5 Factors to Consider Before Investing in Property for Your Business

Guest Article

As a business, there are many pressures on your financial resources. In order to grow, you need to make a profit. But you also need to invest in your business. Is property still a shrewd financial investment and is it something a business should consider?

For many, investing in property is seen as a prudent investment of your hard-earned profits. Investing in your own building it’s a great way to have your own world headquarters or even branch out and expand your service offerings. You can also leverage commercial property by renting to tenants.

Long Term Investment

Firstly, investing in a commercial property is a long-term investment. The days of making tens of thousands of dollars in quick cash within weeks or months of buying and selling a property are long gone, for the foreseeable future at any rate.

In other countries, the real estate market is quite buoyant. In New Zealand, the gap between supply and demand is such that in some locations, buyers are making amazing profits within days by selling at an inflated price to what they bought.

However, for those businesses thinking of buying their own commercial building there is a risk to investing in property, and the maintenance of a facility is something else to consider. Commercial real estate is not a ‘get rich quick scheme’.

How to Successfully Invest in Property

The following is a point-by-point guide to how your business can successfully invest in property but as always when it comes to making investments, you should always seek advice tailored to your own specific circumstances.

1.    Financial Roadmap

Investing in property means having a firm grasp of your business finances, both now and in the future. This means drawing up a long range financial plan that sets out your business’s financial status and how you would expect this to change in the future.

It would also specify the level of investment, as well as a financial ‘buffer zone’ for maintaining property and so on. This is something a business should do for its own property, as well as for any it rents to tenants.

2.    Evaluate the ‘Risk Comfort Zone’

Some people are more prepared to take a risk with their profits and income than others. Known as the ‘risk comfort zone’, you need to make sure your business income is stable enough to make an investment in a property. The important thing to understand is stretching in terms of investment and risk can lead your business down a dangerous path. Investments should protect your business and build it for the future, and not be the shifting sands that could topple your business.

3.    Consider a Mix of Properties

Businesses with a successful property portfolio have a mix of properties. This may be both commercial and domestic properties. Once you are successful with your business location, it might make sense to invest in residential properties and court tenants and buyers are from different sectors. This spreads risk as well as spreading investments.

4.    Rebalance your Portfolio from Time to Time

Don’t treat your long-term investment property like a set it and forget it business one you engage a management company to run it. Ignoring real estate for years could be to your detriment.Property investment specialists suggest that rebalancing a property portfolio is a great way of ensuring that you reap maximum rewards from your investments. This means watching the property markets, understanding the shifts in its and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise.  From investing in commercial properties, to shifting the focus to different areas of the country, to gain the most from investing in property, you need to remain alert and switched on to what the market is telling you.

Many businesses invest in building their own commercial space, but there may also be a possibility to investing in creating your own ‘business park’. With start-ups to medium sized enterprises looking for modern, affordable office spaces and units, creating a unique space for other businesses to operate from could be a worthwhile risk and investment for your business to take.

As a business, there are many opportunities and threats to your business. Expanding your business takes capital and when banks and lenders are not as free with their credit facilities as they once were, you need to take a more out-of-the-box, creative view to create capital in the longer term.

Property can provide a healthy profit margin, but it must be a deliberate purchase. It is an investment that must be nurtured and planned out. Keep your finger on the pulse of the property and rental market, both domestic and commercial, to ensure that your portfolio remains as strong and profitable as it possibly can.

About the author

James Trotter is a Marketing Assistant at MTX Contracts, a specialist construction company. Providing bespoke building solutions to clients all over the UK and Europe, James has his finger on the pulse of the property markets.

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What Kind of Business Insurance Do You Need?

Insurance is not a sexy topic for a business owner, but it is necessary to think about. Protecting both your business and yourself should be a top priority as an entrepreneur. When is the last time you looked over your business insurance needs? Have you recently added payroll employees? Moved into professional office space? Or got a contract for a Fortune 100 Company? Let’s first review the different types of business insurance available so that you can figure out what you need to have in your business. After that, we’ll address some insurance questions.

Worker’s Comp

If you have payroll employees, you are required to carry worker’s compensation coverage. How much depends on what your state requirements are and what your employees do. Typically, this type of insurance policy protects your business from having to pay medical expenses and disability payments if an employee is injured on the job.

General Liability

The last thing you want is for a customer to slip on a wet floor and fall, and then sue you. You also don’t want to be doing a contract for a major corporation and something happen to one of your employees on their location. General liability coverage those types of challenges, but it will also pay for theft, fire damage, destruction of property and any medical expenses or settlements in instances like these. You are also required to have a general liability policy if you have an office lease or retail location.

Errors and Omissions

This type of liability insurance is important if you provide professional services or consultation, as it protects you in the case of a civil lawsuit. If a client says you gave him bad advice and he sues you, the insurance will help cover your legal expenses. Some corporate contracts will require this type of insurance so check to ensure you have what you need to be covered.

Key Man Coverage

If something were to happen to you or your business partner, what would happen to the business? Often, major illness or death means the immediate demise of a business, and that’s why key man coverage is so important. It helps companies through the loss of a key member of the executive team. Even if your partner and surviving spouse decides to sell or shut the business down after your death, this policy will provide the funds to pay off debts and pay severance to employees.

Answering Your Business Insurance Questions

I have a home-based business. Do I still need business insurance?

Absolutely. Running a business out of your home doesn’t invalidate it as a business, and you have many of the same risks and liabilities as any other business. Look into a business owner policy, which will protect your home office equipment in case of loss, theft, or damage.At the very least, you need general liability coverage, as well as maybe errors and omissions coverage if you are a service provider.

