Archive for the Business Category

Customer Retention on the Web

Posted in Business, Marketing on February 19, 2013 by wolfwomyn

Getting customers these days is hard enough, keeping them even harder.  I like the focus of this article.   Basically people are looking for things to be more personal.  Starbucks does it.  They’re made it company standard that their employees are to remember the names of their regular customers.  And I can tell you from personal experience it makes a huge difference.  Enjoy the article.

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Achieving customer satisfaction that keeps clients coming back to your site entails much more than selling a good product or service.  As such, here are tips for your customer retention efforts.

1. Only put your best people on the front line — Let’s face it, not everyone is well-suited to interact with clients and provide great customer service.  Unique personality traits are required, such as positive attitudes, great listening and problem solving skills — and only people who possess them should be in contact with your customers.  So, assign responsibility based on each employee’s core competencies.

2. Know what your customers want — Client feedback is one of the keys to successful business.  Knowing what customers think about your products and services and making improvements, perhaps based on their suggestions, should be part of your strategy.  Also, don’t underestimate the value of negative feedback.  Letting clients know and see that you are taking their thoughts into consideration shows you truly care and increases the chances they will stick around to see those improvements.  Thankfully, businesses can leverage social media to obtain feedback and can also track review sites like Yelp to gauge customer satisfaction.  A brand advocate should be appointed, from within the organization, to reply to reviews left on these pages.  By taking sincere interest you’ll find what works and what doesn’t.

3. Think relationships and sales will follow — When business is slow and the sales team feels pressure to improve numbers, it is easy to focus on new sales opportunities that arise and forget about developing real relationships with buyers.  Even when the interaction occurs remotely, customers can sense when a salesperson is impatient to close a sale and, even if they purchase now, they may think twice about returning.  Concentrating on what’s best for them, even if it means admitting one of your products doesn’t fulfill a need, can make a more lasting impressing.

4. Connect without overwhelming — An important aspect of keeping your customers is reminding them you are there when they need you.  Keep in touch periodically when you have relevant news for them, just don’t overdo it.  Product updates, deals, improvements and helpful tips for using your products in new ways are several types of applicable reasons.  If you don’t already have these materials consider developing a content marketing plan to support their development.

5. Track, track and track — Keeping records of your customers — purchase history, call notes, feedback — and tracking sales trends is vital to customer retention.  This information helps you understand customers better and helps you plan customer retention strategies.  Depending on your size and needs, consider either a contact management or customer relationship management (CRM) tool to track these relationships more effectively.  One or two extra sales can often return your technology investment, while giving sales managers and field reps a productivity advantage they need.

6. Be there 24/7 – It’s all about presence.  Whether through social media, email or your website, organize your business so you can answer customers’ and partners’ questions and keep processing rolling while out of the office and after business hours.  Your team should be able to access client information remotely to provide whatever a customer needs ASAP. The recent boom in mobile devices and cloudconnected services is helping businesses be available 24/7 for customers — your business should be no exception.

7. Audit customer experience — Lastly, put yourself in your clients’ position and make a list of all the ways their overall experience with your company can be improved.  Something as simple as noting that a specific customer likes their product to be delivered on Tuesdays can make a positive difference.  Cater to your clients in ways that will make their lives easier and their sales processes more successful.

~Brandon Bosley
~Website Magazine

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A Year of Pause

Posted in Business, Musings on January 10, 2013 by wolfwomyn

Too often we are caught up in the hustle and bustle of trying to keep it going, personally and professionally.  It has been scientifically proven that even a few moments of pause during the day increases productivity, decreases stress, and leads to healthier and happier bosses and employees.  This is a wonderful article.  Here is to “A Year Of Pause.”  Enjoy the article.

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Earlier this year, a friend of mine went to France to hike in a region of the lower Alps little known by Americans. Each day she and a handful of strangers walked up and down mountains, through valleys beside fossil-encrusted rock and riverbeds filled with stones, rarely seeing another person, and amazed that where they walked was once an ocean. Stopping for leisurely picnic lunches, they replenished and walked until reaching the evening’s lodgings. Sitting around the table each night, they ate hearty meals and talked before falling into restorative sleep. My friend shared, “We became aware of how natural and important it is to be able to take refuge.”

One day when the terrain was steep and rough, my friend struggled to keep up. Her guide hung back and gently advised, “Let the pace of your feet match your heartbeat, not the other way around.” Smiling, she urged her to follow as she set a slower, more sustainable pace. For my friend, something shifted; she realized the simple yet transformative power of paying attention to her heartbeat and choosing her pace in life.

