Small Business Toolbox – March Thirtieth

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Firechat – Open source chat software that lets you create a chat feature on your website.

QuickSprout – Free website analysis tools that will give you some great insights for improving your website.

Great Life Quote

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Do Your Business Goals Align With Your Life Goals?

Planning your life goalsDoes your business free you to enjoy life or has it become a ball and chain than keeps you from doing what you really want in life?

When you're just starting to put together the ground work for a new business, before you start anything, you should sit down and think about your goals.

Not your business goals, but your life goals.

There are lots of unhappy small business owners.  Maybe they're not making the kind of money they dreamed of.  Maybe they feel like a slave to their business, never able to take time for themselves.  Maybe they just don't like their business anymore (it happens).

I think the really happy and successful business owners are not only doing what they love, but doing something that aligns with their life goals.

My first real business (I had several mini failures) was in retail.  It was something I thought (emphasis on “thought”) I understood and it seemed like the perfect fit for me.  I like people, I enjoy relationship style selling, I could wrap my head around how it worked.  Great fit indeed.  Man, I was so wrong.

It was about a year into it that I realized I made a mistake.  Actually, it was like a month into it but I was in denial. Unfortunately the lease was already signed, the construction was paid for, the employees were hired and the bank loan I personally guaranteed was in full force. Not something I could easily back out of.

The business I was originally in love with went totally against what my real life goals were.  I didn't realize it until it was too late.  Yeah, I'm an idiot, but it happens all the time.

So what was the problem?

Number one, I never sat down to think about what my life goals really were and if this business was in-line with them.  I was blinded by the endless possibilities of money, prestige and what I thought would be freedom.  Number two, I think I let my dreaming get in the way of reality.  If I sat down and looked at my life goals, I would have realized that brick and mortar retail was not the best fit.

Life goal and business goals

My Life Goals

We homeschool our 4 kids (when I say we, I mean my wife, on top of helping run our business).  One of our goals has always been educational travel with the kids.  Instead of reading about history, we could travel around the world and let them experience it first hand.  I guess this goals fits into our bigger goals of building a really strong family.  What family wouldn't want that as a goal?

I have some other life goals, but in the end, my main life goal revolves around experiences with the family.

But here was the problem, the business I chose was not conducive to my life goals.

When it comes to retail:

  • You have a fixed location which ties you to a geographic area
  • You have tons of overhead and potential financial responsibilities
  • You have employees that need you to train, manage and mentor
  • You have enormous pressure to market and keep people walking through the doors due to your overhead

I think it was the exact opposite of what I should have chosen as a business.

Now let me say there is nothing at all wrong with retail, I'm actually still involved in it and do enjoy it, but it required enormous overhaul (and a few years) on my part to get it working properly to fit in with my life goals.

If I had chosen a different type of business, I could have saved myself lots of heartache and stress.  It's like trying to force a square peg into a round hole….if you push with enough force you may eventually get it through, but wouldn't it be easier if you chose a round peg to start with?

To make things work I had to learn how to hire and train great people, learn how to let go and delegate and to build operational systems that could take me out of the equation when possible.

So what would I have done differently?

  • I would have started with understanding what my real life goals were as a starting point
  • I would have evaluated if the business I wanted to start would help or hinder those goals.  You have to be honest here, it's easy to gloss over things when you're in love with your business idea.
  • I would have done more research.  If I had spoken to more retailers, I would have learned more about what I was getting into and challenges I was going to face.
  • I would have made sure my life and business goals were in-line with each other.

It's never too late to re-align your business and your life.  It's easier to do it from the beginning, but if you're in the middle, you can do it too.  If I did it, anyone can.

 

 

Small Business Toolbox – March Twenty Third

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Phlow Magazine – Search for  of royalty free, creative commons music clips you can use for your website, Youtube or even for your own podcast.

Stupeflix – Online video creation toll that lets you easily create great looking videos using pictures, video and music.

Rollo May quote on conformity

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Four Things You Can Learn From an Unhappy Customer

improve my customer serviceDid you know that as a business owner, unhappy customers are one of the biggest learning tools in your arsenal?

While you want to make all your customers happy, you aren't going to learn a lot from your happy customers. Your unhappy customers, on the other hand, have much to teach you, so stay connected with them in order to improve your business and their experience with your business.

