Skip navigation
1 2 Previous Next

General Business

23 Posts authored by: Rieva Lesonsky

For many small businesses, the beginning of a new year is slow. Your customers are digging out from under holiday bills and recovering from an excess of eating, drinking and celebrating. To attract new customers in the New Year, you’ll need to be creative. Here are eight ideas to get you going.

 

1. Do good. In January, people clean out their closets to make room for their new holiday swag. Collect donations of used products from your customers in exchange for a discount on your products or services. For example, a clothing store could give everyone who brings in an old pair of jeans 20 percent off a new pair. The same concept works for used toys, books, kitchen appliances or any products people are likely to offload this time of year.41392789_s.jpg

Read more on doing good: Evaluating Charity Requests? Four questions to ask

 

2. Try a daily deal. While not as hot as they once were, daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial can still be an effective way to attract new customers. Plus, the discounts appeal to budget-conscious consumers still paying off holiday bills. Deal sites will help you craft a deal that’s worth your while.

Related article: The Importance of Timing Your Promotions

 

3. Tap into the power of influencers. Bloggers, media and even local celebrities like a popular Little League coach are all potential influencers whose opinions affect your target customers. You can spread the word about your business to a whole new audience by reaching out to appropriate influencers and ask if they’ll review or otherwise mention your products or services.

Learn more about influencers: Boost Sales with Influencer Marketing

 

4. Give away gift certificates. Percentage-off coupons are a dime a dozen, but how often do consumers get a no-strings-attached gift certificate? Mail or email $10 gift certificates valid for any purchase of $10 or more, and prospective customers won’t be able to resist checking out your wares. Almost two-thirds of gift card users spend more than the value of the gift card, making this a win-win situation.

A few other ways to boost sales: 10 Easy Ways to Quickly Boost Sales

 

5. Hand out free samples. If your business is in an area that gets lots of foot traffic, giving away free samples is a foolproof way to attract new customers. In fact, three-fourths of consumers say free samples influence them to buy. The free sample concept works for service businesses, too. For example, a yoga studio or fitness club can offer a week of free classes, then give customers a discount on membership if they sign up at the end of that week.

Related article: The Value of Customer Loyalty − Infographic

 

6. Host an event. In-store events can draw new customers for all types of businesses. From an art show at a coffeehouse to live music at a record store from a book signing at a bookstore to a fashion show at a clothing boutique, the possibilities are endless. Try holding a teaching event that shows customers how to use what you sell while whetting their appetite for buying it. If you own a cookware store, for instance, hold a free cooking class and give everyone who attends 20 percent off anything they buy that day.

Learn how to host a live event: Using Live Events as a Marketing Tool

 

7. Partner with complementary businesses. Find a business that targets the same customers you do, but with a non-competing product or service. For example, a fitness club and a sporting goods store could partner up to offer each other’s customers discounts – linking to your partner business on your website will help drive traffic, too.

Think about bartering with another business: Bartering May Ease Cash-Flow Crunch, But Follow These Rules

 

 

8. Hit the road. Branded business vehicles serve as nonstop advertisements for your business and work especially well for companies that make deliveries or travel to customers’ homes or businesses. One business in my neighborhood has a fleet of hot-pink vehicles with a logo, website and phone number in huge letters on all four sides. You can get your vehicles “wrapped,” which is sure to capture attention – search online for “vehicle wrapping” to find services near you. Park your vehicles on busy streets and in other high-traffic areas to maximize visibility.

More ideas on how to get publicity: How to Get Free Publicity for Your Small 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

You see them each month in the news. Politicians throw them around as a measure of success; or the opposing party points to them as a failure. But what do the federal jobs numbers really mean for your small business?

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Employment Situation Summary of national employment data the first Friday of every month. It also releases the Current Employment Statistics, a related survey with data on workers who are on payrolls. Finally, state and metro area employment data are released monthly, too.76154429_s.jpg

These reports measure several things:

  • Unemployment rate
  • Number of new jobs created
  • Wages: Did they increase or decrease?
  • Workforce participation: What percentage of the total adult population is either actively looking for work or employed?
  • Underemployment: What percentage of people are working part time even though they would rather be working full-time?

