Posts Tagged ‘business tips’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Is Your Business Senior-Friendly?

Stocksy_txp2258803bJk3000_Small_80398You may think your small business is doing a great job of providing amazing customer service. But if your customer experience isn’t in line with what senior shoppers want and need, you could be leaving money on the table. And since the latest Global Aging Report from Nielsen projects that by 2050, nearly one in five people will be 60 or older, that could be a lot of cash!

Seniors often have more money to spend and more time to spend it than younger consumers. Here are some things seniors care about that you should consider when creating a senior-friendly customer experience:

  • Print size. Half the seniors surveyed struggle to read package labels. Make sure your in-store signage, menus or marketing materials are legible for older readers. In general, a minimum of 12-point type is best. Avoid reverse-out type (light type on a black background), as this is harder to read.
  • Good lighting. Is lighting in your store, office or restaurant adequate for older shoppers? If they can’t read your menu without getting a headache or worry about tripping and falling in a dimly lighted store, they may avoid your business altogether. 
  • Noise. As we age, background noise can drown out normal conversation. Make sure your location is conversation-friendly by using window coverings, carpet and décor to cover hard surfaces and muffle noise. Keep background music to a level that doesn’t make hearing difficult or offer to seat older customers away from speakers.
  • Physical comfort. Wide aisles, handicapped-accessible restrooms and seating that can accommodate walkers or wheelchairs make a difference in whether older customers visit your location. About one-fourth of older customers in Nielsen’s survey complain that retailers don’t have enough places to sit down and rest, handicapped parking, handicapped bathrooms or wheelchair-accessible ramps.
  • Personal assistance. Older customers may need help with heavy packages or bags. They are also more likely to want personal advice before making a purchase, rather than using a smartphone to go online to look up product information as younger customers tend to do. Be sure your employees are sensitive to older shoppers’ needs.
  • Senior-friendly websites. Older customers do go online, but typically on their desktop computers. Make sure your site is senior-friendly by keeping it simple and readable. Use plenty of white space, easy-to-read fonts and colors, and clear navigation. You can even provide options for enlarging type in case users don’t know how to do that in their browsers. Finally, provide various options for seniors to contact your customer service department—they may prefer to speak to someone on the phone rather than use chat or email. 

Mondays with Mike: The Sure-Fire Plan For Killing Your Business

2014-02-27_1405I’m sure you’re wondering if I’ve lost my mind.  Why on earth would you want to read an article telling you exactly how to kill the business that you’ve worked so hard to build, nurture, and grow?  The answer is that it’s useful to take a step back from all the hard work we do to make sure we’re not inadvertently doing things that damage our companies.  Here’s a look at what not to do:

  1. Turn your hobby into a business.  Just because your friends tell you that your spicy barbecue sauce is the best they’ve ever tasted, that doesn’t mean you have to find a way to profit from it.  There’s a difference between a hobby – something you do to relax and release energy – and a passion – something you do to create energy.  While successful businesses thrive on passion, they can also destroy the pleasure that we take in our hobbies.  Not everything you enjoy needs a business plan.
  2. Get rich quick.  You may be thinking, “Isn’t that the point?”  The fact of the matter is that the best way to get rich is by investing your time and energy in your passion and organically growing your business, rather than chasing what you think is the next trend in an attempt to cash in and get out.  Isolate your passion and nurture it, rather than trying to work in a field just because you think it’s the next big thing.
  3. If things are going south, work harder.  By the time most businesses fail, the entrepreneurs who started them are absolutely exhausted.  Instead of trying to add hours to the day or taking time away from family and friends, spend you time finding ways to work more efficiently.  If you can automate aspects of your business, you’ll be working smarter, rather than harder, leaving you time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. 
  4. Nurture the weak.  I’m constantly amazed by how many companies cater to the least lucrative (and most difficult) clients, at the expense of building business with the big customers – you know, the ones who keep the lights on.  Rather than trying to squeeze an extra few bucks from the reluctant spenders, commit to cultivating your heavy hitters and providing them with excellent service.  You can’t please everyone.  Why not please the ones who are the most valuable?
  5. Measure revenue from the top line.  Yes, it’s essential to bring money into your business, but that’s only part of the equation.  You could land a million dollar contract tomorrow, but if your expenses eat up $990,000 of it, your bottom line is only $10K.  Focus on what’s left after you’ve paid your staff, covered your other expenses, and paid yourself.  That’s what you’re really earning.
  6. Focus on your wallet.  When you realize that every single business decision you’re making is based on money, it’s time to take a step back.  Successful businesses make money, but they do it by working with passion and ensuring that their customers are satisfied.  Steve Jobs didn’t build innovative products just to make money (though he certainly did profit.)  He wanted to introduce elegant, functional solutions for everyday problems.  Remember why you started your business and work to leave a positive impression on your community.

