Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Improve Your Small Business Customer Reviews

business review, improve online presence
Nothing should be more important to a business than what its customers have to say. In the era of social media, it is easier than ever for customers to disseminate their thoughts around the globe. Just one poor review from a customer can cripple a business. On the other hand, a shining review can make a business popular overnight. Whether reviews are lackluster or good but not great, several simple techniques can improve them.

First, never conclude a transaction with a customer without asking for feedback. Use email, telephone, and face-to-face encounters to request ratings from customers and suggestions for improvement. This small step can prevent customers from posting their thoughts online. Let customers vent their dissatisfaction and allow you to rectify the situation. In addition, ask them to provide constructive ideas that can help the business improve.

Communication is a two-way street so make it just as easy for customers to contact the business. Include the company telephone number, email address, and social media pages on the company website and invoices. No matter how feedback is received, take what customers have to say seriously and act on constructive advice. If themes emerge in customer feedback, address these areas first. Customers will realize that their input makes a difference and appreciate the resulting improvements, leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth.

Own social media rather than becoming a victim of it. Claim the business on review sites like Yelp and Foursquare so customers have somewhere to post online reviews. Check reviews regularly and respond in a timely manner so customers see that the business is paying attention. Use the business website, emails, invoices, and in-person conversations to direct customers toward these review sites. When using online surveys, select software with push-to-social question capabilities so survey takers will share positive feedback via social media.

Whether the preferred online environment is a social media account, a blog, or the business website, remain active. Customers feel more comfortable contacting a business that maintains an online presence. This is part of the corporate branding effort that personalizes the business to consumers. Set up a Google Alert to monitor what customers are saying about the business and respond to both positive and negative feedback.

If the business is not tied-in to the latest technology, there are still ways to solicit customer feedback. Create comment cards and insert them in shopping bags when purchases are made. If business is conducted via telephone, make post-sale follow-up calls to find out whether customers are satisfied with their purchases. During these conversations, direct customers to online review sites, company social media pages, or the company website to publish their thoughts.

Most businesses will receive at least one negative comment during their lifetimes. Handle these with dignity, avoiding the urge to get angry or defensive. Apologize, provide an explanation, and, if possible, offer a solution. If the issue cannot be resolved quickly, respond that a resolution is forthcoming and follow up once the issue is resolved. Decrease the likelihood of future negative reviews by providing every customer with an excellent experience!

Need more help creating a successful legitimate home business? Did you know that Stacy O'Quinn has helped dozens of small business owners create financial freedom? For more information about Stacy and how he can help you, click here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Basic Tips for New Small Business Owners

small business, entrepreneurs
When the Harris Poll recently surveyed more than 500 small business entrepreneurs, it learned that many of them wished they had approached business startup differently. Though these entrepreneurs did not regret becoming business owners, approximately 80 percent admitted they felt unprepared while getting their ventures off the ground. Four in every ten said they did not create a contingency plan for economic downturns and others failed to consider expenses such as health insurance and taxes. Learn from their mistakes by following the guidance below before starting a small business.

More than one-third of the entrepreneurs surveyed noted the importance of separating personal and business finances. Most used household income or other personal assets to fund their businesses. Only one in every five used a bank-offered business loan. This third-party financing can be very helpful because it separates business finances, preventing them from bleeding the household dry.

Managing cash flow is important for any business but particularly for a small one. Immediate billing and reminder notices regarding issued invoices can help. However, timely customer payment is not guaranteed, so it is wise to have enough reserve cash to keep the business going and always operate according to a budget. Establishing a budget at the start and revising it annually helps to prevent financial surprises.

Technology is an essential part of our lives but some entrepreneurs fail to invest in it during startup. Consider technology as important as employees and spend the money required to create a strong foundation. Also, budget an ample amount for a strong marketing campaign to introduce the new business to the world. Promotion gets the business on the map and builds a customer base. Spending money on advertising and other marketing efforts when the business is new can help the company grow more quickly.

New business owners tend to feel like trailblazers, facing the world alone. They should not be afraid to ask for help by consulting experts in tax, marketing, technology, and the law. One in every five of the entrepreneurs surveyed by Harris Poll admitted lacking the required legal and tax expertise and almost 40 percent wished they ran their marketing strategies by an expert before implementing them. Expert assistance is especially valuable when money is scarce, making an accountant a good resource for a new entrepreneur.

