Friday, 25th June 2021 | Management
Customer retention best practices for your small business
Retaining your customers, instead of only focusing on acquiring new ones, will save you money and make your business more profitable in the long run. Here are some top tips for retaining your customers.
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.
What is a bad debt expense, and how to calculate it?
What is a bad debt expense?
When a buyer doesn’t pay in full, you can make a note of the amount you’re unable to recover in your business’ financial record. This is a bad debt expense.
Unfortunately, dealing with non-paying buyers is a common problem among small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada. The best way to protect yourself is to accurately record your losses to contain the damage.
Why should I keep track of bad debt expenses?
When you invoice a buyer for their purchase, it’s recorded as a sale in your books. If you’re not paid for that transaction, your overall revenue is actually less than indicated by your accounts–and you have to pay tax on your revenue. When you record unrecovered income as a bad debt expense, you officially remove all or part of that sale from your revenue which means that you won’t have to pay tax on it. This is entirely fair and legal–you don’t pay tax on income earnings you never received.
How to calculate your bad debt expenses
There are two ways to calculate bad debt expenses: the direct write-off method and the allowance method.
With the direct write-off method, you simply charge the amount of the unpaid invoice to the bad debt expense. This removes the amount from your accounts receivable, reducing your taxable income. This is the simpler method and the most commonly used by Canadian businesses.
5 Strategies for Growing your Business
What can I do to start developing a plan for growth?
Deciding to grow your business is a big step, so take a moment to congratulate yourself. Now, let’s get to work. The first thing to do is to develop a plan, and these five strategies can help.
1. Take care of your cash flow
Just for everyday operations, businesses need to have a steady flow of capital coming in and going out, but the importance of your cash flow intensifies when you’re planning to expand.
Survey your income and expense reports to determine your current cash flow, and identify trends so you can estimate how much you’ll have in the future. Don’t stop there. Make sure that you return to this information regularly to ensure you remain on the right path.
Should you find yourself in a cash flow crunch, you can consider a business line of credit so you can continue to take care of your responsibilities. Alternatively, you can take out a small business loan.
2. Invest in marketing and sales
It’s common for sales and marketing costs to fall to the bottom of a small business’ priority list, but they’re an absolutely crucial investment, especially if you’re expanding. Bear in mind that marketing and sales strategies and tactics can be tailored to your business’ unique needs, so you’ve got a variety of options to choose from–all with different budgets. Consider your audience, sales goals, and business forecast to build regular (think monthly) marketing efforts into your long-term plan. Marketing your business is an investment in its success.
3. Attend to your core audience while attracting new customers
Expansion often involves courting new customers, weather from different market segments or simply additional regions. It’s important that during the growth process resources and attention aren’t stolen from your core customers. They’re the ones who got you here, after all.
One way to give everyone the attention they deserve is to break your audience (and marketing dollars) into distinct segments and sell each according to their wants. Be open to different configurations. For example, depending on the situation you might want to serve everyone under a single brand, or develop distinct brands for different segments.
4. Confirm your supply
Few things can turn customers away faster than hearing you don’t have the products or services they need. Supply chain issues and slow delivery since the pandemic have put an increasing number of businesses in a precarious position when it comes to meeting customer demands, so your expansion plans should include the establishment of relationships with multiple reliable suppliers. Your efforts in advance demonstrate good business practices and respect for your customers. Plus, positive relationships with multiple suppliers can help you with your expansion goals.
5. Ensure quality and consistency
It should go without saying, but the last thing you want to happen when you expand is to have your quality or customer experience decline. Plan against this by establishing production, operations, and customer service standards. .
You have a better chance of expanding successfully if you plan carefully in advance. Attend to your finances, marketing, suppliers, and customers in advance to make sure you’re growing on a solid foundation.
Speak to an iCapital advisor about small business loans or lines of credit to ensure steady cash flow during your expansion process.
Marketing ,Accounting ,Management
What Is Working Capital and Why It’s Important In Your Business
What Is Working Capital?
When your company needs products or services in the short-term, you use working capital to pay for it. Unlike cash flow, which refers to money going in and out of the company, working capital is a snapshot of a company’s financial health. You can figure out what your company’s working capital is by looking at the value of your company’s assets minus your liabilities. This is the amount of money you have on hand to meet immediate expenses–in other words, your working capital.
Why is it important?
It’s obvious that a company should have the working capital it needs to pay its employees and purchase inventory, but your available working capital is also a good measure of your company’s overall financial picture. If you have access to sufficient or even plentiful working capital, you can rest assured that you have the resources to manage your upcoming expenses. If your working capital is low, you can run into problems.
