Embracing a strategic approach to cost-reductions can help keep your business lean, agile and prepared for challenges in the future. As we plan in the new year, here are some solid strategies to ensure your company is optimizing profits.
Some business owners are born negotiators. They know how to persuade, cajole, seduce and otherwise convince vendors to accept the deal they want.
But plenty of other CEOs and business leaders don’t have negotiating built into their DNA. The outcome of every negotiating session is a question mark, which adds an element of stress to an already difficult situation. What’s the best price I can hope to obtain for a supplier’s goods or services? If I need the vendor’s offering badly enough, am I always destined to pay through the nose?
Find out more and get your top ten tips for negotitaion...
Nowhere is the celebrated “buyer’s journey” more relevant than with B2B companies and their customers. With the vast array of digital resources at their command, these customers embark on the journey by conducting extensive research, comparing companies and exploring social media—sometimes well before they make direct contact with the business they’re most interested in.
As a result, B2B companies need to “up” their marketing game, in order to be ready when the buyer’s journey leads to them.
Here are tips for key elements and action steps for a marketing plan that keeps your business “top of mind” for current and prospective customers:
Focus on your core audience. Some businesses try—and generally, fail—to be all things to all customers. An effective marketing plan should focus on a clearly defined customer segment, so as to avoid diluting the appeal and effectiveness of a company’s key products or services.
Tailor content to meet that audience’s needs. The type of content you offer to customers (website, blog posts, articles, white papers, etc.) is a crucial element of any marketing plan. This, in turn, means thoroughly understanding what drives your customers—their needs, desires, pain points, etc.
“You need to know how your buyers like to buy and what they respond to,” notes Forbes contributor AJ Agrawal. “This will put you in the best possible position to sway them to making a purchase.”
Creating a comprehensive buyer’s persona to help with both marketing and sales leads is one highly effective way to ensure you’re hitting the right note in your content efforts.
Refresh the content and design of your website. Remember, the buyer’s journey almost always includes a visit to your B2B website. It’s in your company’s best interests to ensure that a consistent and appealing marketing message is built into virtually every page on that site. Don’t let old material or an unchanging homepage discourage potential interest.
As always, your site must also be user-friendly and informative (meaning, little or no fluff!), with a focus on how your products or services benefit the customer, as opposed to making your company look good.
Commit to a strong social media presence. Buyers will usually check out your company’s presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other industry-specific social networking sites. If you’re not already doing so, 2018 is the right time to commit to an in-depth social media marketing strategy. This can include:
- Using social media to gather data on customer preferences
- Becoming an industry thought leader through high-quality, customer-focused content
- Engaging in two-way communications with customers and prospects
- Monitoring online discussions of your industry
Your B2B marketing plan should specify the kinds of social media initiatives and activities planned for the new year and, ideally, assign this key responsibility to an individual or team with experience in this area.
Write a plan that’s clear and accessible throughout the company. While assembling the B2B marketing plan, keep in mind that shifting industry conditions may require a re-examination of basic ideas and strategies throughout the coming year. Consider assigning a knowledgeable team member with the responsibility to review the plan on a regular basis—identifying those elements and marketing goals that still make sense to pursue and refining other strategies that may have been rendered irrelevant by new market conditions.
The “marketing environment is always dynamic,” notes marketing technology expert Anita Brearton. “Create your strategy and plans in a way so you can adjust quickly to changing marketing conditions and customer requirements.”
Want to learn more about marketing and planning for your business? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
As a business owner, you wear multiple hats. Because no one is equally good at everything, some of your hats are a little too big or a little too small – but you wear them anyway. Only people who have run a business can possibly identify with the pressure to be a Jack of all trades in this way.
To the business owner, a peer advisory board is a room full of people who know what it is to wear the hats. They’re the people who know what it takes to steer a business toward success, because they’ve done it – or are in the process of doing it – themselves.
By taking advantage of group knowledge and experience, you’ll be able to...
DISC Communication Styles
People have unique ways to communicate with each other. When you understand people are uniquely different based on their communication styles then you can better relate to your customers, peers and in your personal relationships. The key is to understand yourself first. We measure communication styles with the DISC assessment.
- How we express our internal emotions through our external behavior
- How we prefer to interact (temperament) with the environment and the people around us
DISC represents four different communication styles
D-Dominance - How we solve problems
I-Influence - How we relate to people
S-Steadiness - Our pace and energy level
C-Compliance - How we respond to rules and procedures
Once you understand yourself, you can use the following guide to help you communicate more effectively and efficiently with different people:
Communicating with the High D
- Don’t ramble on or waste their time.
- Stay on task.
- Be clear, specific and to the point.
- Don’t try to build personal relationships or chitchat.
- Come prepared with all objectives and requirements in a well-organized manner.
- Be prepared and organized.
- Present the facts logically; plan your presentation efficiently.
- Provide alternatives and choices so they can make their own decisions.
- If you disagree, focus on the facts, not the High D’s personality.
Communicating with the High I
- Talk and ask about their ideas and goals.
- Plan interaction supporting their goals and ideas.
- Allow time for relating and socializing.
- Don’t drive to facts, figures and alternatives.
- Help them get organized and put details in writing.
- Don’t leave decisions in the air.
- Provide ideas for implementing action.
- Provide testimonials from people they see as important or prominent.
- Offer incentives for their willingness to take risks.
Communicating with the High S
- Don’t rush headlong into business or the agenda.
- Show sincere interest in them as people.
- Draw out their personal goals and objections.
- Don’t force them to make a quick response.
- Present your case logically, non-threateningly and in writing.
- Break the ice with some personal comments.
