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18 Posts authored by: Rieva Lesonsky

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.

 

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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  Selling old-fashioned paper gift certificates: Paper gift certificates give the impression your store is out of date.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

 

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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

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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.

 

 

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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.
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  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.

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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

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

 

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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

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

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

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngWhether your business is just getting started or is already established, growth is undoubtedly on your agenda.

 

Here are a dozen tips to help you focus on growing your business.

 

1. Focus on cash flow. Review your cash flow statement frequently to assess not only whether your business’s income is sufficient, but also where it comes from and where it goes. If your cash flow comes primarily from financing or investments rather than business operations, you may need to rethink your business model.

 

2. Target your marketing. Whether your business is B2C or B2B, it’s easier than ever to target a narrow customer niche thanks to digital marketing. Use pay-per-click advertising, social media and email to reach out to your specific target market with marketing messages tailored just for them.

 

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

 

3. Listen to your customers. Pay attention to what customers say both to you and about you on social media. Conduct regular customer surveys by phone, email or online. Listening to customers’ feedback will alert you to problems that could cost you business. It will also spark new ideas that can attract more customers.

 

4. Do a SWOT analysis. Evaluate your business’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats facing it. Then figure out ways to capitalize on your business’s strengths and correct its weaknesses. Make a plan to profit from opportunities and protect your business from potential threats.

 

5. Invest in your business. It’s difficult to part with hard-earned cash, but being penny-wise and pound-foolish is a recipe for stagnation. No matter how tight your business budget is, set aside appropriate amounts for essential investments such as marketing your business and purchasing equipment. Measure the ROI to ensure you aren’t wasting money.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW THE GOVERNMENT’S MONTHLY RETAIL SALES REPORTS CAN BE USEFUL FOR YOUR BUSINESS

 

6. Explore new markets. Can you grow your business by adding a variation to a successful product line, targeting a new demographic for your existing products and services, or expanding into new geographic markets? Perhaps you can expand from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar, or vice versa. Doing market research helps you predict whether such a move will pay off.

 

44408886_s.jpg7. Market to your existing customers. New customers mean new business, but loyal customers can mean more business. Reach out to your existing customer base with special offers just for them. Implement a loyalty program that tracks their spending, helps you develop tailored promotions and encourages them to buy more.

 

8. Partner with other businesses. A strategic partnership with a complementary business can be a way to grow with a minimal investment of capital. Reach out to prospective partners to discuss how you can work together. This could range from sharing customer lists to developing a new product or service together or even forming a new business entity.

 

9. Ask for and use referrals. Develop a system to request referrals from customers soon after you complete their work or deliver their order. Use customer relationship management software to maintain information about referrals, including when you followed up and what the results were.

 

10. Keep your employees happy. Your employees are the foundation of your business, so treat them that way. Keep them loyal by offering competitive wages and benefits, professional development opportunities and a positive atmosphere. Arrangements that help with work-life balance, such as offering employees flexible hours or letting them work from home, help make your business a place people want to work.

 

11. Exploit technology. Is your business making the most of technology to save time, boost productivity and cut costs? If you don’t have an in-house IT expert to advise you, enlist an IT consultant to suggest ways that upgrading your technology can help your business grow.

 

12. Be prepared. You make plans for everything your business does—but do you have a backup plan? Whether it’s storing your critical data safely in the cloud, working with multiple vendors so you never run out of inventory, or having a strong relationship with a bank so you can quickly access capital when you need to, always have a Plan B.

 

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.pngAs I’m sure you’ve heard, attracting millennial customers is key to continued business success. The increasing purchasing power of this generation, plus their life stage as young adults and young parents, makes them a valuable demographic. But once you've got those millennial shoppers in the door, how can you keep them coming back?

 

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


Here are six ways you can turn millennials into repeat customers.

 

1. Be consistent. Your digital and physical presence need to provide the same experience and ease-of-use. Whether you sell products on your business website or not, millennials expect a seamless transition as they switch from looking at your website on a smartphone or tablet to looking at it on a desktop to visiting your store. If your store is having a sale, mention it on your website. If your website says you have a product, it better be in stock. Disappointing or frustrating millennial customers is the surest way to lose their business.

