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Your customers already can praise or criticize your business across social media or online rating and review sites. So do you really need one more way to measure customer opinion? Yes.

 

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simple but meaningful measure that can help any business quickly and efficiently calculate how well it's doing in its customers’ eyes.

 

What is the Net Promoter Score?

The concept of NPS originated in a Harvard Business Review article and was further refined by Bain & Company. All you have to do is ask customers: How likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague? Customers respond on a 10-point scale, where 10 means “definitely likely” and zero means “not at all likely.”

 

The beauty of the NPS lies in its simplicity—who doesn’t have time to answer a one-question survey? Here’s how you analyze the results.

 

  • Those who respond with a 9 or 10 are “Promoters.” They’re loyal customers and advocates for your business.

  • Those who respond with a 7 or 8 are “Passives.” While they are currently satisfied, they could also be persuaded to switch to your competition.

  • Those who respond with a 6 or less are “Detractors.” At best, they consider your business “meh,” which means they aren’t likely to recommend it, and could openly criticize it.

 

In addition to scoring individual respondents, you’ll also need to figure out your NPS. To do this, calculate how many people responded, the total number of Promoters, and the total number of Detractors. Then subtract the percentage of Detractors from the Percentage of Promoters to arrive at your score. 

 

If you have the same percentage of Detractors as you do Promoters, your score will be zero. Any score over zero is considered good; a score of 50 or higher is considered excellent. Scores of over 70 are considered world-class; at this level, you find companies like Apple and Amazon.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

How to Do an NPS Survey

You can create your own NPS survey and tabulate the results manually, or you can save a lot of time by using apps designed to conduct NPS surveys. They help you automate when surveys are sent, collect and sort responses, and generate reports that let you track trends over time and spot changes that might be important indicators of customer sentiment. (For example, did your NPS score take a dive right after you raised the price of your service?) Delighted, AskNicely and YesInsights are three NPS solutions to consider.

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NPS Survey Questions

To get the most out of an NPS survey, you must have insightful questions. It is better to start off with an easier, less intrusive question. For example, “How did you hear about us?” It is a great icebreaker because not only is it easy for the respondent to answer, but it also provides you with information on how customers hear about your business.

You’ll collect better information to help you improve if your NPS survey includes an open-ended follow-up question: What’s your most important reason for giving us that score? This gives customers room to either rave or rant about you. Both responses are useful. However, try not to include too many open-ended questions – two to three max.

 

Send an additional thank you email to the respondent after successful completion of the survey. For example, “Thank you for your time. Your opinion is very important to us and it will help us better serve you in the future.” 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Understanding Your Ideal Customer

 

How to Use Your NPS Score

Don’t expect to beat Amazon, but do compare your score to other companies in your industry to see where you stand. Check out this NPS benchmark resource or the industry NPS benchmarks from Satmetrix.

 

Of course, the benchmark that really matters is whether your own score is improving over time.

 

Once you’ve gathered feedback:

  • Reach out to Detractors and
  • Reach out to Promoters to say thank you and ask if they’d be willing to write an online review for your business (send them the link), provide referrals or give you a testimonial profiled in a case study.
  • Look for

 

The NPS score allows you to check-in with your customers, evaluate their feedback, and grow your business.

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

There are plenty of viable cost-cutting measures and small businesses should take advantage of every one of them.

Why spend thousands on a top-quality cherry wood conference room table when a pine table – not to mention a second-hand model – will look good at a fraction of the price? Unfortunately, cost-cutting does not always make sense and can cost your business more than it saves over time.

 

Here are 6 areas where spending more money can provide economic benefits to your business.

 

1. Employees and contractors

If your core team is comprised solely of entry-level workers, you will save money… until their lack of skills and experience lose customers for your business. Good decision-makers and customer-facing personnel will cost more, but they help your company prosper and grow.

Build your team out of the best employees you can afford and supplement their efforts with skilled contractors. These are the people who can later train less-expensive entry-level employees, who may become top-tier team members over time.

Also, compensating employees well gives them less of an incentive to leave, which saves you money in terms of head hunting, retraining and more.

 

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2. Accounting services

Well-designed, intuitive business accounting software is universally used to save on bookkeeping costs. If you choose your software carefully and learn how to use it, this is a valid cost-saving measure.

But don't count on software to make financial decisions for your company. You need to send the numbers to the best accountant that you can find. Look for someone who reads and interprets numbers like you read the news. A good accountant can instantly spot positive and negative trends in your business — and has the intimacy with federal and local tax codes to help ensure that you take every available tax break, while avoiding potential penalties. They can also help you set up pension and benefit plans and do other work that’s very valuable for you and your business.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

3. Legal support

Your cousin Lenny may be a wonderful personal injury lawyer who took business courses in law school – but he is not a corporate legal expert.

Even an off-the-shelf contract must be carefully reviewed to ensure that it preserves your unique interests. Strong legal counsel in your corner can make a tremendous difference when negotiating deals or disputes, while helping you avoid the stress of a courtroom battle. Perhaps, you can't afford to put a top business lawyer on retainer, but you still need to find someone who has the in-depth understanding of the state and federal laws your business needs. With dedicated legal support, you can save money by getting fair treatment from other parties — and stay out of trouble.

 

4. Software and technology

Low-priced web hosting can save you a great deal of money if you're ready to take a do-it-yourself approach to build your site. But do you know what designs and techniques make your website effective? If you don't understand how to design a site that attracts customers bring in a web developer with a good track record.

This is just one example of when you might want to spend more on technology. Don't count on a student from your local technical school to program a custom system to keep control over inventory. And if you can afford to hire an in-house technical support person, you might avoid wasted downtime while waiting for a technician to fix something on an as-needed basis.

Free software programs can get you started but aren’t robust enough to provide the level of tools that you need to grow your business and analyze data properly.

