More Credit Card Issues

It has been a rough couple of years with credit card issues. I have had to replace personal credit cards twice, first in 2013 when a local grocery store chain had credit card information stolen and later in 2014 when Target also had information stolen. Then to add insult to injury, my company credit card was used to purchase video games in February and I don’t even play video games. Now comes a new security issue, Heartbleed, that could compromise credit card information as well as impact many other aspects of security on the Internet.

It appears that all the recent problems with credit card security is finally going to force some action that I think should have been taken some time ago. Chip security for credit cards describes how the United States is finally going to start to catch up with much of the rest of the world. The article begins with describing what I went through with my compromised credit cards, disputing fraudulent claims and then having to get new credit cards. It then provides what they are doing to make credit cards much more secure.

Western Europe, Canada and much of Asia already use “chip and PIN” technology on credit cards. Chips on the cards hold transaction information, and customers enter PINs — personal identification numbers — at cash registers.

America is going halfway. We’ll get the chip, but we generally won’t require a PIN.

Many U. S. banks are already issuing cards with chips, the problem in the past and the reason why it has taken so long to adopt the new technology is that it will require every retailer to replace their card readers. The new technology will move to ATMs in 2016 and gasoline pumps in 2017.  Currently the banks that issued the cards are  liable for any fraudulent charges, but as of October 2015 any merchant without a chip reader will be liable.

There are a lot more details on how this all will work starting next year, so the whole article is worth a read by any small business owner that wants to accept credit cards.

Posted in Computers and Point of Sale | Leave a comment

Spring Cleaning

Every year the company I work for schedules a spring cleaning day in April or May and we are having one this Friday. Everyone gets to wear jeans that day, we usually do some yard work around the building, and everyone pitches in to clean up not only their personal work area but some problem areas throughout the building. I actually need two or three work days to take care of my personal work area, but I am making progress.

This idea of spring cleaning took on a new light when I read Spring Cleaning For Your Leadership that gave some tips not for spring cleaning your business or work area, but your leadership behavior. The article provided these five tips for a spring season in your own leadership.

  1. Stop and connect with your leadership context.
  2. Stop and connect within.
  3. Create a new vision of what’s exciting.
  4. Create a new vision as yourself as a leader.
  5. Clear out the clutter to bring the vision to life.

I really connected with the first and last tips, but for small business owners I think this quote from the first tip might be the most important.

Our world is constantly changing and yet many of us operate on old paradigms of “what was” or “what should be”.  Stop and examine the new reality. What is happening on the ground? Here are some questions to ask yourself: What has changed in the business and in my organization? What has changed for my key customers, suppliers, or stakeholders? What new competition or trends are emerging that could create opportunity?

This is a new season and a time for change so it is a great time to look for the changes in your business environment mentioned in the quote above.

 

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11 Job Satisfaction Tips

I have frequently heard the quote “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, but I had no idea that it is attributed to Confucius until I did a search on the phrase. Hopefully most of us like our jobs, but every job has some bad times no matter how much you usually like it. So what can you or your employees do on one of those days when things are not going just right or worse yet when everything seems to be going wrong? Read these tips about being happy at work, then take a walk around the block lists 11 tips that can make you happier at work, but I’d like to focus on just one that is effective for me – getting up from your desk for a minute.

Take a walk

“Sitting at a desk for hours at a time without moving can be toxic to your psychological well-being. A multitude of studies have confirmed that taking a brisk, 10-minute walk is one of the best ways to elevate your mood and improve your productivity. Take a walk outside while you make a call and don’t have lunch delivered; rather, walk to pick it up.”—Emerson Spartz / Spartz

I know it is more effective to give someone in your office a phone call, but many times I’d rather get up and go talk to them in person. New research indicates that sitting too much is very bad for you anyway, so not only is it a bit more personal it is also good for your overall health in the long run.

 

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Is the Customer Always Right?

I try to shop locally whenever I can and am willing to pay a little extra to support local businesses, but even when I plan to make a local purchase I still usually research what I’m planning to buy online. I’ve noticed that no matter how well rated a product is, there are almost always some people who have negative  comments. Even if they like the product they will complain about the packaging or something else. Let’s face it, some people are incredibly picky and you really can’t please everyone no matter how good your product or service is.

When I read How to Deal With the Customer Who Isn’t Right I thought about my own experience with online reviews. I really liked this quote from the article that sums up the online review situation.

To build a customer-centric company is a wise move financially. Everyone wins. But what do you do when the customer now has free tools online that he or she can use instantly to harass, devalue and discredit your brand simply because they are having a bad day? Or worse yet, a miserable life?

The article provides these three tips for handling the customer who is in the wrong.

  • Keep communications stoic, sparse and smile.
  • Don’t react.
  • Keep your focus on the ball.

By using these tips when you run across the occasional difficult customer (and be assured you will) the situation can usually be defused. On those occasions when these tips don’t work, I would recommend this advice that my  Mother often said -  “Just consider the source and go on”.

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Good Entrepreneur Entertainment

It is not very often that a small business owner can be entertained and at the same time learn some positive things to improve his business and also be forewarned of some pitfalls. A recent article I read, 10 Films Every Entrepreneur Should Watch, did just that by recommending some movies and documentaries. To quote from the article:

We’ve all heard the cliché that art imitates real life, and there are many qualities of the following films’ protagonists that should be emulated, but there are also many lessons to be learned about the complexity of business, the power of corporations and the dark side of success.

Here are the 10 films the article recommended and the release year.

