We love all things small business. We share articles of interest, ways to help grow your business and improve cash-flow. Merchant Advance Capital provides small business loans, lines of credit and advances to Canadian Businesses of up to $500K in as little as 1 business day.
Everybody is loyal to a local business that may render some fond memories. Friendly staff, excellent service and consistency builds a growing and enduring relationship between business and customer. Although there are often hundreds of businesses in a city competing for the same clientele, many manage to stand out in the vast sea of entrepreneurial chaos. Take Vancouver for instance. As of 2017, the city itself has 79,989 businesses. That number skyrockets to 270,848 businesses when expanded to include all of Metro Vancouver. Entering a market that is filled with well-established businesses and prone to intense levels of competition is immensely intimidating. So, how do businesses survive?
Here are 10 tips that successful businesses integrate into their business models:
1. A good product or service
Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, a solid product or service carries a business. Whatever your business may be, you have something people need. It’s also important to understand where your business fits into the market. Don’t be the business with steep prices or mediocre service. Competition is high. Gaps in your service can quickly be filled by other businesses. Know your business and your worth. Be honest with your clients. If there’s anything that creates a balanced relationship between business and client, it’s honesty.
2. Hiring the right people
Assembling the right team can be challenging no doubt. Especially in services that employ many temporary or short term employees. Preventing complacency is paramount to a successful business and should be considered well in advance. Creating a strong relationship between employer and employees stems from a fine balance between two components: non-negotiable standards and being approachable. Setting standards that employees adhere to creates a joint understanding about how operations proceed. Consequences must exist, otherwise standards are empty ideals. In turn, this allows employees to understand their obligations and gives them some free reign within their field. Refraining from micromanaging also conveys that employers trusts their employees. Being approachable lets staff build a strong relationship with their employer and encourages them to speak up if there are any issues. If you expect accountability from your employees, lead by example.
3. Know the competition
Being aware of the competition and understanding their strategy gives you an advantage in building your own business model. Do some research, figure out what’s lacking in the market, know what other businesses aren’t providing and fill the gap. Understanding other businesses also does not have to be all about competition. There is plenty of room for partnerships and referrals between companies. This builds a good reputation for businesses as concerned with the well-being and success of their communities and clients. If one business can’t provide a certain service, referring a customer to another trusted business can build that relationship of loyalty.
4. Be money smart
Making your first buck as a new business can be incredibly rewarding. You may well be eager to spend your money on a new product or service and although that is a good future prospective, it should be thought about in detail and planned for. Save as much money as possible, even when business is going well. You never know what life has in store and it’s better to fix a major unexpected problem than scrambling for finances. New products and services should definitely be added gradually to enhance the customer experience but make sure that, in doing so, you are not throwing yourself under the bus.
5. Understand the market and new products
Although being money conscious is a priority for any small business, knowing when to introduce a new product or service to allow for market changes is equally important. Make sure you’re in tune with trends and what people are seeking so that you can be one step ahead of the game rather than playing catch up. Staying on top of pop culture trends is also a big advantage when it comes to creating tailored content for social media. Create an environment that people want to be a part of.
6. Baby steps
In short, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Whether it be with new products, services, more staff or renovations, make sure you are in a good place financially to make changes or apply for financing. Being financially organized is a good way to evaluate your limits and make smart and calculated decisions about the direction of your business. Similarly, learn to evaluate risks, such as market trends and new products, so that you can determine whether an investment in a certain good is going to payoff. Of course you can make money on trends in the short term but do you profit in the long term? What makes sense for the future of your business?
7. Taking feedback into consideration
Everyone loves to hear the things they do well but knowing how to take criticism is one of the greatest strengths you can have as a business owner. Be professional in your responses and seek to locate the source of the problem and improve it for future customers. Accepting feedback and using it to improve your business will allow you to build the strong customer experience your business seeks. Making meaningful improvements based on feedback shows good character and openness to improvement.
8. Create a personal experience
How you treat your customers is key to creating a good reputation. Make sure your staff is always engaging respectfully and positively with people, especially when encountering difficult customers. Make their interactions with you memorable on two accounts: your excellent service and a good product.
9. Get your business out there
Engage with your community, be involved online (I cannot stress this enough), talk to people and reach out to other businesses or events that may need volunteers or your business’ services. Be approachable. Make people want to partake in your business. Further, make your business recognizable. Make sure people know you’re out there and be clear about what your business provides for the community.