Experts also help entrepreneurs keep their businesses running and growing. Attorneys provide legal guidance when entering new markets or expanding product lines. Financial advisors reduce the confusion involved in decisions regarding money. By asking these experts questions when they arise, entrepreneurs can avoid problems and streamline business growth. The most successful business owners admit they would not be where they are without some help.

Small business ownership is exciting but starting and running a business is not usually a smooth road. It requires money, effort, resources, and perseverance. Would-be entrepreneurs should learn best practices and pitfalls from those who have gone before them. After getting their new ventures up and running, these business owners can serve as advisors to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Would you like more help getting your own small business or legitimate home business up and running? Stacy O'Quinn has helped dozens of entrepreneurs create their own successful business and he can help you too! For more information about Stacy and how he can help you, click here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Does Your Small Business Need an HR Department?

Three Good Reasons Why Every Small Business Needs a Human Resources Professional

As a small business owner, there is constant pressure to cut costs and eliminate unneeded overhead in order to keep sales growing. While it may be tempting to cut certain “non-critical” positions, it is important to stop and think about how the absence of those departments may impact your business. One of the most undervalued positions that are often not included in the small business structure is the presence of a Human Resources professional or department. While it may be appealing to eliminate this position and save money, here are three reasons why your business needs an HR department.

Small Businesses Need Someone who Knows Employment Law

One of the best reasons for a small business to have a Human Resources professional or department is that these individuals know everything there is to know about Employment Law and know what needs to be done in order to stay compliant with these regulations. When it comes to hiring and firing employees, one mistake could mean huge fines for a business owner and their company. Having an HR professional will help to eliminate these types of mistakes and although it may be another employee on the payroll, it will save the business from potential fines and embarrassment down the line.

Human Resources Professional can manage the Hiring or Firing Process

Bringing on new talent and letting employees who are not benefiting the company go can be a long, time consuming and confusing process. There is a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out, filed, submitted and verified in order for these processes to run smoothly. Small business owners are short on time as it is, so having someone in the company who can handle these processes and knows about the law surrounding them is an invaluable resource. Leaving the hiring and firing process up to an HR professional means business owners can focus on more important items, like running their business.

Handling Employee Files, Employee Handbooks and Business Manuals

All good small business has a running record of employee files as well as consistent, updated handbooks and manuals. Although a business owner may initially create these items, it is almost impossible for them to keep up with changes and edits along the way. A Human Resources professional is skilled at keeping employee files organized and up to date and will be able to easily make changes and updates to all employee material, not to mention they will own sending these updates to other employees and holding them responsible for knowing these changes and acknowledging they understand them.

Having a Human Resource professional or department in a small business is very important to keeping the company on track, for more reasons than those listed here. HR professionals allow small business owners to focus on their business and also help them to avoid violating any Employment Law and manage the hiring and firing of employees with ease. While this may seem like an added expense, it actually helps to save the business money by avoiding fines and lawsuits as well as eliminating the time spent by the owner or other employees to keep files up to date and current.

Before you get to the point that you need an HR department, you may need a small business idea to create your own financial independence. Stacy O'Quinn has helped dozens of people create a legitimate home business and he would love to help you too! For more information about Stacy and his opportunity, please click here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Control Your Small Business Travel Expenses

Cost Effective Travel Tips for Small Business Owners

Traveling for Business
When you own a business, it is sometimes important to manage and minimize your expenses. One of the toughest expenses business owners struggle with is how to handle the sometimes costly event of traveling. While it is important to go, see, and do to help grow the business, driving, flying, and other modes of transportation can often be very expensive, not to mention it means time away from your business. Since there is no full-proof way to eliminate travel expenses without eliminating travel, here are some tips to manage travel expenses and stop them from negatively impacting your bottom line.

Stay Productive, Even When Traveling

If funds are being spent on travel, it is important to make sure that you are still being productive and working toward making money and business growth even when away. An easy way to do this is to establish a cloud connection to the office and important files for when you are away from your desk. This will also help to reduce the amount of technology that needs to be brought on the trip which could mean less baggage and fewer baggage fees if flying. Additionally, utilize the voice recording feature on any smartphone to make notes while driving or while unwinding at the gym – then, email those recordings to yourself in order to address them when you return back to the office.

Utilize a Travel Rewards Credit Card

Almost every business credit card offers some type of travel rewards, and some even add rewards for various business spending. These cards often offer additional rewards when flying, including a free checked bagged and Group 1 seating. It is important, however, to research different credit card offers and chose one that best fits your business needs. Building up rewards with both travel and general business purchases can help accumulate miles that can be redeemed for future business trips or even vacations – this system has the potential to save you money in your business and in your personal life.

