Down-time, down tools and review!

Down-time, down tools and review!It’s September already and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly time seems to pass. When I was a kid and it was the summer holidays, they seemed to go on forever…nowadays the year seems to pass quicker than those summer holidays! Must be an age thing!

Well, when September arrives, I know that it’s time to kick myself up the rear end and take a good look at how the businesses that my partner and I have. For me it’s thinking about what I’ve done so far and how I can kick-start things for the rest of the year. If possible, it’s also good to have some down-time too. Unfortunately, as my partner’s business is hosting music events and gigging, he is still very busy – add into the mix that my son and his partner have just had their second child and my daughter is about to have her first, it looks like a holiday away together is very unlikely. I will be going over to see the new arrivals.

rear-mirror-2480510_640Anyway, I digress! Whilst I’m waiting for the second baby to arrive, I will be reviewing both our businesses. This time of year is perfect for doing this for everyone…you’re coming to the end of the summer season and, dare I say it, Christmas will be fast approaching, so now is the time to look at the business plan you did at the beginning of the year. If you’ve been very efficient, you may have already reviewed it once or twice already. So, are you on track to do the things you wanted to do? If not, what are the reasons? It could be that some of the goals you set yourself are too big, so you could cut some of them down into sizable and achievable chunks. Maybe the goals you set were too adventurous…in which case, you could put one or two on the back burner for next year…of course, you might just need to push yourself that little bit harder to achieve them. It’s totally up to you how you approach goals that have not yet been reached.

Take a look at what you have achieved and be proud! What went well and what didn’t go so well? Make notes of what to avoid next year.

head-1345064_640Now is also the time to plan for the rest of the year – what are you going to do on Social Media? What blogs are you planning to write? Make a list and try and stick to the schedule. Do you have any events coming up, such as networking events, markets, craft fayres etc? If you do, plan how you can be more efficient and get more sales or meet more people.

If you have website, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and look at it objectively. Is it easy to navigate? Can you find the ‘contact’ details? Are the terms and conditions up to date and easy to understand? Do all the links work? You could review your ‘About’ or ‘Home’ pages, update the information and add a new profile picture. If you sell products online, are all the products current? Are old products still showing…do they need to be deleted?

At this time of year, it’s a good idea to ask current customers for some feedback, so you have new recommendations in the run up to the end of the year.

Is there anything you’d like to do as a push leading up to Christmas, such as a competition or incentive for customers? Now is the time to plan this.

What are you competitors doing? Are they doing something you could use to improve your business?

puzzle-210784_640Finally, we all like to learn new things, so make sure you are up to date with the latest news and technology – is there a social media site you’d like to learn more about? There are lots of free courses online so take advantage of them and learn something new to help your company progress. If you don’t have time to do this or learn new things this year, put them into plan, so you add them into your business plan for next year.

If you have any useful hints or tips to help with reviewing your business, please let me know in the comments – I’d be interested to hear from you. Happy reviewing!

Supercharge your customer touchpoints

This sounds like just another one of those buzz word things – so what am I talking about?

Every business wants their customers to be happy with the service and experience they receive. But, unless you have your customers in mind at every single touch point, you could be missing out on some great opportunities to delight them and keep them coming back for more.

What is a touchpoint? According to SurveyMonkey, the definition of a touchpoint is “…any time a customer or potential customer comes into contact with your brand…before, during or after they purchase something from you”

meeting-1002800_640You may have great products, delivered on time and with a smile, but if your advertising isn’t on target, or they receive billing mistakes, or have to deal with a clumsy and clunky website, you can scare your customers away. Luckily, these touchpoints are easily fixed and within our control.

Let’s take a look at the general touchpoints a customer will come across…these are just some examples.

Before a sale – Social Media sites, Website, Customer reviews, Advertising/Marketing.

During a sale – Shop or office, Catalogue, Phone.

After a sale – Billing, Emails, Newsletter

Make a list of the touchpoints your customers have with you, then look at them in turn, e.g. your website…is it easy to navigate? Do the tabs point to the right things? Do the links work? Are you easy to contact? Do customers get a quick reply if they do contact you?

Supercharge your touchpoints

Now it’s time to supercharge your touchpoints for a better customer experience.

Personal touch – Try and speak to a customer wherever you can as most people like to beard-2286440_640be treated as individuals. I prefer to speak to a real person, not an automated service as I can ask questions and, if there is something I don’t understand, I can simply ask. It is also easier to build a relationship with your customers if you actually take the time to talk to them, as it makes them feel valued. They will feel that they are important to you and your business, that their custom is appreciated and that their opinion matters.