- Ask specific questions. (How?)
- Don’t interrupt as they speak. Listen carefully.
- Look for hurt feelings if the situation impacts them personally.
Communicating with the High C
- Approach them in a straightforward, direct way.
- Recognize they may be uncomfortable speaking too large groups.
- Ask them if they see the issue the same way as you do.
- Provide them with information and the time they need to make a decision.
- Don’t be informal, casual, or personal.
- Build credibility by looking at each side of the issue.
- Don’t force a quick decision.
- Be clear about expectations and deadlines.
- If you disagree, prove it with data and facts or testimonials from reliable sources.
If you are interested in completing our DiSC assessment or running a company training session in this area, then give us a call or drop us an email.
Being a boss means you’re not going to be liked all of the time — that just comes with the territory. Eventually, you’re going to have to make a few decisions that not everyone is going to like to move your business forward. While it’s not easy to move forward with tough, potentially divisive decisions, committing to your vision in the face of adversity is a sign of excellent leadership.
Success in sales remains an elusive goal for many companies, partly because the sales process can’t be configured or engineered in a way that guarantees closing a deal with every prospect. Too many variables are involved.
However, building a success-oriented sales culture within the organization can tilt the odds in your favor. The key is paying special attention to sales management in a way that’s positive, instills confidence and rewards sales activity, not just results.
Here are action steps you can take to boost the success rate of your sales team:
Honor the role of salesperson. If you come from a sales background, you know first-hand what a difficult job it can be. Failure and rejection come with the territory and it takes a strong individual to bounce back from these challenges and start fresh all over again.
For this reason, it’s good to “promote how honorable it is to be a sales rep for your company,” notes small business expert Megan Totka. “Put the importance of their position on a pedestal, and highlight how pivotal it is to the success of your business.”
Automate repetitive tasks. Salespeople thrive on high energy and welcome the unpredictable nature of their jobs. That’s why they often find repetitive sales-related tasks so draining and demoralizing. It’s up to you to free them up to do what they do best—sales. Wherever possible, employ technology to handle routine customer relationship management tasks (such as sending customized messages to prospects), thus giving your team more latitude to focus on other key responsibilities.
Enforce a consistent sales process. Yes, we all know about rock-star salespeople who “act on a gut feeling” or otherwise go it alone. That’s not the path to a success-oriented culture. Instead, every business should establish a consistent sales process, says sales expert Alana Nicol, with “specific steps that everyone takes so each person knows clearly what it takes to identify, qualify and close an opportunity.”
Train for the results you want. Businesses do the best they can to hire talented salespeople who can get results out of the gate. But for the best results, sales training is the most effective strategy. Such training can emphasize a variety of techniques and attitudes, including how to:
- Stop talking to the prospect and ask questions instead
- Position yourself less as an expert and more as a problem-solver
- Hone your company’s unique selling proposition
- Focus on sales activity as much as on results
For sales veterans and rookies alike, it’s helpful for the manager and/or CEO to occasionally sit in on phone calls and/or face-to-face meetings with prospects, and offer constructive feedback afterward. Most salespeople welcome such feedback, as long it’s framed in a positive way.
Offer opportunities for learning. Training is one thing, continuous learning something else entirely. As part of honoring your sales team, give them every opportunity to participate in webinars, attend sales conferences and engage in other learning activities that help them hone their skills and network on behalf of the company. When they can collaborate and share new ideas, they’ll come away re-energized and excited about incorporating new strategies into the sales process.
Avoid micromanagement. Perhaps the best way to instill self-confidence in your team is by not micromanaging them. Delegating responsibilities and leaving them alone to do their job is another way of saying you trust in their judgment and abilities, and that you expect them to give their very best with every prospect. Sometimes they’ll succeed and sometimes they’ll fail. It’s up to you to avoid casting blame, but emphasize instead the value of learning from experience and doing better the next time.
By honoring their efforts and giving them the tools and responsibility to succeed, you can build a culture of sales enthusiasm and energy unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Want to learn more about building a successful sales culture? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
So, your boss has come to you (well, actually they sent an email), with this crazy idea that you need to set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and SMART goals. Is this a passing trend and do you need to act upon it? After a quick internet search, you get the general idea, but the thought of sitting down and writing these out seems a little bit like too much hassle.
Don’t worry, we’re here for you
1 – What’s the big idea.
Actually, it’s a good one. Up until now, either your work has not been measured at all, it has been measured in a subjective manner or your measurement only comes in a negative way (i.e. you get reprimanded/complained-to if something is not done).
Good news, KPI’s are going to help. Oh, and in addition, do you ever get your boss coming to you and complaining in a subjective manner (it’s not what I had in mind… I ‘like’ it this way…) and does that conversation occasionally last a long time, when frankly you could be getting on with more work or doing something else far more productive (even if that involves Facebook)? Well KPIs help with this too.
So, KPI’s are a way of putting at a high level, what you think the top 4 or 5 achievements should be for yourself over the next (normally) quarter. By writing this out – each KPI as one sentence - you are indicating what is important, and your boss can then either agree or not, but once agreed to, both of you should be in agreement as to what is happening in the next quarter/time period.
2 – So, how do you work out what your KPIs should be?
These shouldn’t be plucked from thin air. In fact, you probably have access to a number of documents that can help you. See if you can get your hands on:
- Your job description
- The previous job reviews your boss has given you
- Vision, objectives or goals of your company or department
- Sales goals
- Important emails that your boss sent out about strategy or big projects
A typical KPI could be along the lines of:
- Delivering market-leading consulting services
- Ensuring we have the best team in the industry
- Addressing flaws in our delivery across North American operations
- Making sure we send out invoices and collect payments in a timely manner
3 – Now make them SMART
Next up we need to rationalize your KPIs. I am sure the KPI’s you came up with are awesome at the high level, but now we need to make these ‘real’. How are we going to measure success?
