Tag Archive: customers

Overcoming Perfectionism in Your Small Business

Overcoming Perfectionism in Your Small Business
Perfectionism can get in the way of building or marketing a successful business.  It can prevent us from moving ahead quickly or from taking advantage of business opportunities.  We set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations or goals, which can be damaging to us personally or professionally.  Striving for perfection can damage our self-esteem because we never feel like we are good enough.  Instead, consider adopting an attitude of striving for excellence.  Look at failure as just another teacher.  Let’s explore how being less than perfect can move you ahead in your business!

1.  Get into action.  One of the best ways to overcome perfectionism is to get into action and do something.  In the case of your marketing, put yourself out there.  Show the world who you are through your website, business cards, brochures, or through giving a speech.  Don’t wait until you get all of these things perfected.  The truth is that they never will be.  Everything you do is a work in progress.  Do something now.  Get feedback, and then make corrections as you move forward.

2.  Say “no” to unreasonably high demands.  We often set high standards of performance for ourselves that would be difficult, if not impossible, to meet even under the best of circumstances.  Learn how to say “no” to yourself.  We always set much higher standards for ourselves than anyone else would and in the big picture, it really means nothing.  You would be surprised at how satisfied most people would be with average performance on your part.  I’m not saying that you should sacrifice quality in what you do, but what you’ll incrementally gain for large expenditures of your personal energy is certainly not productive.  Trying to be perfect in your marketing will only delay getting your message out to those who need to hear it most.

3.  Set realistic goals.  Unreasonably high demands go hand in hand with setting unrealistic goals.  You cannot expect to do everything at once or even at the same level of quality.  Creating a plan of what needs to be done in your business is a top priority.  For each major project or item that you need to accomplish, break it down into a number of goals that are easily doable.  A goal of creating your website can be daunting.  However, breaking it into a number of other goals including drafting a plan for your site, obtaining your domain name, and interviewing three web developers makes it much easier to accomplish.

4.   Find support.  Find others who will support you in the things you are doing.  You might consider asking friends, colleagues, or family members to give their sign-off of approval on some of the projects that you are working on.  While you might not think that something is perfect enough, the people on your support team can provide you with much a much less biased opinion.  Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are doing, we cannot see that it is perfect just as it is.  Recruit a supportive team to help you determine when enough is enough.

5.  Perfect as it is.  Consider adopting a mindset that whatever you do is the right thing to do and the best thing to do.  This powerful attitude can make all the difference in creating a successful business.  Not only will potential clients find your sense of personal strength attractive, but you will also have more confidence to make things happen and to make them happen quickly.  You’ll take more risks, ask more confidently for business, and work more effectively at everything you do.

6.  Failure is my friend.  Redefine how you look at failure.  Failure is a natural part of life and will inevitably impact your business to varying degrees.  Failure is not the end of anything, nor does it mean that you are incompetent.  Realize that failure is a teacher and that it can help you innovate in your business.  It provides you with valuable information that you’re doing something or going in a direction that isn’t providing the results that you want.  The sooner you understand that, the sooner you can re-orient yourself in another direction, which can lead to your success.

7.  Reframe your attitudes.  Perfection is defined as freedom from fault or defect, or the quality or state of being saintly.  What does it mean to you?  The words we use to describe what we do or who we are, make a tremendous difference in the success we achieve.  How would you define perfection for yourself?  What about adopting an attitude that you are perfect the way you are?  That you are enough.  Write down what perfection means to you and post it in a place where you can read it daily.

8.  Make lemons out of lemonade.  You might be surprised that when you’re not trying to be perfect, you may actually find the perfect opportunity.  For example, you might not be dressed appropriately for a networking event and you don’t feel like you’re “perfect enough” to talk to anyone.  But, you take the opportunity to chat with someone standing next to the hors d’oeuvre table and the next thing you know you’ve created a potential for new business.  Opportunities are everywhere.  In fact, take a look at the last few things you did which you didn’t think were perfect or which didn’t meet your high standards.  What were the results of what you did?  What other exciting things blossomed as a result?

9.  Making it happen is more important than perfection.  Doing things, putting yourself into action, telling people about what you can do for them…all of these things are much more important than spending another hour or another dollar trying to make something perfect in hopes that it will buy you some increased level of success.  People aren’t attracted to perfection, they’re attracted to people that make things happen.  If you’re at the office trying to perfect anything in your business, the trade-off is that you aren’t somewhere where you can be making valuable business contacts.  It is important to surround yourself with people who like to take action.  Not only will they motivate you to do the same, but you’ll also be able to witness, firsthand, the results they are having by getting out there.

10.  Be kind to yourself.  Perfectionists often feel down on themselves for not achieving…well, perfection.  Perfection is an ideal, not a reality; it is humanely impossible to achieve.  Learn how to forgive yourself when you do something you don’t think is good enough or perfect.  Love yourself for being you and know that everything you do in your business possesses your personal spin.  Potential clients won’t be attracted to you because of your business card or website.  They will be attracted to you because of who you are.