 

5. Education and training

Do you and your employees have the knowledge needed to keep up with your competitors? It is possible to obtain decent free online training in some cases, but think of the negative results when this type of ready-made training goes awry. Without proper guidance, students can misunderstand pertinent facts and carry misconceptions deep into your business operations.

When your team members need more knowledge than they currently have, do the research needed to get quality training. You might be able to save money later if your properly-trained employees can share their knowledge with future new hires.

 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: LISTENING TO SOCIAL MEDIA CAN GROW YOUR BUSINESS

 

6. Disaster planning tools

Nobody gets excited about paying high prices for insurance but just one natural disaster or major theft can quickly change a business' attitude toward this important recovery tool. Bring in a knowledgeable insurance agent who can explain the merits of obtaining the right amount of coverage for your business and whether business interruption and other types of insurance make sense for your company.

Since insurance is only one part of disaster planning, you should also consider purchasing off-site or cloud-based data backups, storing extra inventory at another location and more. Investing in a disaster-planning consultant might be money well-spent to quickly recover after a catastrophe.

 

I will also add cybersecurity planning into this mix, as small businesses are becoming targets more often. Not investing upfront can cost you a lot on the back end.

 

Cutting corners can be an expensive proposition

Finding the best deals can be wise but make sure that you consider long-term costs and the time that you might have to invest to fix problems. Before you spend good money on reduced-quality services or merchandise, gaze into your crystal ball to envision the future results of your decisions. Spending less money upfront can easily lead to bigger losses down the road.

 

About Carol Roth

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Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Every small business owner strives to attract more customers. But if you’re just trying to get more customers, you’re selling yourself short. Instead, you should aim to get more of your ideal customers.

 

Ideal customers can have a lot of characteristics in common. They may be your most loyal customers, the ones who visit your business the most often, the ones who spend the most money, the ones who serve as brand advocates for your business or the ones who are the easiest to deal with. In business terms, however, your best customers are those with the greatest customer lifetime value, or CLV. (This article and interactive tool will help you calculate CLV.)

 

Once you’ve identified the customers with the greatest CLV, dig into the data you’ve collected about them f46356005_s.jpgrom purchasing records, loyalty software, customer relationship management (CRM) software or other records. Identify key characteristics and look for similarities.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

For consumers, elements to consider include your best customers’ age, race or ethnicity, gender, marital status, household income, whether they have children, education level, occupation, where they live and whether they are homeowners. Beyond these basics, you can also look at behavior such as which websites, publications or social media they use, their hobbies and their interests.

 

For businesses, elements to consider include how long the company has been in business, annual revenues, industry, number of locations, geographic location, and how many employees the company has.

 

Whether your customers are businesses or people, in order to identify your ideal customer, you also need to ask these questions:

  • How did your best customers first learn about your business?
  • What prompted them to buy from you?
  • Why do they remain loyal to your company?
  • When buying products or services like yours, how do they research the decision?
  • What information sources do they use in the research?
  • What are their biggest pain points/needs regarding products and services like yours?
  • Why do they prefer your business to your competitors?

 

To go beyond the numbers in your records and answer these questions, you’ll need to do some additional legwork.

  • Go online: Use social listening to see what your best customers say about your business on social media. Are they sharing photos of your latest restaurant dish because it’s rainbow-colored and ideal for Instagram?  Are they on LinkedIn writing stellar recommendations for their account service rep? In addition to seeing what specific customers are saying, be sure to keep tabs on your businesses online ratings and reviews. What do your five-star reviewers say about your business? You’ll undoubtedly find many commonalities.

  • Do a survey: Ask your best customers questions using an online survey, mailing a survey form or calling them. If you have a B2C business, you’ll get more responses by offering customers a reward, such as a discount or gift, in return for completing the survey. If you have a B2B business, make the survey part of an annual or biannual “checkup" making sure the customer is satisfied.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The New Consumers: What Do They Want?

 

Using all the information you’ve gathered, you should be able to come up with a pretty clear picture of your ideal customer/s. (You might have more than one ideal customer.) For example, a B2C clothing retailer might discover that its ideal customers are single women in their 20s who live in suburban areas, make between $36K and $55K a year, are avid Instagram users and get their fashion ideas from bloggers and social media. A B2B restaurant supply company might find that its ideal customers are upscale, independent restaurants in urban areas that purchase sustainably manufactured or recycled flatware, linens and dishes.

 

By understanding your ideal customers, you can focus your advertising, sales and marketing efforts on others like them. That boosts your ROI and your profits.

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

With apologies to musician Paul Simon, there are a lot of ways to leave your business:

 

Just slip out the back, Jack

Make a new plan, Stan

Just drop off the key, Lee

And get yourself free!

 

Inevitably, there comes a time for almost every business owner to call it quits. Whether it’s age, health, retirement, finances, or just wanting to do something new, many entrepreneurs eventually say goodbye to their beloved business.

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

Typically, these are the main routes people choose to get out of their business:

  1. Pass on the business to a family member
  2. Sell the business
  3. Transform the business into something new entirely
  4. Close the business and sell assets

 

While each situation will require different considerations, and only you know what those considerations might be, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each option:

 

1. Pass on the business to a family member: This is the desire of many entrepreneurs, and often the reason someone starts a business in the first place: to create something of value to give to, or share with, the kids. 

 

The benefits of ending an entrepreneurial career this way are pretty clear:

 

  • You share a valuable asset with your children
  • Your business will be in the hands of somebody you trust
  • You won’t have to say goodbye entirely to your creation

 

Are there downsides to this plan? You bet. The first and main one is that your children may not want to, or may not be ready to, own or run your business. Your dream may not be their dream. So, long before you decide that you are going to give or sell your business to your kids, you better be darned sure they want it.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

2. Sell the business: This is a great option because it puts money in your pocket. There are essentially two ways to sell your business:

 

  • An outright sale: You hire a business broker (typically), find interested buyers, and sell them the business;
  • A gradual sale: Here, you might find a buyer who does not have the financial wherewithal to buy the business outright and, in that case, they make ongoing payments to you.