There will never be a shortage of businesses in trouble, and savvy entrepreneurs will learn from the mistakes of others.  Make sure you’re not sabotaging your own success.   


Why to Question Assumptions When You Are Successful

It’s easy for small business owners to question themselves and their assumptions when they are failing. But at that point, it may be too late to fundamentally make changes that can turn their company around. The success rates goes up if the owner questions assumptions when things are going well. However, most entrepreneurs will have a hard time doing this because they will not want to “mess with success” or “if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it”. Many times, they do not even know what the success formula really is. They make cause-and-effect connections where it truly does not exist.

Stocksy_txp5226ac4eb53000_Small_135613For example, the phenomenon of success actually not bringing more success has been statistically documented in basketball. A  study called “The Hot Hand in Basketball: On the Misperception of Random Sequences” states, “ The chances of success on the next shot are not correlated with the success of the last shot. In other words, the ‘hot hand’ idea is a fallacy.”

To increase success in the future, look to see what conditions exist in the market that will make the company profitable now. Evaluate past results, but do not base future actions solely on them. Don’t say, “Well, it worked in the past, so it should work in the future!” Keep thinking like a start-up entrepreneur as long as possible. This worked for IBM in the early ‘80s when the company moved the work on their new personal computer to a separate business unit so the effort would not be “weighed down” by IBM’s past success in unrelated areas.

A $75M company I know had been in business for 50 years. Historically, they were only able to deliver five percent net profit to the bottom line. Sales had grown slowly over the years, so there was never a need to make any changes since they could predict what they could contribute to the parent company. A new CEO got worried about what would happened to the company’s profits if sales dipped during a recession.  She realized that even a small drop in sales was going to mean disaster for their overall profit contribution. The CEO needed to find ways to cut their expenses or increase their gross profit while not cutting revenue. She was able to do this by throwing out established distribution channel assumptions, cutting discounts for many vendors and raising prices for newer products to their customers. When sales eventually shrank during the Great Recession, the company was able to deliver the same dollar profit to the parent corporation. Now that times are better, and sales have grown again, they have become even more profitable.

What assumptions are you not questioning?


Why Your Business Is Asking All The Wrong Questions

Stocksy_txp6e171103c53000_Small_17064Many entrepreneurs start a business because they have an overwhelming passion around a certain interest. They want to help people accomplish a stated goal. A problem develops in growing their business because they continually ask the wrong question:

“I wonder if my exciting idea can help other people?”

This question is entrepreneur-centric and does not revolve around what the customer wants. Just because a person is passionate about an idea and its solution does not mean that people will pay for it. This is the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when they try to convert a hobby to a business. They have a dream that they want to earn a living doing what they love. This is a result of a misinterpretation about the feel-good directive that an entrepreneur needs to be passionate about their work. While this is true, a better view is that an entrepreneur needs to be passionate about what the customer wants them to do. Therefore, the better question to ask is:

“I wonder if the customer has the money to solve a pain which I am excited about?”

This question focuses on what the customer wants, not what the entrepreneur needs. The customer cares only about solving their problem, not the passion of the entrepreneur. The answer to this question is the core of what any business needs to focus on. Customers always buy painkillers before they buy vitamins.

