Posts Tagged ‘Work Your Biz Wednesday’

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Connection with Your Customers

10-14 Customer relationships smallYour first sale may feel like a huge validation of your vision, and your first passel of sales may leave you feeling confident. As much as you treasure sales though, it’s your customers that make your business run smoothly. While many of your customers will only buy from you once, other customers will give you repeat business. And once you establish a relationship, they will happily buy from you again and again as long as you continue to deliver great service and products.  So what can you do as a small business owner to build, support, and encourage a long-lasting relationship with your customers? Here are six habits that guarantee they’ll keep coming back for more of what you offer.

1. Make Good on Your Promises

If you promise to fulfill an order, you must complete it in the timeframe you promised. If you said the product will be delivered in a pink box by a bear, and it gets there in red box delivered by an ox, you have failed. Yes, the delivery made it and most customers will appreciate that, but by not following through as you promised, you’ve already damaged trust.

2. Find a Balance Between Value and Profit

When you undervalue your product or service, the quality of your offering will be questioned. Also, if you set the bar too high, you may miss part of your market by charging too much. As a business owner, it is important to fine tune this balance; charge too little and you won’t make any profit; charge too much and people will go elsewhere for the same product at a lower price.

3. Focus on Quality

Whatever specialty you offer, be it goods or services, the quality of your offering will deepen devotion. Yes, you can obsess about details that make you lose focus on the big picture, but you rarely will go wrong when you improve the quality of your product. Ask your customers how you can improve their experience and take action on her suggestions.

4. Stay in Front of Difficulties When They Occur

Everyone makes mistakes. In fact, you will make mistakes. The more quickly you acknowledge them, the more quickly you can correct them. Never let your customer tell you about a problem that you already know about. Reach out to your customer and alert her if you know your shipment is late or you’ve sent the wrong item. Don’t depend on the customer’s lack of attention to amend the situation. You will gain respect and appear extra reliable.

5. Show Appreciation

It really is as easy as saying or writing “thank you for your business.” Of course, if you want to do more, I don't think there is a customer alive who will discourage that. Create a loyalty program, special flash sales, discounts on large orders, gifts with sales, and referral benefits are all ways to show your appreciation. Birthday specials, trunk shows, or exclusive benefits are extra ways to say “Thank you!”

6. Keep in Touch

Don’t just close the sale and move on. Your follow-up after a completed transaction is key to repeat business. You need to find out how everything went. But if a customer hasn’t purchased in a while reach out to them. You don’t even have to bring up future business. You can thank them for past order or share a tidbit of information to reconnect. Just touching base can motivate a past customer to think about your brand again.

Making the effort to build a relationship with a customer will pay off long term. It takes such a small amount of effort to keep a customer happy and buying, just make the effort.

How to Implement Goal Setting in Your Small Business

I know what you’re thinking: I am tired of not moving things forward enough in my business. I’m here to tell you that the reason why this is happening is because you are not measuring yourself against business goals. Are you one of these people who says, “Why set goals if you never end up meeting them?” Or you know you should set goals, but you haven't quite gotten around to it (like backing up your data or keeping your antivirus software up to date). I encourage you to shift your thinking about goal setting. When you take the time to set goals and follow through on those, it is an investment that pays. Here are six ways to look realistically at your business and create meaningful business goals.

1. Analyze the Current Situation

Look at where you are right now and ask yourself: are you where you want to be? It is imperative that you are clear with yourself about your current circumstance regarding money in the bank, accounts payables, your sales pipeline, and your processes. Once you have established what the present looks like, only then can you plan for the big picture and set goals against it.

2. Create a Roadmap

Focus on long-term goals in a five-year benchmark when you develop your goal roadmap. These reach goals have a place in your overall goal setting, but it is essential to set some clear, attainable milestone goals in the short term . Just as an undergraduate sets a goal toward earning a bachelor's degree before applying to grad school, your road map should include goals you can achieve sooner rather than later that will help you accomplish those long term goals. You may even find that creating yearly measurable goals helps you clarify your vision even further.

