT is linked to the performance ratings of the employees and it impacts their annual bonus and increments. Why not CSAT rating impact everyone in the organization as every employee is expected to do his bit that contributes or adds value to customer's experience? Thought to ponder.

With digitization, things have completely changed and the transition phase has emerged. Thanks to the changing technology and other strong factors:

1. Customers have become very demanding and so have their expectations increased with ease of technology. They want to control everything through the click of an app. They don't want to waste their valuable time visiting a Store or a Service Center waiting for their turn unless it is unavoidable. They don't want to call up the Call Center, wait in the queue and then talk to people who behave like robots reading a script and not as human interface.

2. There is whole lot of competition, which has given world numerous options available online as well as offline and that too cost effective ones. While there is a Big Basket for every Grofer. There is OYO rooms for every Make My Trip and Yatra. There is Amazon for every Flipkart and Snapdeal. There is Ola for every Uber. There is Zomato for every Swiggy and Food Panda and the race is endless. There is a Big Bazaar for every Reliance Fresh. There is a Chroma for every Reliance Digital, and there is a Jio for every Vodafone, Idea and Airtel.

3. With VCs and new investors coming from rest of the world, the business landscape has evolved and grown multiple folds adding to everyone's benefit including income.

4. Next is obviously, people's incomes (including disposal incomes) have increased along with the lifestyle. Luxuries have becomes necessities in today's universe.

5. Government policies inviting foreign funds, FDIs, have been favourable for creating a business friendly and investor friendly climate.

6. Start-up Culture, Tech Parks have been a big hit.

7. Mergers and acquisitions have become a norm of the day.

Thus, technology has bombarded our day-to-day life. Daily Routine has been adapted as per the smart phone and what what's app demands. Social media has transformed our life completely. Posts on FB, Twitter, and Instagram are dearer than real life friends.

So, if the personal and professional life has transitioned at such a rapid pace in the new millennium and in the last 10 years to be precise, the customer is justified in demanding excellent customer service with better reachability rates.

Sad but true, we are still missing out on several basic and important things that a customer in digital era will need even though he might be the most tech savvy person on this earth.

1. Most of the product Companies and Service providers are lacking in providing personalized services to every customer customized especially keeping his needs in mind. This is a challenge with hundreds of downloads happening every day for most of the Companies.

2. Deciding on the most suitable and preferred blend of touch points or channels of communications available to a customer 24 by 7. A company just cannot rely on FAQs provided on its app for all its customers. Or running analytics engine might not be sufficient for analysing his behaviour. A mere e-mail survey might not gather complete feedback about customer experience. All channels are equally important at different times and for different reasons and for different customers. A farmer using services might still prefer to visit a Service Centre personally while a person whose internet pack is over might just call up the Call Centre.

3. Even Robotics, Machine learning, Artificial intelligence and Chatbot has limitations and cannot answer everything or replace human interactions. Let's keep that factor in mind. However, in most of the Call Centers, CSEs have a very limited role acting like robots following a script blindly.

4. A help menu inbuilt in an app is a basic necessity but is the organization smart and prompt enough to swiftly engage with the customer on any dissatisfaction or mishappening reported in the app?

5. Is every CSAT survey being looked carefully to arrive at some conclusion? Who takes the ownership and why?

6. Are service commitments still being offered? How often does the Company engage with its customers and to what extent?

7. How about customer education not only about new offers and schemes but also guiding a customer what plan should be appropriate as per his last one year's expenses or usage?

8. Time to stop and think. With Big Data analytics, internet of things, is the company's quality of interactions getting improved or deteriorated? How does the customer satisfaction graph look like? How about the turnaround time for resolving a ticket on their Portal or app?

9. How about collaboration with the customer in making their app more useful and customer friendly? Inviting customer's feedback and suggestions from improvement and not just triggering a request to the customer to follow on FB, Twitter? Ensuring speed, agility, updation of question bank, posting customer ratings + reviews, checking app and portal's feedback and suggestions on regular basis?

10. How about ensuring adherence to code of conduct and ethical dealing with critical pointers being followed as a mandate: no data leakage, privacy breach, sharing of data with the third party?

11. Keeping the Customer Service employees motivated as happy employees will keep customers happy.

12. Challenge of retaining the customer and building loyalty. With a better offer, each day customer switches to a different Service provider.

Examples where services could improve (though their app is user friendly but few requests where customers cannot rely on app alone)

1. Paytm: For completing KYC (Know Your Customer) process, customer has to visit either the nearest store or paytm person visits the customer for fulfilling the process requirements. These guys seems untrained, lacks helpful attitude and professionalism. Company here lacks setting expectations and training its customer service staff.

2. Ola/ Uber: Their app and Call Center is extremely good. However, since they rely on a third party, sometimes, the cab is not clean, the driver talks rudely or does not follow route shown in maps or comes late for pick -up. In such cases, Cab Companies should have extremely stringent audits and regular checks to catch hold of defaulters.

3. Amazon/ Flipkart: They rely on third party courriers for more than 40% of their consignments and these courier persons give false commitments which leads to delays often. And no one takes ownership of such delays or miss outs.

No matter what the channel of communication is, what customer want?

A. Provide Mobile Access That Simplifies Their Tasks. Customers want and need information.

B. Take Responsibility For Your Business And Its Actions. Your employee made a mistake.

C. Communicate A Solution.

D. Provide The Best Service.

In short, give Them What They Really Want That No One Else Offers

By Gaurav Dua

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sound Advice To Enhance Customer Experience

Have you ever walked into a store and the music blaring through the speakers was so bad you turned around and walked out?

Twice, in recent months, I had my blood pressure taken at a lab inside my doctor's office. I mentioned that the numbers were probably high due to the annoying hard rock music blaring from the tinny-sounding radio. She laughed and said she doesn't even hear it anymore. I mentioned spa-like music might make patients relax, especially the elderly patients waiting in the next room. The next time I went in, the same horrible sounds were coming from the same horrible radio.

For many people, noise is nuisance. It can be a significant source of productivity loss at work - or, if you get it right, you can increase sales by up to 39%. Play music that creates the appropriate ambiance for your customers.

At a local Thai restaurant recently, I noticed a news program was airing through the overhead speakers. The restaurant was playing a local radio station so diners' conversations had to compete with loud commercials. I suggested to the owner that she play traditional Thai music to match the beautiful ambience they had created with the d�cor... she was astounded that anyone would want to listen to it but was genuinely happy with the recommendation.

If you operate a spa with quick services so customers can get a fast manicure or pedicure and be back to work on their lunch hour, you want to have faster, and perhaps louder, music. If it's a relaxing space to unwind, you want ambient sounds to soothe the soul. Think of the tranquil sounds playing in the background as you ignore the daily stresses during a massage.

In-store music can even affect product choice. According to Jordan Stevens, a study conducted in a liquor store, two identical displays of wine were set up. One display carried French wine and another carried German wine. Each display was designed to be identical in every way except for the region the wine was from. The results of the study found that when French music was played, the French wine would outsell the German wine by 77%. When the music was switched to German music, the German wine would outsell the French wine by 73%.

Remember, music needs to fit the brand you want present - and that may not be the type of music you prefer.


Susan Regier, owner of Vantage One Writing, is an in-demand copywriter, marketing strategist, and business breakthrough specialist to serious entrepreneurs who want to have a profitable business they are passionate about. She has the uncanny ability to find the hidden gems in a business that can ignite sales and profits for her clients. Claim your free guide: 15 Tips to Increase Your Influence, Attract More Clients & Make More Money at http://www.SusanRegier.com.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

How To See Customer Objections As An Opportunity

It happens.

You're not going to make 100 percent of the people happy 100 percent of the time.

In my business, when we're faced with a challenging customer, we call it an "opportunity." That's literal by the way.