Other wrong questions to ask:

  1. Would this product help your company? Again, most prospect will say yes as not to confront or embarrass anyone. Unfortunately, this may not reflect the action they would truly take. Instead ask: What would it be worth to your company if I could fill this need (resolve this pain)? With this question, the entrepreneur establishes what the customer wants and the monetary value of solving their need.
  2. Are you interested in buying the product? Most prospects will simply say yes because they want to be agreeable and not seem negative. What prospects say and what they do are two different things. Instead ask: Where can I send your order? This is an assumptive close and pushes the action to now. It will also immediately raise any hidden objections.
  3. When should I contact you again? Most prospects will give a date in the future and then never respond again. Instead ask: Should I contact you in the future? If so, what will different then as opposed to now? This gives the prospect an ability to say no so time is not wasted in the future. This also self qualifies them for another call and gives insight into what is holding their purchase back now.

What questions are you asking? Are you really listening to the answers?


Mondays with Mike: Appeal to Customers with your Authenticity

A couple of years ago I was scheduled to attend an accounting seminar, and I was dreading it every bit as much as you’d expect.  Making numbers interesting ain’t easy, and my experience is that accountants typically aren’t the most lively public speakers.  I arrived at the seminar, armed myself with about a gallon of coffee, and settled in to see if maybe, just maybe, the guy running the show might actually keep me awake.

It was just as awful as I’d feared.  Not only did the accountant show up in a suit that looked like a 1980s KGB castoff, but he also sported a world-class monotone.  He looked like a robot facing the room as he methodically slogged through the agenda.  I found some toothpicks, propped my eyelids open, and I managed to stay alert enough to realize that the information he presented was actually really useful.  As the robot accountant finished up the seminar, I jotted down his name and made a note to NEVER attend another of his meetings.  Even though the guy was smart, he could put a hyperactive Chihuahua to sleep.

Fast forward a couple of weeks.  I attended a party at a friend’s house, and I was headed out back to help with the grill when I saw him.  The robot accountant was at the party.  Panicked, I fled to the bathroom to avoid another snooze fest.  Eventually, however, I had to get back out to the party, and – as you might imagine – there he was.  I was trapped, and of course he recognized me.

Even before we started to talk, though, I realized that he was dressed casually and seemed much more relaxed than he had in the seminar.  He thanked me for having attended, and we made a little small talk.  I was surprised to discover that he was actually really funny, and we were laughing about a joke he’d made when he said something that floored me and inspired this article.  He said, “I hate having to be all professional at work.  I wish I could make money just by being myself.”

Wow.

Stocksy_txp2737a914Nf2000_Small_118325

I took two important things away from that party.  First, Mr. Robot is now my accountant – the very best one I’ve ever had.  Second, I realized the disservice we do ourselves when we conceal our a

uthentic personalities from our customers to try to achieve some “professional” demeanor.  Now, I’m not advocating littering your next presentation with f-bombs, but when we act rigid and formal, we’re hiding who we really are and missing an opportunity to connect with clients in a more meaningful way.

I’m reminded of Dr. Seuss, who wrote some lines that we should keep in mind when we’re deciding whether to be a robot professional or ourselves for our next meeting.  He said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”  The fact is that not all clients are a perfect fit for you.  Now it’s possible for you to put on a faux persona and woo them, but then you’ve landed a customer for whom you’re going to continually have to put on a show.  Far better to find the clients who actually like the way you work naturally than to spin your wheels chasing customers who aren’t a great fit for you.

Authenticity creates trust, and being yourself lets you connect with the clients for whom you’re a natural fit.  Resist the temptation to act like a robot professional, and you’ll not only be happier, but you’ll also be more successful.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to Develop an App for your Small Business

Use the mobile web to develop your small business! Learn how with these 5 tips from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


Why Big Leaps Are Dangerous to Your Business

??????????????Most small business owners think they have to take giant risks to be successful. They reason that the greater the risk, the bigger the reward. This is common wisdom since when a success story gets publicized, no one hears about all the interim steps that were taken to get to the final result. No one sees the up, down, and sideways paths it took to reach that goal.