Each KPI needs one or a number of SMART goals.
What is a SMART goal?
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based. It is true that not all are in universal agreement, but if the letters stand for something else, it is generally with the same definition.
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Attainable/Assignable – is it really possible, and who’s doing this.
- Relevant/Realistic – is it relevant for the business and what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Time-based – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Let’s take an example. From our KPI above, “Making sure we send out invoices and collect payments in a timely manner” we need to set at least two SMART goals – one for invoices and one for the collection of payments. Let’s take the first one – invoicing in a timely manner
- Specific – Invoices
- Measurable – send out within 24-hours of order being fulfilled, in 98% of the cases over an average week.
- Attainable/Assignable – Brenda’s doing this, and as right now 70% of invoices are already sent out within 24-hours, so this does seem possible
- Relevant/Realistic – this is relevant for the business, as debtors pay invoices quicker if they receive the invoice closer to the order fulfillment, so if we achieve this realistic goal, we are making a sizable difference to the business
- Time-based – we’ll achieve this measurable goal by the end of this quarter
In summary, if your goal can be measured and you can define a timeline to hitting a desirable measure, then you’re getting the hang of this.
4 – Get them approved
Now you have SMART goals that represent your KPIs. You should show them to your manager, who needs to agree on them. They will be looking for three things:
- are the priorities of your job role addressed by the KPIs
- are they meaningful to the organization (will you be making a difference)
- are they SMART (now you’re an expert in this, it should be a breeze)
5 – Get on and do the work
Once you have agreed your KPIs and SMART goals with your manager, the easy stuff happens. You get on and do your job for the quarter.
You can expect that your manager (if they are any good) will be coming to you during the quarter to see how you’re doing. When they do, then reiterate your SMART goals, reaffirm if they are still achievable (according to the metrics and timeline), and if there is any doubt, speak to your manager about what they can do to help you hit the goal.
These can now be objective discussions. If you are halfway through the time period, and you are half way to your desired goal, then (all things being linear) you’re in a good place.
6 – What happens at the quarter end?
Firstly, you report back to your manager with the results for each SMART goal. If the goal was realistic, you are good at your job, and nothing unforeseen occurred, then the goal should be met and your manager should be very happy (as should you be). If the goal was not met, then you can expect to discuss this to work out where improvements can be made.
At this time, you’ll be also submitting your next goals. Some may be repeated, and some may be new – that all depends on your job role and responsibilities.
What we love about KPI’s and SMART goals is that they are simple, they are relevant for all organizations, are applicable for all level of workers, and they really do work to keep team members happier.
It’s a challenge every business faces at some point in its lifecycle—the need to raise prices in order to maintain operations and secure revenue to finance future growth. But the marketplace is littered with companies that attempted to achieve this goal but lost much of their valued customer base. One wrong step along the price-increase process and customers can feel mistreated, alienated and turned off enough to no longer purchase the company’s goods or services, even if they’ve been rewarded in the past with quality care and products.
The key to raising prices is designing the right strategy, coupled with a sense of timing and an all-out communications effort to persuade a loyal customer base that the price hike is both appropriate and promising of better things to come. Here are tactics to consider when you’re ready to raise prices:
Leave no ambiguity about the services you provide. Hopefully, you’ve laid the groundwork to clearly differentiate between what your business provides and how it stacks up compared to what’s offered by the competition. But it never hurts to further expand upon how your specific solutions effectively address problems that your customers can’t find elsewhere.
A good time for a price hike is when you can upgrade your product’s differentiating factor into an even more streamlined solution for the problems your customers face.
Incorporate price hikes in your strategic plans. Some companies mistakenly wait for what seems to customers an arbitrary time to suddenly announce a price increase in their goods and services. Instead, consider incorporating a comprehensive pricing strategy as part of your long-range business objectives, thus anticipating the influence of market forces, competitive gains in the marketplace, and other factors.
Being in a position where you can anticipate the next scheduled price hike enables you to prepare your customer base for that eventuality.
Investigate tiered pricing opportunities. Different customers may be willing to pay different prices for your business offerings. Multiple price points often make sense for retail and service businesses but can be applied to any business that offers a tiered pricing system with varying levels of service (or product upgrades) at different prices. This approach also gets customers more comfortable with price increases, making it possible to introduce across-the-board price hikes at a later date.
Communicate intentions in a positive light. Any increase in costs to customers will incur some level of push-back. For this reason, it’s critically important to communicate ahead of time your intention to take this step. Moreover, framing your message in a positive light—rather than blaming inflation or your own manufacturing/distribution expenses—can smooth the path toward eventual acceptance.
Emphasize your ongoing commitment to the highest product quality and most efficient customer service, as well as any investments your business has made in expanding personnel or acquiring state-of-the-art technology. Price increases go down better if the customer feels your business is spending money to improve its quality for them.
Test a price increase. It’s natural to expect objections from customers, but that’s not always the case with a rise in prices. “Your best customers might even wonder why you haven’t done it sooner,” notes Small Business BC, which adds that if you do have concerns about your existing client basis, “you could always introduce the changed pricing on new clients only.” This helps you gauge the effect of higher prices for your products in the marketplace.
Finally, help cushion the impact of a proposed rise in prices by offering one-time consultation services or other form of specialized assistance to your customers. This demonstrates how important they are to you, as well as your willingness to go above and beyond on their behalf.