In stark contrast, for many people, most days are a grueling race to keep up with ever-increasing demands, personal and professional, that often leave us depleted and unfulfilled. We even hasten the frantic pace as needed, and frankly, we rationalize that it comes with the territory. We have developed a collective hurry sickness — going everywhere but being nowhere — and learned to ignore our own heartbeats. Our 24/7 connected, globally-caffeinated culture conspires to diminish rather than strengthen our potential for meaningful contribution. Unconscious, we have let this become the new normal.

The holidays are an exception. We slow things down for caring and kindness, comfort foods, gift exchanges, gatherings around the table. We pause to savor the sweet season, transitioning from one year to the next, nourishing our lives with what feels natural and life-affirming. We even top it off with the socially-encouraged tradition of making resolutions, taking time to reflect on hope and change for the coming year.

But then the sabbatical ends. We barrel head first into the year, resuming the grueling pace that has come to define our lives. Commitments, although made with best intentions, slip away. Permission to slow down pales compared to the stigma of not meeting expectations. We dismiss pause as weakness and reestablish perpetual busyness as strength — a measure of success. But are speed and action really virtues? Or, are they distractions from what is missing and meaningful?

We have a choice. The urgency, drive and energy we capitalize on for success must be tempered with pause — a process of intentionally interrupting the hyper-active speed of life to gain the space we need to discern what is important, create our best work, and be our best selves. More pause — not speed — is the only sustainable way to cope with today’s demands and to take back our lives.

Research shows that slowing down on a regular basis is the better choice for us physically, emotionally, and mentally, and that when we do not, we suffer the consequences. The famous Framingham Heart Study found that women who took the fewest vacations were nearly eight times more likely to develop heart disease or suffer a heart attack than those who took regular time off. In a study that monitored the brain activity of those trying to solve problems, psychologist Mark Jung-Beeman and cognitive neuroscientist John Kounios discovered that in the minutes before they experienced “Aha!” flashes of creative insight, study participants were more likely to be focusing their attention inwardly and silencing irrelevant thoughts. And scientists have found that multitasking — the holy grail solution to getting more done in our hyper-active workplace culture — drains our productivity. According to research from Joshua Rubinstein, Ph.D., of the Federal Aviation Administration, and David Meyer, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Evans, Ph.D., both at the University of Michigan, people not only lose time when trying to complete two or more tasks at once, but it increases the likelihood of error as well.

While evidence validates pause, it’s challenging to embrace it when our culture scoffs at it, judging time invested in pause as counterculture and threatening our competitive edge. Imagine what might be possible if we extended our pause practice beyond the holiday threshold and carried it with us throughout the year. What ills might we cure in addition to hurry sickness? Anxiety? Depression?

Making pause part of your reality is not so difficult. What if you scheduled a time into your day to slow down — 10 minutes, 20 — to close your eyes and breathe deeply or take a walk, leaving your phone behind? What if you created sacred time without electronic devices at dinners with family and friends? What if we had real weekends? Real, unplugged vacations? Or, what if you took a few moments to read inspiring words or to share what is on your mind and in your heart rather than pushing it aside?

What if we made it commonplace to have a moment or longer of silence before meetings or classes to feel centered and grounded instead of rushing headlong into hyper-speed and hyper-activity? What if we had the courage to connect within ourselves and to others and to shift our attention from the clock and “to do” list to what is most important? Instead of picking up your mobile device to plow through a stream of mindless, soul-less transactions, what if you paused to ask yourself, “What could I do that would feed my soul and be more enduring?” What if you took time to reflect on your gifts, passions and dreams? What if you stopped to think: What can I begin today to create what I want in my life? What if you took a break from tension and anxiety and asked, “Where is the pressure coming from? Is it within me, or is it coming from somewhere else?” What might we accomplish if we focused on one thing at a time? How might our world be better if we all paused? What would be different?