How much coverage do I need?

The answer is it depends on the type of business. You may be required in certain circumstances to carry a specific amount of coverage, such as if you do business with major corporations. Vendors are typically required to have at least a $2 million liability policy to protect their interests in interacting with your business.

Where should I store insurance documents?

Store insurance documents in a safe place. Small business owners should keep their insurance policy and certificate of insurance in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box at a bank. Doing so will make sure you can contact your insurance provider quickly should you need to file a claim. The  last thing you need is to scramble to find the necessary paperwork in an emergency.

What should I do before applying for business insurance?

Talk to your current home owner’s insurance provider to start, but get three quotes. Review the terms in business contracts with large corporations to see if there are business insurance requirements you must meet. It’s also wise to review your financials and build an equipment list so you can answer questions for an insurance broker who will develop a quote, as well as determine the appropriate amount of coverage.

How much will I pay for business insurance?

That will depend on what kind of coverage you elect, but there are insurance companies that cater to small businesses like Hiscox. A general liability policy for can be as low at $500 a year. Factor this expense into your budget so you can afford it when the annual renewal bill comes due.

How can I save money on business insurance?

There are a few ways to do this. First, shop around to find the best price for the coverage you need. Next, see if the insurer offers discounts for bundled policies. If you plan to buy multiple business policies, you may qualify for a discount for selecting them all from the same insurance company. See if paying for a year’s coverage reduces what you pay versus a monthly payment. Paying more now can save you in the long run, so be smart about it.

You may never need business insurance to do its job, but you’ll kick yourself if you don’t have it and then need it. It’s a worthwhile expense to ensure that you have peace of mind in protecting your family and your business.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Working with Family

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Kathy Kolbe, @kathykolbe co-author of Business Is Business: Reality Checks For Family-Owned Companies. She is the global leader in discovering and accessing the power of human instincts. She has done the brain research to prove the relevance of her Kolbe Theory of Conation to individual and organizational success… For more info log on to her website:  http://ift.tt/2oDywFH

SmallBizLady:  What are some of the most common misconceptions about family-owned businesses (FOBs)?

Kathy Kolbe: FOBs are often thought of as small, insular organizations. In fact, many are global, highly sophisticated enterprises such as major hotel and retail chains. The Trump business, for example. Other examples are: Ford Motor Co., Wal-Mart, Comcast, and SC Johnson.

SmallBizLady: What are the benefits and burdens of running an FOB?

Kathy Kolbe: Families benefit by sharing the joy of working together toward common goals – especially, if they are reached.  There is a great burden, however, of both fearing making mistakes – and worse when a Family Member’s action cause harm to the family name and its financial security.  Surviving FOBs have a pride in overcoming obstacles that is unmatched by publicly owned enterprises. Leaders of sustained FOBs are the unsung heroes of our economy.

SmallBizLady: How do people avoid bringing family member work relationships home?

Kathy Kolbe: Family Members trying to avoid bringing their personal issues into the workplace need to drop all use of family names (Mom, Pops, Sweet Heart, Sissy) at work.  Yet, at home, Dad is Dad. It’s got to be OK to use nick names and to tease co-working relatives about foibles you would never mention at work. The name you use for a person sets the stage for the different types of scenarios.  Your home life needs to be sacred.  While it is ok to vent about something that happened at work, never spend energy on solving business problems together at home.

SmallBizLady: Why is it crucial to assess potential family members’ values before bringing them into the family business?

Kathy Kolbe:  It’s crucial to assure all Family Members working in the FOB share basic values. Imagine how non family members interpret a brother brought into an FOB using the company’s petty cash to pay for his lunches, or an employed uncle telling off-color jokes in the office.   It only takes one noncompliant family member to tarnish the image of shared values

SmallBizLady: What are some of the boundaries you recommend family members set in their FOB?

Kathy Kolbe: Even if you are the boss at work, do not try to control non-work behaviors of family members. Avoid saying:

  • “We need you to come back rested from your vacation, so don’t do too much partying.”
  • “I don’t want you representing us until you lose weight.”
  • “Stop spending so much time watching sports, so you have more time to keep up with finance issues.”

Know when and how to separate the backstage from what you do and say in front of the curtain. Backstage you can make caustic comments to other family members, but audiences may not understand your personal jokes.

SmallBizLady: What are the four Action Modes to FOB problem solving?

Kathy Kolbe: According to the Kolbe Theory of Conation, there are four Action Modes and universal instincts that drive problem solving in both family members and non-family members.

What are the four Action Modes?

  • Fact Finder, which is how you gather information
  • Follow Thru, which is how you organize your life
  • Quick Start, which is how you deal with uncertainty
  • Implementor, which is how you deal with space and the tangibles around you

SmallBizLady: Why is it crucial for leaders to listen to next-generation family members? What are some of the ways to incite next-generation ambition?

Kathy Kolbe: If you don’t listen to their ideas, embers of the next generation they will move on to places where their ideas are valued. Best way to incite ambition in the next generation is by challenging them to earn everything they get (salary, bonuses, kudos, and sought-after opportunities).  As they learn the joy of creative problem solving, they’ll get hooked on doing more of it.

SmallBizLady: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to exit a family-owned business gracefully?

Kathy Kolbe: Don’t wait to be told you need to do it. Being aware of when the time is right comes with it being about the business, not about you.  Don’t drag out the process. Once you decide to do it – Do It! Once you’ve done it, don’t hang around. Move on to other fulfilling purposes.