3. Break It Into Small Bites

Create short-term tasks to achieve your goals for the next year. Creating monthly and weekly sales goals will help you move the needle on your revenue goals. Need to increase sales? Set a goal for increasing cold calls, social posts and direct outreach such as attending meetings. Need to get people to your website? Establish a content development system and start an editorial calendar. Need better subscription numbers? Work on developing a new free download for your website. Remember: you can’t achieve your goals if you don’t take steps toward making them happen.

4. Stay Focused

It’s not enough to set goals. Now you must make substantial efforts to attain those goals. For example, if you are going to be developing content, set aside one day a week to do that. Be proactive and set deadlines for your milestones in order to achieve those goals. It’s easy to get distracted or discouraged, so keep trying even if you miss a milestone. One of the best ways to stay focued is to avoid or eliminate distractions whenever possible.

5. Work Hard

This is a time when hard work determines your outcome. So many entrepreneurs spend a lot of time working on their day-to-day activities and don’t allocate enough time and resources to commit to achieving their professional goals, and then they wonder why they failed to accomplish those goals. There is a direct correlation between the amount of energy you put toward a goal and its results. Set your biggest goals first, they the annual goals, then the monthly and weekly goals. Once your organize your time this way, you will see a difference in your business.

How to Retain Talented Employees In Your Small Business

9-23 Retail employees smallIn your business, your team is everything. Even if you follow the guidelines from my blog on how to hire your first employee on the best practices for hiring and interviewing candidates, some bad seeds will still find ways to slip through the cracks. It’s not just poor workers who will affect how your team pool changes. Millenials, who comprise the largest generation currently working, have exhibited a trend of job-hopping in search of the best job with the highest compensation. The goal for you, as a small business owner, is to prevent your most talented employees from jumping ship. Here are some tips for how to retain your best and brightest employees.

1. Think Long-Term

If it’s financially impossible to increase an employee’s compensation, you need to remind him/her that one day it will be. Be sure that all of your employees have a concrete idea of what your vision is for your business and what role they’ll play in helping your get there. Make them understand why you do what you do. If you voice how much you believe in yourself and your team, the desire to stay working for you and helping you reach that goal will follow. If you treat your employees well, they’ll trust you enough to know that when you become successful, so will they.

2. Compensate Fairly

Depending on the skill and education levels you require for your position, compensation will play a large role in obtaining and keeping talented people in your circle. A paycheck and its accompanying benefits are a huge factor when workers consider leaving for another employer. Do you offer health benefits, a retirement package or an annual review during which good work is rewarded with a raise? You should consider all of these things and figure out compensation that is fair to keep you best employees

3. Give Perks

While small business owners have the desire to compensate employees very well, we all know money can get in the way. If you can’t financially afford to pay your employees exactly what they deserve, figure out what else you can do to balance the scale. Sculpt a laidback, but professional, work culture where creativity and inter-office friendships are encouraged. Offer paid vacations and sick days, maternity and paternity leave or the use of your equipment for an employee’s side project. Time is free, and if you feel that your employees might deserve more than what they see in their paychecks, there’s no harm in offering other benefits to them.

4. Offer Growth Opportunities

Talented employees are people who crave responsibility and growth. If you’re sure an employee is someone you want to keep on your team, offer him/her the opportunity to take on more challenging and engaging work. This will keep your employee interested while also preventing the job from becoming mundane or predictable. Keep your talented employees on their toes with more demands. They will see and feel the trust and faith you have in them.

You need your employees and they need you too. You will run across your fair share of bad employees during your time as an entrepreneur, but when you begin adding really valuable, talented employees to your team you need to know how to hold on them. It will be the best thing you can do for your business.

Adopting the Cloud While Mitigating Risk in Your Small Business

9-16 cloud computing smallOnce you decide to move some or all of your operations to the cloud, you may have concerns about risk and security. There are many benefits to adopting the cloud for your small business. The cloud provides instant access to data anytime, anywhere there is an internet connection. Cloud computing also offers scalable storage for files, applications, and improved collaboration regardless of team members' locations; and saved time and money by eliminating the need to build a costly server system and hire an IT manager. Let’s look at some of the risks, and how you can reduce them.

