When customers are able to engage with their favorite brands, it can be a very special thing. A brand can mean a lot to a person for a lot of different reasons, and when a relationship with a favorite business carries deeper meaning for a customer, they should be respected as a valuable source of insight both when it comes to customer service and product direction, as well as looked to to identify good things about a business that the owner of the business may not even realize themselves. In the internet age, the tendency to remix, repackage and reinvent has translated into a vibrant opportunity for brands who are able to tap into these impulses on the part of their customers. While poor customer service has the potential to kill a business, positive customer experiences and outreach can unlock a wealth of positive development for business owners and their customers alike. Create a directive for your customers to respond to. While your customers might be

Management is a skill, and a skill that primarily hinges around the ability to communicate. Without clear communications, tasks cannot be expected to be reliably completed in the way that they should be, and the less that your employees understand what you are trying to get across, the more likely that seemingly simple projects will get protracted into much longer, arduous ones. Communication is not only a business skill, it is also a life skill that can have benefits for business owners whether they are in the office or off duty. Since communications are such an elementary part of our everyday lives, it can sometimes seem as if certain people are good at them and some people just aren’t, but in reality, like most skills the more you put in to working on it the better it gets. Communication is both verbal and written; ignore one side of the equation to your own detriment. Being a strong writer is an amazingly helpful skill that comes in

A bottleneck refers to a choke-point in your business’s efficiency. While a certain part of your operations may be humming along, if another aspect of your production is not able to keep up, then serious imbalance can build up, with departments beginning to resent each other and communication breaking down alongside of efficiency. There are many reasons why bottlenecks in production can occur, as varied as the industries and components of each small business, but in order to get at the more specific reasons why there is an issue in your business, you need to determine the root cause of the problem and then address it from there. Too much going on. It can sometimes be the case that a business is trying to do too much. This can be hard to self diagnose, since small business owners will often blame themselves if they aren’t able to handle the ambitious workloads they lay upon themselves. That said, it’s important to realize when you are simply trying

This infographic took all of 15 minutes to create, and while it is simple and unpolished, the point is to demonstrate that you can create something of your own with a minimal time investment, or spend a bit longer to make it look even higher quality. Additional Tips: When dropping background shapes in step 2, right click on the shapes and click “send to back” in order to allow your text to appear in front of the shape. You can change both the width and height of your slide in order to fit more information onto it. There are many additional effects that you can add onto shapes beyond simply changing their size and color, for example, the glow around the lightning bolts in the above infographic. You can use preset textures and gradients when choosing a background in step 4, or you can create your own background using photoshop or Ms paint and upload it. Be aware that if you go this route,you should

  Taking steps to control your business’s public image is a major part of business development. The way that people perceive your brand can be directly influenced by the first impressions they have of it, and when making your introductions to members of the press, potential investors, business partners and other valuable contacts, it is important to get off on the right foot. One tool that small business owners can develop to make this task more manageable is a press kit. A press kit is essentially a collection of marketing papers that explains your business’s origins and mission statement, includes materials that media are able to use such as quotes, figures and photographs, as well as your essential contact information. Depending on your goals for media coverage and the event or venue wherein your business is distributing its information, including a full press release in your media kit may also be an option. The idea is to create a folder that you can either physically

When it comes to making progress on goals, having a deadline is necessary. However, all too often the art of setting  a deadline that is both reasonable enough to account for the unexpected and strict enough that things actually get done is ignored and deadlines set in a haphazard manner. While sometimes this is fine, and the deadline will be met without any problems, on other occasions a poorly planned deadline can create issues such as customer complaints, disorganization when synchronized processes don’t line up, and in the worst case, major waste in budgets or missed opportunities. Planning a deadline that makes sense doesn’t take much time to do correctly, and as business owners get a better sense of how long it takes their team to do certain things, they can arrive at a much stronger ability to create deadlines that allow for the most effective use of time. When creating a deadline for a project, account for the potential for issues to arise. Even a

  Networking is an important part of growing a small business, no matter what the industry. The reason why is because so much of business relies on trust built up by face to face interactions. Going to networking events can expose your business to a wide range of potentially valuable business connections, from complementary businesses looking for joint branding opportunities, to new bases of customers that you might not have thought to reach out to on your own. Getting good at creating new connections is only one half of networking, and arguably, isn’t as important as what comes after the event; the follow up. Mastering the follow up is what will allow your business to put the connections that were made during your time spent at events and meet ups to work for your business. Here are a few ways of following up that can help capitalize on the momentum that small business owners create for themselves. Write a follow up that contextualizes your meeting

  The cost of commercial real estate can be a serious budget eater for small businesses. Many entrepreneurs choose to adopt a home based business model for this very reason, but for some businesses a brick and mortar office location is a necessity and not a “nice to have”. For these business owners, it seems that the cost  of having physical offices will just have to be worked around. However, that may not always be the case. Shared office space can significantly reduce the costs of having a separate office. It is not uncommon nowadays for two or more small businesses to share a single communal office space. While this can create some extra considerations to be worked around, such as who gets the copier at what time, and who has to refill the coffee maker, provided that you are able to work with the other business in order to arrive at a mutually agreeable division of responsibilities the cost benefits can be a major boon

  People are amazingly unpredictable, with the ability to exceed expectations, or conversely to plunge well below them. It is this unpredictability that is simultaneously a great X factor for small business as well as a source of potential problems. For some business owners, managing conflict is a challenge that they relish, but for others the idea of having to be the bearer of bad news or chastise someone for a problem that they caused is a source of major anxiety. Still, letting things slide in business is a recipe for disaster. It is always better to fix an outstanding issue before it grows into a major problem. What is the issue? Determine who is responsible. Before you confront anyone over the problem at hand, you should have as solid an understanding as possible so that you can act appropriately and not randomly assign blame. For people who don’t like conflict in the first place, getting as clear a picture of the events which transpired will

  Business owners need customer perspectives in order to move their businesses forwards. Without feedback from their target market, their marketing efforts can’t be based on anything stronger than sales data and conjecture. Leverage your customer service department to collect data on customer preferences. There is a reason why hiring customer service reps isn’t as simple as one might think, and the reason is not only should they be able to effect positive resolutions for customer issues, but they also need to be able to manage collecting and organizing customer feedback into usable formats. Engage as many methods as possible for capturing feedback. There are plenty of ways to gather customer feedback, so why not use more than one to get as much usable data as possible? Physical mailers- a physical survey either sent in the mail or distributed person to person can be sent back in exchange for a customer reward. It is usually a god idea to provide an incentive for returning a request for

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