What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You!
Companies lose billions of dollars every year simply because of:
- Employee behavior
- Lousy customer service
- Employee theft
- Poor safety practices
- Bad accounting procedures
It is important for small business owners to recognize the need to be "proactive” with regards to loss prevention. Mystery shopping is a very effective marketing tool, especially in the restaurant, retail, property management and hotel industries by helping companies proactively reduce losses and guard their assets.
Businesses pay millions of dollars per year in advertising. Getting customers in the door is only the first step. Once they are there, you want to make sure their shopping experience is a good one and that they are indeed receiving the quality of service you want to be delivering. How can you make sure your customers receive the service they come to expect? Mystery shopping can provide you with the answers you need.
What Businesses Use Mystery Shopping?
Many industries can benefit from using mystery shopping services to evaluate their customer service, product presentation, quality of service, business maintenance, how long it takes to be waited on, employee friendliness, and to find out if their employees are adhering to the policies put in place by business owners and/or management.
Mystery shopping can be used as a training tool. One suggestion is to present awards to staff members who get high scores. Another option is to use the mystery shopping reports to follow management performance. Although it is recommended that employees know you have a mystery shopping program in place, they won't know if a customer they are waiting on is a mystery shopper.
It is interesting how I learned about the benefits of mystery shopping for small business owners. I have a client who is a loss prevention consultant. In providing services for him and through our many phone conversations and email exchanges, I had one of my "duh" moments. His services are beneficial to the same target market my services are geared to – that market being small business owners.
So, although I will be recommending his company for loss prevention/mystery shopping services, there is value in this industry's offerings to small business owners and it is for this reason I am sharing this information with my readers.
NW Loss Prevention Consultants offers consulting services to small businesses in the areas of loss prevention, mystery shopping services, and pre-employment background checks. NWLPC has recently added a new service- IPhone and Mystery Shopping.
Watch the video below to find out about this neat and effective new service. BTW – I created this video for NWLPC and found it a little scary that a phone is smarter than I am . Enjoy!
The ME Generation
The second part is actually expected as why should anyone buy something because it is good for someone else?
The instant gratification part? I am not so sure that this is a good thing. How does one learn to have patience and develop a mindset of working towards a desired goal when they become accustomed to getting anything and everything whenever they want it? But I digress…
As a small business owner, you absolutely have to do a complete 180 in order to successfully promote your brand. It is no longer about YOU, it is 100% about THEM – meaning your potential customers. It is sometimes easy to forget about this fact when defining marketing messages, creating marketing collateral, writing website content, etc. It doesn't even matter what you "think" your target audience wants; it is more about how it is totally essential for you to "know" what they want because if you don't, your message will fall on deaf ears.
Remember, in an age where people are bombarded by marketing messages in every medium available today, you want to make sure your message is compelling enough to stand out and relevant enough for anyone to stop and listen.
Watch this entertaining video below from MarcTV about press releases and what I like to call the "DUH" factor. Enjoy
Linkedin is a very powerful professional ONLY networking site. Unlike Facebook which is HUGE having a Google page rank of 10/10 and an Alexa rating of 2, Linkedin doesn't share photos of our children, latest vacations and what we had for breakfast with our professional connections. To me, this is a good thing
How can we make sure we are utilizing our Linkedin profile to its fullest potential? Shari Weiss in her blog post How to Improve Your Linked ROI By Tweaking Your Profile offers some extremely valuable tips such as giving special attention to your profile headline and status updates.
Check out her article and get started enhancing and maximizing your Linkedin profile.
What is your “personal brand”? This is an area of growing concern in today’s times as more and more people participate and engage in social networking. Before the Internet revolution, the term “brand” was only used in the context of the business world.
The word “brand” brings to mind many variations of the same concept such as: “trade name”, “trademark”, and “a name, sign, symbol, or slogan”. Essentially a brand from a corporate perspective is the embodiment of anything and everything the company says, does, doesn’t say, doesn’t do, how they say it, what others say about them, how others perceive them, etc. The phrase “you are your brand” most effectively exemplifies this concept.
Fast forward to 2010 and this age of transparency to look at the term “brand” in the perspective it is used today. This is where the concept of “personal branding” plays a crucial role. Social media networking has enabled everyone to have their own personal brand by way of publicly sharing anything and everything they “say” on the World Wide Web. If you cut through all the semantics and take this concept of personal branding down to the most basic level, what you are left with is simply what is commonly referred to as your “reputation”. Your personal brand is your reputation.
