Archive for November, 2013

Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Tips For The New Year

Is your business ready for the New Year? The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson, gives you 5 tips to get your business optimized for 2014 in this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday.

Sales Contests: 6 Planning Questions to Consider

Sales contests can be excellent ways to motivate your team members, add some excitement to the office environment and, ultimately, boost revenue.

Here, Lauri Flaquer, owner of Saltar Solutions, a business consultancy based in St. Paul, Minn., offers her top questions small business owners should ask themselves when launching a contest.

#1: What is the objective of the contest?

While increasing revenue could be one objective, contests can also be effective ways to retain former customers and to build a more cohesive team. Establish a clear objective before diving in, recommends Flaquer.

#2: What prizes will you offer?

“Figure out what specific prizes motivates your group. Not everyone will be motivated by money, so consider offering days off, trips or merchandise,” she advises.

Not sure what motivates your employees? Just ask them. The more involved they feel, the more excited they will be to perform.

#3: How will you structure your teams?

Team sales contests are far more effective than individual sales contents, says Flaquer, adding that three-person teams can create the best scenario.

“Engagement is really important with these situations, so if you pit one person against another and the same person wins all the time, the other person will just think, ‘why bother?’” she says. “I recommend pairing strong staff members with weaker ones to allow them to learn from each other.”

 #4: How will you track results?

Visible results make the greatest impact. Post results daily in your break room or on your company’s intranet homepage. Share a link to the results page with your whole team so people know where they stand at any given time.

#5: How will you keep participants engaged along the way?

Consider giving out incremental prizes to help keep your employees excited about the contest, recommend Flaquer. Gas cards and silly gifts from the dollar store can suffice.

Keep the grand prize top of mind in your office by making it visible. “Put the prize in a case in your lobby or keep a photo of it sitting in an entryway,” she says. “It will keep people subconsciously thinking about the contest and the prize at the end.”

#6: What is your post-contest celebration plan?

Organize a fun event for the final day of the celebration—be it a pizza party or a picnic at a nearby park.

“Be sure to celebrate the entire contest, not just the winner,” Flaquer suggests. “Everyone should feel good about having participated.” 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Use Free Shipping to Make the Holiday Sale

Want to provide great customer service this holiday season (and boost your sales in the bargain)? As we head into Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday shopping season, one of the biggest motivators you can offer online shoppers is free shipping. Most major retailers offer some form of free shipping on their websites, so providing the same can help level the playing field with your bigger competitors.

Are you worried about free shipping eating into your profits? Of course, you’ll need to run the numbers and figure out what types of purchases you can safely offer free shipping for. Here are 3 ways to have the best of both worlds by providing free shipping without destroying your margins:

  1. Offer free shipping after a certain minimum purchase level is reached, such as $25, $50 or $100. You can vary the levels on different days, or send different offers to different customers based on their past purchasing behaviors. Shoppers will usually spend more than they intended in order to get the free shipping.
  2. Offer free shipping during a certain time frame. On highly competitive days, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you may need to offer free shipping just to stay in the game. (You can still set a minimum order level so you don’t end up shipping $1.95 products for free.)
  3. Offer free shipping for VIPs or members. Consider how successful Amazon has been with its Amazon Prime membership, where customers pay an annual fee to get everything shipped free. You could set up a similar program—either have customers pay an annual fee, or offer free shipping to customers whose annual purchasing stays above a certain threshold.

Make sure you clearly display cut-off dates and times for any free shipping promotions, as well as the “fine print” such as minimum order needed. Doing so will alleviate any customer frustration by preventing customers from loading up a shopping cart only to find they can’t get the items shipped free by the desired date.

Maximize your free shipping marketing potential by participating in Free Shipping Day December 18. Participating merchants guarantee free shipping by Christmas for orders placed on this day. You can learn more and sign up to be a participating merchant at the Free Shipping Day site. 


Mondays with Mike: Serve Your Market, Not All Markets!

Figure out what "world" your business is serving and begin catering to them. Find out how in this week's Mondays with Mike video from author and consultant Mike Michalowicz.

Have You Really Given it 100%?

Hard-WorkOne of the most common statements that I hear over and over again from struggling entrepreneurs and business owners (and even from friends and family in my personal life!) is that they have given it 100%. This statement is usually an attempt of sorts to make a person feel better about throwing in the towel regarding a particular business endeavor or giving up on a challenging situation when the outcome does not work out in the way that they had anticipated.

But, in virtually every situation when those words are uttered, 100% effort was not put forth. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that 50% effort wasn’t even given. Those words are just a smoke screen to help provide a false sense of comfort to excuse the person saying them from trying or continuing on.

You will hear others tout that they have given it 100% in all kinds of situations and not just in business. This phrase gets uttered whenever someone is looking for an excuse to give up when the going gets tough. It doesn’t matter what the goal is- in every kind of situation from completing a strict new workout regime to working through failing marriage, or even solving a difficult business issue, most often, the reality is that the individual had put forward some kind of effort, but nowhere near 100% effort. 

Ask yourself when you are dealing with a challenging situation: have you really given it 100%? Have you really thought through, worked through and tried to implement every possible solution imaginable? Have you really tried to connect and seek the help of every single person that you know through your personal, professional and even social media networks? If your business is failing, have you truly exploited every possible avenue in terms of marketing, teaming up with other related businesses or competitors, following up with potential and current customers, reducing waste, boosting efficiency and improving customer service? Now, I’m not a betting woman, but I’m willing to bet that the answer is “no”, which means that you didn’t really give it 100%.