 

3. Transform the business: Maybe you're not ready to retire but are more than ready for a different adventure. The good news is that as an entrepreneur you have the potential to add new features to, and take away old ones from, your existing business. Indeed, that is one of the beauties of self-employment.

 

This will feel a lot like the early stages of a startup (which is likely what you want.) You will need to test the waters (again) to find out what works and what doesn’t, and you will go through the long route of experimentation/process of elimination. If this is your plan, this all probably sounds great to you.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Why Small Business Owners need a Retirement Plan – Now

 

The risk here is that you will certainly lose some customers and clients in the process. So you need to be prepared for this loss and have a plan for how to re-brand, re-market, and ultimately re66663758_m.jpgcover.

 

4. Close the business and sell assets: For some, liquidation makes the most sense. By selling your assets, you can either pay off debts quickly or have a solid chunk of cash to put in the bank. Liquidation is also as quick as it is a straightforward, no-strings-attached activity.  For more information, check out the SBA page on closing your business here, and liquidation here.

 

Whatever route you choose, leaving your business is a process.

 

Just slip out the back, Jack, and set yourself free!

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Customer service can make or break your small business—especially when it comes to millennial customers. More than half (54 percent) of millennials report they have stopped doing business with a company because of poor customer service—more than any other age group.

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

To make sure they don’t stop doing business with you, pay attention to these six things millennials want from customer service.

 

  1. Ease of use. Whether you’re using live chat on your e-commerce website or transferring a customer on phone support, millennials’ default expectation is the technology you’re using will function seamlessly. Long delays on chat responses or getting cut off mid-transfer won’t fly and can send them heading over to your competitors. Make sure the customer support technologies you use work well with each other, too.

  2. Social media responsiveness. Offering customer support through social media may not be practical for many small businesses, but you at least need to monitor what customers are saying on social platforms and reach out to those asking for support. Since millennials spend so much time on social media, it’s a natural place for them to ask for help from businesses. Popular platforms for millennials to post comments or questions are Facebook and Instagram. Contact social media users who post complaints, questions or requests and direct them to a a customer service experience such as chat, email or a phone conversation with a customer service rep.

  3. Accountability. Millennials don’t want to be passed to multiple faceless customer service employees. Have your reps use their names in interactions including email, chat and phone calls. If possible, have the same rep handle the customer throughout their transaction. For example, if a customer is returning a product they bought from your e-commerce site, and Susan responds to their initial request, Susan should also be the one to alert them when their return arrives in your mailroom and how their refund will be credited. It's OK if Susan is a bot—millennials are fine with that.

  4. Self-service. According to IBM, almost three out of four millennials would rather solve their own customer service issues than deal with a customer service rep. Provideways they can answer questions or resolve problems themselves if that’s their preference. This can range from the basic, such as FAQs or Troubleshooting Tips on your website, to the more complex, such as online videos or tutorials showing them how to use your product, or a user community where customers share tips and answer each other's questions. Self-service options enable millennial customers to get answers 24/7, which fits with their lifestyles.

  5. Options. A whopping 77 percent of millennials believe companies should offer customer service in a wide range of communication styles. While 40 percent would prefer customer service to be purely online, there are still times when in-person contact is necessary. Provide multiple options for contacting customer service, including email, phone, chat and text (36 percent of millennials would contact businesses more often if they could just text them).

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

     6. Personalization. There’s no reason your business shouldn’t be able to access customer information with a few keystrokes, so don’t

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make millennial customers repeat their information over and over or input data and then say the same thing to a phone rep. Almost three-fourths (72 percent) of consumers expect customer service reps to know their contact information, service history and product details as soon as they engage with a business, says the 2016 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report

. Millennials are very comfortable sharing their personal data, as long as it benefits their customer experience, so take advantage of that openness to collect and use information to provide better customer support.

 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Convenience is What Customers Want Most - Here's How To Deliver

 

Now that you’re informed on how to better serve your millennial customers, pull ahead of your competitors, and earn customers for life.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Remember when social media first became a “thing” and businesses were obsessed with their number of followers, friends and likes?

 

Today, smart businesses use social media for much more sophisticated purposes—including “social media listening,” or monitoring what customers are saying on social media.

 

Some 42 percent of businesses in a recent report by Clutch say social media listening helps improve customer relationships, while 86 percent use it to monitor customers questions, concerns and requests. More than three-fourths use social media listening to monitor their competitors, 75 percent use it to monitor their own brands, 61 percent monitor industry trends and 60 percent monitor influencers in their industry.

 

Social media listening can show you:

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

  • What questions your customers are asking
  • What problems your customers have
  • Which competitors your customers patronize
  • What your customers complain about
  • What your customers care about most
  • What your customers’ interests and passions are

 

Here are some questions to ask in your social listening and what you can learn from the answers

 

What are customers saying about their needs? Suppose you own a furniture store and you see a lot of customers in your target market complaining on social media that they can't find sofas to fit in small homes or apartments. You've just uncovered an unmet need—and by stocking more small-scale furniture and promoting it, you’ll grow your sales—and your business.

 

What are customers saying about your competition? Are people complaining about your competitors on social media or praising them? If your restaurant is open only for lunch and dinner, but your competitor down the street is getting lots of love for their weekend brunch, maybe you should add breakfast items to your menu and open earlier on weekends.