Consistent Service levels – Be consistent across all your dealings with customers, not just on the phone. You have won their custom and now it is time to build their loyalty and gain that all important customer satisfaction. So, not only ensure that you give excellent customer service on the telephone, ensure that they receive the same experience if they email you, such as a prompt reply, with the answer or solution they want wherever possible.

Know your customers – Know what your customers want and who they are. If you can team-2651912_640.pngsolve a problem for a customer, do it…they will always remember that you went that extra mile…and will recommend you to family and friends. Something that you did this year that went really well, might not work next year – never make assumptions where your customers are concerned. One of the simplest ways to know what your customers want is to ask them. This could be via a courtesy phone call (but be careful not to be a nuisance), via a short survey or hold an event, where you can interact directly with your customers and they can see who you are and meet you properly.

Resolve any mistakes – If you make a mistake, own up to it and put it right quickly. Don’t blame anyone else, just resolve it and offer some kind of compensation, such as 10% off their next order. The four step system is a good way to deal with complaints.

sculpture-2275202_640Listen to the complaint…don’t argue or put the blame on someone else – the customer doesn’t want to hear this – he/she just wants you to listen to what they have to say.

Acknowledge the complaint – let the customer know that you understand their complaint by relaying it back to them. This not only shows that you have been listening but gives hope that something will be done. Thank them for bringing the situation to your attention and assure them that something will be done.

Solve the complaint – if you can, resolve the issue, keeping the customer informed along the way. In the first instance, after you have acknowledged the complaint, say that you will look into it and will get back to them within 24 hours – even if you haven’t resolved the problem yet, ring them within 24 hours to let them know what’s happening. Keeping them informed every step of the way is very important in keeping that customer in future and lets them know that they are a valued customer.

gift-553150_640Thank them – you have already done this when you acknowledged the complaint but do it again. If the issue has taken or is like to take a long time to resolve, maybe offer them some kind of compensation – a money-off voucher or a free gift.

Appreciate your customers – Let your customers know they are valued, e.g. send regular customers a ‘thank you’ card, or give them a money off voucher for being loyal, or ask if they’d like their purchases gift-wrapped.

It’s also really crucial to look past the sale…once your customer has bought something from you, don’t make it the last time they hear from you…follow up the sale and ask how they are getting on with the product. Are they happy with it? Do they think it could be improved? Do they have any questions about that or any other product that you sell? They may tell you about a problem they have that you can solve for them, or give you an idea for a new product.

smiley-163510_640If your customers are really happy with the goods and/or services they receive from you, ask them if they could write a short review, either on your Facebook page or on your website…or if they prefer, they can send to you on email. Ask if it’s OK to share their review with other customers and potential customers.

Whether your business is a huge concern, or just a one-man/woman team, excellent customer service must be at the heart of everything you do. It can take extra time and resources, time and money, but good customer service leads directly to customer satisfaction, which can generate great business for you via word of mouth. It can also you’re your business thrive and ultimately be a success. Never underestimate the power of good customer service – it’s your businesses life-blood.

 

Does Goal Setting leave you feeling lost?

FREE Goal Setting checklist and template

If you have your own business, your business goals for next year should already be set, so you’re ready to make a good start after the Christmas holiday. If you haven’t set your business goals yet, then why not take up my offer of a free checklist to help you – complete the request at the bottom of this page

A goal without a plan is just a wish

Every January, I set myself resolutions – the usual kind of thing, lose weight; get fitter.

paper-3042645_640I’m ashamed to say that by the end of January, I’ve forgotten all about the resolutions…I’m still aware that I want to do the things I resolved to do, but life gets in the way. However with business, you can’t afford to be so blasé – a planned business with structured goals will always be more successful, and reviewing your plans on a regular basis gives you the chance to pick up on anything that is going wrong at an earlier stage.

So where do you start? There are 4 areas to think about….

What is your Mission Statement?

This is a statement that includes what your business is, who you’re selling to, what you’re selling and what is your unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from the crowd?

For example, if you run a dog sitting service in your own home, you might say…

“All dogs in our care live in our house in a safe and secure environment, and are treated as part of our family. We are happy to administer any medication and provide a loving and attentive service to your much loved pet.”

What are your business goals?