 

2. Offer expertise. Millennial shoppers have a world of information at their fingertips, so when they visit your store, they expect your sales team to be just as knowledgeable. Forty percent of millennials say “deep product knowledge” is important to them when visiting a store, PwC reports. Your employees should be able to answer in-depth questions about products, provide recommendations and suggest complementary purchases. Another option PwC suggests: Consider putting your store employees on different tracks. For example, you can train some employees to focus on maintaining the stockroom and handling inventory, and others to focus on customer service and developing deep expertise.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE ONGOING DEBATE: SHOULD YOU FOCUS ON WINNING NEW CUSTOMERS OR RETAINING LOYAL CUSTOMERS?

 

3. Reward your social media followers. Millennials won’t follow your store on social media just because they think you’re cool. Instead, they expect to get something out of the relationship. Exclusive access to deals, coupons or information are key reasons millennials follow retailers on social media, a survey by Accenture reports. When millennial shoppers are in-store, you can encourage them to follow you on social media by explaining the rewards they’ll get.

 

43059118_s.jpg4. Get personal with promotions. If you want millennials to become loyal retail customers, you’ve got to offer them personalized, targeted promotions and discounts, Accenture reports. A whopping 95 percent of millennials in that survey say they want retailers to “court them actively.” Coupons sent by email or (surprise!) mailed to their homes are the most effective promotional tool for this age group.

 

5. Use a loyalty marketing program. Paper or plastic loyalty cards won’t cut it with millennials. At last year’s Microsoft Envision conference, a panel of millennials expressed disdain for these “primitive” methods. The panel agreed they wouldn’t even be willing to carry a small, plastic keychain card to participate in a loyalty program. Fortunately, there are plenty of digital loyalty programs suited for small retailers; Belly, Loyalzoo and Perkaare just a few. These loyalty programs go far beyond the old “buy 10, get one free” model of yesterday. They enable you to capture all kinds of data about your shoppers, what they buy and what promotions they respond to. They also make it easy to create customized marketing messages that resonate with individual customers.

 

6. Think mobile. Speaking of customized marketing messages, one good way to reach out to millennial shoppers is via mobile. Most (85 percent) want to get mobile messages from retailers while they’re in-store, reports Chain Store Age. This age group is also more likely than others to accept personalized messages based on their past online behaviors. You can use mobile marketing to text offers to customers when they enter your store or get within a certain radius of it.

 

Adjusting your customer retention methods to focus on millennials is a smart move. Not only is this generation growing in influence, they’re influencing how their parents shop as well.

 


 

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.pngThis will not come as a surprise, but if you want to succeed as a retailer, you must have what customers want when they want it, without having to stock up on excess inventory. To help you make smarter decisions in your retail business check out the retail and economic information available from the U.S. government.

 

Around the second week of every month, the government releases monthly retail sales reports for the previous month. What kind of information do these reports contain, and how can you use it to benefit your store?

 

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

What’s Included

The Census Bureau conducts the Retail Sales Report by surveying about 4,900 retailers ranging from multinationals to small, independent stores, including food service and automotive-related businesses.

 

The Retail Sales Report estimates sales for all retail businesses in each month, as well as the percentage change in sales from the previous month. Sales are further broken down into detailed types of retail businesses, such as furniture/home furnishing stores, sporting goods stores, clothing stores and more. View retail sales reports.

 

What It Means for You

Because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. GDP, the Retail Sales Report is an important indicator of the nation’s current economic health. By showing a snapshot of Americans’ discretionary spending habits, it can indicate whether consumers are feeling confident or cautious, which can ultimately give you insights into your consumers’ behavior.

 

Investors and financial services businesses use the Retail Sales Report to watch for signs of inflation and recession. If retail sales jump suddenly, it can warn of impending inflation. If retail sales dip or stagnate, it could indicate a coming recession.

 

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How to Use It

If the idea of poring over Retail Sales Report charts and tables gives you a headache, you’re not alone. For small business owners, reading the Retail Sales Report can be more confusing than helpful. For one thing, the government revises each month’s report several months after issuing it, so data can change dramatically. Since the Census Bureau doesn’t adjust monthly figures for inflation, volatile gas and food prices can make it look like retail sales are soaring or plunging.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE ONGOING DEBATE: SHOULD YOU FOCUS ON WINNING NEW CUSTOMERS OR RETAINING LOYAL CUSTOMERS?