 

What problems do customers have with your business, your product or your services? When we see negative comments about our businesses on social media, it’s natural to want to hide our heads in the sand. But social listening requires responding to all comments—positive and negative. When dealing with critics, don’t get defensive. Start by acknowledging the person's feelings and apologizing for any problems. Then take the conversation off-line to resolve the issue, and post your solution online when it’s handled. You’ll impress the complaining customer and build a positive image with prospects as a company that listens to customer complaints. Create a professional business account on popular platforms, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, where customers tend to write reviews.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

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What are your customers’ interests and passions? Become your own trend forecaster by listening to what your customers are interested in. Do you own a children’s clothing store and online boutique? Perhaps you see a few customers posting on social media that their little girls aren’t into pink and purple anymore and want more gender-neutral clothing. Is it a trend or just a fluke? If more and more people join the conversation and express the same interest, it’s probably a trend. Carrying more gender-neutral clothing can put you on the cutting edge—and ahead of your competition.

 

What are industry and market influencers saying? Influencers are social media users who have an outsize influence on others. They may include journalists, bloggers, industry experts or just individuals who have large followings. Connecting with the right influencers can expose your business to more prospects. Are influencers talking about your competition, but not about your business? Reach out to get on their radar by joining the social media conversation and sharing what you offer (without making a hard sell). Look for group events like TweetChats or Facebook Live discussions to join.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Harness the Power of Emotion in Social Media Marketing Campaigns

 

Need some help staying on top of the chatter?

  • Google Alerts and Social Mention offer a simple way to track mentions of your company, competitor, brands, products, services, and executives.
  • Mention, Sprout Social, Hootsuite and BuzzLogix are social media management tools with more sophisticated features for monitoring and responding to all your business’ social media accounts in one place.

 


 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Retirement might seem like a far off notion to you.

 

It shouldn’t be. Your IRA or 401(k) should be your best friend. And, like any friendship, it takes time, commitment, and trust.Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

Now, it may be that you are young and more concerned about funding a college savings plan  for the kids than a retirement plan, or that you have no real plans on retiring, or whatever the case, but the same inspiration that led you to entrepreneurship should also lead you to planning for retirement – no matter what your age or situation.

Think about it: Why did you start your own business? It is likely because you had an idea for a business that took hold that you could not ignore. But equally, it’s very likely that you chose entrepreneurship because you believe in yourself and you wanted to create something of value that would provide long-term security for yourself and your family.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

And that’s exactly why you need to think about funding a retirement plan, right now.15491704_s.jpg

 

Consider all of the reasons a retirement plan makes as much sense for you as starting a business did:

 

It provides financial security: Let’s face it, Social Security is neither a viable retirement option for most people nor a lock to be there 10, 15, or 20 years from now. By the same token, the income generated by your business now may not be the same 10, 15, or 20 years from now.

 

You create a hedge against both possibilities by starting to fund a retirement plan right now. It is your security against old age and outside risk.

 

Things change: Maybe right now you have no plans on retiring, or maybe your business income is such that you don’t think you need to worry about retirement income. But if you have been around the small business block a couple of times, you know that one of Buddha’s truths is that everything changes.

 

  • Your business can change
  • You might get sick
  • You might get bored
  • Life happens etc.

 

Whatever the case, the solution is the same: The funding of a retirement plan now puts you in control.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: How To Enjoy Vacation and Keep Your Business Humming

 

Control: Speaking of control, if you are an entrepreneur then you probably like control. Among other reasons, you likely started a business because you wanted to control your career and the type of work you do. You certainly like having control over your schedule. And if all that is true, then it follows again that creating a retirement plan makes sense because it puts you in control of your finances and your future.

 

Potential age discrimination: If you are a professional, if you sell yourself and your services, one thing you may encounter as you get older – that you may not be aware of now – is age discrimination.

 

Oh sure, if you are a doctor, patients will appreciate your gray hair. But will your employer? Might they want to replace you with a younger, cheaper, healthier version? Or what if you are a self-employed salesperson? At some point customers may think that someone younger “knows the market better,” or whatever.

 

Solution? A funded retirement.

 

Slowing down: The last reason creating a retirement plan now makes sense is you might want to  slow down a bit, but not fully retire.

 

Saving for retirement as soon as possible seems like a simple concept, but many Americans don’t know where to begin. Now that you know why you should start investing in your future, here’s a tip to kick-start your savings.

 

Use the 50/20/30 rule to budget for retirement

 

There is certainly no shortage of ways to spend your way. The first step in prioritizing your retirement is budgeting. If you tell your money where to go, you won’t have to wonder where it went.

 

50 percent of Your Income – Fixed Expenses 

 

These expenses typically don’t vary month to month. For example:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Transportation, etc.

 

20 percent of Your Income – Savings and Retirement

 

Set automatic payments to your savings account each month.

  • Building an emergency fund
  • Paying down credit card debt
  • Retirement – IRA and 401(k)

 

30 percent of Your Income – Personal Lifestyle Expenses

  • Gym memberships

  • Coffee shops

  • Eating out for dinner

 

If you are looking to cut costs, this is the best category to forgo. Try limiting eating out to once or twice a week, going for a run, or bringing coffee from home.

 

Your business savvy is what helped start your business, now apply that same go-getter mentality to your future self. After all, funding a retirement plan now makes a lot of sense.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngDid you hear the one about the guy who drove for Uber and Lyft, and worked for Task Rabbit on the side, and rented out his extra room on Airbnb on weekends?

 

Neither did his girlfriend since she never saw him.

 

By now, you’ve probably heard some buzz on the “gig economy.” If not, the “gig economy” refers to people who support themselves from one contract or project – one gig – to another. Gig workers could be almost anything:

 

  • Musicians and artists
  • Web and graphic designers
  • Carpenters and painters
  • Drivers and shoppers

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

And apparently there is no shortage of gig workers today. According to US News, one-third of all workers are now part of the gig economy:

 

“A new study published by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates the U.S. holds between 54 million and 68 million “independent workers,” which it defines as “someone who chooses how much to work and when to work, who can move between jobs fluidly and who has multiple employers or clients over the course of the year.”