SmallBizLady: What is the Golden Rule for working with family?

Kathy Kolbe:  Trust your instincts; knowing your natural strengths will help you navigate the business and the many challenges you’ll face along the way.

SmallBizLady: What are the most common myths or stereotypes that can cripple a family business?

Kathy Kolbe:  Things like gender and birth order. Your first-born son may not make the best CEO, and the baby of the family could very well take over the business someday. If you follow stereotypes such as these, you may be putting people in the wrong roles or you may be leaving your most capable family members out of the business – to your detriment. Build a family business based on natural strengths and instincts.

SmallBizLady: How do you know if a family member is the right fit for the business?

Kathy Kolbe: You discover their natural talents. For younger family members, they should go work somewhere else before joining the family business. When they finally decide to join, the business should add something to their life, and their natural talents should add something to the business.

SmallBizLady: If you work with family in one business, should you have them join you if you move to another organization?

Kathy Kolbe: It depends.  Just because you worked well together doesn’t mean it’s going to work in the next organization.  Make sure you’re working together for the right reasons and that the new organization uses each person’s natural strengths. If you’re running an established business, your family member may not be interested in joining you at a startup, which is a whole different kind of endeavor.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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7 Ideas To Get Leads Using Your Blog

Guest Article

If you run a small business or an ecommerce website, generating leads is probably one of the most important things you focus on. As a business owner, your first concern is to attract people to your business and get them interested in your product or service, so you can convert into a customer.

One of the most potent ways to generate leads is through your blog. Your blog works as a platform to increase your digital presence on the web along with leveraging content to drive traffic from search engines. Here are 7 ways to generate leads through your blog:

  1. Craft creative and eye-catching blog headlines

Reading a unique and appealing headline is perhaps what pushes us into reading an entire post or article. Your headline should be able to raise the curiosity of your target audience and give them a glimpse of what they can expect to read in the body of the article.

A catchy headline that stands out and isn’t too generic will keep your readers glued to your blog, perhaps out of curiosity or excitement for what’s going to come next. According to a few studies, 90% of the readers only take a look at blog titles while only 20% of those take the time to read the content.

Here’s an example of an infographic by Hubspot to help you write better headlines

  1. Give your readers a reason to look forward to hearing from you

The best way to engage readers is to give them relevant quality content, consistently, if you always keep your content focused on your customer and provide solutions, while teaching them something new, they will look forward to getting your next post.  Also, if you occasionally surprise you readers with perks, such as a giveaway, exclusive content or a major interview with a celebrity expert will successfully generate a good number of leads through your blog.

If you run an online shopping website, you could offer an incentive like a discount off the next purchase to your readers who subscribe to your email newsletter. These kinds of tactics can greatly help you attract people on a regular basis.

  1. Prioritize your customers

Making customer satisfaction your primary goal will make your business attain a better position in the mind of your blog reader. Therefore, it’s essential for your blog to focus on the needs and requirements of your customers. While blatantly marketing yourself on your blog might come off as fascinating to you, your readers and customers might not be particularly interested. Try an online customer survey to collect feedback from your blog readers. This will allow you to get to know your audience which will give you data to generate an amazing lead magnet. Such surveys can demonstrate to your audience that you care for them. Customer care and service always reaps great results.

  1. Use the “value first” strategy on your blog

Offering something valuable to your customers, in return for their email address is often referred to as a ‘lead magnet.’ This valuable item could be a free eBook, a checklist, a short guide to a video series on something your audience will find useful. For instance, if your blog talks about freelance writing, you could offer an eBook to your readers on ‘unique tips to start a freelance writing business’ in exchange for their information.

For example, Wishpond provides a free eBook to subscribers using their email list.

  1. Use video too…

For those web visitors to your blog who are not keen on reading content, capture their attention with a short, fun videos.  Adding innovative videos, graphics and pictorial presentations on your blog also has promising results and is likely to create a certain image in your subscriber’s minds, which may keep them coming back to your blog. Always close with a call-to-action in your video to get their email address.

  1. Add a touch of social bling to your blog

One of the biggest ways to attract audience and create leads is to share your blog posts on various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Making use of social buttons by adding them to your blog can greatly help you create leads. For instance, if you let your audience subscribe to your blog through their email and if you place your social buttons in the right place, you could grab people’s attention. This will also make it easy for your audience to contact you and establish communication.

  1. Who doesn’t like free trials?

Giving your customers a chance to try your product or service for up to 30 days for free can significantly help you to generate leads. A free trial of sorts can attract prospects to your blog and turn them into customers. This method usually works well for subscription based businesses and increases their ability to build leads.

There is no one way to do things. There are lots of inbound marketing solutions out there, you just need to try a few, and you’ll start to see your email list and prospects grow in no time.  The above mentioned tactics will also increase your visibility and reach many times over.  Once you get intentional and measurement about leads your sales will grown

About the author:

Audrey Throne is a mother and a professional blogger who writes about on health, technology and management. She has completed her masters in English literature from university of Birmingham. She is associated with Airg team for development work.

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5 Things You Can Do This Week To Grow Your List

Email marketing can be a fabulous way to increase sales and engage your audience, but if you have no clue how to build or grow your email marketing list, that is something you need to focus on right away. Email is still the #1 way to nurture relationships with prospects and existing customers, but mobile marketing is something that is growing in importance too, but for now email is king. The more people you get on your email list the larger your potential to close a sale.  So if you don’t want to send your emails to the same 100 people who may not be taking the kinds of action. Here are five things that will help you instantly amp up your email list.

