Browsing Date

October 2013

What You Can Learn from the Big Business of College Admissions

By October 24, 2013 No Comments

college-applicationsThe process of applying to colleges is a lesson in effective marketing. Any parent who has applied to schools can marvel at the lengths that college admissions officers will go through to attract new students. Small businesses can learn a lot from how they market to their future consumers:

  1. Start early. Colleges start to tell students about their schools over a year before they need to apply and two years before they are ready to attend. They want to get on the student’s short list in their junior year in high school. Small business lesson: Attracting customers is all about creating relationships and being there when they are ready to buy. Every customer needs to know about how a business can help them long before they actually need them.
  2. Tell stories. Every school paints a wonderful picture for parents and students of what it will be like to attend their school. Small business lesson: Every business needs to tell prospects how good it will be once they solve their pain. Consumers still love to buy dreams.
  3. Sample the product. Colleges want students to sample their product. They do this is many ways. They set up special days to visit the schools or send representatives to the student’s high school. Most schools show models of dorm rooms because they can’t actually risk showing a real one. Small business lesson: Do not give spontaneous live product demos that don’t have predictable results.
  4. Give references. The colleges talk about their famous alumni and the successful people that have graduated from their school. They take full credit for their success. Small business lesson: All businesses need to attach themselves to well-known brands. If you have notable client references, use them prominently.
  5. Stay in touch. Students receive email, direct mail and phone calls almost every week from colleges. They even wish the prospective students “Happy Birthday”.  Small business lesson: Don’t worry about reaching out too often to prospective customers as long as the company is helping, not selling.
  6. Know where the profit is: The urban schools push living on campus and using their meal plan. This is because these two areas (housing and food) are their most profitable for any college. Small business lesson: Know where the company’s profit is and sell those to prospective customers.
  7. Address the elephant in the room: For colleges, it's the outrageous cost. The biggest objection for attending college is the money, so school address that head on. Small business lessons: Address the objection to buying a product up front and do not wait for the prospect to bring it up.
  8. Everyone and everything reflects the brand. Every interaction a prospect has at the school shapes their total experience. Small bushiness lesson: Understand that each time a customer or prospect comes in contact with a person, email, or website from a company, it adds or subtracts from that brand.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Start Staffing Up for the Holidays

By October 22, 2013 No Comments

woman-shopping-online-for-christmasIs your small business going to need more help this year to handle the holiday rush and provide great customer service? If so, you’d better get a move on: A recent survey commissioned by Snagajob reports that nearly 70 percent of hiring managers will be adding hourly workers this holiday season, up from last year—and they’ll be adding 28 percent more seasonal employees than last year.

Most managers who are adding seasonal workers started hiring last month, and will complete their seasonal staffing this month. That means competition is stiff. So if you’ve waited, here are some strategies to help in your seasonal hiring:

  • Tap your social networks. Post seasonal job openings on your business website, of course, but also promote them on your social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Use photos or videos to give a feel for what it’s like to work at your business and make it look fun and exciting. Of course, you should also check in with your contacts on social networks such as LinkedIn to see if they have any suggestions for people seeking seasonal work.
  • Try a temporary agency. If you want to avoid the headaches of hunting for workers, as well as the hassles of handling all the paperwork and tax withholding, a temporary agency can be a good solution. Tell the temp agency what you want, and they’ll find prospective candidates for you to interview. You pay the temp agency and they pay the worker, plus handle all the documentation, payroll and tax withholding that’s needed so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Think outside the box. Many seniors and stay-at-home moms are looking for extra money around the holidays. Depending on your seasonal hiring needs, these types of candidates could be perfect for you. Tap into local PTAs, tot lots or other organizations that attract stay-at-home moms (you can find lots of them on Facebook) to let people know you’re hiring. Contact senior centers to see if you can post job listings on their boards or otherwise spread the word.
  • Work with schools. Teens are the classic seasonal employee and the recession has left many teens looking for work as adults are filling jobs that typically went to them. Contact high school career centers or counselors, or college career or job placement centers, to find out about posting your seasonal job listings. Many will be happy to put their students in touch with you.  
  • Go virtual. If you need customer service people to handle phone calls or online inquiries, consider hiring virtual customer service reps. You can place listings with companies such as oDesk or SimplyHired.

