All posts by Brad

Why You Want a Report Card From Your Customers

Customers carry a great amount of “intel” about  your business, how you are doing, what you could be doing better, and even what new services you should offer. Having a good customer report card can keep you in the know about how your business is doing and what your customers’ preferences are.

Getting customer feedback comes in all shapes and sizes, including:

  • Short and long surveys (online and paper forms)
  • Focus groups
  • In-depth customer interviews
  • Comment or feedback cards
  • Online reviews

The information you gain from these outlets is invaluable (better than gold!) and can help your business:

  • Learn more about your customers’ likes and dislikes. Ask customers about specific products or services to get the inside scoop on what your business is doing well and what needs improvement. You can ask customers to complete a short survey after a purchase or follow-up a week or two after the purchase for their thoughts about the product. No one likes hour long surveys, so shorter is definitely better! Choose 4-5 questions and keep it under 10 minutes. A friendly follow-up phone call can also be effective to get more in-depth information and feedback – it gets them talking!
  • Show customers that their opinions are valued. We all like some love, and attention, right? Asking your customers for their opinions and ideas sends the message that you value their experiences and opinions. Customers are treasure troves of great ideas and can give exceptional insight into new services or products that your business can offer. Don’t forget your manners! Be sure to always thank customers for their time when completing a survey of any kind, or after providing feedback (both positive and negative).
  • Find creative ways to improve. No business is perfect – we all can improve. Naturally, customer preferences change, and you don’t want to get blindsided by this. Monitoring customer concerns/questions is a quick and affordable way to keep up-to-date with the current market. This includes reviewing online comments posted by customers – both positive and negative feedback. Keep in mind, that it is natural to have unhappy customers, but how their complaint is handled is what is key. If you dismiss unhappy customers, this can be detrimental to your business’ brand. Take a softer approach and listen to customer complaints. There’s great lessons to be learned this way! Use their complaint as a learning tool to find ways to prevent customer dissatisfaction in the future.

If you haven’t checked in with your customers recently, now is a good time to get a temperature check to see how your business is doing. Remember, customer feedback, of any kind, can be a valuable tool to grow and improve your business – plus it’s free!
When you reach out to your customers, let us know what you learn. And, of course, feel free to share any creative ways you have used to check in with your customers, by leaving a comment below. We’re all ears (and eyes!)

5 Tips to Get Started on Social Media

You may think that social media is not for the faint of heart – but don’t worry, you can do it too! Establishing a social media presence can seem like a daunting task, but it can be a great (and affordable) way to reach out to potential customers and reconnect with existing or past customers. So, we’ve come up with the top five tips that you can use to help you get started leveraging social media to drive sales, and establish an online business presence.

Here you go…

Tip #1: Pick your target audience

This is where the social media strategy begins. First things, first. You must define who your target market is, what social media platforms they are likely to use, and what messaging may be the most effective for your audience. This is just a general guide that may help you decide which social media platforms to go after. Be flexible! This list is not set in stone, but can be used to drive your initial social media research. It’s always best to cast a wide social media net and establish several social media accounts to get in front of your target audience as much as possible.

  • All ages (13 years old and up): Facebook
  • Professionals, business leaders: LinkedIn
  • Bloggers and influencers: Tumblr and Twitter
  • Expectant couples, newlyweds, do-it-yourselfers: Pinterest
  • Teens and young adults: Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram

Tip #2: Choose your social media platform(s)

Once you have reviewed the social media networks that work best to reach your target audience, now, you’re ready for action! Take note though, choosing the right social media network is a happy marriage between where your target audience is and what content your business can provide to attract customers.

When you first start, aim to establish one or two social media accounts and grow these over time before adding more to your social media resume. Slow and steady does win the race! Consider this info when selecting the right social media platform for your business.

  • Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for businesses that have lots of visual content to share. These sites are a great match for photography, event planning, construction, or interior design businesses, just to name a few.
  • Facebook and Twitter are the go-to for businesses that have unique and shareable content. This can include links to blog articles (just like this one!), videos, or event photos. Facebook is also great for capturing customer testimonials as well!
  • Snapchat, YouTube and Vine are must have social media accounts for businesses that have video or digital content to share with customers. This content can also be shared and linked to using Twitter or Facebook.

