Small Business Can http://www.smallbusinesscan.com Share ideas, get advice and promote your business today. Sat, 01 Aug 2015 08:00:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=409 The Business Achievers Awards 2015: Open For Entries http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/the-business-achievers-awards-2015-open-for-entries/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/the-business-achievers-awards-2015-open-for-entries/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 08:00:53 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83472 As many of you know we at Small Business Can are big supporters of business competitions: anything that gets you thinking about your business and working on your business rather than in it. And if you can generate publicity, link into a great business network and meet bankers, politicians, founders […]

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As many of you know we at Small Business Can are big supporters of business competitions: anything that gets you thinking about your business and working on your business rather than in it. And if you can generate publicity, link into a great business network and meet bankers, politicians, founders and journalists along the way, that’s even better.

Enter The Business Achievers Awards

The Business Achievers Awards competition is probably one of the biggest and most broadly based competitions on the island with categories to appeal to most businesses of all sizes across sectors. The application form is here and will take no more than 30 minutes to fill in. It could be 30 minutes well spent because there are great benefits to entering.

Here are some good reasons why you might want to consider adding ‘must enter business competition’ to your ‘business planning to do’ list!

  1. The application process is an opportunity to reflect on what your business is all about and clearly articulate your USP.
  2. It’s an opportunity to work on your business rather than in it by stepping back to look at achievements, challenges, market trends and areas for improvement.
  3. It will give you time to reflect on new angles and perspectives to overcome obstacles or to plot new strategies for growth.
  4. Competitions are also about PR, marketing, selling…spin. They’re an opportunity for you to raise the profile of the business for free. Entering the competition will get you into the local press. You could get your business national and even international profile.
  5. By working the competition – filling in the forms correctly, engaging with local reps for the competition, turning up at the networking events, volunteering to give quotes and elbowing yourself into photos, you will get marketing material that’s ‘independent’ for your website and other marcomms.
  6. If you progress through the competition there are some programs such as Ulster Bank’s Business Achievers Awards that produce corporate videos for all of the short listed companies. These are done by professional companies with editors and designers. You probably cannot afford to produce these yourself! They are given to you after the competition for your website and other marketing material, and they will impress!
  7. Working the competition will also give you access to a big network of people that can help your business grow. The politicians always turn up. You’ll meet the local and national enterprise support agencies. Bankers, funders, journalists, other successful businesspeople…the big national Awards are a veritable who’s who of the great and the good in business. And you’ll be one of the stars of the show…just by entering. And if you win…!
  8. When you sit down and take the time to apply to a competition, you’ll realize that you have a team supporting you. It illustrates the importance of the support of family and its role in moving your business forward. You’ll see the staff that have and are stepping up to the mark.
  9. You’ll probably get your management involved. Sometimes just by reflecting and internally acknowledging what you’ve achieved together is a major win in its own right.
  10. Even if you’re not short-listed you will benefit from working ‘on’ your business. You can use the knowledge to plan future strategies and identify weak areas. It’ll help you make your business stronger and better. And that’s what it all, eventually, boils down to!

Don’t miss your chance!

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Green Business ideas http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/green-business-ideas/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/green-business-ideas/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 08:00:37 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83122 A profitable business model can also be friendly to the environment. It’s just the matter of choosing eco-friendly way in the overall strategy of the company and consequently, all areas of the organization will be aligned with this goal. It is not something that can happen overnight, but it is […]

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A profitable business model can also be friendly to the environment. It’s just the matter of choosing eco-friendly way in the overall strategy of the company and consequently, all areas of the organization will be aligned with this goal. It is not something that can happen overnight, but it is not an impossible mission either. Increasingly, people are more aware about the importance of protecting the environment. Therefore, it is time to renew the business strategy and make it 100 percent organic and, above all, highly productive. Let’s look at some green business ideas.

Direct your staff to green goals

Ideally, before embarking on any long-term strategy, talk to your team about what practices and goals should be achieved. This information is even more relevant when it comes to forming habits within the organization that is friendly to the environment. Talk to your partners and colleagues about what the maximum use of resources could be, for example office paper, plastic, water and even cleaning products.  The simplest thing such as turning off the light when leaving the room can make a difference in order to meet the desired goals. This way, you will create a dynamic working conditions to go hand in hand with the organization’s mission – to be 100% pro-environment.

