Tuesday, November 8, 2011

After the Sale

       Is your sincere thank you the end of the sale? NO. How you treat your customer after the sale is crucial to the success of your business.People do business with people who they know and trust.Encouraging them to be repeat customers is much easier, and less expensive, than cultivating new customers.
       Absolutely essential is a Thank You Note, within three days.  This applies to both business and personal transactions. If you only do business on the internet you might get away with email; hopefully not an auto responder that is cold and generic.  Someone in your Organization should be in charge of making sure this is done properly.
       Smaller Organization s can easily add this activity to their work flow. They also have more of an opportunity for personalization.  The people who actually interacted with the client should be sending out the thank you notes, or gifts where appropriate; that's all part of relationship building.
       The really smart salesperson will take the time to hand write (horrors!) and personalize their ThankYou notes.  Include a comment that indicates that you were really paying attention. Send it by snail mail; your message will stand out because hand written mail is so rare today in our electronic age.
       Then, depending on the lifespan of your product, you should contact your customer again.  I don't however recommend a Christmas/Holiday card; your message will get lost in the pile.  Try any other holiday or regular event, like daylight savings time or the change of the seasons. And, of course, don't miss their birthday or any articles you see written about them.  That gives you at least two contacts per year, three if you send holiday cards.
       Seasoned, successful salesmen/women also pick up the phone occasionally.  "Just thinking of you", "this reminded me of you", or congratulations on your new position/baby/whatever. 
These professionals have worked with these same customers or clients for several years and sometimes even multiple generations.        
       Think of the security of knowing that half your income is already made for the year because of this business that you have cultivated, tended, and watched grow.  You can now spend your time planting the seeds of new customers to grow your business.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Do They Always Call During Dinner?

  Are you as annoyed as I am with recorded phone calls? They call during dinner because they have a better chance of catching you at home. Try this; If you don't recognize the number DON'T speak first. Most of those messages are voice activated and set up to capture your number as live for their lists. A lot of businesses (legal and otherwise) are making a lot of money selling your information. If you don't respond they will not have a product to sell.  Just hang up to avoid capture, and annoyance

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fire Your Customers

       Increasing sales may not be good for your business. Are you crazy, you say? Not at all. We often are concerned that we have more customers than ever before but aren't making more money. There is a very easy answer. The solution can be found in an analysis of your customers. There are a certain level of customers or clients that make you money; about 20% and a group of about 10% that are costing you money. These are the one time buyer or the small quantity user. Costs that are amortized across the whole sales process decrease per unit when tied to larger quantities. That means that the 80% of small customers are costing you more than you are making.
       You need to analyze your customers to see which group they each belong to. It is important that you direct your best marketing efforts at the 20% of customers who are improving your bottom line. Your middle group probably tends to be very loyal so special attention is not necessary. The bottom group are the customers that you fire. You can easily reduce your number of un-profitable clients by increasing minimum orders or convenience fees. In time your customer list will contain fewer names, but they will be the most valuable.
       Doing a SWOT analysis and ROI study will show you where you should direct your best efforts.  Losing a customer who is costing you money is no loss at all.  Find your losers and eliminate them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Made in the USA

           Are you among the many who are concerned that China is taking over American commerce?  Do you scour package labels to find out where something was made and try to avoid China or other alien places? The country of origin is often left off of packages just because of shoppers like you.  The manufacturers don’t want to lose customers.
            There is now a way for you to tell where something came from; on the barcode.  The first three numbers tell you the home of a product.  Anything marker 00-09 is from the US or Canada.  These can easily become your product of choice without much hassle.
       Check this out on your next shopping trip. You will have the peace of mind to know that you have made a choice that is in line with what you think and feel about the World, and how you want to show your support for what you believe.     
        Here is a breakdown of all of the common codes.  Just look at the first three numbers to determine the country of origin.

