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9 Tips for Building Customer Retention and Customer Loyalty Through Relationships

Retaining loyal clients just makes business sense. Repeat clients spend more and are easier to convert than first-time shoppers. But building those relationships can be tricky, especially if you manage a lot of client accounts. Here are nine of our top tips for cultivating customer loyalty and retaining clients, from asking for feedback to apologizing like a pro.

Keep in touch regularly.

Sometimes no news is good news, especially when it comes to customer support. If people aren’t reaching out, then everything is probably working as planned. However, you shouldn’t depend on customers to keep the conversation going, and it’s a good idea to reach out on a regular basis to keep them updated on your product or service and see how they’re doing. Even if they don’t need anything from you at the moment, a personal email from a sales rep will let them know you’re thinking of them.

Celebrate milestones together.

Speaking of checking in, milestones are a great chance to do this naturally. If you work with individual clients, birthdays are a popular time to reach out (often with a discount or other reward) to make them feel special. However, if your clients are all B2B, celebrating a different milestone such as your six-month or one-year anniversary of working together is more appropriate. If you track the data, it can be really fun to pull together some highlights—i.e., projects completed, minutes logged, etc.—to see how far you’ve come together.

Say thank you.

Sometimes you don’t need a specific milestone to reach out and say “thank you.” It can be as simple as a quick email, or if you really want to get fancy, you can go with a handwritten card. End-of-year appreciation gifts around the winter holidays are also a tradition in client-based businesses, but you’ll want to do some advanced planning and flex your creative muscles to make sure that your gifts don’t get lost in the shuffle. Branded promotional products will ensure that your clients know exactly which gifts came from you.

Highlight loyal customers.

Not all “thank yous” have to be cards or promotional gifts. If you have some customers who are really jazzed about your product or service, leverage their enthusiasm and ask if they would be willing to write or film a testimonial for your website. These testimonials are also great fodder for email campaigns to current customers and leads so you can showcase what’s possible with your product using real-world examples.

Put personalization to use.

The more time you spend with your clients, the more you’ll get to know them, and you should be leveraging that knowledge. If you use a marketing automation system, technology will collect that data for you, but it’s also good to remember customer preferences from your personal meetings and phone calls with them. Use this information to guide the content you send them. If your client is interested in increasing brand awareness, focus your attention on that rather than (say) launching a new product.

Reward them for referrals.

Word of mouth is one of the most popular marketing tools in your arsenal, so you should absolutely be incentivizing customers to use it. Offering a discount or some other type of perk in exchange for a referral (or X amount of referrals) will get you more leads and give your customers a fantastic motivation to spread the word. Even better is a loyalty system that rewards both customers and new leads. For example, if you refer someone and they sign up for a trial, you get $20 off and so do they.

Ask for feedback and implement it.

Your customers work closely with your products or service, and they pay you for it, so they’re in the best position to tell you what they want and what they’re willing to pay for. However, very few people will proactively reach out to offer ideas for new features, so you’ll need to get the ball rolling and solicit feedback from them. Many customers will be flattered that you value their opinion, but just asking isn’t enough. You need to follow through and implement the best suggestions to show that you take them seriously.

Respond quickly to support tickets.

Nothing is more frustrating than sitting on hold or having to send three emails to customer service before getting a response. When a customer reaches out for help, try to respond as promptly as possible, even if it’s just to pass them off to the right person. If you can’t solve their problem directly, try to keep an eye on the ticket and make sure it doesn’t languish in the queue. When you’re going to be out of the office or unable to respond quickly, make sure that your OOO message has alternative contacts that customers can reach out to in case of an emergency.

Apologize when you make a mistake.

No one is perfect and each sales rep is bound to make mistakes sometimes. When you goof, own up to it and apologize to your clients. Tell them you’re sorry and explain what steps you and/or your company are taking to fix it. If necessary, review the complaint or error with your customer to figure out what went wrong where. While you may think that mistakes and apologies will drive customers away, if you do it correctly you can actually diffuse their frustration and build customer loyalty in the process.

Building close relationships with your customers takes time and effort, but it’s so worth it in the end. Not only are they likely to spend far more money with you, a good working relationship makes business much more pleasant and even enjoyable. Start building loyal customer relationships today with these nine strategies.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. She has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.