 

There certainly are a lot of benefits to being a gig worker. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is the opportunity to be your own boss. Needles to say, making your own schedule, setting your own prices, working wherever and whenever you want, not having a boss, and doing work you (hopefully) enjoy are all very desirable things.

 

However, the gig economy also comes with its share of downfalls and challenges.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 TIPS FOR WORKING BETTER WITH FREELANCERS

 

For starters, in the gig economy, being your own boss means finding your own gigs. So, not only must you be able to do the task you are hired to do (play that song, create that content) but you must also be a master marketer. This in turn makes the prospect of a steady, reliable income pretty uncertain. When you worked for someone else, work was assigned to you; you didn’t have to go look for it.

 

46722376_s.jpgMoreover, working for yourself means that nobody is paying for your health insurance or vacations. That’s also big change from the world of employment.

 

Being a contract worker similarly requires an incredible amount of self-discipline. Setting your own schedule and hours can be great, but that means that it’s up to you – and only you – to decide what your deadlines are and what your rules are. A gig worker needs to be able to resist the desire to procrastinate and act on impulse – so self-discipline is key.

 

So, this all begs the questions: Is the gig economy worth it?

 

The numbers don’t provide black and white answers, but they are certainly illuminating. Consider that 71% of gig workers have had positive experiences working in the gig industry, yet 58% of gig workers also agree that the gig economy exploits a lack of regulation. These conflicting statistics make it tough to come to any clear-cut conclusion on the gig economy’s ultimate effects and consequences.

 

What we can be (mostly) sure of is that the rise of the gig economy appears to have been born of the confluence of digital technology and the still recent recession. It is no coincidence that 51% of gig economy workers are in the 18-34 age range: yes, Millennials are generally thought of as being the most technologically savvy, as well as the most unlucky in terms of entering the job market. Since 2007, finding jobs has only gotten harder and harder, whereas using technology has gotten easier and easier. That’s the void the gig economy filled. Apps like Postmates, Lyft, and Airbnb have made it significantly easier and less expensive to find a gig.

 

It really comes down to your personal work style and the things you value in work. If your goal is to supplement your primary source of income, then part-time gig work would be great for you. If you’re an artist who wants to take your career into your own hands, then yes, absolutely. If you know how to discipline yourself, handle stress well, market yourself, and be patient, then by all means, the gig economy might be exactly what you’re looking for.

 

While the gig economy began as a means of managing unfortunate economic circumstances, it can be a great way to make a little extra cash while also taking control of your career and getting your work out there.

 

If you want to, you could be your own boss today. And that’s pretty incredible.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png“How am I doing?” Do you really know how your customers would answer this question if you asked them?

 

Keeping your finger on the pulse of customer opinions is essential to keeping them satisfied with your products or services. Here are nine ways you can discover what customers really think of your business.

 

1. Do an online survey. No longer limited to big companies, online surveys are easy to create using tools such as Zoho Survey, SurveyMonkey or PollDaddy. You can have surveys pop up on your website after customers have spent a certain amount of time there; send customers a link to take the survey after you’ve completed your service or delivered a product; or offer a discount in return for taking a survey.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Survey customers on social media. While social media isn’t suited for lengthy surveys, it’s a good place to get quick feedback on simple questions. For example, you can ask customers to choose between two options or solicit ideas for a product name. If you want to create more sophisticated Facebook polls, check out the Polls for Pages app.

 

3. Hand out feedback forms. Depending on your type of business, paper feedback forms can be an effective way to get customers’ opinions. Try including a quick survey form with your next billing statement, delivering it to your restaurant customers with the check, or having feedback forms available at the point-of-purchase.

 

4. Check in annually. If you provide a B2B service, try meeting with customers once a year to find out how they feel about your company. You can send them an introductory survey to complete before the meeting to get them thinking about issues they may want to bring up.

 

5. Listen in. Asking questions on social media isn’t the only way to find out what your customers think. Use social media monitoring tools to stay on top of everything that customers are saying about your business online. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are popular social media management programs that can help you keep your ear to the ground.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS IMMEDIATELY

 

15749175_s.jpg6. Monitor your online reviews. Is your business listed on online ratings and review sites? If so, these are a gold mine of information about how customers view your business. Instead of constantly checking in at review sites, use tools such as ReviewPush and MarketSmart 360 to collect all your reviews in one place so you can stay on top of customer opinion without wasting any time.

 

7. Ask your employees. If you have front-line employees who spend time directly engaging with customers, ask them what types of problems they frequently run into with customers. If lots of customers are complaining about the same issue or can’t figure out how to make the best use of your product, it could be time to make a change.

 

8. Use your web analytics. Web analytics offer an indirect way of finding out what customers think of your business, especially if you sell a product or service online. Review your analytics to see what parts of your website users visit most often, where they spend the most time and what they do while they’re there. For example, if half your e-commerce customers abandon their shopping carts midway through checkout when they see their shipping costs, it likely means your shipping costs are too high.

 

9. Just ask. For many small business owners, finding out what customers think is as simple as asking them. You’re out among your customers every day, not locked away on the 45th floor of a corporate office. Take advantage of that and ask customers what they like about your business, what they don’t like and what you could be doing better. By keeping the conversation going and actually acting on the answers, you can continually improve your business.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngAs we head into the July 4th holiday, it’s important to remember the blessings of this country. In the spirit of celebrating America, I’d like to highlight a few of our presidents who have very solid backgrounds in small business.