Watch energy consumption

One of the key things to keep in mind when creating the overall strategy of your company is to make an estimate of the operating expenses. This means having an annual screening in terms of energy, water and material resources that are used. And do not forget to consider the environmental impact that this generates. Replacing inefficient light bulbs gives impressive results in energy savings of 50 to 75 percent. And best of all is that this produces equal performance. Remember that the most important points of energy consumption in a company are lighting, heating, air conditioning, food storage equipment, computers and audio devices.

Calculate CO2 emission

Knowing the percentage of greenhouse gases emission in your business requires a calculation of the direct consumption of the organization. This includes everything from light and water to other elements used to operate as inputs. It is recommended that you seek advice from an expert to assess the emissions you produce and the areas where the impact on the environment can be reduced. So you can make an estimate of the percentage of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by your company and take action accordingly. For example, a home inhabited by two people with two cars, who do not use public transport, do not recycle and consume natural gas can generate about two tons of CO2 per year. One of the most affordable solutions is to plant a tree and care for it to help neutralize the emissions.

Sort your waste

If you recycle only half of garbage you generate (individually), 1080 kg of CO2 is issued per year. Because of this it’s good to separate waste in biodegradable bags in three colors – blue, green and red. Inorganic waste is deposited in the first, such as paper, glass, metals, textiles, etc. Organic waste, such as food, coffee filters or tea and dirty napkins, goes in the second, while in the third all health and medical related stuff, such as syringes, edible oil, cigarette butts, etc. are discarded. Remember that if you crush organic and inorganic waste, you will take advantage over each of the bags’ space and spend less on them, which will also be reflected in your budget. You can store whatever you want in New Zealand shipping container, whether that’s growing plants or waste bags.

Look for green suppliers

Start by assessing whether the products and services you acquire for your business harm the environment. At this point it is important to remember that just like people working in your company perform ecological practices, your suppliers also should. If you believe that you won’t find everything you need in the market, you’re wrong. Today, more and more shops only sell organic products. To identify organic articles, look for a distinctive mark on the packaging that says it’s environmentally friendly.

Get certified as a green company

For environmental certification different points are evaluated. For example, consumption of water and wastewater, soil and subsoil, air emissions, environmental indicators, solid and hazardous waste, noise and environmental risk. Remember that your certificate guarantees consumers that the product is environmentally friendly and does not harm the environment at any stage of manufacture.

Create a media strategy

Once you have everything ready, it’s time for customers, suppliers and the market in general to find out you’re friendly with the planet. In order to do this, make a plan of communication and marketing to highlight this feature.

Although ecology and business seem to be two antagonistic concepts, circumstances have made them go hand in hand, even creating a niche market that is growing every year. These businesses are mainly supported by the progressive awareness of the population on environmental matters, because ultimately, they are the end customers in demand for organic products and services.

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Why Wasn’t Your Business Plan Funded? http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/wasnt-business-plan-funded/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/wasnt-business-plan-funded/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 07:01:33 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83132 While there can be so many differences that appear between business managers when they want to create a really effective financial business plan, this does not mean that there is always a guarantee that funding will be found. Many think that once financing was obtained once, something similar is going […]

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While there can be so many differences that appear between business managers when they want to create a really effective financial business plan, this does not mean that there is always a guarantee that funding will be found. Many think that once financing was obtained once, something similar is going to appear in the future. This is not always the case. Let’s take a look at why your business plan wasn’t funded.

Financial Business Plan

Expertise in creating financial business plans is the most important factor that has to be taken into account when you want to obtain funding. You have to adapt to the market situations and you need to always take into account what the funders want to invest in at the moment.

In order to successfully obtain funding, you have to prove that the company is prepared for investments. This means that you basically have to prove the fact that you are going to generate a profit for the investors in a given period of time. Knowledge of what the investors want is a necessity.