 

9 Books with Advice to Make Networking Less Excruciating

Very few people truly enjoy networking, which is why so many experts have created a cottage industry out of offering advice. But how do you know what strategies are legit and which aren’t? We’ve done the legwork for you and rounded up nine books on networking by experts from both the business world and academia. Pick up a highlighter and get ready to note all the great tips you’re about to read.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

First published in 1936, this book is a worldwide bestseller that has sold tens of millions of copies. Carnegie was a lecturer and writer who taught self-improvement courses on topics such as sales, corporate training, and public speaking. This book covers his important tips for accomplishing exactly what the title says, from becoming genuinely interested in others to showing respect for others’ opinions. It’s a classic for a reason, and we’d be remiss not to start our list off with this book.

Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections by Derek Coburn

If you’re sick of endlessly swapping business cards with people who immediately forget your name as soon as you shake hands, this book is for you. It’s a quick read, only covering 163 pages, but it will quickly help you rethink how and why you network. Coburn covers essential topics such as identifying the core group of people you want to focus on, enhancing the value you deliver to your best clients and positioning yourself for more quality introductions to ideal prospective clients.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton, PhD

Sutton is a professor of management science at Stanford University’s School of Engineering where he researches evidence-based management. While this book isn’t about networking per se, it’s an excellent guide to spotting toxic people that you want to avoid—and how not to become one yourself. Sutton explains 12 warning signs of toxic workplace behavior, including sarcasm, humiliation, interruption, backbiting and snubbing. Then he delves into the frequency, costs, and damages of this sort of behavior, highlighting case studies from real life companies. If you ever wanted an argument for being a nice person in professional contexts, this is it.

Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh

The most successful networkers don’t just meet people for networking’s sake. Instead, these Superconnectors focus on building relationships and providing value through making key introductions and helping their contacts solve problems. Gerber and Paugh advocate for a three-pronged Vision-Execution-Profiting approach to help you build these connections and create mutual value in the age of social media. They cover the dos and don’ts of introductions, finding your own community, Google-proofing your reputation and more in this book.

The 20-Minute Networking Meeting by Marcia Ballinger, PhD and Nathan A. Perez

This tactical guide will teach you how to network and get a job using real-world scenarios, short stories, meeting examples and dozens of tips and observations. Depending on where you are in your career, you might opt for the Professional edition or the Executive Edition. In either one, you’ll learn how to master the five most important parts of a networking meeting, break into the hidden job market, maintain your new network throughout your career and more.

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Originally published in 2005, an updated and expanded edition of this popular book was released in 2014 to incorporate the rise of social media and new management styles. Master networker Ferrazzi shares his networking mindset and then breaks it down into basic, easy-to-follow principles that readers can replicate, such as “don’t keep score” and “never eat alone.” Throughout, he also shares tips from some of the world’s best connectors, including Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant, PhD

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant teaches at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has authored multiple best-selling books, including Give and Take, which was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller and was eventually translated into 30 languages​. In this book, Grant investigates how our professional success is becoming ever more dependent on how we interact with others. Grant investigates how three particular styles (taking, giving, and matching) play out and which ones the best networkers use to develop connections.

Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention by John Ruhlin

Many people use branded gifts to create and nurture relationships with their clients. But if done wrong, these gifts can waste your money and even backfire, negatively impacting the relationship. In this book, Ruhlin teaches readers how to give gifts the smart way, harnessing the power of radical generosity to create goodwill and increase their connections in the process. If people aren’t returning your calls and emails and you don’t know why, this book might have a solution for you.

Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count by Karen Wickre

Silicon Valley veteran Karen Wickre has worked for Google and Twitter, among other major companies, and she also counts herself as an introvert. Wickre wrote this guide to share her passion for connecting people and to show introverts that they too can be good at networking. Wickre teaches her readers how to “embrace the quiet side” and coordinate networking opportunities that work for them, such as one-on-one coffee dates instead of big professional mixers with dozens of people.

If you’re feeling stuck in your networking activities, or feeling nervous about attending an upcoming trade show, try reading one or more of these books to inspire yourself and learn new strategies. Good luck at your next mixer or coffee chat, and remember that you never know when a stranger might turn into a mentor or colleague.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.

