Improve Your Business by Listening to Customer Stories


In the previous several posts here , here and here we have discussed how looking at performance metrics helps understand how your business is performing. We also mentioned that you should be looking at the reports on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to stay on top of your business.
The reason you want to look at the metrics is simple – numbers don’t lie; people do. However, from our experience as past business owners we have noticed that numbers tell only part of the story when trying to assess business performance. The metrics tell you what is happening to the business. They don’t tell you why. You have to dig deeper to understand why the numbers are what they are. For example, let’s say you are looking at sales going down for the last several weeks. You want know why this is happening. Further investigation shows that the customer count has been declining in that same period. But this still doesn’t tell you why customers are not coming to your business leading to declining sales. It may be because they are not being served well; maybe there is another competitor in town and so on.
So how do you go about collecting the anecdotal stories to understand the reasons behind the numbers? There are several ways you can do this.
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5 Fundamental Rules of Marketing for Small Business Owners


Many small business owners we have met have misconceptions about marketing. They think of marketing as doing flashy advertising with catchy pictures and some coupons in newspaper insert or with a direct mail company. This underestimates the power of marketing and the value good marketing can bring to your small business.
We ourselves have fallen into this trap when we owned businesses in the past. The reason many small business owners, including ourselves, do this is because of lack of time and lack of understanding of what marketing is all about. We have thought long and hard about this when we operated small business and afterward. Based on that we have come up with 5 fundamental rules of marketing that when used properly are sure to improve your sales. Here they are in no particular order:
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Go Above and Beyond Customer Expectations


I came across this interesting article showing examples of excellent customer service from some of the companies you may already know. I am sure we all have experienced this type of customer service in our daily lives. Usually, it is easy to find this with small mom-and-pop businesses that are close to their customers and know them by names. We wrote one such example in my personal life not too long ago here.
We have come across some more well-known companies that strive to provide the best customer service every day. Below we have listed some of them along with examples of why they are famous for their customer service.
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More Ways to Pamper Your Best Customers


In the previous blog post we argued that for many small businesses their best customers contribute more than 30% of sales and profit even when they make up only 10% of total customer. We said that you have to make these customers feel special by giving them special treatment and recognizing them.
In this post we will explore additional ways by which you can treat your best customers in a special fashion.
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How to Pamper Your Best Customers


As we mentioned in the previous post on “Do you know who your best customers are?” for many small businesses their best customers contribute more than 30% of sales and profit even when they make up only 10% of total customer. Not only this; but there is additional benefit they generate for your business that is equally important. They are also your evangelists. They bring in additional business by spreading word about your business to their friends and families.
Given the importance of these customers to your business it is imperative that you take good care of them and give them special treatment. These are, after all, the customers that will help you grow your business.
So how do you treat these customers well and pamper them? The key to remember, when taking care of these customers, is to make them feel special. After all, they are kind of special to your business! You should not limit yourself to discount and free products when providing them special treatment; although they are important. You should also think about intangibles such as recognition, appreciation, etc.
Below we have listed several ways by which you can pamper your best customers and make them feel special. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section.
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10 Questions You must Ask in Customer Survey


In the previous post on “How to Hold onto Your Existing Customers” we mentioned that regular customer feedback is one of the important tools you should use to keep a pulse on your business and understand how your customers perceive the value they are getting from you. The customer feedback also will raise any red flags that you need to address before they get out of control and the business is deteriorated significantly.
There are several avenues you can use to get customer feedback. If you have a web site for the business you can use the online poll using free survey tools such as Surveymonkey , Free Online Surveys. If you have a physical store you can use a simple typed form that customers can fill in while they are waiting. Even social media sites such as Facebook have poll utilities you can use to get customer feedback.
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How can you Hold on to your Existing Customers


As mentioned in previous post most businesses lose large percent of their customers on a regular basis. We identified several reasons why customers leave. In this post we want to give you tips on how to make sure you retain large portion of your existing customers.
Losing a customer can cost you lot more than you realize. Research shows that it costs multiple times over to get new customers than to hold onto existing ones. You have to spend money on marketing and advertising as well as offer them incentives to come to you again. Our advice to all business owners is this – DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO TO HOLD ON TO YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS.
Here are the steps that show how you can accomplish this:
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Do you know Why your Customers are Dumping you?


If history is any guide; you will lose about 20% of your current customers by the end of the month and 40% by the end of the year. I know it sounds terrible; but that’s fact of life. While 30-40% of sales for any business come from existing customers; the rest comes from customers using revolving door. They will come and go for a variety of reasons.
This customer churn can be costly for your business. You need to constantly recruit new customers to fill the gap left by those customers who have dumped you. This costs money reducing your profit. It is said that it is 4 times more expensive to get new customer compared to retaining the existing one. We will look at the ways to stop customers from dumping you in a later post; but let’s understand why they leave you in the first place. The reasons are quite varied and some are easier to correct than others.
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What can you learn from Zappos.com’s $1.6 Million Mistake


If you are not standing by your core values at the time of crisis and instead take a myopic view of the situation you will miss out on building a long-term, thriving business. Just look at what Zappos, the popular shoe site, went through on May 23, 2010. It lost $1.6 Million dollars within matter of hours. But it’s what it did afterward that is the real story.
For those who don’t know Zappos; it is an online web site that sells shoes. In the process it has built a Billion dollar business!! It has done this by focusing on core tenets of providing exceptional customer service at any cost. Amazon.com just bought the company last month for $928 million.
So what happened?
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Does Your Business have Social Media Strategy?


If you don’t have a strategy to deal with Internet and social media you might be in a danger of losing lot of business. Just look at this article in Detroit Free Press past Saturday. To summarize the article – a student from Western Michigan University claims his car was illegally towed from his apartment complex by the tow truck company. He created a Facebook page to fight with the towing company and attracted 11,000 “fans” on the page; who joined him in the revolt saying they too had similar complaints against this company. The result was that that towing company lost half of its commercial accounts.
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