Tip #3: Select your social media handle – it’s all in the name!

Whatever social media network you choose to use for your business, you will need a “handle” or username. Take some time to think of a good, marketable username. Keep in mind that this will be visible to customers and your “handle” will be how customers locate your business’ social media pages. Consistency is key, so make sure the “handle” you choose is available across all social media networks. You don’t want customers to be lost in cyberspace looking for your business’ social media pages. It’s always a good idea to make your social media “handle” your business’ name – as close as you can get it!

Tip #4: Create a content calendar and stick to it

You’re almost ready for showtime! With a social media account, you’ll need to share and post content. Believe it or not, you may have more content to share than you think. First, think about what type of content you want to create and share and how frequently you want to share it. For most social media sites, you’re able to repost or link to existing content like newspaper articles, YouTube videos, or other users’ posts. If you don’t have time to create original content, check out great online outsourcing sites like Upwork or Fiverr to score some affordable content creation help! Stay organized during this process by creating a content calendar. It’ll keep you on track with uploading and sharing new content. You don’t want to disappoint your growing following 🙂

Tip #5: Share a good mix of content

Variety is the spice of life, right? So for the best results, you should strive to have a good mix of content on all social media pages, including creative self-promotion, customer testimonials, and original content that is valuable to your customers. Self-promotion can be direct links (like this) to your website, information about sales promotions, or general news about your company. The key is to be creative and find ways to present information so that it is interesting and engaging for your target audience. No one likes fake or false content, so be sure that any testimonials you use are authentic. In fact, encourage your customers to post testimonials directly on your social media pages. To keep it fresh, try to rotate testimonials every few months, so the world can see the evidence of your business’ good works. Always tie your original content to your business, in some way, and all posts should be of value or interest to your target audience. Hint: This is where a seasoned and creative freelance copywriter can come in handy!

Use this as a guide…

Keep in mind that this is a bare minimum recommendation – the more sharing, the better!

  • Blog posts to website, at least once per week and shared across all social media accounts
  • New posts on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn at least two times per week
  • New tweets at least ten times per week
  • Pinterest pinning at least ten times per week

Abandoned houses and social media pages are scary! Plus, an abandoned social media page can be more detrimental than no social media page at all. Remember, establishing a social media presence is about building relationships with your target audience, prospective customers, and loyal customers – so keep it current, not stale!

Check out our social media channels and stay up-to-date with the latest in social media best practices. Come connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Addictive Tools Series – 15Five

Still going a thousand miles a minute? At least that’s a little slower than yesterday, right? We found this huge time saver – check it out and see if it could help you too!

Here’s the info…

Production Boosting Category: Employee Engagement

Website: https://www.15five.com/

What’s the deal?

15Five is all about making communication between employees and managers as seamless as possible. Team members take 15 minutes a week to respond to simple questions like “What workplace challenges are you being faced with right now?”. Managers and supervisors spend 5 minutes each week responding to the employees’ answers and engaging in a virtual conversation. Not only does this open the lines of communication, it could lead to lower turnover, higher employee productivity, and saves tons of time because managers now have a pulse on what is really going on in the workplace.

The mobile story

As of now, there is no mobile app just yet, but you can access your account from any mobile device. So, there’s no excuse to do your 15 or 5 minutes a week!

How much?

$49/month for 10 users then $5 per additional user per month. But, they offer 14 day free trials!

What’s the word on the street?

5 stars – and counting. Read more here about how 15Five is taking communication to the next level.

Tap into the power of employee feedback with 15Five. Comment on this blog after you try it out – we’d love to hear about your experience with 15Five.

Addictive Tools Series – MileIQ

A lot of times we forget that many of the miles we drive for client meetings or other special business trips are tax deductible. And at 57.5 cents a mile it can add up quickly for some tax free funds in our pocket!  However isn’t tracking it such a pain?

So we started researching all the mobile apps out there and found this one to be the winner.  If tracking mileage is a big part of your day-to-day work, then we have  found just what you need.