 

Employment numbers are considered a “lagging indicator,” which means they reflect things that have already happened rather than predict the future. However, they are useful in making short-term decisions and, when you look at the long term, some jobs numbers can be used to make forecasts.

Here are some things to consider when you look at the jobs report:

 

  • Do the numbers meet expectations? If the jobs reports diverge significantly from what economists have predicted, it can be either a positive or negative sign—depending on whether they’re higher or lower than expected.

 

  • Is it an employer’s market or an employee’s market? When unemployment is low, jobs are easier to find—so businesses, especially small ones, have a harder time finding qualified workers. You may need to offer higher salaries, better benefits or otherwise make your jobs more appealing in order to attract employees.

 

  • What are the long-term trends? Blips in jobs data from month to month are typically not that significant. It’s more important—and useful—to look at the long-term trends.

 

  • Don’t forget underemployment. In recent years, “the gig economy” has become more prevalent, and many Americans who want full-time jobs with benefits can only find part-time work. That means the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the whole story.

 

  • Wage growth is a double-edged sword. As an employer, rising wages means you’ll need to pay more to attract and retain employees to remain competitive. But wage growth typically makes consumers more willing to spend—which is good news for small businesses.

 

  • Don’t forget state and local jobs numbers. If your business caters to local customers, these are often more important than national trends. For example, hurricanes in the United States affected jobs reports in September. While this depressed the overall statistics, it won’t really affect businesses in other states unless they have a lot of customers in areas affected by the hurricanes.

 

  • What industries are growing and shrinking? Note which industries are gaining or losing jobs. One industry’s loss can be another’s gain—for example, if retail establishments in your area are losing jobs, some of those employees might be candidates to work at your restaurant.

 

  • Workforce participation can indicate long-term trends. Currently, workforce participation is around 62%. As the U.S. population ages, more and more Americans will leave the workforce. In the last U.S. Census, the population aged 65 and older grew at a faster rate than other age groups. For businesses, this means it will get harder to find workers, and retirees (often on fixed incomes) are likely to spend less.

 

Reading the jobs numbers alone won’t tell you much. Combine them with other key economic indicators, such as new residential construction, consumer spending and international trade, to get a fuller picture. The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are two sources of good analyses that can help you get the gist of jobs numbers and other economic indicators quickly.

 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The importance of employee perks and how you can offer more than you think

 

RELATED ARTICLE:  Is the Gig Economy right for you? Some things you should consider.


RELATED ARTICLE: Small Business Owners Damaged by Hurricanes Eligible for Tax Relief

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

Small Business Saturday is on November 25th. Is your business prepared? Held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year, Small Business Saturday launched in 2010 as a day to support small, local businesses nationwide. The event has snowballed since then: In 2016, 112 million consumers spent an estimated $15.4 billion at independent businesses on Small Business Saturday.

 

The special day isn’t just for retailers, despite it being sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (This year, it's on November 25.) Any local independent business—restaurants, spas and salons, home services businesses and more—can profit from this day. Even independent e-commerce businesses can leverage Small Business Saturday.

 

U.S. consumers love shopping with independent businesses. In a recent survey by Ask Your Target Market, 49% of respondents say they prefer to patronize small businesses over large ones; 34% even go out of their way to do so. But that doesn't mean you can sit back, relax and expect customers to pour into your business on November 25. Here are six things you can do to prepare for Small Business Saturday.

 

1. Staff up: Be sure you have enough staff scheduled on Small Business Saturday to serve customers. Hopefully, you’ll be getting a lot of first-time visitors, so their experience with your business must be a positive one.

e7f034be-27ea-420d-ab1b-ef4638cb7522.jpg

 

2. Stock up: Make sure you have plenty of inventory on hand. No business wants to attract a crowd of customers and then run out of what they want to buy.

 

3. Team up: Small Business Saturday is a neighborhood affair. Talk to other local business owners in your area to see if they're planning to participate. The more businesses get involved, the more awareness you’ll generate—and the more customers you’ll attract. Your local Chamber of Commerce, business owners’ organization and even City Hall can help put together a Small Business Saturday marketing push. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, from each dollar spent at a local independent merchant, 2 to 3.50 times that recirculates in the local economy. That’s something every local government can get behind! Community organizations and chambers of commerce can even become Neighborhood Champions of Small Business Saturday.