A Lack Of Competitive Edge

The very first reason why a company is not getting funding is the fact that it does not have a competitive edge in the niche/industry that is chosen. The marketing strategy in this case is not well-created or there is actually a complete lack of a strong strategy. Remember that investors want to see that the company will succeed. If the marketing strategy is not great, how can they see that?

Lack Of Management Experience

Most people think that they just need to show that the business is viable and that the management team and the owner are not going to be analyzed. This is completely incorrect. The business plan needs to highlight the management approach and there is a really strong possibility that the investors are going to want to know as much as possible about past experiences before making a decision.

Unclear Business Strategy

If the business strategy is not clear and there is risk that capital is going to be lost, nobody will want to invest. With this in mind, taking the necessary time to create a really strong business strategy is a necessity even before funding is considered.

Too Many Assumptions

Most of the business plans that are sent in for funding consideration are incredibly optimistic. Assumptions are made and there is no proof that these assumptions are realistic. The assumptions that are made have to be proven. There are stress-tests that are performed and if you do not have realistic assumptions, it will show and the investors are going to walk away.

Conclusions

The bottom line is that you should never treat the situation lightly. If you need funding and you have to look for investors, the most important thing is to be properly prepared for their analysis. The facts that were highlighted above are just the most common. Remember that even one improper assessment can be seen by the investor as a sign that something will go wrong. In the event that you do not have experience in creating business plans for companies that would receive funding, it is a lot better to simply hire someone that has. This drastically increases the possibility of receiving money.

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Guide to Buying a Small Business http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/guide-to-buying-a-small-business/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/guide-to-buying-a-small-business/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 08:00:14 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83134 Embarking on a small business venture takes courage, lots of energy, and a willingness to take risks. This guide to buying a small business, instead of starting a new business from scratch, will showcase several advantages that buying an established small business venture offers. The current owner has already done […]

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Embarking on a small business venture takes courage, lots of energy, and a willingness to take risks. This guide to buying a small business, instead of starting a new business from scratch, will showcase several advantages that buying an established small business venture offers.

The current owner has already done the crucial, real-world testing, and established a cash flow track record, which proves the products or services have a market. Learning how to buy a small business is largely a matter of paying attention to due diligence, and evaluating three core concepts.

1. Cash Flow and Profit Margin

One of the most important questions to ask when buying a small business is what is its profit margin? Profit margins vary between industries, and you should do your homework on what is a competitive level to shoot for.

The income and cash flow statements should give you a window into what is working for the company, and if there are products or services that are dragging down the profits. What to look for when buying a small business is the breadth of the customer or client base. If losing one or two major customers would jeopardize the cash flow of the venture, you should develop a marketing plan that brings in new clients.

2. Human Resources

What to consider when buying a small business in terms of human resources are the following: employee morale, work ethic, and commitment to quality. Taking the time to talk with as many of the employees as possible is a great investment. You need to find out if they are committed to staying with the business, and if they have ideas on areas in which the business processes can be improved.

Just like a business that is too dependent on a few customers, the loss of key employees can also destroy the venture. You need to make sure the crucial employees are willing to stay, or train in their replacements.

3. Processes

There are processes the business uses for everything from marketing, customer service, manufacturing, inventory, billing, receivables, etc. By asking lots of questions on the current processes, you gain a clearer picture of the true health of the business. This post is a good guide to the legal processes which may be involved.

What is the cost to acquire a new customer, and how is it accomplished? Does the business rely on advertising, trade shows, or word of mouth, and is there a marketing plan to test new ways to generate more business? How much is an individual customer worth over time, and is there a system to sell them additional products or services?

How current is the business on paying its bills? And how efficient is it in collecting its receivables? The balance sheet may list receivables as assets, but the employees may know which ones really are unrecoverable.

How accurate does the business know the cost of goods sold? Many small businesses have very poor inventory control systems, and manufacturing often is delayed by parts shortages. Does the business check with several vendors to keep its costs down?

Is there space allocated to dead inventory? Just like bad receivables, some inventory listed as assets may well be worthless. Even worse, the dead inventory continues takes money to store, count, and manage.