 

To get more value from the Retail Sales Report:

  • Watch a wide range of economic indicators. For retailers, these include the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s data on consumer spending, The Conference Board’s monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, and the monthly Census reports on shipments and orders of durable goods. (Durable goods are major purchases that last over three years; strong sales of consumer durable goods, which include autos and major appliances, signal confidence in the economy.) government's economic indicators here.
  • Use The National Retail Federation (NRF) resources. The NRF publishes retail data and projections for specific holidays, such as Easter or Mother's Day, and seasons, such as back-to-school and the holiday shopping season.
  • Focus on longer-term trends and predictions. Year-over-year trends or quarterly trends are a better indicator for retailers than month-to-month trends. Also, pay attention to whether figures are in line with experts’ predictions or sharply diverge.
  • Look to the experts. Instead of trying to interpret government reports yourself, read analysis of economic indicators in a trusted retail industry or business publication. Analysts can slice and dice the information in useful ways. For example, they’ll pull out specific retail categories and even individual retailers that are strong or weak, which can give you a heads-up on important trends. Currently, weak department store sales reflect Americans’ decreasing interest in stores that “sell it all,” while niche retailer Ulta Beauty is on the upswing because consumers prefer specialty stores.

 


 

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.pngFor whatever reason, we’ve all experienced an unhappy customer. While this can be a frustrating experience, I’m here to tell you it’s not only possible to defuse angry customers, but you can turn them into raving fans of your small business.

 

Here are my top 10 tips:

 

1. Put your ego aside. When faced with conflict, it’s human nature to become defensive or angry in response. You need to put these urges aside and focus on the customer’s feelings, not your own.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Let the customer vent. Most angry people just want to be heard. Like a boiling kettle, your customer needs to let off steam—if you get in the way, you’ll get burned. 

 

3. Listen actively. While the customer vents, pay attention. Don’t think about what you’re going to say in response, interrupt or offer solutions (yet). Try to understand why the customer is so upset and what feelings are behind the anger.

 

4. Clarify the reason the customer is angry. Paraphrase what he or she said and ask if you’re understanding correctly. Repeat, if necessary, until you get it right.

 

5. Apologize for the problem. Don’t just say “I’m sorry”—be empathetic. “I’m so sorry the gift you ordered for your daughter didn’t arrive on time. That must have disappointed you and the birthday girl.” 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 FRESH WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

 

6. Take ownership of the problem. Tell the customer you will personally make sure the issue is resolved. Coming from the business owner, this means a lot and often diffuses the situation.

 

7. Suggest a solution and get the customer’s buy-in. To give the customer some control of the situation, present a solution and ask if that would work for her. Or offer two options and ask the customer which she would prefer.

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8. Solve the problem as quickly as possible. Often, you can do this on the spot; other times, it may take longer. For problems that require more time, keep the customer updated about progress so they don’t feel forgotten. 

 

9. Go above and beyond solving the problem. Customers will be satisfied if you fix the problem, but they won’t be thrilled enough to become raving fans. To get them there consider offering a discount, additional service, free gift or other item of value at the same time you resolve the issue. Better yet, offer something the customer can share with friends. “I’m so sorry you weren’t happy with your steak. We’ll bring you another one on the house. Also, please accept this gift certificate for two free entrees. We hope you’ll come back to visit us again.”

 

10. Follow up a week after resolving the problem. “Hi, Mr. Rodriguez. I’m calling to make sure the replacement part we installed last week is working properly for you.” This shows the customer that their problem isn’t “out of sight, out of mind” and that you care about them in the long term.

 

Diffusing an angry online confrontation is more challenging, since you can’t “read” a person’s body language or tone of voice. Ask the customer to “go offline” and talk by phone; then follow the steps above.

 

Afterwards, go online to update others on how the issue was resolved. If the customer wrote a negative review, post a response explaining what you did, or ask the customer if he’d like to do so. After you’ve gone above and beyond to make them happy, most customers will revise the review on their own.

 

If the issue is an ongoing problem rather than a one-off, be sure to thank the customer for bringing it to your attention, and tell them what action you’re taking going forward. “Thank you for letting us know our technician didn’t get your approval before performing the work. We’ve talked to all our technicians and changed our system so this won’t happen again.” 

 

Listening to customers and treating them with respect helps turn ranters into raving fans.

 

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

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