I've been in business for decades and in sales since I was a kid, and one of the key things that all good salespeople learn is that you want to know principal objections because as you address the complaints, it gets you closer to a yes. But, sometimes you also have to address the issues from a customer that is not satisfied with your company. Again, this is an opportunity.

Customers Want to be Heard

The most critical piece of advice I'm going to share with you in this post is to listen. Listen, listen, listen. I get it. No one wants to be on the other end of a customer complaint and often what happens is that the person hearing the criticism will feel that they have to respond. Perhaps they feel personally attacked because of inexperience, but sometimes that does happen. Maybe they think they have to defend the company because the customer, in their view, is wrong or incorrect with the supposed facts. Or maybe, they want to try to fix the situation quickly and they begin to speak.

Don't speak.

The hardest thing you can do, but the most important, is to train yourself and your team when they are hearing customer complaints to remain quiet. Allow the customer to have the space to express themselves. And, when the inevitable moment of silence arrives, hold back and don't jump right in with a reply. Sometimes a pause in the conversation is because the customer is thinking. You have to give them the space to express themselves, and depending on how upset the customer is, you might have to listen for more than just a minute or two. Wait.

If you train yourself and your team to listen and pause, you'll know when the customer has spoken everything they have to say about the issue. And more often than not, particularly if they are one of those people that gets easily upset, they will have expended the pent-up energy and feel more relaxed. You have to let them get the emotion out before you can begin to address the issue.

The other very important thing that happens when you provide a customer who is not satisfied with your company's service or product is that they will have a sense of appreciation for you because you did what so few people in other companies do--you listened and allowed them the space to express themselves.

How to Engage to Uncover the Facts

Once the customer has fully expressed themselves, you can begin to ask them questions. I tell my team always to ask open-ended questions. You're not looking to prove or disprove anything at this point. All you're doing is listening to uncover the facts, based on how your customer views it--not your team. Remember, people may see the same situation differently, and so it's important to understand how an irate customer views the circumstances of the situation that upset them.

When you're engaging with them at this stage, especially if this is the first time you're learning about this complaint, you should aim to obtain the facts, as they see it. You want to probe and carefully unpack what their experience is with your product or service, and you also want to understand how your team handled it because it can be a teaching opportunity.

Get the Facts and Return

More than likely, you will have to do your internal investigation and then get back to the customer. Generally speaking, your research should happen within the day. If your fact-finding is going to take longer, then make it a point to tell the customer that you will get back to them in (give them an exact number of days). If you don't have a reply to them by then because you're still in the midst of fact-finding, then make it a point to send them an email and apprised.

People want to know that you (or a manager) is dealing with whatever their issue is and they will generally give you the space to understand what occurred. However, to make sure that you keep the customer on your side as you help them with the issue, make it a point to keep them updated. It's one of the best things you can do aside from listening.

A Question for the Resolution

And finally, once you've got all of your facts and as you seek to resolve the matter satisfactorily (even if it costs you a little), ask the customer how they would like to see you address the situation. People like being engaged in the solution and more than likely, a customer will have in their mind what they would like the outcome to be for the matter. If you can satisfy them, you will see that your irate customer will become a happy customer because you handled their challenge to their satisfaction.

If their suggested solution is not something you can do, then consider if there is any way to compromise. Make it a point explain why you can't meet the full extent of how they would like you to address the matter, but strike a compromise if at all possible. In other words, allow them to become your partner in finding a mutually beneficial solution. And, when you and your team approach customer complaints in this manner, you'll discover how a stressful situation can become an opportunity.

By Wayne Elsey

Author of "Not Your Father's Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact" (Free Digital Download available at http://notyourfatherscharity.com/free-resources/ )
� 2018 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father's Charity. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 14, 2018

10 Best Customer Service Companies You Should Learn From

Ask any 'Pretty Woman' fan and they'll gleefully recount that unforgettable scene when Julia Roberts hits Rodeo Drive for a shopping spree. Remember the revenge-bliss scene in the 1990s romantic fantasy?

So it happens that Vivian visits a fancy boutique to buy herself a nice dress where she is spurned by the snooty salespeople. Later, she buys a slew of obscenely expensive outfits and then returns - dressed to the nines and carrying handfuls of shopping bags - to the one boutique that had shunned her.

"You work on commission, right?" she asks a la-di-da saleswoman.

"Uh, yes."

"Big mistake. Big. HUGE!"

"I have to go shopping now," she says, turning on her heels to leave (as we give a collective contented sigh at the appalled look at the salesperson's face. She had it coming!).

Moral of the story? It doesn't matter how deep your customer's pockets are, it only matters how well you treat them. Imagine how different the movie would be if it was made now. What are the chances of Vivian tweeting out her anger and hurt, her tweets going viral with tons of people chipping in their own frustration, the movement gaining momentum and leading the store to a digital suicide?

In a service business, nothing is more important than having people on your team who'll do more than represent your current culture-you must have people who push the culture you have forward, not the other way around.

More often in customer experience, you could get away with doing the bare minimum. That is mostly enough. But enough is far from memorable. It is when you go out of your way that you make people's day!

We've cherry-picked 10 brands that have an unbeatable track when it comes to cultivating their customers' happiness.

Zappos

Did you know that up to 42% of consumers expect a response with 60 minutes? Apparently, a prompt response is the norm, not exception anymore.

If there is a gold standard in customer service, it has got to be Zappos. Their support success stories are the stuff of urban legends. One such instance, they won a customer for life by overnighting a pair of shoes, free of cost, to a best man in need.

On social media, Zappos doesn't hold back from having a little fun with emojis and GIFs, but they always adhere to their golden rule of putting their customers first. And it pays off, each time!

Delta Hotels

Mike McCready, your average Jo, was attending the #PSEWEB conference in Vancouver, when he stayed at Delta hotel. While he liked his room at the Delta, the view was rather ugly and he tweeted that with his followers. He didn't tag the hotel, merely commenting on it, as he didn't think anything would come out of the tweet.

He was in for a pleasant surprise when Delta responded within an hour- offering another room with a better view! And he had a dish of sweets and a handwritten card from the staff awaiting his arrival in his room. Mike was so profoundly impressed that he wrote an entire post about it, the very same day.

Amazon

If happy customers are what you have in mind, then an exuberant customer service team is what you should already have. Let your customer service team have fun. Amazon has an exciting story to tell of what can happen when companies give their teams more freedom in their client communications.

One such instance, when a witty customer service person engaged in a Thor and Odin roleplay with an equally witty customer, to the delight of everyone. ( https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/1133174/now-thats-customer-service-amazon-worker-engages-in-hilarious-thor-roleplay-to-help-replace-customers-lost-book/ This Thor and Odin exchange was legendary. The hilarious communication between an Amazon employee and a customer couldn't go better even if it was scripted!

Now, can you imagine how dry things would have been if the Customer Service was asked to reply only with strictly professional (read stuffy), straightforward answers? More people than you'd think would appreciate humor. Just don't crack jokes at the expense of a pissed off customer.

WestJet

There is nothing more cheerier than surprise gifts (as Westjet proved)! In December 2013, the Canadian airline staged what would become the most stunning example of 'giftvertising' yet.

When Santa Claus greeted each of the passengers boarding the two Westjet flights with "What would you like for Christmas?", they thought it was a just an interesting Xmas celebration. From a warm scarf and clean underwear to holiday tickets and a big tv, their answers ranged from whatever first came to their mind.

In the following year, the number of visits to their websites doubled, with bookings increasing by 77% compared to the same month in 2012 and revenue rising by a whopping 86%!

Slack

Putting out figurative fires is what a customer service company does all day. But doing it gracefully is indeed an art! Sometimes it's when things aren't going perfectly that a company's true colors come out.