Connecting with unhappy customers

Before you can learn from your unhappy customers, though, you should make sure you're connecting with all your customers. It's a good idea to put yourself out there on social media and to use technology in general to ensure that your customers can reach you with their concerns.   One National Performance Review report notes that the best way to connect with customers is to ensure that they can easily leave feedback for your business, whether that be through phone surveys, online surveys, or just a business Facebook page.

What you can learn from your customers

Once you start connecting with your customers, pay particular attention to your unhappy customers, as they generally have the most to teach you. Here are just four of the main things you can learn from customers who are unhappy with your products or services, for whatever reason:

1. What's important to your customers

It's important to listen to the language your customers are using and to keep track of what customers are complaining about. Are they unhappy about shipping times and costs? Maybe they find your customer service or FAQ page lacking, or they can't figure out how to use your product most effectively?

Listening to the complaints of your customers and where they are trending will help you figure out what your target demographic finds important. It could be excellent products, lots of choices, customization options, or fantastic customer service. Letting unhappy customers tell you what's most important to them will tell you where you'll get the best return on your investment by making improvements to your products or services.

2. How to improve customer service

Often times, unhappy customers are unhappy with some aspect of your customer service. Again, listen to your customers to see where their complaints are trending. If, for instance, you get many complaints that customers have to wait on hold for a long time when contacting your business about a problem, then you may want to consider increasing the number of workers who handle your hotline so that you can take a higher call volume.

As you're listening to the complaints of unhappy customers, pay particular attention to what they think of your customer service. Maybe that isn't the problem at all, but chances are likely that your business could improve in at least one area of customer service.

3. How to improve your product

Of course, some customers may also be unhappy with your product. They may simply not have gotten what they were expecting, and you certainly can't satisfy everyone. But satisfying the greatest number of customers with your product should certainly be the goal. Yet again, it's important to follow the trends when it comes to customer complaints. Are your customers having trouble following assembly directions? Then you should look at clarifying them. Do many customers complain about the same part on your product breaking easily? Consider reengineering the piece so that it's sturdier.

Any time a customer is unhappy with your product, whether they're connecting with you through your customer hotline or through your Facebook page, get as much specific detail on what they dislike about your product as possible. The more detail you can get, the more information you'll have that will help you improve your product moving forward.

4. How to improve sales of your product

You can hire all the marketing experts you want, but the real experts on the marketing experience you provide to draw people to your product are your customers. Only those who are being targeted by your business and who are on the receiving end of your marketing efforts can tell you exactly what effect your marketing campaign is having on your customers.

Listen and Talk to your customers

Improving product sales is often as simple as talking to customers – including unhappy ones – about your marketing process. If you're coming across as too aggressive or consumers are offended by a part of your marketing campaign, they'll let you know. Then, you can make changes to ensure that you can sell more products with your marketing plan.

Small Business Toolbox – March Sixteenth

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Sumall – Create a single data dashboard for all of your online accounts.  Currently in Beta and free to use

oTranscribe – Free web app that makes it easy to transcribe audio to text.  Currently in Beta.

Rollo May quote on conformity

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

You Can’t Automate Your Customer Relationships

hug-your-customerAn acquaintance of mine called me last week for some advice.

Usually when someone asks you for advice, all they really want is for you to confirm to them what they have already decided on.

This friend is in the insurance industry and wanted to know what technologies she can use to create stronger relationships with her best clients.  She wanted to figure out a way to use automation to help this along.

I asked how many clients does she have that she would really want to build a strong relationship with over the next year.  She said she has about 50 that make up the majority of her business and would love to strengthen her relationship with each of them.

I asked her what these clients were worth to her.  She said from a few hundred dollars a year to a few thousand a year.

I suggested to her to that she should consider blocking out 2 hours a week to dedicate to this venture.  One hour each week should be dedicated to calling or emailing 1-3 of her clients to start the connection process and to make these non-sales oriented communications.  For the other hour, I suggested she sit down and write out about 5 handwritten, personalized customer note cards (who doesn't get excited for mail that isn't a bill or an advert?) that she could mail out each week to her clients.

That would be about 8 hours a month and connecting with over half of her clients each month.  Over the course of the year, she would be personally connecting with her top clients at least 6 times a year for a minimal amount of work.