Want to learn more about strategic planning and price increases? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
Need a job description template to simplify the process of developing a job description? This job description template provides a guide for you to use to develop your own job descriptions for your organization.
It's a 1-2-3 step process.
If you're recruiting, then add sections 4 & 5.
Here's a useful job description template to give you a starting point when writing your own job descriptions. There are some great templates online to get you started – because let’s face it, a lot of positions are transferable between different companies and industries. I suggest checking out Workable, Monster or Proven.
1 - Title of Job
2 - Position Description:
Write a one-paragraph description of what the position does within your organization. Think of this as their role.
For example, an Accountant at a small/medium sized company:
The Accountant will handle prepare, compute, manage, research and analyze all accounting data, in order to provide quantitative information on performance, financial position, solvency, liquidity and cash flows of our business to the business owner.
3 - Major Areas of Responsibility
Use bullet points to list the major areas covered by this position.
For example, an Accountant at a small/medium sized company might list responsibilities that include, but are not a comprehensive list, such as these:
The major areas the Accountant manages includes:
- Manage all accounting operations based on accounting principles
- Prepare budget and financial forecasts
- Publish financial statements in time
- Conduct month-end and year-end close process
- Collect, analyze and summarize account information
- Compute taxes and prepare tax returns, balance sheet, profit/loss statement etc
- Develop periodic reports for management
- Audit financial transactions and document accounting control procedures
- Keep information confidential and secure them with random database backups
- Keep up with financial policies, regulation and legislation
What you have above, is the three simple steps for a great job description.
If you are in a recruitment mode, then you can add to your job description to give details to potential recruits:
4 - Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
In this section of the job description, list each essential responsibility that the job holder must be able to perform satisfactorily to do the job successfully. Note that these requirements are representative, but not all-inclusive, of the knowledge, skill, and ability required to perform this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.
- Broad knowledge and experience in:
- Above average skills in:
- Excellent skills in:
- Demonstrated ability to:
- Demonstrated ability to:
- Demonstrated ability to:
- General knowledge of:
- Experience in:
Education and Experience
- Degree or equivalent experience:
- Years of experience:
- Specialized training in:
- Active affiliations:
- Other requirements (certifications and so forth):
5 - Physical Location
Lastly, be clear about where the team member needs to be, and how much of the time they are required in the office or on the road/travelling.
Job descriptions are further covered in Nick's best selling book - Exactly Where You Want To Be: A Business Owner’s Guide to Passion, Profit and Happiness. Pick up your copy of the book on Amazon.
Sooner or later every business loses a valued customer. Needs change, problems occur, personalities differ. But nowhere is it written that a lost customer must stay lost. In fact, the mark of a successful business is its ability to determine why customers stray and to take action that, over time, effectively brings at least some of them back into the fold.
Here are six tips to keep in mind when you decide to focus your energies on regaining customers lost to your business in the past:
1. Reach out to former customers. Some businesses just write off lost customers, as though they’ve disappeared or gone into hiding. On the contrary, those customers are still out there. It’s up to you to reach out and re-establish a connection. If possible, approach them via a more personalized route than email. A phone call or even a written letter may prove to be the “pleasant surprise” needed to get these customers to respond to your inquiries.
2. Determine the reason for defection. Customers don’t stop purchasing a company’s products or services for no reason. While their departure may have nothing to do with the quality of your offering, nonetheless, it’s entirely possible that they left because of some related element of dissatisfaction. Your business can only improve if you clearly understand why this happened.
Business author Geoffrey James recommends asking two key questions of former clients: (1) Why have you decided to leave our business? (2) What can we do to bring you back as a happy customer?
It’s a “no-lose proposition,” James contends. Ideally, “customers will be so impressed with your curiosity and concern they’ll reconsider their decision to leave.” At the very least, “you’ll learn what’s driving customers away so that you can make corrections.”
3. Apologize sincerely and take responsibility. If the cause for defection relates to the quality of your product or shortcomings in customer service, it’s time to issue a sincere apology. But don’t stop there.
“Saying ‘I’m sorry you’re unhappy’ isn’t enough,” writes business owner Vladimir Gendelman. Even if your company isn’t technically at fault, “make it clear that you can understand why they would be upset, and that you’ve taken steps to make their next purchase more satisfactory.”
4. Reassess your business operations. It’s not easy taking criticism, justified or not, but learning what drove a customer away means looking objectively at the way your company conducts business. Sometimes you can achieve this goal on your own, but for many CEOs and business owners, getting clear-headed advice and guidance from outside sources can make all the difference in the world. (Joining TAB and attending Business Owner Advisory Board Meetings guarantees you’ll receive honest, insightful feedback on your customer service and all other business operations.)
5. Begin the process of re-establishing relationships. Lost customers aren’t “found” overnight. It may take awhile to win back the trust of a customer who feels they’ve been short-changed in the past.
One viable strategy is to ask permission to resume contact and regularly share key industry information with a former customer. Learn more about their particular needs and challenges, and begin sending on articles, white papers, blog posts, etc. that can help provide solutions to those challenges. In this way, your business takes on a new identity as a “trusted partner” in helping customers grow.
6. Land a one-off project and prove your worth (again). A former customer may be understandably reluctant about hiring you on a full-time business resource. Instead, bid competitively on a single project—or offer to provide a different product or service altogether—and do everything in your power to “wow” the former customer. If things go well, you can move forward incrementally and demonstrate with certainty that you’re fully committed to satisfying the newly-found customer in every way possible.
Acquiring new customers if far more costly than retaining the ones you have. The ROI of reclaiming a lost customer, therefore, is well worth the time and effort involved.