As is the case of Slack when they dealt with their app-wide outage like a pro in late November, 2015. For a new company on the block, they have more than their share of passionate customers for whom Slack has become an indispensable part of many teams' work day! That's why when Slack went down ten months ago, users blew up Twitter.

They responded to every complaint on social with speed and humility, and diligently shared regular updates until the issue was resolved, and the app was up and running again!

Salesforce

Transparency can leave a huge impact on the ones who are on the receiving end of it. Salesforce has an excellent customer service, that plays a vital role in making it the customer's favorite.
As they put it, "Success is built on trust.

Trust starts with transparency."

Salesforce is so utterly customer focused and upholds transparency so much so that the company publicly disclose in real time when its cloud services are unavailable or face some reliance issues. Now that takes some nerve!

Apple

The one brand that has inspired the type of customer loyalty which sometimes borders on the maniacal, Apple earned its loyalty through their exemplary customer experience.

"You've got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology."

Steve Jobs - Co-founder of Apple

While the Apple products are the very definition of innovation and ease, the real soul of the company is its employees. Apple mitigates the need for reactive customer service with a focus on building intuitive products and providing quality training for users.

Apple staff are highly knowledgeable and committed to passing on that knowledge in an empathetic way. They demonstrate enthusiastic, empathetic, and knowledgeable customer service. The sheer quality of training the staff undergoes make the entire customer experience seamless, and most of all, effortless.

Nordstrom

At a Nordstrom store, a woman lost her diamond from her wedding ring while trying on clothes. She was crawling on the floor under the racks when a store worker noticed her. He asked what was going on, then joined the search.

When they came up empty, he sought two building-services workers to join the search. To everyone's relief, the finally found the shiny diamond on one of the bags of the store's vacuum cleaners.

The video clips that captured this incident was shared proudly with the stakeholders in a meeting when the President of Stores Erik Nordstrom said, introducing his three employees who went out of their way to help the customer. "I've never been through a vacuum-cleaner bag. It's kind of disgusting, this raises the bar," he said!

Southwest Air

Southwest is not among the most well-known airlines in the U.S. for nothing. They have the most amazing personality as is evident from what they have to say about themselves on their website.

"We like to think of ourselves as a Customer Service company that happens to fly airplanes (on schedule, with personality and perks along the way)."

One of their memorable support stories is as follows: when a woman athlete landed at the airport but her running gear didn't show up, she was understandably distressed about the relay race that was soon to happen. She resolved to go to Walmart to buy herself a replacement before a Southwest team member drove 3 hours to deliver the bag to her so that she could continue with her team and go on with the race.

As is evident here, their dedication to customer service is simply a class apart!

JetBlue

Who, but JetBlue has an exclusive Customer Bill of Rights?

"JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel. We strive to make every part of your experience as simple and as pleasant as possible." They ensure that their service is thoroughly human, especially on social, responding within minutes, guiding customers throughout, and responding with emojis and GIFs to any questions customers might have.

They have no qualms whatsoever when it comes to delivering personal service. One time, when the customer's flight was delayed and it seemed like she was going to miss her second flight too, the manager booked her another flight home that took off from another airport and made the effort to drive her to another airport so she would make her flight on time.

It only takes a handful of disastrous customer experiences to shatter the credibility that took your brand decades to built. It pays to be long-term greedy and leave no stones unturned to ensure a supreme customer service.

Want to find your company on this list? There are no shortcuts save putting your customers in the center of everything you do. You need to know what they desire to offer them exactly that. And how do you do that?

By asking them, of course. Customer feedback surveys and market research surveys will give you precious insights on what your customers are expecting of you. Craft highly engaging that your customers would enjoy filling up.

SurveySparrow ( https://surveysparrow.com/ ) lets you do exactly that. Our all-new conversational surveys will give you up to 40% higher survey response rates. While we are at it, we also have an extensive collection of templates to make the job easier for you. Sign up for your free 14 day trial now!



Monday, December 10, 2018

7 Tech Trends To Add To Your Small Business Startup To Attract An Angel Investor

Angel investment is on the rise,and your small business startup needs to capitalize on all the opportunities at hand. Venture capitalists are on the hunt for business startups to invest in that are currently at the cutting edge of technology and taking risks with these advancements trends. You find that investors are eager to sink their investment dollars in these technologies so that they can reap the future returns. While the payoff might be big for an angel investor, these tech trends will also help your business startup to attract those funding dollars.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is not new to the scene, but for 2018, it is making a significant headway. By allowing companies to do more with less, AI will turn out to be a fundamental change in the way a company does business today and tomorrow. Startups that integrate AI into the fold will experience a shift in how they are able to perform routine tasks, freeing them up to focus on their customers. Angel investors see this as a win-win as they are able to invest in an advancing technology as well as a startup that is leading the way with its use. Your business startup will do well by having AI as a part of your repertoire and see more funding interest come your way in 2018.

Social Media

The uses of social media to enhance your consumer game is a boon for investors looking to find business startups that are succeeding in their customer engagement. While social media isn't a newcomer technology, those that have a strong endgame will win big in terms of revenue sales. Social media is proving to be the technology platform that links us all together and gives business startups the recognition they need early on. Venture capitalists are enamored with its use by business startup as they see the power it offers and the benefits a business startup can take advantage of. Using social media to boost your business in 2018 will be key to gaining funding from an investor as they recognize the strengths it offers to your consumers.

Blockchain

Blockchain is another technology on the fringe waiting to bust on to the scene in a fury in 2018. It's ability to provide a real-time ledger of transactions can give your business startup the transparency it needs to garner the nod of a venture capitalist waiting in the wings. Your business startup will benefit from Blockchain's ability provide stable and error-free operations while angel investors gain by investing in a technology that has proven its worth. You'll see funding offers from a series of investors if your business startup utilizes Blockchain to its full advantage within your organization.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is advancing at a steady clip for the New Year, and you'll see IoT virtually everywhere you look. With consumers becoming more connected than ever, IoT offers an opportunity for new products and services that enhance IoT's capabilities in the home, business, and community. Angel investors are savvy to the draw of IoT and how it is changing the way consumers interact and live their lives. They want to get in with business startups that are using this technology to move their business forward, engage with consumers, and improve their business operations. Count on IoT as a way to entice venture capitalists and secure funding in 2018.

Big Data

Data is everywhere these days, and it will only get bigger this coming year. Business startups such as yours will be able to use big data to understand every aspect, detail, and nuance of your customers, so you can create products and services they desire. With big data changing the way that business startups engage with their clients and provide unique customer experiences, it means plenty of evolution is on the horizon. Angel investors are keen on the possibilities all this available data can provide and know that companies that take advantage of the information can lead their industry in leaps and bounds. Use big data to enhance your business startup operations and stay tuned for venture capitalists to come calling with much interest and fanfare about your company this year.

Cyber-Security

While 2017 was a year that many will remember for its security breaches, this year provides a turn of events as business startup integrate or offer cybersecurity services to better protect their customer data. This cybersecurity will change how companies in all sectors operate and provide the level of security that is needed to protect that confidential information from getting into the wrong hands. Business startups that use cyber-security to protect their company or create products and services for others that help them secure their information will do well in the following year. Angel investors will show interest in these endeavors as the need for secure data protocol is growing without hesitation.

Virtual Reality

Also, on the fringe in 2018 is VR. This technology gives you the ability to engage with your customers in a new and exciting way. Through a more desirable customer experience, VR can help your business to increase its customer numbers as well as its revenue as VR improves workflow and access to customers all over your niche. Angel investors want in on AR as an investment opportunity, and your business startup will attract their attention now and into future with this technology at your helm.