Risk 1: the Cloud Provider Can Get Hacked

Yes, it’s much more appealing to hackers to go after a giant cloud server than your single little company’s server. Essentially, you have no control over this happening. Yes, cloud computing companies take a great deal of precautions and security measures to prevent hacking, but it’s no guarantee your data is 100% safe.

The Remedy: You can encrypt any sensitive material you send to the cloud so that if there is a breach, hackers can’t do anything with your data. Store your encryption key somewhere other than the cloud!

Risk 2: It’s Difficult to Control Access

Because you need to allow many people access to a given file through the cloud, it can become a challenge to keep up with who’s got access to which data. And what happens if a disgruntled employee decides to take sensitive data with him after leaving your company?

The Remedy: Set up a system to manage who gets access to which files, rather than giving blanket permission to all. Require each employee to use a password to access these files, and as soon as they leave the company, remove their access. You should be able to monitor logs of who has accessed which files, and when they have logged in.

Risk 3: What if Your Data Goes Up in Smoke?

Things happen. Hurricanes, fires, and theft happens, even in the cloud. If the servers that store your data are gone, you’re left with nothing.

The Remedy: Back up your data on another system, whether it’s a local server or a different cloud server. That way, you have an “extra set of clothes,” so to speak, should your data be compromised.

Risk 4: Compromising Industry Requirements

If you work in a highly-regulated industry like healthcare or financial services, you know there are serious restrictions on some of your data. You’re unclear on how cloud storage works with these regulations, because sometimes the data isn’t yours anymore once it hits the cloud.

The Remedy: Talk to industry regulators about the cloud’s role in compliancy and used an industry-approved cloud vendor.

Whether you’re looking to use a cloud-based application for email or CRM, or are looking for cloud-based storage, find out what kind of security measures the cloud company offers, and what they take responsibility for in case of data breach. Most of the time, the onus falls on you, since a cloud company can’t be responsible for thousands of companies’ sensitive data, so take your own security measures to ensure that your data, wherever it floats, is as safe and protected as can be.

6 Ways to Fix What’s Broken in Your Business

When you’ve been in business a while, it’s sometimes easier to bury your head in the sand than to deal with the issues at hand. You’re not doing your business any favors, however.  Look at these 6 scenarios, see what you can relate to, and take action to make positive changes for your company.  These are 6 ways to fix what’s broken in your business.

8-26 broken business small1. You Have Staffing Issues

One situation is that you’re a solopreneur and need help, but you can’t quite afford to hire a full-time employee. In this case, consider hiring a freelancer (great for design or marketing help), an intern (though you’ll have to do some hand-holding), or a part-time employee to fill the need. Consider, to find a great stay-at-home mom great to get back into the workforce.

If your problem is more with the staff you have (especially true for those of you who hire teenagers), it’s time to firm up your discipline. Create an employee handbook to ensure that everyone knows what’s expected of them. If they’re unwilling to follow the rules, tell them to hit the road.

2. Cash Flow is a Problem

If you are biting your nails until your clients pay you so you can pay your team or your vendors, you have a cash flow problem. Sometimes, clients pay late, but you need to make sure you have a contingency plan. Here are a few strategies.

First, you can enforce either a late fee or offer an early discount for your invoices. The idea is that those late paying clients will be motivated — either to save money by paying early or to pay on time to avoid a late payment fee. Another idea is to take out a line of credit so that you can access cash when you need it, then pay it back when you get paid.

3. You Don’t Have Time to Market Your Business

You’re too busy dealing with those staffing and cash flow issues to hop on social media and update your profiles or write any new blog content. With only a trickle of customers coming through your door, marketing should be a priority.  Consider hiring a consultant or freelancer to take over some of your marketing efforts. You can pay a flat monthly rate or per article, and it may be more affordable than you’d imagine to hire a professional. The important thing is to get those customers coming back in, and then that expense won’t even matter.

