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13 Posts authored by: Rieva Lesonsky

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.

 

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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.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Social media listening can show you:

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  • 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

Is your retail store turning customers off? According to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index, Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngconsumer satisfaction within the retail industry as a whole is declining.

 

While consumers’ expectations are rising, retailers are cutting budgets, doing less maintenance and laying off staff. But what drives shoppers the craziest (and might be driving them out of your store)?

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

Here are the 5 deadly sins of retailing.

 

1. Not enough salespeople: While no one likes to be hounded by sales associates, shoppers do want knowledgeable help when needed. However, in a survey by MindTree, 40 percent of shoppers say they can’t find a sales associate when needed during the typical shopping trip. Staffing adequately is well worth the cost.

 

  • Customers who interact with a sales associate are 43 percent more likely to buy something, 12 percent more likely to become repeat customers, and make purchases with 81 percent more value than those of shoppers who don’t interact with a salesperson.

 

2. Poor online reviews: Most shoppers (64 percent) check with two or more sources before deciding whether to patronize a business – and at least one of them is likely to be a review site.

 

If your store has negative online reviews or ratings, 52 percent of shoppers won’t consider visiting, a survey by YP.com reports.

 

  • Make sure your business has a critical mass of reviews (most customers don’t read more than 5 or 6) and that they are primarily positive.
  • If you receive a negative review, act quickly to respond and resolve the customer’s concerns.

 

THE 4 C’S OF SOCIAL MEDIA TO GROW BUSINESS (VIDEO)

 

3. Not providing personalized service: A TimeTrade study estimates failing to provide personalized customer service costs brick-and-mortar retailers $150 billion in potential revenues last year.

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As a small retailer, you probably know many of your regular customers by sight. But with the variety of digital loyalty programs available today, why not go one step further?

 

  • Create a frequent shopper program and collect data on what your regular customers buy, how they prefer to pay and what types of promotions get their attention.
  • Use this information not only to target your marketing messages, but also to streamline their checkout process.

 

4. Return hassles: The growth of online shopping has made consumers more comfortable with returning merchandise. In some categories, such as clothing, it’s common for customers to buy items in store, take them home to try on and then return those they don’t want.

 

  • If your return process is complicated or limiting, or salespeople aren’t familiar with how it works, you’ll have problems.
  • A smooth return process is especially important if you also sell products online: in a study by Omnico Group, 40 percent of consumers want to be able to return products bought online in a physical store.

 

5. Inconvenience: Online shopping is on the rise because it’s fast and convenient, and shoppers expect the same from physical retailers.

 

In a survey from Deloitte, eight of the top 10 factors that keep customers from shopping at a physical store relate to convenience—including “long lines,” “slow checkout” and “inconvenient store hours.”

 

Anything that slows the shopping process, whether it’s a long checkout line, confusing signage or a struggle to find a salesperson, contributes to customer frustration. All of the previous factors contribute to inconvenience, making it the overwhelming sin your store can commit.

 

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

No matter what type of business you own, whether you sell B2B or B2C, and even if you don’t directly cater to them, Millennial customers matter to you. Why is this generation, born between 1982 and 2000, so important to businesses? Consider these statistics.

 

  • Millennials (also known as “Gen Y”) are the biggest generation ever born in the U.S., topping 83 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Older Millennials—those aged 25 to 35—are entering their prime spending years. Accenture has projected that by 2020, Millennial spending will reach $1.4 trillion per year, and that this age group will account for 30 percent of all retail sales.

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

Size and spending power are part of what makes Millennials important—but as with the Baby Boomers before them, what matters most is their influence. Here are nine ways they are re-shaping the world and impacting small businesses.

 

1. They’re less interested in ownership. Millennials care less about “things” and more about “experiences.” With heavy student loan debt limiting their disposable income, they tend to spend what they do have on technology and travel. With ownership less of a priority, “sharing economy” business models such as Uber are thriving.

 

Related article: Selling to Millennials: 5 Tips to Market with Authenticity

 

2. They’re tech natives. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with computers as part of their daily lives – they go online, and mobile, for just about everything. Bank of America has reported that 96 percent of younger Millennials (aged 18-24) say mobile phones are the most important product in their lives. This “mobile-first” attitude is transforming retailing, marketing and banking, with mobile payments rapidly becoming a necessity for all types of businesses.

 

3. They’re taking a different approach to adulthood. Millennials are delaying marriage; 18 to 34-year-olds are more likely to be living with their parents than in any other type of living arrangement, Pew reports. Rather than marrying or buying homes, they’re focusing more on education. One-third of older Millennials have a four-year college degree or higher, making this the best-educated generation in the history of the U.S.

 

4. They’re becoming parents. Millennials want to be good parents and tend to take a more lighthearted approach to parenting than the generations right before them. In 2015, Millennial moms accounted for more than eight in 10 births.

 

5. They want it now. Trained to expect immediate gratification, Millennials expect businesses to make their lives easier and more convenient. They rely on mobile apps for everything from chatting with friends to banking or booking travel arrangements. Because convenience is paramount, they’re less brand-loyal than prior generations.