Networking Your Business Locally

Networking Your Business Locally
Networking Your Business Locally. Owning your own business of any type is going to require some amount of networking. Networking is a method of building awareness of your business, among people who may be likely at one time or another to use your products, your services or to refer someone else to your business. Networking is all about getting to know other people, and locally your best bet in finding additional network contacts is going to be with other business owners.

You can find many types of networking opportunities around you. Every club and every association that you belong too is going to be a part of your network. From there, every person you come into contact with and every person you talk with is going to be part of your network. Networking Your Business Locally

Make a lasting impression
You can make a lasting impression on the people that you meet by talking about what you know best, and by talking about topics that are vital to your business. If you are not sure about a topic that is being approached during a conversation, ask questions. This will show you are part of the conversation and that you still want to know more. Just listening is going to keep you out of the conversation and will not make a lasting impression of you on any one.

Make your voice known
Join local chambers of commerce; join local men and women’s associations. Join the local PTA, the sports boards, and join clubs that interest you. If you don’t find a club locally that does interest you, create one and build your local network from that point. The more people that you can put yourself into contact with is going to increase awareness of yourself, of your business and what you have to offer. Even if you are selling online, you have to be proud of what you are doing, and talk about it as often as possible to build a network of people that will call on you when they need your products or services.

Once you have built a good network it is important that you maintain and set goals for yourself. As you have set goals, you need to keep them. This means, that if you strive to meet one new person a week, or to make it a point to call one person you know each week that is not a current customer, you are going to increase your business. Think about this, for every five calls you make, and only one turns into a sale, that is one more sale than what you had. Increase exposure for your business, and use this for your personal success. Networking Your Business Locally

Growing Your Small Business Sales Through Creating Connections

Growing  Your Small Business Sales Through Creating Connections
Your mission as a business owner is to develop a marketing strategy which offers your potential clients/customers a way to improve their situation in a certain way, solve a problem, provide more value, or open new opportunities for them which will motivate them to pick up the phone and buy from you. This requires that the focus of your marketing plan be placed on your customer – NOT ON YOU! Taken from The 90 Day Marketing Marathon Blunders from A to Z these ten powerful tools will support you in creating meaningful connections with your clients/customers and providing real time solutions to their challenges of the today.
1.   Custom Assessments.

By using a tool such as Assessment Generator you can build custom assessments which will allow the visitors to your website the opportunity to engage with you while providing value which is memorable.  With Assessment Generator you as the business owner will receive the basic results of the survey to see if clients are where they want to be in their lives or their businesses.
2.   Online Survey Tools.

A well-designed online survey can greatly empower business, academic, and charitable organizations by finding out quickly what is on the minds of your current and prospective customers/clients. Creating an online survey can be extremely simple and convenient with a free survey tool such as Advanced Survey or Zoomerang. By designing a survey and sending this to your database, you can poll targeted groups quickly and in detail while obtaining real time results.
3.   “Feedback” Hot Links.

As you update your website, author articles, or launch new products and services, add a “feedback hot link” to your site or to your e-mail signature. This link can state “Send me feedback” or “Send me your comments” and will automatically link to an e-mail which can be used for your website visitors to provide you with insight into what is working and what is not with your products and services. The key is to make communicating with you as easy as possible.
4.   Weblogs With Comments.

A weblog is a simple yet compelling online environment, which will allow you to put your thoughts, ideas, and experiences on the web via a journal, photo album, or diary. With a tool such as Typepad you can provide your clients and customers with access to your online journal AND allow them the ability to comment to your posts. If you are blogging around a topic which creates discussion or a topic which can generate ideas for your new products and services, you will find that blogging with a tool which allows for comments will take your products and services to a more advanced and sophisticated level quickly and with the support of your customers/clients.
5.   Client Scenarios That Create an Emotional Tug.

What are the typical challenges of your clients, what do they complain about to others, and what do they really want in life? Do they say things such as:
·    I am a CEO, and I cannot seem to motivate my team.
·    I am a pet owner, and I am looking for a Veterinarian I can trust.
·    I am a Solopreneur who is working for a lunatic.
·    I am a business owner who is looking to invest my money to double my financial wealth.
·    I am a new college graduate, and I am looking for the career of my dreams.

By honing in on what’s most important to your website visitors and actually posting these for the world to see, you will begin to connect with these folks in a way which calls the emotions to be tapped.  List these client scenarios in bullet form on your website, and link each scenario to a very tangible benefit of what you can offer.

Example: If you are marketing to pet owners who are looking for a Veterinarian he/she can trust, link this client scenario to a special report on “The Top Ten Questions to Ask When Hiring a Veterinarian for Your Pet.”
6.   Data Driven Landing Pages.

Landing pages, also known as “jump” pages in the world of marketing, are self-contained web pages that visitors are driven to for a specific purpose (usually for the purpose of collecting e-mail addresses.)  Landing pages are very focused and usually contain a message, in most cases to allow you as the web host to determine what visitors click on as well as other statistics.  A data driven landing page contains a form requesting the user to enter contact information, usually in order to get something, such as a free special report, newsletter, or to register for an upcoming event. By including a question on this page such as “What is the thing you most want in the area of _______________” (fill in the blank) you will be able to see trends of what folks most want, which can be key to the growth of your business.
7.   A Research and Development Team.