If it is a manufacturing process, how current is the equipment? If a piece of equipment breaks, what is the repair or replacement cost? And what does the work flow look like. Many companies have just grown over time without any thought to work flow, and have ended up with an inefficient process.

What is the quality of the products and services the business produces? Do customers continue to buy from the business, and refer new customers to it? How good is the business at meeting its time commitments to customers? What is percentage of products that are defective, and returned?

Final Thoughts

After taking the time to investigate as many of the business processes and employees as you can, you will be in a position to evaluate the numbers. Is the business sustaining growth, or have revenues and profits margins dropped? What is the reason the business is now for sale?

Before you make an offer, you need to have a clear plan on the direction you want to take the company. Does it require more working capital, new equipment, new product development, expanded marketing efforts and better customer service?

By doing the appropriate due diligence, you can deduce the inherent risk of ownership, and the investigation process itself can uncover new ideas for your success!

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It is All About Market Niche in the Business Plan http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/market-niche-business-plan/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/market-niche-business-plan/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 07:00:24 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=82969 The business plan really is all about the market niche – researching it, understanding its needs, identifying how the needs are best met, and designing products and services that are aligned with the identified customer needs. From page one to the end, the entrepreneur is building a business plan that […]

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The business plan really is all about the market niche – researching it, understanding its needs, identifying how the needs are best met, and designing products and services that are aligned with the identified customer needs. From page one to the end, the entrepreneur is building a business plan that caters to clearly defined customers.

Business Plan Blues

Sometimes it is challenging to convey what the business has to offer the niche because people concentrate on the product or service rather than the how the products and services are bringing market niche solutions. Startups are building a niche from the ground up, so it is important for the business plan to always stay focused on exactly who the business is serving.

Following are some tips to keep the business plan’s line of sight on the target market.

Precisely Identify What is Being Offered

All clothing retailers sell clothes, but each one has a different customer base. One may sell children’s clothing while another sells haute couture. Obviously the marketing, pricing, and product sourcing will be vastly different for each type of retailer.

In the business plan, the entrepreneur is presenting a picture of the target market. Assume the startup is another clothing retailer. What makes this particular business unique, and who exactly is the business selling to? What is it about the business that makes it different from all the other clothing retailers.

Basically, the important question is: What is the business really selling? Is it comfort for young children? Is it glamour? Each business has a brand which is based on the ultimate purpose of the business. Sure, the clothing retailer sells fashion, but more importantly, the business is selling an image and qualities the target market will appreciate. Capturing in the business plan what is really being sold will present a much clearer picture of the enterprise to readers.

Paint a Picture of the Market Niche

Why does the entrepreneur believe the niche market exists? The business plan should always reflect in-depth market research. Once potential customers are identified, it is wise to conduct a market survey and pinpoint the needs.

The next step is to identify the competitors and discover why the need remains unmet. This process gives businesses critical insight into the niche market and opportunities that may have not been realized yet.

Get Specific About the Market Niche

Small businesses must cater to a limited group of people. That does not mean they should only sell one product, but a good growth strategy is specifically identifying the target market for every product or service sold. It is possible that the business will sell to more than one market niche.

However, going through this process will help the entrepreneur avoid stretching to far during the startup and early operations stage. As market niches are added, it becomes clear that each one needs special marketing, pricing, promotion, customers support, and so on. Products and services can always be added over time as a growth strategy.

The business plan needs to stay focused on the market niche from beginning to end. This will make it much more attractive to investors. Just as importantly, this approach will keep the entrepreneur focused on a path to success.

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[Event] New Dublin WooCommerce Meetup to Bring Woo-Entrepreneurs Together http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/new-dublin-woocommerce-meetup-bring-woo-entrepreneurs-together/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/new-dublin-woocommerce-meetup-bring-woo-entrepreneurs-together/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 11:49:30 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83442 Wikipedia states “WooCommerce is an open source e-commerce plugin for WordPress. [..]  Launched on September 27, 2011,[3] the plugin quickly became famous for its simplicity to install and customisation and being free in nature. [..] In May 2015, WooThemes and WooCommerce were acquired by Automattic, operator of WordPress.com and core contributor to […]

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Wikipedia states “WooCommerce is an open source e-commerce plugin for WordPress. [..]  Launched on September 27, 2011,[3] the plugin quickly became famous for its simplicity to install and customisation and being free in nature. [..] In May 2015, WooThemes and WooCommerce were acquired by Automattic, operator of WordPress.com and core contributor to the WordPress software. [..] For the 2nd week of March 2015, Trends indicated that WooCommerce ran on 24% of e-commerce sites online with total downloads reaching 6.7 million.”

