Category Archives: Business & Marketing

Will your small business survive another recession?

While many still fear to admit, analysts report that much of the world has entered into what we call “a double dip recession” that has snowballed since the third quarter of 2011. While Europe and the United States are seen as most vulnerable regions in this downhill economy, other countries like Canada, Singapore, and China have seemed to wiggle their way to recovery somewhat faster than their neighbors.

In such a volatile market and insecure trading ground around the world, small businesses seem to be on either side of the fence – those that fold overnight and those that gain sustainable advantage and beat the competition. As a small business owner, protecting your assets and holding the front while the storm passes through is critical to ensuring that you will be one of those left after the gray skies have cleared.

Since small businesses do not have abundant cash flow to support operations in a recession, a key transition, to preventing getting in debt and defaulting on loans, is to cut losses early in the race. Without sufficient orders or sales receipts to cover operating overhead and staff wages, necessary measures have to be taken to ensure that money is well-spent and any extras are reduced. While many businesses begin cutting back on marketing and advertising budgets first, a core business element that will continue to attract new customers should not be reduced significantly. Instead, start cutting from unneeded storage space, operating tools or units, and excess inventory supplies.

Make full use of liquidating inventory and assets that do not need to be sitting in storage. Offering sales discounts and promotions is a great way to move inventory faster than you normally would. Closing in on quick sales, even if it’s at a smaller margin than planned, is vital at keeping the business alive. Be careful not to seem like you are “dumping” stock in a flurry because of fear of a recession. Time all discounts and offers to be able to sustain your business throughout a downtime.

It is true that no one can really predict and plan to manage a small business perfectly in a recession, but taking the necessary measures to preserve a sustainable business model and weather out this economic downturn is the key to surviving another recession.

Of course, the last vital strategy to helping your business is to refrain from investing liquid cash that can be kept aside as emergency funds for your business. It is wise to stay away from the fluctuating investment market in these difficult times anyway, and cash in-hand is always better for a small business owner at this point.

Take the test! Do you know what countries were the least affected by the recession in 2010?

http://www.sporcle.com/games/bigbear07/2010_recession

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Customer Service – The forgotten business essential

In today’s challenging consumer marketplace, businesses constantly compete to provide value-added services, quality merchandise, and astonishing discounts that can earn them the lion’s share of the market. Though, it seems that amongst all the competition and cut-throat survival strategies, many companies have forgotten the importance of offering basic, supportive customer service.

Have you recently experienced a longer-than-usual wait time trying to service your phone, or maybe you can’t seem to get a “live” customer service person on the phone to check your credit card balance?

Can you barely understand the guy on the other end of the line that you are trying to order a pizza from?

How about not being able to find anyone to tell you if this pot was microwave-safe, or if no one is available to get you the right size to try on a pair of shoes?

It is a fact. The quality of customer service everywhere around the world is dwindling and companies are not doing anything about it. Businesses are constantly trying to better their bottom-line, and this has resulted in lower wages, less experienced workers, and poorer customer care for frustrated, agitated customers waiting in line.

To make matters worse, companies are constantly outsourcing customer service call centers offshore to countries such as India and the Philippines. These  call centers not only manage numerous clients using the same personnel, many of their workers have never even been to the country that their callers are from, hence not being able to understand the culture, mentality, or situation of callers and the issues they might be facing. Offshore call centers also tend to have their own native accent. While most of them are trained to speak in either British or American English, it is still difficult to understand them at times due to their underlying accents.

Local customer service personnel face a completely different problem altogether. Many companies hire untrained students or foreign labor to bring the cost of their customer service center down. With inadequate training and the inability to understand the customer, many in-person customer service representatives fail to effectively target the issue or address a customer’s need. Without proper training, representatives are unable to access situations or tend to customer demands efficiently. Some do not even compose themselves in a professional manner, bringing the reputation of the company down.

In such a competitive market, businesses cannot overlook this basic consumer need and still expect to stay ahead. Customers are becoming increasingly smarter and quicker to judge, leaving no room for error or poor service. It is important that small businesses and startups who want to set themselves apart begin training their staff from the very beginning. The small investment in customer service courses and workshops will prove beneficial and reap rewards to tremendous ways.

 

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Offline and Online Marketing: Why You Need Both

When it comes to your online business, you can never get enough attention, so marketing has to be a high priority. It does not matter if your business offers the best services, the best products, and the best price. If no one knows about your business it will fail. Both online and offline marketing campaigns have something positive to offer your business, so using an integrated approach to promotion is the key to your businesses success.