So, when you are trying to reach a difficult goal or are faced with a challenging situation in business (or even in your personal life), really give it 100%. Think through and then act on every possible scenario and solution until you meet that goal or fix that issue. I always find that it helps to write out a list of all possible solutions.  And then, I break those solutions down into smaller steps and goals that are easier to reach.  It makes everything seem less overwhelming and sometimes, leads to a solution that you hadn’t even thought about before. It can be easy to get discouraged, but don’t give up because something is harder than you had anticipated. Really push yourself, because that extra effort that you put in will make all of the difference between failure and success.

Do you have any advice or anecdotes about giving it 100% effort in business or otherwise?  Please share it below.

How to Sell More in Less Time

Small businesses waste a lot of time selling to the wrong people. As a result, their company either does not grow or their sales drop. Here are 3 ways to improve their sales yield:

1. Focus on the right prospects. People only buy when they are in pain and have money to solve that pain. Every prospect should be asked:

  • What pain does your company need to solve?
  • What is the cost of that pain to your company? (or What will it cost your company if the pain is not solved?)
  • Who in your company can make the decision to solve that pain? (or Who has the money in their budget to solve the pain?) 

Many sales people make the mistake of not getting these questions answered up front and waste time with non-buyers masquerading as prospects. 

2. Be there when prospects are ready to buy. Companies actually don’t sell their products or services, but rather customers buy from them. As a result, companies need to be there when prospects are ready to buy. They need to be found and put into the “maybe pile” when a customer is making a decision. In order to achieve this, every small business owners needs to establish long term relationships with clients by offering them valuable knowledge at least monthly that showcases the company’s brand. For example, a dentist may send information on how patients should floss their teeth or a comparison of toothbrushes. Remember, this is not marketing communication that sells product, but a friendly offer of knowledgeable help.

3. Practice the rapid release strategy. Any company can reduce their selling time by 90% and improve their sales yield by only focusing on customers that are ready to buy. Many prospects say yes to a company and then never respond to complete the sale. These people should be contacted a few more times and then put back into the marketing funnel. Sales people waste a lot of time “hoping” these “closed” prospects will contact them and get started. They get stuck here and stop looking for new prospects to meet their sales targets. If they have not heard from the prospects after several calls or contacts, they need to be let go and move on.

How does your company improve its sales yield?

Work Your Biz Wednesday: Handling Personnel Issues

As a small business owner, one of the biggest challenges you will face is dealing with your employees. This week's Work Your Biz Wednesday video from Melinda Emerson gives tips on how to deal with personnel issues.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Correct a Problem Employee

It’s the part of our jobs every small business owner hates: dealing with problem employees. Whatever the reason (whether you dislike confrontation or worry about getting sued) you can’t ignore employee problems, or they will just get bigger and potentially threaten your entire business. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to protect your business legally, while also correcting the employee’s poor behavior.

The moment you hire your first employee you need to create a written employee policy that documents your rules and expectations for the workplace. It should also state what actions (such as theft) would be grounds for dismissal. Have all employees read and sign a copy.

When a problem does arise, start by getting the facts. Talk to other employees to see what’s going on and document the issues as objectively as possible.

Then it’s time to talk to the person. To stay on the right side of the law when it comes to discipline, you should have a progressive discipline policy that gives employees opportunities to correct their behaviors. Start with a discussion of the issue and a verbal warning, and set a date by which the behavior needs to be corrected.

The goal is to work out problems and hopefully keep the employee on board. Work with him or her to create a plan for how to improve. Getting the employee’s input makes him or her more invested in the outcome.

If the behavior still doesn’t improve, escalate your discipline to a written warning, which documents the problem and its duration, specifies how long the employee has to correct the problem and details what will happen if it’s still not fixed. You and the employee should both sign this.

Depending on your employee policies, how severe the issue is and whether the employee is really trying to improve or not, you may do multiple written warnings before (in the worst case) terminating an employee. However, by implementing progressive discipline early and correctly, hopefully you never come to that point.

If you have any doubts or questions about discipline and termination, be sure to consult with an attorney who is familiar with your state’s employment laws.


How to Take Advantage of Small Business Saturday

Black Friday is always a difficult day for small business owners to compete with the hoopla around early morning discounts at big box retailers. The day after Black Friday has become a day to focus on shopping at small businesses. American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010.

Here is how to take advantage this year on November 30, 2013 to drive customers to your company:

  1. Give $10 gift to each customer. Promote that American Express is offering a $10 credit to card members who register and use their card to shop at small businesses on that Saturday. Multiply this $10 when they use it at your company.
  2. Build a specific campaign leveraging this day and American Express’ brand. There are few times when a small business can tie their company directly to a national brand and promotion. This gives them the leverage of a large big box retailer. Build marketing offer specifically for this day. This can be exclusive pricing, bundles, free add ons or availability.
  3. Customized marketing material. Use free customized online ad cards, logos and other recognizable images provided by American Express.
  4. Social media starters. Use Twitter and Facebook templates available to help spread the word about your company leading up to this day. Use the #SmallBusinessSaturday hashtag on Twitter. If your business has never used social media, these templates are an excellent way to easily get started.
  5. Welcome mats. Free Small Business Saturday Welcome mats (literally) are available from American Express.  If you do not have a physical retail location, use the mats in creative pictures on Facebook or Pinterest.    
  6. Join a neighborhood circle. Get involved with local merchants to drive traffic to each others retail locations (or online sites). American Express will help you form this relationships. This is an excellent way to work with other local businesses that can extend well beyond this promotional day.
  7. Get on the map. American Express has built an interactive map to help their cardholders find and shop at small businesses. They are also giving their members an exclusive offer redeemable only at merchants that appear on the Small Business Saturday Map. Get found!

How will your business be promoting Small Business Saturday? 

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Sales Expert
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Learn how Nextiva Analytics gives you unprecedented insight into your business.

Nextiva's XBert

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Sales Expert
(800) 799-0600
Learn how Nextiva Analytics gives you unprecedented insight into your business.