Three ways your business is probably sabotaging your company’s image!

Does your business rely upon emails as a way to correspond with customers or clients? If it does, here are three ways you may be sabotaging your relationship with your customers, and you don’t even know it.

Almost all businesses use email as one of the primary ways to interact with customers.  Here are three of the most important things companies do that can destroy your company’s image or relationship with your client/customer:

1. Not reading before you answer
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent an email off into the interwebs and was disappointed to find that the answer that came back didn’t address the issue I had raised. It was obvious that the company’s representative read only as far as the first sentence before pasting in the canned response.

Don’t be that company! Make sure to read the customer’s entire email before you answer to make sure you understand their exact problem.  It may take you more time now, but it will save your company time in the long run as well as your image and customer service reputation.

2. Not answering each question
Before you hit that send button, make sure you have answered each one of your customer’s questions.  It has become common practice to answer one or two questions and leave the customer wondering about the other two.

It takes more time in the long run for you to play email tag with your customer.  In addition to taking more time to answer two or three emails where there should have only been one, the emails will become longer and more hostile should the need arise.  Make sure you get all their questions answered the first time!

3. Not reading between the lines
Most of your customers won’t know enough to ask you the right questions.  Make sure you are reading between the lines and anticipating what your customer or client is REALLY asking.

It goes without saying that NOT ANSWERING a customer email for a long while is a huge no-no. Most customers will understand if they don’t get a reply for a day or so (or over the weekend), but please don’t make them wait a week or longer to hear from you…or you’ll be hearing from them!

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Are You Listening to Your Customers?

Have you taken the time to find out what your customers want?  How they feel about your company, product or service? Why not?

It may seem like something that would take up too much time, but it can help you avoid launching a product or service doomed to failure.  It can also help you improve a current product, service, or even your social media presence.

Here are a few ways in which you can listen to your customers in order to improve your image and then your bottom line:

1. Surveys
Put a survey out to your past customers, on social media, or blog.  Ask them about their experience with your company, the impression of your product, or issues with your service.  Use that information to better your company’s image, products, and services.  Most people love to be asked what they think and you’ll move forward knowing what worked and what didn’t.

2. Poll your employees
Ask your employees for ideas about how to better serve your customers.  Ask them what things they like about working for you and ask them what they feel could be improved.  The more involved your employees are in the process, the more valued they feel and the more loyalty they will have. Happy employees usually service your company and customers better.

3. Poll your customer service team
Your customer service reps work more directly with your customers than you do.  Ask them what they’ve heard the customers rave or complain about.

 

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11 Hidden Reasons Why Business Owners Need Excellent Communication Skills

At the corner of Marketing Street and Strategy Avenue, there is communication, and it’s either working for your company…or it isn’t!

You might never have to make a speech, but there are 11 ways in which your communication skills, and that of your employees, play a vital role in your business!  Why? Because business is about relationships and relationships are built on communication.

Whether you are developing your company’s relationship with a customer, a supplier, or its employees, here are 11 ways in which your communication can either make or break your company:

1) How to save time and money on your supplies
Before you ever have your first customer, you’ll need to develop a relationship with your suppliers.  Building good relationships with them will give you an advantage when it comes to price and problems.  It is worth some time and effort to get to know the companies who supply your business.  It’s also worth your time to do little things for them.

While most large businesses have the money and staff to do this with relative ease, small to medium size companies often justify not doing so by saying they don’t have the time or money to do it.  I’m here to tell you that it will cost you more in the long run if you don’t.

2) Creating a communication package for your business
Think long and hard about what kind of image you want your company to have and then make your communication congruent with that image.  You don’t want your logo saying that you are the company who cares if your customer service says you don’t.

3) How to present yourself as an expert in your field
How you present yourself is important, but not only because of the suit of clothing you wear or the logo on your website.  How you position yourself in the marketplace with your website, blog, and social media will either reflect your company as an industry expert or not.  Be careful not only in your sales copy but in what you blog or tweet about!

4) How to effectively handle customer service, complaints, and returns
How you handle customer issues can make or break your company.  If you don’t answer the phone quickly, allow the customer to run circles in your phone tree, or make it easy for the customer’s issue to go unresolved, word will get around.  An upset customer is much more likely to tweet how upset they are than is a happy customer to post how much they love your product.

5) How to make contacts
It goes without saying that the better you are at communicating, the better those contacts will be.

6) Effective use of social networking groups
Making effective use of social networking groups is also all about how you come across.  Effective communication comes in handy when you’re at a social event representing your company.

7) Balancing family and business
How you tell your spouse about a last minute business meeting is just as important as having to broach the subject of postponing a meeting with your client.  If you aren’t precise and gracious with your family, they won’t be as supportive.  If you aren’t clear and respectful to your boss or client, well…

8) How/when to share your faith or talk about politics in business
There may be times when it is necessary for you to share issues of faith or politics with a client, a customer, or your employee.  How and when it’s done can be crucial.  Not something we usually think about, but something that is important.

