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Understanding the relationship between compliance and customer relations Suha Saya February 20th, 2018 Anna Johansson

Keeping customers happy is the name of the game. Unfortunately, it’s not the only responsibility modern businesses have. In addition to keeping customers satisfied, you also must remain compliant with various laws, regulations, and requirements in your industry.

Compliance: The norm in today’s business world

It’s easy to view compliance as a pain in the rear – a deterrent force in your pursuit of growing revenue, scaling your business, launching new products, or managing people. Compliance means abiding by constricting rules and regulations, even when you don’t feel like they’re within your company’s best interests.

The thing about regulatory compliances and other industry rules and laws is that you don’t really have much of a choice. You either abide by them or you get penalized, sanctioned, and/or shut down for your lack of obedience.

For many businesses, the biggest point of friction occurs at the intersection of regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction. Abiding by a certain regulation often feels like a direct threat to keeping customers happy, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, the more you study the purpose behind compliance, the more you’ll realize that rules and regulations actually help keep you on track.

Remaining compliant and keeping customers happy

The rise of the cloud has been one of the more interesting developments to watch in recent years. It’s gone from a promising technology to the undisputed present and future of computing. But part of what has made the cloud successful is the fact that its growth has been so closely monitored to ensure customer-side safety and security. Many regulatory agencies and bodies require businesses to meet very specific compliance measures when it comes to handling customer data and confidential information.

This is just one example of how compliance and customer relations interact in a positive way. If it weren’t for these compliance measures, it’s likely that some businesses wouldn’t take the necessary security precautions, which would result in preventable data leakage and security risks (which would ultimately hurt customer satisfaction in these brands).

Another example of how certain compliance measures can protect a customer’s best interests (and thereby the company’s best interests) is found in American franchises.

Franchises, multi-location companies and organizations who have a well-defined model have staked and scaled their growth based on consistency and adherence to the fundamentals that made that system successful,” Kelly Grace writes for Volano Solutions. “In this regard, compliance to those tenets is necessary not just for health, safety or legal reasons but to delight customers and drive revenue.”

Agile compliance systems are a must

Having acknowledged some of the benefits of compliance and how it can have a positive impact on customer relationships, it’s also important to recognize the fact that fragmentary compliance systems can be dangerous and costly when it comes to the customer experience.

As compliance expert Holly Parker writes, “Fragmentary compliance systems that slow down, restrict, or inconvenience customers will lead to a lack of trust and loyalty in the institutional-customer relationship, instead of nurturing the reliability and convenience which generates loyal and satisfied customers – customers who contribute to a financial institution’s long term market success.”

Clearly, there’s a need for agile compliance systems that encourage consistency, while eliminating the friction that typically comes with incomplete systems and strategies. If your business is subject to external compliance – i.e. industry regulations – then it’s up to you to develop internal methods for handling these regulations in the most efficient manner possible.

If your organization is subject to internal compliance – like specific rules from corporate – then it might be worthwhile to sit down and have a conversation with key business leaders about how you can increase flexibility without compromising on consistency.

Whatever the case may be, don’t sit back and watch.

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3 strategies for winning the customer service battle on social media Suha Saya February 13th, 2018 Dan Steiner

If an individual or company lacks a Facebook presence, do they really exist? Social media defines how we communicate in the digital age. It’s as critical to modern life as oxygen or electricity. It’s how we stay connected to the people and things we care about.

And for companies, it’s mission critical. Nearly half of Americans have interacted with a business on social media. So, let’s look at some killer strategies to help your company keep pace with consumer preferences for customer service via social media.

1. Organize communication channels in a single place

Consumers have become so comfortable with Facebook and Twitter that they regularly use it to communicate with brands when they need help resolving an issue. Thankfully, platforms like Desk.com allow business owners to bring all of their client communication, including social media messages, in one place – making a flurry of customer chats much more manageable.

This includes the added benefit of ensuring that your entire customer service team is operating from the same playbook. Duplicate replies and mixed messaging only result in customers losing respect for your brand.

2. Stay ahead of evolving social media channels

The social media landscape is constantly changing. Whether its massive feature changes thanks to radical platform updates, or changing user habits, it’s your job to anticipate where your customers will pop-up next.

For example, LinkedIn is quickly blurring the lines between their original professional network image and a one-stop-social media platform. After their acquisition by Microsoft, the improvements to their platform have given them some stats to write home about.