A Research and Development team is a group of people you invite to join you in developing your products, programs, and services.  Your R & D Team may be as small as ten people or as large as 1,000 people. It is recommended that you call on your R & D team at least two times per month, as they will provide you with valuable information about what is working/not working in your business, and they will tell others about what you are up to.  As your business grows, you will want to continue to add people to your list so that you have a cross section of people, ideas, and perspectives from people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe.
8.   A Mastermind Group.

The purpose of a mastermind group is to share thoughts, ideas, opinions, and information.  To be successful in business, it is important for this group to be supportive and to care enough about you and your business to provide you with honest feedback about what they see is possible for your business.  Spend at least one hour per week with your mastermind group, and use the feedback gained to grow your life, both personally and professionally.
9.   A Product/Service Development Team.

Are you ready to develop a new product or service, and you just don’t know where to begin or how to make it happen?  If so, invite ten of the coolest people you know to support you in developing the new product or service in exchange for a slice of the pie once the product/service is launched.  People love to share their wisdom, especially when they know that they are involved in development of something that will be financially rewarding in the end.
10. Risky Business.

One time per month, add one product or service that is out of the norm or a little bit risky for you and your business.  Why?  Because it will keep your mind moving and will allow your customers to sample something which is cutting edge and exciting!  Example: You are a bookstore owner, and you host a “Mystery Night.”  Invite the public to preview the 12 hottest mysteries by attending a masquerade party on the premises of your bookstore – loads of fun, intrigue, and excitement.  A suggestion/comment box can be situated near the door, inviting guests to contribute feedback and ideas for the next big event for your biz.

Entrepreneur’s Worst Nightmare

Entrepreneur’s Worst Nightmare
Gone: Customers, sales, profits. Following is a simple little tale about how it happens.

“Jones was a typical entrepreneur who worked long hours and wore many hats.

“The problem was that all the hats screamed for attention. Jones solved the problem by wearing the hat that screamed the loudest.

“Unfortunately, this was only a temporary solution since all the hats kept screaming until they were worn.

“There was, however, one hat that never screamed. It never complained, whined or whimpered, even though it was lonely. It knew it was important, whether or not it was worn. That hat was right.

“One day the customers quit coming. The other hats became quiet; they no longer were needed. It was then that Jones noticed the hat named Marketing and how little it had been worn.

“‘Why didn’t I wear the Marketing hat?’ thought Jones.

“For one thing, Marketing hadn’t screamed for attention like the other hats. The other reason was that Jones was afraid the Marketing hat was too expensive to wear and would drain profits.

“But now there were no profits; the customers were gone.

“Jones put on the Marketing hat. It was time to get the old customers back, and to get new customers, too. It was time to wear the Marketing hat regularly.

“Even the other hats perked up.”

(c) 2005 Neil Sagebiel

Google’s New Algorithm Search: How it can affect your business.

Hold on to your hats, small business owners. Everything you thought you knew about SEO and making sure your customers could find your business online may not be true anymore. That’s thanks to Google’s recent adoption of Hummingbird, its new, more dynamic method for improving search results.

“The Hummingbird algorithm is significant as it changes Google from being a search engine to an information engine,” says Mert Sahinoglu, a partner in Chicago’s Falcon Living Real Estate. He has been a digital marketing consultant for over a decade and says that for the small business owner, “This means that they will have to provide more information and multimedia content to their Google+ profile.”

“It’s important to state that Hummingbird is not just an algorithm update,” adds George Zlatin, director of operations at Digital Third Coast Internet Marketing, a Chicago-based SEO consulting and marketing firm. “It is a structural update to the algorithm that affects 90 percent of search queries. To put that in perspective, when Google releases a normal algorithm update, that usually affects anywhere from one to three percent of queries. So this is much, much larger.”

Widespread smartphone and tablet use led to Hummingbird

“In mobile search, thanks to technologies such as the iPhone’s Siri, customers are asking more questions rather than typing keywords,” Sahinoglu explains. Keyword-based searching is still practiced by the majority of desktop users, but Sahinoglu expects this to change. “As Google improves Hummingbird, questions will replace keywords as customer confidence in getting the right answer for the question increases.”
Hummingbird may already be helping your small business

“If you create a lot of good content on your website that is relevant to your business you are more likely to get more traffic from that than pre-Hummingbird,” says Zlatin. “Hummingbird does not mean that Google doesn’t use traditional ranking factors anymore, such as keywords, backlinks to your site, or content. It is just a new framework put on top of it.”

Best practices for small businesses

It’s very important to understand that Hummingbird places a high value on information from Google+ profiles and social media platforms. This means your business may have some more work to do besides the creation and sharing of keyword-rich, unique content on your website and social media platforms.

“You should provide as much detail as possible in your Google+ Local profile, including opening/closing hours,” Sahinoglu says. Images are also becoming increasingly important. Sahinoglu recommends that profile photos should always be selected with marketing in mind. “Photos are definitely becoming the first impression a new customer sees about a business in the new Google.”