4. You Haven’t Put Money Back into Your Business

As soon as you’ve paid everyone, you take out your cut. But your computer is on its last leg, you need to reorder inventory, and your business insurance is pats due. You feel like there’s just not enough money to go around. While paying yourself is critical, it’s just as important to reinvest in your business. Set aside a percentage of your profits — say, 20% — so that when you need to buy a computer or software, you’ve got the funds.

5. Your Yelp Reviews are Going Downhill

It started with a nasty review on Yelp months ago that you ignored, and now it’s snowballed. It seems like every other review is negative, and you don’t know what to do about it. It’s hurting your business. First, take action. Ignoring a bad review is like bleeding in shark-infested waters. Even if things aren’t so bad at your business, potential customers will move on after reading the negative review. But examine the complaints in those reviews. They might give you the opportunity to straighten up an attitudinal employee or polish your product.

6. You’re a Workaholic

If you’re working on the weekends, every weekend, please stop. I get it; sometimes you just need more time to get things done. But remember that you need downtime in the evenings and on weekends to recharge your battery. Otherwise you will burn out and eventually hate your business.  If you must work after hours, set a timer so you don’t end up eating an entire day that you should have been spending with your family. Set rules for yourself so you don’t check your email when you should be doing something more relaxing.

Creating a Spinoff Product Business From Your Service Business

Service providers deal in the commodity of knowledge. Your lawyer knows the intricacies of small business law. Your marketing consultant is well-versed in content marketing and social media. Your accountant knows how to minimize the hurt come tax time. All of them get paid for a transfer and application of their knowledge. But sometimes there’s an opportunity beyond providing services to create a complementary product business.

For me, as SmallBizLady, I get paid to work one-on-one with small businesses who need guidance and consultation. They pay for my knowledge and experience. But not everyone in my network can afford to hire me for a consultation. And that’s why I also offer information products at a much lower price point. People with tiny budgets can still afford to learn to be social media ninjas or become their own bosses through my books, mastermind groups and ecourses.

Catering to Two Markets: More Money for You

If you’re in a services industry, there are only so many people you can serve, especially if your prices are high. But what if you could also connect with another market, one who wants to read what you’ve learned and use it themselves to DIY whatever you’re teaching them?

What I love about having a product business is that once it’s created, I don’t have to worry about it. My products sell through my website and Amazon, and I don’t have to do anything to fulfill orders because they’re all digital products. So I’m making money on top of making money! Sound good to you?

Consider Who You’re Not Serving Currently

If you’re ready to spin off a new products business, start by considering who calls you but doesn’t end up becoming a client. What are they looking for? You’ll likely find several topics for ebooks, webinars, and courses immediately.

Do you attract a crowd of do-it-yourselfers? How can you share your knowledge to empower them to take care of specific tasks on their own? The more hands-on and detailed your instructions, the more successful your products will be.

See What’s Already Out There

You know what they say about not reinventing the wheel. Look at your competitors and see if they sell products, then figure out how you can fill a gap that isn’t currently served. Maybe you gear your content to a specific industry that you know is interested, or provide samples and templates that don’t already exist to help people.

Price Accordingly

Coming up with the perfect price point is always a challenge. You don’t want to alienate people who can’t afford your products, and you don’t want to charge so little that you don’t recuperate your expenses. Again, do some research to see what others charge and base yours on what you think you can get.

Where to Sell

Naturally, if you sell your products on your own website, you’ll get 100% of the profit, but setting up your site for ecommerce can take time and money. A quick solution is to sell on Amazon or on a digital products site like Gumroad. Yes, they’ll take a commission, but the traffic is so much better on these sites than your own, that you’ll likely make up for that chunk taken out in volume.

Adding a product business to your existing service business is the perfect balance: you provide in-real-time consulting, but you also make money while you sleep.