Forget the giant risks. It is much safer and ultimately more effective to make a small decision, examine its result, and learn what you can from it. Then make another decision based on that outcome. Think of each small decision as another piece of completing a puzzle. Never pin the future of a company on one decision, action, or resource. “Go big or go home” or “playing for all the marbles” may make a good slogan, but it has no real place in business.

Here is what to do get the most out of each new opportunity:

A huge customer: Downsize expectations. Start with small sales goals. No matter how big the opportunity or how famous the brand, keep the excitement in check. While you may not want to treat them like just another customer, assume sales will build very slowly over a longer period of time.

The next employee: Be realistic. On any team, a new player can have an impact, but typically this takes time. Before hiring, find out if the prospective employee truly has demonstrated what they can do in the job. Having previous experience at a competitor or a large brand-name company may not translate to success at your business.

The next product line: What have the initial customers said about the product? How can it be rolled out to a small release to ensure it works as expected? Have these initial customers paid for the product, and what real results have they accrued as a result? Most products take time to be adapted by the marketplace. This also usually only happens when supported by a substantial marketing budget.

The next consultant: No matter how good their experience is, one person cannot make a huge impact immediately. Start the consultant with a small scoped project with stated goals. At the project’s completion, match the goal against the actual results. If the outcome is positive, do a second project and build scale from there.

The next market change: Test, test, and test. Do this before a large investment is made in project development or a big marketing expense rollout. Have you really identified a pain in the market from people who can pay to fill it? This is only demonstrated by paying repeat customers (and referrals) and not with what prospects say when you survey them. Many people will say yes when surveyed, but few will say yes when you actually ask them for money.

The next competitor: What a customer substitutes for one product is constantly changing, so it’s difficult to keep up. Know everything customers do with the same money they use to buy your products or services. Keep up to date on all these competitors, and track where they are making their largest investments. As Chinese general Sun Tzu said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” 


Mondays with Mike: The Secret to Doing More, Faster

fast_expressions_idiomsWe’re all concerned about productivity – measuring it, boosting it, evaluating it.  Don’t believe me?  If you enter “productivity” as a search term on Amazon, you’ll have access to over 172,000 products.  We have apps that are supposed to make us more productive, and we tend to evaluate new technology based on its potential to help us do more in less time. 

I’m not immune to the siren song of products that consolidate tasks and let me work smarter and achieve better results for my clients, but I have found that sometimes the very best solution can be a low-tech approach.  My primary productivity booster is a two-fold approach.

First of all you must unplug.  Don’t panic – I don’t mean completely.  I’m talking about unplugging from the biggest timewasters while you’re working.  If you take the simple steps of closing Facebook, Twitter, and the dozens of other popular apps, your productivity will increase more than you can imagine.  Don’t believe me?  YouTube reports that more than two billion videos are watched on their site each day.  Two billion.  Let that sink in.  You don’t actually need to see Miley Cyrus’ new video during business hours, and the single best way to eliminate the temptation to meander through social media and similar distractions is to close those apps.  Period. 

Even your email account can be a distraction that inhibits, rather than fosters productivity.  If you can resolve to check email periodically, rather than constantly, you will discover that you can work more quickly and effectively as a result of the focus you can achieve when you eliminate distractions.

We’re going to go really old school for the second part of my approach.   Dig out those archaic tools – pen, paper, and a highlighter – and try my method for organizing and prioritizing your workflow.

Step One:  Divide the piece of paper into two columns:  A narrow column labeled TYPE and a wide column labeled TASK.  In the wide column, list all of the things you need to accomplish.  As new tasks occur to you throughout the day, add them right away, rather than wasting energy on trying to remember them.

Step Two:  Go down your list of tasks and in the TYPE column, put a $ next to each task that will bring in revenue in the next thirty days.  Put a smiley face next to each task that’s for an established client.  You’re going to use these symbols to help you prioritize your workload.