6 of the Best Sales Negotiation Skills for Business Success

Sales negotiation skills are key to business success. Business owners continually encounter situations, ranging from trivial to complex, that require negotiations.

Expert sales negotiation traininghelps business owners achieve optimal results. In this training, sales course content is infused with negotiation skills development. Six sales skills for business owners to improve their sales outcomes include:

The Courage to Walk Away

Skilled business owners avoid going into discussions without options. A businessperson entering discussions should have a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

A BATNA is what you walk away with if you can’t reach an agreement. Understanding your BATNA gives you the confidence to reject unprofitable or low-profit deals and only make informed concessions for win-win outcomes. Confidence grows when you have a favorable fallback position and are not desperate for a deal.

In addition to coming prepared by having your BATNA, knowing your buyers’ and suppliers’ BATNAs can inform your negotiation strategy.

Effective Listening Skills

Negotiations can be highly pressured. Business owners might be itching to get their points across. However, holding the floor in discussions can lead to not paying attention to what others are saying. The dominating speaker is too busy thinking of their next point.

Just waiting for your chance to speak instead of truly listening is also considered disrespectful to others at the table. When you don’t listen, you can also miss chances to create and claim value.

When you pay close attention, you are likely to uncover details that could enrich the deal and improve the relationship. Listening is so crucial that top business negotiators write out their best questions before meetings. Questions give you control of the meeting, allowing you to steer discussions.

Documentation Skills

Sales negotiation training teaches students to put discussions and agreements in writing. It’s possible to agree to something and later forget details of the agreement.

Additionally, it’s almost inevitable to come across a dishonest person in business. Documenting terms makes it more difficult for someone to later use deceptive tactics to challenge agreements.

Other times, clients or suppliers may forget committing to an agreement. When you have agreements in writing and all participants retain a copy, the contract acts as a reminder for smooth operations and timely deliveries.

Effective Communication Skills

In business negotiations, there’s little room for miscommunication or communication breakdowns. As Lee Iacocca once said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Similarly, if you can’t communicative effectively in business, your negotiation efforts may not amount to much.

Effective communication is key in simplifying complex information, resolving conflicts, and persuasion. Negotiation seminars often train sales professionals to hone their communication skills through role play. Strong communication skills need practice to form positive habits like being engaging and responsive.

Fortunately, communication skills can be honed. To improve your effectiveness in negotiations, you can:

  • Take time to thoroughly research and prepare before the meeting.
  • Consider enrolling in expert negotiation training.
  • Engage in negotiation simulations to rehearse and improve.
  • Conduct debriefing sessions to analyze your performance.

Problem-Solving Skills

Businesses make profits out of solving other people’s problems.

The same steps a businessperson takes to solve problems can be used to reach agreements. Problem-solving steps you can take to reach agreements include:

  • Clearly defining the problem.
  • Pursuing alternative opportunities for solving the problem.
  • Questioning the cause of the problem.
  • Identifying multiple possible solutions to the problem.
  • Prioritizing potential solutions.
  • Deciding on an acceptable solution.
  • Assigning tasks for implementing the solution.
  • Setting measures to track progress on the problem and solution.

Empathy

Empathy helps a businessperson understand others’ problems and create appropriate solutions. When you’re empathetic, you’re positioned to understand the feelings and attitudes of others, even if your own feelings differ.

Empathy forges mutual respect and develops trust. In persuasion, empathy can encourage positive social behavior. This increases the chances of creating win-win solutions. Expert sales negotiation training can:

  • Equip people to identify their own and other people’s emotions.
  • Train people to identify emotion by reading body language, tone, and non-verbal cues.
  • Train business owners to employ skillful probing without sounding interrogative.
  • Practice active listening to understand rather than interrupt.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of others’ concerns without judgment.

Sales Negotiation Skills Summary

By training in and nurturing these six key skills, business owners can create favorable outcomes. After all, business is ultimately about exchanging value for profits. If you fail at negotiations, you are more likely to fail in business. If you employ these six skills to succeed at negotiations, your business is positioned to grow consistently.

Guest Post: About the Author

Specialists in the corporate business negotiation market, The Negotiation Experts offer instructive advice on their site via articles, Q&A’s, book reviews, case studies, and negotiating definitions.