 

4. Speak up: Let the local media know about Small Business Saturday and what your community is doing to promote it. Local newspapers and bloggers are always looking for holiday-related stories. If this is the first year your city or town is participating, educate the media about what this day means to local small businesses and the community.

 

5. Spruce up: Get ready to put your business’s best face forward on Small Business Saturday. Make sure your location is looking good, and take care of any needed repairs such as burned-out light bulbs or heating malfunctions. Plan your holiday store decor, too.

 

6. Keep it up: Small Business Saturday raises awareness of independent local businesses—and hopefully, you can keep capitalizing on consumers’ newfound awareness of your business year long. Plan to: collect email addresses; sign new customers up for loyalty programs; encourage reviews on rating sites; engage on social media and otherwise stay in touch with them throughout the holidays and all year long.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

Women entrepreneurs are a power to be reckoned with. According to the 2016 State of Women Owned Businesses report, in 2016 the 11.3 million U.S. businesses owned by women employed nearly 9 million people and generated over $1.6 trillion in revenues.

 

More good news: revenues of women-owned firms are growing faster than revenues of businesses overall—increasing by 35% since 2007. But there’s still a “glass ceiling” when it comes to revenues: NAWBO reports that just one in five businesses with annual revenues of $1 million or more is woman-owned.

 

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

 

Of course, some women-owned businesses have lower sales simply because they aren’t trying to become the next Starbucks. Many women (and men) entrepreneurs just like the flexibility of being their own bosses and aren’t driven by visions of world domination. But if you're one of those women entrepreneurs who does dream of being the next Mark Zuckerberg—or Martha Stewart—here are three things to help get you there.

 

1. Delegate. Women-owned businesses are less likely than businesses owned by men to have employees, according to the State of Women Owned Businesses report. But a one-person business can only grow to the limits of your abilities and available time. What’s more, solopreneurs get so bogged down in daily details and administration they have less time to devote to important daily tasks and long-term strategizing.

 

You don’t have to hire employees to delegate. Using independent contractors or freelancers can deliver many of the same benefits without the costs or headaches. But don’t assume you can't afford to hire, either. Assess your current workload, the potential for growth and how quickly an employee’s salary would recoup itself in new business. You may be surprised at how fast the investment in staff pays off.45163950_s.jpg

 

2. Don’t fear debt. You’ve got to spend money to make money. If you don’t have the money to spend, you may need to borrow it. Many entrepreneurs try to avoid debt like the plague. However, just like in our personal financial lives, when it comes to running a business, there’s good debt and bad debt. Taking out a mortgage to become a homeowner is good debt; charging your credit card up to the limit eating at fancy restaurants is bad debt.

 

When used wisely, business debt can be a valuable tool that helps you grow your business by purchasing inventory, equipment or assets you otherwise couldn’t afford. Before taking on debt, be sure you know what you’ll use the money for and the expected return on that investment. Also shop around for the best loan terms you can find. 

 

     RELATED ARTICLES: Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs

 

3. Partner with other businesses. Teaming up with other businesses in a strategic partnership lets you add new capabilities to your offerings. Look for a complementary business that provides products or services your customers want. For example, my content development business partners with a couple of website design firms. Since businesses in the market for website design often need content, and vice versa, partnering lets both our businesses access new customers and offer existing customers new services.

 

You can form a long-term strategic partnership or a short-term partnership focused on one project or serving one client. Make sure you trust your partner and the quality of their work. For each engagement, put a contract in place to clearly define the terms of the relationship, including potentially contentious issues like responsibilities, deliverables and compensation.

 

Make It a Million

Whether you want to grow a million-dollar business or simply boost your current sales, the three tactics above will help you achieve your financial goals.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

I don’t believe in the phrase “work-life-balance.” I think it sets us up for failure, because it’s impossible to achieve—at least for an entrepreneur. Balance implies 50/50 and no business owner can succeed only devoting 50 percent of their time to building their companies.

 

The reality of growing a business demands more than that, especially at startup, when a new business is nearly as needy as a new baby. (If you've ever been, or met, a new mom, you know their life isn’t exactly an example of “balance”).