Think your business could benefit from a TAB Board? Apply for membership today!
These days, it’s virtually impossible to lump all customers together and try to market to them the same way. Thanks to ecommerce and other consumer-empowering changes in the marketplace, the audiences you aim to serve have moved from one large, undifferentiated mass to many subsets with individual tastes and preferences, needs and challenges.
If you’re not careful, your team can waste valuable time and resources chasing after unqualified prospects who don’t really want or need your products. That’s what happens when a business relies upon a one-size-fits-all approach to customer acquisition.
So how can you adjust your sales and marketing efforts to identify qualified prospects and best serve your company’s various niche markets? One key strategy involves building “buyer personas.”
You already have broad-based demographic information about your customer base. But creating buyer personas “takes that a step further to include psychographic information based on actual current client and target prospect research to focus on why your target customer makes a purchase decision.”
Here are tips to help construct buyer personas that fit your business and industry:
Organize your search for relevant data. A thorough profile of your customer emerges from numerous sources. Start by asking your current customers why they buy your products or services (as opposed to those of your competitors). What specific problems do your offerings solve? How do these products improve their own businesses and/or lives? Also, reach out to former customers and ask for candid assessments of what you did right (and wrong) when they were buying from you.
Look at trends and solicit online information. Most sales leads follow a certain pattern or trend; the key is analyzing the data to see what those patterns indicate. Have your sales team look closely at which customer appeals are most effective, and with which group of customers. Compile information relating to customer age, gender, location, job title, education level, etc. Make sure the team understands why customers make the decision to purchase your products—and, conversely, why other prospects choose not to buy.
Focus on solving problems. One or more buyer personas will emerge from all this data. You’ll have a fairly sophisticated profile of what your customers are like. The key from there is looking beyond who these people are and concentrating instead on what it is they require from you and your business. What problems do they face that you may not have considered before? Are there ways to upgrade your products to better solve these problems?
Create an ideal customer experience. By understanding a buyer persona, you can alter your messaging and the content you share on your website and social media. This will inform every stage of the marketing process, including product packaging and advertising, and customer follow-up after a purchase is made. You know the people you’re selling to, so you can reframe your message in ways that genuinely resonate with them.
Often, crafting a buyer persona will narrow the scope of your sales leads—since you’re not trying to attract everyone with one generic message across the board. There’s always a concern when your team is reaching out to fewer prospects. But by leveraging buyer personas and other pertinent data, the result will likely be a higher percentage of qualified leads, ready to move through the sales funnel, with less time and money spent on the qualification process.
Want more advice on improved marketing strategies for your business? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
Do you receive a lot of inquiries from potential customers that turn out to be unqualified? While sales is a numbers game, you need to make sure you remain focused on your core competencies. If you are spending too much time on prospects that aren’t qualified, then your marketing process isn’t doing its job. Make sure your website and other marketing materials are very clear about who you work with.
Every business person knows about target markets, and you have likely defined your target market based on demographic targets such as gender, age, location, etc. Buyer personas take that a step further to include psychographic information based on actual current client and target prospect research to focus on why your target customer makes a purchase decision.
Pro Business Tip: Start developing your buyer personas by asking these 9 Questions You Need to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas. Do not rely only on your own answers to these questions, but include your sales team, current clients, past clients, and people who have not become clients. Also, consider implementing a survey for leads who ultimately decided to purchase from a competitor or substitute.
By now, you may be wondering what buyer personas have to do with prequalifying prospects. It boils down to the cliché example of the buyer who wants a hole, not a drill. If you take the time to develop your buyer persona, you will have a deeper understanding not just of who your ideal customer is, but what they need.
Once you have developed your buyer personas and understand who they are, you can begin to craft your marketing messaging and communications around your ideal customer. By targeting your message, you will find that your marketing is generating a lower number of leads, but a higher percentage of those leads will be qualified to move into the sales funnel, thus saving time and money in the qualification process.
To learn more about buyer personas and to help streamline your marketing pipeline, be sure to contact us today!
We all know technology is changing at warp speed, so it’s easy for small businesses to feel they can’t keep up—or worse, to feel too intimidated to even try to do so. There’s also the concern that implementing new technology is both costly and laden with potential risks.
This can sometimes lead to a mentality among CEOs and business owners that it’s safer to stick with “what you know.” But, the business that we see today that are killing it, have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to technology adoption.
Dan Hoffman at Business.com says, “for whatever investments a business owner incurs upgrading their business model, if done correctly, they can expect up to between 400 to 900 percent return on that investment after just a few months.” That’s because of improvements in digital technology, and related areas, have the potential to dramatically improve and streamline business operations.
For example, to what extent is your company invested in the use of big data? If you’ve been slow to adopt big data analysis, your business may be at a severe competitive disadvantage. After all, there’s a ton of valuable customer data out there, and you can be sure larger companies are mining that data for every buying insight they can find.
According to Small Business Trends, big data describes “large sets of structured and unstructured data” that fit into the “3V model” of big data analysis. The 3Vs are:
Volume—Storing data collected from sales transactions, social media, etc.
Velocity—Capturing data that streams in real-time
Variety—The wide array of data to be collected (text, video, audio, images)
Why is this important? Analyzing data compiled through the 3V model offers an in-depth understanding of the reasons behind customer purchasing behaviors, which can help you decide which product lines are worth the most in terms of promotion and ROI. Big data can also assist in predicting what your customers want in advance—valuable information to have in terms of planned future upgrades or a new product launch.