Hummingbird will also push small businesses to network with their geographic area customers or with their niche group of customers more on Google+, according to Sahinoglu. Another key factor to consider is your Google + Authorship authority. Google + Authorship is a verification that links online content to the person who wrote it. The more published content you have out there, the more important you become in Hummingbird’s eyes. You will get a bigger boost from content that appears on sites you don’t actually control.
Content is still king

“The best advice I can give small business owners is to really focus on adding unique content to their websites.” Zlantin says. “Talk about what you know. Talk about what customers are asking you. This type of content is going to bring more traffic from Hummingbird.” He adds, “There is no way you can predict all of the search terms people will write, so it’s better to just focus on writing content that is important to them.”

“Start building an extensive Q&A library about your products or services,” Sahinoglu recommends. “This could be a brand-related Q&A or a non-brand product/service Q&A. Optimize a unique page for each Q&A.”

Going forward: Be prepared for change

Google is continually refining and adjusting all of the algorithms they use to determine search results. This upgrade to Hummingbird is sure to be followed by others in the future. As a small business owner, maintaining awareness of these changes and implementing recommended best practices is the best way to ensure favorable search engine rankings.

Getting Positive Reviews on Yelp

How can you get honest, positive feedback to appear on Yelp or review portions of Google, Facebook, or TripAdvisor? It may sound daunting, but some say all small businesses need to do is ask.

“If you don’t ask, the likelihood of it happening is almost zero,” says Adi Bittan, chief executive and cofounder of Palo Alto, California-based OwnerListens.com, a company with an online tool that gives customers a direct line to a business’s owners via an app or text messages. “People are actually much nicer than many people give them credit for.”

Where to start? Listen up the next time a customer pays a compliment for great service or expresses satisfaction about a mistake that was quickly fixed. Translating pleasant, in-person encounters into positive social media capital is a matter of reading the signals your customers are giving and being direct about a request for help, Bittan says. If clients praise an employee, service, or product, that’s a cue that they’re likely open to doing more.

Bittan points to a series of Stanford University studies that show people underestimate how likely others are to agree to requests for assistance. In one, researchers concluded those who are approached for a favor are under social pressure to be benevolent, because saying no might them look bad—to themselves or others. (After all, everyone is sensitive to reviews.)

It’s that perception of altruism that motivates some reviewers, and that’s some of the surprisingly good news that might make your own foray a bit easier than expected. Jon Hall, chief executive and founder of Bloomfield, New Jersey-based Grade.us, has written extensively on the topic of customer reviews and says the vast majority are positive, regardless of the product, service, industry or online community. “There is no need to ask for a ‘good’ or ‘positive’ review. Just ask for a review, ask for feedback,” he says.
Hall’s company, as well as Bittan’s, tries to steer customer reviews toward a company’s preferred online destination. Grade.us uses a platform that directs customers to a landing page, where a business owner can “funnel” their feedback to a review site they care about most, be it Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Google+, Yelp, or a dozen more. Bittan’s service provides a direct channel to the business owner, where compliments or complaints are acknowledged in real time. Both aim to take the steam out of the fieriest of missives from angry clients: first, by making the process of filing good reviews easier for happy customers and swelling those numbers; second, by giving unhappy clients the attention they need from those who can actually help them.

For businesses now, the stakes are particularly high on Yelp, in more ways than one. The site has more than 100-million unique visitors a month worldwide, via its website and apps, and a recent Nielsen survey reported four out of five of its users consult the site before they spend money. A 2011 Harvard Business School survey found that restaurants that boosted their rating by one full star on Yelp saw their annual revenue increase five to nine percent.

But there’s also a very delicate balance small businesses must maintain when soliciting glowing reports.

For its part, Yelp discourages businesses from asking customers for positive feedback on the site. In its FAQ, it says “These self-selected reviews tell only part of the story, and we don’t think that’s fair to consumers. We would much rather hear from members of the Yelp community who are inspired to talk about their experiences without a business owner’s encouragement.”

Any savvy Internet user can spot the obvious inside jobs. But along with filters that try to weed out phony reviews, Yelp has been active in pursuing those attempting to game the system. In late 2012, the site launched what it termed a sting operation, and exposed dozens of businesses that solicited positive reports from undercover “elite” Yelp users with offers of cash payments. In September, the New York state attorney general fined 19 reputation management companies for fake online reviews on several major sites, including Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch.

All of which makes a genuine rave more meaningful. So what’s the right way to ask for a review?

Bittar says do it “in the moment,” when the goodwill is fresh and top-of-mind. Here is some advice from her and Hall on how to approach a customer:
1. Explain why you’re asking. Put it at the bottom of receipts or in signage in your shop, and say something like “Please let the rest of the world know that we did a good job. Online reviews are one of the most important drivers of our business.”

2. Link it to a customer’s identity as a local shopper, or just a good person. Use messages like “We’ve been serving the [town name] for more than two decades” or “Please show your kindness and support by letting your social media followers know.”