What happens in this advanced age of technology and social media marketing to a company’s brand reputation when their employees have their own personal brand? This topic was discussed and debated at great length in Fortune Magazine’s article Building your brand (and keeping your job) by Josh Hyatt. Josh spoke about Scott Monty, Ford’s first global digital and multimedia communications manager and his use of social media to promote his own personal brand and Ford’s corporate brand. In summary, Scott was a social media guru with a high degree of credibility and 3,500 Twitter followers prior to accepting a position with Ford and had already earned his personal brand reputation. Scott used his social influence to further the goals of Ford and enhance their brand synergistically with his own brand. A perfect match!
What ensued after this article was published was an incredible amount of criticism about the way the author portrayed Scott Monty which is really not relevant to the topic of this post. This author sees the mutually-beneficial business relationship between Scott and Ford as an example of how to handle our new age of business that we find ourselves in today. It works for Scott and it works for Ford making this a win-win proposition.
However, more often than not, employees don’t capitalize on their personal brand to enhance the image of the company they work for. This is not to say that they wouldn’t want to help out their company, but rather to imply that many people use social media for their own personal use that has nothing to do with where they work. Yet companies are concerned with how their brand may be affected by an employee’s use of social media. Some companies prohibit their employees from using social networking sites in an effort to avert any damage that might be done to their corporate brand.
The solution to this potential problem is quite simple. If people would understand the impact their written word has and use good judgment in what they post, there would be no problem. Fortune Magazine also featured a case study called Edit Thyself, a very befitting title. The study discusses a young woman who was just “letting out some frustration” when she Tweeted something about her boss that got her fired. Moral of this story: Don’t let out your frustration in PUBLIC because EVERYONE will see it. Call a friend instead which is exactly what this young woman learned from her experience.
The bottom line here is, when using social media, remember that anything and everything you write can and will be read by anyone and everyone. Yes, some of the social networking sites like Facebook have privacy controls set-up, however, these controls change often and it is highly possible that you might forget to control these settings for even one comment that might not sit well with someone in your life – and that someone could be your boss.
It is really a matter of common sense. The problem is that, unfortunately, not everyone uses common sense either because they don’t have any or because they are busy doing a million things at once and they forget to think. This puts companies in the position of having to be concerned about their employees’ personal branding. Do they have a right to censor their employees’ personal branding? The answer to that is not clear, but until common sense becomes commonplace, companies do have something to be concerned about.
Originally posted as guest blog post for Compukol.
As a small business owner, especially one is a consulting role, it is important that you show enough confidence in your abilities and expertise that your clients and prospective clients will perceive you as knowing what you are talking about. After all, if they don’t think you know more than they do, why should they hire you?
However, it is also important to remain flexible in how you deliver your services. Many consultants offer customized services to business owners. What works for one client might not be and usually isn’t the same approach that will work for another client. Every client has specific needs that you as the consultant will need to understand completely and be able to create the best strategy for their specific situation.
In addition to being flexible, good consultants will be able to “read” their clients by actively listening to them and making sure they totally understand what their needs are as well as their individual “style” This is particularly true for website copyrighters. There are certain universally agreed upon “rules” of website copy but there are also some gray areas that are open to interpretation. It is pretty much agreed that you have just a few seconds to attract and retain a website visitor’s attention before they move onto the next website. It is therefore imperative that your copy grab their attention so that they will keep reading. It is also important to state who you are in the first few sentences of your copy because again, if someone has to search all over your site to find out what your company does – you will lose that visitor. No one wants to have to work hard to determine if your company’s offerings fulfill their need. Make it easy for them and clearly state close to the top of the page what your brand is.
One of the gray areas might involve how much detail a business owner wants to go into on his/her company website. Some small business owners have a difficult time honing in on their exact offerings and in keeping their content to a minimum. There is so much they want to say but the harsh reality is that even though they might want to “say” it, most people don’t want to read it. This is where the ability to “read” your client comes into play and where you need to show confidence while remaining flexible.
Explain to your client the reasons behind your suggested strategy and back it up with substantive and clearly understandable reasons. Show them that you know what you are talking about. Using the website copywriting consultant example again, your client might want to go into much more detail than you think is necessary or even advisable. Be flexible and work with your client. A suggestion for a copywriting consultant whose client wants to go into a lot of detail is to offer an alternative. They can keep the main page content brief and include a “read more” option where they can use that detailed information for those who are interested in reading further. In my experience, this technique has been successful.
Remember, your client hired you because you have expertise that they don’t have. Be sure to show your confidence to your clients but also remember to be flexible when and if the situation calls for it.
Article first published as How to Remain Flexible and Exude Confidence at the Same Time on Technorati.
Think about it from your own personal and professional experiences. Have you ever hired a contractor for a home improvement project? More than likely you asked around to get others' opinions and recommendations. Then you set up appointments with 2 or 3 to meet them. You might even have looked at examples of their work. Let's say for illustrative purposes that you liked all the samples of the work you saw. Let's also say that their prices are all in the same range. Now how will you decide which one to hire? You are going to hire the one you like best, right? That is an emotional response.