 

As your business grows and you add employees, things get easier, akin to the relief moms feel when their kids grow beyond the toddler stage and they can finally take a shower in peace. But no matter what stage our businesses are in, women business owners—especially those with significant others, children or aging parents  — rarely feel balanced. “When I'm at work, I feel guilty I’m not at home with my kids,” one woman entrepreneur told me. “When I’m home with my kids, I feel guilty I’m not answering client emails or working on proposals.”

 

34215801_s.jpg   CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

Since the burdens of running the household usually fall on women (still!) even if they work outside the home, work-life balance has long been viewed as a “women's issue.” In recent years, however, the desire for work-life balance has become widespread. As technology intrudes into our lives 24/7, even men and millennials are yearning for less work, more life.

 

Is there an answer? While I believe the likelihood of any woman business owner finding true work-life balance is about as likely as finding the Holy Grail, I do think we can all find a more satisfactory way of managing our lives.

 

Here’s what it takes.

1. Accept you’ll never find balance. Instead, you’ll be seesawing up and down between priorities (see #3). Learn to enjoy the view, wherever you are, and savor the ride.

 

2. Give up the guilt. Easier said than done, I know. As women, we are raised to put others first and be people pleasers. If you want to succeed as a business owner without losing your grip, you’ve got to let some of that go.

 

3. Learn to prioritize. Your priorities will change every day—sometimes several times a day. It’s all about learning to triage what matters most to you—both at the moment and in the long term? If your biggest client is experiencing an emergency only you can handle, you might have to miss your daughter’s softball game. If your client just wants to have a routine conference call, tell him you have a previous appointment, schedule the call for tomorrow and go cheer your daughter on. Or start delegating some responsibilities.

 

4. Get help. Remember the old cliché, “Behind every successful man is a woman.” What could you accomplish if you had a “wife”? Stop trying to be Superwoman and think of ways you can buy time to focus on your priorities. For instance, maybe you need to hire a housecleaner, order dinner in every night or put your teens in charge of more household chores.

 

     RELATED VIDEO: Women Entrepreneurship in a World of Change, Moderated by Susan Solovic

 

The bottom line: listen to your gut. Yeah, you know that every day you should make time to get plenty of sleep, exercise, meditate, socialize, etc., etc. Do all of those things ever happen in the same day? Not if you’re like most women business owners.

 

Instead of beating yourself up about it, check in with yourself at the end of every day and see how you feel. Maybe you feel on top of the world even though you just worked 16 hours straight. If you’re happy, great; if not, think about how you can make tomorrow a better day.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

The holiday shopping season is almost upon us, and for retailers, 2017 has the potential to be a very good year. Consumers plan to spend an average of $728.40 each on gifts and other holiday purchases, according to The International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey, which projects a 3.8 percent increase in retail sales this holiday season. Deloitte forecasts e-commerce sales to rise by 18 to 21 percent over last holiday season. There’s no need for brick-and-mortar retailers to worry, though: The vast majority of sales still happen offline, and more than 90 percent of shoppers plan to visit a physical store this holiday season.

As you gear up for the holidays, plan for success by avoiding these common holiday preparation mistakes.

 

1.  Waiting too long: Two-thirds of consumers plan to start shopping before Thanksgiving, according to the ICSC, and 27 percent started in August. That means your planning should already be underway, too.

 

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

 

2.  Not hiring enough staff: Customers’ expectations for quick service are higher than ever before. Plus, competition for seasonal workers is stiff so it's important to make sure you’re adequately—and professionally—staffed. It's not too early to review scheduling and start hiring.

 

26697488_s.jpg

3.  Selling old-fashioned paper gift certificates: Paper gift certificates give the impression your store is out of date. They also take more time to issue, since they have to be filled out by hand, and consumers are more likely to lose them or discard them by accident. Plastic gift cards are easy and affordable for even small retailers to offer, and are predicted to be the most popular holiday gift this season: ICSC says two-thirds of consumers plan to buy them. If you’re still offering paper gift certificates, moving to a plastic gift card program can really boost sales.