But as a Woo-lover and Woo-developer, numbers don’t really mean much. The more entrepreneurs I meet in town, the more website owners I speak to, the more social media addicts I “talk” to, WooCommerce is sure to become the biggest provider of Ecommerce functionalities in the next few months.

Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has just acquired WooCommerce, included its worldwide staff of 50+ people, for an amount that is close to $30,000,000. Now, that is what you call an investment!

With 7million downloads worldwide, we’ve decided to start a Dublin WooCommerce Meetup.

Upcoming WooCommerce Meetup: 12 August

 

The first event saw approximately 25 entrepreneurs attending, all from different backgrounds (web designers, developers, ecommerce entrepreneurs, WordPress enthusiasts). Realex Payments kindly sponsored venue and….. drum roll… free drinks!

Good news is – we’re running our WooCommerce Meetups every 2nd Wednesday of the month, in Dublin 2 (and specifically in the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, 7 Clare Street).

Or next appointment is on Aug 12th (RSVP here by Aug 11). We’ll discuss:

  • best practices for WooCommerce/WordPress website hosting
  • hosting platforms: who is using what, for how much, and what the feedback is
  • website speed: hosting and caching plugin recommendations
  • backing up and security: tips and suggestions to keep our websites secure and 99% hack-proof

Why is this WooCommerce Meetup important to me?

The main obstacle being faced by web developers, graphic designers and website owners is… TIME.

You would agree with me if I said WooCommerce is easy and fast, however this only applies to basic ecommerce functionalities. There are hundreds of free and premium plugins, thousands of themes, millions of PHP snippets available to accomplish advanced tasks.

So, TIME is money and we wish we had some extra hours a day to run the whole process smoothly!

This month, we’ll discuss openly about hosting providers, hosting plans, website speed, backup and restore planning and whatever is related to the best practices of “starting with the right foot“.

If you charge a considerable amount of money to develop WooCommerce websites, or if you’re investing in your next WooCommerce website, it’s extremely important to select the best hosting options before starting with the development.

When is the next Dublin WooCommerce Meetup on?

Happy Woo-Entrepreneurs of Dublin while enjoying their Free Drinks On July 8th

Happy Woo-Entrepreneurs of Dublin while enjoying their Free Drinks On July 8th

As already mentioned, we’ll be meeting in the Dublin Chamber of Commerce at 8pm on August 12th.

We asked Blacknight, Letshost, SpiralHost, Digiweb and other companies to attend so we’ll see if they’re brave enough to attend and answer our questions!

For sure, there will be myself, recently appointed WooCommerce Meetup Organiser by WooThemes/Automattic, and several other entrepreneurs such as website owners, designers and developers. In the first event, 2 great guys drove down from Cork to attend – so there is really no excuse if you live in Dublin!

To register (it’s free of course, plus Realex Payments will get you a free drink afterwards!), visit http://www.meetup.com/Dublin-WooCommerce-Meetup/events/223649210 now.

Hope to see you there!

 

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How to Keep Employees Safe on the Job: 5 Excellent Programs http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/how-to-keep-employees-safe-on-the-job-5-excellent-programs/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/how-to-keep-employees-safe-on-the-job-5-excellent-programs/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 08:00:56 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83204 Safety on the job isn’t just about construction accidents, but involves many different aspects for protecting employees and employers alike. Below introduces five excellent programs on how to keep employees safe on the job. How to Keep Employees Safe on the Job OSHA Safety Program Any company that employs manual […]

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Safety on the job isn’t just about construction accidents, but involves many different aspects for protecting employees and employers alike. Below introduces five excellent programs on how to keep employees safe on the job.