Think about where you want your business to be by this time next year. By which percentage do you wish to grow and how many customers do you expect to have? Make sure you have at least one goal that relates to your mission statement and one that links to the financial position of your business.

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Goals need to be SMART….

Specific – for example, my New Year’s Resolution, “I want to get fitter.” This is too vague. Being more specific, I should say, “I will join a gym and go three times a week.”

Measurable – You need to be able to measure your goals – for example, you might want to increase your sales by 25% by this time next year. How would you measure this throughout the year to ensure you are on track? You could break down sales, so you know how many sales you need to make every month to make this happen.

Attainable – goals need to be achievable, so don’t set the bar ridiculously high, such as Del boy in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ – “This time next year, we’ll be millionaires.”

Realistic – in the same way as goals needing to be achievable, they also need to be realistic. You must be both willing and able to work towards them. Only you can decide what is achievable and realistic for you and your business.

Timely – it’s sensible to put a time-frame on each of your goals – this keeps you focused. If you don’t have a time-frame, there is no sense of urgency and you can keep putting off doing anything ‘until tomorrow’…and we all know that tomorrow never comes!

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What are your business strategies?

Strategies are all about what are you going to do to achieve your goals.

Think about the four Ps…

Product(s) – what is it about your product that makes your customers want to buy it? Do you need to change your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?

Pricing – how do you aim to compete with your competitor’s pricing – do you want to match it… undercut them… or do you want to charge more for a more quality product and service?

Place – where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets?

Promotion – how are you going to let your existing and potential customers know about your products? This includes thinking about advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.

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What action do you need to take to achieve your goals?

How are you going to achieve your goals? If we take the ‘I want to increase my sales by 25%’ scenario, how will you do that? You might decide to launch a new, attractive product…you might give a discount if customers spend over a set amount, or do a ‘Buy one, get one free’ offer for a specific week.

Another scenario might be that you want to re-brand your business to make you stand out from your competitors. This will have a financial implication, so that needs to be in the action plan – your goal would be to re-brand, your action would be around how you will afford to do that – how many products would you need to sell, for example, to cover the cost?

Once you have decided the action(s) for achieving each goal, you need to know how you can measure the success of each action. Measurement is very important as it gives you an insight into what works well for your business and what doesn’t.

If you plan ahead, you stand a much better chance of succeeding. So, give a little time to setting your goals and sorting out how you are going to achieve them.

To obtain your free checklist and template for goal setting, please fill the form below and press submit.

Right person, right time, right reasons…RIGHT CONTENT!

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business-3189797_640.pngSo, you have your own business and you want to promote it – get your product or services out there. How do you go about it? Where do you start? It’s really important to have a content strategy….as this will help you structure exactly what the needs of your business are and what exactly is the right content for your business.

Anything you put out about your business needs to go to the right people at the right time and for the right reasons….and of course, the right content is crucial.

If the content is NOT right, then the people you are hoping to reach won’t read it. Whatever content you put out needs to be valuable to your potential reader, so make sure your content is useful and relevant – what’s in it for your reader? Does it solve a problem for them? Does it give them a solution that they need?

If you DON’T target the right people, then your content won’t be read and definitely won’t be acted upon. You need to ensure that you know who your audience are – just sending content to ‘people’ in general won’t cut the mustard, you need to be specific.

thought-2123971_640If you don’t send content out at the right time, then you are wasting your time. You need to firstly understand your audience or intended audience – what do your customers want? Do your customers or potential customers have questions that you can answer? Do you have solutions to your customers’ problems? If you are aware of these things, you can plan to put content out at the right time.

If you’re NOT putting content out for the right reasons, you are also wasting your time. When you are writing your business plan for the year, you will include measurable business goals. These goals are usually a reason for sharing some kind of promotional content to pull in more customers, or address an issue that your customers may have. The content you publish won’t necessarily sell your wares, but can help to set yourself up as an expert in your field. This, in turn inspires confidence in your abilities and business, which can lead to those all-important recommendations.

Plan your content for 2016

computer-1185626_640December and January is the ideal time for you to look at planning for next year. It’s time to take stock and look back over the last year – what worked well for your business and what didn’t work so well? Which way are you going next year?

Take the time to look at last year’s business or marketing plan (or both) and decide what you need to change to make next year more successful.