3. Have a tangible reminder, and try to stay unbiased. Hall’s clients hand their customers a postcard asking them to write a review. It reads: “Help us. Help others. You’re invited to review X.”

Social media has given everyone a voice, for better or worse, but for small businesses, it’s how you deal with it that matters, Bittar says. “It still all comes down to giving great service,” she says. “And the way the world is going, the bar has been raised for everyone. You have to wow them. And it’s that much harder.”

Simple Sales Strategy: Define What Selling Is!

Simple Sales Strategy: Define What Selling Is!

imple Sales Strategy:  Define What Selling Is!Simple Sales Strategy: Define What Selling Is! How do you define selling? A lot of people think of selling as persuading/convincing people to buy things they may or may not want or need. To some, selling is all about closing a deal. Thinking of selling like this is not very empowering to you. Frankly, if you have this perspective on selling, it’s no wonder if you hate it. I would too!

So what perspective can you take about selling that will make it enjoyable, exciting and something you look forward to? Sounds like a bit of a tall order doesn’t it? Read on. 

Hopefully by now, you have made the list of all the problems that you can solve for your target market. You’re going to be surprised how long that list grows over time. So really, if you look at your list and you think about it, you are a master problem solver. What you’re really doing is helping people. Correct?

So try on this perspective about what selling is: Selling is helping people. Selling is serving. Selling is a process of identifying and solving people’s problems. 

See, feel and know that selling is serving. This will cause a big shift for you. With this perspective, you will really become passionate about wanting to help people. Find this passion and let it shine through.

It is your purpose, your moral obligation, to have as many sales conversations with people as you can so you can help as many people as possible. If you’re not having these types of sales conversations, you are holding back the gift you have to offer the world. You owe it to people to be there for them with your expertise and wisdom.

Next time you’re talking to a potential client, think about how you can help them, how you can serve them. Forget about trying to sell them something. If what you have to offer does solve their problems, and you facilitate the conversation using the strategies we are covering, people will sell themselves and will subsequently buy from you.

If you have a perspective on selling which is one of service and helping people, how do you think the people you’re talking to will feel? Think about this: people hate to be sold. The minute they feel they’re being sold, they often want to get away – fast. Don’t you? On the other hand, if they feel you are sincerely trying to help them solve their problems, they will relax and open up to you.

If you have a perspective on selling which is one of service and helping people, how do you think you will feel? Does energized, excited, relaxed, and natural come to mind?

This perspective is simple but powerful and very attract-tive to clients. imple Sales Strategy: Define What Selling Is!

This article is sponsored by Apple Capital Group, Inc. If you are looking for business financing, please call Apple Capital Group’s offices at 866-611-7457 or go to www.applecapitalgroup.com. #applecapitalgroup #thecorecorebusinessshow #timjacquet

Why customer surveys are a smart strategy

Why customer surveys are a smart strategy
by Robert Lerose.

Why customer surveys are a smart strategy. It’s the one thing every business owner wants to know—”What are my customers thinking?” Yet few ever consider going straight to customers to ask specific questions related to their experience, even though it can yield valuable and sometimes surprising insights. A well-designed survey can reveal what your customers like about your product or service and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t. It can give you a firmer idea of how your business is perceived in the community. And it can strengthen the loyalty of customers to your brand because the survey actively seeks their feedback on critical issues.

As with other things that look simple on the surface, surveys require careful thought and preparation in order to deliver meaningful results in an efficient way. We checked in with three experts to get their best advice for gathering intelligence from your most prized asset—your customers. Why customer surveys are a smart strategy

Ask relevant questions

Before launching a survey, you should be clear about the kind of information you’re looking for. “It’s important to identify the specific focus, so that once you get to the point of creating the survey, you’re on track,” says Linda Pophal, owner and CEO of Strategic Communications, a Wisconsin-based company that helps organizations sharpen their internal and external communications programs.

Instead of wasting a customer’s valuable time with questions that your business already has the data on—such as when they made their last purchase—Pophal suggests drilling down for information you might not have easy access to. “The questions might relate to how [your business] is perceived compared to other competitors in the area,” she explains. “Or possibly [asking for] their input on other kinds of products or services that might be valued by your customers—any questions that can help you make good business decisions on a wide range of issues.” Why customer surveys are a smart strategy

For example, one of Pophal’s healthcare clients wanted to find out what its audience thought about various attributes of its brand, in anticipation of a new competitor coming into the area. Pophal put together a survey with 10 to 15 attributes and asked audience members to rate them on a scale of 0 to 10. After analyzing the results, Pophal was able to identify two things that were especially relevant to her client: “Areas where they scored lower that they would need to work on, and areas where they were favorably perceived that they might be able to more aggressively promote or communicate in their communications material,” she says. “It was a pretty basic, simple survey, but we got a sense of where my client and the competition might be positioned in the minds of their potential audience.”