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6. They’re influencers. Millennials have impact both up and down the demographic ladder. They influence their children’s purchases, and influence their parents’ in turn. For instance, Millennials are likely to be early adopters of new technology; once Millennials become comfortable with technology, the older Gen X’ers and Boomers will adopt it as well.

 

Click here to read more from small business expert Rieva Lesonsky

 

7. They trust peers, not ads. Having lived through the Great Recession, Millennials tend to distrust institutions—including businesses and traditional advertising. Instead, they turn to their friends, family and peers for recommendations. Fifty-five percent of Millennials say they learn about products, promotions and offers on social media. Millennials are making user-generated content, social media and online reviews the primary means of earning trust.

 

8. They’re racially and ethnically diverse. More than four in 10 Millennial adults (43 percent) are non-white, Pew research says—more than in any prior generation. By 2043, the Census Bureau projects, the U.S. population will become majority non-white, and Millennials are leading the way. Stereotypes or marketing messages that aren’t inclusive won’t work with this generation.

 

9. They’re socially responsible and expect businesses to be the same. For Millennials, social responsibility goes beyond caring for the environment. It extends to issues such as how you treat your employees or whether your products are fair trade. Whether you get involved in social causes by donating money or volunteering, make sure your efforts are legitimate—Millennials can smell inauthenticity a mile away.

 

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

Whether you own an e-commerce website, a brick-and-mortar retail store or both, you’re undoubtedly dealing with more returns than usual this time of year. In fact, UPS dubbed January 5th “National Returns Day,” and estimated in the first full week of January, more than 5.8 million packages were returned using UPS alone. How can you make the return process easier for both your customers and your business? Here are my top tips:

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

If you sell online:

Offer free returns. Let’s face it: You're competing with Amazon, Nordstrom, Zappos and other big companies that offer free returns. In today’s world, many online shoppers won’t even consider buying from you if they have to pay for returns. Build the cost of free returns into your product prices, even if that means charging a little more; you’ll make up for it in customer satisfaction, loyalty and future orders.

Provide return shipping labels. “Easy-to-print return labels” and “Return label in the box” are key factors for a seamless ecommerce return experience for your customers, according to the 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study. Labels should include clear directions on how to return the product, such as what paperwork needs to be included in the box, whether it needs to be shipped by a specific carrier and where to drop it off.

Set customer expectations. Make sure return and exchange information is easy to find via a link at the top of your website. You can also include this information (or links to it) on individual product pages, as well as in follow-up emails sent after a product has been delivered.

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Allow in-store returns. If you have a physical store in addition to your e-commerce site, give customers the option to return online purchases in-store. Sixty percent of those in the UPS study prefer making in-store returns than returning by mail (plus, each visit to your store is an opportunity to make a new sale). Just be sure all store employees are well trained in handling online returns.

If you own a brick-and-mortar store:

Make it fast. Consumers in the UPS study say speed is a top factor in making in-store returns a positive experience. Consider setting up a special area for returns during high-volume times; this will shorten wait times and keep customers happy. Be sure signage clearly indicates which line is for returns. There’s nothing worse than waiting in a long line at checkout to return something, only to be told you have to start over again in the special return line.

Train all salespeople to handle returns. If salespeople always have to call a higher-ranking employee or manager over to finish a return, you’re slowing down the process unnecessarily. Post step-by-step directions for returns at the checkout so your salespeople can refer to them easily.

Related article: The Value of Customer Loyalty

Make returns a positive experience. Lots of us enjoy shopping, but no one likes returning things. It’s a hassle, and customers who are disappointed in a product are in a negative frame of mind to begin with. If your sales clerks sigh loudly, look irritated or roll their eyes, they make the problem worse. Train your employees to treat customers with returns cheerfully and professionally—it’s key to retaining their business.

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Communicate your return policy early and often. Have salespeople briefly explain the return policy during the transaction (“We accept returns any time within 90 days as long as you have your receipt.”). Print key return information, such as time limits, on receipts. Have your return policy clearly posted at checkout.

No matter what type of retailer you are:

Be willing to make exceptions. The way you handle a complicated return situation can make or break your relationship with the customer. Empower your salespeople to use their discretion and make exceptions when warranted.

Use returns as a learning tool. Both online and brick-and-mortar retailers should always ask the reason for return, either in person or on the return form. By tracking information about specific products and reasons, you’ll spot trends and problems. For instance, you might find that one supplier has started providing poor-quality merchandise, or that clothing is more likely to be returned if the description doesn't include fabric content.

Prevent future returns. E-commerce retailers will find that providing as much product information as possible—including multiple photos, videos, detailed size information, dimensions and materials—reduces returns because there are fewer surprises when the product is received. Letting customers write product reviews helps eliminate returns by alerting shoppers to issues, such as clothing that runs small.

Handle returns right, and they can actually increase customer satisfaction, build customer loyalty and give you insights into your product assortment.

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

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.

 

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