It’s not too late to find the perfect seasonal workers—you just have to know where to look. 


Top 10 Small Business Trends of the Past Decade

By October 18, 2013 No Comments

businessDecadeThe nature of small business has changed radically over the past decade. Once an outlier of employment, small business has become a significant engine of America. In fact, the entrepreneur’s dream is the stuff movies like “The Social Network” are now made from. So what have been the most significant trends for small business in the last decade that have pushed it to the forefront of American business?

  1. The internet means geographic independent customers. For most businesses, a company and its consumers can now be anywhere in the world. While this breaks down geographic barriers to entry, it also opens up a worldwide marketplace to every small company.
  2. Working anywhere at any time.  For many businesses, the office is wherever their smartphone or computer is. Work has become place independent. This also means that small businesses can find the best and most cost effective employees anywhere in the world!
  3. Merging of work and home. Many people no longer go to work at 8:00am and leave work at 5:00pm. Home looks more like work and work like home. As a result, most small business owners work a lot more hours than they did a decade ago. This mashup also keeps productivity down.
  4. Easy to keep a broader network. Ongoing connection with customers and prospects has never been easier through Facebook and other social media. Doing business together no longer requires face to face meetings.
  5. Size no longer matters. It is typically impossible to tell the size of a company. Technology like Nextiva's cloud-based phone service enables small companies to look big and large companies want to look small and personal.
  6. Customer service is the new marketing. Online reputations are now driven by peer recommendations on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or YouTube. Technology makes this the new age of customer service with easy customization, big data, cookies, self-service and customer chat.
  7. Less credit, more cash. Businesses are financing their own start up or growth through personal savings, family or friends. Banks have more limitations imposed by the FDIC on how they give loans. As result, small businesses are being forced to manage their cash more efficiently.
  8. Less benefits, higher deductibles. An employer paying 100% of a health care premium is a thing of the past. Employees now pay a larger share with a higher deductible supplemented with health savings accounts.
  9. A new class of employee appears. It used to be that a person was either employed or unemployed. Now, many people are underemployed. They are either working only part time or not getting paid what they had been before.
  10. Personal branding. Working for one company for a long period of time died in the 90’s. In order to find employment, people now form loose collaborations to accomplish a task for a single or multiple clients. Since these form and change frequently, the only brand that is promoted long term is “you”.

What do you think the most important small business trends of the past decade have been?


Rules for Managing Remote Employees

By October 17, 2013 No Comments

Remote working, or telecommuting, is rapidly gaining in popularity across the United States. While employers are warming to the idea, many lack the knowledge of how to properly manage staffers who work from home.

Here, Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a professional job service for flexible workers, offers her top tips for managing remote employees.

Establish clear metrics

Exact deadlines, check-in times and productivity expectations are vital to operating a business with remote employees, says Sutton Fell.

“Make sure those are clear,” she says. “That way, your employee won’t be left not knowing what they should be doing at what time.”

In addition to helping steer the activities of staff members, clear metrics will also help the business owner.

“Telecommuting allows business owners the opportunity to see when things are going right and when they are going wrong. In an office where everyone sits at his or her desk all day, you may think work is getting done when it isn’t,” she says.

“But with telecommuting, you can tell if your employee misses a couple deadlines or is low on their productivity and you can touch base with them to see what is going on and how it can be fixed.”

Communicate constantly

Touch base with your employee every day (even several times a day) when they first start out. As your staffer gets more comfortable with his or her position, allow the communication to taper, but not much.

“Really try to mimic an office experience by checking in regularly,” she says. “Give instant messager a try. It can help with quick questions and keep you in the loop with your employees.”

Accessibility is important when it comes to communication, she adds. Lend a listening ear when your employee needs it, otherwise the relationships can erode over time.