Pophal favors close-ended questions—such as multiple-choice questions that offer a limited number of responses—over open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, because of the ease and efficiency in analyzing the responses. “Once you develop the survey, you should sit down with a handful of people and pre-test it,” she adds. “Have them go through it with you and indicate if there is anything they don’t understand very well, then make the changes and send it out.” Why customer surveys are a smart strategy

ConsumerSurvey_PQ.jpgMake them easy

Even “simple” surveys need to be carefully thought out in order to generate a meaningful response. “You’ve got to make sure it’s not too onerous for people to complete,” says Jon Picoult, founder and principal of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience consultancy, based in Connecticut. “In the body of your invitation, give people a sense of how long it’s going to take to complete, so they don’t wonder when it’s going to end.”

Picoult often uses surveys with only five questions and meticulously crafts them to get information that the business can actually do something with. “A common weakness in surveys is when people ask what are called double-barreled questions,” Picoult explains, such as: “How do you feel about the price and convenience of our service?” Why customer surveys are a smart strategy

“Imagine if people respond by saying that they think it’s awful,” Picoult continues. “What are you going to do with that? You don’t know if they’re talking about the price or the convenience, and then you’ve wasted the whole survey because you have no actionable information.”

The subject line of an email survey can also affect the willingness of a participant to open and complete it. A generic line such as “Customer Survey” sounds bland and tedious, whereas “Your Opinion Counts” is more personal and engaging.

Although Picoult is a strong proponent of using surveys, he emphasizes that they are just one tool for collecting customer information. A second way is to ask your front-line employees about what delights and frustrates your customers. “Another way to complement surveys is to actually observe your customers while they research, buy, and use your product,” Picoult says. “Watching your customers in their natural habitat is a powerful way to get at those ideas that they would never think to share on a survey.”

Reach out often

At VerticalResponse, an award-winning company in San Francisco that provides self-service marketing solutions for small businesses, they practice what they preach to their clients and survey their own customers quarterly. If the survey identifies a problem or an area where customer satisfaction isn’t high, VerticalResponse addresses the problem immediately—and then turns it into a positive self-promotion opportunity. Why customer surveys are a smart strategy

“I think the most important thing about a survey is the outreach after the survey,” says Janine Popick, CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. “We tell all of those customers who had a problem with us that we heard them and fixed it. We actually do call campaigns and email outreach, and get a really good response from it.”

Like Picoult, Popick also believes in focused, logical surveys that respect the survey taker’s time. A survey sent by email with a subject line that says “Take This Quick Survey” but which turns out to be 20 questions long isn’t likely to receive a warm welcome. However, exceptions exist.

“If you’re going to give away an iPad for a 40-question survey, that’s fine,” Popick says. “We’ve done surveys where we’ve given away the opportunity to win something substantial. Other times we’ve given a survey and just said, ‘Hey—please take a couple of minutes of your time to help us better our product.’ It depends on the survey. You just want to make them feel good about using their time to take it.” Why customer surveys are a smart strategy

Small business owners should survey their customer at least two to four times a year about something specific, Popick says. “If it’s a [brick-and-mortar] store, then you could ask about ways to improve your service or about how your employees are treating them or even whether they like the colors of your walls,” she adds. “You should want to know something about how your customers are feeling about your business on a regular basis.” Why customer surveys are a smart strategy

Survey help

It’s hard to estimate the cost of having an outside company conduct a survey for you. There are multiple variables involved, and a market research firm might conclude that another methodology is better suited to meet your objectives. In addition to the survey services offered by our experts, the following customer survey resources are also worth checking out:




Engage Clients on Houzz

Engage Clients on Houzz

by Erin McDermott.


Engage Clients on Houzz Amanda Bertele has a much simpler office these days.


As a designer, she spent years thumbing through stacks of magazines, brochures, and portfolios to get ideas for kitchens, bathrooms, and other home-interior projects to show customers. She asked clients to do the same, by keeping photos or ripped pages or color strips in scrapbooks so they could share their ideas. Engage Clients on Houzz


Now she’s got Houzz, and so do many of the customers at Superior Woodcraft in Doylestown, Pa. Bertele says she asks clients to add photos and comments to their online “ideabooks,” which both of them can see instantly. She shares projects that she finds inspiring, letting others in on her design sensibility and opening new conversations. Engage Clients on Houzz


“It’s completely changed the vocabulary of design,” Bertele says. “It used to be so time-consuming, a ton of work, and expensive to go out and buy all of those design books. Now, it’s ‘Go on Houzz. Save what you like and make comments.’ The images take away the barrier to what everyone’s trying to convey in words.” Engage Clients on Houzz


If you’ve yet to tune in, Houzz is a beautiful and highly addictive website that brings a social-media element to residential remodeling, design, decor, and landscaping. For users, it’s a resource book, inspiration point, and fantasy island for those looking to improve the look and feel of their homes. As of early 2013, more than 150 million photos have been uploaded that 14 million Houzzers comment on, ask questions about, or save to their ideabooks, which are personal stashes of images any member can hold for later reference. Engage Clients on Houzz


Houzz’s images come from nearly 250,000 businesses in the U.S. and Canada, showcasing their work, creativity, and goods—and serve as an entry point to interacting with clients and future clients. The site lets professionals ask and answer questions about products and projects and lets them chime in on lively discussions that include tradesmen, contractors, designers, as well as homeowners with an itch to upgrade. Engage Clients on Houzz


The site was launched in late 2009 by a husband and wife team who’d struggled to renovate their Bay Area home. Many Houzz pros interviewed for this article say they first learned of it by looking at their Google Analytics data—after Houzzers shared photos of their work and cited them as the designer, driving traffic to their website. It’s all proving to be a disruptor in the $300 billion a year home-remodeling market.


