Business Success in Just 5 Easy Steps!

Personal touches, like sending a follow up thank you note or a small gift via snail mail after a purchase, go a long way toward customer loyalty.

Whether you’re at the head of a large corporation or a small, but sharp neighborhood operation, try these ideas on for size to increase customer loyalty and put the building blocks for success into place:

Always keep three business opportunities on your desk.  This might sound difficult, but it’s not once you get started and keep the opportunity list top of mind.

Nothing matters much until money changes hands.Nothing happens until we get the check,” is a mantra that can save you from having a lot of leftover inventory.

Follow the 2-2-2 Rule. Every day, do two things that will pay off in two weeks, two things that should pay off in two months, and two things that might yield results in two years. The beauty of this idea is that it sets up a success cycle, even in rough economic times.

Communicate regularly with current customers without selling at them. Send thank you notes, holiday cards, newspaper clippings, and emails with links that might help them in their businesses.

Figure out which customers will be good for your business and which ones won’t. This is not an easy task, but one that will save you time and money down the road.

Bonus Tip: Find experts who can actually help you with your business. Splurge on the best accountant, insurance person or business advisor you can find. They will help you in ways you would never expect.

To read the entire article, please visit www.forbes.com.

Online Customer Reviews Gaining Momentum

With the popularity of online reviews, most shoppers these days peruse what other shoppers have to say before committing to a purchase.

The way consumers make decisions has dramatically changed over the last decade. While standing in a store, we can now compare prices and access buyer feedback using our Smartphones.

With reviews already such an important part of the buying process, it’s easy to see how reliance on them will only increase in the future. According to Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report, online consumer reviews are already the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging, with 70 percent of global consumers indicating they trust online reviews, an increase of 15 percent in four years.

Over the next few years, we can expect to see the anonymity of reviews fade away and instead become linked to shoppers’ real identities on Facebook, Twitter or other social media channels. This will be beneficial for both retailers and consumers, adding a layer of credibility vs. anonymity.

Here are several predictions retailers will need to fully understand in the near future, in order to be prepared for evolving consumer buying:

  • All reviews will eventually be linked to social networks
  • Shoppers will turn to their friends’ reviews first
  • Reviews will be aggregated by reviewer
  • Reviews will be personalized
  • All formats will become compatible

Chances are that you already rely heavily on reviews in making your own purchase decisions – you can make a good bet that your customers are already doing the same.

To read the entire article, please visit www.entrepreneur.com.

The IoT’s influence on Brand-Consumer Relationships

As the Internet of Things (IoT) grows and more items are added to the circle of connectivity, the relationship between consumers who use the objects and the brands that manufacture them will invariably change.

For businesses looking to stay relevant in the era of IoT, learning to manage and leverage the new dynamic in brand-consumer relationships will be key.

Here are three ways these relationships are already changing, as well as how businesses are adapting to the IoT:

1. The IoT creates direct brand-consumer channels

With the possibility of countless objects in our lives going online, simplicity and ease of use are key to maintaining the value of IoT. Product management applications allow for the remote control of objects from a single device, keeping it manageable for consumers and creating an additional benefit for brands.

2. Data streams offer ways to improve the brand-consumer relationship

The real value of the IoT for businesses and consumers alike is the continuous stream of data that will be created from connected objects. Harnessing this data presents an opportunity for brands to improve their product and targeting strategies.

Finding ways to capture, store, and then derive meaningful insights from these perpetual data streams presents challenges to businesses. To meet this challenge, businesses are turning to consumer identities and cloud-based databases.

3. Security and privacy necessitates trust-based consumer-brand relationships

Concerns over IoT security and privacy are shared by the majority of the global population. For brands, nurturing consumer trust in the IoT is a two-step process. First, businesses must take concrete action to guarantee infrastructural security and data privacy. Second, businesses must transparently communicate what these actions mean to consumers.

To read the entire article, please visit www.business2community.com.

Want to Snag a Customer for Life? Here’s how!

Ask yourself: do you want short-term customers or customers for life?

Here’s what you can do to ensure that your customers want to keep coming back:

Turn No into Maybe

It’s only a matter of time before a customer asks you to sell something that you don’t already offer, but might be able to. Perhaps it’s variation on a product you offer or different delivery terms. Great salespeople will turn the no into a maybe.

Realize Problems Are Good for Sales

Problems can be costly if they are not handled correctly. Instead of avoiding them, face them head on by acknowledging them without delay. Information and communication are critical when your customers have a problem.