Integrating any of these technologies in your business startup shows a strong sense of understanding and initiative to increase your customer base and profits this year and the coming year. Angel investors want to be able to get their hands wet with these new technologies so that they can be where the growth is with these trends. Think about how these technologies can help your business startup succeed in 2018 and secure the funding you need to get off the ground. You'll be surprised at how much attention you receive by taking the first step with any of these technology trends and reap the rewards of investment into your company by an investor.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at http://www.Funded.com

By Pierre Jean-Claude

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Challenges You Must Overcome To Turn Your Small Business Into A Big Business

You might have a small business today, but you don't want that label for the life of your business. When entrepreneurs make endeavors, they are looking to create a business that will rule the world one day. However, every business has to face some struggles in the beginning that it must overcome to become a big business. The way you handle these challenges decides the fate of your small business. Today, you will read about these challenges and the solutions to them, so if you are a small business, you can set the foundation for its success.

Knowing the Target Market

One of the biggest issues with most small businesses is that they don't know their exact target market. Sometimes, they don't know how to narrow down to the target market. This is a huge issue because you could have a perfect product, but you might pitch it to the people who don't need it. Keep in mind that people who don't need your product won't buy it even if you try to give it to them for free. On the other hand, people who need your product will be willing to buy it even if it is priced high. For your business to survive, it needs to start selling as quickly as possible, and that's why it is important to find your target market before launching your product.

Solution

The first step of identifying your target market is to know your product well enough. You have to ask yourself some important questions about the product and write the answers down. For example, you have to ask yourself "what existing problem does my product solve?" You also have to know if there are any other solutions available in the market for the same problem. If yes then you have to see how your product is better than them or how you can make it better. Conduct surveys on the street and social media to know the personas of the best buyers of your product.

The Right Type of Marketing

Businesses, small and big, have huge parts of their budgets allocated only for marketing purposes. However, the modern technological advancements have proven that a big marketing budget does not translate to successful marketing. So, you might have done a great job in identifying your target market, but if you approach them in the wrong way or through the wrong channel, you will not be able to reap any benefits from even the most potential market for your product or service.

Solution

Identifying your target market should help you identify your marketing methods and channels too. For example, if your product is for people aged over 50, you would not want to make Instagram the prioritized marketing channel because only 18% of the users on Instagram are aged above 50. Similarly, any product that targets executives, marketing officers and professional people should be promoted on LinkedIn before any other platform. After knowing the buyer personas, you should also select the type of marketing that best suits your potential audience. If you are creating a hip-hop music video for marketing to retired individuals or an opera video for 18-year olds, you are doing it wrong. Use website analytical tools to know what appeals or does not appeal to your website, visitors. Base your digital marketing campaigns on data-this is the era of data-driven marketing.

The Funding Problem

If there were no funding problem, every person who thinks of a unique idea would have a business. In the real world, funding is always a problem, and it is exactly the point where the journey ends for many aspiring people in business. However, it is not always the lack of funds that kill many small businesses before they even start. In fact, the important part is how much dedication you show in arranging those funds. Sometimes, people have the options available, but they do not knock on all the doors.

Solution 

First, you have to know all the options you have available for arranging the funds. If you are not okay with arranging funds through the bank or in the form of a loan, take a look around at your family and relatives. You will be surprised to know how many of the people in your circle will be ready not only to give you the investment you need but become a part of the endeavor. The crowdfunding options are also there. You don't even have to go to the investors personally today as you can visit a platform like funded.com and arrange funds online.

The Right Leadership

You can't make a business successful unless you have the right leader in place. It is not completely untrue that the attitude of the leader sets the attitude of the rest of the employees at a company. If you lack confidence in your leadership, you will end up hiring people who lack confidence in themselves. One of the biggest problems with most small business owners is that they can't convince themselves to delegate responsibilities. They believe in their skill so much that their mind never accepts that someone else can handle the responsibilities too. They end up taking the responsibility of everything on their shoulders and mismanaging things at the end of the day.

Solution

The first thing that needs to be fixed here is how you think. If you find it hard to delegate responsibilities, get rid of this habit as soon as possible. You can't handle everything as the business grows and so you have to create a team right from day one. Do not hire people just because they can do the job-hire people who share the same vision as you. Do not settle for good employees because finding the best ones is taking time. Do not try to take matters into your hands all the times. Listen to everyone that's part of the team and the decision making process. Have a great relationship with your employees.

Setting the Price

One of the most difficult decisions for a small business owner is to set the price of its service or product. When you are a small business, you can't afford to have a full-fledged marketing department. Of course, when you have a marketing department, they can set the price of your products, but when there is no marketing department, you are the one to take this decision. Price your solutions too low, and you might not make any profit at all. Price your solution too high, and customers might never buy your product.

Solution

It will be tremendously helpful in this scenario to take a look at your competitors and how they have priced their products. Secondly, you have to know a simple rule to set the prices of your products and services. You first set the price to cover your costs. Once you have started covering your costs, you set the price to cover the costs and make a profit. Once you have done that successfully, you start adding your "value" to the price. You should also know the buying power of your target market so you can keep the price within their comfort zone.

These points cover pretty much every big challenge that a small business comes across. Keep in mind that some of the challenges might be exclusive to your business and industry too, but if you can overcome these common challenges, you can cover the industry-specific difficulties as well.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at http://www.Funded.com

By Pierre Jean-Claude

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

4 Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail To Grow

Running a small business requires superior problem- solving and an ability to look at the bigger picture. Aside from ensuring that your business turns a profit on a regular basis, you also need to be concerned with your own financial health over the long-term. That includes having a strategy in place for building wealth, so you can enjoy a comfortable retirement once the time comes to hand over the reins of your business to someone else. As an entrepreneur, there are certain hurdles you should be prepared for that can hinder your ability to create wealth. (For a detailed rundown, see? Investigator's tutorial Starting a Small Business.) Here are four important challenges small business owners face.

1. Too Much Business Debt

Getting a small business off the ground typically requires a certain amount of cash. Taking out a term loan from a bank or a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan may be the answer, if you don't have sizable savings you can tap into. With a 7 SBA loan, for example, it's possible to borrow up to $5 million to establish a new business.

Even if you don't need a loan to get started, that doesn't mean your business will - or should remain debt-free. For instance, you may decide to open a business credit card to earn rewards on day-to-day expenses or take a merchant cash advance to help cover your cash flow during slower periods. Or you may want to borrow to expand, especially if the business is doing well. While credit cards, advances and loans can be invaluable to keeping the business running, their convenience comes at a cost.

If a substantial part of your business' revenue is going toward repaying its debts, that leaves less income to devote to growth. It also leaves you, as the business owner, less money to funnel into a solo 401(k), SEP IRA or similar qualified retirement plan to ensure your own future. While the interest on a small business loan, the payments themselves are not. Paying down your business debts allows you to redirect funds toward your retirement or a taxable brokerage account instead.

2. An Inefficient Tax Strategy

As a small business owner, filing and paying taxes may be one of the most unpleasant tasks on your to-do list, but it's a necessity. If you're not taking advantage of every available tax break, your wealth without even realizing it. There are a number of tax credits deductions that you can claim on your business or personal tax return? An expense must be deemed both ordinary and necessary. This means the expense must be something that's commonly associated with the type of business you own and directly connected to its operation.

When you don't take the time to maximize every possible tax advantage, the result is an overly large tax payment. Hiring an accountant to manage your filing may increase your business expenses slightly, but it can also help to minimize your tax liability. In terms of building wealth, the long-term benefit can easily outweigh the cost.

3. Lack of Diversification

Being a business owner requires a certain amount of juggling, and you simply may not have time to pay as much attention to your investments as you'd like. The size of your assets affects your overall financial standing, including how banks see you, especially if you're a sole proprietor. Investing in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds, eliminates the hassle of trying to put together a well-rounded portfolio, but it can be problematic if the funds you're purchasing hold the same underlying securities.