They are opening new accounts at a rate of 2 per second, and more than 61 million influencers call the platform home, bolstered by more than 40 million decision makers. These eye-popping LinkedIn stats showcase how a once stuffy platform for busy professionals is evolving into a place for every working person to connect and engage with their coworkers and potential employers.

For B2B brands, it’s not unusual for customers to reach out via LinkedIn. This is especially true of decision-makers that are tired of dealing with ineffective account executives. You shouldn’t outsource LinkedIn customer service chats to your regular team. In fact, I would handle them personally. The demographics of LinkedIn are still heavily tilted towards executives and professionals – the kinds of clients that B2B companies need to excite if they want to compete.

3. Don’t just echo your blog on your social pages

Old school marketers looked at social media pages as a hip tool to echo out blog posts and company updates. While most Facebook pages still serve this purpose, to varying degrees, modern social media channels need their own unique content in order to shine.

If you really want to have fun, look no further than Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Burger King on Twitter. Their smackdown tweets are the stuff of legends. They leverage their twitter presence to engage on an informal, tongue-in-cheek dialogue that keeps people coming back for more.

Words are not the only ones you can play with in the virtual world. Brands like Oreo or Starbucks win their followers by creating and posting high quality, fun visuals on their feeds. A service you can use in order to stay relevant in the social-media game while also having a good looking profile is Bannersnack. This website is the perfect tool for you to design social-media visuals even without having any design knowledge.

And, when a customer service issue pops up, they’re all hands-on deck. Their ability to have fun, while still taking care of business keeps the marketing department and their customers very happy.

How well is your brand performing on social media? If you aren’t posting multiple times a week, and enjoying a steadily growing “like” and/or “follower” count, you’re doing it wrong. Use social media to get beyond the scripted customer service calls and truly connect with your market as it evolves at the speed of posts and tweets.

You’ll find that customers appreciate the convenience of solving their issue from within the mobile apps they already know and love. And your company will look more modern and accommodating to customer demands.

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3 employee recruitment and onboarding strategies that cut costs and reduce turnover Suha Saya February 7th, 2018 Dan Steiner

You’ve spent weeks combing through resumes, calling your short-list of applicants and conducting in-person interviews. Recruiting a winning team is time consuming and stressful. And, it’s a major distraction to the other aspects of your business that could benefit from more attention – crushing your bottom-line.

In addition to the personal stress and lost business opportunities, there’s a measurable cost to recruiting a high-quality workforce. Research shows that this cost varies based on the type of position:

  • Low-skilled, high-turnover positions cost companies 16% of their annual salary when they need to be replaced.

  • A mid-level manager earning around $40,000 per year would cost the company 20% of their annual salary to replace.

  • The cost of replacing a high-level executive or other critical team member can exceed 213% of their annual salary.

The key takeaway here is that the more skilled your labor force, the more expensive it becomes to recruit, screen and train their replacement. Hanging onto quality members of your team is a fundamental aspect of reducing operating costs for your company.

Thankfully, there are powerful tools available to companies that want to improve the employee experience and reduce costly turnover.

1. Make it easier for negative employees to leave

This might sound counterintuitive, but one of the top reasons good employees leave is because you’ve surrounded them with toxic people that do not believe in the mission behind your company.

With the wrong people, an office can feel more like a prison than an opportunity to earn an income and achieve personal ambitions.

This is one reason that Jeff Bezos, the Founder and CEO of Amazon, is willing to pay employees to leave – up to $5000. The method behind the madness is simple: If you’re just sticking it out until your next paycheck, and you hate your job, your negative attitude oozes out into the workforce and the customer experience suffers.

Negative, disenchanted employees are a cancer that can infect your labor force and cause massive issues. It’s cheaper to fund their exit, instead of suffering the consequences of keeping them around.

2. Take advantage of cloud-based tools to streamline onboarding

It costs companies thousands of dollars to train and properly enroll new employees. The onboarding process is the first experience your new team member will have with your company. So far, your recruitment and interviewing teams have talked the talk, but will your leadership and human resources department walk the walk?

Here are a few HR tools you can use to streamline the process and help your newest team members experience a fast, painless transition into your workforce:

  • The Smart Pension platform ensures companies with workforces in the UK are fully compliant with pension scheme requirements. Failure to competently provide employees with critical information can result in substantial fines. This tool helps you avoid those fines, without burdening your new hire.