 

4.  Not updating your website: A whopping 85 percent of shoppers plan to research online before buying a product in a brick-and-mortar store, according to the ICSC study. Prepare your store’s website with a holiday makeover, including holiday-themed images, gift ideas and special offers. Add as much information as you can about the products you sell. The more detail you provide, the better.

 

5.  Not optimizing your website for local search: When consumers go online to find local stores, your business needs to show up in the search results. To do so, make sure your listings on local search directories are complete and consistent, with your name, address and phone number spelled exactly the same way in each place. Update your listings with information about holiday hours, holiday promotions and hot products.  While you’re at it, make sure your essential business information—your store’s location, hours and phone number—are prominently displayed on your website’s homepage.

 

6.  Not advertising online: Given that 85 percent of consumers start their holiday shopping online, according to the ICSC, investing in digital advertising should be a no-brainer. Create pay-per-click ads using keywords relevant to your store or to popular products you carry.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Tips for Hiring Seasonal Employees Ahead of the Holiday Rush

 

7.  Getting careless with the bottom line: Yes, consumers are projected to spend more this holiday season than last season. However, with increasing competition from online, offline and multichannel options, retailers are also expected to offer plenty of promotions. Don’t try to compete with Walmart or Target on Black Friday deals: Carefully calculate the costs and benefits of any promotions you offer, and stay on top of your profit margins throughout the season.

 

8.  Running out of inventory: Take advantage of your inventory management system’s features to project inventory needs based on last year’s sales and this years’ outlook. Stay on top of inventory on a daily basis so you don’t get caught short, or set alerts or automatic reorders when stock runs low.          

 

Make no mistake: By following these tips, you’ll be well prepared to enjoy success and reap the benefits of the holiday season. Happy selling!

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

It’s National Women's Small Business Month, which is a perfect time to honor women’s achievements in the world of entrepreneurship. There are numerous other women entrepreneurs who, if I were writing a book about great women business owners, would be included, such as Coco Chanel, Oprah, Mary Kay Ash, Ruth Fertel, Leeann Chin, Mary Wells Lawrence, Muriel Siebert and Lillian Vernon. Today, however, I’d like to call attention to five stand-out transformative female entrepreneurs who revolutionized their industries.

 

1. Madam C.J. Walker

Meet 5 of America’s Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs_C.J. Walker.jpg

Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) was one of the first female self-made millionaires in America—an astounding accomplishment for an African-American woman born to freed slaves in 1867. When she began losing her hair at a young age, she experimented with various solutions and in 1905 launched a hair care system designed for African-Americans.

 

Walker and her husband toured the U.S. promoting her products through demonstrations. Madam C.J. Walker Laboratories also employed door-to-door salespeople to market the product directly to African-American women—a precursor to the Avon lady. By 1910 the business had more than 3,000 employees; by 1919, when she died, it was valued at over $1 million. A philanthropist, Walker gave generously to causes assisting African-Americans and women.

 

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

 

estee-lauder.jpg

2.  Estée Lauder

Born in 1908, Estée Lauder (born Josephine Esther Mentzer) learned to make skin creams from her Hungarian uncle, and demonstrated them on women sitting under hairdryers at beauty salons. In 1946, she and husband Joseph Lauder started the company; their first order came from Saks Fifth Avenue.

 

A pioneer in beauty marketing, Lauder introduced the concept of “Gift With Purchase” now widely used in the beauty industry. Her emphasis on word-of-mouth marketing ("Telephone, telegraph, tell a woman,” she used to say) suggests she would have had lots of social media followers today. The Estée Lauder Companies is still a family-owned business.

 

 

3. Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart.JPG

Martha Stewart wasn’t always a lifestyle maven—she also worked as a model and then as a stockbroker in the early 1970s (a time when women on Wall Street were almost unheard of). When she and her then-husband moved to Connecticut in 1972, she threw herself into restoring their new home, a 19th-century farmhouse. Inspired by the project, she taught herself to cook and started a catering company.

 

Stewart parlayed the success of her catering business into several best-selling cookbooks, and in 1991, launched Martha Stewart Living magazine. Her television show and line of housewares were also huge hits. Despite a bump in the road in 2003, when she was indicted for insider trading related to her company’s IPO, Stewart bounced back and is still showing us how to live graciously.