  1. Ask People to Sign Up

If you run a retail or other physical business, you have the unique opportunity to ask customers face-to-face to sign up for your email newsletters. If they have hesitation about doing so, explain the benefits: you might offer exclusive coupons or invites to special events that no other customers know about. As an added bonus, you might offer an instant coupon for 20% off of their next purchase as soon as they sign up.

  1. Make it Part of the Ecommerce Experience

If you run an online store, beef up your email list with this little trick: in the checkout process, include a box for people to opt out of your emails. That means they have to deliberately check the box if they don’t want your emails. So the majority of people won’t bother to check the box, and you’ll instantly add new customers to your mailing list.

  1. Create an Irresistible Offer

People love freebies, but not just any freebies. Hubspot is a phenomenal example of a brand that puts out really useful templates and ebooks that it gives away for free…in exchange for an email address. (like these ebook templates)

Don’t just slap something together in an attempt to get more email signups. Spend time understanding the kinds of content your audience wants, and then write and use a graphic designer to develop an appealing giveaway. But you’re not done there. If people don’t know about it, they won’t seek it out. You’ll also need to promote the free offer via social media, your blog, and maybe online advertising to tell more people about it and get them to sign up for the offer.

  1. Attend a Networking Event

Networking is a wonderful way to meet business contacts, as well as to drive your email list growth. At a networking event, exchange business cards with as many interesting people as you can meet. Then when you get home, enter those emails into social media to further connect with those contacts and then add those names to your email marketing database. It’s common courtesy to first send an email to your new contacts letting them know that you are adding them to the list, and what they can expect. If they don’t want to be on your list, they will tell you, but most people won’t opt out if they’ve met you and are interested in what you do.

  1. Participate in an Event

You’re a thought leader, and should get out there to share your knowledge with your audience. That might mean participating in a Tweetchat, speaking at a conference, or being a guest on a podcast or media interview. The key is to mention that special giveaway offer and let people know where they can find it on your website.

Usually you’ll get your bio published on the website affiliated with the event, which provides a link to your website where people can subscribe to your email list for that special offer.

Tips for Successful Email Marketing

Growing email database is only one step in your marketing to-do list. You need to continually ensure that you’re delivering value to those email subscribers, or else they will quickly unsubscribe.

Set Up a Schedule. When your audience knows when to expect new content from you via email, they’re happy. Typically, a monthly newsletter and one or two promotional emails a month is enough to keep them engaged without annoying them. But test out frequencies initially to understand what cadence delivers the best open and click-through rates. Then stick to the schedule. Consistency is key.

Never Send Email Just to Send It. Every single email you send should deliver value. What will recipients get from this? Will they immediately trash it, or will they read it, click it, and share it?

Write Great Subject Lines. A poorly written subject line will get your email sent to Trash instantly, but a well-written one will pique people’s curiosity and get the to open and read your email. Spend time getting it right.

Pay Attention to Results. Knowing how many people read your emails can help you shape future emails if you pay attention. You can quickly glean what topics, offers, or subject lines aren’t resonating with your audience and make changes to improve future results.

Getting results from email marketing takes effort, to be sure, but with these little tips, you’ll be well on your way to building your list and keeping your subscribers engaged and happy.

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The Importance of Having an Ideal Client & How to Pick One

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Dequiana Jackson, @InspiredMedia1 As Founder of , Inspired Marketing, Inc., Dequiana is a small business marketing strategist who teaches women entrepreneurs solid marketing strategies to turn their life’s passion into a profitable, service-based business. Dequiana is an author of the ebook Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More For more info log on to her website: http://ift.tt/2pOf9dn

SmallBizLady: What is an ideal client?

Dequiana Jackson: Your ideal client is a group of people that is both interested in your product or service AND willing to buy it. Once you target them with your marketing, these are the people who will read materials you’ve crafted and feel like it was written specifically for them. This should also be a group large enough to sustain your business over time.

SmallBizLady: Why does a small business need to have an ideal client?

Dequiana Jackson: Your ideal client will steer the direction of your marketing, your products and services and even your pricing. If you don’t target, you risk losing customers: 34% of 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed by Responsys “broke up with” or left a brand because they were receiving “poor, disruptive or irrelevant marketing messages.”You’ll save money by targeting your marketing efforts to the one or two groups that are most interested in your business.

SmallBizLady: What is one mistake small business owners make around customer targeting?

Dequiana Jackson: They want to target everyone. However, if you attempt to target everyone with your advertising, you end up reaching no one. For example, what compels a college graduate with his first job and disposable income to buy is going to be different than what motivates a new mom of triplets who is trying to stretch her budget. Mixing messages together will only confuse and alienate your true audience. Even companies running billion dollar brands target their product message to a specific set of people. In this age of information overload, you want your message to be so targeted that the minute your ideal client hears it, he goes, “Yes, this was written just for me.” You have to cut through the clutter.

SmallBizLady: How do I select my ideal client?

Dequiana Jackson:  Start by figuring out the core product or service your business provides. You need to be able to articulate that before you can target it to a specific group of people. For example, my first business was in online marketing. I designed websites. You may make candles. You must know what you do. Take a look at your competitors to see who they are targeting. There may be a gap in the market your business can fill. Identify why you are uniquely suited to serve this customer. What advantage does your business have over others in the market? For service-based businesses, like coaches, sometimes you just need to look in the mirror. You may have overcome an obstacle and now want to teach those who were previously in your shoes. Make sure you understand the benefits of your product or service to a client. How are you making their lives easier by buying from you?

SmallBizLady: How do I develop a detailed customer profile?