  • Cloud-based learning platforms can assist your team in quickly getting up-to-speed, and then staying ahead of the competition. Professional development and opportunities to learn new skills are an important factor in employee satisfaction.

Today’s workforce is truly global. It’s critical that your entire organization is operating from the same sheet of music. You can utilize cloud-based HR management systems to better communicate a consistent corporate vision and a set of policies customized to the locations where your teams call home.

3. Focus on building a team that shares your core values

Remember how I mentioned Amazon’s focus on removing toxic employees from the company? You can avoid needless hiring and firing by simply tweaking your recruitment process.

One of the most effective ways to keep millennials engaged at work is by creating a company culture that aligns with their values – giving them a sense of purpose that matches up with your corporate vision. According to a study by Deloitte, 70% of millennials feel that their personal values are shared by the organizations for which they work.

Do you think they got this feeling from the first company they hired on with after college? No. There’s a reason that employees jump ship – especially millennials. They’re looking for someplace to work that shares their values – and I’m not talking about those motivational posters up on the wall.

At every stage of your recruitment and onboarding process, ensure your new hires understand that social and moral values of your organization. This isn’t about evangelizing or preaching. Those are just words.

Instead, focus your marketing, customer service and product development strategies around the values that matter to your culture. There are a few ways to do this, without breaking the bank:

  • Allow employees to donate time to their favorite causes. Paid volunteering time is a great way to show your teams that you give back to the causes they care about.

  • Empower your HR department and leadership teams to initiate diversity and inclusion initiatives. These are designed to ensure everyone feels welcome.

If you’re mindful and focused about aligning your actions with your shared corporate values, you’ll have much less turnover. And you’ll do a better job of attracting the employees that will dig in and help your company prosper.

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Automated customer service must be deeply personal to be successful Suha Saya January 30th, 2018 Dan Steiner

There’s a push to automate the entire customer experience, and for good reason. Computers rarely call in sick, and they’re much more cost-effective than a traditional human customer service rep. Plus, customers prefer automated, self-help solutions.

But, automation requires a secret ingredient to outperform humans. That ingredient is personalization.

If you’re asking yourself, “How do I personalize an automated user-experience?” You’re not alone.

Follow the Bread(cookie)crumbs

To personalize the experience, you need to learn everything you can about the end-user. Traditional marketing data on your target audience is helpful, but we need to break things down to the individual user-level.

This is where affiliate marketing and content marketing come into play. By the time someone sees your site, chances are they’ve completed a few Google searches about your brands and products. You need to know what they’re engaging with in order to know if it’s the right time to pitch your product or service.

Even if they haven’t searched for you specifically by name, the problem they’re trying to solve should lead them to a Google search result page with links to your content, or the content of your affiliate marketers.

In either case, when the customer hits your associated content, their computer should receive a tracking cookie. These cookies are everywhere on the web, and they’re used by savvy-marketers to track the journey that customers take to their site.

Continue Building a Customer Profile Based on Interactions with Your Brand

Once the customer has reached your site, you need to continue collecting data on the individual user. You can differentiate individual viewers with cookies, by IP address, or incentivizing visitors to give you their email address (i.e. free newsletter or email marketing offer).

You can also steal a page from your favorite grocery store and offer discounted pricing if they agree to sign-into the site. Free membership in a discount club is a great way to reliably track user interactions.

Follow Amazon’s Lead in Delivering a Custom Automated and Live Support Experience

One of the shining examples in delivering automated, personalized customer service is Amazon. With millions of products in hundreds of niche-markets, they’ve successfully threatened almost every big box retailer.

Offer Custom Add-On Suggestions

When you visit their site, you’ll notice that a significant chunk of their webpage is dedicated to positioning products that compliment previous purchases and relate to past browsing history. You can create site algorithms that look at browsing and purchase history, and then analyze product meta-data to make accurate, personalized product suggestions.

Provide Continuity of Support

Once a customer places an order, the order is attached to their account. After signing into your site, it should be easy for customers to view past orders; the information should include shipment tracking information and opportunities to leave product or service reviews.

And, if there is an issue that requires a live representative, you need to provide a clean pathway to accessing the right rep. This can be done by leading the customer through a couple of self-help options. As they interact with the troubleshooting flow, they’ll provide details that should identify the fastest was to resolve their concern.

Accenture published a survey of customers that discovered the most frustrating aspect of customer service: Customers hate having to repeat their issue as they’re transferred from rep to rep.