 

 

barbara-corcoran.jpg

4. Barbara Corcoran

Barbara Corcoran’s official bio says she got straight D's throughout high school—but the more than 20 jobs she had held by age 23 served as her education. In 1973, she co-founded a real estate business with her boyfriend. The business thrived, but a few years later her boyfriend left her for another woman, telling Corcoran she’d never succeed without him.

 

Corcoran Group, the first woman-owned real estate business in New York City, was a success from its first year. The company began selling real estate online in 1993, pioneering the concept, and by 2001, revenues neared $100 million. In 2006, Corcoran sold the company for $66 million. Today, she’s one of the judges on ABC’s Shark Tank, helping other entrepreneurs fine-tune their ideas and succeed.

 

 

5. Sara Blakely

Sara Blakely.jpg

Like many women, Sara Blakely didn’t like how she looked in white pants. But, unlike many, she actually did something

about it: cutting off the feet of a pair of pantyhose and wearing them under her pants, streamlining her look. Convinced her idea had potential, she used $5,000 saved from her door-to-door sales job to patent the product and develop a prototype.

 

In 1998, Blakely made her first sale to a Neiman Marcus buyer after dragging her into the bathroom to demonstrate the product. Two years later, sales soared when SPANX was featured as one of “Oprah's Favorite Things.” America’s youngest self-made female billionaire, Blakely still owns her company, which is entirely self-funded. In 2006 she launched the Sara Blakely Foundation to support women’s causes; in 2013 she became the first female billionaire to sign the Giving Pledge, promising to give away the majority of her money to giving back.

 

          RELATED ARTICLE: Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

You probably think your small business offers great customer service—well, at least good customer service. But does it really?

 

Without setting customer service benchmarks for your staff, then monitoring and measuring them, you can't be sure how well your employees are living up to your customer service promise.

 

Here are six ways to assess the effectiveness of your customer service.

  1. Set benchmarks. "Good customer service" can be a nebulous concept, unless you set measurable standards and create rules to follow. Whenever possible, try to quantify your standards. For example, set a goal to answer all customer service emails within 24 hours, or not to put callers on hold for more than 60 seconds. For behavior that isn’t easily quantifiable, come up with general rules employees can follow. For instance, you might have a rule that your retail employees should acknowledge every customer who enters the store by smiling, greeting them and looking them in the eye. Once you have set such benchmarks, it’s easier to tell if your employees are living up to them.29379581_s.jpg
  2. Put technology on your side. The tools available vary but there are many ways to keep track of your business’s customer service metrics. If you deal with a lot of customer service calls, for example, use software to track measurements such as how quickly calls are answered, how long customers spend on hold, and how long it takes to resolve a problem. Assess company-wide averages as well as individual employees’ metrics to spot areas where your business is falling short.
  3. Ask your customers. It’s easier than ever to survey customers about their satisfaction with your business’s customer service. Methods range from the low-tech (comment cards on your restaurant tables or at your point-of-sale) to online surveys, quick polls on social media or annual check-ins with your best customers to see how satisfied they are. To get unvarnished opinions, stay on top of your business’s online reviews and ratings. If lots of reviewers are criticizing the same aspect of your business (such as the attitude of the wait staff at your restaurant), take it seriously.
    1. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY
  4. Pay attention. Numbers are one way to measure customer service but keep your eyes and ears open too. As a small business owner, you have an advantage over bigger competitors: You can literally see what’s going on in your business every day. Take time to walk around, talk to employees and talk to customers. For example, suppose you have an employee who consistently takes longer than the rest to ring up customers. Watch, and you might find out she’s taking more time to chat with customers and suggest complementary purchases. That means she’s building good customer relationships and boosting the average purchase volume, too.
  5. Empower your employees. Today’s tracking technologies can make you seem like “Big Brother” to your employees, especially if they aren’t sure what you’re measuring and how it affects them. Inspire employees to improve their performances by explaining what you’re tracking, giving them access to their own metrics and showing why the numbers matter. Be open to suggestions from employees about how to improve customer service. Since they’re on the front lines with customers, they can identify processes, bottlenecks and rules that are causing problems.