10. Don’t cross that bridge when you get there
Make decisions beforehand on how conflict should be handled. Leaving it until it arises can cause you to make a hasty decision which can reflect poorly upon your business and confuse both staff and customers. Make sure you have a standard procedure for resolving any hiccups. Always remain respectful and professional. It’s not you against the customer or employee but rather you and the customer or employee against the conflict.
Whatever your business, keep these strategies in mind to help improve and build a strong foundation. Seek to establish the best business with the best service out there and you’ll be on your way to beating out the competition!
Say Hello to Merchant Growth: This is our rebrand press release!
Vancouver BC, July 2, 2019 – Merchant Advance Capital, Canada’s fastest and most transparent (no hidden fees) small business financier, is proud to unveil a complete brand refresh that reflects the company’s mission to help small businesses succeed. Canada, meet Merchant Growth.
Since 2009, Merchant has been helping small businesses grow through making financing easy to obtain, simple to understand, offering full transparency, using proprietary decision technology, and having great customer service – none of this will change under the new name. With Merchant Growth, customers and partners alike will never forget why Merchant is their best choice for financing – they truly care about small business growth.
Merchant’s product offering and great service will remain the same (let’s be honest, they may have some great new products). The comprehensive rebrand elevates the focus on growth for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) and includes a new logo, name, and website (coming soon). Merchant Growth’s new branding further enables the company to stand out, not only within the financing industry, but also within the ever-growing Fintech ecosystem.
“I founded our company out of my apartment 10 years ago. Back then our mission was simply to provide credit to small businesses, and we did that by providing one product, called a ‘merchant advance’. Today, we offer a comprehensive suite of financing solutions delivered with unparalleled convenience. In doing so, our mission has expanded to allowing business owners to achieve unconstrained growth, while reducing the administrative stress of running a business. As we’ve transformed our focus from one credit product to this far-reaching mission, we felt the need for our name to reflect this. We are Merchant Growth,” states David Gens President and CEO.
About Merchant Growth
Merchant Growth is Canada’s fastest and most friendly alternative financier. Merchant’s innovative approach blends thoughtful customer care, complete transparency, and the latest technology to provide fast accessible financing to small businesses in Canada. Basically, we work really hard to make business financing easy to understand, accessible for everyone, and make the whole process quick so small businesses can grow.
Without a doubt, community engagement is critical for every small business. No business can succeed without the support of others. Although branching out and creating a lasting impression can be challenging, there are many ways to get involved with your community. Plus, if done effectively, community engagement will be the absolute key to a thriving business model.
First of all, helping out those in your community is a genuinely good thing to do. A reciprocal relationship between your business and community is the ideal way to become a household name. Helping, however, must be authentic. If you’re unsure, a good place to start is to support causes to which you have a personal connection.
Once you are involved in local causes, it’s a great place to network and gain visibility for your business. People will get to know your character and work ethic. Think of recognition as a bonus to helping your community grow and flourish. Involvement also nurtures natural relationships between you and members of your community which will translate into a strong supporter base. It is much more likely that you will gain loyal customers through personal interactions rather than being just another name or business. Strong customer bases create stronger communities.
Community engagement is also a fantastic opportunity for team building among your staff. In many ways, it’s a practice run for conduct and communication skills in a work setting. Volunteering or hosting events allows people to get to know each other. If your team works well together and creates a positive, helpful environment, then the customer experience will reflect that.
Here are some ideas of how you can involve your small business in the community:
Sponsor a charity event
Host a field trip
Have a contest/giveaway (gratitude for your customers is always a good practice)
Attend community meetings
Throw a BBQ
Have a charity bake sale
Organize a clothing/food/supplies drive
Work with local school programs (i.e. create an internship program, student-friendly jobs)
Partner with other local businesses
Promote healthy habits (i.e. host a ‘community clean-up’ event for environmental awareness)
Teach a class/educational workshop (about your business, local issues, cooking/baking, art etc.)
Host a potluck
Sponsor local sports, musicians, artists etc.
Once you have a presence in your local community, advertising your business and promoting it will come naturally. The key is to be a genuine member of your community who is not only willing to help others but wants the community and its members to thrive. Build that loyal base and you’re set!
It’s not uncommon that, in walking to the grocery store, you pass two or three chain coffee shops. In fact, your grocery store might also be part of a chain. Easily recognizable and order memorized you enter confidently knowing the type of product and service you will receive. Large business convenience is no secret. Neither is accessibility nor consistency. With these components stacked against small businesses, what exactly gives them an edge?