Here’s the scoop…

Production Boosting Category: Expense Tracking

Website: www.mileiq.com

What’s the deal?

MileIQ is an automatic mileage tracker that tracks the miles you drive for business. It uses smart drive-detection technology, to automatically log your drives. Plus it instantly calculates the value of each drive and creates a mileage log that is in accordance with the IRS’ guidelines. Who needs paper mileage logs? It’s really easy, just swipe right after a drive to classify it for business. Even better, MileIQ can:

  • Auto-sync all of your drive data to the cloud securely
  • Add parking fees, toll amounts, and vehicle information to each drive record
  • Record business drives in kilometers or miles – you pick!
  • Store your complete drive history and send you regular drive reports each week

The mobile story

Yes, check out GooglePlay or iTunes to snag the latest version. Oh, and it’s free to download.

Integrations

It works nicely with Freshbooks, Concur, and can export data into CSV files or PDF formats.

How much?

Free for your first 40 drives every month – indefinitely. Unlimited drives are available for $5.99/month or $59.99/year.

Have you tried out MileIQ? If so, we’d love to hear how it went and if it is saving you tons of time and money. If you haven’t tried it, take it for a spin, and let us know how it goes.

Addictive Tools Series – Hello Bond

What do handwriting and robots have in common?

Yeah, who knows? But, we found this addictive tool that is bringing handwriting and robots together to make customer communication personal and affordable.

Ready, here ya go…

Production Boosting Category: Customer Relationship Management

Website: www.hellobond.com

What’s the deal?

Don’t have time to send a personal, hand-written note to customers? Now you don’t have to! Bond offers completely custom solutions from branded notes and inserts to your personal handwriting. With over 16 different handwriting styles, your company postcards, thank you notes, and just saying “hey” letters will touch your customers – and may lead to more sales. Hello Bond is revolutionizing how companies are connecting on a personal level with their most loyal customers, to keep them coming back for more!

The mobile story

No, sorry…but you can check out their trendy website. They like handwriting and robots…

Integrations

You bet! Bond can seamless integrate with any CRM such as Salesforce, Zoho, Sugar, Workbook, and Microsoft Dynamics – just to name a few.

How much?

It all depends on what you need. Each written piece runs between $2.99-$5.00 – they have some cool customization options too.

What’s the word on the street?

Not much buzz, just yet. But I’m sure it’s coming! Try it out and let me know what you think. Looks like they are gaining traction with over 3,000 likes on Facebook and check out their feature on Good Morning America here.

When you try out these handwriting robots, let us know – we’d love to hear how your notes turned out!

Blow ‘Em Up For Boobies

What started as just a small gathering each fall for a skeet shooting event for friends and family has grown into an annual bash during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raise funds for The Breast Cancer Survivors’ Network and enjoying a fine southern day of skeet shooting, bbq, brews, tunes and bonfires. Blow Em Up For Boobies has been around for 5 years of southern entertainment and giving back to the community. The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Network is an amazing local nonprofit organization that aims to provide positive support services, programs, education, and supplies before, during, and after diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of Breast Cancer.

For more information about supporting the Blow Em Up for Boobies fundraiser, click here

Pull ‘Em for Pink

The vision for Pull ‘Em for Pink was born out of its sister event held each fall, Blow ‘Em Up for Boobies (BUFB).

Blow ‘Em Up started as an annual skeet shoot for friends and family that grew into a charity event supporting the Breast Cancer Survivors’ Network (BCSN). BUFB has raised over $10,000 over the years to help support the mission of the BCSN: to provide assistance, education and positive support services before, during, and after diagnosis, treatment and recovery of Breast Cancer.

In 2014, Brooke Stevens Perez, David Perez, Jamie Traynor, and Chad Knudsen took the good work a step further. After a successful inaugural event, we are looking forward to engaging the Atlanta business community and shooting enthusiasts alike – all with one goal in mind: supporting our local communities impacted by breast cancer each year.