How to Keep Employees Safe on the Job

OSHA Safety Program

Any company that employs manual labor should have a safety program based on sample OSHA Policies. There are a variety of topics which need to be covered, such as lockout/tagout, fall protection, and hazard communication. Most states offer an official OSHA-approved state program and most of these state’s Safety and Health departments offer free consultations and assistance with setting up a formal safety program.

Safe Driving

Companies that require employees to drive as a regular part of their duties, such as a delivery service company, should offer safe driving training. A defensive driving course can be offered online, in person, or outsourced to an actual driving school. When possible, consider allowing employees to take a defensive driving course with an experienced instructor so they are more prepared to handle incidents on the road.

Health and Wellness

Employee safety goes beyond preventing accidents and physical harm. Health and wellness promotion is one of the best tools to prevent accidents and health problems. Consider encouraging employees to exercise through offering gym reimbursements or bonuses. Even better, consider building a simple on-site gym for employees to work-out in. This is an excellent way to promote healthy living while reducing stress and cost for you the employer.

Emergency Action Training

Emergencies can consist of anything from a medical emergency, to an earthquake, to workplace violence. Consider implementing regular emergency action training. Every company should offer Basic First Aid/CPR training to employees. However, not every employee needs to be certified. Having a few employees and one supervisor from each department should be sufficient. In addition, teach all employees how to respond to natural disasters.

Drug Free Workplace

Every company should have zero tolerance for drug and alcohol use in the workplace. Not only do they cause accidents, but result in loss of money and even lives. As part of the drug free program, consider performing annual, random UAs on all employees. If there are any concerns due to drug use, consult with a business lawyer like Carter West. While some drugs like marijuana may have medical uses, it is still unsafe for on the job use, especially in industries that work with tools and equipment, such as manufacturing and construction.

Listed here are five programs that will improve employee safety and save your company money. These include adopting an OSHA Safety Program, offering defensive driving training and health and wellness programs. In addition, emergency action training and enacting a drug free workplace program are essential to protect lives and save on injuries and accidents in the workplace.

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Building a Loyal and Long Term Consumer Engagement http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/building-loyal-long-term-consumer-engagement/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/building-loyal-long-term-consumer-engagement/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 07:00:22 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83234 Satisfying your customers is key, and having a solid strategy about how you’re going to engage them is important. In order to establish a philosophy about how to best maintain a long term engagement with your customers, you need to take a few key ideas into account. Most of these […]

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Satisfying your customers is key, and having a solid strategy about how you’re going to engage them is important. In order to establish a philosophy about how to best maintain a long term engagement with your customers, you need to take a few key ideas into account. Most of these core principles stem from high standards of communication utilizing the best tools available, and a solid understanding of your customers’ needs. Here are a few tips on how you can develop and maintain a loyal program of long term consumer engagement.

Communication Is Key to Long Term Consumer Engagement

Forbes pins communication as a top priority, advising businesses to routinely provide customers with updates that are both positive and negative. No news is not good news, whether you have to deliver a setback or an achievement. There are many reasons to stay in touch with customers. Not only is it a practical method of moving projects along and making sure everyone is on the same page, but it’s also an important part of presenting your business in a positive light. Trust is just as important as communication when you’re dealing with customers, and you can reaffirm that quality by never falling off the radar.

Beyond Your E-mail Inbox

The Marketing Donut recommends that for effective management of customer relationships, you should use every possible channel to communicate with your customers. E-mail alone isn’t good enough anymore, and utilizing other modes of interaction, such as video conferencing or even social media, makes them feel valued and in the know. This is essential to maintaining a positive feeling in your business dealings. Video conferencing in particular has become a very popular mode of business communications, with providers such as Bluejeans and others offering select services specifically designed with consumer engagement in mind. Blue Jeans for customer management offers many different options tailored specifically for customer communication. It’s essential to stay on the cutting edge of this type of technology, since it will push your customer relationships forward and into the 21st century.