Networking for Small Business Owners

Networking for small business owners is imperative to make vital connections to grow your company. Interacting with potential investors, business partners or clients will help you form loyal and trusting relationships and open up new opportunities.

The biggest roadblock that prevents small business owners from networking is lack of time—it’s difficult to carve-out hours to attend an event or a conference when you are practically living at the office. However, networking should not be ignored—with these tips, you can achieve this goal.

Utilize LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform designed to connect professionals in virtually any industry. They currently have over 500 million members in over 200 countries around the world. The first step to using this site is to create a personal account with your photo and contact information. You should add details about your business so that when you communicate with other members, they are able to easily find what company you own.

You can also create a business page showcasing your business on LinkedIn. If you connect your email account, you will automatically be able to add your contacts. You can also search for contacts via their name or company they work for.

LinkedIn transformed the networking world by allowing users to create groups by interest or industry, where you can find like minded entrepreneurs or clients without leaving your home or office. You can also join professional groups and ask questions to get help in growing your business.

Host a Meet & Greet

Devoting time to net working can be especially productive if you combine it with other goals, such as brand recognition and connecting with new customers. A great way to do all three is to host a meet & greet inside your business, if it has a physical location.

Start with inviting other small business owners either in your niche or simply in your area. This will be a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs, bounce ideas off each other and learn new tips on improving your business operations.

To make sure that everyone interacts and has a good time, plan some activities, such as ice breakers or fun games. Make sure the attendees have enough room to mingle and get to know one another. Facilitate interaction by setting up small tables where attendees can congregate, but encourage everyone to move around the room.

This will not only connect you with other like-minded professionals, but also expose your business and products to possible new customers.

Cross-Promotion

If your goal is to network with potential customers, a highly effective way to do so is cross-promotion strategies. Partner with another business, preferably not in your industry so as to avoid competition. You can work together to promote each other’s brands on collaborative materials.

This can be as simple as leaving flyers or coupons in each other’s locations, or as complex as creating a marketing plan to promote both brands. For example, think of world-known companies such as T-Mobile and Netflix offering their services in a joint plan.

By joining another company in your networking efforts, you can expose your brand to a brand new customer base and decrease your marketing and advertising costs.

If you are looking for financial assistance to invest in your business, look no further than IOU Financial. Our company supports small businesses with easy and quick loans. Contact us today to learn how you can get a secured loan of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.

3 Excellent Online Communities for Women Entrepreneurs

Women in the U.S. are taking their careers more seriously than ever before as well as the necessary steps to become entrepreneurs. Since 2007, there are 45% more female-owned businesses—which currently employ 9 million people in this country.

Although women have been making significant progress in the business world in recent years, it is still mostly run and controlled by men. As such, females need their own communities to help them with the motivation to succeed, resources to start their own business and support to meet the challenges head on. The following online communities are great choices for women entrepreneurs:

Chic CEO

This community targets those females who want to become entrepreneurs, or are in the first stages of developing their ideas. A common barrier to the process is fear and the belief that they can’t do it, so Chic CEO provides resources to help women conquer their fears.

The site offers tutorials and advice from actual business owners that is easy to understand and follow. Check out the following resources:

  • 3 Day Chic Start: an online tutorial that focuses on customer service and brand development
  • Business Plan format guide
  • Blog
  • Resource Center that recommends books, interviews with other professionals and more

Yes She Can

As the name itself suggests, this online community empowers women to follow their dreams and live up to their full potential. This site targets female Los Angeles business owners and professionals, sharing local events, stories, advice and resources to empower females.

Started by professional writer, Lydia Mack, Yes She Can offers several cool features:

  • Sole news source for female LA entrepreneurs
  • Calendar with hand selected events, such as conferences, lectures, meetups and workshops to help women advance in their careers
  • Weekly newsletter with strategies to improve both the personal and professional lives of women
  • Monthly meetups where members meet on the first Friday of every month to network and share their thoughts and advice

Note: Although this group is Los Angeles based, it is a great example of local groups throughout the country. With an easy online search, females can find meetups and meetings in their areas.

Lean In

This organization was created by Facebook’s Founder and Board Chair, Sheryl Sandberg. Named after a book she wrote, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, this site is dedicated to aiding women in their quest to follow their ambitions.

