Browsing Date

July 2013

How to Craft the Perfect Business Newsletter

By July 31, 2013 No Comments

NewsletterRelationships are the backbones of all small businesses. Without them, it can be difficult to attract referrals, participate in industry events and build a positive reputation for your business. So, outside of hard selling (which often has a negative effect on customer interactions), what is another method of strengthening relationships?

“Create a client-facing newsletter,” says Jim Palmer, a marketing expert known as “The Newsletter Guru.”

“So many small business owners will focus time and money on client acquisition, but in reality it is important to focus on a retention strategy and a way to preserve relationships,” he says. “Newsletters are the perfect way to do that.”

Here, Palmer offers his top tips on building an effective customer-facing newsletter.

Start with a success story

Newsletters are not about the hard sell; they are meant to generate interest in and a personal connection to your business. Palmer recommends starting your newsletter with a client success story. Maybe your service helped a customer save money on health insurance premiums. Describe in detail (using the name of your client with permission) what you did from start to finish and how it helped your customer.

Tip: Focus on how the customer was helped, not on your product. Write the story like a news article, not sales flyer. Write a headline (i.e. ‘Company saves $50,000 on insurance premiums.’) and a subheadline (i.e. ‘Here’s how we did it.’).

Answer frequently asked questions

Lets say you are the owner of a CPA firm and the majority of your clients come to you for end-of-year tax help. Are they also aware that you aid in estate planning, financial planning and even teach classes on how to save money? Probably not.

“Use your newsletter to tell your customers what else you do in your business,” he suggests.

Include helpful articles

After the ‘what else’ section, include fun, interesting and entertaining stories that your clients would be interested in reading. Don’t focus on your business. Instead, if you are an accountant, write up a story on how to save money on a family vacation or how to lower your air conditioning bill in the summer.

“Be informative to your customers and write articles with tips yourself,” Palmer says. “I don’t recommend copying and pasting an article from the Internet that is copyrighted.”

End on a personal note

Conclude your newsletter with a noteworthy story about yourself (maybe your family adopted a new pet) or an employee. Just make sure the story is interesting, not just a profile on someone for no reason.

Palmer suggests, “Write about how your director of sales is the drummer in a band with a picture of him. It will add a human element to your newsletter and allow your readers to feel connected to your company on a personal level.” 

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Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Build a Bench of Employees

By July 30, 2013 No Comments

imagesOne of the biggest problems small business owners run into when it comes to human resources is the lack of a “bench.” What do I mean by that? In baseball, when one player gets injured or has to step out of the game for any reason, the coach turns to the “bench” of waiting (but talented) second-stringers to fill the gap.

If one of your key employees quits unexpectedly, having a bench of qualified employees who can step in to fill the gap can enable your business to keep running smoothly. If you don’t have a bench…well, you’re in for weeks (or months) of struggle as you place want ads, pore over resumes and interview potential candidates. How can you avoid these headaches (and the risk of an accompanying sales slump) and build a bench? Try these tips.

  1. Don’t get complacent. You may think you don’t need a bench because your key employees have been with you for years and are incredibly loyal. That may be, but with the economy picking up, more workers are itching to find new jobs. Data from the Labor Department shows the average time workers spend with one company is now less than five years.
  2. Plan ahead. Always have a game plan for what you would do if a key employee left the company. Create an organization chart and regularly review it. Who could slot into what position? If you have positions for which there isn’t a potential replacement on staff, make note of them and start fixing the situation.
  3. Identify potential second-stringers. Maybe there’s no one on staff who’s ready to jump into a key position—but is there someone who could do so with a little training and development? Identify those potential replacements and the skills they need to gain to become “bench-worthy.”
  4. Start training. Use all options available to you to provide the training needed to create a bench. This can include training offered by industry organizations or associations; signing employees up for online webinars or trainings; having them take adult education courses at a local community college; or cross-training them to handle each other’s jobs. (The latter tactic not only helps you build a bench, but also makes life a lot easier when someone is on vacation or out sick.
  5. Reward achievement. As employees gain new skills, figure out ways to reward them, whether with salary increases, title changes, bonuses or additional perks, during the interim when they’re learning new things, but are still on the bench. 
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How to Manage Your Virtual Employees

By July 26, 2013 No Comments

virtual-employeeThe nature of employment has changed. Most small businesses are no longer centralized in one location, but instead have their employees work from all over the world. To ensure that this is effective, a new style of management needs to be implemented to maximize the performance of these virtual employees. The isolation of a remote employee from a company and culture is very real and needs to be specifically addressed. It should include:

  1. Well-defined goals and objectives that can be tracked. What metrics can be implemented to define what success for that employee looks like? This is particularly important for employees that can’t be “seen” everyday or those from a different country culture. For sales people it’s easy to define, but for customer service or development employees, it is more difficult.
  2. Provide the necessary tools to work remotely. These employees may need additional solutions that centrally located employees do not. This includes a video camera, smartphone and reliable remote access to all secure office applications.
  3. Check in with the employee by phone or video chat often. Text chat or email is effective for some tasks, but it does not establish the personal connection that is required. Video will force the manager to focus on being with that employee.
  4. Set up in person meetings at least once a year. (Twice is better.) There is still nothing that replaces in person meetings for establishing the best working relationship. Once an in person relationship is started, it is much easier to work together remotely. Annual meetings where all employees see each other in one location is also critical for morale.
  5. Always over communicate. Give more feedback to a virtual employees than anyone that works in the same office. Remember that working remotely, they are isolated physcially and emotionally. This attention will ensure that they feel they have the manager’s attention and are more likely to remain on task.
  6. Make sure they feel a part of the company. The manager needs to think about how they extend their company’s culture outside a physical location. This can include monthly virtual events for all remote and centralized employees.

How have you changed your management style to work with virtual employees?

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Barry Moltz helps small business owners get unstuck. He is an author, motivational speaker and consultant. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com

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4 Signs Your Customer Service Needs a Reboot

By July 25, 2013 No Comments

happy-shopper-2Think back to the last outstanding experience you had at a shop or restaurant. What made it so great? Was it the price or was it the exceptional level of service you received?

For a customer to feel deeply satisfied with a buying experience, it usually comes down to service over price. According to a 2011 American Express survey, “78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.”

Exceptional customer service generates revenue. Here are a few warning signs that your service practices may need a closer look.

Retention rates are lagging

While it is important to land new clients, it is also vital to focus on retaining your current customers. Go back in your books and check retention rates over the last few months. If those numbers are at the same level or have decreased, it’s time to rethink your customer service strategy.

“It is important to track retention rates closely,” says Barbara Burke, a customer service expert, author and speaker based in Minnesota.

Direct competitors are thriving

Do some Internet research (or better yet, in-person information gathering) on your competitors. If those companies look to be raking in heaps more customers than you are, consider changing your strategy.

“If your competitor has live chat online, you may want to explore that,” says Burke. “Zappos.com, for example, has seen the number of live chats with customers grow so much that they are cutting back on incoming call agents. Live chat is an incredibly popular customer service tool these days.”

Employees look tired

Your employees are your best source of information on customer satisfaction, says Burke.

“Ask your employees for suggestions on how to make your company’s service better,” she recommends. “Inquire as to what customers are complaining about and then develop a plan for how to fix service-related problems.”

Your gut is screaming

Is there a nagging voice in your head that you’ve been trying to push away for a few weeks or months? Start paying attention; your subconscious may be telling you to change something in your business.

Burke recommends, “If you have a hunch, follow up. If you see an issue, fix it right away.” 

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