Additionally, working capital is essential in helping businesses maintain and grow their operations in the future. With enough working capital, a business can cover its expenses even if there are outstanding payments from customers. In the best-case scenarios, businesses can use extra working capital to reinvest in their operations by buying additional inventory, launching marketing and promotions, and hiring additional staff.
Every business should strive to have ample working capital, but this can be a challenge, particularly in times of economic downturn.
4 Tips To Improve Your Working Capital
1.Get a Cash Flow Forecast
It’s easier to get where you want to be if you have a clear picture of where you are. A cash flow forecast is a financial projection that shows how much money your company can expect to receive and when. Make sure you look at revenue, expenses, and net cash. With this information, you can make better, informed decisions about spending.
2.Automate Business Processes
Your working capital relies on receiving payment, so it makes good business sense to streamline the invoicing process. Using an automatic invoicing system, particularly one that’s tied to the delivery of your product or service, will free up time and, importantly, ensure your invoicing isn’t delayed due to busy employees or time constraints. The ability to track your invoices can make your working capital more predictable, which will allow you to make educated decisions about spending.
If you run a small- or medium-sized business, you’ve experienced late payment, or even worse, no payment at all. Following up with outstanding invoices is time-consuming and frustrating, so it’s smart to bake in incentives for customers, suppliers, and vendors who meet their obligations. Incentives could be monetary or symbolic in nature. The idea is to encourage good business practices while fostering positive relationships.
4.Improve Inventory Management & Avoid Stockpiling
Inventory management is the process of matching your company’s inventory to expected sales. The trick is to make sure you have enough–but not too much. Stockpiling inventory is expensive, and money tied up in overstock can’t be spent on more immediate needs. Consider investing in a digital solution.
Access to sufficient working capital is a great indicator that your business is healthy, and a healthy business is one that’s positioned to grow and take on new opportunities.
Marketing ideas for your business in the new year
As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to revisit your marketing strategy to meet current consumer expectations. Forecasting trends is tricky, but what’s clear is that in 2023, customers value privacy, inclusivity, transparency, and overall authenticity, and it’s your job to show them how your business practices meet these ideals. Read on for six steps you take right now to market your business in 2023.
Understand your changing audience
The first thing you need to do is revisit your market. Review your sales and marketing data to make sure you have a realistic grasp on the size, demographics, and character of your target market. Pay close attention to any changes in your ideal customer and use this updated intel to seek out new opportunities. For example, if your business has grown or taken a new direction in recent years, it might be attracting a new audience. Make sure you’re communicating with the most appropriate market segment.
Update your website
Your website is one of your most valuable marketing assets so it’s crucial that it be in good shape. Review your site to make sure all the content is correct and up-to-date. Check to make sure that it loads quickly and displays correctly across desktop, tablet, and mobile platforms. You probably look at your site regularly so consider getting someone with “fresh eyes” to take a look. Ensure that your site works intuitively and offers a seamless customer experience. A site that’s pleasant to use will help you convert new visitors and retain returning ones.
Maximize the potential of social media
With more than 4.7 billion people using social media, your business cannot afford to ignore it. If you’re just starting out on social platforms, now is the time to claim your presence. Set up accounts for your business on top platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Investigate which sites your ideal customers might be using and ensure you’re on them too. Post relevant content, regularly, and make sure that you keep your profiles fresh and current. Try running contests or promotions to boost engagement, and take advantage of the built-in shopping capabilities available on many platforms. You can communicate a lot about your brand values by aligning yourself with other local small businesses through collaborations or sponsorships.
Leverage video content and live streaming
Video content has been a rising trend for the past several years, and is well-suited to businesses who want to increase awareness, improve lead generation and sales, and reduce support calls. Consider how video content might work for your business, keeping in mind that consumers appreciate being entertained. Live streaming is popular and an effective way to connect with your audience in real time. Engage your audience with quality storytelling. Inform them with a clear and concise script. Be creative.
Get interactive with your audience
When was the last time you did an online quiz or game? How about worked with an online calculator or map? Interactive content is engaging, which is why audiences–and marketers–love it. It’s low-cost and can help you increase brand loyalty, generate leads, and drive sales. Think about ways your business can use interactive content to grab your customers’ attention.
Respect consumer privacy
More than ever, consumers are concerned about privacy. Demonstrate respect for your customers’ privacy by compliance with standards like GDPR, by properly acquiring and using user data, and by continually informing your customers of exactly how you’re handling their information.
If you want to stay ahead of your competitors in 2023, now is the time to fine-tune your marketing efforts to communicate your business’ authentic brand and values. Take an inclusive, transparent, privacy-first approach, to reach your target audience.