Your live rep should be able to pick up right where the automation leaves off. Click-to-call is a great way to automatically connect the customer with the appropriate support, and your customer service team can leverage Desk.com’s platform to quickly see previous steps the customer has taken and quickly jump into action.

By delivering a personalized automated experience, you can minimize the cost of traditional customer service overhead. The fact that a customer can resolve most issues on their own in the time it would have taken them to wait on hold for a rep will dramatically improve brand loyalty.

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4 tips for collecting overdue invoices and preventing them in the future Suha Saya January 24th, 2018 Larry Alton

Receiving late payments for overdue invoices stifles your cash flow. If you want to restore that flow, here are several tools you can use to collect on these invoices:

1. Change the customer perception of their payments

Many people perceive bills as an inconvenience because it means parting with their hard-earned money. Although they want the goods or services, it still hurts to part with their dollars.

A person doesn’t usually change their payment habits from one bill to the next. Someone who’s perpetually behind on their phone or electricity bills will probably be behind on invoices for their own business.

To encourage people to pay late invoices, you need to find a way to remind them of the value of the services they’ve received, without making the request to pay seem like a threat. Threatening is one way to never get paid.

When you can get a customer to think about the value of what they’ve received, you’ll have a better chance at getting paid. You can achieve this through the language you use to communicate with your customers.

Be intentional with your words

When you send a “late payment” notice, it’s tempting to mark it up with red ink, emphasize how overdue the invoice is, and stack up the penalties. However, that approach is not effective. Instead, change the words you use to request payment in full.

Use phrases like, “thank you for being a loyal customer,” “we’re happy you’re enjoying your services,” and “your prompt payment makes it possible for us to continue serving you.”

2. Seek outside help to get paid

If you’re having difficulty collecting on your outstanding receivables, consider getting help in the form of accounts receivable factoring. There are companies that will buy your outstanding invoices, and the customer will owe them. FactorFinder.com explains, “Factoring receivables is used to smooth out the gaps in your cash flow caused by slow-payers. It’s a debt-free way to get paid sooner by unlocking cash tied up in unpaid invoices. Since it’s not a loan, there is nothing to repay.”

Be sure to seek this kind of help as soon as possible; the older an invoice gets, the less collectible it becomes.

3. Don’t accept reasons or excuses, yet be flexible

If you’re going to cut someone a break, do it without accepting their excuse.

While there are legitimate situations in which people don’t have available funds, some people put off their payments out of habit. The moment you accept an excuse for a late payment from someone with that habit, you’re creating a future of late payments.

Quickly suggest a new due date

Rather than entertain excuses, suggest a new due date that isn’t more than a week away. Let them know if they pay by the new date, their payment won’t be considered late.

Be flexible with the date; if a customer needs a couple extra days beyond the date you proposed so they can get paid, give them that grace period. Give them at least one chance to follow through.

If any of these top excuses for late payments sound familiar, it’s time to tighten the reins on your collections efforts.

4. Avoid getting involved in the customer’s story

Customers have all kinds of reasons they can’t make their payments, and unfortunately, entertaining the legitimate reasons can put you in a position where that customer will expect a break.

For example, if a customer tells you they can’t pay their invoice because they had to drain their savings account to pay for an emergency surgery, that’s a legitimate reason. However, the more you allow the customer to tell you their story of why they can’t pay, the more they’ll expect you to cut them a break – and get mad when you don’t.

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Leverage these powerful channels to engage customers in 2018 Suha Saya January 9th, 2018 Dan Steiner

Mark Cuban is fond of saying, “Sales cure all.” In other words, no matter what challenge your business is facing, generating sales can help you get out of a slump.

This year is an exciting year for entrepreneurs. The U.S. economy is heating up and tax reform means even more money will be injected into the economy in the coming years – ensuring continued growth. So, how can you make sure that your company gets its share in a booming economy?  

Reengage previous customers with email marketing

The lowest hanging fruit in sales are customers that have already interacted with your brand. It’s important to reengage past customers as your product line evolves with time. Are they aware of all your new products and services, or how you’ve improved existing products to help meet their needs more effectively?

Email marketing is a go-to way to reengage previous and existing customers. An email address is normally required when submitting an online order, and the resulting customer database you’ve built is invaluable.

For inspiration, take a look at the most popular self-help content in your knowledge base. What are existing customers experiencing and engaging with? This data is important for product development, but it can also serve as a starting point for developing email marketing content that meets the customer where they are.