Online Marketing

Your online marketing campaign has to begin with an SEO friendly site that is recognized by the major search engines. The majority of your traffic will derive from the search engine results, but there are other methods to drive traffic to your site.

  • Link To Other Websites
    This method is used to help drive traffic to your site from other websites that offer like-minded services or products. Do not use link exchange programs that will link you to any other site. Be sure that you have the ability to choose what sites you will be linked to.
  • E-mail Campaigns
    E-mail campaigns can be sent out cold, but it is best to have an e-mail list of potential clients to save time and money. You can create a company newsletter or even have a request for e-mail addresses on your site.
  • Blogs or Discussion Groups
    Create a blog or a discussion group on your site. This is a great way to get others talking. Keep content fresh and new on your site and also a place where you can insert promotions, ads, campaigns, and other special offers.
  • Submit To Article Directories
    Submit articles to directories. These are usually high ranking sites that get a lot of attention in the search engine results. You can leave a link to your site at the end of the article in the about the author box and gain the traffic from your targeted audience.

Offline Marketing

Offline marketing consists of a variety of campaigns but should start with a company logo, letterheads, business cards, and flyers for special offers or promotions. Offline marketing is usually more expensive than online marketing, but it can generate a great deal of leads and sales for your business. Other methods of offline marketing include:

  • Radio Advertisement
  • Television Advertisements
  • Billboards
  • Newspaper Advertisements
  • Telemarketing
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What Your Website Says About Your Company

When you are planning on taking your business to the World Wide Web, a website is the first step to your success. With more than a billion websites on the internet, your web design has to be innovative, professional, and properly marketed to be able to compete. One of the first mistakes internet businesses make is creating a website that does not properly represent their business. Don’t take any short cuts when it comes to your businesses success. Do it right and the results will be rewarding.

Always Be Professional

Your website is for your business, so keep it professional. This does not mean that you cannot have fun. It means, the first impression that visitors get from your site should be professional with a clear message as to what type of business you conduct. If you are planning on creating a website on your own, and know little about web design, that will show through and might lead people to believe you know little about the business you are running. Unless, you have extensive knowledge of how to create a professional and functioning website, leave the design to the professionals.

Be Clear About Your Business

When visitors first enter your website, they should know exactly who you are and what you do. There are some anticipating tactics that will help drive visitors to your site, so they can find out exactly what you are all about. If you make the message too difficult to retrieve, most will leave without ever finding out what that message is.

Include an “about us” page that explains more about the company, and always make your front page clear about what your business is offering.  Don’t overload your page with irrelevant links, jokes, pictures, or text. This will create a red flag for Google and your ranking will suffer dramatically. Google, and the other major search engines love websites that are properly represented, so keep this in mind when planning out your marketing strategy.

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Free Ways To Increase Sales

Do you want to increase your company’s profitability? You might think that more traffic to your website is the answer, but without effective lead generation campaigns, compelling offers, and effective calls to action, you will never turn that traffic into profit.

Marketing campaigns and advertisement can be expensive, so below are a few ideas on how to increase your sales with little or no cost to your company:

  • Be Clear About Your Offers
    One of the most common reasons traffic leaves a website before purchasing anything is confusion. If someone enters your website, and the message of what you are offering is unclear, in most cases, they will leave rather than investigate. So, be sure that your landing page is clear and that any offers on the page are easy to understand.
  • Re-Position Your Calls-to-Action
    If you have special offers on your page, the best positioning is before the fold on your website. Studies have proven that more than half of the traffic that visits a new website will never scroll down to the bottom portion of the page. This is why it is important to have any calls-to-action towards the top of your page in order for them to generate more leads and potential sales.
  • Use More Images
    Images stand out more than text and will keep a potential customer interested longer.  This can even create more enticement for them to check out the offer.
  • Use Blog Sites To Promote
    If you don’t have a blog site on your website, get one. You can use the blog to promote your business, create special offers, and, of course, generate more profit from the leads.
  • Offer Freebies
    Offering freebies is a great way to generate profit. It can gain the trust of a potential customer and earn your company the reputation it needs to succeed.
  • Use Bundling Offers
    If you are selling products on your site, use the bundling method to gain more profits. If you offer a customer a discount, when purchasing more than one item or free shipping on orders over an x amount, you can earn more profits without spending a dime out of pocket.
  • Always Show Appreciation To Your Customers
    Always send out a “thank you” to your customers. Follow up after the sale to ensure they are satisfied, and let them know they are important to you and your business. People love to feel acknowledged and such a simple gesture can go a long way. This is how you gain repeat customers. It is much cheaper to keep a customer than it is to find a new one.
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