They accomplish their goal in three ways:

  • Create Circles, where over 37,000 different groups of women meet throughout the world to discuss their objectives and create plans to succeed
  • Create awareness campaigns to educate the public about important issues surrounding the success of women, and men’s role in this process
  • Create tutorials, videos and discussion guides for both men and women on helping females succeed in the business world

If you are a female entrepreneur who has a great idea for a new business, but lack funding, turn to IOU Financial. Our company is committed to helping both men and women follow their dreams and ambitions. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to find out about our easy business loans of up to $300,000!

The Introvert’s Guide to Networking

Today we have a guest post from Misty Mega, Head of Accounting Education and Programs at TSheets. Check out her tips on how introverts can better network below!

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Raise your hand if you’re an introvert. Yep, me too. As a fellow introvert (with some extroverted tendencies), I find that networking doesn’t always come easy. Do you find yourself being very shy in groups where you don’t know anyone? I definitely do, and sometimes I would rather not be in that situation than make the effort.

But I force myself to meet people, no matter what. My trick is to find another person who is alone, instead of walking up to a large group and trying to become part of the conversation. As hard as that can be, I’m always glad that I did, so I’m sharing not only how I enter a conversation, but how I embrace my “why” — why I invest in relationships.

Start With a Handshake

Daunting as it may be, we need to step out of our comfort zones and start shaking hands. In today’s search for time, we need to focus on why we invest in relationships.

There are many ways for introverts to shine and network — both in person and online. Introverts are known to go deeper into relationship building with fewer people, so they enjoy quality over quantity. And building out our networks is an outstanding way for us to save time.

Take Advantage of Online Social Networks

When you build a network of individuals you trust and respect, the network becomes a lifeline that can help you cut down on research and troubleshooting. If you are not in a Facebook group with other people in your profession, find one and join one now!

In each of the groups I’m a member of, I’m continuously amazed by the responses people get when they need help. When they ask a question, they are flooded with responses from people who can either help them figure out the solution or tag someone who can. Not having this resource puts you at a disadvantage.

We need to step out of our boxes and shoot for a handful of quality, incredible people who you can offer support to and who, in turn, can be supportive. Having this network adds tremendous value to our lives.

Ask the Right Questions

Asking questions isn’t just about getting the answers you need. It can also be about getting the answers that other people need. To build effective relationships, we need to discover what motivates people and what they are trying to accomplish.

Every individual who starts a business does it for a reason. Sometimes it’s financial freedom or freedom to be their own boss, or it’s to provide their family a better life. In the same way, you need to figure out what other people’s goals are, and then dive deeper.

For example, when we ran our own business, my husband and I had a good relationship with our accountant. We spent long hours chatting with him every other week when we picked up our checks for payroll. However, he never asked us the right questions, and we never knew the right information to communicate.

If he had asked us, “What’s keeping you up at night?” we would have said we were staying at the office until 3 a.m. entering our sales invoices and receipts into QuickBooks because our point of sale system wasn’t integrated.

We would have told him that we were doing payroll by hand, calculating all of the minutes and verifying hours every time. We would have said our inventory is done on paper and it would be nice to be able to scan things in. He could have then saved us hours of frustration by recommending products that would have saved us both time.

The lesson I took from this was that when you ask a client questions about their business, they are happy to answer. If you find areas in which you can influence a client’s business, you’ll create a customer for life.

Be a Positive Force

Lastly, I want to focus on the power of positivity. The moment you begin to speak, people can hear in your tone if you are happy to hear from them. If you sound unhappy to hear from them, they will feel like they are bothering you. If that person is a client, they will stop calling you. If they’re a peer in your profession, they will be less likely to reach out to you. If people don’t feel comfortable asking questions, they won’t. Meaning that you won’t learn enough about them to be connected, solve a potential problem, or make that sale.

However, if you foster a relationship of open communication with boundaries, you will develop a great network of like-minded professionals, your clients will be happy to call you, and your team will be empowered. The power of positivity will save you time and boost your business.

Step out of your comfort zone and build your network, invest time in your customer relationships, and have a positive and open communication policy.