  6. Take action. Once a month or once a quarter, review all the information you’ve gathered to look for ongoing trends or problems and then determine solutions. Whether the answer is revising your processes, giving employees additional training or incorporating new technologies, taking steps to improve customer service will make both your employees and your customers happier with your small business.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 THINGS MILLENNIALS WANT FROM YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

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. Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

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

Whether they’re 20-somethings or baby boomers, one thing all generations of customers crave is convenience. In an effort to deliver the ultimate in convenience, a variety of delivery services have sprung up, using “gig economy” drivers to provide same-day delivery for businesses large and small.

 

While UPS, DHL and FedEx all offer same-day shipping services, gig economy delivery services can be more affordable, consumer-focused and better suited for perishables like food and flowers. Should your small business use one?

 

Before you jump into the delivery business, ask yourself some questions.

  • How often do your customers ask for delivery? If you rarely get requests, a gig economy service lets you fulfill them without the hassle of hiring your own delivery employees.
  • Do your competitors offer delivery service? If so, how has it affected their businesses? Read online reviews and see what customers are saying about your competitors’ delivery services.
  • Do your competitors that offer delivery use their own drivers/employees, or an outside service?
  • How much do your competitors charge for delivery? Do they build delivery into the cost of the product, or is it a separate charge? How are delivery prices set?

 

Comparing Gig Economy Delivery Services

A search of delivery services in your area will likely uncover some local services. However, there are some big national players offering gig economy delivery:

 

GrubHub: Customers order food on GrubHub or its app; your restaurant receives the order and can have it delivered by a Grubhub driver or your own staff.36429583_s.jpg Grubhub

provides 24/7 customer care on every order. (Seamless, another popular service, is owned by GrubHub, as are many local restaurant delivery services.)

 

UberEATS: UberEATS is an online meal ordering and delivery platform that uses Uber’s network of drivers to deliver meals from hundred of local restaurants; it claims an average 15-minute delivery time.  Ordering can be done on their website or with a smartphone/tablet application.  When customers are ready to check out, they’ll see their address, an estimated delivery time, and the price of the order including tax and booking fee.

 

Postmates: Postmates offers both food and non-food deliveries in more than 130 cities nationwide, 24/7/365. Customers place orders online, and Postmates handles the entire process of order fulfillment and delivery for you. You can see and track orders on your Postmates dashboard.

 

Deliv: Deliv delivers not only restaurant items, but also groceries and meal subscription products. If you choose the Small Business option, you’ll still be in charge of scheduling delivery, packing the item, etc. If you want customers to be able to schedule Deliv directly from your website, you’ll need the Enterprise version.

 

UberRUSH: For nonfood items, UberRUSH lets you schedule deliveries for the same day or in the future, add special instructions such as requiring a signature, and track them in real time just like with Uber. UberRUSH integrates with many e-commerce platforms. In some markets, packages are delivered by bicycle, which limits them to 30 pounds or less; car drivers will deliver packages up to 50 pounds.

 

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

 

Choosing the Right Partner

When choosing a gig economy delivery partner, start by finding out what’s available in your city and checking out features, costs and hours of operation. Once you have a short list, consider:

  • Will you gain added exposure? Being featured on a popular restaurant delivery app can attract customers who’ve never heard of your restaurant before.
  • Do they offer additional marketing assistance? Some companies work with you to help market your business.
  • How well are drivers vetted? Are they uniformed or do they wear other identifying clothing?
  • How much control do you have? Do you have the option to deliver products yourself if you choose, or are they all handled by the company?
  • How much customer service do they provide, both to you and to your customers? If there’s a problem with the delivery, who handles the complaint?

 

Before choosing a specific delivery service, place several orders from local companies that use them, and see how satisfied you are. Remember, this delivery service will make a big impression on your customers, so it’s important for it to be a positive one.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: CHOOSING A MERCHANT SERVICE PROVIDER

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

Is workplace gender equality on the horizon? Depends on who you ask. According to most of the 375 women entrepreneurs surveyed for the 2017 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, the answer is yes. However, I’m not so sure I agree…

The survey found that within 20 years:

  • 80 percent of those surveyed believe there will be “greater or equal representation of women” in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) industries, compared to men
  • 68 percent say women will match or exceed men in executive leadership or C-suite roles
  • 66 percent think there will be more women-owned small businesses compared to those owned by men
  • 61 percent of women believe their wages will be equal to or greater than those of men

 

I want to agree with these women. I’ve been advocating for women entrepreneurs since the mid-1980s when I first launched a magazine for them. But if the past is prologue, 20 years may not be enough time for women to achieve economic parity.

