Blog Archives

5 Signs Your Customer Doesn’t Belong With You

Too often, we fall back on the mantra “the customer is always right.”

But is that always true?

Here are our five ways of telling if you aren’t a good fit with your customer:

1. You dread you interactions

Your day is going fine. Everything is lovely. You get a call, check the number on the caller ID, and your whole mood deflates. It’s not just that some customers only call when there’s a problem. Even if that’s the case, a customer could still be a good fit.

No, these calls are the ones that never go anywhere. Your staff complains about working with them. They are never satisfied and likely never will be.

Cut them loose.

2. They complain about who they used to work with

If you have a customer who seems to have never had a pleasant experience with anyone they’ve worked with, be weary. You’ll likely not be any different. You’ll just be the guy they complain about to the next company they work with.

3. They threaten your company

If a customer raises hell about something, you should definitely take notice. Not everyone who has had a bad customer experience with your company is a bad customer. You should be paying attention to Yelp and other business review sites to always improve how you deal with your customers.

On the other hand, if a customer is threatening to cause trouble and raising a stink, yet still continue to work with you, maybe politely suggest they would be happier with someone else. The threat of a bad customer review is exploitative.

4. They don’t pay on time

It’s uncomfortable talking about money. It’s unacceptable to not get paid. One late payment isn’t the end of the world or the destruction of your company. But, if it’s a pattern of behavior, you can’t keep that customer on as a business expense.

5. They don’t respect your expertise

You’re good at what you do. If your customer can’t see that, maybe they should find someone else. You should also have respect for your customer. If you can’t nourish a relationship, they might be better served somewhere else.

Have you ever fired a customer? Why? Share in the comments!

5 Promotional Ideas for your Small Business

One of the hardest things about owning a small business is getting the word out. When you’re small, it’s easy to go unnoticed. Without notice, you get no business. Here are our top 5 promotional ways to get the word out about your business.

1. Create a video

Let’s face it. In this day and age, it is not difficult to get your hands on a camera or simple video editing software. A YouTube channel can be a valuable asset, as it promotes the same social interaction as a social network. Creating videos with content that is relevant to your business and is something that offers helpful tips and advice is best.

But, even though the ultimate goal is to have a video that people will share, don’t get too focused on trying to create a share worthy video. Also, don’t give up. There’s no secret trick that makes a video go viral. You just have to keep putting yourself and your product out there until someone takes notice.

2. StumbleUpon Advertising

StumbleUpon is a web browser add-on that allows users to “stumble” on to random websites curated by other users. StumbleUpon normally has a more organic approach, but if you have a hard time getting visitors to your site, the ads are relatively inexpensive. As long as you’re creating good content, StumbleUpon will be a valuable asset as the people using the add-on already want to share and engage.

3. Create an infographic

Th great thing about being in your line of work is that it makes you an expert in your line of work, right? The Internet is a highly visual medium and the popularity of infographics only reinforces that notion. You’re an expert at what you do. Create an infographic that customers can use. No one knows it better than you.

4. Don’t forget LinkedIn

LinkedIn may not be the social network everyone’s talking about, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. LinkedIn targets professionals. While you can have a profile page, the real power of LinkedIn is creating a page for your business. It’s another way to gain followers and attention. And, given the nature of LinkedIn, these might be exactly the kind of influential people you want to interact with.

5. Apply online for business awards

If a movie wins an Oscar, are you more likely to see it? Maybe. If your business wins an award, will you gain more customers? Again, maybe. You might as well see if you qualify for an award. At the very least, you’ll have bragging rights.

What promotional ideas have you used in the past? What works? What doesn’t work? Share in the comments!

Small Business Saturday is November 29

Small-Business-SaturdayFirst there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. November 27, 2010 was the first ever Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is the day we celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S.

More than 200 organizations have already joined American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, in declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday this year is on November 29th.

Shop Small!

5 Ways to Invest in Yourself

Are you working in a job you hate just to make ends meet? Are you afraid of taking that leap into becoming an entrepreneur? You can work in a job you love and still save for retirement. Here are our top 5 ways to invest in yourself and in your job future.

1. Go to a conference

If you have an interest in something, chances are there’s a conference about it. Getting to that conference is a great way to invest in yourself. You’ll meet people who share your interests, and, better, you’ll meet people who are working in the job you want. Talk to people. Make it known what your interests are. Don’t just walk the exhibit hall. See if you can find a group going to lunch or out for drinks. This is a great way to meet some people, but don’t forget to follow up with people.

Networking tip: Monday is the only bad day to follow up with people. Your email will be lost in the shuffle of the new week.

2. Participate in local events

Whether it’s a local performance, a gym class, or a local Meetup.com group, you should find ways to get out into your local community to start making connections. If you don’t tend to be a very social person, set some goals for yourself and ease into it.

3. Take a class

Improving yourself is a great way to invest in your future. What’s something you wish you’d learned but never did? Find the time to take a class or get a tutor. It doesn’t have to be applied astrophysics. Language tutors are everywhere. Community colleges offer a variety of classes to choose from. Pick something you think you’ll enjoy and dive in.

4. Earn a certification

If your dream job is in a field that requires a certification, there’s no reason to wait. It’s just another way of investing in yourself and your future.

5. Take a Myers-Briggs test

The Myers-Briggs personality test was developed as a career placement tool. It can give you insight on where you draw energy from, how you best interact with people, and what kind of working environment you’re best suited for. Finding your personality type will give you a glimpse of yourself and can help you grow.

What are some ways you have invested in yourself? Share in the comments!

How to Host a Successful Work Retreat

Sometimes, a startup is only as good as the team you’ve built. In honor of the team and the dreaded team-building exercises, today we talk about how to host a successful work retreat.

1. Gauge and/or excite your team’s interest

When you mention “work retreat,” many people start to figure out their excuses on how to get out of it. While that may not always be the case, before you start planning a work retreat, mention it around the office. Find out what kind of work retreat people would actually want to go on. If you open up a dialogue about the possibilities rather than dictate what is going to happen, your team will already start to feel the excitement.

Remember, you want your retreat to improve morale, not destroy it.

2. Bring good food

This may sound odd, but you want to get a good food spread. It’s important to keep you team fueled and fueled in a way that they want. Get some stuff for the health nuts as well as the food junkies. Make sure the coffee flows free. This isn’t a seminar or a conference, this is supposed to be a time for you and your team to get to know one another. They will congregate around the food table.

And, on that note:

3. Encourage social time

A work retreat is not a lecture.

Read that again.

You don’t have a work retreat to lecture your team. You can lecture your team at any time. Make the retreat something different. Throughout the day, have times planned when people can sit down, relax, and socialize. Lunch is obviously a big opportunity for socializing, but also try to think of other times when you can break for some social time.

4. Make an agenda

Of course, you want to know what you’re doing at your work retreat. You should make out a schedule to determine what you’ll be doing and when. But, don’t be afraid to throw out the agenda. If something is going well and people are connecting, let them lead you where you want to go. You can always pick up the other stuff later.

What are your tips on throwing a positive work retreat? Do you have a great work retreat story? Share in the comments!

4 Things to Remember When Writing a Business Plan

You need to write a business plan before you get started with your business. It’s not just a document to pitch your idea to investors. It’s a way you get set goals and PLAN for the running of your business (funny how that works, isn’t it?). If you’ve never written a business plan or you’ve written three dozen, here are our 4 tips to remember when you write your business plan.

1. Cut the fluff

Remember when you were in high school and had to make that 5 page count? Remember how you pulled out the thesaurus and made every word as long as possible just to make the requirement? Even if you didn’t, somewhere in your past, you are guilty of pumping a paper with fluff. Be concise. Get to the point.

Plus, any potential investor will see through the fluff anyway. Don’t make them hunt through the clutter.

2. Be realistic

We all know that you have great expectations for your business. Great expectations don’t belong in your business plan. You need realistic expectations. I’m not trying to knock you off cloud 9, but if you’re putting your plan in front of potential investors, they’re going to want to see something plausible. Don’t try to sugar coat your numbers. If a realistic business plan looks like a mess, maybe you need to rethink how you’re organizing your company.

3. Break the template

It’s easy to go online, find a nice business plan template and fill in the blanks.

Don’t.

It’s okay to start with a template, but at some point, you need to incorporate some aspect of what makes you, your company, and your brand unique. Find a way to get that unique feel without pumping your plan with fluff.

4. Do your research

When you have the next big idea, you’re excited and want things to get moving. Don’t just jump into a business plan without doing your research. What are other people in your market doing? What do their numbers look like? What’s their business model? Another thing you can benefit from is looking to similar businesses that have failed. What did they do wrong? How do you plan to tackle the same monsters that defeated them? Even if answering all these questions doesn’t fit in a business plan, it’s still a good thing to know.

What are your business plan tips? What are things you would avoid? Share in the comments!

4 Business Expenses You Can Reduce Today

pennyBusiness expenses can get out of hand quickly. Sometimes, you forget to budget for things that can add up. We’re here to tell you what four business expenses you can reduce today.

1. Energy costs

Do you work in an office? How old is it? When was the last time the insulation was updated? Do you turn all the lights off when you leave?

As a Texas based company, we know that you can’t get much work done in the heat. But, if you use heating or air-conditioning in your office, you should make sure your air-conditioning and heating units don’t have to work as hard when no one’s there. Turn the thermostat up or down when you leave and adjust it again in the morning when you get it. Make sure you turn off computers and lights when you leave. And, if you’re just starting out an office, think of investing in  energy saving equipment, like more efficient monitors, modems, and even light bulbs.

2. Payroll

As an entrepreneur, you are working with a limited budget. Before you go out and start hiring employees, take a look at the projects you want those employees to handle. Are they all permanent or long term? If not, you might want to hire out on contract rather than having a permanent employee.

3. Research

Small businesses and entrepreneurs get a whole range of tax breaks, deductions, and benefits. We’ve mentioned some on this blog, like hiring your children. But, think about all the business expenses you incur, like travel, or business lunches, or conference fees. Are you making sure those are all reflected in your taxes? Take some time to research the benefits available to you and make sure you’re taking full advantage.

4. Shop around

If you find that you are in need of something for the office, don’t settle on the first price you find. If you’re looking for something like office furniture, you can always buy secondhand. If you need a modem or router, check more than one retailer. With the Internet, it’s easier than ever. You can also look for places that offer small business rewards programs or discounts.

What are some ways you save money around the office? What’s your biggest business expense you forgot to budget for? Share in the comments!

Interview: Christine White, marketing specialist of Infratel and MightyCall

Christine White, marketing specialist at Infratel, talks about MightyCall.

Listen to Chrstine’s interview here. Read the rest of this entry

Inspiration: 7 Types of Employees You Should Fire [Infographic]

fire

3 Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out

These days, we’re all looking for a quick way to get our business noticed. But, what if there’s a more lasting way to keep your business on the map? It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are our top three ways to make your business stand out and keep it that way:

1. Upgrade your website…and keep it updated.

You need to have a website, it needs to look like you made it in the last year, and you need to keep updating it. On the most basic level, it keeps the search engine bots happy. Your ranking in searches would be improved. Another reason you need to update your website is to make sure it is mobile ready. In January, 55% of Internet usage was on mobile technology. People will search for your business on their phones and mobile devices. You need to be where they’re searching.

2. Figure out what your customers want and give it to them.

I’m not talking about your products. You know what your customers are buying. In this instance, I’m talking about content marketing. If you make air conditioners, your customers might want to know about air conditioners, specifically the air conditioners you sell. Another way to do it is figure out what questions your customers are asking. How often have you typed a question into Google? Consider all the questions people are asking and see which ones you can provide an answer for.

3. Ask your customers for reviews

Your customers are your best advocates. If you have someone who is satisfied, you want them to shout your praises from the rooftops. Give them a forum to do that. Whether it’s a short video, a place on your website, or your Twitter account. Ask them to talk about you on Yelp or Foursquare. Get the stories out there.

How do you get your business noticed? How would you be an advocate for a business? Share in the comments!

 

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