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Guest Post: About the Author

Misty Megia, Head of Accounting Education and Programs at TSheets, has over 20 years’ experience in market strategy, project management, public speaking, corporate branding, and channel marketing. In 2015 she received CPA Practice Advisor’s Most Powerful Women in Accounting Award. Connect with Misty on LinkedIn.

 

#ShopSmall: Get Involved to Get Profitable and Make a Difference

If you own a small business, you are already providing jobs and offering great products and services to your community, but sometimes these efforts can go unnoticed. That’s where Small Business Saturday comes in. This year, on November 26, customers across the country will shop in their community and recognize the value that small businesses can bring to their local economy.

 

What is the Shop Small Movement?

First initiated in 2010, Small Business Saturday is an annual event sponsored by American Express, held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is a response to shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when big retailers and corporations hold massive sales in stores and online. Small Business Saturday encourages individuals to patronize their local brick-and-mortar small businesses (with 500 or less employees), reminding everyone that when they invest in a local business, they invest in their community!

The Twitter hashtag  #SmallBusinessSaturday was used to build awareness for the event, as well as allow people to tag their favorite businesses. Last year, 95 million people went out to support local businesses in their neighborhoods!

 

Why are Small Businesses Important?

Although the United States is home to a multitude of big-box retailers and corporations, small businesses remain important and relevant. In fact, The Houston Chronicle reports that “according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms. Since 1995, small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and paid 44 percent of the total United States private payroll, according to the SBA.”

Small businesses offer employment opportunities to local residents, contribute to the local economy, and provide funds for schools and government offices.

 

How Can You Participate in Small Business Saturday?

American Express encourages all small business owners to participate in Small Business Saturday by making engagement in your community as easy as possible. There are free custom marketing and advertising materials available for your storefront, website and social media. Additionally, there are articles and videos with tips and advice on how to promote this event and your business, such as offering specials and deals and holding contests.

 

How Can Small Businesses Get Involved in their Communities?

In addition to participating in Small Business Saturday, there are many benefits when businesses get involved in their local communities. By participating, sponsoring, and donating to events, charities, or sports teams, business owners market their brand and increase their customer base.


Customers respond to businesses that care about communities; a study by Cone Communications and Echo Research found that 82 percent of individuals take corporate social responsibility (CSR) into account when purchasing products or services from a business. In addition, when employees are given the opportunity to help their neighborhood, it increases their satisfaction levels and promotes employee retention.

How can you get involved in your community? Build off the Small Business Saturday momentum and implement any of these ideas:

  • Sponsor a little league team
  • Donate supplies to a school
  • Host a charity event for a homeless shelter
  • Sponsor a garden renovation project
  • Plant trees at a local park

There are many advantages to both local small businesses and communities when the two work together. If you are in the local Atlanta area, click here to find out more information about Small Business Saturday event in your area. If you live in another part of the country, find your local host and consider participating in Small Business Saturday to promote your small business in your community.

Should your business join the Better Business Bureau (BBB)?

Whether you are starting a business or have been in business for years, you are no stranger to the amount of sites, platforms, organizations, and more that want you to join their listings for site rankings, customer reviews and business accreditations. When considering the many options, there is one you should really focus in on: the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In this post we will review the top 5 reasons why you should consider applying for BBB accreditation and how they can help your small business grow.

 

  1. Not everyone can join.

The BBB is not a social sign up site or built on a one-stop, register-and-done platform. You do not “join” their site. Instead, you apply to be accredited, and they verify the businesses they are listing. This enables your small business to uphold its credibility and showcase it to your customers. When customers see the BBB sign, sticker, or logo on a business, they see that your company is trusted and, therefore, can be trusted with a customer’s hard earned money.

 

  1. People trust the BBB.

The BBB is one of the most visited sites when it comes to people looking up businesses and information related to company practices.  The BBB has been around for more than 100 years, and they have built a trusted name in protecting the public from bad business practices. Having BBB accreditation adds value to your small business’s brand because it shows you are trusted by one of the nation’s largest organizations dedicated to…well, trust.

 

  1. It allows you to handle claims and complaints.

With word of mouth and many online methods for customers to share their feedback about your business, a few bad reviews tanking your business and its future is a gamble many people do not want to take. With the BBB they give your business a fair chance when it comes to addressing claims or complaints. The BBB verifies claims are by real customers and give not only the customer a voice, but  also the business owner a fair shot at addressing the claim. With the protection of BBB support your company can weather a few bad storms should rainy days head your way.