Business owners can also run into issues if they're not rebalancing periodically. This is vital to ensure that you're maintaining the right asset allocation, based on your investment goals and risk tolerance. If you don't rebalance regularly, you could end up with a portfolio that's either too aggressive or too conservative. At one end of the scale, you run the risk of losing money by gambling too heavily on stocks. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you risk limiting your earnings potential if you're playing it safe with an abundance of bonds. Either way you're putting your future returns in jeopardy by not paying attention to the level of diversification in your portfolio.

4. External Risks

Aside from managing market risk, you also need to be cautious about insulating yourself and your business from threats that may arise in other areas. For instance, what would happen to the business if you were to become ill and could no longer oversee its operation? How would your business and personal assets be protected if your business became the target of a lawsuit? What would you do if your business was damaged by a hurricane or other natural disaster?

These are the kinds of questions small business owners must consider, because although such scenarios may seem unlikely, they can have a substantial impact on how you grow wealth. Choosing the appropriate business structure is an important step in minimizing liability, but you should also be proactive in reviewing your business and personal insurance coverage to ensure that you're protected against every possibility.

Want to know the four reasons why small business fails to grow? Visit: http://www.selfhelp.info

By Joseph Obaigbavbiere

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Small Business: It's All About Relationships

As the world of business becomes more complex, a small-business owner can no longer be an expert in all of the specialized disciplines a small business needs. Despite the fact that small-business owners must necessarily focus on producing and managing enough cash flow and on getting customers in the door, it is also critically important for them to cultivate and nurture relationships with a support team. This group includes:

Employees

A banker

An accountant/tax specialist

A lawyer

An insurance broker

A sales and marketing professional

Employees

Although thinking in terms of a "relationship" with employees might seem a little odd for a business owner, that relationship could be the most important of all of the relationships for the owner to cultivate. Because good employees represent a major resource in a small business, the time and effort the owner invests in nurturing that relationship has a huge return on investment. Employees who feel seen, respected and appreciated almost always produce more than anticipated.

Employees represent - in fact they are - the company to the customers. The business relationship with customers largely depends upon their experience and interaction with the employees. Happy employees tend to want to satisfy the customers, want to do a good job and want to stay in the job. This is important to the continuity of high-quality customer service and avoids the significant expense of employee turnover, employee retraining and the expensive but inevitable "rookie mistakes" of new, inexperienced employees. In addition, having trusted, long-term employees can free up the owner to handle off-site duties as needed. Establishing a retirement plan can benefit you and your employees.

A Banker

A banking relationship is an obvious need, not only for routine business banking, but particularly when capital is needed to grow, increase inventory, buy a building, bridge a short-term gap between payable and receivables or to address the seasonality of the cash flow in the business. The banker that an owner goes to for a loan should know the business owner, understand the history of the business and have an understanding of the owner's judgment and credibility regarding the use and payback prospects for a loan. If the long-term relationship is there, or it is at least in the process of being built, the loan request has a much better chance of being approved. If the business has borrowed and repaid loans in the past, the established track record and relationship greatly enhance the approval prospects. (Loan protection insurance can help in the event of financial difficulty.)

Accountant or Tax Specialist

A relationship with an accountant is equally important if the business owner is to be confident in the quality, clarity, timeliness and understanding of the financial reporting provided. A relationship with an accountant can also enhance the business's credibility with a banker when the business is seeking additional capital.

Many small businesses combine the accountant and tax-specialist functions in one outside entity for convenience, time-saving and cost reasons. This is fine if the accountant has the requisite tax experience for the industry and the tax expertise for the specific business it serves.

Lawyer

Every business owner should have a relationship with a business lawyer, liability attorney or legal firm. When an owner invests money and effort in building a business, it must be safeguarded from loss as a result of a lawsuit.

Insurance Broker

As part of business risk management, the business also should have a relationship with and the trusted advice of an insurance broker who will provide the optimal coverage in the relevant areas within the constraints of the business budget.

Marketing Professional

Depending on the owner's sales and marketing expertise, a relationship with a marketing professional is highly advised. Most small businesses start with an entrepreneur who has a specific technical skill, a trade certification or has built up a following of customers for good work done.

Small Business: It's All About Relationships

  Visit: http://www.selfhelp.info

By Joseph Obaigbavbiere

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Leverage: 4 Ways To Get More With Less Effort

In simple terms, leverage means using resources to maximum advantage. In business, these resources include your time, effort, money, knowledge and people. With leverage, you increase your ability to do more with less - building profit along the way.

You work smarter, not harder. You get more sales at lower costs. And increase profit through efficiency. Your people work together and enjoy the relationships that come from teamwork. You deliver what you promise so customers keep coming back.

It's a win-win for you, your people and your customers. Here are 4 ways to leverage your business.

Time | Focus on What Matters

How much time do you spend on activities that create value? By value, I mean tasks that directly produce sales, grow profit, improve service and delivery or help others do these things.

Take some time to analyze how you spend your time. Then focus on the critical tasks while eliminating, delegating or outsourcing others.

Here are a few things that will help you do this:


  • * Have goals and an action plan. Without goals, everything seems important.


  • * Tap into technology. Your calendar and to-do list are as close as your phone.


  • * Schedule time beyond meetings. Important tasks should be scheduled too.


  • * Turn off distractions. Your phone, email and people. Interruptions are time killers.

  • Sales | More Customers With Less Effort

    When it comes to maximizing revenue, your marketing and sales channels can go a long way toward improving this area.

    Good marketing with clear messages and targets can help you attract quality prospects. Why chase after the wrong people and waste a lot of time trying to convert them? Combine this with a great sales management system - and you get more customers with a lot less effort.

    Next, think about sales channels. You can personally sell to individual prospects in a traditional one-to-one manner. You can grow exponentially faster by selling online, but this model doesn't work for all businesses. So why not build a network of people who sell to the same people you do. Then let them do the work and pay them a fee for the sales they generate. You both win. Again, you get a lot more sales with a lot less effort.

    People | Help Them Be the Best They Can Be

    Your people may be your most valuable asset, but only if you leverage their skills and capabilities.

    It starts when you hire and bring them on board. Invest the time to find the right people to join your company - even when you feel rushed to get someone in there. But even the most skilled individuals need time to learn and understand YOUR business. Orientation and training are critical to getting them off the ground running and contributing. Especially today, new hires want to feel that they are making a difference or they won't stick around.

    If you have low employee turnover and long-tenured team members, hiring may not be a priority. But you should still look for ways to leverage your people. Are you maximizing their skills and providing new challenges and opportunities?

    As your business grows and technology changes, job responsibilities will also change. When was the last time you looked at your organization structure, positions, and job descriptions? Are they still relevant? Do your people have the skills and knowledge to take on additional or different work? This is an area often overlooked. But it can improve workflow processes and keep your team engaged and challenged.

    Effort | It's All About Systems

    Regardless of industry, every business has key processes to develop products and services, build demand, satisfy demand and manage the business. These include common functions such as marketing, sales, customer service, manufacturing, shipping, service delivery, technology, human resources, finance and strategic planning.

    A lot of tasks! But the more efficiently you operate, the more profitable you become. You can leverage all areas of the business when you ask the right questions, focus on continuous improvement and take advantage of technology and people. You can take it a step further when you look for others/partners to help you grow without doing the work!

    When you master the leverage game, you get more of what you want with a lot less effort. Pick one of the areas above to focus on and get started.

    Leverage Your Business With Systems

    If you are serious about creating leverage with systems, visit my website and check out my Ultimate Systems and Procedures Guide. Designed specifically for small business owners, my step-by-step guide with templates and examples makes it easy to do it yourself.

