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Countdown: Skill #7 – Judgment & Decision-Making

Countdown: Skill #7 – Judgment & Decision-Making

In my original blog in this series (http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm), I said there were 10 skills critical to your future success in the coming turbulent job market.  Today I want to discuss skill # 7, judgment and decision-making.

 

 

The Importance of Judgment & Decision-Making Skills

 

Futurist Thomas Frey estimates 2 Billion (that’s Billion with a capital B) jobs will be lost by 2030 worldwide. (http://bit.ly/2w4whhN) Those jobs will be lost to robots and software technology.  There will also be lots of new jobs created.  But…the new jobs will require a skill robots and software don’t have.  Human judgment and making the decisions arising out of those judgments.

Your job as a future Freelancer will be to make those judgments and decisions for your clients. And…this will be one of the most sought after skills.

You could be called upon to decide:

  • Whether a program or service will even work for your client.
  • If the program or service is desirable, how will it be integrated?
  • What departments or divisions will fill new roles?
  • What existing jobs may be eliminated or repurposed?
  • Who will be responsible for the maintenance and updating of the new programs?

As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless.

 

Please define Judgment and Decision-Making

 

Judgment is the ability to evaluate a situation as objectively as possible.  Typically this will involve:

  • Defining the challenge or opportunity
  • Coming up with a list of possible solutions.
  • Listing pros and cons of each solution.

Decision-Making is: Choosing a solution and implementing it.

Sounds simple, right?

Ah, if it were only that easy.

There are a few other elements involved, such as:

  • Taking risks
  • Having the courage to put a decision into play
  • Admitting you’re wrong if it doesn’t work.
  • Gathering feedback to try again.

 

Often This Whole Process is Defined as Leadership

 

“Wait a minute!” I hear you say.  “If I’m a Freelancer, why do I have to be a leader?”

Any one who has ever been in the military will tell you; leaders exist at every level.  From the smallest unit of 3 people, to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, someone is always in charge.

As a Freelancer, you will be responsible for integrating and coordinating many things.  That means you will be leading. You should be confident in your ability to do research, implement it, and manage conflict amongst others.  You need to be a keen observer, able to spot difficulties early before they grow into a crisis.  This requires an action orientation and an assumption of risk.

The distressing part of this whole thing is that research shows most people make decisions based on emotion.  Then they try to justify that decision with logic.

It will be up to you to show your clients a better way.

 

Where Can I go to Learn About Judgment?

 

Lots of places.  As always, there are books.  One of the best I have found is by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis titled Judgment, How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls. This book deals mainly with senior leadership in large organizations. It is still a good tutorial for developing the skills needed for good judgment. Plus, there’s a nifty handbook included at the end.  There is a link below if you would like to buy this book. (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate)

There are also lots of courses available.  Just Google “Decision-Making Courses” and a ton of choices will come up.

Finally, there’s plain old everyday practice.  We all make decisions.  Lots of them, every single day.  Some turn out well, others not so much.  Analyze the good ones.  What did you do right?  Learn from the bad ones.  What could you have done better or differently?

The important thing is to start now.  The better you are, the more prepared you will be when that Freelancing opportunity appears.

 

 

Countdown: Critical Skill #8 – Service Orientation

Countdown: Critical Skill #8 – Service Orientation

In my original post in this series (http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ), I listed the 10 critical skills you will need to prepare yourself to succeed in the coming upheaval in the job market.  Today I want to discuss number 8 on the list, Service Orientation.

 

 

Why is Service Orientation so Important?

 

Service Orientation may be the most difficult of the skills to describe.  Yet in many ways, it is the most important of the 10 skills even though it’s number 8 on the list.  As a Freelancer, you don’t just want clients that are satisfied; you want clients that are loyal.  What’s the difference?  Loyal customers call you first.  Before they talk to anyone else.

 

What is Service Orientation?

 

Service orientation is a customer first approach.   It’s a mindset.  This isn’t a skill to be practiced; it’s a lifestyle to be lived.

 

Think about Nordstrom’s.  They became famous because their gift wrapping department would wrap gifts purchased at other stores.  Or, Disney, whose “cast members” sole function is to make sure their “guests” enjoy themselves.

 

I spent 20 years training Mortgage Loan Officers how to build a business based on personal referrals from Realtors, builders, and previous clients.  Service orientation was the most important quality determining their success.

 

Here’s what it takes to develop a loyal client.