9) How to gain support from family and friends
If you are starting a business, it is important to gain the support of family and even friends.  They are usually your biggest supporters and, without them, you can’t build it big.

10) How to motivate your employees
Most business people don’t think much about motivating their employees, but the biggest growing companies do.  You should too.  What would keep them working when things get difficult?  What would keep them loyal?

11) How to train your customer service staff
Customer service almost doesn’t exist anymore.  With the invention of the phone tree, a customer can be busy for an hour trying to reach the right party to get their issue resolved.  When customer service staff is hired, almost no training goes into them.  They are given a script and good luck!  Make it a point to train your customer service staff to respond to the customers as individuals instead of problems.  Give them some leeway to get the customer the help they need.  Keeping the employees loyal can help here too.

There are many situations in business when good communication can either fix the issue or avoid it altogether.

 

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Social Media Political Rants: Should You Go There?

If you’re on social media to promote your business, you’ll need to make a decision about what types of information you will share there.  I recently came across an article that didn’t surprise me much, because I’ve reported on a similar topic over on Art of Eloquence before.

Article Overview:
In a nutshell, the article says that precious few are persuaded to either side of the political aisle by rants on social media.  I went a bit further in my commentary and said that almost nobody is persuaded by a debate.  That debate could be an argument or a formal public debate.  Most people polled after a number of political/religious debates said that they were not inclined to the other side.  It usually takes one on one communication with give and take discussion and an open heart to share issues such as these.

This article reported that only 14-20% (depending upon the wording of the poll) were persuaded by the other political side after a social media rant.  That brings me to a critical question you need to ask yourself about your politics on social media: Should I go there? The answer is, it depends.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you do go there:

1. Am I on social media for business or personal reasons?
2. If for business, will my customers/clients see value in political posts?
3. Is the subject of politics irrelevant or even counterproductive to my business purpose on social media?
3. Is my business intertwined with my political views such that it would actually benefit by sharing them on social media?
4. How can I word my political posts in a way that I will gain a willing ear even if my subscribers don’t agree with me?

Even if you are on social media purely for personal reasons, that last question is vital.  As someone with extensive training in effective communication, I’m here to tell you that no matter how right you are about something, you will need a willing ear if you hope to be heard.

My Thoughts:
Some businesses thrive on politics even if their product/service has nothing to do with politics.  Chick Fil A serves chicken.  However, their Christian stance has actually helped them.  Though they do have dissenters, their customer base has grown as they have responded to criticism.

Even if you don’t go looking for political or religious battles, your core values will play into how you conduct your business.  How you respond is equally as important as what you respond.  Take some time to ponder these questions before you set the tone for your business social media platforms.

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If you’re on Instagram, you might want to read this!

Whether you love or hate Facebook, there is no denying that it is the largest social media platform out there.  However, there is something to be said for the others.  I recently shared about the changes that Facebook made on August 10th of this year, but I found that they aren’t the only ones making some changes.  Instagram is as well and here’s what you need to know.

According to this article on Digital Trends, Instagram is now allowing more users to apply for their blue verification badge.  It was specifically designed for public figures who have a large following so followers could be sure that the account they were following was the Real McCoy.

However, as someone who understands how a brand can be copied (our family business has had our product pages cloned on Amazon), I appreciate them allowing this for those other than Donald Trump, Sandra Bullock, and IBM.  If you have a smaller brand, you too may want to protect it from counterfeiters.

Facebook has had a rash of faux profiles hack into a personal Facebook account and clone itself.  These fake profiles then lure your friends and family.  You may want to protect your brand from counterfeiters or even from others who don’t know they are using your name.

If you feel you have a large enough following on Instagram, you might want to click the above link and find out how to apply for your own blue verification badge.

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Facebook Changes: Are You Ready?

Fasten your seatbelts, business page owners, Facebook has made more changes!  Don’t worry though. I’ve got you covered!  I’ve been researching this ever since I saw the newsfeed announcements and I have some good news for you this time.

My research indicates that there are three major changes to the way in which Facebook now works.  Their reasoning is to reward those who engage their subscribers with the value they like and punish those who post things they don’t like.  Here’s how this works:

1. Facebook will reward those whose posts encourage interactions.
Facebook is not only looking for “likes” and comments, but also rewards other reactions such as the heart-shaped (love), the wow emoji, and even the angry face! They will show more of the posts that get these engagements as well as shares.  Also, they like it when you reply to the comments and will reward you for videos that have a higher average time viewed.

What you need to do to maximize this engagement is to know your audience.  Take a look at your posts and see which ones got the most engagement.  Then, post more of that.

EXAMPLE: I have a (just for fun) Facebook fan page for purple lovers called, For the Love of Purple.  I have over 6700 fans.  They love almost anything purple, but what they cherish most are memes I create that share WHY they love purple or how much they love purple.  I just give them what they want and I get tons of reactions, comments, and shares.  I don’t really do much for the page other than that, and it’s growing by about 80-100 new subscribers a week.

 

A few other suggestions are to complete your page profile so subscribers can understand more about your page.  And, finally, to include subtitles on your videos for those who view your video without the sound because it’s early in the morning and they don’t want to wake anyone.  (Or they’re at work and don’t want anyone to know they’re on Facebook!

2. Add Value!
Facebook is looking for authentic and timely posts with information, news, current events items and such that add value to your subscribers.

People are looking for information and, when they find it, they are only too happy to share it so they can show their friends that they are one of the first to know about it.

NOTE: This works best when you also use keywords, famous names, and trending topics.

3. What will put your in the penalty box with Facebook:
Facebook will now penalize you for posting overt sales or overly promotional posts, contests, any links that take the user off Facebook, giveaways, posts that include overt calls-to-action, or for reusing pictures you’ve used in ads.  Anything that leads a subscriber to hide your post or unlike your page will result in Facebook showing your posts to fewer subscribers.

Facebook gives you tips too. One of the tips I found is that they don’t like posts with too much text on it.

It appears that the best way to get Facebook to show more of your posts to more of your fans is to create value for your subscribers, give them what they want, and to create posts that increase engagement.  The best ways to do that are to make them laugh, shock them with news they are interested in, or give them the information they need (and want).

NOTE: If you don’t have time to post on social media or you’d like help with your social media posts, contact me

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How to give your customers value so they come back and buy!

ABC: Always Be Closing!  Great sales advice?  Well, maybe.  If by closing you mean that you are always hocking your products and services, I’d say you’re wasting your time!  Ads are great tools, but studies show that at least 96% of customers/clients WON’T buy the first time they see your ad!

Why?  Let’s face it.  Technology bombards us with information daily.  Your customers/clients can’t open their email without seeing hundreds of emails that they didn’t ask for and social media isn’t much better.

Most people are so jaded these days that they almost hide all ads without even reading them.  So how does a business reach its customers?  By giving them value!

While modern customers will ignore or hide an ad, they are actively seeking information.  Give it to them! What information do you have about your industry that they would value?  What tips could you give them that might save them time or money?

This is what I call soft sales.  It gives your customers some value that leaves them thinking of your company as the expert in the field.  It keeps them coming back to your website or blog or social media platform in search of more.  And it gives them a reason to keep your company “top of mind” when they are in the market for what you provide.

How can you give your customers value?

1.  Write articles that inform and set your company up as a thought leader in your industry.

2. Keep your blog updated on a regular basis that gives your clients a reason to come back to your site when they are seeking information in your market.

3. Create social media posts that engage, inform, uplift, inspire, motivate, and bring humor.

If you don’t have the time or you don’t know how I’d be happy to help! Just contact me!

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Technology may be easy, but being effective isn’t!

Replying to a customer’s email is both easy and instant, but what it isn’t necessarily is EFFECTIVE!

Technology has come a long way since I was a kid.  Instead of hiring a staff of customer service agents to answer hundreds of daily phone calls, most small to medium sized businesses make use of email to handle the steady stream of inquiries and concerns.  This saves money and time, but what if often doesn’t save is customers!

Are your email replies frustrating your customers?
Many customer emails are being answered hastily and that makes for frustrated customers. Frustrated customers have a nasty habit of not hiring or buying from the companies that feed their frustrations…and they often tell others about their difficult experience!

Some emails are allowed to sit in the inbox long after the customer has decided to shop elsewhere.  Some emails are answered without having been thoroughly read and are sent out with only one of the customer’s three issues being addressed.  And many emails are poorly worded leaving the customer confused.

I’m a business owner too, so I get that you’re busy.  I’m busy too, but I’m here to tell you that, if you don’t take an appropriate amount of time to reply to customer emails, it will only cost you more time and quite possibly, your sale (or worse, your company’s reputation)!

Here are a few tips for responding to emails:
1. Take the time to read the email carefully.
Make a mental note (or write down) all the issues that need addressing and make sure you answer all the issues presented to you.

2. Read between the lines.
If you notice that the wording used suggests a misconception your customer/client might have, address that before your communication goes back and forth.  Remember, you know much more about your product/service than does your customer.

3. Take the time to proofread before hitting send.
Make sure your answers are clear.  There is nothing more frustrating than receiving a confusing email that leaves you with more questions than you had when you sent in your email.  Also make sure to check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar.  A badly written email, even if it is understood, sets a poor image in your customer’s mind.

Don’t be fooled by the ease of technology.  Taking the time to respond to your customer’s emails up front saves time in the long run.  You’ll also present a better business image to your customers!

Prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

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