For more information about supporting the Pull Em for Pink fundraiser click here 

New Story Homes for Haiti

We were fortunate to help contribute to the New Story Campaign to help build homes for Earthquake victims living in tent villages for the past five years.  Eddy pictured here, and his family now have a home, and 100% of the donations made to New Story are given to the local partner in Leveque, Haiti to local contractors who take only 2 to 3 months to build each home.  Follow the journey of your donation with updates along the way from New Story when you donate here.

3 Online Marketing Resources for Entrepreneurs on a Budget

Entrepreneurs, and especially those on a budget, tend to wear a lot of hats. More often than not, a small business entrepreneur will be the one responsible for branding, marketing and promotion. Because the hiring of outside professionals is usually not within the budget, many small business owners are tasked with handling these things on their own.

Fortunately there are a lot of online marketing resources that you can use to help you look like a pro and hold onto some of the cash that is so important until you start landing those big clients.

Branding on a Budget

One of the newest and most cost-effective branding tools entrepreneurs can use is Canva, simplified graphic design software with lots of pre-made templates that allow you to easily cut and paste your content. Canva is free to use and you can easily design social media graphics, marketing materials or ads in minutes. If you want to use some of Canva’s stock images, simply pay the $1 for what you need and you’ll save yourself $100s, maybe even thousands, on graphic design costs that go towards creating a professional brand.

Marketing on a Budget

A really useful online marketing resource for entrepreneurs is Fiverr, the marketplace for creative and professional services where most things cost just $5. Here you will find cheap content writers, graphic designers, voice over and media production specialists, developers and more.

One of our favorite things we recommend to B2B businesses is to use Fiverr to help you find, and connect, with other professionals on LinkedIn. Using a simple search for “LinkedIn connections” you’ll find a wealth of professionals who can help you build your professional network to 500 or more industry-relevant professionals in a short time.

Promotion on a Budget

Now that you have successfully used Canva to create professionally branded materials, Fiverr to outsource your content or web project, and have a strong foundation in which to compete in your industry, now it’s time for promotion.

Some of our favorite online promotional tools are those available from SumoMe. Some of SumoMe’s must-have free tools include their list builder, share and heat mapping tools. The list builder is an email newsletter collection tool, the share tool is a unique social sharing tool designed to get you more traffic, and the heat map tool is a tool that allows you to see where people are clicking, or not clicking, on your website.

Important Lessons Learned from Building a Team

Whether you are a one-man band or have a business partner, there may come that point in your business’s life where you’ll consider bringing on additional part or full-time team members. Then there are the sorts of team members that are purely outsourced but still play a vital role in the success of your business.

In today’s post we take a look at some of the lessons we’ve learned from building teams – internal and external – and how you can avoid some of the mistakes many business owners make when building their team.

When to Hire a New Full or Part-timer

Many small business owners begin to consider hiring a new employee when they get so busy they don’t have enough time in their day to do the things they need. Just because you are really busy – most entrepreneurs are – doesn’t mean this merits the hiring and training of a new employee.

However, if you are turning down work because you can’t handle it or you know you could get more clients if your new employee helped with some of the smaller stuff then you probably have some indication that a new hire is a good idea. This does of course imply that you want to grow your business.  You’ll also have to weigh the potential income you’ll make with the new hire versus how much you’ll need to pay your new employee.

Lessons Learned from Outsourcing

Two of the most common issues entrepreneurs have when building an external team are reliability and communication. It’s funny how cost is one of the least common issues as sometimes the case with outsourcing, and especially through websites like www.elance.com, www.odesk.com or www.fiverr.com, is you get what you pay for.

The expectation of a $5 piece of content, the $300 website or instant response to your email for that logo design you needed three days ago should be on par with where you are finding your outsource team. One of the primary reasons small business owners outsource is to save money but if delays or incomplete projects hinder business growth they can sometimes outweigh the cost savings.

When outsourcing here in the US or overseas, do your due diligence and vet your external team before trusting them for solid work. Take a look at their portfolio, ask them about their turn-around times, view their reviews or talk to their previous clients if possible to get a better understanding of what you can expect from them. Manage your outsourced team as you would an internal team in your office by touching base with them every day, monitoring their progress and clearly communicating expectations from day one.