In essence, everything. As the countermovement to our culture’s reverence for speed, action and reaction, pause is transformative. Pause values significance over speed, so when you choose it, you open yourself up to rediscovering what is important. There are specific moments in life that prompt us to pause — new beginnings and personal crises, but also horrific tragedies that shatter our world and knock us all, as a culture, off center. In these moments, we reach an incredible state of clarity — the things that once seemed urgent and stressful are now superficial distractions. We are crystal clear what is truly important, and that clarity can stay with us for some time. But, when the deluge of distractions comes flooding in, often we lose not necessarily the awareness, but the commitment attached to it. With pause, we can stay clear and committed. It’s not about stopping, giving up, and doing nothing. It is about doing things differently. When you pause, you reclaim your inherent right to make a choice about when it is appropriate to move quickly, and when it is in your best interest to slow down, take a breath, and reapproach. And in today’s world, where we are constantly moving, doing, acting, and reacting, simply because technology makes it possible, pause is more critical than ever. If we do not teach ourselves to slow down to renew, to be mindful and determine what is important, we will continue to suffer from illness, burnout, and loss of purpose in our work and lives. As noted scientist and mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn put it, “The internet is on 24/7; it doesn’t mean we have to be.”

Despite what is going on around us, we have the power to pause — we must simply choose to do so. As we pause during this unique time of transition — the end of the old year with all that has passed, and on the cusp of what is to come — why not resolve to taking back our lives through intentional choices? In 2013, let’s choose to pause deeply, treat ourselves kindly, and include pause as a best practice for creating more connection, meaning, and fulfillment. This year, let’s match our pace with our heartbeats. Let’s choose a new normal.

 

by Kevin Cashman
Best-Selling Author, World-Class Speaker, Global CEO

Five Rules on How Not to Use Social Media

Posted in Business, Social Media on October 23, 2012 by wolfwomyn

Social media is a very powerful thing, but like any powerful thing it can wreak havoc if misused or misdirected. First of all, always remember that social media is built around being social.
Being personable, honest, and entertaining is the best way to get users to interact with and about a business. You want users to trust and be entertained by your company, product, slogan, or marketing campaign, so then they turn around and do the rest of the buzz work for you.
The five rules that follow are fundamental to building users’ trust, interesting them in your business, and getting them to talk among themselves about it.
Rule No. 1: Don’t be dishonest
Most of us have been taken in by a false post a time or two. Discovering our credulity, we felt embarrassed and disappointed, and in response developed an acute awareness of duplicity: We are on the lookout for it, and we hate it when we see it. Overtly dishonest posts, comments, and reviews that are thinly disguised promotions… we don’t like them and our customers don’t either, so just don’t go there.

The flipside of this distaste for fakery is that Internet users appreciate straightforwardness and honesty. So rather than respond to a negative review with fake positive reviews, publicly respond to the reviewer. Offer her discounts or a way to fix the problem, and you might win over a vocal customer who can potentially do far better work for you than any PR department or reputation manager.

Rule No. 2: Don’t be annoying
Remember the chain emails of the early 2000s? Sure, those things went viral quickly, but nobody appreciated them. In the same way that you don’t lob useless information or advertisements at your customers’ inboxes, don’t spam their Twitters with less-than-brilliant blog posts or promotions. If you focus on making your promotional content engaging, Internet users will do most of the promoting for you.

Look around to see what promotional techniques other companies are using to get users talking. A popular tactic these days, for instance, is to give away a free service. What service could your business give away that would likely interest those who subscribe to your Twitter feed or who have “Liked” you on Facebook? A generous promotion builds trust and loyalty with users, and can be a great way to get them talking about your site with friends.

Rule No. 3: Don’t fight the nature of the Internet
Promoting a product or a service online is a tricky business, as piracy, theft, and sharing are rife. If your product or service is threatened by the openness of the Internet, then try a different approach.

Look at how the music industry has responded to the widespread availability of free music. Musicians have shifted their emphasis to live shows and even give their recorded music away for free, in an effort to gain a following and get their name and their sound out in the world. They depend on their fans to talk them up on social media and get people to their live shows.

Think about it: Many of the biggest companies online—including names like Facebook, Yahoo, Google, YouTube, and Pandora—offer their services for free. Is there a way you can make money by offering a free service? See where you can adapt your business to fit to this new model.

Rule No. 4: Don’t think social media will solve all your problems
Social media is merely one tool for a business. A great one, to be sure: it can be used for advertising, for gathering customer feedback, for getting your brand out there, and more.

But it works best in concert with other efforts. Consumers will get tired of your products and services if you simply keep promoting the same ones. So encourage creativity in all parts of your business—product enhancements, new products, new ways to provide a service, new markets—then use social media to promote all that is fresh and exciting about your offerings.