Dequiana Jackson: Focus on the demographics to understand your target customer. Who they are? What’s the age, sex, race/culture, location, income, marital status, # of children, job they hold? Look at psychographics to understand why they buy: habits, attitudes, values, behavior, when and where they hang out online, What magazines and blogs do they read? When are they most receptive to buying?  What goals do they have and frustrations they are feeling? How does your product or service help them to accomplish their goal, i.e. brighter, long-lasting hair color, a hassle-free family vacation, drive thru pharmacy . Frustrations would include any obstacles that prevent your client from reaching their goal or issues he or she would like to avoid.

SmallBizLady: Where do I gather the data to build my ideal client profile?

Dequiana Jackson: I assume you already have some idea of who you want your business to help. Create a survey with Google Forms or SurveyMonkey and distribute the link to old clients and current clients. You can also place an ad online targeted to who you think your ideal client might be. You can run a Facebook ad with a budget as little as $5. Offer an incentive to those who fill out the survey to increase completion rates. Complete third party research by hanging out in places relevant to your business. If you’ve decided to target moms of children aged 0 to 5, for example, jump on blogs and forums, pick up magazines and perhaps attend local meetings where these moms hang out. Track what you learn, and you’ll start to notice a pattern in what’s being said.

SmallBizLady: What are some sample questions I can ask in the survey?

Dequiana Jackson: Include basic demographic questions, such as, how old are you, how many children do you have, what is your occupation. Include lifestyle questions: How do you spend your free time, what are your favorite hobbies, what kind of music do you listen to. Gather information that could help you decide where to market: what magazines, newsletters and blogs do you read, what television shows do you regularly watch, what’s your favorite topic to read about, who influences your purchases when you’re in the market for (insert your product/service). Think of communication questions to find out when they are most receptive to buying: what’s the most annoying way a company has ever tried to market to you, what’s the best way to tell you about a new product, what gets your attention the most when you’re in the market for (insert your product/service).

SmallBizLady: What are some online tools that could help my client research?

Dequiana Jackson: T here are several online tools to help you research your ideal clients.

  • Consumer Barometer – a market research tool that gives you data on how consumers research online before purchasing.
  • gov – Hundreds of free consumer data sets from the U.S. government
  • Google Trends – Find out what people are searching for related to your products and services.
  • Blog comments – This could be the comments on your blog, one that’s industry-specific or that of a competitor. Look for trends in what people are complaining about or asking for.
  • Facebook groups – Join communities that you suspect your ideal client participates in and follow the conversation. Once you feel comfortable, jump in and share your expertise.

SmallBizLady: How do I test the market with my ideal client?

Dequiana Jackson:  Once you’ve gathered the data,and have enough information to fill out an ideal client profile, ask yourself these questions. If you answer yes to all of them, then you’ve found your ideal client. If not, go back through your research to see where the group needs to be tweaked.

  • Is this market large enough to sustain my business? Sometimes we end up becoming so specific that we don’t include enough people in our target market. Make sure there are enough of your ideal clients out there to keep your business viable for years to come.
  • Can the products and services I currently offer solve a problem for this market? If the answer is no, you’re not selecting the right group.
  • Would working with this group of people make me happy? Yes, a business is about making money, but you should enjoy working with your clients, especially if you’re in a service-based business.

SmallBizLady: How many ideal client profiles should I create?

Dequiana Jackson:  Start by targeting one or two groups. It will be easier to build genuine relationships that way. Most people want to feel valued, even in business.  By partnering with your customers and making products or services that fill their unmet needs, you will create a group of people who identify with your brand.  They will feel like your business really cares about them. When people feel valued, they usually tell someone else.  Getting loyal customers who spread the word about the greatness of your business can be one of the best forms of marketing.
SmallBizLady: How do I develop a budget for my marketing spend?

Dequiana Jackson: Concentrating on a target consumer can save your organization money. Your marketing budget can go further because you will only be in places where your target will be looking rather than anywhere you can find ad space. It is better to reach 500 people when 95% of them are highly likely to buy your product or service than 5000 when only 1% of them are interested in your business. For example, if you sell dog biscuits online, it would make more sense to run an ad on a popular dog-specific blog than to place one on a general pet website.

The more targeted you are, the higher your chances of buyer conversion.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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Four Keys to Achieving Bootstrapping Success

Guest Article

When I began my entrepreneurial journey back in 2007, I had no idea what was on the horizon. An economic crash in 2008 brought my life to a screeching halt, and I’m sure the same happened to many of you. After weighing my options, I decided to start a new type of advertising company in a brand new industry. Some entrepreneurs have thought things through, developed a business plan and are fully prepared. Like many business owners, I didn’t do that, and I just wasn’t prepared for the challenges, obstacles, and struggles that would follow in those early years.

Sand Hill Road Fallacies

Living near the famous “Sand Hill Road,” I thought the investor community would take kindly to a local boy who was trying to achieve his dream. Instead, I had nearly every door shut in my face. And I met the snickers and stares of doubt, which I began to think was due to my then 20-something appearance.

The questions were like a broken record. “What makes you think you will be successful at this?” “We have never heard of you before, where did you go to school?” “What does your family do again?”  Then the brutal assessment would come, “We just don’t see this idea working or making any money.” “Come back and see us when you make $1M in revenue”

Through these trials and tribulations, I’ve learned to discover some key rules that all entrepreneurs should be aware of and must follow in order to achieve bootstrapping their own business:

  1. Establish relationships with other highly credible entrepreneurs

Iron sharpens iron. You need to surround yourself with other business owners who are going after just as big and exciting things as you are. Build as many professional relationships as possible, and align yourself with a new circle of friends who are going through the same steps paces you are. Find time to meet for 30 minutes over coffee or drinks to hear what they’re doing/ Always looks for ways you can be of assistance. These meetings are great opportunities to strengthen your network relationships – pay attention and stay engaged by listening.