Let’s examine the failed expansion of Starbucks down under. In essence, Starbucks failed to replicate it’s dominance on the Australian continent on two accounts: over-saturation and lack of an Australian-specific business model. Within a few years of it’s arrival on the continent, Starbucks was, to the chagrin of old-school coffee lovers, everywhere. Tapping into the well-established and thriving Australian coffee market however, proved challenging. Lack of personal connections with staff and generally both sweeter and pricier drinks did not make a good impression on Australian consumers. The opening of several locations of the Seattle-based giant created a surplus of supply for a service that was not in demand. The spike of Starbucks into the Australian market was wholly artificial. Soon enough, over-availability took away from the excitement of the lucrative American powerhouse that had the world hooked on the new coffee shop lifestyle.
Differences between the respective coffee cultures also contributed to Starbucks’ lack of success in Australia. North American coffee culture, although in part about the coffee experience itself, does not largely view coffee as a purpose. Coffee is quick and on the go: an office pick me up. Although not always, it often serves as a commodity and a courtesy of the setting. It is part of a different, larger event in the consumer’s life (i.e. a business meeting or study session). Often consumers need the physical location of the coffee shop and in order to make use of it, must patron the business. Australian coffee culture, although reflecting some such elements, is largely the contrary. Rapid expansion without regard for these differences meant that Australians chose small business cafes which tended to reflect the coffee culture they were accustomed to.
So what can we learn from the small business victory in Australia? Essentially that business size does not inherently determine your success across all platforms. Small businesses have long been the unsung heroes of the entrepreneurial market and succeed because of the unique environments they foster. In fact, large businesses go to great lengths to mimic the small business vibe. A bonus is that personal connections formed between staff and clients in small businesses are often recurrent.
Within their own communities, small businesses can have a great impact on local causes. They are able to better respond to customer service issues and have a more direct connection to their community. Smaller businesses often have more specific goals and have the advantage of being more flexible than large businesses. They shed the complexities of bureaucracy and consequently, changes implemented within the company can occur faster and more smoothly. As a result, small businesses fare better in adjusting their operations to market changes as opposed to being tied down to a rigid, large-scale business model.
Small businesses often also promote other local producers. They may source their supplies from nearby businesses thereby creating a reciprocal relationship within their community. Beyond this, the fact that small businesses support each other and the community incentivizes customers to choose them over large businesses.
Menacing giants may be everywhere but, armed with commitment as a stone and a strong business model as a sling, beating them is a thoroughly achievable endeavour.
A well-crafted ambiance has the potential to boost summer business through the roof. Throw together the perfect vibe and you’ve set yourself up for success. As prime sunshine season approaches, restaurants everywhere are looking to freshen up their look. Wondering what steps you can take to be summer ready in no time? Here are 9 ways to revitalize your restaurant for summer:
New additions to patio lighting is the perfect way to create that idyllic summer ambiance customers are looking for. Not to mention, it won’t break the bank and it’s easy to set up! With a variety of types, shapes, styles and colours there’s something for every restaurant! Just make sure to stay away from cool-toned lighting as this takes away from the natural warmth of summer.
*Hint: Great lighting makes for great instagram photos so try this as a way to boost your restaurant’s exposure!
2. Floor plan
Playing around with your floor plan may take a little bit of elbow grease but moving some furniture around can transform the atmosphere of your restaurant in a few short minutes. Try to create an open and spacious floor plan that optimizes the space you have and encourages group dining. Air conditioning or fans are also a must! It’s going to be hot and you want customers enjoying food and company rather than being focused on the heat.
3. Seasonal Decor
Colour, colour, colour! What can I say. If there’s any time to bring out vibrant colours, it’s the summer! Choose colours that work well with the theme of your restaurant, tie everything together but also add a little something extra! Think Italian dolce vita. Flowers, glassware, cutlery, candles, fairy lights, there’s a world of options! Be selective in what you choose and don’t overcrowd your space!
4. Host an Event
Hosting an event is a great way to bring business to your restaurant! From trivia nights to themed dinners, people are looking for fun and unique things to try with friends this summer! Consider hosting events that require both smaller and larger groups to increase exposure. Make sure you are well-prepared and have something unique to offer. Positive feedback will lead to more potential customers and the possibility to host future events!
5. Live Music
Live music is a great way to draw people to your business! Away from typical radio music and playlists, live music creates an authentic and local ambiance! Plus it’s a great way to become involved in your community and give up-and-coming musicians an opportunity to get out there! If you are considering implementing a live music schedule into your restaurant, keep this in mind when re-doing your floor plan. Consider what the best use of space is that also makes listening to music an enjoyable experience!