 

For starters, consider that before he led the continental army, George Washington was a farmer, which was a common and fruitful entrepreneurial endeavor at the time. According to MountVernon.org:

 

Initially growing tobacco as his cash crop, Washington soon realized that tobacco was not sustainable and he switched to grains, particularly wheat as a cash crop in 1766. Washington read the latest works on agriculture and implemented the new methods . . . on his five farms.

 

Additionally, John Adams, James Monroe, and James Madison were all lawyers (which certainly requires an entrepreneurial flair).

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

But let’s not stop there: 

 

Andrew Jackson was a true entrepreneurial president. Jackson, while also a lawyer, made his first fortune buying and selling real estate. He was also a founder of Memphis, Tennessee. Additionally, his progressive policies were proactive in encouraging both small business and entrepreneurship.

 

Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer and an entrepreneur. In 1833, Lincoln opened a general store with a partner and took on debt to finance the company. Unfortunately, the venture failed and Lincoln’s possessions were seized by the state. Lincoln also owned a law practice and got a patent for an invention that would lift boats over obstructions in rivers.

 

Warren G. Harding was an excellent entrepreneur. When he was 19, he bought a newspaper that was about to go under – The Marion Star. Soon after his acquisition, the paper quickly gained success; so much so that his debts were soon paid off and the venture generated income for him for the next several decades.

 

After President Franklin D. Roosevelt got polio in 1921, he heard a story about a young boy who regained the use of his legs through hydrotherapy. From that point forward, FDR became what is now known as a social entrepreneur – working tirelessly to raise funds to set up a center for people with polio, later to become known as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: IN CELEBRATION OF FATHER’S DAY: WHY DADS MAKE GREAT ENTREPRENEURS

 

Before becoming president, Harry Truman owned a hat store and opened his own clothing store in Kansas City after serving in World War I.

 

39788592_s.jpgJimmy Carter’s small business story is one of the better ones. Carter took over his family’s peanut farm after serving in the navy, and he managed to turn that tiny farm into a multi-million-dollar business. Warehouses, shelling plants, industrial farm equipment – the works.

 

Despite the farm’s great success, Carter almost went broke when he was leaving the White House. However, his acute entrepreneurial skills were what allowed him to turn things around yet again. He founded the Carter Center, and became a best-selling author and speaker. Additionally, he became a millionaire in the process.

 

Jimmy Carter was one of the savvier businessmen presidents – even to this day.

 

In 1951, George H.W. Bush founded the Bush-Overby Oil Development Company as well as the Zapata Petroleum Corporation. The latter is what eventually made him a millionaire. George W., made $15 million from his initial investment in the Texas Rangers. Home run!

 

Today, Bill Clinton has a net worth of over $100 million, mostly from speaking fees. This is more impressive considering he did not enter or leave office rich.

 

Maybe Barack Obama put it best when he said “[You don’t] have to look a certain way, or be of a certain faith, or have a certain last name to have a good idea.”

 

Certainly, on this July 4th it is important to remember that even presidents started small (businesses, that is)!

                                                                                                               

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Ebong Eka Headshot.pngAs a small business, it's very important to charge what you are worth. Yes, it’s easier said than done but I want to share what your prices say about you, your expertise and your business.

 

A small business owner is challenged by charging what you are worth, having a healthy enough profit margin and collecting on sales. In a previous post I discussed the importance of cash management. Cash management includes collecting from your accounts receivables, or from the bills that your clients owe you for services that you've already provided.  Higher prices and a larger profit margin allows for more growth for your business.

 

One of the many things your potential customer thinks about when considering doing business with you is, "Will I receive value greater than the price that I'm going to pay?" There are two reasons people spend money:

 

  1. To get a desired result
  2. To solve an important problem

 

How well you solve that problem, or how much they want that desired result will dictate the price that they are willing to pay.

 

Some clients have said to me, "…but Ebong, if I'm the lowest price, maybe they'll come and buy from me, and then I can eventually charge them more." This never happens and never works. I'll give you a recent example.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ ARTICLES MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT EBONG EKA

 

Earlier this year, a personal finance app company announced they were going to start charging $3 a month for their app that was initially free. The app helps users save money and make better financial budgeting decisions.  The level of negative complaints from consumers in response were astronomical. People were more upset about paying $3 a month, or $36 a year, for a tool that helped them save thousands of dollars every year.

 

 

The company believed if they charged for their app, their customers would see the value and pay. But no one wants to be surprised. The customers’ expectation is that it would be free, so they expected it to be free. When you change that expectation, people get angry.

 

Now let's apply this to your business.

 

Your customers have a lot of questions when you have lower prices than your competitors:

 

  • Why is this person’s price so cheap in relation to the next competitor?
  • Is this a new business?
  • Do they have the requisite expertise necessary to do what I need to have done?

 

74127740_s.jpgCustomers don’t want to feel they are making a buying mistakes – so they’ll go with the higher price

because it’s a safe bet.

 

Here’s another example:

 

If I had a luxury car for sale for $25,000 and the Kelly Blue Book stated the same car should be worth about $40,000, you would think something is wrong.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE 4 CASH FLOW MANAGEMENT MISTAKES THAT FAIL SMALL BUSINESSES

 

Is there an engine in it? Does it have brakes? Does it have wheels? What am I missing? Is it stolen?

 

You know why? Mainly because it's not congruent to what I expect for the value I'm trying to receive.  The same thing is happening to your business.

 

Here's a simple tip that you can use to check pricing. Research your nearest competitor’s prices. Match the price that they charge, and then provide more value. And value doesn't have to be in the form or a discount. Value can be in the form of additional services that doesn't cost more.

If you're a graphic designer and you provide design services to create a logo, maybe you could add additional revisions to the logo as a bonus. In reality, you may charge several hundred dollars extra for that, but say, "Look, for this particular package, I'll give you three revisions for free. If you want unlimited revisions, it's going to be double the price."