 

First on the list is a high degree of empathy.  Put yourself in the client’s shoes. You need good listening skills.  Find out not only what the client wants, but why they want it.  Have patience.  Be sure you hear them out.

 

Be interested in your clients as people.  Find out as much as you can about them. Why do they love their industry? How did they come to be involved in your project?  Where do they go from here?  My experience is most people love to talk about themselves, especially if they are passionate about their work.

 

Practice exceptional follow through and follow up.  As a Freelancer, you may be acting as a go-between for two or more clients.  Make sure all are not just satisfied, but pleased with the outcome.  Make follow up calls a week, a month, a quarter, and even a year after completion.  It’s a good way to get feedback on your project in order to improve your performance the next time.  It’s also a great opportunity to ask for more business.

 

My father was a commercial builder. He made constant follow up calls to clients with finished jobs.  If something was wrong with one of his projects, he didn’t care how long ago the job had been completed.  He’d fix it.  No charge.  Guess why his clients called him back again and again?

 

People like to do business with you when you can make it easy for them.  Here’s a hint.  Don’t make it easy, make it effortless.  When I was in mortgage banking, our Loan Officers would get a referral from a Realtor.  They’d interview the applicants, and if they were qualified, the deal closed in 10 business days.  Do you think Realtors liked sending us business?

 

Where Can I Learn About Service Orientation?

 

That’s actually a hard question to answer. When you search online you will find a lot of sites that are IT oriented.

The best sources appear to be books. Jeffrey Gitomer has a great book titled Customer Satisfaction is Worthless.  Customer Loyalty is Priceless. In it, Jeffrey has a lot of simple, direct strategies to build customer loyalty.  I have included a link below if you’d like to purchase this book.  (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate).

 

Then there’s practice.  You can start now.  We are all involved in situations every day where we can strive to make sure those we come in contact with are pleased with the results.  As I said before, this isn’t a skill it’s a lifestyle.  Start today to put the other person first.  You’ll be stunned at the results.

 

 

Countdown: Skill #10 Crucial to Your Success

Countdown: Skill #10 Crucial to Your Success

In my recent blog on the great opportunities for Freelancers arising out of the rising chaos in the world job market (http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ), I promised a thorough discussion of the 10 skills crucial to your success you’ll need to develop in the next few years.  The countdown is on.  Here is skill #10, Cognitive Flexibility

 

What the heck is Cognitive Flexibility?

 

Cognitive Flexibility is a term used by psychologists to describe the ability to shift quickly from one concept to another.  The easiest way to describe it is to think of switching channels on your TV.  Suppose you have a tennis match on one channel and a college football game on another.  As you switch back and forth, your mind must quickly adjust to a different set of rules, play, and circumstances.  People who are not cognitively flexible find this difficult.  It takes them a few minutes or longer before they can engage in the events happening on the new channel.

 

Why is this so important?

 

Millions of jobs are going to disappear in the next few years.  But, there will also be lots of new jobs created.  The problem is those jobs haven’t been invented yet.  What types of jobs are these?  Data analysts who can help decipher the huge amount of data generated by the internet of things.  Specialized sales reps who can explain new products and services to customers and clients.  Managers and consultants who can help steer companies through this process.

If you are a Freelancer filling one of these functions, you will need cognitive flexibility.  You may be working for more than one company.  Company A may be playing tennis.  Company B, playing football.

Even if you’re working for one company, Department A could be playing soccer, while Department B…well, you see where this is going.

 

How Can I Learn Cognitive Flexibility?

 

There are several things you can do to improve cognitive flexibility

  1. Read – Reading stimulates several areas of the brain simultaneously. The more complex the subject, the better. Add to this by making notes as you go.
  2. Play games. Lots of games. Word games, crossword puzzles, chess. There are lots of online games that will get you thinking.
  3. Make lists of different wild and wonderful ways to accomplish the same thing.
  4. Try breaking big topics down into chunks.

Keep going with these activities until you feel you can easily switch topics without losing a beat.  It’s easier than you think and can be a lot of fun.

 

The Challenge

 

Here is your challenge: The rise of technology is already eliminating jobs at an ever increasing pace.  As this trend accelerates, workers will be displaced in two directions.  Those who are unprepared will be pushed out into lower paying jobs.  Those who start now developing the 10 critical skills essential to Freelancing will find themselves positioned to succeed in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.  And…at much higher compensation.

Which one are you?

Start today.

 

Social Styles 5-Learning About the Amiable

Social Styles 5-Learning About the Amiable

Why are Social styles important?