690-692 ... then it is MADE IN  CHINA                                                                                               
00 - 09 ...   USA    &  CANADA
30 - 37 ..   FRANCE
40 - 44 ...   GERMANY
471  ...  TAIWAN
49 ... JAPAN
50 ...   UK

Friday, May 27, 2011

Home based business

       In today’s economy a lot of people who can’t find a new job are choosing to start their own business. This can be very rewarding, or it can be very frustrating. It is common for an aspiring entrepreneur to think that their hobby can be turned into a business. This may or may not be a good idea. You may lose the joy of your passion when you are forced to work at it every day or it may just not be marketable. However, it you have special skills, like sewing or cooking, you may be able to capitalize on these skills.
       A better idea is to research what is needed in the marketplace and create something from that list. It takes more than passion and motivation to make your new business work. Consider your skills and interests. Income potential should not be the only reason for your ultimate choice. You will be doing whatever you choose day in and day out; it better hold your interest.
       Do you like to write; how about publishing ebooks, editing, or newsletter services? Are you moved by helping people; think about babysitting, senior in-home care, personal shopping, or conducting tours in your local Community. Pet services, cleaning, plant care, or bookkeeping are all possibilities. One of the most popular, of course, is online selling through eBay or Etsy. You are only limited by your budget and your imagination.
       The most important part of getting started is doing your homework. If you are not seeking grants or loans you may not need a formal business plan, but you do need a marketing plan. You have to differentiate yourself from the competition and determine how you will attract customers. Before that you will have to determine the type of business you want, if there is any special licensing required, and how you will operate.
       Yes, this does sound like a lot of work, but it is mandatory if you are to have any chance of success. You can’t build a house without a blueprint and you can’t succeed in business without a good plan.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do You Really Care?

       It has been said that you never have a second chance to make a first impression. What does your storefront say about you
       Does your storefront show your customers, both present and future, just how much you care about them? This is a big part of customer service. It is important that your store is welcoming; if your customers are comfortable they are more likely to buy more. If they are stressed or not comfortable they can’t wait to leave, without purchases.
       Are your windows clean? Dirty windows and doors say, “I don’t care enough about you to make you welcome.” Your displays should be fresh and timely. Dusty, tired, half-done displays and out of date posters make you look like you are going out of business. Your windows offer a great opportunity to showcase what is new and exciting about your store. They should be redone often to keep them fresh.
       How does the sidewalk and parking area in front of your store look? It should be swept and cleaned at least daily; maybe more than once a day if necessary. If your store is in a shopping center or strip mall that isn’t kept up as well as it should be your clean area will really stand out. It’s subliminal, but your clean and shiny storefront will become a magnet for customers.
       Yesterday I saw a shopkeeper park right in front of his door, despite the empty parking lot a few feet away. This is a big no-no. These premium parking places should be reserved for customers and clients. You and your employees probably won’t need your cars until after work so they can be parked out in the lot leaving the up close spaces for customers. Many potential customers will not stop if they don’t see convenient parking. A neat trick is to put removable signs on your cars and spread them out in the lot to advertise your business throughout the area. This is a very inexpensive way to advertise your business and take advantage of an unused resource.
       Now step outside and take a good look at your store front. Does it say “we care about you” or does it need refreshing to make your customers feel wanted and welcome ?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Hero-Carbonite

Oops, I did it again. Any you have probably done it too.
       I just pushed the wrong button on my computer and threw out a very important document. This is the thing nightmares are made of.
You check the trash to see if it was captured there; you check every file on your computer; you have a stiff drink and contemplate how you are going to find all the information you need to recreate it.
       We have written about this before, but I just hit the wrong button and did it again. The importance of backing up all the data on your computer cannot be understated. Have you considered what will happen if your computer crashed? You would not only lose an important document, you would lose everything that you have stored a computer files.
       If not a total crash, or hitting the wrong key, your data could be compromised by viruses, worms or Trojans. Except for the use of good anti-virus security programs there is not much that you can do to avoid this nightmare.
       The system I use, and I just had to use it again last week, is Carbonite. You can back-up you information on CD’s or external drives, but this requires discipline and a lot of time. If you are going to use CD’s or external drives you have to remember to store them offsite; somewhere safe. Some operating systems have a restore feature that can recapture anything back to a specific date. Anything you have worked on since your last back-up is in jeopardy.
       Carbonite is a remote server that can easily store and retrieve anything you have on your computer. It works in the background to back up all your files at a remote location. If your computer is attacked by a virus, stolen, damaged, or dead you can easily retrieve all you work with a few key strokes. It backs up as you go so you can never lose more than about 10 minutes work and you don’t even know it’s there, except for the little green dots that reassure you that a file is protected.
       Two great pluses are that it encrypts everything before it is stored so nobody except you can read or copy it, and there is no limit to what you can store. Long complicated spread sheets are just as safe as your short note to Aunt Sue or the pictures of your kids.
       This service will only cost you about a dollar a week and brings more peace of mind than money can buy. I’ve used it myself and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hire a Senior-Build Your Business

I your company built on the strength of a diverse workforce? Because of persistent myths, employers are hesitant to hire older workers and quick to jettison their most experienced people in favor of younger people. According to Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 it is against the law to discriminate against older workers, but the practice persists anyway.