Prove What You’re Worth

Talk is cheap. Great salespeople show their customers just how much they’ve helped reduce a cost, avoid a cost or increase revenue. Start keeping score on the value you bring your customers.

Be Easy to Work With

Do you even know how easy you are to work with? You can remove customer obstacles when you know what your customer experiences. Ask your customers what makes it difficult for them to work with you and resolve to improve your process.

Give Them What They Want

Some customers are only concerned with on time deliveries and correct billing. Others want your help to implement programs and use your products to their fullest potential. Do you know which customer is which?

Doing things that consistently engage and satisfy your customers will go a long way toward making them lifetime customers.

To read the entire article, please visit www.experts.allbusiness.com.

4 Productivity Improvement Strategies

Regardless of what business you’re in or what your goals are, productivity is extremely important. In a time of constant movement, constant communication, and continual pursuit of achievement, we seldom feel we are ahead of that long to-do list, no matter how many completed tasks we record at the end of the day.

Here are four approaches to improving productivity and results:

1. 80/20 everything. Pareto’s Law states 80 percent of the outputs result from 20 percent of the inputs. If you take 10 of the tasks and activities you want to get done, two of them will produce more results than the other eight combined.

2. Most things don’t matter. Most things make no difference and aren’t moving your progress or business forward. Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, but is far more unpleasant. Being more thoughtful and selective about choosing what actions we make priorities is a reliable path to being highly productive.

3. Doing something unimportant well doesn’t make it any more important. Activities that are not connected to an outcome or purpose are the drain of all fulfillment and fortune. The value of what you do is most important, followed by how you do it.

4. Put time limits on everything. Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will become bigger in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.

Most inputs are useless and time is wasted in proportion to the amount that is available. If you have 12 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution. You have no choice but to do only the essentials that actually matter. If you have a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of validation, excuses, and procrastination – followed by one day of rushed work. If you have a month, it becomes a mental monster.

There is magic and high value in deadlines. Deadlines bring equal or higher quality results, sooner, by encouraging greater focus.

To read the entire article, please visit www.entrepreneur.com.

Team Building & Coaching in 9 Easy Steps

Building a killer team is crucial to your success as an entrepreneur.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Look for real talent. Hire people who are smarter and have more experience than you.
  2. Seek out different skill sets. When you’re building a small team, it’s incredibly important that each member bring something different to the table.
  3. Avoid the temptation to micromanage. Everyone needs direction and management, but no one likes to be micromanaged.
  4. Hire people that believe in your product. You can’t teach an employee to care. If they aren’t thrilled by the opportunity to work with you, take a pass.
  5. Recognize that different people have different goals. For some, it’s money. For others, it’s recognition.
  6. Set the bar high. Everyone should be on the same page with regard to what you expect and hope for.
  7. Create a safe space. Take the time and effort to create an open, welcoming environment.
  8. Never stop learning. Make educating your team a priority.
  9. Don’t forget to celebrate your achievements as a group. There will be lots of small successes along the way.

To read the entire article, please visit www.entrepreneur.com.

Your Guide to a Light Bulb Moment

Have you ever noticed that when you walk away from a problem for a while, a new idea or solution just pops into your head out of nowhere? Sometimes, you just need a break if you’ve hit a creative wall.

Watching the cursor blink endlessly isn’t a solution, so try these ideas out and see where it leads your creativity:

Get some sleep. Just like a car needs gas to drive, your brain needs sleep to fire on all cylinders to function properly. Sleep consolidates what you’ve learned throughout the day, strengthening neural connections and creating new ones.

Start moving. Exercise has long been associated with better thinking, such as improvements in memory and attention, along with increased creativity. It’s possible that walking works by naturally improving your mood and creativity is known to improve when you’re feeling good.

Grab a partner. While Rodin’s solitary thinker may be the quintessential emblem of a creator, a growing body of research indicates the power of the duo. Pairs are built for fluidity and flexibility, notes Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of the forthcoming book, Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs, and they’re a social structure that allows idea to flourish.

Break out of your comfort zone. New and different experiences that prompt you to break out of your comfort zone work wonders for exposing you to new ideas and people, expanding your knowledge base, and opening up the opportunity to see alternate possibilities.

No matter what problem you’re trying to solve or masterpiece you’re working to create, practice the skills required to get the job done. Consistent effort and learning from your inevitable mistakes are key for breaking through your inner turmoil and coming up with a creative solution.

Space out. One of the best ways to solve a problem, experts suggest, is to stop thinking about it. Letting the unconscious mind work its magic may do more than just help with novel idea generation; it can also help you identify which of your ideas are the most creative.

To read the entire article, please visit www.qz.com.