 

In my previous posts on Social Styles, I have stressed the importance of understanding these styles.  Your ability to communicate with these different styles of people will make a huge difference in the profits at your bottom line.

Today, I want to discuss the last of the 4 Social Styles, the Amiable.

 

What is the Amiable Social Style?

 

Amiable are, well…amiable.  They are very people and question oriented. They are easy to get along with.  They are friendly listeners who enjoy personal contact.  They place a high priority on getting along with others.

 

Amiable have soft, pleasant voices.  Their speech is slow.  They have open and eager facial expressions.

 

They take time to establish relationships. They believe progress comes from people working together.  They like to make progress at a slow, steady pace.

 

Their natural tendencies are coaching and counseling.

 

Their motivators are seeking approval, being included as part of a group or team, and having a positive impact on others.

 

Amiables have much in common with Analyticals and Expressives, but are diametrically opposed to Drivers.

 

What does the dialogue of an Amiable sound like?

 

Remember that Amiables are ask directed.  This means you will need to ask a lot of questions.  You have to be patient.  Amiables want to build relationships first. They may not seem concerned with the time spent or deadlines.

 

Here are some other things you can expect:

  1. They want you to show them personal support.
  2. Give plenty of verbal and non-verbal feedback.
  3. They are interested in questions relating to long-term goals.
  4. They may suggest you talk to others. If they do, follow up. Not doing so may kill the relationship
  5. They want assurance as to who you are and what you believe
  6. You are expected to be open and honest
  7. You will need to sell yourself to an Amiable before they make any decision

 

How do you approach an Amiable?

 

The good news here is Amiables are easy to approach.  They are very open and friendly.

Here are several ways to approach an Amiable:

  1. Be relaxed and patient
  2. Make small talk
  3. Ask questions about their personal goals.
  4. Keep a slow, steady pace. Remember people come first.
  5. Don’t try to promote your agenda as revolutionary. Amiables like things with a proven foundation.
  6. Don’t rush your close. Let them come to their own conclusion.

 

In Conclusion.

 

The main take away from this brief outline of the 4 social styles is the need for you to learn to be flexible.  Remember Stephen Covey.  “First seek to understand, then be understood.”  Seek to understand the way your prospect communicates with the world. You will then open the door to show your prospect how you can fulfill his needs.

 

What I have presented in these posts has been the barest of outlines of these Social Styles.  To learn much, much more, I strongly urge you to click on the link below to buy Larry Wilson’s terrific book.

(Full disclosure.  I am a Powell’s Affiliate)

 

 

 

The Social Styles Handbook: Adapt Your Style to Win Trust
by Wilson Learning LibraryTrade Paperback
Powells.com
Social Styles 3 – Learning About the Expressive

Social Styles 3 – Learning About the Expressive

Social Styles are important because?

In my two previous posts ( http://ow.ly/Zfpn30bKoSK ) (http://ow.ly/1HcK30bYKwv)  we have discussed the importance of understanding social styles.  If you are engaged in business learning to successfully communicate with your employees, prospects, customers and clients is the key to your success.   Knowing your social style and the attributes of the other social styles is vital in building solid relationships.

Today, I want to discuss the Expressive style.

What is the Expressive Style?

 

Expressives are…expressive.  They are open, energetic, excited.  They love to share visions and ideas.  They love to talk about themselves. They like an audience and applause.  They love to tell people what to do.  They are people oriented rather than task.

 

They are risk-takers, competitive, creative and enthusiastic.  They love to get results through people. Relationships are very important to them. They love the exchange of ideas and want to get to know you personally.

 

Their primary motivation is recognition.  They want to stand out from the crowd

 

Expressives want to know the big picture. They want a good grasp of the situation before getting down to the details.  They want to know the essential details, but don’t care about getting too deep into them. They want to collaborate with you on things that support them.

 

Expressives have much in common with Drivers and Amiables. They are diametrically opposed to Analyticals.

What is dialogue with an Expressive like?

 

Here’s what you can expect when engaging with an Expressive.

  1. You should find out about their visions and how they expect you to help.
  2. Find out what other people need to be involved in accomplishing their vision.
  3. Expressives are usually very open about sharing information they think you need.
  4. They like a fast paced, focused discussion.
  5. They are casual about their use of time.
  6. Watch for openings in the conversation where you can slide in questions.
  7. Figure out a way to show support for their ideas and decisions.

 

What is the most effective approach to an Expressive?

 

When approaching Expressives, you need to quickly establish who you are, what you offer, and what they have to gain by working with you.