Houzz_PQ.jpgAnd that’s why it’s quickly become a must-have for anyone in a host of businesses, from architects and landscape artists to swimming pool installers, electrical contractors or anyone tied to just about every room in a house or apartment. Or even a dog house. (And the best news: it’s largely free. The site’s now accepting ads and there’s a paid tool, Houzz Pro+, that breaks down traffic statistics to individual pictures, for example.)  Engage Clients on Houzz


Engage Clients on Houzz How can you get your Houzz in order? Here are a few tips from other Houzz pros on using the site to engage customers:


Think of it as a communication tool.

Bertele says photos communicate in ways that words never can when it comes to a look or a feel that a homeowner is trying to achieve. She says Houzz bridges a gap between a designer’s technical knowledge and vocabulary and what a client is trying to express. While insiders may throw around words like mullion, Palladian window, or waterfall island, such terms can fly over the heads of customers. “Or someone can say ‘French Country‘ style, but that has so many different meanings,” she says, noting that’s something that can be easily cleared up with an image that establishes a common language. “If you don’t have good communication, you don’t have a happy client.” Engage Clients on Houzz


It’s also a much more nimble tool when compared with the steps required to update a business’s homepage. On Houzz, all you have to do is point, click to add to an ideabook, and voilà: your showcase is freshened up with a half-dozen new pictures of a completed job.


Show you’re a problem-solver

Jeffrey Veffer, a Toronto-based architect and co-owner of Incite Design, says the best ideabooks give clear explanations for how a project was commissioned and the clients’ expectations, which he says has elevated the dialogues he’s had with some Houzz-using customers. “Clients are coming to us with a bit more literacy in terms of style, which we find is helpful,” he says. “We’re advising people to use these sites to help clarify their ideas before they engage designers. And it enhances the value of what designers really do.”


By contributing to the site’s conversations and articles with his own expertise, Veffer says he hopes it shows potential clients his willingness to be involved and solve any inevitable issues that arise in a project, qualities that are highly sought after and can help to build an initial relationship.  Engage Clients on Houzz


Gloria Franklin, the Cleveland-based owner of Colom & Brit Interiors, agrees with that approach. In Houzz’s discussion section regarding design dilemmas, she often weighs in with possible solutions, sometimes including items from her own home accessories and furniture business, but more often with links to other room shots, to illustrate her point. “I’ve found that giving free and valuable content builds trust and a loyal following,” she says. Engage Clients on Houzz


Remember, it’s the Web

When you create your professional profile, fill out all available fields with the most up-to-date information, including your name and company, location, website, and personal Houzz page, if you wish. When a consumer does a search on the site, the Houzz algorithm puts a high value on the number and quality of the photos posted, the number of reviews from clients and colleagues, how many questions you’ve responded to, and if you have a Houzz badge—the widget to let clients link back—on your company’s site. Those with the most interactions become the top of the search results. Engage Clients on HouzzEngage Clients on Houzz


The rules of search-engine optimization apply here, too. When you post a photo, think about your keywords you’re using to describe what’s in it. More important, think about how a consumer would be searching. (Fun fact: The words “white kitchen” are among the most searched on the Internet.) If the standout element of a living room you’re highlighting is the red wallpaper, add “red living room” to the list. And consider the emotions that certain rooms might conjure for users and the words they’d use to describe it. Bertele says she was trying to come across a bedroom that she considered “rustic,” but had trouble locating the snapshot. She thought again and typed in “sexy bedrooms” and it popped right up.


Build up a community

All of this sharing—isn’t this just giving away your tricks of the trade? Not at all, says Robin Baron, an interior designer in New York whose page was voted Best of Houzz for 2013 by the site’s users. An industry veteran, she says roughly 80 percent of her clients are now Houzzing, and she finds it to be a huge improvement when hunting for just the right piece for a project and collecting the results in one place.


She answers all questions posed to her on the site and reports what materials she used in all of her photos, from furniture makers and chandeliers down to her color choices for the walls. “There’s no harm in giving them a paint number. I’ll give them the price category, and if it’s something they can afford or not is their decision,” Baron says. “It’s about building on the engagement.”


And that’s one of the keys to succeeding in social media, in Baron’s industry and elsewhere. On Twitter, Facebook, and Houzz, she often promotes other designers‘ projects, just as she refers out small jobs to fledgling colleagues whose work she appreciates. “Supporting each other is critical. The more that do well, then we all will do well,” she says. “It’s an important way to live your life—on Houzz and beyond!