Have you ever asked your customers for feedback? Amongst that feedback, is there anything you can address to make your business more attractive? Do your customers have any problems you can solve? If you can pinpoint what it is that your customers want, that you are not currently giving them, you have the greatest opportunity to truly delight them in solving those problems.

future-2372183_640.jpgIf you haven’t asked for feedback, then why not do it now? Why not send out a short survey asking some questions to help you decide which way to go next year – get your current customers’ opinions and ideas – their input could open a whole new market to you.

Once you know what your customers want and have a new plan for next year, with new goals, you are ready to plan your content strategy and will be one step closer to a successful 2016!

 

 

Ten essential tips in making a good business plan

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A good business plan is exactly what it says on the tin – a plan for your business; how it’s going to succeed and what you need to do to make it grow.

Having a business plan forces you to look at the feasibility of your business, what will work and what won’t work….and makes you focus on the important and essential parts of your business – your next steps, tactics and strategies.

Here are a few tips on what to include, making sure you cover the essentials.

  1. Executive Summary – this is a brief overview of the whole plan. Detail what you do, how your business will make money and why customers will want to buy your product or services. This is best done after you have completed the rest of your plan.
  2. Analyse your market – it is worth investing some quality time in researching your market.
    – Look at what your competitors do – how are they successful and what makes them stand out from the rest?
    – Look at the price, quality and customer service that your competitors offer – then you can work out how to compete.
    – Where are the opportunities for your business – why will potential customers choose your products over those of your competitors?
    – Are there any barriers in place that may prevent potential customers from choosing your products or services?
    – If your business is already up and running, what do your customers like about your products, what do they buy; why do they buy from you and do they give you repeat business?
    The more you know about your customers, your competitors and the business you are in, the more likely you are to be successful.
  3. Business description – what it is, what you do.
    – Include a brief history of how and why you started your business.
    – Include your vision or mission statement – factors which you think will make your business a success
    – What is the current position of your business?
  4. Business goals – what are your business goals. For example, if you’re already in business, by what percentage do you wish to grow by this time next year? How many customers do you expect to have by this time next year?
  5. Management teams and employees – If you employ others, give details of your management team and employees and what their roles are.
    – How do they work together?
    – Do they all know what is expected of them and how they can help improve the business?
  6. Operations – what is in place now and what do you plan for the future?
    – Look at premises you currently work from (it might just be from home). What will you do if your business expands – what premises will you need to ensure your business succeeds?
    – Who are your suppliers? What happens if you lose one of your suppliers and do you have others as a back-up?
    – Do you need to have any training in a specific area to help your business move forward? For example, if you’re a hairdresser, how do you keep on top of current styles?
    – Is there any equipment or materials you may need to invest in? For example, wear and tear on your current equipment – or maybe you may need more advanced software in the future.
    – If you run an online shop, what happens if you get overrun with orders – can you keep up with them and get them out on time with packaging and postage?
  7. Financials – keep a record of what you spend and what you receive.
    – Are you likely to have cash flow problem – if so, how will you deal with it?
    – How much does your business currently cost to run and what is it likely to cost in one year – or two years’ time.
  8. Marketing strategy – this is where you define your tactics and strategies to ensure that you are successful – only needs to be brief in the business plan – you can be more specific in your marketing plan.
  9. Risk analysis – what could go wrong – look at best and worst case scenarios.
    – If something goes wrong, how will you deal with it?
    – Include your contingency plan
  10. Measurement – this is a really important aspect in a business or marketing plan, but often something that is overlooked. Measuring everything you do ensures you know what works and what doesn’t. You can then plan a different approach if necessary.
    – List what needs to be measured – such as how many people look at your business Facebook page or Tweets on Twitter. How can you improve on this?
    – How will you measure your success – what does success look like to your particular business?
    – Shout about your success – your customers will feel reassured they are dealing with the right business

team-3639693_640Once you have finished your business plan, you can write your Executive Summary.  Then leave it alone for a few days and go back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. You can then make any necessary adjustments.

I can’t tell you how long it will take you to complete your business plan – every plan is different and it will depend on you. Business planning takes time – you need to spend quality time on researching and planning your business and marketing strategies.

Take time out at least once every three months to review your plan. Some things you planned will have gone well, others not so well. A business plan is a working document. It’s never finished…always a ‘work in progress’.  Having a business plan won’t guarantee you success, but it will go a long way to helping!

If you need help writing and researching your business plan, please feel free to contact me by email – cindymobey@outlook.com or via my website, www.cindyfreelancewriter.com