 

Other things to include are:

  1. Stories about people you both know.
  2. Share “exclusive” information
  3. Reinforce their vision and enthusiasm
  4. Take time to develop a personal relationship
  5. Leave time for socializing
  6. Talk about their goals and ideas they find stimulating.

 

 

In Conclusion

 

Learning how to effectively communicate with other social styles is a simple, yet amazing way to build trusting, solid relationships with your clients. Try it.  You’ll be stunned at the results.

 

Note:  The material in this blog was developed from information featured in “The Social Styles Handbook” To find out more, please click on the link below to order Larry Wilson’s great book

(Full disclosure, I am a Powell’s affiliate)

 

The Social Styles Handbook: Adapt Your Style to Win Trust
by Wilson Learning LibraryTrade Paperback
Powells.com
Is Knowing Your Target Audience Critical?

Is Knowing Your Target Audience Critical?

You betcha.  Knowing your target audience is the key to any successful small business.  Here’s a great post from Sivler Egg Media explaining why.

Why Is Understanding Your Target Audience So Important?

 

Many businesses think they know their target audience inside out. But if they took a test, how well do you think they would actually understand them?

Yesterday we spoke about how it’s really effective to create a balance between what is right for your business and what your audience wants. There’s no point in having a Facebook page if your audience isn’t primarily on Facebook, right?

There are so many things to consider when it comes to finding your target audience. And our post on it recently was so popular, that we’ve decided to expand on this topic more in the coming weeks. But for now, we bet you want to know why understand your target audience actually matters so much.

That’s why we’re here today.

 

What is a target audience?

 

When you type in “definition of target audience” into Google, this is what appears:

A particular group at which a product such as a film or advertisement is aimed.

Seems simple, doesn’t it?

If only.

I actually think the definition is the opposite to the one above. Today, a business doesn’t create a product and say, we’re going to aim it at X group of people. They find the group of people they target (the target audience) and create products they know their audience needs.

So it’s not as simple as a one-size-fits all approach. Your target audience can be made up of people who have different needs and goals, but come to your business because they all relate to something on some level.

Here at SilverEGG Media, we write long, detailed posts about particular topics within the digital marketing industry for two different audiences:

  1. Our clients and other businesses looking for our services – through our content, we show them that we know what we’re talking about.
  2. People within the industry who either work in it or have a strong interest in it – these people want to better themselves in their field, to learn new skills to improve.

So we try to find the balance between speaking to both audiences. But some businesses have two completely different audiences to write for.

Imagine if someone had an accident and you were partly responsible for it. If you told your friends about it, it would be much different to the story you told the insurance company, wouldn’t it? Because they’re two different types of audience – you tailor your story to fit the needs of each one. And it’s exactly the same for your business.

Your target audience is made up of people that can understand and engage with what you’re saying. They’re people who come to you for a reason. They’re people who will keep coming back to you, and bring new people to see what you have to offer too.

 

 

Four Reasons Why Understanding Your Target Audience Is So Important

 

You can solve their problems

 

Why do you want people to visit your business? There could be many reasons – entertainment, advice, services – but ultimately you’re doing one thing for them.

Solving a problem.

Whenever people visit a website, they’re looking to find something. It could be something as direct as someone visiting a wedding cake website, because they need a wedding cake. Or they may not even know they’re looking for something – they’re just hoping to find it.

Once you identify why your audience is coming to your website, you can make some really good choices. You can decide what categories you’re going to talk about and what information you’re going to include. You can create and make a list of resources to give to them. You can do everything possible to thoroughly solve their problem, each time they visit your site.

 

It’s the key to effectiveness

 

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just know your audience. Digital marketing today is about building strong, loyal, lasting relationships with people. Which is why it’s so useful to have an understanding of them.

You can understand them as real people, get to know them, find out what they like and where they go when they’re online. And that, dear readers, is the key to effectiveness.

Everything can be planned around them. From what time you send them an e-newsletter, to when you publish a blog post, to when you interact with them on social media.

Think about it – if your audience is predominantly busy mums with small children, is first thing in the morning or early evening going to be the right time to connect with them?

Not really.

But if you target commuters, early evenings and first thing in the morning would be the ideal time to connect as they browse their phones on the way to work. By understanding their habits and behaviours, you can maximise your appeal.

 

It enables you to define your value proposition

 

In the same way as solving problems, understanding your target audience also allows you to decide what your value proposition is going to be – what can you offer them? Why should they visit you?