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

3 Ways To Grow Your BusinessGoogle Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business Google “business networking” and you’ll see links to articles on how to increase your Facebook Likes and Twitter followers. Connecting with potential customers and business partners via social networking is, by now, an essential part of any company’s growth. Despite the skyrocketing impact of social media over the past decade, however, the importance of old-fashioned, face-to-face networking has not faded. Shaking hands at conferences and making chit chat at cocktail parties is still one of the best ways to expand your brand’s reach, build your business, and create vital partnerships. So, just how good are your networking skills? To turn that annual conference small talk into a critical company connection, look over this list of networking Dos and Don’ts.


DO research who is coming

If possible, look over the guest list for any conference or party and make a mental list of those folks you want to meet. Shawna Tregunna, founder and owner of ReSoMe.com, a social media company, explores who is coming online and uses social media to reach out to fellow attendees before the event. “I watch for mentions of [the event] on social media by hashtag or name. I also check out the guest list if it is public. If I see someone I want to connect with, I look for them on Twitter or LinkedIn and [send them a Tweet or message such as] ‘I see we are both headed to XYZ event! I would love to get a chance to say hi. Looking forward to connecting!’ Then, at the event, I have a list of people I know I will connect with,” says Tregunna. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DON’T be afraid to approach someone

“Take every advantage possible to meet new people,” says Lori Cheek, founder and CEO of Cheekd.com, a sort of reverse-engineered dating site that provides its members icebreakers they can use to introduce themselves to new people. “When attending networking events, I find that it’s most advantageous to go alone so that you’re forced to talk to new people,” suggests Cheek. “Understand everyone is there for a similar reason and, for the most part, want to make new connections, so don’t be shy—just walk up and introduce yourself. The only thing you have to lose is an opportunity.” Cheek also offers a reminder not to make quick judgments. “Efficiently communicate and never dismiss a single soul—you never know who you’re talking to, who they might know, or how they’d be able to contribute [to your company].” Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DO listen…and listen and listen

“Listen more than you talk. People invariably like someone who listens to them and makes them feel interesting and appreciated,” says Lisa Thompson, L.P.C., director of professional services for Pearson Partners International, Inc., a full-service retained executive search firm. Thompson suggests keeping your own story to a minimum. “Avoid immediately going into too much detail about what you offer. Unless they indicate a real interest by asking direct questions, you will bore them and they will want to escape,” suggests Thompson. “Practice describing what you do in just a couple of sentences.” Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DON’T stay in just your industry

Getting beyond the folks within your industry can benefit your company in surprising ways. New ideas for marketing partnerships, insight on fresh ways to approach sales, and more solid business opportunities may arise from chatting with someone in another field or specialty. “It pays dividends to diversify your connections. Raise your awareness of the circles you spend your time in and if the circles have become too narrow—one type of industry, one type of profession—make it a point to widen the circle from time-to-time,“ writes founder and CEO of Impact Instruction Group Amy Franko in her e-book 35 Tips to Build Lasting Strategic RelationshipsGoogle Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


SmallTalk_PQ.jpgDO take notes

Katie Shea, director of marketing at OrderGroove.com, a company that launches and manages subscription programs for major retailers, suggests taking a brief moment to take notes on people you meet. “If you are at a large networking event like a cocktail party
or fundraiser, it’s easy to collect dozens of cards, yet difficult to keep
track of all of the different two- to three-minute conversations,” says Shea. “After a few
conversations, take a break to write personal notes on the back of each
card you’ve received—[things like] ‘NYU alum, born in South Africa, avid traveler.’ Not only will this jog your memory of the conversation, but your new
contact is likely to be impressed that you remembered such a personal
detail about him or her during later conversations.”


DON’T get stuck in conversations

Having a few ideas on how to exit a conversation is just as important as having opening lines to start one. Being “trapped” with one person for too long means missed opportunities to connect with others. “Learn to handle networking vultures and elegantly get out of a conversation with someone who wants to stick with you,” suggests Thompson. “You might say there is someone across the room you just have to speak to, or introduce that person to another and move along, or have other possible strategies up your sleeve.”


DO follow up in person

Keep that brief conversation going after the event with another face-to-face meeting—even if you don’t see an immediate use for the relationship. “You’ve heard the saying that if you need a relationship, it’s usually too late to build it. It’s often why people end up feeling as though they’re being insincere, because continual relationship building isn’t a habit built into their everyday life,” notes Franko. “A quick conversation with a new contact is rarely a bad
thing, but where the deals happen is later down the road. Be sure to follow
up—offer to buy coffee, lunch, a drink—with those individuals that you
believe offer synergies to your business,” offers Shea. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

DON’T have an out-of-date online presence

To cultivate and grow relationships, many go beyond “just touching base” periodic emails. They build on that face-to-face networking with social media, which means it is vital your LinkedIn account is always up-to-date, and you are active on at least one social media channel. “I will connect with everyone within 48 hours [of an event] on LinkedIn with a unique greeting and ask for their other social channels so we can stay in touch,” notes Tregunna. “I then try to do mentions of them on social media if they are active – ‘Great meeting at on ! If you haven’t connected with them here you should try!’” That virtual connection keeps the lines of communication open and ready for future business opportunities that happen in person. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business