Implement Your Game Plan Innovatively

John Tschohl, Desk.com blogger and self-described “guru of customer service,” is an expert in the consumer engagement and service industry. While developing an effective, long-term strategy, he recommends taking a three-pronged approach:

  • Product. View your service as a product, and realize that your customers have a choice in a competitive market.
  • The Boss. Your customer is really your boss. This is an essential part of the ideology behind customer service, and placing it at the center of your company’s core is extremely important since customers are what drive your business.
  • Reliability. Maintain consistent performance to meet and ideally exceed your customer’s expectations time after time.

These core principles are always good to keep in mind when you’re planning a longer term approach to your customer communication and engagement program. Always keep your eye on the prize when it comes to the product, since that’s ultimately the core of what the customer pays for. However, a huge part of maintaining business isn’t just a great product, but the package that comes with it. Customers don’t want to have to feel like they’re bothering you or that they have to hunt you down. They really are the boss, and when they snap their fingers, you should expect to jump. And last, but not least, reliability is also of equal importance. All of these elements can be better achieved using a technology like video conferencing due to the fact that it’s immediate, it’s user friendly given current advances with browser compatibility and other multi-platform availability, and it puts a face to the business.

Don’t Be Afraid of Feedback

It’s easy to send feedback that’s watered down in an e-mail, because no one likes confrontation. This includes your customers. However, although it might seem counterintuitive, you should encourage your customers to give you the good, the bad, and the ugly all at once. Using a video conference to get feedback can better facilitate this once you establish a rapport. It’s easier to rap with a colleague that you’ve worked on a project with if that’s the type of relationship you establish with customers. Don’t make them feel like you’re on opposing sides, just because they’re paying you for a product you provide. Sit down for a video meeting, armed with a pen and paper, and tell them you want the real feedback. It’ll help you in the long run and strengthen your other customer relationships.

In short, establishing an effective and functional consumer engagement policy requires a more proactive approach. Using tools like video conferencing and other types of communication methods that go beyond traditional e-mail correspondence not only facilitates a better relationship, but also helps to build trust and belief in your product. While many businesses are mostly focused on rolling out a great product, when you’re dealing with customers, you need to put a personality to the business as well as what you’re selling.

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[Event] Engagement to ROI: How to Develop a Social Media Strategy That Works http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/event-engagement-to-roi-how-to-develop-a-social-media-strategy-that-works/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/event-engagement-to-roi-how-to-develop-a-social-media-strategy-that-works/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 09:54:56 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83401 Want to develop a Social Media Strategy that helps you deliver great results? We invite you to our Engagement to ROI event taking place in Dublin on the 13th of August. Greg Fry and some of Ireland’s leading industry professionals will share their expertise at Mespil Academy’s Social Media Workshop […]

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Want to develop a Social Media Strategy that helps you deliver great results? We invite you to our Engagement to ROI event taking place in Dublin on the 13th of August.

Greg Fry and some of Ireland’s leading industry professionals will share their expertise at Mespil Academy’s Social Media Workshop – Engagement to ROI: Building a Social Media Strategy that Works –   in Dublin on August 13th.

Engagement to ROI Event

Book your place here.

The event takes place in The Chartered Accountants Building in Dublin 2 from 8.30am until 1.30pm.

Attendees will be given tips and advice on how to build an effective strategy, what to do and what pitfalls to avoid.

Guest speakers include: Reuben May, founder of Digital Marketing Agency Dublin and former Head of Digital at Ryanair and Beatrice Whelan, Digital Content Manager, Global Marketing at Sage, with more to be announced.

Book your place here.

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8 Ways to Improve Your Next Trade Show http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/8-ways-improve-next-trade-show/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/8-ways-improve-next-trade-show/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:00:56 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=83272 Trade shows can be excellent for expanding your reach, but like many things in life, the more effort you put in them, the more likely it is you’ll see great returns. Keep reading to get some tips on how to make your trade show experiences terrific instead of terrible. Do […]

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Trade shows can be excellent for expanding your reach, but like many things in life, the more effort you put in them, the more likely it is you’ll see great returns. Keep reading to get some tips on how to make your trade show experiences terrific instead of terrible.