The first myth is that older people are set their ways, unproductive, and useless. The truth is that with experience comes wisdom and they are able to do a great job that incorporates old solutions to new problems.

The second myth is that it’s too expensive to train older people; they are not going to stay with the company long enough to recoup your investment. In fact, many people have completed and retired from one career and are ready to start another. They have no intention of going home and sitting in a rocker. They can bring wisdom and insight to your teams that is not otherwise available. Because of their extensive work backgrounds they generally need less training than a younger person with no experience; most have better problem solving skills and more patience.

Myth number three: It can be more expensive to keep older workers on staff. Older employees cost too much and reduce profits. Actually, it can cost less. Anyone over the age of 65 can collect Medicare so that even if you offer a supplemental plan it will be less expensive than full coverage. Older workers take less time off because they have a stronger work ethic; they value their jobs, and understand the importance of their position to the whole. Younger workers are more likely to participate in activities and sports that are somewhat dangerous and thus need time off to recover.

The fourth myth centers on dependability and commitment. You can usually depend on seniors to be where they are supposed to be, and to be diligent in completing their assignments. Younger workers are more likely to be distracted by life; and take more time off the enjoy it. They also do not have the experience to appreciate that they are an important part of the whole and people are depending on them. Seniors understand that customers are not a bother and every aspect of a project is important; if they drop the ball the entire company is affected. The idea of not hiring older workers because of their capability is stupid. Older workers can be a valuable asset to the growth of your business.

Another reason to hire senior workers is that they can attract senior customers away from the competition. With the Baby Boomers becoming seniors, the make-up of your customers will be changing. Seniors may only make up 25% of the population, but they control three quarters of the wealth. Many seniors don’t like to work with younger people; they don’t feel understood. Your older workers can relate better to your changing clientele and bring you more business from unexpected places.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Campers

A surprise to many business owners or leaders is the fact that their customers are not their most important asset. The most valuable asset you have in your company is your well-trained staff.

Happy and committed employees will build and maintain a strong customer base; disgruntled team members will do just the opposite.

Some of the most successful companies today have created employee models that seem frivolous and expensive, but the return in incalculable. Creation of a workplace Corporate Culture that is respectful of your employees while maintaining the bottom line is large part of your success. It guides how employees think, act, and feel.

Companies like Apple Computer, Ing, and Zappos have gone to extremes for their employees; you can even bring your dog to work. The fall-out from this is the line of talented people waiting to work for them. You can get the same results, on a smaller scale, with creative benefits that they'll value more than money. Studies have shown that money is rarely the prime motivator. Comp days, flexible schedules, production bonuses, wellness programs, unique, customized incentives, or at least a R&R area all lead to happy productive employees. In absence of these things, words of praise, respect, and compassion will work well. Empowerment is the key.

In turn, your employees will go out of their support to you. They will want to be knowledgeable, helpful, empowered, and courteous, This translates to an atmosphere where shopping, or whatever, is a pleasant experience. These customers and clients will tell their friends and that the word will spread.
These concepts should not be reserved for your management or sales staff. They should be applied to everyone from the janitor to the boss. Your goal is success and this is a very important component.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tax Time

          It is now time to gather your receipts and accounts; the dreaded tax time. Have you already spent the big return that you think you will be getting? Or maybe you are scrambling to pay an anticipated bill. This could be the last year that you will have to live this nightmare. With just a little bit of adjusting you could owe nothing and get nothing. Coming out even is the goal.
         Contact your boss or HR manager to change your W4 form Adjust the number deductions so that the right amount of taxes are withheld; not too much and not too little. There are two benefits to following this system; you will not have to deal with the stress of tax time, and you are likely to increase your take-home pay.
           Check you return carefully. There are often deductions people miss because they are so weird. Believe it or not you can deduct the cost of a babysitter as a charitable deduction if you are leaving the house to do charitable/volunteer work. Unusual deductions like this are lurking everywhere and you are initiated to use any you can find.
         We have used Turbo Tax for a number of years and find that it is very good a t finding the hidden deductions. If you have kept your records in Quicken it will even enter most of your information for you, and remember it for subsequent years. This is an easy fix, but whatever system you choose be aware that you have lots of choices. The aim of the game is to come out even., and the ideal from a sound financial point of view.