    By Joan Nowak

    Joan Nowak is a business coach, consultant, and trainer. With an emphasis on results, she helps small/medium size businesses build profit through leverage - marketing, sales, operations, systems and people. To learn more or schedule a complimentary consultation, visit my website https://HybridBizAdvisors.com

    Friday, November 16, 2018

    Running A Business Is Like Playing Tetris

    Have you ever played Tetris? It's that game from the 1980s that requires you to strategically rotate, move, and drop geometric shapes that fall into a game board. These shapes build up on the board, and the only way to clear them out is by making horizontal rows of blocks without empty space.

    It can be a pretty difficult game! In fact, the more you play, the more difficult the game becomes. The shapes drop faster and faster, and the possibilities of making lines disappear becomes nearly impossible. You may place a shape in the wrong place and- bam! Your game board is a mess. You're in a situation that seems hopeless.

    Employers can find themselves with that same hopeless feeling when dealing with business paperwork that keeps piling up. The complications of having employees means keeping up with dozens of state and federal employment regulations and precise payroll management - just to name a few.

    If you're not on top of these back office tasks, you 'll quickly find yourself overwhelmed. And unlike Tetris when the burden of the building blocks allow you to hit the restart button- there's no mercy given for late tax payments, inaccurate reporting - or a poor hiring decision.

    When you own a company that specializes in a trade- painting, drywall, trucking, or anything else- you are prepared for the possible issues that come up with that trade. You can probably find a way to fix your machines, arrange schedules, or even clean up a job site if you have to. But you're probably completely unprepared for the requirements of tax filings and other issues that come with running your business. Things like new hire reporting, overtime, wage garnishments, and child support.

    And once you get behind or make a mistake, those issues- just like the Tetris blocks- just keep dropping. Pretty soon, you're paying hefty penalties to the IRS and probably losing some sleep.
    How would you like those blocks to stop dropping so you can focus on running your business?

    Thankfully, a solution for employers comes in the form of a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), also known as an Employee Leasing Company.

    These providers allow you to outsource payroll administration, access great employee benefits and big discounts on workers' compensation insurance. When these HR tasks are on someone else's shoulders,you gain the freedom to work on sales, service and growth for your business. Productivity across all operations seems to soar.

    Other benefits Employee Leasing Services provide:


  •  Workers' Compensation Claims Administration



  •  Family and Medical Leave Act Administration



  •  Risk Management



  •  Direct Deposit/ Check Printing



  •  Complete HR Administration, including safety and regulatory compliance



  •  401(k) Savings Plans



  •  Drug Testing


  • When you're ready to find out how HR outsourcing services can benefit your business, consider using a PEO broker to find your best solution. PEOs are all different, and offer a variety of benefits and services. Their pricing can differ dramatically. A broker will work with you to understand your company's specific needs, to access the perfect fit for you business.

    By Mike Burgelin

    Monday, November 12, 2018

    Top 3 Reasons Small Businesses Fail At Marketing

    I often speak to groups of small business owners and I keep hearing the same comment over and over again with many of them saying that marketers don't matter or marketing doesn't matter anymore.

    There are many reasons I've heard as to why marketing doesn't matter: "all my business comes by referral," "I never spent money on marketing and my business grew," "marketing is a waste of money," "I see no value in marketing," "marketing is all luck so why spend money on it," and so on.

    Oh, how they are so very wrong! Below are the top 3 reasons why:

    1. Their definition of marketing is wrong

    When business owners tell me that marketing doesn't matter, they usually have a totally different understanding of what marketing is than those who recognise how marketing contributes to business goals where it enables you to charge the most money you can for your services and products.

    Marketing is first about spending time building a solid foundation based on strategy before proposing a series of tactics aimed at lifting sales. Until the business finds a way to change the context of how their ideal customer views what they do, and then becomes become the obvious choice provider, they'll find that their marketing efforts never seem to build momentum or gain any return on investment.

    You must be able to enter the conversation taking place in the head of your customers. Or, to look at it in a different way, to be able to address the number one question on your customer's mind at exactly the right time.

    So, how do you do this? The conversation that is taking place in every prospective customer's mind revolves around two major points. There is a problem they have, and that they don't want... and there is a result that they want, and they don't have.

    Those who often misunderstand marketing believe that it is only about advertising campaigns, brochures, flyers, website, email marketing, SEO, tradeshows, social media, copy, etc. These are the tactics - the way you implement your marketing. I'd argue that marketing is essentially the core of business strategy because it is about understanding the current customer, tapping into their fears, their goals and their aspirations and then creating products and services that the ideal customer is willing to buy from a brand they now they know, like and trust.

    2. They believe either they or their co-worker can do it

    Sometimes in the "do it all yourself" world of small business (or even big business when it comes to it), it's difficult to identify the areas that require outside help. A business may be able to set up their newsletter, add plugins to WordPress, write a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and clumsily create header graphics, but you need somebody who is trained, practiced, and skilled at looking strategically and holistically at the marketplace, understanding the customer, and then creating unique opportunities based on this understanding.

    Just think about it for a minute; just because you have a calculator and excel does that mean you are an accountant? If you have a ruler, pencil and have watched some episodes of Grand Designs - does that make you an architect? If you post regularly to your friends on Facebook and Instagram - does that mean you are a social media expert?

    So why do small businesses believe that by buying a Mac and some software they will become a designer, marketer and communications expert?

    It needs to be led by a strategic marketer who can then develop an integrated marketing approach. Can you or your co-worker do this? In some cases, you can. But those who can are most likely to either come from marketing or consulting backgrounds where they have transferable skills and experience defining AND delivering against a growth strategy.

    If you are a small business, you need somebody who will have a very solid, process, streamlined, consistent, repeatable approach. First, they will research and learn about your company in great depth, the dynamics of the marketplace and identify shifts, trends, and changes. From there, the strategic marketer will be able to present the different elements of your marketing plan in logical order of how you should construct them, update them, or revise them; and identify the key areas you should be focusing on - be it generating leads, converting leads, increasing transactions right down to changing prices.

    3. They hire the wrong marketing help

    There is a huge misunderstanding around marketing strategy, marketing tactics, and marketing execution.

    There is a difference between being strategically capable, creatively capable and executionally capable.

    Small business owners don't hire a strategic marketing coach/firm to develop creative graphics and headers; nor should you hire an advertising/graphic design agency to handle marketing strategy. A small business doesn't need to hire a consultant or a firm who is a strong marketing executor when their biggest need is a strategy for sustainable growth. You may get more attention, but not the best results.

    I hope this has helped you, but if you need some help to get effective marketing into your business, you can schedule a FREE marketing strategy meeting with me to ramp up your results and start attracting all the clients and customers you want in 2018 or take a look at my website http://www.vervebusinessacademy.com

    By Rachel Foord

    Wednesday, November 7, 2018

    6 Simple Rules To Getting The Competitive Spirit On The Right Track

    Being a formidable player in the corporate world is no easy task. You have to be ready to tackle competition all the time. Here are six simple rules to beat them at their own game.

     *  Market research comes in handy to get to know what people want; it also helps to understand what people expect from the competition. Understanding this in totality helps down the line as you build a brand from the get. 

    *  Up the ante in the value stakes of the product or service that is on offer. This is bound to reap huge rewards for an upcoming and even an established brand. The target and client base will notice these tweaks and be appreciative as you laugh your way to the bank. You also gain an edge over the competition.

    *  Establish a rapport with the customer base and keep in touch with them throughout the journey. The idea here is not to spam them with constant drivel, but to keep them abreast of new developments, discounts, and encourage them to opt for early bird offers. It helps a great deal as you beat them through simple marketing methods.

    *  An exciting promo never lost out in the campaign stakes. Use the online medium to generate hype as you build up a tempo with everyone interested in knowing what is trending and doing the rounds. Keep on with the momentum and once this gets to be a talking point, launch the product/service. The idea is to formulate the right time and then go for the kill, so to speak. 