6. Be Tech Savvy
Whether you like it or not, the world is completely governed by social media today. It’s how people stay in touch and discover new things, so be tech savvy! Stay on top of your social media and show off the delicious food, drinks and environment customers can expect from you! Re-post customer content and be aware of trends and fun things happening on different social media platforms. Advertise delicious food, cold drinks and a summer ambiance, then you’re set! If you need tips on how to navigate social media, check out our last post here.
7. Offer People What They Are Seeking
It’s hot and there’s plenty of people about and nothing draws in customers like a cold drink on a hot day! Whether they’re tourists or locals, they have similar needs on a summer day. Advertise drinks, wifi and good food to draw people in! Colour comes into play here as well. Fun drinks and diverse food options are always in, make your restaurant the place to be!
A great way to drive in business is to offer options for people with dietary restrictions and limitations. Give them a place to enjoy the summer with their friends and you will open up your business to a whole market of new customers! Mocktails, gluten-free and vegetarian options are just some examples of dietary concerns to keep in mind! Make sure people know that your restaurant offers diverse dishes that are suitable for all needs!
Whether it’s happy hour or tapas deals, offering options that incentivize bringing groups to dine at your restaurant is a great way to bring in more business! Make celebrating summer fun, comfortable and easy!
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: you name it. Social media has completely transformed the way we communicate with each other and how businesses interact with clients. From direct messaging to interactive stories to commenting and sharing, social media has given us a new world of ways through which we can promote goods and services. Plus, staying connected is easy and businesses can reach wider audiences than ever before. Information is online 24/7 and freely available – so you better standout. Feeling the pressure? Although it may already sound like a daunting endeavour, staying on top of social media is an absolute must for any modern business but once you get the hang of it, you will surely reap the benefits. So how do small businesses keep up on social media? Here’s a few pointers to keep in mind:
1. There’s A LOT of ways to attract social media traffic however, knowing your consumer base is a sure-fire way to build a following that interacts with you online. To promote your brand, you need a consistent base of people consuming your business’ goods, services and online content. Creating targeted content that will resonate with your consumers will encourage them to continue supporting your business and recommend it to others. Observe popular trends and the types of content your followers respond most to. Find a balance and tailor your content towards that. At the same time, take every opportunity to engage with consumers who are not your traditional base. You never know if they may need your service!
REMEMBER: social media gives people the power to interact with thousands of people within seconds. Unless it is your business, steer away from promoting controversial topics such as political opinions. This likely does not relate to your business and runs the risk of alienating clientele and potentially tarnishing the image of your business.
2. Understanding the purposes of different types of social media is equally critical to small business success. Having a consistent social media presence lets consumers know what you are up to and what they can expect from your company. Pay attention to trends, social media lingo and anything else that will help you play the social media game. Understand different platforms for their strengths and make sure there is a seamless transition between all your business’ platforms. Don’t forget that customers should easily be able to navigate your sites. Don’t lose what makes your business special though – this is what sets you apart from the millions of other companies advertising online!
3. Have you ever looked for information about a company online but after reading page after page of their website, you still couldn’t figure out exactly what they were offering or how it works? Avoid pushing potential consumers away by making sure to always have accessible, consistent and clear information available online. Potential customers don’t want to piece together what you’re all about and how can they know they need your service if they’re confused as to what it is you’re offering? So make sure you have a clear business statement and that information about your services is readily available, understandable and uncomplicated. Clear, consistent and accessible information conveys trustworthiness and confidence in your business! Score!
4. Everyone has a mental note of businesses that we have come across that we associate with certain products and services. They influence how and why we make certain decisions and we think of them when we need something specific. The goal is to be the business that people think of when searching for said good or service. That’s where visual appeal and image comes in. No matter how small you business, you need to build a brand and image that people will remember and associate with certain goods and services. Build the brand that customers will remember. Of course, you can’t out-post bad products or poor customer service (that needs to be flawless first and foremost) but think of your media presence as a virtual extension of your in-house hospitality. Post both serious and fun things that consumers can interact with and maintain a good public image. Keep your content uncluttered and stay true to the purpose of your business. Engage locally and promote content that favours your company as well as your community.
Regardless of the medium, the most important thing to remember is that you are building a relationship with your clients. Help them and they will help you!
Hopefully these tips offer some insight into the sometimes challenging task of navigating various social media platforms! Happy posting!
Difficult customers can totally ruin your day, on top of that, they also can cause long term stress on both you personally and your business.