Your value proposition can be seen to define what your business does, uniquely. If you find this difficult to do, it means you don’t understand your audience. Because when you do understand them, it’s easy. You know what you want; therefore you can package it to them. And what you give to them depends on what they want.

 

You’ll see results faster

 

Marketing takes time. And it’ll take even longer if you don’t know who your audience is. It’s no good assuming things about them. If you create content based around their assumptions, your audience will become lost. They’ll be alienated and forget to visit your site.

That’s why the aim with most of our content is to teach people – that means it appeals to both of our audiences. The more you appeal to your audience, the more it will grow.

 

Conclusion

 

Understanding your target audience is an ongoing task. People are always becoming interested in different topics and looking for new things – but you can be more successful and achieve more simply by understanding them. Keep with up them, and they might just stick with you.

Sign up for more articles like this by filling out the email request in the right hand column.

 

Want a Successful Business? Here Are 5 Keys.

Want a Successful Business? Here Are 5 Keys.

As small business owners, we all want to be successful.  That’s why we started our business in the first place.  But..in order to get there, we must be mindful of certain things.  Here is a great post from the Small Business Administration giving you 5 things you need to know.

5 Pillars of Small Businesses Success

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger

Published: January 13, 2015

What does it take for a small business to achieve success?

Whether you’re already in business, or preparing to start a business, it takes hard work, tenacity and drive to achieve a high level of success. Lori Greiner, star shark of ABC’s Shark Tank says, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

According to Elizabeth Wilson of Entrepreneur Magazine, while some 40 million businesses are started each year, a paltry 350,000 break out of the pack and begin growing and making money. So how can a small business owner overcome some of the common business pitfalls? Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and star of CNBC’s prime time reality series The Profit, knows all about determining the success or failure of a business. Lemonis says, “Business success is about the three P’s: People, Process and Product.” Here are five pillars that make a small business successful.

1) People

If you want your small business to succeed, you need a fantastic team. Russell Simmons, Entrepreneur and founder or Def Jam Recordings says, “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.” A company can accomplish amazing things when it has leadership and a team who is inspired, hardworking and believes in the company’s mission.

2) Plan

“Quality is the best business plan, period,” says John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Pixar and Disney. Just about everyone in the business world agrees that having a plan is important. And that doesn’t mean the big formal business plan document you fear like a term paper. It starts small and may grow in time. At a start-up, implementation is everything. That means it’s essential to establish responsibilities, set goals, and track performance. You will also need to answer key questions, such as:

  • Have you identified your target customers?
  • What problems are you trying to solve for them?
  • What will be the most effective marketing and promotional strategies?

3) Process

Dr. W. Edwards Deming said, “85 percent of the reasons for failure to meet customer expectations are related to deficiencies in systems and processes…rather than the employee.” It’s crucial that you have a full and clear understanding of your company’s processes and have the right systems in place.

4) Product

Does your product solve a problem? Does it exist yet? Is there something that is out there that your product does in a different way? Is there a demand for your product? Success in business requires doing something you’re passionate about that fills a need in the marketplace. Debbi Fields, Founder of Mrs. Fields Bakeries says, “Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”

5) Profit

When it comes to measuring a successful business, profitability is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Is the company making money? A critical component of running a successful business is knowing your numbers. “If you want to be successful in business, you need to become proficient at handling certain numbers. You need to be able to read and understand your financial dashboard” says Dawn Fotopulos, Associate Professor of Business at The King’s College in New York.

Starting and running a successful business can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. You as a small business owner should never stop learning, innovating, planning and growing. “Leaders spend five percent of their time on the problem and 95 percent of their time on the solution. Get over it & crush it!” says Tony Robbins.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo

 

Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in ‘Fox Small Business’,’American Express Small Business’, ‘Business Week’, ‘The Washington Post’, ‘The New York Times’, ‘The San Francisco Tribune’,‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to recieve more like it, sign up for my email newsletters by using the form on the right.

 

4 Simple Steps for Winning Customer Service

4 Simple Steps for Winning Customer Service

What is the biggest challenge facing small business owners today? “How do I compete against the big guys?”  Here’s a simple two word answer: Customer Service.

How many times have you heard it?

  • I could never talk to a real person.
  • They kept switching me from department to department
  • I was on hold for 15 minutes and then got cut off.