Take customers on a journey

There are so many ways to make money online. It’s an exciting time to work in digital marketing! But, don’t let your marketing firm push you into a position where you’re spread too thin. Just because you could make money in something doesn’t mean you need to do it right this second.

Instead, prioritize. The way that I decide what’s most important is by stepping back and considering the journey that I’m crafting for customers. Am I effectively communicating my brand’s values, commitment to service and passion for the solutions we deliver?

Self-published eBooks are awesome tools for communicating values!

Instead of sending customers a bunch of promotional emails with links to your product pages, why not earn their attention by offering them a look behind the scenes? An eBook is more powerful than a blog post because it provides a platform for communicating a long-form message.

Sir Richard Branson is the genius behind Virgin brands. As he scaled to international fame, he leveraged his name by publishing multiple best-selling eBooks; these include “Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons in Life and Business”, “Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way” and “Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography”.

You don’t have to run a multi-billion-dollar international franchise in order to generate revenue and engage customers with eBooks. All you need is a topic that is relevant to your target audience – just like any form of content marketing.

If you’re a B2B company, then you’ve got it made in the shade. Self-publish a series of eBooks that cover lessons you’ve learning through managing your own business.

For traditional consumer brands, it’s a little more tricky. You need to figure out the kinds of in-depth problems your customers can’t solve for themselves by reading a blog post or watching a YouTube video. For example, if you sell home improvement hardware, you might publish a few eBooks that list in-depth steps and insights for homeowners looking to cut costs by completing portions of a remodel on their own.

You have to meet the customer where they are. Why are they going to buy your product or service? How can you help them tackle a situation that leads them to leverage your product or service? Self-published eBooks do an incredible job of communicating complex topics for customers that need advanced solutions.

Video content continues to dominate into 2018

With more than 1.3 billion users, YouTube isn’t a new channel. But the way it’s being used by brands is evolving. There are two rules to effective video marketing – your video needs to be as short as possible, and it needs to quickly educate the viewer in an approachable way.

The day of long-form product promos and vlogs with CEOs is over. Sure, there will be die-hard fans that want as much as you’ll give them, but new customers just getting acquainted with your product want to get in and get out – fast!

Supplement your content marketing with a robust YouTube channel chocked full of interesting, engaging videos. Track viewer feedback and stay engaged with them in the comments. You’ll find yourself generating a lot more buzz than you do with text and infographics.

Every channel you use to grow your brand needs to feed the same funnel. A unified customer communication platform allows for a diverse audience to reach your team via the path that they’re most comfortable – whether that’s video, blog posts or emails.

If you are willing to build new channels for communicating a story to your market, the customers will come in droves.

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5 ways to improve your customer service at the point of sale Suha Saya January 5th, 2018 Larry Alton

Your retail location’s point of sale (POS) is one of the most vulnerable processes in your business. Give a customer a memorable and positive final experience, and they’ll be more likely to associate the entire experience with positive feelings. If it’s clunky and awkward, on the other hand, even a good experience might be tainted with that memory.

So why is the POS so crucial to the average customer’s experience, and what can you do to make it better?

Why POS matters

These are three of the main reasons why service at the POS matters:

  • Financial ties. We tend to place tremendous value on money—even if we like to believe we aren’t materialistic. Anytime we pay for anything (especially if we’re paying cash), we feel resistance and a bit of a thrill. Maximizing the positive feelings and minimizing the negative ones is important to leave your customers with a positive experience.

  • Last call. The POS is also the last opportunity customers have to change their mind about a purchasing decision. If the line is crawling and they’re in a hurry, for example, they may leave prematurely.

  • Memorability. We tend to remember the first and last moments of a given experience more than anything in the middle; it’s why the last bite of food is the most important for a meal. Your customers’ POS experience will come to define their entire experience, in retrospect, so make sure it’s a good one.

How to improve your POS strategy

If you want to improve your customers’ experiences with your POS system, try using these strategies:

  1. Find the right POS software. You can only be as efficient as your POS software will allow you to be. Make sure you compare retail POS systems before you buy anything, and experiment with different settings, devices, and platforms. You’ll want to find a system that offers strong functionality, high reliability, and speed, all for a reasonable price. There are dozens of competitive options available, so at least one is certain to work for your business, specifically.