  1. Have an unwavering belief in what you are setting out to achieve

Never allow doubt or disbelief to drown out the motivation of success that has led you to this point. Learn to distinguish constructive criticism from negative comments from those who just don’t get it. Completely ignore opinions that hold no value. Adjust the time you invest in people, while also making the necessary sacrifices in order to follow through on strategic networking opportunities. You real friends will understand your need to prioritize your business.

  1. Be willing to make any sacrifice necessary

I was a senior in college when I created my company. Others around my age began to settle down. I chose the focus on building my business as that was more important to me than getting married and starting a family. I have no regrets. You have to make these kinds of sacrifices in life to live your dreams.

  1. Stay humble, grateful for every single opportunity

Understand that there is a very fine line between being excited and coming across as arrogant. Don’t be a jerk, or you’ll turn off many people who can help you. Remember your roots and how hard the struggle was for you.  To this day, even the smallest deal means the world to me. Anytime anyone is willing to invest in what we are selling, it’s a great opportunity to show my appreciation. At all costs, never lose that “customer first” mentality.

If you are going to bootstrap your business, this mentality should be your outlook as you build your business. Starting a small business on your own with zero outside financing is hard but very possible. You certainly appreciate the wins a lot more, because you earned them. Keep these four keys in mind and stay coachable, and you will have the business of your dreams.

About the author

Matthew Olivieri is founder and chief executive officer of AdSemble, the leading online marketplace where advertisers can name their own price for digital out of home campaigns.

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How to Handle Unhappy Customers in Your Small Business

unhappy-customersSometimes you just want to hang up.

Unhappy customers are part of running a small business. No matter how pleasant your personality or your service delivery someone will eventually criticize your product, staff, packaging, or even your response to their complaint. So how do you respond to unhappy customers in your small business?

Part of you might want to tell the customer to take a hike. After all, you have other customers, right? However, that strategy will only lead to a damaged reputation, lost revenue, and you could invite a nasty online review about your business. Even though an unhappy customer creates an unpleasant situation, I recommend these strategies to turn resolve customer complaints.

Force Yourself to Listen

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Today I hope I get screamed at by an irate customer.” However, it might happen, and you must be ready for it. The key is to be patience and endure it.

Unhappy customers need to vent. They feel they’ve been wronged, and if you interrupt them, you’ll only anger them further. Instead of shutting down the tirade, practice active listening. Take in everything they say and try to separate the words from the context.

Ask Questions

While you shouldn’t talk over an angry customer, you should wait for a break in his or her explanation to ask questions. Clarify any details that you don’t understand so you get the full picture. It’s also helpful to grab a pad and pen to take notes. Let the customer know that you want to get his or her complaint exactly right.

Asking questions can also help you find a resolution. You might say, “I understand that you’re unhappy with the quality of the product. Is there anything we can do to win back your trust?”

This puts the ball in your customer’s court. It’s okay if he or she doesn’t have a response, but the customer might take the weight off your shoulders by describing exactly what will rectify the problem.

Honest Feedback is Gift

Unhappy customers often exaggerate their emotions and use abusive language to get their point across. Even if the customer uses colorful language, don’t go there. Try to get clear on the source of their rage. Find out what exactly happened to cause this reaction?

After you’ve heard out your customer, try to forget about the abusive language, by putting yourself in their shoes. You’ll only make yourself angry by dwelling on it. Instead, focus on the root of the problem so that you can find a solution. So that you can learn something to help you run better. Often things like this can lead to better staff training. After all, honest feedback is a gift.

Resolve the Problem

Here’s where you have to be the boss. If the customer makes a reasonable request, just say yes. Even if it’s hard, just say yes. People will forget what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel. You can’t please everyone and sometimes, you have to give up. But that’s not my philosophy. I believe you should never let a customer down.

You can resolve any customer service issue with the right language and attitude. It is awesome when you can turn an angry customer into a loyal ambassador for your brand, follow some of the strategies I’ve used successfully in my business:

  • Express gratitude for the customer’s business. People love to feel appreciated.
  • Go above and beyond the customer’s expectations. Don’t just solve the problem. Give them more than they asked for, refund their money and offer FREE coupons for a return visit.
  • Never lose your smile. Staying pleasant is powerful. Pretend you’re talking to a thrilled client instead of a disappointed one.
  • Work quickly. Don’t make your customer wait for a resolution. Empower your employees to resolve issues up to $500.00, without calling a manager for approval.

If you make customer happiness your top priority, your customers will come back again and again. Sometimes the customer really isn’t right. But, if you want to stay in business, I think it’s essential to know how to work with all types of people — even the unreasonable ones. Now that you’re prepared to tackle unhappy customers, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter. You won’t want to miss the other tips and tricks I share with entrepreneurs just like you.

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How Answering Services Can Facilitate Small Business Growth

Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Grayson Kemper. Grayson Kemper is a Content Developer at Clutch, a B2B research and review platform based in Washington, DC. He specializes in telecom research.  For more information, https://clutch.co/.

SmallBizLady: WHAT EXACTLY ARE ANSWERING SERVICES?

Grayson Kemper: Answering services are business services that, at their core, offer telephone and other response services features to for business communication channels. These services include automated and live answering services, virtual receptionists, and internet-platform services.