 

  1. It adds to your company’s visibility.

If nobody knows about you, you are not reaching any customers. The BBB offers businesses a blend of accreditation and visibility that no other site like it can promise. The BBB reports to get millions of visits a day to their site from customers looking to verify the legitimacy of businesses like yours. In addition, the BBB is known to be one of the top 350 websites in the United States (according to Alexa), adding visibility and even website search engine optimization to help your small business be seen.

 

  1. They want your business to do well.

The BBB does not exist to just place their stickers on storefront windows. They are in existence to help businesses grow and do well. With resources like webinars and training, the BBB is there to help you achieve your vision and goals.

 

When evaluating your options for listing sites, accreditations, and endorsements, the BBB should rise to the top of your list. They are there to not only protect the customer, but also to encourage your business to grow while adding legitimacy and standards to a market filled with many services that are below par. Consider the BBB and consider the benefits!

5 Examples of Incredibly Helpful Small Business Advisors

5 EXAMPLES OF INCREDIBLY HELPFUL SMALL BUSINESS ADVISORS

Ask nearly any successful business owner about whether they achieved their growth alone, and you’re likely to hear the same answer: they had some help and guidance along the way. As a small business owner, it doesn’t take long to realize that you can’t be an expert in every single facet of business: sales, HR, marketing, partnerships, finance, etc. Realizing this sooner than later can have a significant impact on your business. Seeking out the right advisors to fill your knowledge gaps can accelerate growth, reduce your stress, and help you solve problems you may be struggling with.

Strengthening the areas of your small business that you may not have experience with can be done through helpful consultation from an advisor. This can be done informally through friends and family or formally by paying a professional firm in a specific area. It’s a matter of finding the right people that can offer you expertise in your area of need, along with determining what is crucial to your business’ success. When thinking about who to collaborate with, consider these five types of advisors.

  1. Financial Advisor – Managing your company funds is not as simple as balancing your personal checkbook, but it is imperative to a successful business. In order to get the most out of your day-to-day cash flow while building for the future, it’s important to have a trusted financial advisor or accountant familiar with small businesses. Keeping thorough records, maintaining a regular budget, and planning accordingly for future opportunities or investments are all areas that a financial advisor will focus on in order to steer you towards success.
  2. Industry Expert – While you may know a lot about your specific industry, if you are the only one within your business you consider an “industry expert,” and you are not consistently engrossed in the latest topics, this could be a problem. Seeking out additional perspectives on important matters can be imperative for business development. Arming yourself with information from an industry expert, whether it’s a direct contact, knowledge from books or websites where they share information, or a peer group focused on your industry, you can gain additional insight you may not have originally considered. Knowledge equals power, so why not consult with those that have the most knowledge?
  3. Marketing/Branding Expert – Many small business owners achieve their early success from hard work and hustle, but to continue that growth, marketing and branding are crucial. Spreading the word about your company and clearly defining messaging that communicates what your company does is paramount for building a customer base. This is where a marketing/branding expert is especially helpful because there are many channels to consider, and nuances associated with each that could determine the difference between a positive or negative ROI on your business efforts.
  4. Another Entrepreneur – If you network with other entrepreneurs (if you don’t get started now!) you can get invaluable tips. In this case, it doesn’t matter if this person is in your industry or not. Another entrepreneur in a different industry can offer impartial insight and offer advice about struggles and opportunities that they have been through as a fellow small business owner. You never know what you can learn from listening to another business owner’s challenges and how they are overcoming them.
  5. Human Resources Professional – You might not think you’re ready for an HR expert yet, but as your business grows, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of human resources. When you are hiring, firing, handling payroll taxes and more, it’s imperative that you know the legalities for each area and the best ways to address specific circumstances. Just a few hours with an HR professional can give you the information you need to take care of these various areas in the best way possible, and most importantly, to avoid any legal situations that could negatively impact you and your business.

Running a business can sometimes feel lonely, but you should never feel like you need to stand alone. The key is to find the right people that can offer you exceptional advice to help bring your company to the next level.

Keep tabs on the IOU Financial blog for more advice for small business owners.