  2. Improve transaction speed. We all live busy lives, and nobody wants to be stuck in a checkout process for more than a minute or two. Optimizing the transaction speed your system can handle is an easy way to make life easier for everybody. If your line runs smoothly and few people ever have to wait, people will barely notice, but if your line is ever backed up or slow, it will work strongly against you.

  3. Offer more payment options. You should also consider accepting more payment options. Accepting cash and all major credit cards is a good start, but you’ll also want to accept digital wallets and other forms of payment. If you can make life more convenient even for a handful of customers, it will be worth it.

  4. Train your staff on personal engagement. Customers who feel like they have a personal connection to your brand will be far more likely to return, so make sure there’s a personal touch for them at the POS. Train your staff to have more engaging personal conversations, and make sure they’re representing the characteristics you want to be associated with your brand.

  5. Give customers takeaways, bonuses, and surprises. We tend to remember things better if they’re associated with a surprise; it’s part of the reason you can’t remember a part of your routine that you’ve repeated a thousand times, but you can more easily remember some aberration of that routine. Giving your customers a pleasant surprise at the POS can make them remember their experience more fondly, and increase their chances of coming back. Consider adding some bonuses or rewards, even if it’s a coupon for a discount the next time they visit.

These five strategies can make your POS system more positive and memorable for customers, which in turn will improve your customer retention and strengthen your brand reputation. The best part is, few of these strategies require a heavy investment, so even a small contribution of extra time and effort can be enough to tip the scales in your favor.

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5 growth hacking tips for small and minority-owned businesses to escalate success Suha Saya December 12th, 2017 Marcela De Vivo

Growth hacking for small and minority owned businesses is more important than ever. The modern marketplace is full of twists and turns at nearly every corner, from economic uncertainty to online visibility.r

For many small and minority-owned businesses, knowing what to do and when to do it can be challenging. However, it is vital for small businesses to grow and succeed.

After all, 99.7 percent of all businesses in the U.S. are small businesses, according to The Small Business Advocate.

There are 28.8 million small businesses in America, and 38.1 percent of small businesses are minority owned.

This is great, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 50 percent of small businesses don’t make it five years. On average, only 33 percent will make it 10 years or more.

How can you prevent your small business from being a statistic? One thing is for certain, your business needs to grow at a competitive pace to stand a chance. This means taking a proactive approach, from franchising to leveraging new tech, like AI chatbots.

Here are five powerful growth hacking tips to keep your small and minority owned business competitive for years to come.

1. Consider Franchising for Your Small Business

Small and minority owned businesses looking to grow exponentially might find franchising a valuable hack. Franchising may seem like a big task, however, it allows you to stay competitive.

You can also find franchising your small business to be very lucrative. Research by Franchise Direct estimated the gross of franchises to be $889 billion in 2015.

It is important for you to look at the state of your small business objectively first. If your business can be refined a bit more to be even more enticing to franchisees, it is best to begin there.

"But when looking at the question objectively, if franchising is your chosen expansion strategy, starting sooner will often have incremental long-term benefits,” explained Mark Seibert of Entrepreneur.

If you are looking to grow in 2018, franchising could be the best ROI for your investment. As long as you are willing to relinquish a bit of control to franchisees, you can bank on long-term benefits.

2. Go Live with Facebook Live Videos

Getting more social with your small business can have big growth potential. Social media plays a large role in the success of most businesses, and if you leverage these social channels effectively, you are guaranteed to have more success.

"Despite the fact that 92 percent of small businesses agree that social media is important for their business and that the majority use Facebook for their social media marketing, most also report that they don’t know whether their Facebook outreach is working,” said Suzanne Delzio of Social Media Examiner.

It is all about using social media marketing in a way that meets your business goals.

One of the latest growth hacking tips small and minority owned businesses need to implement is to combine influencer marketing with Facebook Live Videos. These short videos posted to an influencers Facebook page can then be amplified via Facebook ads to reach reach consumers in a more enticing and meaningful way.

When you add the power of videos to your social marketing mix, the reach and engagement will increase.

You can begin recording Facebook Live Videos showing off new products, services, or give your local community a look at the day-to-day operations of your small business. Or ask influencers to simply talk about your products and why they love them, or how they help. The most important aspect is that you make that local connection using videos.

3. Use Influencers for Growth

Integrating influencers into Facebook Live Videos is one of the best ways to reach a whole new audience. Finding relevant influencers to your small and minority owned business is optimal. They have a built-in community of followers already interested in products and services like yours.