As another example, think about the small business owner who is looking to hire a consultant. If they meet with 3 different website designers, and again, all other things being equal, which one are they going to hire? They are going to hire the one they like best.
I was speaking recently with a client of mine about his competitors and his clients. He told me about a situation where he and one of his competitors were up for the same project. They both have exactly the same credentials and both produce top-quality work, but he got the job because this client doesn't like to work with women and this competitor is a woman. That is an emotional response. It might not make sense to many (myself included) and might not seem rational, but it is what affected the decision-making process.
All Other Things Being Equal, Your Decisions are based on Emotional Responses.
Guest Post by Mike Clough, in Honor of National Small Business Week
Small Business is the Key to America’s Growth
This week (May 24-28) is National Small Business Week. I am one who believes that America runs on small business and it is in the best interest of the nation to do all we can to support it. So, when small business owner, Julie Weishaar, whose company provides strategic marketing consulting services to entrepreneurs, asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I agreed.
In the best of times, many small businesses struggle to stay in business. In the first five years over 50 percent of all start-ups fold. In a tough economic climate such as the one we’ve experienced the last couple of years, this number climbs. It breaks my heart to think of the amount of time, money and effort that is wasted when a business closes their doors; especially, when it might have been avoided.
As a SCORE small business advisor and publisher of America’s Best Business Practices, I interact with small business owners every week. As a rule, I see no lack of great ideas, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit among businesses that are struggling. What most seem to need, but lack, are sound business and/or marketing plans and the experience necessary to succeed. The good news is that this need can easily be met, thereby increasing the likelihood of success.
Let’s take the problem of a lack of business experience. The best way to fix this is to have a mentor with proven business experience who can guide you through the rough spots. A mentor who knows how to increase cash flow, negotiate with vendors, secure a line of credit, build a marketing plan to increase sales can provide assistance with every aspect of your businesses.
I suppose you are thinking that a person like that or a team of people that can do this can be quite costly. And, you would be right. However, there is an organization whose mission is to provide this kind of support and more and they do it for free.
SCORE is an association with over 12,500 volunteer small business owners and executives who are still working, retired, and in-transition who give their time to counsel and mentor entrepreneurs and other small business owners. These volunteers are available through 364 Chapters and many branch offices in every state across America. Considering that SCORE counseling and mentoring is free, I cannot understand why an inexperienced entrepreneur or small business owner would want to go it alone. SCORE can assist you in developing your business and/or marketing plan as well as all of the other aspects of your business.
Unfortunately, SCORE doesn’t actually do the work for you. They provide advice, counseling and mentoring but you have to do the work yourself. Unless your business is marketing, you may find that you are just too busy with your core business activities to really focus on marketing. And yet, marketing is what drives revenue; the most important component of your business. Without ample revenue, everything else is for naught. Considering how critical marketing is to your business, don’t you think someone should be focused on it? If no one is focusing on marketing your business; then who will?
If you can’t afford to start your business with a strong marketing partner or employee, I recommend outsourcing it to a company that specializes in strategic marketing. One such company is New Horizons 123, a small business marketing consulting firm that helps business owners develop plans and programs to meet their business objectives. New Horizons 123 does this by helping to build a brand identity, sales collateral, and social media strategies. If you don’t outsource your marketing to New Horizons 123, you can always find another firm or do it yourself. Just make sure you don’t neglect this vital aspect of your business because your future depends on it.
If you prefer to develop your own marketing and business plan, I highly recommend a software application called “Business Plan Pro.” I have struggled personally building dozens of business plans using Microsoft Word and Excel. After joining SCORE and discovering Business Plan Pro, I gave it a try. I found it made creating a business plan far easier. PaloAlto Software also offers “Marketing Plan Pro” for those who just want to focus on that aspect of their business.
Since this is National Small Business Week, let’s salute our entrepreneurs and small business owners with a few facts. Did you know…
A recent study by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy identified 26.8 million businesses in the United States. Of those, 99.9% have fewer than 500 employees and, as such, are considered small businesses. This means that only one-tenth of one percent have more than 500 employees. Even more notable is the fact that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 98.2% have fewer than 100 employees. And if you are impressed with that number, you may be amazed to learn that in the same report it states that 89.3% of the businesses in America have fewer than 20 employees! Bear with me for just a moment more as I drive this point home. Even more amazing is the fact that 78.6% have fewer than 10 employees and 60.8% have fewer than 5 employees.
Truly America runs on small business! Over 50% of all jobs are created by small business. It is my firm conviction that our current economy will turn around when small business begins to grow. Let’s support the small businesses in our community!
Thanks for allowing me to use this blog as my soapbox in saluting our small businesses.