Thursday, August 28, 2014
It is no secret that customer loyalty is directly related to higher sales. When a customer is loyal to a company or business, they will go out of their way to make purchases with that organization. Creating customer loyalty is especially important for small businesses – larger companies attract enough one-time buyers to continue to hit their sales numbers but small businesses need to rely on repeat business to make a profit. What many small business owners struggle with is creating the customer loyalty and developing customer relationships that keep consumers coming back time and time again.
One of the keys to creating customer loyalty is having great customer service. Although customer service is something that every business prides themselves on, more often than not customer receives bad service which discourages them from purchasing from the organization again. Make sure to develop a great customer service culture within your business – set the bar high for how customers are treated, make sure they are greeted in a friendly manner and their needs are taken care of quickly and effectively. Customers will remember great service and be more likely to purchase from you again.
While it is important to try and sell your products and services to a customer, it is important to also try to not be pushy or overbearing with your sales pitch. Consumers who feel that they are bullied into making purchases or hounded by a sales person are not likely to return to that business again. A better approach is to focus on how your business, products and services can help improve the customer’s life – when consumers feel as though a business owner truly cares about them, their needs, and their wants, they are much more comfortable and happy to return to the business to fill their needs in the future.
Once you have developed a rapport with a customer, make sure to be in regular communication with them. Develop a key customer list and send emails or direct mail pieces to let them know about specials or sales in your business. Also, it never hurts to send a note just checking in with them if they have not done business with the company in a while. Consumers want to know they are cared about and really appreciate a business or an owner who reaches out to them on a personal level. Developing these kinds of relationships will easily transition into customer loyalty and can truly help boost sales overall.
When a business has loyal customers, they usually have higher sales. Loyal customers not only make regular purchases from the business but they also suggest the company to their family and friends. Consumers who are happy with a business’s customer service and the relationship they have with employees or the owner are much more likely to tell others about their experience and encourage them to also make purchases. When a customer’s loyalty is combined with the word of mouth marketing they can provide, the possibilities for growth and increased sales are endless!
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Choosing and Executing a Successful Bonus Program
Bonus programs are on the rise in corporate America. The increase in these programs is due to companies having the need to identify and ensure they have the right talents to continue to grow. All different types of bonus programs, including signing, referral and spot programs, have exponentially increased over the past four years. While it is generally larger organizations that employ these programs, small business will start feeling the effects when they begin to compete for job candidates. Because of this, it may be worthwhile to investigate a bonus program for your small business.
Information on Signing Bonus Programs
Signing bonus programs are probably the least likely to be used in small business. Although uncommon, this type of bonus program can still be beneficial in certain situations. Signing bonuses are great for small businesses if they are standard practice in the industry, employers need to motivate desirable talent to move to the area or when attracting candidates with hard to find skills. It is important, however, to make sure signing bonuses are employed carefully. Consider staggering the bonus payment – this will help prevent any candidates who would simply use the bonus to “job hop.” It is also important to remember that this bonus cannot be a candidate’s sole attraction to the business but should be an addition to other employee development opportunities.
Information on Referral Bonuses
Referral bonuses are given to employees who refer new talent as job candidates who in turn get hired by the company. The theory behind this bonus program is that talented individuals know and are friends with other talented individuals – if a great employee refers someone for a position, chances are they will also be a great employee. To implement this type of referral program, it is important to develop a policy and procedure for how payment of the bonus works before presenting it to your staff. Ask questions such as, "Should a referral bonus be offered for every position or just specific jobs?" "Is the program ongoing or is it only employed during times of need?" " Should the bonus be paid in full when the referral is hired, or partially paid out until the new employee makes it through a probationary period?" The answers to these questions will help guide how the program works.
Information on Spot Bonuses
Spot bonuses are given to employees “on the spot” for desirable behavior. These bonuses are most frequently rewarded for special recognition, project completion and going above and beyond the employee’s outline responsibilities. Larger companies have spot bonuses north of $1,000, but for smaller businesses, gift cards and small amounts of money can be just as effective. This is another bonus program that should be well developed before presenting it to employees – decide whether or not the bonus program will have levels, set a strict budget for how much of the business’s money will be used and make sure to publicize the program well once it is fully established. Studies have shown that employees who have goals to work toward often perform better and more efficiently.
Friday, August 22, 2014
Tips for Franchise Purchasing
Being a business owner is a dream for many people but, not everyone has a unique concept or niche market they are interested in. For some, owning a franchise is a great way to be the boss without having to create a business from scratch. On the opposite hand, however, is the overwhelming search to find a franchise that meets the business owner’s wants as well as the community’s needs. With an enormous number of choices available, the possibilities are endless. When making this decision becomes too much, there are some tricks you can use to help make the franchise purchasing process a little easier.
Do Your Homework
Franchises work in different ways than many of the traditional business models we are used to and even more differently from one another. This is why it is crucially important to do extensive research on how franchises operate and what the common policies and procedures are before making a final decision. When you have determined this business model is still the right fit for you, take the time to get in touch with current franchise owners – having a conversation with someone who is in the seat you want to take can help you to gain insight into the world of franchise purchasing from someone who has lived it.
Seek Out Different Franchise Opportunities
When it comes to finding franchise purchase opportunities, do not just scoop up the first one that presents itself. Even though you may have found a great opportunity that matches your wants, needs and skillset, it is always important to see what else is out there. Make sure to compare apples to apples – when an opportunity presents itself, try to find one to two more opportunities that are very similar and see how they stack up side by side. Since your investment in the franchise will more than likely be north of $100K it is important to make sure the business model and organization are a perfect fit.
