Wednesday, 18th September 2019 | Sales,Marketing,Management
Five common pieces of business advice you should ignore
Building a business is hard enough without becoming waylaid by bad advice. Dig into the truths behind these common misconceptions to build a solid, long-term strategy for success.
In business, there are certain pieces of “advice” that, for better or for worse, are repeated so often they’re considered to be true. While business owners can and should learn from those who came before—there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel—some ideas are out-of-date, misguided, or just plain wrong. This article debunks five of the most persistent misconceptions, so you can focus your efforts on ideas that work.
#1. If You Build It, They Will Come
This notion is based on the unrealistic idea that your business is so unique or special that it will attract customers by simply existing—but there’s a reason why even storied and successful
companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola advertise: Buyers need to know about you, remember you, and choose you. In Canada, an average of 150,000 new small businesses are created every year, but only 51% survive the first five years. That’s a lot of competition against difficult odds, and marketing—even
having something as simple as having a web presence—is a crucial part of making the cut.
#2. Never Turn Down a Paying Customer
There’s something idealistic (but ultimately, wrong) about the idea that your business can satisfy every single customer, and it often takes a lesson learned the hard way to see why that’s bad
business advice. The truth is, sometimes it takes more time, energy, and resources than makes business sense to serve a customer who doesn't fit your typical process, business model, or price point. The savvy business owner learns to funnel those resources into growing their business by taking on the kinds of customers that they can service well within the model or business
processes they’ve established.
#3. Stay Away From Established Markets
It’s true that entering an established market requires a certain amount of work in differentiating yourself from existing competitors and marketing yourself effectively. However, these strategies
just as easily apply to new markets where you have to educate consumers about unfamiliar categories or products. There are challenges associated with both and the smart business owner
chooses based on other criteria.
#4. If You Want Something Done Right, You Have to Do It Yourself
This seductive idea appeals to the entrepreneurial impulse, but it’s often best ignored. Remember that in business time is money, and if you’re leading a company, your time is better spent on high-value tasks. Squandering your work-hours on tasks better given to employees or consultants is not only bad business, it can also lead to burnout. Learn to delegate strategically. Tasks like
marketing, social media, accounting, and legal are all excellent candidates for external help. As an owner or manager, you’ll find time to take care of your business’ most important issues, and your staff will appreciate an atmosphere of greater team involvement, the opportunities for growth, and a sense of increased self-confidence.
#5. It's All About Who You Know
If you’ve got a solid business network, great. You’re a step ahead—but only for the moment. Business growth requires ongoing networking to acquire new customers. Your sales and marketing efforts should prioritize continuous networking to ensure you’re always making fresh connections.
Building a business is hard enough without becoming waylaid by bad advice. Dig into the truths behind these common misconceptions to build a solid, long-term strategy for success.
Self-care tips for entrepreneurs to help manage your mental health
Business ownership is stressful at the best of times but when you add a pandemic that involves operating restrictions and lockdowns, the pressure can be overwhelming. Entrepreneurs handle so many responsibilities and attending to their mental health can sometimes take the backseat when in fact it should be a top priority. Entrepreneurs are actually 50% more vulnerable to mental health problems than the general population, according to a study by University of San Francisco researcher Michael Freeman.
COVID-19 has taken an economic and mental toll on small business owners so now, as restrictions are being lifted, is the time to address and manage stress. Here are some self-care tips for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Be kind to yourself
Treating yourself with care is a key foundation to strengthening your mental health but what, exactly, does it entail? Be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. Watch for (and try to eliminate) negative self-talk. Anything that you can do to boost your comfort, security, and self-esteem might fall into this category. We share more specific ideas below.
Limit your social media consumption
Social media invites users to compare themselves to others. Curated accounts foster envy and even posts from family and friends can ignite negative thoughts. Set limits for yourself, bearing in mind that if you use social media for your business (and you should be!), you won’t be able to go completely cold turkey. Plan accordingly.
Manage your screen time
Social media aside, many people use screen time to relax, tune out, and wind down. Binge watching shows on Netflix is a great way to escape, but like most things, it’s best in moderation. Stick to a set number of tech-free hours every day.
Even a short while in nature can act as a natural mood-booster. Take a tip from the Japanese and go forest bathing to fight stress and recalibrate. Just make sure you leave your phone at your desk.
Schedule “me” time
Running a business is a 24/7 endeavour. It’s far too easy to go weeks or even months without a break which is why it’s essential to schedule time for yourself. Identify activities that make you feel good and block out time for them. Physical exercise, social time, and creative projects are all effective ways to benefit your physical, emotional and mental health.