Step Three:  You’ll notice that most of your tasks neither generate revenue nor serve an existing client – these duties are going to be sorted to the bottom of your to-do list.  Work your way through the list, beginning with the tasks that have both the $ and the smiley face:  jobs for established customers that produce revenue are your priority.  Next, work on the tasks for existing customers – the smileys.  Third priority is the revenue producing tasks for new clients, and fourth – only when you’ve taken care of your existing clients and generated some revenue, do you attack the chores that are left on the list.

Step Four:  One of the key elements of this strategy is the way you manage your list throughout the work day.  When you start on a task, highlight that line.  That way, when you’re interrupted by a phone call or an urgent matter, you don’t have to waste time recalling where you were when you get back to your list.  When the task is complete, cross it off your list (so satisfying!) and highlight the next task.  You’ll have a concrete plan to help you work through your day and get the most out of your time.

Real productivity isn’t about the latest app or management buzzwords.  It’s about disconnecting from distractions and focusing your energy on the tasks that best reward your time and energy.   


Networking for People Who Hate Networking

I may appear regularly on radio and TV, but I’m not all that different from other people when it comes to networking.  The whole concept of establishing any relationship with total strangers and then converting them into treasured resources can be overwhelming.   Still, with a clear understanding of what networking is really all about, anyone — from the life of the party to the shyest wallflower — can develop a great business network.

Here are four tips that can even help those of us who hate networking develop the valuable business relationships they need.

Leverage Your Current Network

If you have family and friends, you already have a network.  But you probably don’t recognize that these people can help with your business issues.  If you need assistance solving a specific problem or finding new customers, talk to the people that you know. Remember that they have connections, too. A simple introduction is all that you need to grow your own network.

But don’t stop with your close contacts.  You probably interact with many people every day, and you know them well enough to ask for help.  One person that I know has been going to the same spa for years.  One time, she brought some business brochures and asked if she could place them on the reception counter next to other promotional items that they already had on display.  With their permission, she got some calls from people already primed to purchase her services while avoiding the pain of cold-calling.

Do Not Fear Networking Events

The thought of facing countless people that you don’t know may seem overwhelming, but a little advance planning can simplify the effort.  When you find an event that you believe may help you, start by contacting the organizer at least a few days before the meeting. That person can make introductions for you ahead of time through email or social networking.

On the day of the event, you may enter a room with hundreds of people, but you know which people to seek out. When you introduce yourself in person, you will instantly see a friendly look of recognition on their faces.   You can feel more comfortable conversing with new friends, rather than trying to break the ice with total strangers.

Leverage Social Media

Social Media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have blurred the lines between real relationships and virtual connections. But these tools eliminate the need for face-to-face or phone contact as a preamble to establishing business contacts.  Set up one or more free accounts and start making connections.

If you pay regular attention to your social media accounts, you will get to know quite a bit about your new friends. Then, when you find someone with mutual interests and concerns, consider making your conversations more private to find out if you can help each other in your networking efforts.

Aim for Quality Over Quantity

????????????????????????????????????????Networking is not an all-or-nothing proposition.  It is better to find a few people with whom you can develop a mutually-beneficial relationship than to collect an impressive stack of business cards.  So, even if you are at a conference with thousands of attendees, find ways to do your networking in small chunks.

For example, everyone has to eat, so ask a few people sitting near you in a late-morning session to get together for lunch.  Instantly, you create a small group of people who share your interests without the embarrassment of trying to ask a single person to go out with you. You may or may not become lifelong friends with your new lunch buddies, but you will know that each business card has real meaning for you.

Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere between, you may have discovered your own tricks to increasing your list of valued business contacts. Please share them below.




 
Nextiva Logo

phone-icon(800) 799-0600 Sales phone-icon(800) 285-7995 Support
Nextiva is the leader in Business VoIP Services. Copyright 2014 Nextiva, All Rights Reserved,
Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, Sitemap