Do Your Research

Many people who attend trade shows are in the mood to buy things and network with people, but it’s still worth doing some research to find out whether the people who tend to go to a particular trade show are likely to be interested in whatever you’re selling.

You can find out about trade show demographics online, and it’s also smart to see if people in your circle has attended in the past. If you find someone who has gone before, be sure to ask what his or her impressions were about the general atmosphere and the attitude of fellow attendees.

Send the Right People

Choose carefully when deciding which of your staff members will be sent to a particular trade show. Usually, you’ll want to pick people who are very personable and engaging, and who are knowledgeable of the product.

Your trade show staff members are representatives of the company at large. Make sure they have an extensive knowledge of whatever you sell and can also give some insight into how your business or a particular product came to be.

When you send people to a trade show for the first time, always pair them up with veterans who will be able to lead by example and make the newer representatives feel more confident by showing them how it’s done.

Depend on Social Media

Your social media strategy should certainly have a trade show component. You can consider live tweeting during the event or running Facebook giveaways that are exclusive to the people who are at the trade show.

Having a solid social media strategy not only helps strengthen awareness of your brand but it also gives the impression you have your finger on the pulse of current events in your industry. Before heading to a trade show, settle on a hashtag you’ll use consistently leading up to and during the event. That should help create momentum.

Use Your Logo Liberally

If your company has a logo, a trade show is the ideal place to display it proudly. Do an inventory of all the things you normally bring to a trade show and determine if there are ways to add the logo to those items.

Also, if you give things away to trade show attendees, those free items should definitely include a logo, along with a way for a potential customer to find out more. Including your website address or a phone number allows someone to easily take the next step once she or he has found out the basics about what your company does.

Ask the Trade Show Organizers if You Can Write a Guest Blog

Sometimes, making the most of your time at a trade show requires a little reciprocity. Specifically, consider reaching out to the organizers and seeing if you can write a guest blog post that simultaneously promotes the trade show as well as your products. Then your company gets promotion as well as the trade show.

Try to use a tone that’s relatable and likely to resonate with other exhibitors and consumers alike.

Make Sure to Collect Email Addresses

Email addresses are valuable marketing tools, because they help connect you with possible customers. In many scenarios, it’s very hard to get customer emails, and you may even have to work with third-party companies in order to do so.

With that in mind, don’t overlook the resource you have at your disposal. People who come to trade shows often willingly give their emails out, especially in return for something.

You can either do things the old fashioned way and have a simple clipboard with a sheet for people to write their email addresses, or take a more modern approach by handing people tablets or laptops to give their details via online forms. Think about offering a discount code, ebook or other perk to anyone who gives their email.

Make Your Display Memorable

There’s a certain degree of homogeneity in many trade show booths. They are usually very simple and to the point, and might have solid-color backgrounds. You may want to experiment with aesthetic techniques that stand out a little more and also help strengthen your brand image.

For example, if you are going to a travel trade show as a company that offers customized trips to Scotland, your display could feature a Scottish tartan pattern and maybe even a soundtrack of Scottish airs playing softly in the background.

Accessories like LED lights can make your display more noticeable by highlighting what you have to offer. The key is to catch attention without being annoying. Also, whether you’re revamping your display or building one for the first time, make things as streamlined as possible and remember you’ll need to settle on something that’s easy to pack away when necessary. The key is to have a display that’s streamlined and not stuffy.

Follow Up With Your Trade Show Team

No matter which techniques you try to get more traction at trade shows, it’s crucial to meet with each of your representatives and get feedback from them about what worked well and what didn’t. Having an adaptable mindset is essential, because it should allow you to adjust according to the responses you get.

It’s useful to keep track of all the feedback in one place, so you can look back at it and discover whether there are links within the data. For example, you may find people at a general outdoors trade show really liked the keychain flashlights you gave away, while the attendees who came to a trade show that’s specifically for recreational vehicles particularly loved the drink can insulators.

Now that you’ve learned practical tips for how to make the most of your time at trade shows, hopefully you’ll see each outing as a constantly evolving process that’s driven by customer feedback, new marketing methods and changes in your industry.

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