 

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

 

According to the latest stats from the Labor Department, in 2016 women made 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man. (And that’s for white women. CNN Money reports Hispanic women make 54 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns, while black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man makes.)

 

Twenty years ago, in 1997, women earned 73.5 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Progress? Not much. And the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (which has tracked the gender wage gap since 1987), says, “If change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past 50 years, it will take 42 years—or until 2059—for women to finally reach pay parity.”

Women.pngThere’s better news when it comes to CEOs. Fortune magazine says women lead 6.4 percent of Fortune 500 companies (that’s 32 companies). According to the magazine, “This is the highest proportion of female CEOs in the 63-year history of the Fortune 500.” And yet Fortune says that number is “still very, very low—and in no way representative of the wider population.”

 

For some context, the government enacted the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) in 1974. In other words, it became illegal “for creditors to discriminate in any aspect of a credit transaction on the basis of sex or marital status,” only 43 years ago. Essentially, before then, a woman could not get credit unless she had a male co-signer.

 

The nation experienced an entrepreneurial revolution in the 1990s—and women became a symbol of that surge. For most of that decade (and since) the startup rate for women-owned businesses was at least double, sometimes four times that of the general startup rate. Many experts predicted women would own 50 percent of U.S. small businesses by 2000. Today, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), women own about 9.4 million businesses or around one-third of all U.S. businesses, employing nearly 7.9 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales.

 

By every measure, women run smaller businesses than men. Why is the growth of women-owned businesses so stilted? Joanna L. Krotz addressed this earlier this year on  HuffPost, and some of her examples are because women owners suffer from: low confidence; less business experience; gender bias in funding; service businesses that don’t scale; family responsibilities; fewer role models; reluctance to delegate; inadequate pricing; and resistance to taking on complementary partners.

 

So, does the problem lie with women? Candida Brush, a Babson professor of entrepreneurship, doesn’t think so. Several years ago, she told me, “It was all about what women need to do. Not anymore. The women are there, they’re qualified, and they perform well. I’m very tired of this argument that it’s the women who need to fix themselves.”

As noted above, women face hurdles when it comes to securing venture capital. According to long-time financial journalist Ali Velshi, “Only 17 percent of VC-funded companies have a female co-founder or CEO.  Women only run 3.9 percent entirely. In 2016, women-run companies got $4.5M in VC funding, down from $6.1M in 2015 and $5.1M in 2014.”

 

While I applaud the optimism of the women in the Spotlight report, I don’t necessarily share it. Frankly, paraphrasing that old cliché, women have come a long way and we have a long way yet to go.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Three Ideas For Women Business Leaders to Help Others Follow Their Path

 

Let’s not focus on that cliché though.

 

Here are some actions women can take to break through the glass ceiling:

  1. Create a culture that accepts, acknowledges and rewards women. If you’re in a position to hire, consider worthy women candidates—and pay them fairly.

  2. Women tend to be more risk-averse than men. If you’re worried about “what will happen if…” and that concern stops you in your tracks, just ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if things don’t go as planned?”. You’ll see you can manage what you fear.

  3. Don’t take failure personally. No one wins all the time. When something goes wrong, examine your mistakes, “mourn” for 48 hours, and then move on.

  4. Claim your fame. Often, women don’t like to toot their own horns. Embrace your success—in public.

  5. Find a mentor; be a mentor. If you need help, ask for it. Talk to people here in the Bank of America community. Go to SCORE.org and get free mentorship. There’s no better feeling than helping someone accomplish their goals.

  6. And finally, remember the words of former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” I interpret that as practice the Golden Rule, “Do unto others…”

 

 

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.Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

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

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.

60526878_s.png

 

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

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

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

millennial customer service.jpg

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

 

social media.jpg

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

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

Filter Article

By tag: