Blog Post Tips for the Holidays

Have you ever needed to write a bunch of blog posts for the holidays, but you really didn’t have time to write them all? Well, here are some tips for making the most of your blog posts:

1. Best Of

This is a FABULOUS way of updating your blog during the holidays!  Just post a link to your best blog posts of the year, month, or quarter.  First of all, it creates value because it shares your best content.  Secondly, not all your readers will have taken the time to read all of your posts. They may not even have seen your best posts!  Just pick 4-10 of your best posts, link the title to the original blog posts, and give a short synopsis of what the post is about.  Then just put a short message on top and bottom of these links and voila!  Instant value!

2. Expand

Take a blog post you like, but didn’t have the time or forethought to expand upon and do so.  Link the original post in your new blog post for reference.  If you make a practice of using bullet points or a numbered list (and you SHOULD!) this is easy peasy.  just insert more info under each section and you have a whole new blog post with even more value.

3. Holiday Messages

If you’re really pressed for time and your blog post comes out very near the holiday date, I love this one! Simply post a pretty holiday picture or meme with your heartfelt holiday wishes for your readers.  The cool thing is that you’ll be seen as someone who cares about them because the entire post is just to wish them a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter.  PLUS nobody really does much too close to the actual holiday so they’ll appreciate that you didn’t take up too much of their time.

4. Memes

If you’re pressed for time and you have some lovely, funny, appropriate holiday memes or pictures you can share, throw about 4-5 of them up there and connect them all with a bit of text that explains why you’re sharing them.

5. Video

If it’s easier for you, record yourself with a holiday message for your readers. This needs only to be about a minute or so. You can upload it to your YouTube channel and embed it into your blog post for a quick, and more personal, holiday message.

Ok.  That should help a great deal this holiday season. If not, you can always hire me!

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Scheduling Time Off for the Holidays

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with taking time off for the holidays and wanting to be there for your clients/customers.  It’s a difficult balance come this time of year.  Here are a few guidelines that can help:

1. If your business isn’t busy during the holidays, you may want to close up shop for a week or two.  My Art of Eloquence site isn’t very busy except for just prior to each semester as we mostly sell speech communication curricula for homeschoolers.  Nobody says, “All I want for Christmas is a debate book.”  Well, I did have that one boy who told his mom that, but the point still stands.

2. If your business is VERY busy during the holidays, you’ll want to make sure you set your sales, promos, blog posts, etc up in advance so you only need to do a minimum of work during the time you’d really want to be with family!

3. DON’T let emails go unanswered! Most of your customers will understand if you don’t reply on or right before or right after Christmas, but they won’t understand if you allow that question to go unanswered for a week!  So make sure you still set aside time to respond to customers calls/emails in a timely manner even during the holidays.

4. Don’t neglect your blog and social media!  If you can’t schedule things ahead of time, you may want to hire someone (raises hand!) to write blog posts and take care of social media for you during the holidays.  There are DIRE consequences for not being regular with your social media and your blog. You need to be consistent even through the holidays.

NOTE: If you need a blog post to come out, but you don’t really have time, I’ll have some tips for you in next week’s blog post.  Stay tuned.

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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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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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