Maybe your small business doesn’t need big data quite yet… there are still other significant benefits of embracing changes in technology. Smaller companies can always benefit from:
● More effective internal communications, when all employees utilize a cloud-based system for staying in touch with each other and with your customers
● Greater lead capture and conversions through an optimized website, designed to entice customers to provide contact information and feed the sales pipeline on a continual basis
● Opportunities to encourage customer feedback and interactivity, thus enhancing your brand on social media and enabling you to stay on top of customer buying trends
● Greater leadership visibility through tracking and dashboard software that enables business owners to closely monitor levels of employee productivity (for example, making progress on key company initiatives)
● Protecting yourself from cyber-crimes and being held cyber-hostage that can cost you money and time
Of course, no single individual can hope to stay current with every advance in technology. But by hiring the right people and giving them the proper resources—and by staying informed through industry updates and information from organizations like TAB—executives can feel more empowered about leveraging the benefits of new technology as they arise.
In other words, to remain competitive in the marketplace, there’s really no other option than enthusiastically embracing the opportunities new technology provides.
Want more advice on making your business more productive? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
Small businesses are increasingly aware that cyber-crime can strike any enterprise, not just Fortune 500 companies. This realization comes not a moment too soon, since various studies estimate that nearly 50% of cyber-attacks specifically target small businesses to achieve their nefarious objectives.
Why? Cyber security expert Joseph Steinberg points to several alarming factors:
- Small businesses are considered more likely to give in to ransomware and pay hackers to restore urgently needed data.
- Small businesses that regularly work with larger companies may be “a hacker’s golden ticket into a larger enterprise.”
- Many small businesses lack a sophisticated line of cyber-defense.
Your business should take steps to guard against data theft, but even so, there’s no such thing as 100%-guaranteed protection. So, what happens when a cyber-attack occurs? Here are five mission-critical steps to keep in mind:
1. Fall back on your contingency plan. Your best defense lies in crafting a comprehensive assessment of your IT system’s strengths and weaknesses before a cyber-crime occurs. A thorough evaluation (not conducted during a time of crisis) can objectively determine where and how a malicious virus or hacker can breach your defenses. Encourage your IT team to brainstorm every possible contingency and come up with an action plan to protect against them.
2. Ascertain the extent of the damage. The first step following a verified cyber-attack is assessing the extent of damage to your system. Get your IT team—or a trusted third-party vendor—to scour the system and isolate any infected areas. Analyze incident data. Determine if internal security protocols were adhered to and, if not, pinpoint where the breakdown took place.
Also, as part of the assessment process, be prepared to enlist third-party expertise “to help handle and mitigate the fallout,” says data protection expert Ermis Sfakiyanudis. This includes “legal counsel [and] outside investigators who can conduct a thorough forensic investigation” that definitively details how much damage has taken place.
3. Validate the integrity of your data backup. Since many cyber-attacks take the form of encrypting precious data and rendering it inaccessible to you and your business, it’s critically important to have redundant data storage systems up and running at all times. These redundant servers and ancillary equipment must be maintained apart from your primary system, to protect against “collateral damage” from a virus or malware.
4. Repair the damage. If and when an attack does occur, “it’s time to begin the restoration process,” advises IT security specialist Andrew Douthwaite. Reformat hard drive volumes. Reinstall operating systems and applications. Adds Douthwaite: “After the breach it’s vital that you verify your backups are good.”
5. Notify constituencies about the cyber-attack without evasion or ambiguity. Virtually all IT security experts agree on the importance of communicating with various constituencies in a clear, forthright manner. To employees, customers, vendors and—if necessary—the media, you should share as many details of the incident as appropriate and outline the actions you’ve taken to repair the damage and ensure against future attacks.
Any executive’s initial impulse might be to deny or mitigate the truth, but remember—the integrity of your brand is at stake. Attempting to misstate or spin what happened in a way you think may bolster your image is extremely risky. A certain amount of consumer trust is lost when news breaks of a successful cyber-attack; if customers or employees or the media then suspect you’re covering up what happened, more trust will be lost, possibly forever.
Planning for the worst is the most effective strategy. As part of that effort, revisit your crisis plan at regular intervals, recognizing that technology (and company personnel) keep changing as well.
To try and keep yourself from being a target for a cyber-criminal in the first place, register to watch our BOSS Webinar about Why Small Businesses are a Cyber Criminal’s Favorite Target, at 9 a.m. (PDT) Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
To find out how to better manage your business, speak to us about business coaching and peer-advisory boards.
Increasingly, smart businesses owners in search of talented new team members are turning to social media as part of their overall recruitment strategy. “Social recruiting” seeks to leverage the power of various social media platforms to strengthen the employers brand, attract interest among qualified job-seekers, and build a pipeline of talent to tap into for future growth.
In today’s economy, it’s becoming even harder to recruit – so you need every competitive advantage. If your business already has an active social media profile, it’s no great leap to expand into social recruiting. If not, you may be losing out in the “talent wars” to other, more nimble competitors. And let’s face it, we all do our research online, so why would a recruit look anywhere else to see if they fit into your corporate culture?
Here are five ways to get the best new team members using social media:
Promote your brand on all platforms. Everything you post on your company’s website and social media platforms—from blog posts to company news, images and videos—should be filtered through the lens of brand awareness and company culture. Always gauge the potential impact of your content through the eyes of prospective team members. Is what you’re posting likely to attract them or turn them off? Are you portraying your business as a place where people would like to work or are you discouraging further interest?
Seek out and establish relationships with influencers. Just as it’s important to engage in influencer marketing, so you can boost your recruitment efforts by building ties with influencers in the realm of social recruiting. Seek out industry influencers with sizable networks, share their content and offer content of your own. As the relationships grow, you can begin touting job opportunities in your company—reaching a far greater audience than might otherwise be possible.