The response?

No, I think you misunderstood what I said, I want to know how I can automate this whole process so I don't have to do all of that.  Can't I create some sort of automatic email that looks like it's being sent from me personally?  And I have a friend at the office that uses a service that sends out these greeting cards to clients that will make it look like it's you own handwriting.

That's when I did a…………..facepalm-stupidity

So what she really wanted was not to build a relationship with her customers, but to act like she cared about her client without doing any work.

Technology is a great thing, but it still cannot replace you building a relationship with your customer.

I think the real business winners going forward will be the ones that take the customer relationship seriously.  They will use technology as a tool to enhance their relationship building, but they won't abdicate customer relations to technology.

While everyone is making the rush to automate the shit out of everything, you can go old school and give your customers a taste of old fashioned relationship building.

It's funny how things go full circle.  A decade ago the competitive advantage in business was to automate everything, freeing up your time and allowing you to run your business with less employees.  Now the competitive advantage is how deep you can take the relationship with your customer.

If you're a small business, this might be calling or visiting your customers on occasion.  It might be sending them an article you found that might be useful to them.  Maybe it's having a party for your customers, just to thank them for being awesome.

If you're a bigger business, maybe it would be holding live meetup events where you can mix and mingle with your customers.  What about monthly webinars where your customers can speak directly to the head honchos with their opinions.

Big or small, it can be done.

But first you have to care about your customers.

 

Small Business Toolbox – March Eighth

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Plagiarism Checker – Free online tool that lets you add content to see if it already exists online.  Great if your website accepts guest posts or if you're a teacher : )

PDFtoJPG – Free tool that coverts PDF files into JPG images.

Freddie Mercury Quote

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

5 Must Have Landing Page Elements

What is a landing page?

That's a question I get a lot, from business owners and even some marketers.  A landing page is simply the page a person “lands on” when they arrive to your website.

This landing page can be a page on your existing website or on a standalone website.

When marketers talk about landing pages, we usually refer to a very specific type of landing page.  This landing page is designed for a single purpose, to get the visitor to take some sort of action.

We may run a Pay Per Click campaign and drive targeted visitors to this landing page, in hopes of getting them to take some sort of action, usually filling out a form, leaving an email address or calling the business.

A good landing page should:

  • Have a singular purpose.  One offer and one call to action.
  • Have little to no distractions.  Often all outbound links are removed from the page, leaving only the call to action.
  • Have a strong headline with your value proposition
  • Have a strong call to action
  • Be very clear and direct

You want to make sure that your offer and call to action are very clear to the visitor.  No time to waste, with a landing page, it's either take action or leave.

Below is a landing page from one of our customers, Mortgages.ca, which is based in Toronto.  It's a pretty simple setup with a single call to action.

Mortgages Toronto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Headline – A clear and to the point headline that tells the visitor what you have to offer them.  Clarity is much more important than being clever.
  2. Action – Some sort of mechanism for the visitor to take action.  This can be a sign up form, an email subscribe or maybe a download button to get a report you are offering.
  3. Image – You technically don't need an image, but it does add style to the page and grabs the visitors visual attention.  And this one has a purpose to it.  The first thing you look at is her face….what is she pointing at?  Yes, the contact form.  This is called a visual clue for the visitor.
  4. Supporting copy – Hear you can go into more detail and re-enforce the headline and sub-headline of the page.  You caught their attention with the headline, now you can dive deeper into the pain points of the visitor and how you can solve them.
  5. Testimonials/Social Proof – You want to add some supporting credibility to the page and let the visitors know that other people are very happy with their service.  You can use testimonials or social proof if you have a strong social media following or large subscriber base.
  6. Call To Action – Here you want to encourage the visitor to hit that submit button, but please don't ever use the term “Submit” on your button.  Action oriented calls to action work best.

Have a question about landing pages and how to optimize your current paid advertising?  Feel free to contact me here, I can help.

Small Business Toolbox – March First

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Unsplash – Great place to get hi-resolution,royalty free images for your website.  They release 10 new images each day.

Twitonomy –  Get detailed Twitter analytics for your own profile or for anyone you want to track.  Free and paid plans available.

douglas-macarthur-quote

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here