Finding the Right Price Point for Your Product

7-22 Pricing Strategies smallOnce you start a business, how do you know how much to charge? If your product is priced too high, it won’t sell. If it’s priced too low, you’ll be swamped with orders, and have such a small profit margin, it wont even be worth the effort. Finding the balance is the trick.

What Goes Into Cost

Your price should:

  • Cover your costs
  • Highlight the value you provide your customers
  • Earn you a reasonable profit
  • Be competitive

There is no such thing as the perfect price. It’s all about developing a price that your customers are willing to pay, that also makes you a profit. Because remember profit is how we keep score in business. Pricing effects every aspect of business because price is used to create sales projections, establish a break-even point, and calculate profit. There are three ways to find the right price for your product:

1. Look at the competition.

Use your competitor’s price as a reference point. If your product is of a higher quality, and you can justify more benefits, then you can probably justify a higher price point. The goal must be to stay competitive. If your product is knock off, then your price point will be less.

2. Calculate the total cost of your product.
This should include your hard costs (labor, materials/inventory, packaging, shipping.) You should also include a percentage of your overhead expenses such as (legal, accounting, marketing, and administrative costs.) Once you have a all your costs then you need to determine your profit margin to calculate the final price. Depending on what you sell the profit margin could be anywhere from 30 percent to 300 percent.

3. It's all about the perception of value.

Perceived value is one of the most common factors business owners use to determine product pricing. Unfortunately, some small business owners we perceive their value to be much greater than their would-be customers, which is a great way to go out of business. The main factor that adds value to a product is the brand behind it. Lots of stores sell mixers, but if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, you have a top of the line machine. Why is that? All mixers basically function the same.

It's all about the perception of value. The Kitchen Aid mixer has a higher perceived value.

Let me give you a quick MBA lesson:

Price = (Labor + Materials) x profit margin

What that profit margin is will depend on your industry and who you’re selling to. If you’re selling wholesale, you might double what your labor and materials cost. If you’re selling retail, it might be double what you’d charge wholesale.

Don’t Compete on Price

There’s often a pull to be the cheapest seller on the block. Resist the urge, otherwise you people will assume your products are lower quality. Someone will always be able to offer similar products cheaper than you, so this is a no-win situation.

Don’t be afraid to Charge a Premium!

People pay based on perceived value. If you are confident — and competent — and can point to great work you’ve done in the past, people absolutely will be willing to pay what you charge.

Down-the-Road Discounts

It’s easier to charge more and come down in price than to start out low and then charge more. If your prices seem to be too high for your marketplace, test out different promotions and see what price point resonates with your audience. Psychologically, you may see better results simply offering a discount occasionally than to reduce your prices across the board.

Test your Price Point

Pay attention to people’s response to your prices. If you don’t want to cut your profit margin down, consider adding more value to what they get, such as a free product, or discount on future purchases.

The Lowdown on Small Business Bank Loans

7-15 small business loan smallStarting a small business is a costly endeavor. It’s rare that a business owner has so much cash saved that she doesn’t need any capital once the business really start rolling. One way to secure funding is through a small business bank loan. While bank loans are not easy to obtain, once you’ve been in business at least 2 years and have financial statements which show your company is growing, you can find some local bank or CDFI’s Community Development Financial Institutions that will extend you a loan.

The key to finding a loan is to seek out banks that are more likely to work with small businesses. Smaller banks move faster in terms of processing the loan, but they are much more rigid in their loan requirements and require significant collateral. That being said, if you have a relationship with a local bank,that may be the first place you want to look at for funding.

Many of the large national banks chains cannot adequately service the needs of very small businesses. In addition, the lending decisions are not made locally. Whether you decide to seek funding for a larger national bank or small one, make sure you consider the six Cs, which is the way a bank will assess your application.

1. Capacity:  This is the most important factor your bank will consider in deciding whether to advance you money. It is essentially whether you can pay back the money you borrow. Your current cash flow statements should illustrate how you can repay the loan in a timely manner.

2. Credit: Your personal credit score is a factor in your small business loan application. Banks will require you to sign a personal guarantee on a loan to share the risk. The higher your credit score, the more favorable terms you can negotiate.