10. Citizen Kane (1941)
9. Wall Street (1987)
8. Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
7. Office Space (1999)
6. The Social Network (2010)
5. Thanks You for Smoking (2005)
4. Art & Copy (2009)
3. Indie Game: The Movie (2012)
2. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
1. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

I’ve seen four of the movies and it has been some time for all but Office Space which I saw again a few months ago. I have a Netflix subscription and decided to check and see if they were available from them.  They had every one of them on disc and the last three available for streaming. I must admit these three seem very interesting and I’ve seen parts of Glengarry Glen Rose,  so I’m planning on adding them to my queue and watching them in the next few weeks.

Posted in General Business, Motivation | Leave a comment

Friday Fun – the Five-Second Rule

I think everyone has heard of the Five-Second Rule and if you haven’t, the link above gives a very detailed history of the folklore behind that “rule”. I have an almost three year old granddaughter and  remember when she was 1 and 2 almost everything went in to her mouth, which is perfectly normal for that age. While she got a lot of colds from day care, there were very few stomach problems.

I read The Light Side: Does the “Five-Second Rule” Exist? and it reinforced the ideas of the Five-Second link above with this quote from the article.

After that landmark project, a team at Clemson University published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology a full-on study of the five-second rule with bread and bologna on wood, tile, and carpeted floors, determining that both foods picked up between 150 and 8,000 salmonella bacteria in five seconds. The Clemson University researchers also found that bacteria on floors survived for up to four weeks.

I think the reason why my granddaughter was not sick more often was due to toddler immunity and the fact that we had a very good vacuum cleaner, used it often, and that we kept our hardwood and tile floors as clean as possible.

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Tips on Becoming a Valuable Resource for your Customers

We’ve posted frequently on marketing promotions you can do to increase sales, the most recent one provided some tips to improve you email promotions, Optimizing Email Marketing from last month. I recently read something that gave a slightly different slant for attracting new customers and keeping your current clients. Become a Go-To Customer Resource to Increase Sales begins with this interesting idea.

Want to attract more customers? It may be time to scale back on promotions and take a hard look at what you’re providing potential clients.

The article suggested these four tips to make your company a more valuable resource for your customers.

  1. Foster Community.
  2. Answer people’s questions.
  3. Provide useful materials.
  4. Let existing customer draw new clients.

After I read the article I visited a websites for one of our brands and noticed an excellent example of point 3, Provide useful materials. Our website had a link to all our our product manuals, both current and obsolete. This is a very valuable resource for customers who lost their manual (we’ve all been in that situation, unfortunately), but also might help a future customer make a decision to purchase our product instead of a competitor.

Posted in Advertising, Marketing and Positioning, Customer Care | Leave a comment

Collaboration Beats Competition

I live in St. Louis and this is one of the nastiest winters I can remember. I realize it is even worse for Chicago and the east coast, so I shouldn’t complain but I will anyway. To add insult to injury, they are forecasting another big snowstorm this weekend for St. Louis and up to a foot of snow for portions of the East Coast. I was certainly glad this winter that I bought an electric snow blower a few years ago and have made it a practice to offer to let my neighbors use it as well.

What does this have to do with your small business? I recently read Collaboration, Not Competition: A Winning Small Business Strategy and this quote from the article reminded me of sharing my snow blower.

Bernstein based WinWin on what he calls the “neighbor principle” — you go to your neighbor to borrow some milk because you’re out. The next day, when it snows, you bring your snow blower down the hill to help him. When this idea is applied to small business, companies can leverage each other’s strengths at little or no cost to grow both of their businesses.

There are many examples in the article on how small business owners can use this neighbor principle to collaborate instead of compete for their mutual benefit.  I think a final quote from the article sums up why collaboration has many advantages over  competition for small businesses.

Collaboration saves time, saves money, and levels the playing field for American companies,” Bernstein told Business News Daily. “[Instead of outsourcing], businesses who collaborate can keep money in the country and their local economies.

 

 

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Optimizing Email Marketing

Email marketing has been around for a long time and some small business owners may feel that it has been overshadowed by all the other types of social media now at the disposal of savvy marketers. I read a recent article that describes how email marketing can still be a powerful tool and provides some ideas on how to breathe new life into your email marketing.

How to Segment Your Email List suggests that instead of sending an email blast to your whole list, segmentation can amplify the results of your email marketing. The article gives the following popular ways do divide up your list.

  1. By Customer Behavior
  2. By Length of Tine on List
  3. By Location
  4. By Gender
  5. By Age

The article gives a lot of good tips for each of the main categories above and if you are really into math and statistics, don’t miss the link to the Direct Marketing Association near the end of the article. I did click the link and start to read their suggestions, but I’m afraid it was a bit too much for me and I think the tips in the article would be sufficient to improve your email marketing efforts.

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Valentine’s Day Tips for Small Businesses

The company I work for has set up a great service (Fruit My Cube) for our associates that allows anyone to order a box of fruit delivered to our office on a weekly basis. I order frequently and have always found the fruit to be top quality and the selection is also great.  Valentine’s day is this Friday and I thought they came up with a great promotion for the holiday, chocolate covered strawberries delivered just in time for the holiday.

I thought the picture they used in the web page of all the men waiting to buy cards was priceless and I know it is accurate since I’ve been in the same situation myself in years past. When I read How to Show Love for Your Customers on Valentine’s Day I thought the Fruit My Cube people really exemplified one of these four tips presented in the article.

  1. Send branded valentines on social media.
  2. Step up your customer service.
  3. Stick to your brand’s ideals.
  4. Evoke emotion.

The tip that I think they really did a great job on was the second one,  Step up your customer service. The reason why their customer service was so great this holiday is that they did their normal deliveries of fruit on Monday or Tuesday and are doing a second delivery on Thursday and Friday specifically for the chocolate covered strawberries. They could have delivered everything on their normal delivery days, but in order to make sure the strawberries were super fresh they did an additional delivery. Truly excellent customer service.

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