Stress can come in so many forms…typically people feel:
They have sleep problems
General Irritability (I get this one)
As a small business owner (or small business warrior as we like to call it), not only do you feel these things on a personal level, all of them will eventually bleed into your business life and you could end up with:
Strained relationships with clients, customers, and employees
Decreased business and financial performance
We took a quick time out over the past few days to brainstorm some things that could help our partners manage some of the stressors in business. These strategies are all based on emotional intelligence and empathizing with your customers. The more you empathize, communicate, and identify your client’s needs, the better your relationship with them.
In the moment.
Working with customers isn’t always easy. When your customer is angry or frustrated, and you’re on the front lines:
You don’t want to respond to your angry client in an emotional way – this will make them more frustrated. Just be calm and try to get as much information as possible. One strategy to consider is using the client’s name. This can help the client feel like you’re hearing them.
You need to really listen to care. The best way to show you’re listening:
Making eye contact
Asking questions when you don’t understand something
Not brainstorming your next response while they’re talking to you (we are all guilty of this)
It can also be helpful to open your posture while you’re either sitting or standing. Closed positions such as folded arms may communicate that you’re not interested in what they’re saying.
Empathize. Find some common ground. Certain phrases that help you do this include:
“I hear what you’re saying…”
“I see your point…”
Some questions to consider include:
“What could we have done differently?”
“How can I fix this for you?”
“What would you consider to be a reasonable solution?”
“How can we make it up to you?”
Apologizing can help retain business. If you mess up, apologize. A well-crafted apology has these elements:
Understanding – Empathize with your customer with statements like “I’d be upset if I were you too.”
Sincerity – Don’t give your customer a generic response. Instead, highlight key details you plan on fixing from their complaint. Avoid statements like “I’m sorry you feel that way,” (this is the worst). Statements like these don’t transmit real understanding.
When a customer is upset, you’re going to want to solve the problem, not only for your current situation, but also to prevent any in the future.
Know when the situation is out of hand
Sometimes, no matter how you respond to a customer, they still won’t calm down. Look for these things…once you’re at this point, the conversation me be past the point of no return:
Won’t stop saying personal insults to you or your employees
Won’t stop yelling or screaming at you or your employees
Won’t listen to any logic you present
Make threats to you or your employees
If a customer is displaying these behaviors in person, you may want to respond by:
Warning them that their behavior won’t solve the problem
Asking the customer to leave nicely, if they don’t calm down after a warning
If they’re still carrying on after being asked to leave, it may be time to call security or the police
Asking an enraged customer to leave is okay. It happens. You need to protect your business and your staff. Just be calm.
Learn to take difficult clients in stride
Difficult clients don’t have to bring you or your business down. With the proper customer/client management strategies, you can effectively de-escalate situations in no time. Be calm. Listen. Become good at apologizing. Realize that sometimes you just can’t satisfy everyone.
If you’re looking for small business financing, contact us today! We can help!
Advertising on Google(or even Bing) is a great way to reach customers at the exact moment they’re looking for a business like yours. Here’s a jump-start overview on exactly what paid search is.
Paid search (also known as search engine marketing) can be such a valuable addition to your small business marketing toolbox. It allows you to place an online ad for your business at the top of search engine results pages when a customer is looking for the product and service you offer. Learning the ins and outs of paid search can be overwhelming, though, which is why our digital team is creating a series on paid search marketing for small businesses.
For the first post, let’s just get started with a super basic overview of what paid search is and what it can do for you.
What Is Paid Search?
Paid search refers to the ads placed at the top of a search engine results page. Search engines including Google and Bing allow companies to bid for paid placement for certain search terms related to their business. For example, if you’re the owner of a barber shop, you can pay to have your ad shown when customers in your area type “barber shop” into the search bar of their smartphone or computer search engine.
What Are the Benefits of Paid Search?
Paid search can be a valuable form of advertising because it meets customers where they already are—online! Paid search responds, in real time, to a customer’s immediate needs: You can show them an ad for a barber at the exact moment they are looking for someone to cut their hair or trim their beard. Other types of advertising like hanging signs, or passing out flyers, a commercial on the radio, a newspaper advertisement – this is just putting information in front of people and hoping it will distract them away from their current task (watching TV or reading the newspaper).
Paid search is different because the ads are only shown when someone types in the relevant keywords, indicating an interest in your business’ product or services.
If you’re a small business owner, you should look into paid search as a way to reach new customers! It might be magic for your business. In our next blog about online advertising for small businesses, we will discuss what online ads look like, the different types, and the best ways to get started!