Do you think these folks will ever come back?  91% of them won’t (source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner)

Here is a startling statistic.  80% of companies surveyed say they deliver “superior” customer service. Only 8% of their customers say those same companies deliver “superior” customer service. (Source: “Customer Service Hell” by Brad Tuttle, Time, 2011)

This is a huge need in the marketplace just waiting to be filled.  And…guess what?  People are willing to pay for it.  According to an Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/Right Now in 2010, 9 out of 10 U.S. Consumers surveyed would pay more to ensure a positive customer experience.

Everyone Counts

Tapping into this unmet need does require you, as a small business owner, to adopt a certain mindset.  I’m going to quote Michael Connelly’s hero, Detective Harry Bosch here, “Either everyone counts, or nobody counts.”  This means there is no deal too small, no request too unreasonable.  Your goal is to say, “How can I help?” and then try to provide a solution.

I’ve had people ignore me because a deal was too small.  I have news for you.  You never know where a deal is going to lead.

When I was in mortgage banking, I had a nice couple come to me for a small house loan. The Realtor representing them was new in the business and didn’t understand financing very well.  This couple owned a house free and clear.  They had a contract on it and were going to put the entire proceeds from the sale into the new home they were purchasing.  As I remember, the new loan was about $40,00 and I had no trouble getting them approved.

A week before the closing, things began to go wrong.  The buyers of my clients home couldn’t get their loan approved because of poor credit and were going to back out.  Without the proceeds of that sale, my borrowers couldn’t go forward with the new purchase.  My borrowers called me and explained they wanted to help the couple buying their old house if possible. Could I figure something out?

I sat down with my borrowers and their Realtor.  I showed them how they could take a small equity line on their existing home and use it as the down payment on the new home.  Then I showed their Realtor how to write a lease-option agreement on the old home with a purchase date 3 years down the road.  This meant the purchasers of the old home had 3 years to straighten out their credit.  My borrowers would have three years of rental income. They could use this toward the payments on the new home and pay their loan down when the deal finally closed.

The result?  I turned a small loan into a bigger one.  My borrowers were happy.  They referred 4 of their friends who were buying or refinancing to me.  The Realtor starting giving me first shot at all her business.

My point? Ya just never know.

Now, I know, we can’t help everyone. But…we can try to make them happy even if we can’t help them.  If you can’t solve their problem say so. And, tell them why.  Then try to refer them to someone who might be able to help.

Basic Stuff

Vince Lombardi, the famous coach of the World Champion Green Bay Packers, would start each new season by standing in front of his players, raising a football in his hand, and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”  He would then proceed begin practicing the most basic blocking, tackling, running, and passing drills.

His message?  The basics count more than anything else.

Here are 4 basic rules of customer service.  Follow these and you will be richly rewarded.

Rule 1.  Treat everyone you meet as though they were your highest paying client or customer.  You never know.  They might turn out to be just that.

Rule 2.  Answer your phone calls.  Some years ago, I worked for a medium sized commercial bank. They had a rule called “The Sunset Rule.”  This meant if you received a phone call from a customer before 4 PM, you were to call that customer back by sunset the same day.  Even if all you did was call them back and say, “I’m working on your issue, and I don’t have an answer for you yet.  I should be able to let you know by_______.”  That customer knew they had been heard.  That bank had the highest customer service ratings of any financial institution in town.

How do you feel when your calls aren’t returned?  When companies don’t call me back, I assume they aren’t interested in my business.  That’s OK with me.  I’ll find some body else.  But guess what?  If someone asks me about XYZ company, I’ll say, “Don’t bother calling them.  They’re not interested.”

Which way do you want people to remember you?

Rule 3. When you tell someone you’ll do something by a time certain, do it.  Better yet, do it before it’s due.  Why is that so hard?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to call people and say, “Where’s the thing you promised me last week.”  When you don’t deliver on time, you’re telling your customer they aren’t important to you.

If you can’t deliver as promised, call the customer on the phone.  This is crucial.  Do not email, do not text.  Do not leave a voice mail (unless you are asking them to call you back).  Speak to them directly and say, “I’m sorry, I’ve run into an issue and have to move the delivery date to X.”  The customer may not be happy, but they’ll know where they stand and that you cared enough to let them know.

Rule 4.  When you make an appointment, show up on time.  When I was in the Navy, we used to go by Navy time.  That meant if you were due to be somewhere at 2:00 PM, you showed up at 1:45.  No excuses.  If you showed at 2:00, you were late.  If you can’t be there on time, call or text.

Whose time is more important, yours or your prospects?

Think these simple things aren’t important?  Think again.  According to the American Express Survey of 2011, 78% of consumers surveyed have bailed on a transaction, or not made an intended purchase because of a bad service experience.