In fact, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from influencers over marketing from businesses and brands.

 

Influencers give your small business instant trust and confidence to buy. By launching a Facebook video ad with your influencer promoting your products or services may seem pricey. However, the ROI for influencer marketing has been estimated at $6.50 per every dollar invested.

How do you find the influencers that will launch your small business growth? You can turn to local celebrities and well-known people in your community.

There are also influencer marketing platforms you can employ to find the right fit for your business. FameBit, TapInfluence, and Traackr are three online resources that will get your influencer marketing moving in the right direction.

4. Become Tech Savvy and Implement AI Chatbots

Technology is evolving faster than ever before, and small businesses need to stay up to date. Researching and integrating new tech for your business is an important growth hack for future success.

Branded AI chatbots are one of those technological advances that can take your reach to the next level. Brands and businesses large and small are developing and implementing AI chatbots for a variety of things, from connecting with customers in a more meaningful way, to automating daily processes.

"Bots are ushering in one-to-one marketing at scale,” Vivian Rosenthal of Forbes said. “What this means is that millions of people can talk to your brand without there being a human on the other end.”

Chatbots can automate customer support with the ability to answer queries in a timely and accurate manner. They generate new sales leads and drive those leads down the sales funnel faster. AI chatbots can even upsell and process payments.

Having artificially intelligent bots at the ready can also free you and your team up to take on more important tasks to help your business grow.

For example, a Facebook Messenger branded chatbot can engage with your customers on social, letting you automate your social posts for the month, leaving you more time to dedicate to other pressing issues.

5. Explore Funding Options to Invest in Your Future

Franchising, Facebook video ads, influencer marketing, chatbots, this all sounds expensive right? Funding and investing money into your small or minority owned business is a daunting thought.

Did you know that 75 percent of small business owners use their personal savings and finances for initial funding? According to BlueVine small business research, other funding options include 16 percent from banks, and six percent from family and friends.

It can be challenging to keep momentum in a competitive marketplace. However, it takes money to make money, and finding funding for your small business is a vital growth hacking tip.

Only 24 percent of banks approved loans for small businesses in recent years. Even your smaller community banks have a low approval rate, about 48.9 percent on average.

In spite of lending trends, there are funding options readily available. In fact, financing your marketing efforts for growth and success has an average ROI of 15 percent. This is music to the ears of any small business owner.

There are a variety of ways small and minority owned businesses can prepare for a successful future. The digital era has made nearly every industry and niche competitive, and what you implement to stay ahead of the pack needs to fit your business’ goals, aims, and mission.

Building a better business with sustainable success is all about looking to the future, and investing in your business at the most opportune time. These growth hacking tips will get you moving in the right direction. Are you ready to take your small business to the next level?

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7 creative ways to keep your brand top-of-mind (and why it’s important) Suha Saya October 24th, 2017 Anna Johansson

You might have a business that offers fantastic products and services: You get great reviews, you rarely hear complaints, and your customer service team handles the complaints you do get with speed and efficiency.

Unfortunately, all that effort could go to waste if your target audience of consumers isn’t familiar with your brand. If you want to make sure your satisfied customers keep coming back for more and attract new customers via referrals and visibility, you’ll need a strategy to keep your brand “top-of-mind.”

Why brand visibility is important

Why is brand consistency and visibility so important?

  • The psychology of brand loyalty. When people return to a company to make further purchases, it’s only partly attributable to their satisfaction with the specific product or service. Brand loyalty often depends on an almost personal relationship between the customer and the firm -- or more accurately, the “identity” of the business -- they’re buying from. To take full advantage of that, you have to have a recognizable -- and clearly visible -- identity, at the very least.

  • Retention vs. acquisition. In almost every service situation, customer retention is far less expensive than customer acquisition. Keeping your brand top-of-mind in your past clients is usually cheaper than trying to nail the interest and sustained attention of potential new customers. Ideally, the result will be delivery of multiple new purchases, rather than just one.

  • The slow fade of memory. After buying something from a store, especially for the first time, customers gradually tend to forget the name and brand they bought from. If you can keep your brand top-of-mind, you can prevent this slow decay and remind customers of your existence and value to them.

How to keep your brand top-of-mind

So what strategies might you employ to ensure your brand remains top-of-mind with your best customers?