Schedule Automated Tasks for When You Are Away

Business travel can often cause disruption in the office when you are away. A great way to manage and minimize this disruption is by automating some of the day to day tasks so they are still being completed even if you are not at your desk. Schedule different tasks like bill pay, payroll, social media updates and shipments before you leave so you can rest assured they will be taken care of. Also, if you need to stay in touch with customers at home, consider having your desk phone forward calls to your cell phone so you never miss message and always make sure to put an out of office and alternate contact information on your email so customers know when you will return and how to get in touch in case of an emergency.

Set Aside Time to Switch Gears

Transitioning from a business trip back to the office grind can also cause headaches and disruption. A great way to make this transition easier is to set aside some time to unwind, refocus and take care of time sensitive items such as tracking business expenses, generating an expense report and catching up on missed messages and emails. Trying to move from traveling right back into work can often make you feel rushed which means things may get missed in the shuffle. Make sure to also take some time for you to catch up on sleep and rest and return to the office refreshed and ready to work.

If you found these tips useful, you should also read the personal blog of Stacy O'Quinn. Stacy has helped dozens of individuals create a legitimate home business offering them financial freedom for the first time in their lives. Stacy makes use of Dani Johnson training techniques that he used to create his own six figure income. For more information, please click here

*Photo Courtesy of Phil Price via Creative Commons License

Monday, September 15, 2014

Increase Small Business Revenue by Going Mobile

mobile business, taking small business mobile
Entrepreneurs who refuse to take business on the go are missing huge opportunities. Markets, fairs, and festivals represent big business for many business owners. Though more entrepreneurs are jumping on the bandwagon, many are limiting themselves by accepting only cash payments. Contrary to popular belief, accepting mobile payments does not require expensive equipment or technological prowess.

Mobile technology puts power in the hands of business owners. With simple tools, smartphones and tablets become point of sale systems. Use these to increase business reach and give sales a boost from indoor and outdoor venues. Once restricted to summer months, festival and market season is now year-round, with indoor venues offering the opportunity to shop in comfort while avoiding mall crowds.

PayPal is the king of mobile payment systems and the company goes the extra mile to accommodate business owners on the move. While most competitor products accept only debt and credit card payments, the PayPal Here mobile processing system allows customers to use their mobile PayPal accounts for payment. PayPal is working on a Bluetooth device called Beacon, which will integrate with an existing POS system and automatically connect with a customer mobile PayPal app.

Square is an excellent choice for businesses that do not regularly process mobile payments. It does not require a merchant account or contract and there are no monthly fees. Square creates a direct link to the business bank account and accepts all major credit cards. GoPayment from Intuit also has a pay-per-transaction option. Both GoPayment and Square impose a 2.75 percent transaction fee. GoPayment also automatically syncs with Intuit Payment Solutions software including QuickBooks, simplifying financial reporting.

PayAnywhere does not have any setup charges, monthly fees, or minimum monthly sales requirements. The PayAnywhere reader and app are free and simple to use and the company offers a 2.69 percent per-transaction pricing plan. Competitor Phone Swipe charges the same per-transaction fee and offers a free app and reader, helping entrepreneurs to keep overhead costs low.

Business owners who want to travel light should consider the Flint Mobile system. All they need is a mobile device with a camera. The merchant uses the camera to scan the credit card number for fast and easy payment processing with no extra hardware required. Flint Mobile also has invoicing capabilities and automatically syncs transactions and integrates with QuickBooks. Merchants can download the Flint Mobile app at no charge and there are no fees for check or cash transactions. Debit card payments have a 1.95 percent transaction fee and the credit card transaction fee is 2.95 percent.

Dwolla is similar to Flint Mobile in that it does not require additional hardware. It is like PayPal Here in that customers log into an app to select from a list of approved vendors for payment. Dwolla does not charge monthly fees and each transaction costs only 25 cents, resulting in the cheapest mobile payment system available. Merchants receive payments directly in their accounts and can monitor these via their tablets or smartphones through Dwolla’s online kiosk. With these and other tools, it has never been easier for small business owners to accept mobile payments.

Did you find this small business tip useful? Do you need more help to get your legitimate home business on the right side of profitability? Stacy O'Quinn has helped dozens of business owners create financial freedom and he can help you too! To find out how, click here.

*Photo Courtesy of Sludge G via Creative Commons License