 

The bigger goal is being able to provide something that people want and value. Customers spend money for a desired result or to solve a problem. It’s almost never because of price. The successful competitors in your industry are charging more than you are because they understand this principle.


About Ebong Eka

Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.

 

Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.

 

Web: www.ebongeka.com or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

         

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngSummer is here and in many communities, that means an influx of tourists. While it’s obvious how local attractions benefit from tourism, it’s not always as clear how retailers can take advantage of the summer surge of tourists.

 

But, there are plenty of ways to profit from the tourist trade. Here are 12 top hacks to consider:

 

1. Grab their attention. Sightseeing tourists need something eye-catching to get them in your door. Attention-grabbing window displays and signage, having an employee outside the door offering coupons or samples, or even putting product displays outside the store can make them stop and shop.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Target packaged tours. Do you sell luxury products? Overseas tourists are often eager to buy luxury goods at lower prices in the U.S. than they can find at home. Find tour companies that cater to specific niches that might be interested in your products (such as Japanese tourists or young, single women) and see if your store or street can be added to the tour.

 

3. Focus on small indulgences. Travelers are typically in a spending frame of mind, primed to treat themselves. Stock a supply of tempting, but affordable, treats near your entrance and point-of-sale area.

 

4. Hype local flavor. Tourists with “souvenir fever” like to buy products they can’t get anywhere else. If you sell products from local manufacturers, artisans or producers, play that up in your marketing.

 

5. Participate in local events that attract tourists. Do tourists flock to your area for an annual music festival, craft fairs or a marathon run? Having a presence at these events can help you profit from the tourists. Set up a booth to sell products; hand out business cards or flyers with your website so tourists can order from you when they go back home.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO ENJOY VACATION AND KEEP YOUR BUSINESS HUMMING

 

44056797_s.jpg6. Cross-promote with other businesses that appeal to tourists. For instance, if you own a children’s toy store, see if a local waterpark, petting zoo or other business that appeals to traveling families will link to your store on their website, put flyers for your store in their business or otherwise work together to get customers.

 

7. Get help from the local tourism association. Most communities that attract tourists have a tourism association to promote business in the area. Find out what types of assistance they offer to help you promote your retail store. For example, you might be able to sell products or place brochures in the visitors’ center.

 

8. Work with local hotels. Hotels typically display racks of brochures from local businesses, and provide guests with in-room guidebooks highlighting local businesses. See if your store can be included.

 

9. Get listed in event calendars. If your community has an events calendar, website or publication that tourists use to find things to do, ask about getting a listing or placing an ad. Consider hosting in-store events such as author signings at your bookstore to make your store is appealing as a tourist destination.

 

10. Make it educational. Many people enjoy the educational aspects to travel. Can you offer shoppers a hands-on chance to learn something relevant to your region? For instance, a sweets shop in Vermont could demonstrate how to make maple sugar candy.

 

11. Get their autographs. Have visitors sign a guestbook; ask for names, contact information and a comment about their trip. If you want to market to them (via email or direct mail), ask for permission. You can sell to them all year and reach out to them the following spring to remind them of your business. Consider offering an incentive for them to come back

 

12. Give great service. Remember, whenever you interact with a tourist, you're not just representing your store—you’re also representing your community. Remind your employees to put their best face forward so visitors will fondly remember your store and your town.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngIt’s that time of year when I sound like an updated version of an old movie:

 

“Step away from the keyboard and put down the phone!”

 

It can be difficult for a lot of small business people to take time off. Vacation time might feel like an antiquated concept to you, which is not surprising considering that Americans have been taking off less and less time in recent years. Look at these recent dreary stats from the website TravelForSmallBiz:

 

  • 47 percent of small business owners took no vacation time
  • 44 percent did not go with their families on vacation
  • And 41 percent hadn’t taken a 7-day vacation in at least two years

 

This simply will not do.

 

If the sake of enjoyment is not enough to convince you to take a breather, then think of vacation as an investment: nobody can produce quality work without a bit of rest and relaxation here and there. By allowing yourself to become fully rejuvenated, you can then return to work with a clearer mind and plenty of energy.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

There are ways to take a vacation while keeping your business running. Here are my top tips:

 

Plan ahead: The key to making sure you can relax while you’re away is to make sure you’ve covered all bases before leaving town. If you’re a freelancer, work like mad for a few days and get some projects done early.

 

If going on vacation would mean leaving your employees short-staffed, then bring in extra people and resources ahead of time so that nobody has to scramble while you’re gone. It might be time to finally hire a temp or a virtual assistant.

 

Another idea is to schedule a little extra time once you get back, to readjust and catch up on your work before heading back to the office.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WANT TO BE A GREAT BOSS? DEVELOP THESE TRAITS

 

47716018_s.jpgUse technology: Ideally, it would be nice to unplug altogether while on vacation, but sometimes that simply isn’t possible. If answering a few emails or being available for your employees in case of an emergency is what makes your business continue to run smoothly (and makes you feel comfortable) then you shouldn’t hesitate.

 

Take advantage of the slow season: Owning a small business certainly makes it a little trickier to go on vacation, but it can be easier if you take time off during your slow season. If summer is your peak business season, then don’t go on a summer vacation. Make your own “summer” vacation congruent with your slow season – it will also make your absence easier on your team.

 

Reminder – people often take time off during the last week of August and late December, so consider using this slower time to your advantage as well.

 

Combine business and pleasure: In order to save money and not waste time, you can always make it a point to have fun on your business trips. That could mean bringing your family with you or ignoring your jet lag to go sight-seeing. Business trips can be a great way to create a built-in vacation.

 

Take three day weekends: If you don’t see yourself taking a 10-day vacation, then at least give yourself an extra weekend day semi-regularly this summer. It really is important to stop and reboot.

 

And so, it is time for me to heed my own advice and logoff.

 

Aloha!