Saying “no'' can be challenging for many people but when you’re running a business it can feel especially risky. Acknowledge that you can’t do everything for everyone all the time. Manage people’s expectations by being clear about your boundaries.
Take a deep breath
It might sound silly but you can affect your mood with the way you breathe. When people are under stress they tend to take shallow sips of air. Stopping and allowing yourself a lungful can actually help you calm down and recalibrate your mood.
Develop healthy habits
Mental health is tied to physical health so one of the most effective ways to boost your mood is to break a sweat. Complement regular exercise with a balanced diet, lots of water, and sufficient sleep and you’ll be on your way to overall wellness.
Entrepreneurs are busy people who have limited time to properly attend to their mental health. By following the tips on this list, you’ll quickly and easily tweak your lifestyle to improve your mental health.
Start your holiday planning now: How to make the most of the 2021 season
Even in the best of times, the winter holiday season is a key earning period for small businesses but this goes double in 2021. After more than a year of uncertainty and lost sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian small businesses will need a prosperous holiday season this year to recoup some lost revenue. Take action towards your end-of-year success by putting the wheels in motion—now. With more than half the year gone by, now’s the time to trade your thoughts of sunscreen and sandals for stockings and snowmen and get your seasonal plans in place. Read on for three key areas small businesses should attend to now for a stellar holiday season.
Inventory is a constant task for retailers. You’ve got to make sure you have enough stock (empty shelves are a terrible look) but not too much that you take a loss on clearance markdowns. This problem can be compounded with seasonal stock—ask anyone who’s tried to sell an Elf on the Shelf in April.
You can avoid the major inventory pitfalls by having a plan.
- Start an inventory document. You’ll have enough on your plate without trying to remember whether you ordered 100 or 1,000 units of tinsel.
- Review last year’s sales data to refresh yourself on the tactics that worked and those that didn’t, and use that data to anticipate your sales for the upcoming season. Take note of the hot items and remove slow sellers from the list.
- Survey existing inventory to avoid repurchasing items you’ve already got.
- Analyze the current year’s trends to prevent overbuying and overstock, then make a list of what you need. Remember: frequent re-ordering is a better strategy than massive one-time buys to keep your shelves full and your cash flow, well, flowing.
- Reach out to your suppliers as soon as possible to take advantage of early-order price incentives.
eCommerce vs bricks-and-mortar
Some stores that were originally bricks-and-mortar found new markets online during the pandemic and in the coming year it’s likely that many retailers will be offering an eCommerce and bricks-and-mortar hybrid model. Plan now for how your holiday online shopping and in-store experiences will work.
Consider the following:
- Will you provide the option to buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPUS), in addition to in-store shopping?
- Will you offer delivery or shipping?
- What about curbside pick-up?
- How will you handle exchanges and returns?
- What restrictions will be in place in-store, and how will you enforce them?
- Do you plan to offer your customers sanitizer and masks? And if so, you’ll need to order them, now!
Create a logistics plan far in advance to account for the eventualities of your 2021 holiday shopping experience.
Marketing is always a key component for retailers going into the holidays and the 2021 season will be no different. One change, perhaps, is that social media will likely play an even greater role than in past years. During the pandemic, many retailers relied on social media to communicate with customers and sell merchandise. In fact, according to business consulting firm Grand View Research, the global social commerce market was valued at US$474.8 billion in 2020. If you plan on developing a social media content and advertising plan, consider what products or services you will be promoting on social media ahead of time.
Aside from your social media concerns, there are also countless other marketing tactics to consider:
- You could run ads in print or online.
- Direct mailings like flyers or brochures can attract new customers, as can digital mailings through email.
- A partnership with another company might allow you to tap into their customer base.
- Special offers, discounts, and coupons can bring in new leads.
- A contest or other special event is effective at raising brand awareness and stimulating sales.
- Use your data to create holiday-themed promotions.
- Branch out thematically and increase sales opportunities by keeping alternative holidays like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday in mind.
There’s no shortage of holiday preparation tasks but advance prep in these three areas will get you off on the right foot and on the way to a prosperous 2021 season.
Customer retention best practices for your small business
It’s common knowledge that it costs less to keep customers than to acquire them, but have you ever put a price on it? According to research from Bain & Company, “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit.” This, they say, is because repeat customers are likely to spend more money with your brand over time. They are also likely to refer you new business. Put simply, investing in customer service to make sure your customers have consistently positive interactions is good for your bottom line. Read on for top tips on retaining your customers.
Maintain consistent business hours
One of the joys of owning your own small business is the flexibility and ability to manage your own schedule. However, unpredictable operating hours could be costing you. Your customers are busy too and wasting their time is a quick way to lose their business. Be consistent with your business hours so customers can plan to visit with confidence that you’re open.