Rule No. 5: Don’t treat each new social media sensation as the Holy Grail
Of course, it’s great to have as many promotional outlets as you can, but the risk is that you grab more than you can really handle and let one or two fall by the wayside, doing damage to your image as an active, living, customer-focused company.

The other danger is running after each social media fad of the moment. Focus on what works and then pick up new channels deliberatively, after you figure out how best to use each new one.

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Remember that users of social media want to interact with people, and they all have their own motives and goals (whether that’s to impress their friends or find a job). If business professionals and marketers can remember those two fundamentals, plus the social media Golden Rule—to treat their users as they themselves would like to be treated–they will be well on their way to making social media work for them.

Source:  Randall Gates ~ Marketing Profs

How to Focus Your Online Efforts

Posted in Small Business on June 19, 2012 by wolfwomyn

Talk with any entrepreneurs—from the would-be Mark Zuckerbergs to the owner of your local florist or toy store—and I can guarantee you one thing: They’re busy. Really busy.

One reason is that we all know so much about what it takes to build a successful business. It’s out there for all to learn on the Web—in articles, e-books, webcasts, seminars, live-streamed events—you name it.

But in growing my own freelance writing business, and now co-founding a startup called the $200KFreelancer, I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s better not to act on all of that wisdom. Trying to do too much at once can drain your creative mojo and keep you from excelling in any one area.

Doing Too Much

When my business partner, Elizabeth MacBride, and I first started talking about building traffic though social media, for instance, we immediately opened a Twitter account, set up a blog on Tumblr, and began posting links to sites like StumbleUpon.

Each time we did one of these things, we realized we’d only scratched the surface. What about creating a Facebook page? Should we start a LinkedIn group? Who was going to learn Google+? It started to get overwhelming.

Budgeting Our Time

It was around that time that we decided to make a firm commitment to invest three hours a week for tasks that truly moved the company forward; everything else would have to wait. We’re both bootstrapping the business while earning our livings as freelancers.

Three hours a week may seem like a small amount of time if you’re used to hearing about folks in startups living in cubicles 24/7, but when you’ve got two business partners who are both extremely focused and disciplined about sticking to their to-do list, significant steps toward building the business can be achieved in 52 weeks.

A Little Achievements Adds Up

Here are the things we’ve accomplished since January. By taking the aforementioned approach, we were able to get a lot done with very little stress.

Launched a simple website so we could start gathering data on the size of our market and what our readers like to read
Set ourselves up with Google analytics
Established a rhythm of publishing content four days a week and branched out from traditional blogging to also provide reported content from top experts
Began to build a steady audience—from more than 100 countries—including many recurring visitors
Saying no to some great ideas right—like opening a Facebook page and creating a LinkedIn profile—has enabled us to devote more time to others. At the top of our list: Monetizing the site. We’re working on our first salable product now. And once we’ve launched that, we’ll move onto the next thing. That approach may not be the one that a venture capitalist, eager for a quick cash-out, would prescribe. But it’s been working out really well for us so far.

Source: Open Forum ~ Small Business
Elaine Pofeldt

Don’t Forget the Little People

Posted in Business, Musings on May 31, 2012 by wolfwomyn

I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately watching the news, listening to people.   It seems that in today’s economy there is a major focus on the big corporations and the people with a lot of funds, what is being termed at the 1%.  But in all the hullabaloo, the little people, the middle and lower class, are being completely forgotten and swept under the rug.  So I thought today I’d write a little bit on my own, rather than putting forward yet another article, and speak up for the people where most of the income actually comes from.

Realistically, most of the spending in this country come from the middle to lower income groups.  The rich seem to be keeping it tied up and stashed away.  So rather than focusing the attention on getting the attention of the 1%, time and energy should be focused on where the business actually is and keeping prices withing a range where we can actually connect ~ especially for the small business folks.  Keeping prices to a reasonable level, rather it be for services or merchandise, will keep the flow of the energy of money running.  If we out price these groups we are, as the old saying goes, cutting of our nose despite our face.   So it means cutting the profit margin, that margin won’t be there if we are not getting business.

What does this mean?  Being realistic, and not running scared, about where the economy is and what people can afford.   We are in a major recession.  People don’t have the expendable income that used to be there.  And they are really tired of promises that are not kept, and companies that used to be there and care are no longer, and things that used to be reasonable priced doubled and tripled so that basics cannot even be reached.  Being realistic about our pricing for services and merchandise is mandatory these days.