  1. Printed takeaways. You can start by providing your customers with printed takeaways, such as calendars, which are easy to display and fairly functional. Such promotional items tend to aggregate around desks and workspaces, so you can arrange some carefully placed branded messaging in the corner of people’s workspace that will keep your brand visible for the indefinite future. Give these away at major events, or ship them to customers who have bought from you in the past.

  2. Regular content. Nothing grabs online attention like valuable content. If you can create new blog posts, white papers, infographics, and videos on a steady basis that are practical or helpful for your customers, they’re going to keep coming back to your site in the expectation of finding more. It takes time to build a loyal audience in this way, but it can definitely be well worth it.

  3. Email newsletters. While you’re at it, try to get your customers to subscribe to an ongoing email list. You may even choose to opt them in whenever they purchase something or sign up for an account. That way, you’ll be able to send weekly newsletters which remind your subscribers about your brand (and give them other valuable pieces of information).

  4. Giveaways and promotions. Though this option can be a little more expensive, it could generate significant visibility. Start a new promotion, like a major sale, or host a giveaway of free items. You’ll generate plenty of attention among people who like to make the most of such opportunities, and your most loyal brand evangelists are likely to share the information so your work reaches further.

  5. Free gifts. If you’re regularly shipping packages to customers, think about the potential for throwing in free, random, unexpected gifts. Your customers will be surprised and delighted by them, and more likely to remember the entire experience. If you make the gift something practical and brand it, the freebie will constantly remind customers of your brand’s generosity.

  6. Social engagement. You probably already have a social media marketing strategy in operation, but are you engaging with your followers one on one, by answering questions or engaging in simple conversations? Reaching out to individuals is a powerful way to generate loyalty … and make your brand more visible to all their followers as well. This can be a bit time intensive, but you’ll create more loyal followers and attract greater interest from outside your usual audience.

  7. Renewal and reordering opportunities. Finally, consider drawing more attention to renewal and reordering opportunities. For example, you could send email reminders to let people know when their products have likely run out or expired, which would give them the motivation to reorder. This strategy only works with products that aren’t permanent, of course, but if you sell them, it can pay off handsomely. At least some customers will be inspired to buy something else, as long as they’re entering an order anyway.

The above seven strategies can help you tie your brand to the products and services you provide, and prevent the slow decay of interest and memorability that are too often the typical aftermath of a purchase. Try not to spam your customers, or make your brand so visible it becomes annoying, but reminding your audience of your existence on a regular basis is sure to drive further sales.

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Why soft skills matter for customer success Suha Saya October 19th, 2017 Thomas Ton

Wondering what soft skills are and why they’re important to have under your belt? Think of soft skills as an individual’s special attribute. You can have one or many superpowers that set you apart from the rest. These special characteristics are needed to succeed in the workplace. Regardless of what role you play, having soft skills will be beneficial to you in both your work and personal life.

Like everyone else, when it comes to making goals for learning new skills to improve ourselves in our current role, the first thing that comes to mind are usually hard skills. Soft skills are often undervalued and ignored because there’s so much focus on keeping up with the latest technology and having fresh technical skills so we can use to troubleshoot issues and contribute to projects. We should find a balance and shift our focus on achieving hard skills so that we can acquire or improve our soft skills first. Even if you’re talented and dedicated to learning, both type of skills can be hard to pick up.

Soft skills are harder to teach and is often referred to as “people skills” which you are born with. The following are examples of some soft skills that are essential for customer success.

  • Ability to listen

  • Accept feedback

  • Attentive

  • Communicate

  • Empathy

  • Friendliness

  • Patience

  • Problem solving

  • Reliable

  • Teamwork

Hard skills can be taught and acquired through learning and also something that can be measured and evaluated. The following are examples of some hard skills essential for customer success.

  • Certifications

  • Computer

  • Data Analysis

  • Data Migration

  • Foreign Language

  • Mathematics

  • Programming

  • Testing

  • Typing speed

  • Writing

Soft skills can be much more difficult to measure or evaluate and are often overlooked when it comes to your personal development goals and reviews with your manager. Your monthly or annual review might focus more on the applications or technology you’ve learned and ignore improvements in communication or patience. This imbalance makes it very challenging to understand what skills are required to be successful in customer success.

The majority of your time in helping customers is spent interacting with them. It’s great if you can type fast and troubleshoot advanced code, but if you can’t listen attentively or communicate clearly, you’ll struggle to be successful in your role. Although hard skills are valuable, customer success runs on soft skills.

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