Get active on millennial-focused platforms. Sure, it’s important to be active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but you won’t necessarily generate a lot of interest there among millennials. Take time to explore Snapchat, Instagram and other sites where millennials “hang out.” Building your presence on these sites can result in greater brand awareness among the job-seekers you most wish to attract.
Encourage your current team to generate leads. Existing team member referrals are always a promising source for potentially qualified job candidates. Take this a step further by encouraging your team to promote open job opportunities via their own social media networks. Your objective is to have recruiting referrals (so set up a program that incents your team).
“Simply talking casually about enjoying a company vacation, feeling supported at work, or being glad about something that the employer is doing for them can make an impression on their followers,” notes Business.com. “But you want it to be genuine.”
Look to the future. Social recruiting bears only a cursory resemblance to recruiting teams “back in the day.” In today’s era, cultivating relationships is just as important as lining up applicants for your latest job opening. Whether you expend your efforts on LinkedIn, Facebook or other sites, the key is nurturing a pipeline of qualified candidates—individuals who show an interest in your company by following you on social media, commenting on your posts, sharing content with others—and then reaching out to those candidates when the time is right.
In many ways, social media has dramatically altered the way business gets done. It’s also an increasingly useful resource for attracting the right people from the emerging talent pool and putting those talents to use in your company.
Want more advice on recruiting and retaining great employees? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
“How do I make my business more efficient?” is a question business owners and CEOs are always asking me. While what constitutes “efficiency” might differ from one business to the next, an efficient business is one that delivers its products/services without excessive cost, effort or waste. The result of this focus on efficiency means such businesses can afford to deploy greater resources for growth-related operations (including research and development, sales, and marketing) while keeping expenditures down and profits high. Or, just maybe, if you’re an owner/operator, you can work a few less hours in the week (and wouldn’t that be nice?).
So, how can you go about building more efficiency into your business? As any TAB Business Owner Advisory Board Member might tell you, look first into your own style of working and leadership and then the rest of the business:
1 - Get out of “reactive” mode. Too many CEOs waste valuable time and energy focusing on tasks that are urgent, but not important. “Putting out fires” shouldn’t be at the top of your job description. Click here to learn helpful tips to be more “active”.
2 – Delegation. Improving efficiency begins by looking closely at where you’re losing time, but this requires that you acknowledge when you’re being stubborn and when you’re refusing to let go of the reins. In other words, start delegating today.
3 – Be specific – very specific. Never hold a meeting without a specified purpose and time-limit. Let’s face it - company meetings are inefficient. We call them for vague reasons, inviting too many (and therefore, the wrong) people, and no one dares suggest the meeting should end sooner, rather than later. Stop this madness today.
4 – Smaller time slices. Look at the possibility of convening a 5- or 15-minute meeting of the day or stand up meeting where team members can quickly describe their current work situation and then release people to go do their jobs.
5 – Communicate clearly. Often business don’t have a centralized method for sharing valuable information. With modern technology, there’s no excuse for not keeping everyone in the loop. Whether through video conferencing or cloud-based systems, don’t sacrifice efficiency due to miscommunication or other related issues.
6 – Motivation. Pay attention to team morale. Happy team members are generally more productive and efficient. When you go to the trouble of hiring smart, talented people, it only makes good business sense to see that they’re well compensated, enjoy great benefits and have continuous opportunities for development. Click here to learn 8 tips to boost employee morale.
7 – Outsource as much as you can. Your business is very good at making and/or delivering a product or service to customers. It may not be particularly efficient in certain key operational areas, such as IT, HR, accounting, and so on. In all these areas, outsourcing these services to companies who focus on providing efficient service to client companies may costs less than what your business spends now internally – and it allows you to focus on what you’re great at.
8 – Plan for the worst. Always have a disaster management plan in place. It may not be a flood or earthquake or tsunami, but some unforeseen event can cripple your business if you don’t plan. Being efficient includes contingency planning and devoting resources and information to take decisive action if a natural or man-made disaster occurs. Commit to a comprehensive analysis of specific potential threats and what you can do to mitigate them. Itemize your most valuable assets and layout crisis-management steps to keep these assets safe and secure.
Want more advice on making your business more efficient? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!
Job openings in the U.S. rose to the highest on record in April 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Openings totaled 6.04 million, according to the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released this week.
The high number of openings underscores the challenges that some employers have filling positions, eight years after the recession, especially for jobs that require specialized skills. The number of hires fell by 253,000 to 5.05 million, the lowest since April 2016.
And that’s exactly what business owners that I coach are telling me – it’s difficult to find and hire talent.
So, here are 9 things to help you get that perfect team member.
1. Know what you want
Are you directly replacing a role? Or does the role need to be revised to suit the needs of the business? If you have a clear outline of the job to be filled, then it is more likely you will get applicants who fit the criteria you are after. Having specific experience, qualities and cultural points will enable you to attract the kind of team member you want for the job.
A vague job description will lead to numerous applicants that are not fit for the role, or a team member who was expecting a different role to the one they end up performing.
2. Ask your current team… and then everyone else you network with
Good team members are often found and recruited by referral from a current team member. Most people will only recommend someone they believe will be a good worker, since a bad hire might tarnish their personal or professional reputation.
Consider adding an incentive for current team members to refer a candidate for a job opening, with a reward for a successful application. I suggest breaking it down a little - a smaller incentive to just recommend a name (maybe they heard about someone, where you do the research and contact) and a larger one if this is someone they know and have influence with.
