7 Interesting Ways Small Business can Use Social Media


When small business owners hear about social media their attention immediately goes to Facebook and Twitter. They think of social media as a place where customers go to gossip and complain about their businesses or where business owners can go to publicize their products. This limited view doesn’t do full justice to the potential social media holds for small businesses. There is lot more to social media than just Facebook postings and Twitter broadcasts. We showed how you can use other interesting social media tools as well as some emerging social media tools in earlier posts. In this post we will review how you can use those and other tools in interesting ways to improve your business.
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What can Small Businesses Learn from Netflix Mistakes


If you have been following business news in the last few months you know that Netflix is going through rough times. Their loyal customers are cancelling accounts in droves and the stock price that was around $300 just 6 months ago is now hovering around $70, wiping out almost $10 Billion in market value. Ouch!!
So what happened? Well, everything that could go wrong did. On one hand, the business of movie rental is going through massive shift – from DVD to streaming video and the competition is increasing with large companies including Apple, Amazon and Google entering the market. On the other hand, Netflix picked wrong time to make changes to their business model and made big gaffes in communicating to their customers.
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Small Business Lessons from $100,000 Salt and Pepper Shaker


I am reading this fascinating book “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, who used to be a professor in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. The book is a compilation of his thoughts and experiences he delivered as a last lecture to the students after he found out that he had a terminal pancreatic cancer with only few months to live. It describes many of his experiences in life – from childhood to the end. I highly recommend this book for summer reading.
One of the interesting incidents he describes occurred during their family visit to Disney World when he was a 12 year old. In that he and his sister buy a salt and pepper shaker for $10 for their father with all of their pocket money. However, before they can give it to him he drops it on the ground and breaks it. Very disappointed, they go back to the store with little or no hope of getting a replacement. To their amazement and disbelief, however, the store employee happily gives them the replacement without any charge even though he explains that it was all his fault and Disney had nothing to do with it.
When his father hears the story he becomes a devoted fan of Disney. He continues to take not only his kids, but people from his volunteer group to Disneyland for many years, spending approximately $100,000 according to his estimate.
There are two important lessons to be learned for small business owners from this incident. First has to do with customer service and the other with employees.
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Ductz – Champion of Customer Service and Marketing


If you have been a regular reader of this blog you know that we are strong proponent of customer service and “non-traditional” marketing to improve sales and customer loyalty. We strongly believe that by paying attention to customer service and marketing with emphasis on fundamentals of products and services you can not only significantly improve sales but do so with lower marketing budget.
We are always on the lookout for companies that follow this approach and came across one such company last month at a customer service seminar at IKEA in Canton, MI where I was presenting. I met Dayn Benson, who is Director of Operations at air duct cleaning and HVAC restoration franchise called DUCTZ. Ductz has garnered number of accolades and experienced rapid growth in a short time after being founded in 2002. It was ranked No. 1 in its category by Entrepreneur magazine’s recently released 30th Annual Franchise 500.
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Every Customer Contact is an Opportunity to Sell


I simply find it amazing and annoying to see how many companies make their customers wait on the phone when they call them for customer service. Customers could be calling them with a question on the product or make a suggestion for improvement or even place an order! Yet they have to wait listening to the repetitive message that reminds them how important their phone call is to them. Oh Really!!! Just imagine what is going on in customer’s mind, your mind during this time – “God save me from this misery. Bring some human soul I can talk to.”
Many businesses have sacrificed customer service in the name of efficiency and automation in the last 5 years. The so called advances in voice recognition have made matters even worse. Now it’s not just a matter of punching numbers on the phone keypad. The machine will interact with you as if it understands, or at least pretends to, all your questions – “Hello. I can help you find anything you are looking for today. What can I do for you?” My answer – “how about finding a human being somewhere in your company?”
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How many Lifetime Customers does Your Business have?


Companies like Verizon and AT&T have millions of customers who have been with them for many years. These companies spend a lot of money in acquiring new customers. For example, they give new customers subsidized phones in return for them signing a 2-year contract. Many customers continue to remain with the company after the initial 2-year contract term is over. The reason they can spend money to acquire new customers is because they have guaranteed return for at least the initial contract term. This is what Seth Godin is referring to when he talks about embracing this concept of lifetime customer value.
Most small businesses, however, do not have luxury of asking customers to sign up for a contract. They have to do hand-to-hand combat with their competitors one customer at a time every day. For proof, download a report from your POS system showing how many customers have not ordered in the last 90 days. You may be surprised to find that more than 70% of your total customers have not come back to your business in the last 90 days. And you are not alone. Most small businesses have far less repeat customers than what their owners would like to think.
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7 Steps to a Great Customer Service


A business cannot sustain competitive advantage for long time based on product and price alone. Competition eventually will find a way to beat you on that game. Competitive advantage built on customer service, however, cannot easily be copied. For proof look no further than Zappos.com. Here is an E-commerce company that sells shoes, of all the items, on the Internet. However, with a laser like focus on customer service it is selling a billion dollar worth of them annually!
After consulting with number of small business owners over past several years we have come up with a 7-step process that companies need to adopt to achieve the success enjoyed by Zappos. It will not be easy to follow these principles all the time and success will not come overnight. However, when you do master them you will have a lasting success that your competitors will find difficult to beat.
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How to Combat External Forces Working against Your Business


In the previous post we highlighted external market forces that can drive you out of business if you are not careful. The changes in economy, competition and consumer habits have hurt many small business owners in the last few years and can bring down sales and profit for your small business too.
To be fair, these external forces impact both large and small business alike; however small business owners feel this impact in a more profound way. Also, the small business owners can feel the impact very quickly. After all, unlike large businesses they do not have large financial cushion to withstand the impact. They also have their personal and business lives intertwined with the business. This will make it hard not for themselves; but also for others around them, including spouse, children and friends.
How can small business owners prepare themselves to be able to withstand the impact better than their peers?
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Why Embracing KISS Principle Leads to Happiness


KISS -Keep It Simple Stupid.
Many small business owners like to take the road less simple. If a task takes 2 steps to finish they will manage to stretch it to 10 steps. They are wired to think complex. We have pondered on the question for some time – when you are running a small business should you opt for a simple operation or a complex one?
You can see the examples of simple and complex operations in franchises as well. On one hand you have a pizza franchise such as Little Caesar’s – home of $5 Pepperoni Pizza with no delivery. On other side there is Pizza Hut with large number menu items and toppings and it not only has carry out; but also delivery and dine-in. Which one is easier operation to run?
There are number of reasons why you should try to keep things as simple as possible.
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How Can your Employees Help Improve Sales


It is our belief that your employees can help improve sales at your business by more than 20% if you help them help you. Most business owners don’t really think of their employees as ones who can help them improve sales; however the front line employees – the ones that interact with customers – can make a big difference in improving your business. These employees are talking to and interacting with your customers all the time. They are responsible for making your customers come back by providing great customer service. In short, they are representing your brand and your business.
So what are the specific ways in which your employees can help improve sales? In our experience of running business for 5 years we have come across multiple opportunities.

  1. They can make your existing customers come back by providing excellence customer service.
  2. They can also help bring new customers by word-of-mouth from existing ones.
  3. They can help you up-sell and cross-sell at the point of order taking and payment.
  4. They are aware of where opportunities exist for improvement in customer service and operations.

It is your responsibility as business owner to make this happen. You have to provide them with the necessary resources and incentives that will motivate them to give their best in front of customers. We have identified below several areas that you need to address.
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