The features included range from 24/7 answering to appointment scheduling, bilingual answering, email response, and social media monitoring. Essentially answering services are the front line to your business communications, and can serve to tools to organize and ensure that all incoming communications and enquiries are received and properly addressed

SmallBizLady: WHAT ELSE DO ANSWERING SERVICES DO BEYOND PICKING UP/DIRECTING INCOMING PHONE TRAFFIC?

Grayson Kemper: Although answering services are typically perceived as services that simply receive and answer telephone calls for their clients, there have been significant technological innovations over the past decade, which have opened up their capabilities as business tools. Specifically, more advanced forms of answering service, like live virtual receptionists and internet-platform services, have made some headway in the market. These services leverage digital technologies to provide features such as voice to text, email answering, analytics, live web chat, web dashboard, and social media monitoring. These features allow answering services to act as an extension of your business, rather than mere tools that provide a small convenience.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF ANSWERING SERVICES?

Grayson Kemper: Three (3) main forms of answering services that businesses use today: automated, live virtual receptionists, and internet-platform.

  1. Automated service are the most common, as well as most basic, form of answering service. They include interactive voice response, auto attendants, and traditional voicemail services.
  2. Live virtual receptionists are similar to automated services in that they answer and direct calls. The difference is that a live virtual receptionist provides live answering, so a caller interacts with a real person who has access to company dashboards.
  3. Internet-platform services leverage internet connectivity as the backbone of for their features. These services include live web chat services, automated email response systems, and social media monitoring tools..

SmallBizLady: HOW DO I KNOW WHICH TYPE OF ANSWERING SERVICE TO USE?

Grayson Kemper: Identifying the particular type of answering service that best fits your business needs shouldn’t be a super difficult process. Most importantly, the service needs to make sense for your business, i.e., it needs to be compatible with existing communication infrastructure and the features you use should provide practical value and have realistic application for your business. This logic applies both for considering which service you should use, as well as which service you should not use. If you don’t get that many calls, probably don’t need a live answering service, and if you don’t get emails, you probably don’t need an email response tool.

SmallBizLady: ARE ANSWERING SERVICES VIABLE INVESTMENTS, GIVEN THE TRANSITION TO DIGITAL AND ONLINE AS PRIMARY COMMUNICATION CHANNELS FOR MANY BUSINESSES?

Grayson Kemper: Just because communications and inquiries from customers have moved online, doesn’t mean there are less of them. In fact, the proliferation of business communication channels online has increased the volume of incoming communication for many. Internet-platform services in particular were created to address this dynamic.

Other technological advances and demands in the market have led answering services providers to offer other features like live web chats, mobile apps, analytics, and CRM integrations as part of their plans and packages, all of which are well suited for digital platforms. So, yes, answering services are still very viable investments.

SmallBizLady: HOW EXACTLY DO ANSWERING SERVICES PROVIDE VALUE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES?

Grayson Kemper: Answering services can provide value for answering services on various fronts. One of the most significant is through strengthening users’ customer service capabilities. An answering service allows for essentially every inquiry directed at a business to be addressed, which generally leads to a more satisfied customer base. Better customer service results in more customer loyalty, which means more consistent revenue. While that seems tangential, strong customer service has proven business value, and answering services can help businesses achieve that.

Other ways answering services provide value for small businesses are through their ability to generate and capture leads, operate as marketing tools, and perhaps most importantly, preserve time resources spent on monitoring and addressing all of a business’ communication channels.

SmallBizLady: HOW DO THESE MEASURES TRANSLATE TO BUSINESS GROWTH?

Grayson Kemper: To piggyback off of the previous answer, the time answering services save small business managers does a great deal to ease and facilitate business growth for small business. Since a lion’s share of the phone calls and emails directed to small businesses are handled by either the owner or manager, the time they can spend answering inquiries can be easily overwhelming. However, with an answering service in place to help alleviate some of this responsibility, time resources can be devoted to other aspects of running a business.

Another way in answering service help business growth is through the scaling small businesses’ communications operations. Not only do they handle incoming inquiries, answering services also collect, store, and organize them. This data is of the utmost value for small businesses, as it can provide business leads to be identified and contacted, information regarding customer’s specific needs, and provide other general feedback, all crucial for expanding and curating a business’ health.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH ANSWERING SERVICES?

Grayson Kemper: Cost varies based on the type of service used as well as the tier of package. Answering services typically charge on a usage-based scale (i.e. minutes allotted) and will have different price ranges based on what features are included in a particular package. A recent study from Clutch, shows that 50% of businesses that use answering services pay less $250 or less a month for their service. So, while it is nearly entirely dependent on which service you decide to use, chances are that it won’t break the bank, which of course bodes well for your business.

SmallBizLady: HOW CAN I TRACK PERFORMANCE OR RETURN USING AN ANSWERING SERVICE?

Grayson Kemper: First, I would say avoid being solely dependent on traditional metrics to measure the effectiveness of an answering services, since many of the ways that they provide value to your business and help facilitate growth are through more intangible methods, like improving customer service.

However, measuring ROI can be achieved if you have the ability to track leads directly from their interaction with your service, from which point you can calculate the revenue brought in from those leads to determine the return on investment. For example, there is a company on our site, Answer Force, who calculated that they provided 508% ROI for one of their clients. There are also ways to keep tabs on key performance indicators (KPIs) for answering services, through measuring the percentage of calls where the agent addresses all of the caller’s needs on the first call, or without having to transfer, escalate, or return it.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL TERMS OF USE? WILL I BE LOCKED INTO A LONG-TERM INVESTMENT OR PARTNERSHIP WITH A PARTICULAR SERVICE?