An Inconvenient Truth

Today it is possible for you to reach millions of people on the internet. But, you still build solid business relationships one customer at a time.

As a small business owner, you face competition that is bigger, better funded, and offering cheaper prices. It seems as though it’s David against Goliath.  But you can beat Goliath every time with superior customer service.

3 SEO Tools Anyone Can Use

3 SEO Tools Anyone Can Use

To the average small business owner SEO is a dark, baffling, process impossible to understand.  Here is post explaining 3 SEO tools anyone can use to improve their blog performance.

3 SEO Tools For Clueless Business Bloggers

07/01/2016 09:26 am ET | Updated 5 days ago

 

  • Liesha Petrovich Unashamed non-conformist, small business advocate. Kyokushin Black Belt. Fighting the good fight at Microbusiness Essentials

SEO is like flossing.

Sure, you know you should be doing it and that it’s important. Yet the whole idea behind having a business blog is to help your site’s SEO. What’s the point if you’re not leveraging your blog to increase your sites rankings?

According to SEO expert Neil Patel, “blogs bring in more traffic. Businesses that blog regularly generate 55% more visitors to their sites than those that don’t.”

Most small business owners can’t afford to hire experts or full-time webmasters to handle their sites SEO. The good news is that even the most clueless business owner can start increasing their SEO with a tool that guide you through the process. And you don’t have to be a tech wizard to use them.

Here’re a few easy SEO tools to help your business blog get noticed:

 

Serpstat: Helps You Answer the Right Questions

 

Although Serpstat is a multi-use SEO tool, one of the best features for business blogging is the Search Suggestions feature. It helps you create helpful content for your blog that your readers will easy find and value.

With a simple keyword like “buy laptop” you can see what questions people are Googling. For example, “why buy a laptop instead of an iPad” is asked by a large number of users. You could easily create a relevant blog post answering that exact question. This tool not only helps you improve your SEO but also your brand’s overall image. You’ll be seen as helpful and valuable, and as a credible authority figure in your industry.

 

 

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Moz Toolbar: Helps You Understand the Numbers

 

The numbers behind SEO can be complex. Moz has an awesome toolbar that shows a few key stats from your website. For example, PA is your individual page authority and DA is your domain authority. Both are calculated by several website factors including follow/no-follow links and Google rankings.

There is both a free and premium version of the Moz Toolbar for both Chrome and FireFox. Moz also has great instructions and best-practice articles that will help you understand and improve your website’s statistics in a very easy way. It’s a great option for new business owners who want to try something easy that’s also useful.

 

 

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Google Trends: Helps You Know What’s Hot

 

While this isn’t a traditional SEO tool, Google Trends is the go-to place to understand exactly what’s hot right this minute. Since Google is the most popular search engine in the world, we can easily see what Google users are searching for.

You can search by country or categories including business, tech, health, entertainment and top stories. You can also see the exact keywords people are using, interest by subregion (on a handy map), the interest over time, and also related searches.

This information can help you create relevant content for your site. For example, let’s say you have a pet-related business blog. The search term World’s Ugliest Dog Contest‬‬ is trending today and this could inspire a post that relates to this topic. Of course, you still have to create valuable and relevant content, but Google Trends gives you an idea of exactly what people want to read today.

 

 

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Small Steps into SEO

 

Stop putting SEO on the back burner. There’s help for clueless business blogger – it just takes a little patience and practice.

There are lots of simple, easy and affordable tools that allow you to ease your way into SEO. You’re already creating content for your business’s blog, so why not take a little time to create better content that will help your site’s Google rankings?

Follow Liesha Petrovich on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lieshapetrovich

6 Simple Steps to Starting Your Own Business

6 Simple Steps to Starting Your Own Business

Ever wanted to start a small business?  It can be the most fun you’ve ever had.  Here’s a great post telling how to do it it in 6 simple steps.

 

A Simple 6-Step Process to Starting a Small Business

Image credit: Shutterstock

Matthew Toren

MATTHEW TOREN

CONTRIBUTOR

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com

 

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AUGUST 6, 2015

A great small business always starts out as an idea, but you have to transform that idea into action. That’s where many individuals can start to feel overwhelmed. It’s understandable to freeze up at the deluge of things that are required to get a business started, but getting going is actually easier than you might think.

Like any big goal, if you start by breaking it down into smaller tasks, you’ll be able to tackle enough of the actions necessary to get started. Here are six ways to break down the process and simplify getting started with your own small business.