Another way to keep the general population involved and coming into your business is customer service.   I recently went to Hawaii and experienced their ‘Aloha Spirit’, and it was obvious everywhere I went.   When I walked into a store, no matter what size, the workers actually looked up, caught your eye, and with a smile and warm heart greeted you with a very happy Aloha.  You actually knew that they knew you were there and they actually wanted you there.   To very basic human interaction, while driving I noticed that people actually stopped to let another person turn across the road, and people actually stopped for pedestrians waiting to cross the street, and everywhere there was a feeling of care and concern for others.    And this from a people who are fighting for their country.  I know most of you probably are not even aware that the US in a military coo, started by the missionaries children, took over their country and arrested and imprisoned their queen in her own palace.   And yet, the still smile, greet the outsiders with Aloha, and for the most part treat us well.   In this harsh economy that we are in everyone needs some Aloha.

So what is the moral of the story.  Remember the little people, and remember we all want to be acknowledged and treated with respect.  Even if you don’t feel it, pretend and it will come.  Treating people with respect, caring about where people are, and being conscious of this and setting our pricing within that range will keep people coming back for more of whatever you are offering.

Pay Attention To Your Customers

Posted in Small Business, Uncategorized, Websites on April 10, 2012 by wolfwomyn

You know the more I have contact with potential customers out there, the more I hear that they are angry, frustrated, and just plain tired of hiring people who don’t listen to what they want.  Instead they put their hard earned funds into a person who is insistent on doing what they want and not what the customer wants.  Now this philosophy, doing what I want and not my customer, is applicable (maybe) if you are doing your own thing, creating your own products.  It surely doesn’t apply when you are in a service industry.

When you are in a service industry, one that is there to “serve your customer”, your responsibility is to your customer.  It doesn’t matter if you agree with their ideas, or their style.  You are there to create what they want.  Giving advice is definitely called for, but it is up to your customer if they want to take it.  If they don’t, it is up to you to “serve” them.  And, in the case of websites, it is important that you get their approval before launching it.  Too often websites are put up live before the customer has the option of approving it, which leaves them with something that they potentially didn’t want.  And to make it worse it is out there for the world to see.

So if you are in a service profession remember  the old saying, “The customer is always right.”   It is their time, their energy, their funds which are paying for your services, and that is what will keep your business going.    Listen to your customer, give them the benefit of your wisdom, and design something that works for them.  In the long run you will have happy customers, which means that you will have customers that are more than happy to refer you to their friends which will expand your business.  Word of mouth is one of the biggest reasons that businesses succeed.  And in this time of the world wide web their words go a long long way.

 

Five Ways to Make Your Website Tablet-Friendly

Posted in Websites on April 3, 2012 by wolfwomyn

You’re seeing tablets more and more: on subways, in planes and in waiting rooms. To ensure you don’t miss out during this cultural switch in reading habits, a number of publications have covered ways to ensure your site is tablet-friendly.

We’ve decided to highlight the tips provided by CIK Marketing, as they’re practical and immediately useful. Here are five:

Avoid Flash. Adobe’s Flash technology doesn’t work on Apple mobile devices— and Flash tends to weigh sites down in any case. Substitute flash with HTML5 or JavaScript, which provide the same cool effects.

Ditch the drop-down menus. Instead, consider a showcase page for different sections of the site, better enabling tablet users to find all available subpages. If you want to keep your drop-down menus, create visual cues (like arrows) that show users the menu can be opened and expanded.

Design for touch interaction. Tablet users aren’t clicking or scrolling with a mouse, so design buttons the size of a fingertip instead of a cursor. Links placed too closely together will also frustrate users; remember that touching and swiping are the gestures to design for these days.

Choose colors, textures and typography wisely. Bright background colors and patterns reduce the appearance of glare or smudges on an iPad or Blackberry Playbook. Avoid solid blacks that look like untextured voids. Ensure your font isn’t too large or too small for tablet navigation. When in doubt, test on a tablet or two.

Design forms to fit. Many company sites require users to fill out a form. Look yours over and ensure all fields are clear and easily accessible to tablet users. Avoid including too many fields, as longer forms on tablets are frustrating.

The Po!nt: Think flat and touchy. The reading-and-browsing world is moving further in the direction of tablets, making it crucial that your site experience be as seamless there as it is anywhere else. A few tweaks could be all you need to ensure compatibility.

Source: Get to the point:Social Media