Grayson Kemper: Answering service are typically offered as month-to-month services, which leaves a good deal of flexibility for users. This structure allows for some businesses to contract an answering service only in periods of increased phone or communication volumes. An example of this would be a retailer during the holiday season. It should be noted, though, that there is some technical installation that has to be done when an answering service is set up, so having a service for a period of just a couple of months might be a bit of a hassle.

SmallBizLady: HOW CAN I BE CONFIDENT THAT AN ANSWERING SERVICE WILL BE ABLE TO EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE WITH MY CUSTOMERS?

Grayson Kemper: This is an issue that spans the entire history of businesses using answering services, especially for industries dealing with sensitive information, like the legal and medical fields. This dynamic has actually spawned cottage answering service industries, in which providers solely provide services for companies in the medical (or legal, real estate, etc) industry. These industries operate on the basis that they can effectively communicate about sensitive or complex issues that people would potentially inquire about. Ultimately, though, ensuring that an answering service can effectively communicate about your field with your customers requires a degree of vetting from the user. This echoes my point in a previous answer, which is that small businesses need to ensure that the service they choose is applicable and can provide definite value to their business.

SmallBizLady: WHAT SHOULD BE THE EXPECTED RESULT FROM INSTITUTING AN ANSWERING SERVICE?

Grayson Kemper: Answering services are not a magic bullet for facilitating business growth. Installing one won’t automatically increase your sales by huge margins or open up a previously undiscovered revenue stream. What answering services can do is ease the business growth process for small businesses. Whether that be allowing for management to invest their time into an existing project or streamline your process of collecting and contacting business leads to help grow your customer base, answering services are a fantastic tool by which these goals can be accomplished.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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Are You Dragging FEAR Into Your Small Business Sales Process?

Guest Article

stressed-business-womanAs a small business owner, our mortgages, our cars, our families, our LIVES, can hinge on our business and our ability to sell and generate revenue. We take that incredibly personally and the stress and fear of losing a customer or blowing a sale can lead us to inject those anxieties into our sales processes.

Recently, I was working with a business owner on her sales process. She had engaged a prospective new client and we were discussing the next steps to close this large opportunity. She was nervous, understandably, and she really wanted and needed this account and all the working capital and credibility it would bring.

In talking about her opportunity, she mentioned several times what a “big deal” this was for the customer and it was a “major investment” that they were contemplating. I stopped her and asked her “How do you know this is such a ‘BIG DEAL’ or a ‘MONUMENTAL’ investment for them?”

She sat back and said, “Well, they’re taking a while to consider it . . . um, they haven’t signed yet . . . and . . . I assume it’s a big deal for them.”

I paused and let her search for more validation before I asked, “Is this a really big deal for them, or is this a really big deal for YOU?”

Granted, it could be a huge decision for the customer, but she didn’t know exactly what positive business outcomes meant to them. What she was doing was injecting her fear and desperation into the situation, projecting the magnitude of decision and investment on to her prospective customer. It’s kind of like boarding a plane with lead luggage – baggage that weighs everyone down.

She was letting HER emotions and insecurities get before her comprehension of her customer’s attitude or feelings about the significance of this purchase. We are extremely perceptive to desperation and fear and as buyers, it turns us off. We begin to doubt the intentions or authenticity of what or why you’re selling us when doubt creeps in, it erodes trust.

Fear and its ugly cousin, Insecurity, are the roots of most self-sabotage. If you find yourself “dragging your baggage” with you into your sales opportunities and projecting your fear into your buyer’s process, ask if one of these reasons is why:

  • Do you fear of not being worthy of this success?
  • Is “Imposter Syndrome telling you that you’re not talented enough to deliver results?
  • Are you projecting your own financial insecurities on the investment?
  • Do you lack confidence in your product or solution?
  • Or, is your desperation making a mountain out of a molehill?

Did any of these touch a nerve for you? We’re not going to apply our Psychology Degree from Google University here (however, you can find many helpful resources out there). These can often be deeply rooted in life experiences or our childhood upbringing.

What we can offer, however, is a strategy to get out of your own way and prevent self-sabotage from killing or slowing your sales opportunities.

To understand the significance of this purchase, ask your buyers these key questions:

  • What brought them to this point of searching for products or solutions?
    • What conditions have changed in their business environment?
    • Are they unhappy with their current vendor or suppliers?
    • Are they seeking competitive advantage?
  • Where are they in their search?
    • Have they formed or developed budget guidelines?
    • Have they created buying or product criteria?
    • Who will have input in the decision?
    • Are they actively seeking or comparing other products/suppliers?
  • Ask how purchasing from your (or not) factors into their business goals.
    • Do you help generate revenue?
    • Do you decrease costs?
    • Do you improve productivity?

Practice How and When you’ll use these questions in the discovery phase of your Sales Process and you will avoid and potentially eliminate the self-sabotage that sinks relationships and deals.

Buyers want solutions, collaboration, partnerships, expertise . . . not your excess baggage. Having the confidence to “travel lighter” keeps the focus on helping your buyers reach their objectives.

About the Author:

ShawnKarolSandyShawn Karol Sandy helps small businesses deeply differentiate their offers. As the Chief Revenue Officer of The Selling Agency, Shawn helps small businesses develop go-to-market strategies to build competitive advantages that increase revenue. Her bold and cheeky approach to selling helps small businesses level the playing field with their competition in highly competitive, highly commoditized, and mature industries.

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