    *  Quality is another most intelligent way to get ahead in the game. Testing the service or product needs to be the foremost objective before the launch. It establishes a credible angle and does not allow competition to sneak in with maneuvers and gain because of losing focus.

    *  Never give up or give into negative chatter is one of the best pointers of all time. Most of us fight shy of getting ahead in the game primarily because of robust players in the market. However, that does not mean that you cannot do your bit and edge ahead in the game of competitive business sport.

    Simply Put....

    Being competitive is an exhausting experience but something that is expected to be a part of the business world. To get ahead in the game of barter entails that you are ten steps ahead of the competition so that profits are on the charts, not losses.

    Sometimes you just have to give it your all or give up entirely when you want to make a pitch. Competition can get tricky, but that does not mean that it is the end of the road. Keeping on at it, will win you brownie points down the line.

    By Yasmin Andrea Imam

    Thursday, November 1, 2018

    Make Up Your Own Rules In Biz

    There are many tried and true strategies and systems out there for growing a wildly successful business. However, use them only as guidelines, and make up your own rules to the business game.

    Here are the top 4 reasons why you've got to ditch your preconceived notions of how to attract loads of clients and do it YOUR way.

    1.  You know what's best for you, not somebody else.

    When you're calm and tuned in to your heart, you're definitely your own best authority. Now, if you're emotionally sideways or in the thick of a heavy issue, don't make any earth-shattering decisions. When you come back to a neutral place, you'll see more clearly and take actions that will serve you. You may listen to all the outside advice you'd like, but in the end, you have to make the choice that feels best to you.
    1. Things go quicker, easier, and cost less.
    When you look at the standard process for creating something in your business, you may accept it for the way it is. But what's possible when you create a new standard? If Eva Gregory and I had listened to Chicken Soup for the Soul's process for book publishing, we would've taken forever to write our book for them.

    They said it would take about 1.5 years. We said we knew it could take less. When we finally got the green light, the process took less than a year. The actual writing took three months. Easier than I'd ever imagined!

    Another example is the purchase of my first house. I had no realtor and neither did the seller, who was out of communication in rehab. I had no prior experience in real estate. I took the sale on as a learning seminar.

    When I finally went in to sign the escrow papers, they couldn't believe how I'd completed the process by myself. (I found myself some loopholes.) Lots of people helped me, but my newbie spirit looked at everything as possible rather than as an obstacle.
    1. Be a pioneer! If your mind can think it, you can create it.
    If people settled for what was in front of them, nothing new would ever be created or invented. Sure, other people might tell you that you're nuts when you think outside of their box. So what! They'll try to convince you that your idea or way of thinking is impossible or illogical. If you have the vision, I promise it's a worthy cause to pursue.

    Do you see something that can be improved upon in the world? Take action! Sure, the big dogs might already have a team working on it. But as history will show, newbies can and do prevail. Google took on Yahoo and MSN with some pretty sweet results.
    1. Current rules and choices may not fit you. Create a new choice for yourself.
    When options a, b, and c don't feel good, you've got to create choice d and maybe an e, f, and g. The best perspectives happen when you start looking for new combinations of the available elements.

    Let's say you want to take some friends out for a special dinner. The two restaurants you had in mind are both booked solid for that evening. Don't settle for something less.

    If you knew you were going to get the ideal food, service, and atmosphere at those two restaurants, how would you handle this situation? You might get an idea to call back the restaurants with some wild pitch for them to let you in. If you were grounded, you possibly might get a yes. You also might talk to some friends to get new ideas. But you definitely wouldn't let this minor setback throw you off.

    The rules in the U.S. used to make it difficult to travel in Cuba. (Maybe they still do!) Do people find ways of doing it? Yes! And many of them are legal! You can always find a choice that meets all of your criteria. Stay in possibility and you will find your perfect solution.
    When you're truly following your heart, you'll always make decisions that are in your highest good, as well as the good of others.

    By Jeanna Gabellini

    Jeanna Gabellini is a Master Business Coach who assists high achieving entrepreneurs, corporate leaders & their teams to leverage fun, systems and intentionality for high-octane results. An entrepreneur for 25 years she has a treasure trove of kick-butt tools to give you peace & profits. Get your complimentary audio "Transforming from Chaotic Entrepreneur to Conscious Leader" here: https://masterpeacecoaching.com/resources/free-cd2

    Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    Business Sale To A Competitor - Why They Always Pay Less

    The unfortunate truth... A competitor never pays more for your business.

    Although there are legitimate reasons for a competitor to have significant interest in your business and recognize inherent value, history has taught us that competitor acquisitions of small businesses yield the lowest transaction value based upon price, structure and terms.

    While you have built a turn key business that has considerable value, a competitor has most of these organizational/operational elements in place and will view the overall value differently.

    Many competitors approach these acquisitions as the purchase of a customer list, picking up a few good employees, add an asset or two, and maybe establish a key relationship or territory with a vendor. Some are simply looking to eliminate a competitor. The bottom line is that they do not need everything you are selling like someone new to the industry. The worth of this turn key operation is not valued the same from a competitor versus an outsider.

    Does a competitor need, want, or place significant value on the following assets?

    Tangible:

    • Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment (FF&E)
    • Vehicles
    • Inventory
    • Real Estate

    Intangible:

    • Customer lists
    • Client Contracts
    • Systems, processes, and intellectual property
    • Brand name, website domain, phone numbers
    • Reputation
    • Online Reviews
    • Vendor supply agreements, licensing agreements, exclusive territories
    • Proprietary computer software
    • Trained and in-place work force
    • Goodwill

    Outside buyers will require all of these assets to continue business operations and take the company to the next level. Competitors will not need all of these assets and those assets they require are valued lower, especially the intangible assets.

    Therefore, the recommendation to a business owner who is considering a sale and might be entertaining a discussion with a competitor, is to develop a list of their objectives and goals when selling the business. Even at the most basic level "I want to sell my business for the highest price".

    Does this mean the highest price with 100% seller financing/earnout or is the goal to receive the lion's share of proceeds at closing? The goals and objectives can vary considerably amongst business owners pursuing a business sale. Experienced M&A Advisors and Business Brokers are adept at qualifying a buyer who is most aligned with these goals and the assets being sold.

    Several examples of goals/objectives include:

    • Obtain the highest price with a portion of seller financing contingent payments
    • Obtain the highest price with a portion of contingent payments
    • Maximize cash at closing
    • Seek an exit with no continued involvement with the business
    • Remain with the business in some capacity with less responsibility and time commitment

    Find buyer who:

    • Has adequate funds to close
    • Has industry or related experience
    • Is local or willing to relocate to be local to the business
    • Acquires or leases the real estate as part of the business sale
    • Does not cherry pick inventory, vehicles, or FF&E
    • Has necessary business licenses or requires only minimal training and transition assistance
    • Expects to retain the current roster of employees

    Once the toothpaste is out of the tube...

    Competitors and complementary industry businesses know one another. They see each other at conferences, industry association meetings, and vendor reward trips. It is not unusual for overtures to be made about acquiring a competitor's business. Most often, these discussions start out innocently; a desire to purchase is made with numbers floated that sound great to the prospective seller and an NDA is signed. Discussions are held, and business financials are provided to the competitor. A subsequent meeting is scheduled, and a non-binding Letter of Intent is received. Further due diligence is pursued, significant confidential information is provided and an offer, far different from the one originally discussed, is made. The deal falls apart. The result is no deal and unfortunately, a competitor now has highly sensitive information on your business. This is the worst situation possible and happens far too often.

    Selling larger businesses to a competitor is not that unusual and the focus of this article is not to say that these sales should never be done; but merely to highlight the value differences that should be expected and the risks involved in divulging sensitive company information when engaging a competitor.