1. Write a one-page business plan.
The key to a successful small business, especially in the startup phase, is to keep things simple and costs low. Costs don’t just mean your monetary costs, but also your time.

Many would-be small-business owners fall into the trap of trying to create the world’s biggest and most robust business plan. You’re only going to need that if you’re seeking investment or financing, and even if you will be seeking either of those things down the road, I always recommend small-business owners start out with by testing their ideas first before investing lots of time and money.

Related: Why You Must Really Know Yourself Before Starting a Business

So to get started, create your own simple, one-page business plan that is a high-level overview of the small business you’re about to start.

Define your vision. What will be the end result of your business?
Define your mission. Different to a vision, your mission should explain the reason your company exists.
Define your objectives. What are you going to do — what are your goals — that will lead to the accomplishment of your mission and your vision?
Outline your basic strategies. How are you going to achieve the objectives you just bulleted?
Write a simple action plan. Bullet out the smaller task-oriented actions required to achieve the stated objectives.
That’s it. It might be longer than one page, but it will surely be more organized and shorter than a full business plan, which could take weeks to write. If you need more information on the one-page business plan, or want to write out a full-blown finance-centered business plan, you can check out the book I co-wrote with my brother that has a robust explanation of both, Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market From Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who did it Right.

2. Decide on a budget.
While I highly recommend you keep your costs as low as possible, you’ll still need to determine a budget to get started and how much you’ll be able to spend. If you’re self funding, be realistic about numbers and whatever you anticipate your budget to be. I’ve found that an additional 20 percent tacked on for incidentals is a realistic overage amount that helps you plan your burn rate.

Your burn rate is how much cash you’re spending month over month. It’s an important number for you to figure out to determine how long you can stay in business before you need to turn a profit.

You should set up your business with profitability in mind the first 30 to 90 days. It’s possible. But have a budget reserve so you can survive if things go leaner than expected.

3. Decide on a legal entity.
Filing paperwork to start a business costs money. Often, depending on your state, it can be a lot of money. You’ll need to account for city or municipality licensing, state incorporation or business entity fees and more. Do a thorough search ahead of time to determine what the filing fees are for your city, county and state before starting any business.

Often in the initial “test” phase for your small business, it can be wise to start as a sole proprietor, as it means less paperwork and up-front expenses. That can save you some big-time cash while you determine the viability of your business. Do be aware though that acting as a sole proprietor can put you at personal risk, so you’ll want to weigh the benefits vs. risks and then speak with a local attorney or tax professional to decide which is smarter for your short-term vs. long-term goals.

You can always file for a business entity once you’ve proven in the first three to six months of business that you’ve got a viable, sustainable model.

Related: When Starting a Business, Beware All the Taxes and Regulations

4. Take care of the money.
Whatever business entity you decide on, keep the funds separate from your personal accounts. This is a big mistake that makes tax time and financials so confusing. It’s really easy to set up a free business checking account with your local credit union or bank. All you’ll need is your filing paperwork, sole proprietor licensing information and an initial deposit to get set up from most financial institutions.

Don’t pay for an account or get any kind of credit lines yet, just get a holding place you can keep your money separated from your personal accounts. This should take you no more than hour at the financial institution of your choice.

5. Get your website.
Regardless of whether your business will be brick or mortar or online, you’ll need a website and that means securing a URL. Popular domain sites such as HostGator and Go Daddy will allow you to search for the website domain address of your choice and purchase it for as little as $9.99.

If you’re starting an online business, you can tie your domain to an online shopping cart and store front such as Shopify for a low monthly fee, or you can build a basic website yourself on top of your URL with do-it-yourself drag-and-drop site builders such as Weebly for a low fee. Both are less than $100 a month.

6. Test sales.
You have enough of a foundation now that you can start testing some sales. Try to spread the word in inexpensive and creative ways.

If you have a service-based business, get involved with your local chamber of commerce or small-business chapter immediately and ask what resources are available for you to speak, present or share information about your business. If you have a product-based business, test the viability of your product at local swap meets, farmers markets or other community events to test what the public really thinks (and if they’ll purchase) from you.

Drive traffic to your website through simple Facebook Ads with capped budgets, or set up a simple Google AdWords account with a budget cap to test if traffic is going to your site.

You can follow these six steps by yourself for not a lot of money. It’s a fantastic way to test the viability of your small business before throwing all your time and money into an unproven idea.

Related: The 5 Daily Essentials for Building a Successful Online Business

 

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