Seek the Guidance of Professionals
Once one or more franchise opportunities are found that seriously interest you, consider working with a small business accountant to help identify different financial implications. Franchises often carry different tax regulations and it is important as an owner to understand these effects and what that will mean for your business and your wallet. Having a small business account or franchise lawyer in your corner during the purchasing process is an invaluable asset – they will help to explain and prepare you for what owning a franchise will be like and make sure you are not getting scammed in any way.
It is important to remember that purchasing a franchise is a huge step and equally huge commitment. While doing research and talking to professionals is a great way to learn about the business and make educated decisions, it is also important to trust your gut. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. During the purchasing process, make sure to keep your wits about you – if something feels right, move forward but if something is off about the deal, do not make a decision because you feel you have to. Even if one opportunity does not work out, there will always be another one around the corner.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Attracting the Right Talent to Meet Your Business Needs
When job seekers are looking for their next career opportunity, it is safe to say that some of them do not dream of working for a small business. Many talented business professionals seek jobs where they feel their skills are most desired and most useful and, more often than not, this lends itself to larger corporations and businesses. But when small businesses advertise a working environment that appeals to the talent they are looking for, it is much easier for an owner to find and hire the right people for the job. Here are some ways that small businesses can attract the best employees for their organization.
Develop the Right Culture within Your Business
In a recent study, almost 50 percent of job seekers expressed that they would like to work for an organization that has a clan culture. Clan culture is defined as a business that harbors a team-orientated, collaborative working environment with leaders who facilitate, mentor, and help build a well-working team. If your business already operates in this manner, congratulations – you are one step closer to finding and retaining the right people for your organization. If a business does not operate in this way, it may be worthwhile to take a hard look at the organization’s culture and see what changes can be made to help not only attract talent but also help keep current employees engaged, productive and happy.
Another popular culture that job seekers look for is a market culture. Market culture is defined by its orientation to competition with leaders who are competitive and value profitability, goal achievements, and market share results. Almost 21 percent of job seekers expressed that they prefer this type of business culture, which is still a large percent of the potential employment group. If your business does not necessarily fit into the clan culture mindset, market culture may be worth looking into. While market culture may seem cut throat in many ways, it is important to note that this culture is more geared to being aggressive in the industry and working together to keep the business’s competitive edge.
Introduce a Job Seekers Potential Manager Early in the Hiring Process
Not every job seeker likes the same type of management style, just as every manager has their own way of directing employees. It is always important to introduce a potential new hire to his or her direct supervisor and other leaders early in the interview process. A quick “hello,” however, may not be enough for a potential new employee to get a good feel of their management style. Consider having your leadership staff be a part of the interview process or put together an information packet about the managers with their photos, biography, and some insight into their management techniques. This will give job seekers a better idea of whether their working style will mesh well with leader’s management style.
For many job seekers, the actual job itself is not a huge draw for them to work for a specific company. As shown in the study discussed here, individuals looking for employment opportunities are more interested in the working environment, culture, and management style of a business than what the physical job entails. By making sure to develop the right business culture and bringing managers and leadership into the fold early in the interview process, small business owners have a much higher chance of not only attracting the right talent but retaining the best employees for years to come.
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Thursday, August 14, 2014
How to Handle Bad Feedback from Online Reviewers
The internet has given consumers an opportunity to express their feelings about a business’s service, whether it is good or bad. Webpages such as Yelp, Google Reviews and Angie’s List are open forums for customers to tell the world about their experiences with any given organization. While positive reviews are great for attracting new business, negative reviews can be equally damaging to a business’s reputation and profits. While there is no way to prevent bad reviews from making it online, there are some ways that small business owners can offset and even learn from negative customer reviews.
Review Your Customers Reviews Regularly
Business owners need to know how their customers feel about the business. While a customer may seem happy when they speak with you in person, they could be masking a negative experience. Statistics show that the majority of people will not voice their complaints directly to a business, but will go home and write about their experience in an online forum. Because of this, make sure to check what customers are saying online on a regular basis. While this should not become an obsessive behavior, it is important to remember that a customer’s experience is important to the business overall.
Keep an Eye Out for Negative Reviews from Competitors
Many online review sites do not allow businesses to post reviews about their competition – Yelp, for example, prohibits these types of posts on their website. Because of this, it is important to take notice and look out for competing business owners who may be adding negative reviews to bring down the business’s overall rating. If you spot suspicious activity, make sure to contact the review website and request that they investigate or take down the post. More often than not, if it can be proven that a competitor posted the negative review, the website will quickly remove it from public view.
Respond to both Negative and Positive Customer Reviews
For a consumer, it is important for them to know that a business owner is actively engaged with their business and customers. An easy way to build a rapport with consumers is by joining into the conversation on business review sites. When you come across a negative review complaining about customer service or a particular product, respond to the comments by apologizing for the customer’s inconvenience and offering to reach out to the customer to find a solution form them. While it is important to respond to negative reviews, it is also key to respond to the positive reviews. When a consumer writes something great about your business, make sure to thank them for the great feedback.
Learn and Grow
One of the most important things a business owner can do about negative reviews is learning from them. By truly taking customer’s input into consideration, an owner can help to grow their business in a positive direction and help to correct problems they may not even have known existed. If a consumer is upset with the level of customer service being offered, consider offering employees a training course on the subject. If there are issues with shipping and delivery times, look into other vendors to provide that service and help to elevate the consumers overall experience with your business.