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Shama Hyder Headshot.pngManaging multiple clients is a challenge every business owner hopes to face at some point – having to balance managing that one big client you’re thrilled to have landed, and still getting everything done for all your other clients.   

 

On the one hand, you want to go all out for your biggest client to make sure you keep them happy. Crazy tight turnaround times? No problem! Tons of out-of-scope requests? Bring ‘em on! After all, they are paying you more, right? And you certainly don’t want to lose them.

 

But if all that extra work causes you to start neglecting other clients, it won’t be long before your biggest client is your only client – and that can be disastrous.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

So how can you find balance and keep everyone happy, from your biggest to your smallest client? Here are my top three tips:

 

1. Get Really Organized

If you were already juggling multiple clients before you closed the deal with your biggest, then already have an organizational system in place that works for you. But when you’re dealing with all those clients plus a big one that may take up as much bandwidth as several others, you’re going to have to get hyper-organized.

 

Without a tool that lets everyone involved clearly see tasks and deadlines, as well as communicate with each other, things will eventually start slipping through the cracks. And without a solid time management plan for yourself and your team, you’ll have difficulties fitting in all that extra work. Try online tools like Basecamp or Trello, and time management apps like Toggl or Focus Booster

 

2.  Have a Backup Plan for Your Backup Plan

At some point, there will come a day when your biggest client hands you a huge project due tomorrow, three of your other clients have urgent work they need completed, and a fourth one urgently needs you to adjust a project you thought was complete. Two of your employees will call in sick, and some tool vital to the running of your business will break down. When that day comes, no amount of tearing your hair out will make your resources stretch enough to do it all.

 

29459868_s.jpgRELATED ARTICLE: THE EMERGING TECH THAT COULD BOOST YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

 

That’s why it’s vital to have a multi-layer backup plan in place. Try out freelancers and contractors before you need them, and find out what their availability is like, so that you know who you can call to get the job done when you’re in a pinch. Decide on an overtime policy, in case you have to ask your team to work extra hours. And find solid workarounds or replacement options for your tools before they die on you. Without a plan in place, things can quickly start crashing down all around you. 

 

3. Be Proactive

As much as it’s a business cliché, it’s still true – being proactive is one of the best ways to ensure that you always meet your clients’ expectations.

 

Anticipate issues that might arise in advance, and work them into your contract so that all your clients, big and small, know from the outset what they can and can’t ask for. That’s not to say you can’t go above and beyond if you determine you have the resources – but then the client will recognize that you’re going the extra mile for them, and appreciate you all the more for it. Ask clients often for information on any upcoming projects, and remind them of the lead time you need to get it done, so that you can work bigger projects into your schedule more easily.

 

By getting organized, putting a backup plan in place, and being proactive, you’ll be able to handle your biggest client and all your regular clients so well that you just might gain a few more of those big clients – and what a great problem to have!

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngThere were lots of things I loved about becoming self-employed when my entrepreneurial journey began, but near the top of the list had to be my newfound ability to drop my kids off and pick them up from school. I loved that.

 

Being a parent is a full-time job, and there are a lot of adjectives that describe it: fun, exhausting, frustrating, time-consuming, rewarding, joyous, and everything in between. For a lot of parents – especially new ones – it might seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do anything extra. I certainly don’t miss that sleep deprivation.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

One thing I’ve learned: Fatherhood is a very good precursor to entrepreneurship. So, on this Father’s Day, I want to salute all the “dadpreneurs” out there – both the ones who own their own businesses and the ones who don’t – because it turns out that if you are helping with the kids, you are an entrepreneur in training.

 

In fact, if you are thinking of starting a business, know that your fatherhood can bring forth your entrepreneurial ambitions. Here’s why:

 

Fatherhood requires teamwork: If you are married or have a significant other, you already know parenting requires cooperation and compromise. Knowing how to let go of your ego and make joint decisions is an essential part of parenting…as well entrepreneurship.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS REALLY, REALLY LIKE THEIR WORK

 

Many successful businesses have more than one co-founder. This is a simple matter of “two heads are better than one.” If you already know how to recognize your own weaknesses, acknowledge your partner’s strengths, and work as a team, then you are well on your way to being a successful entrepreneur. Teamwork is a cornerstone to running a successful small business, and that type of teamwork is the same when it comes to parenting. this applies to single dads, as well. Partnership obviously extends between you and your child. This has everything to do with putting your own needs aside and thinking of the greater good, and learning how and when to say no, cooperation, patience, assertiveness, and compassion. These are all the same traits needed when it comes to managing a team and a growing business.

 

Fatherhood teaches resourcefulness: There isn’t always an easy answer in the world of fatherhood, much like in the world of business. Starting a business is a notoriously challenging process that requires attention, quick decision making when things don’t go according to plan (which will happen often), and juggling, not unlike changing a diaper while engaging the toddler and talking to your partner on the phone.

 

In this sense, being a dad is excellent small business training. Can you do it all?

 

46770350_s.jpgFatherhood = patience: Starting your own business is often a waiting game. Your business will most likely not become super successful as quickly as you’d like, which just means you need to stick to it and not give up. This is very difficult for a lot of people, but dads know that program.

 

Fatherhood means prioritizing and multitasking: Being a dad means you have to wear many hats at once while t understanding which hat is most important at a given time. Is being in the school play more important than having extra time to get their homework done? As a parent, you are the CEO and have to decide. Similarly, running a small business means being able to make quality executive decisions about which tasks have more priority and which can wait.

 

As I said, part of the beauty of owning a small business is that it allows you to create your own schedule. Furthermore, it also allows you to make your own decisions, and have more control over your financial situation. For a lot of dads, these are all highly valued benefits.

 

Sure, the prospect of becoming an entrepreneur might seem risky, but chances are, you’re way more prepared than you think.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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