Keep your website and Google My Business listing up to date
If your website lists out-of-stock merchandise, last year’s pricing, or services you no longer offer, your customers may well feel like they can’t trust your business. Make sure everything is up to date, including your hours or location, across platforms.
Offer online shopping or other options
Even though retail is reopening, many customers have become accustomed to shopping online. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sell your services or products online, but offering the flexibility of custom orders in cases where customers don’t feel comfortable returning in-store shows respect and thoughtfulness. Also, consider offering phone and email ordering with the option to pick it up or have it delivered. Seamless transactions that suit your customers' needs will go a long way to ensuring you get repeat business.
Communicate with your customers
Your website, social media, email, and even newsletters are all ways to communicate with your customers. Figure out which works best for your industry and reach out. Regular communication keeps your business top-of-mind, but make sure you don’t flood your base with overly frequent messages.
Train your employees around customer service
Think of your team as brand ambassadors—because that’s what they are. Your employees are the face of your business and how they interact with your customers will inform your reputation. Make sure your employees are trained to provide top-notch customer service.
Nobody likes to feel like they’re just a number. Take the time to learn your customers’ names and a little about their lives. Encourage your employees to take time with your customers rather than rushing them to the till. A little human interaction goes a long way.
Loyalty programs can be as simple as a punch card or as complex as a multinational campaign. Giving your customers a little extra when they return is an effective way to keep them coming back, while showing your gratitude for their business. Points programs and discounts are easy-to-implement strategies that will make your customers feel valued.
Resolve issues quickly
Perhaps a product doesn’t work as intended or a service doesn’t meet expectations. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things go wrong. These occasions are opportunities to deepen customer loyalty. If you can resolve the issue quickly to your customer’s satisfaction you’ll build trust with your customer so they feel confident enough to return next time.
Many consumers have demonstrated their willingness to support small businesses, especially right now. Acknowledge that you appreciate them. A simple thank-you goes a long way and a grateful approach will help ensure your customers keep coming back.
So much of customer retention comes down to simple customer service. Follow these guidelines to give your customers a positive experience every time they interact with you. Your reputation and your bottom line will thank you for it.
4 winning strategies to make your loyalty program a success
We’ve all heard about job loss, missed school, and the overtaxed health care system, but a surprising consequence of COVID-19 comes from the business sector. Pre-pandemic customer loyalty is all but a faint memory. According to a McKinsey & Company report, consumers around the world have changed their shopping practices during the crisis, including trying out new brands. The result? Changes in brand preference. The communications firm Ketchum found that nearly half (45%) of consumers surveyed changed their preference for at least one brand, and a majority (62%) anticipated that these shifts would be permanent.
All this upheaval creates yet another challenge for Canadian small businesses, but planning—and a solid loyalty program—will encourage more devotion from your customers. If you’re looking for ways to incentivize your customers, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for four winning strategies to encourage customer loyalty.
What is a loyalty program?
If you’ve ever used a buy-ten-get-one-free card, a coupon, or referral link, you’ve taken part in a loyalty program. Simply put, these are incentives designed to attract and keep customers by offering something back in return for their patronage. Implemented properly, loyalty programs can not only attract new and repeat customers but also foster positive associations with your brand and even your staff.
Like anything else in business, there are best practices for loyalty programs. These four strategies will help you design a winner.
Loyalty program best practices
1. Make it simple to use
Your loyalty program will not work if it’s too complicated. Make sign-up easy (or non-existent). Avoid multi-step ideas that may cause customers to abandon the program. Be flexible to accommodate real-life situations. For example, if a customer has forgotten their loyalty card, issue them another and allow them to combine stamps for redemption. The simpler your loyalty program is to use, the better.
2. Make it easy to redeem
Customers use loyalty programs for the rewards, so make sure they can easily redeem. Don’t make them jump through hoops. If they earn it, they deserve it. Simplify the process by asking for customer information upon sign-up, not when they want to redeem. Nothing turns a customer off like feeling they’ve been duped so make sure your redemption process has no nasty surprises.
3. Have few to no restrictions
Don’t complicate your rewards program with too many restrictions. For example, if you have a points program, don’t limit what they can be used to redeem. This kind of “small print” will only erode the goodwill you’re trying to foster.
4. Keep time to reward short
Your customers want to realize the benefits of your program as quickly as possible. Your program will never get off the ground if it takes too long for customers to be able to redeem. Make it easy for your loyal customers to start earning points right away and be reasonable about the amount a customer is required to spend or the number of times they have to visit before they have accumulated enough points for a reward.
A customer loyalty program can be the right strategy to bring customers back to your brand—and to attract new ones. These four simple best practices will guide you toward a program that works for you and your target market.