Next ask everyone you network with – in person and through online platforms. Partners, customers and even family/friends are often happy to help. And of course it’s all good publicity as it shows your company is prospering and can afford to have new team members (funnily enough, this is the perception even if you are replacing).
3. Be attractive in your marketing
The market has changed, and you need to action that. Even if you find a good candidate, they may have other offers and opportunities – so market to them – sell to them.
If you’re marketing to Millennials then think like one. Do you know a Millennial that doesn’t like watching a video? Then get your phone out, put it on your selfie stick and take one and a half minutes to explain a little about your company, while you walk around it – they’ll pick up the culture pretty quickly and know if it’s a good fit – because Millennials are all about the cultural fit.
The interview stage is a good time to sell your company to the candidate. Make it be known why people find it fun to work with you and at your company.
It’s likely you’re in a competitive environment to win this candidate from other offers, so don’t be afraid to ask them about that. If you can find out which other offers they are considering you can talk to it. Candidates look at far more than just the remuneration… location, their manager and peers are all critical to this decision.
6. Select like a ninja
Use the best technology at your fingertips to find and select. You do not want to take time searching through multiple applicants. That can really sap your time. Use pre-qualification questions and let technology help you push the best candidates to the top of the pile.
A lot of people I am working with are also asking for the candidates Facebook and LinkedIn profiles (check your local laws about whether that is possible where you operate).
7. Re-evaluate your hiring process
Is it too long? Overly complicated? Do you keep in touch with the candidate while making a decision?
Candidates move quicker today, so should employers. The most important thing here is to keep the candidate updated on a regular basis. Communication every 48 hours is not overdoing it.
Don’t let your own internal business day-to-day slow down the process.
8. Background checks
Do them! Spend less than $50 to find out what you need to find out. In addition, do your own cyber research.
True story: last week, during an interview, the hiring manager was looking down the candidate’s Facebook page and five posts in it said, “If I get through today without killing any co-workers it will be a miracle”. Disqualified.
9. Treat the new recruit’s family like royally
So, here’s what really happens. A team member goes home one day, tiered/frustrated and says to their significant other, ‘bad day!’ The supporting significant other says, ‘you should look for something else if it’s getting you down.’
That’s what starts the job search journey.
Having the significant other on your side really helps.
When your new team member starts (that very day), send an appropriate gift to their home thanking their family for allowing you to share them.
What is the first thing your team member is going to be asked when they get home? ‘How is the new job?’
Now you have two people agreeing this is the best new job ever.
How is your recruiting going?
If you have tips to share we’d all love to hear.
Employee development used to be a luxury only big businesses could indulge in. That’s no longer the case and especial for business owners of small and medium businesses. To maintain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace, business owners must put a priority on building the skills sets of their team, to contend with ever-constant changes in both technology and market conditions – but more importantly – to keep your best team members.
If you’re looking to accelerate the quality of team development within your company, here are several tips to keep in mind:
A commitment to development begins at the top. Sometimes team members are sent the message that training is all-important, but then they see little participation or support from the business owner. This disconnect can weaken a team development initiative right from the start.
Business owner buy-in is “essential, and training programs can flourish when upper management recognizes the value of training, provides support, and participates in creating concrete objectives,” writes HR expert Steve Rossetti. Never forget, he adds, “that senior management are employees, too.”
If you’re a TAB Member (or thinking of becoming a TAB Member), you’re already demonstrating a commitment to developing your own skills—a point well worth making as you bolster your team training program.
Make training a regular part of each team’s work schedule. A one-time “training event” rarely delivers much return on investment, experts say. It’s more efficient to establish a schedule of ongoing development workshops or classes, because (a) this sets up the expectation and understanding among employees that training is a key part of their job responsibilities; and (b) continuous training reinforces key lessons and makes far more of an impact than any once-a-year or semi-annual event.
For bonus points – make it part of their KPIs.
Offer a range of learning options. Training is not the type of program that succeeds with a “one-size-fits-all” structure. Obviously, team members (like anyone else) learn at their own pace—not to mention having different workloads and job responsibilities—so it’s more effective to provide flexible learning options, including mobile and on-demand opportunities for training that better fit their schedules and ability to absorb new information.
This is particularly important, considering an average workplace might have as many as five different generations of employees working there. A serious commitment to development involves recognizing how different generations best absorb new information (millennials, for example, expect training to incorporate mobile devices as part of the learning process), in order to succeed.
Not to mention – your team may not be in one location.
If all this sounds like a significant expenditure of time and resources, remember the benefits your organization will reap with an effective employee development program:
Aids in recruitment and retention. The ability to acquire knowledge and further one’s career through training is a powerful recruitment and retention tool. Higher-quality job candidates will look more closely at your company if they see a genuine commitment to training built into your culture. In this way, your business can emerge as an employer of choice in the hunt for new, high-quality job candidates.
Builds a cadre of potential leaders. Employees who might otherwise be “stuck” in their positions can, through proper development, emerge as authentic leaders in their own right. In this way, you’re gaining a talent pool of potential team leaders and managers—a significant benefit, when you consider all the effort required to look outside the organization for such individuals.
Keeps your focus on the future. Team development necessarily centers around changes in meeting customer needs and adapting to new conditions in the marketplace. This focus on what lies ahead benefits everyone in the organization—from HR and marketing to IT and sales. It keeps everyone on their toes and looking ahead, rather than backward at “what worked in the past.”
Companies that go beyond paying lip service to team development reap the benefits of this type of initiative. Don’t overlook the value of a skilled, learning workforce as a key ingredient towards the growth of your business.
Want more advice on team development or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!