    If it is appropriate for a business to be sold to a competitor, having a professional intermediary is critical. Following an established process, providing information in stages, protecting sensitive information, qualifying sincere interests or ferreting out a fishing expedition are some of the key benefits that an intermediary provides.

    Additionally, it is the intermediary's ability to discreetly market the business to many prospective buyers versus negotiating with only one candidate that enables the transaction value to be maximized. Each confidential marketing program is customized per engagement but ultimately these programs are focused on creating multiple offers whereby the best price, terms, and conditions can be achieved for the seller.


    Michael Fekkes has over a decade of experience in small business sales and acquisitions. Michael is a Mergers & Acquisitions Master Intermediary (M&AMI), Certified Business Intermediary (CBI), Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA), Fellow of the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA), Chairman of the IBBA and M&A Source Communication Committee, as well as a prior business owner. He can be reached at 910.691.2202 or mfekkes@enlign.com. All conversations are strictly confidential.

    Friday, October 26, 2018

    Small Business Owners....The Building Blocks To Increase Profits

    The foundational building blocks of every business are Processes (procedures/policy), People (employees), Customers and Resources (ideas/capital). Leaders, who strengthen and understand each of these blocks, build their business. Those who weaken or neglect these building blocks, find themselves with declines in both their top and bottom lines.

    Believe it or not, organizations can sometimes forget that creating and delivering top quality products and providing excellent services is their main objective. Organizations keep ineffective processes in effect because it is comfortable, safe and familiar. Leaders must regularly set aside time to define and redefine their processes, track defects and poor service, and make improvements to solidify these (5) major building blocks.

    Owner Mindset

    You've got to make the mental shift from running your businesses as a self-employed job/good employee to building a business you can one day sell, scale or own passively to fund your retirement.
    This means consistently reminding yourself that you are just a temporary producer, and that your business must eventually replace you from its day to day operations.

    Be Clear in Your Mission

    There's a reason you started a business and left your job (or didn't try to find a new one). Why are you doing this? Keep in mind that your personal mission and your company's mission can be different, as long as they're aligned and can co-exist. You did the mission statement in the business plan and it's on the bookshelf collecting dust.

    Network and Get a Mentor

    Get a business advisor or coach. It doesn't have to be someone professional, just someone who can share experiences to bounce ideas off of and tell you when you are losing teams, money and the mindset.

    Get your Business off the Road to Nowhere

    When the money gets tight and the momentum fades, you are left with day to day work of the business, this is when you learn how to make your business run. It can become grinding because sales are slow and you are learning how the business actually operates, to acquire customers, market products, understand how changing processes and products affect your financials, and every idea you have does not automatically work as you envision it to increase profits.

    At some point while running a business, your likely to experience that burned out or uninspired feeling. Work-life balance is important; there is a truth, in working hard and playing hard to unwind. Reading a daily devotion and taking a daily 30 minute walk can assist in relaxing the mind, etc.

    Customer

    Customer acquisition is expensive in order to acquire new customers, companies must effectively target, market to and convince customers to try their product or service.

    Many business owners do not take time to figure out who is their target customer. What are their target customers' likes, dislikes, needs and wants? Which types of media do they consume? What is the cheapest way to reach them? How much is the target customer willing to pay for their products or services? Where and how should we sell our products?

    Remember, it is cheaper to keep a customer than it is to acquire new ones.

    Master the Art of Engagement

    Being engaging is important in every part of your business, whether its communicating through email marketing, social media, blogs, videos and other commercial formats

    Grab social Media Attention

    Social media marketing plan should include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the company website to communicate with your customer. Use the same theme, pictures (banner pages) and similar products.

    Understand importance of Business Logos

    It is the first thing potential customers will notice about your brand, make sure it is presentable, professional and polished. Make sure the Logo connects with your customer needs and wants.

    Create an experience for your Brand

    Create fun and informative environment to solve your customer problems

    The Right Clients are more Important than the Most clients

    Most business strategy is get the cash in the door by any means necessary to get most clients in the door. Problem is you achieve all of this at the expense of quality, profit and sanity. The right clients will allow your company to do better work, build a better reputation, generate more profits and retain better employees.

    Focus on Your Goal, Objectives, Theme but most of all Profitability

    Don't try to be all things to all customers. Specialize in solving your 'target audience' problems and have fun doing it. Even the largest companies do their best when they focus on keeping the 'main thing the main thing'.

    Operations

    Processes

    Are the actions and applications that executives and teams put in place to achieve desired results.
    Leaders need to take a step back to review their processes-individually or in a cross-functional groupings--- to eliminate inefficiencies and optimize performance, annually or as the market changes.

    Systems

    Systems are the reliable processes and procedures that empower your business to consistently produce an excellent result for your client and profitability for you.

    Documenting automated processes can increase your company's efficiency and reduce costly mistakes; the checklists your employees follow to ensure that all orders are shipped correctly; the orientation process for all new clients when you begin working together; and the standardized contracts you use with all your new hires and vendors.

    Controls/Standards

    Controls are the processes, procedures and safeguards that protect your company form uninformed or inappropriate decisions or actions by any team member. They also are your business's way of making sure that key work is getting done on time and the right way.

    There are (4) main types of business controls:


  •  Checklists/Visual Business Process Controls


  •  Scorecards/ Business Performance Measurements Metrics by Function (KPI)


  •  Embedded Internal Quality Controls--- product/process quality checks


  •  Policy and Procedures--- written/measured


  • Scalable SolutionsSystems(using excel and quickbooks), Processes and Procedures that worked for a $1million dollar a year business, are not sufficient for $10 million dollar business or a $25 million dollar business.

    Scaling your business requires building it in such a way that your business model and systems can be rolled out and replicated on a much bigger playing field, based on increased product ordered/processed sales volume.

    Example, choosing a database solution or a 3rd party fulfillment should be based on actual growth rates, not potential or forecasted projected sales.

    Financials

    Cash flow and Financial Statements are your 'life line'.
    • Learn how you are making and losing money. Understand profit and loss statements and what processes and procedures link to improving the 'profits' of your business.
    Resources

    The company's financial wherewithal additionally, the measurement tools necessary to manage and track finances and assets. Do you have the knowledge, competencies and skills necessary to use those tools to increase your profits?

    Small and mid-size businesses must master the ability to manage their working capital and cash flow. Every company has access to profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow statements. Management is either using accounting software or someone is preparing the reports for management.

    How well does senior management understand the company's financials and it correlation to their strategy? Do these managers understand which parts of the company need investment, where cuts can be made on why?

    Managers must take the time to learn the relationships and interdependencies between their tools and the reports they use to maximize their resources.

    Teamwork makes DreamWorks

    You can't do it by yourself. It is critical to ensure that your business doesn't rely on the presence of any one individual.

    Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, needed a great team to help them execute, deliver and do everything behind the scenes to deliver their vision to customers.

    Surround yourself with the best people you can find. Hire people who are smarter than you, then step back and let them do their jobs. Remember championships are won by teams, not athletes. Employees are hired either to increase revenue or to decrease expenses in order to improve profits, no other reason.

    People

    People are not your greatest asset; the right people are. The wrong people are your greatest catastrophe. Mediocre people are your greatest drain on resources.

    Leaders must strive to create learning organizations where the organization is always pushing to improve. A organization where employees feel valued and are contributing according to their abilities.

    Effective management will create an organization where personal growth is expected and rewarded and employees are both challenged and satisfied.

    Employees who are motivated by the company's vision and mission will produce profitability, but frustrated employees will lead to losses.

    By Vinson Primas

    Vinson Primas is a certified business and life coach. He writes small business blogs to help owners make money. http://www.nomopofolks.com/small-business.html