3. Capital: How much money do you need and how will you use those funds? It’s important to detail exactly how much you need and what you will use that money for in your business. Keep in mind the more money you ask for, the more scrutiny your loan application will receive. Typically you can borrow 10 percent of your gross revenue.

4. Collateral: Any business owner will be asked what assets he can provide to secure the loan. For example, if you own a home, car, or other personal assets, those will be considered when a bank decides whether to grant your loan request. The more collateral you have, the more willing a financial institution may be to lend you money.

5. Character:  Simply put, this is your reputation. You will be asked for references that can speak to whether you are trustworthy and have community connections. Banks will also look at your business experience and your industry background.

6. Conditions: This refers to your loan’s terms and conditions. You need to answer the question: is it a good deal for you or the lender? Your bank wants to make sure that you are using the loan for a legitimate business purpose. As such, some lenders will require invoices from your vendors and will cut checks directly to the vendors for payment.

When you’re seeking a small business loan, it’s important to understand what all six of the Cs look like for your business before completing your loan application. Keep in mind that credit unions and nonprofits may also offer small business loans. These organizations may give smaller loans than banks, but they are often a great first step in securing financing and establishing business credit, especially if banks are not an option. 

The 4 Ps of Marketing (and How to Incorporate Them in Your Marketing Plan)

When many business owners think of marketing, the things that often come to mind are techniques like writing advertising copy or crafting messages for social media. While those tactics do eventually become part of the plan, they are not the sole components of marketing your services. The first step to successfully developing your businesses’ marketing plan is defining the four Ps and understanding how they inform the strategy in its entirety. Let’s take a look at the four Ps and how to include them in your marketing plan.

What are the Four Ps?

The ultimate goal of all marketing is to generate sales. As such, the four Ps of marketing are tools to help you effectively turn a profit, (which I believe should be the 5 p’s actually). Understanding what you need to maximize both profits and sales is key to developing an effective marketing plan. The four Ps — Product, Placement, Promotion and Price — help you do that.


The foundation of any business is the item or service you are selling. Hence the first P is product. Take time to describe in detail the product or service you offer. If it’s a physical item, write down the different options, packaging, features, and sizes.

Once you’ve described the product itself, delve into how that product meets the needs of the client, the features and benefits, and your competitive edge. Explain how it will be manufactured or performed. Then take it a step further and identify what deeper problem it’s helping the client solve. For example, the product may be a technology service that helps the client better track inventory. But it’s also helping the client attain sales goals and make more money each month.


The second P stands for placement, which covers how the product or service will be delivered. At this point, describe the distribution channels and physical facilities needed in order to move the product from manufacturing and storage to the consumer. For example, is the product placed in a warehouse, garage, fulfillment house, or office space?


The third P — promotion– is where many of the tactical and fun ideas for marketing your product come into play. At this stage, outline what advertising channels you will use to let people know about the product. For example, will you use the Internet, flyers, magazines or newspaper ads, direct mail, broadcasting, or social media? Write out all your public relations strategies and ideas. Then review your personal and business networks to determine who can help you implement the marketing strategies.


The fourth P is price, and it is here where you determine what the market will pay for the product or service. Pricing strategy is all about pricing your product or service for your different target markets. Determine the list price, discounts, wholesale allowances, markdowns, payment periods, and credit terms.

The good news is that much of the information you need to develop a marketing plan is free or low cost. Before you sit down to write your four Ps and marketing plan, spend time online listening to your potential customers and your competition. Go to the library and subscribe to industry publications. Join trade organizations, contact the local Chamber of Commerce, and talk to potential customers. Doing these things will help you articulate your four Ps and write a marketing plan that really targets your target markets with the right messages, and through the most effective channels.  

Nextiva Logo

phone-icon Sales phone-icon Support
Nextiva is the leader in Business VoIP Services. Copyright 2015 Nextiva, All Rights Reserved,
Terms and Conditions Privacy Policy Patents Sitemap