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.

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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.

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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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2013 Tax Tips

I really didn’t know if I should title this post 2013 Tax Tips or 2014 Tax Tips, I went with 2013 since these tips apply for the year that just ended but the tips in this post may help you plan early for 2014 as well. At any rate, the Holidays are over and now is the time small business owners must prepare their taxes, obviously not the most pleasant task anyone faces. Two ways to ease the pain mighty be to outsource your tax preparation or find some very comprehensive software that greatly reduces the burden and risk for your business.

How to Choose the Best Tax Software for Your Business provides these five tips to choose a software solution.

  1. Find a comprehensive solution.
  2. Look for a low-maintenance solution.
  3. Make sure the software is easy to install and integrate.
  4. Find a solution that files all tax returns for you.
  5. Ensure the tax solution partner will back you up.

Please note that the software is much powerful than something designed for individual tax returns. This type of software can update changes in tax laws and other tax issues automatically if you choose the correct software solution. Some of the software can even file tax returns for you as in point 4 above.

I think this quote from the article sums up everything completely and how important it is to do the research and choose the correct tax software solution for your business.

Barsade said the bottom line is that business owners need to find an affordable, fully automated, single-source solution that addresses all of their tax compliance needs

“There are affordable services on the market now that can streamline and automate tax filing, giving you more time to focus on your business,” Barsade said. “By following these tips, you can find the right fit for your company.”

 

 

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Another Four Tips For Retaining Customers

We just posted earlier this month on why any small business owner needs to focus on keeping your current customers, but the main focus on the previous posting was four tips to maintain them. What the posting did not cover was why so many small businesses lose customers in the first place. Why Most Businesses Lose Customers (And How to Keep Yours) covers this aspect and begins with this interesting and sobering statistic.

The average small business loses half its customers within three years. That grim statistic comes from serial entrepreneur, speaker, and consultant Barry Moltz, who shared it at the recent webinar “Setting Your Small Business Up for Success in 2014.”

You can beat those odds, he says, by avoiding these common mistakes entrepreneurs tend to make:

Those are very sobering statistics, but the article provides these four mistakes to avoid that may help your business beat the odds.

  1. Being inconsistent.
  2. Staying silent.
  3. Failing to build a relationship.
  4. Not listening to what they’re saying about you.

I think all of these points are important, but 2 and 4 may be the most essential because they focus on communicating with your customers.

Remember the old slogan “Reach out and touch someone”- I know it was an old one, but it is very applicable to your small business and is a great example of point 2. Remind your customers on a regular basis of the link between them and your business.

The Internet age has made point 4 especially important. Any small business owner has to be aware of their online reputation either good or bad. To quote from the article:

“Ninety-two percent of customers trust recommendations from people they know,” Moltz says. “And 70 percent trust recommendations from people they don’t know, such as reviews on Amazon.” That means you need to know what people are saying about you on sites like Yelp and take action or respond when appropriate.

Whether you think they are or not, people are talking about you online,” Moltz adds. “They’re probably doing it right now.”

As if small business owners didn’t have enough to worry about, now they have to be on constant guard of their online reputation as well. The good news is that by monitoring and responding to bad and good reviews, a small business can greatly reduce the numbers of customers they lose.

 

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Good Reviews Help Small Businesses

I had heard of Yelp, but had only visited their site a few times so the first thing I did was visit their website after I read How Yelp Can Help… Small Businesses Take Advantage of Reviews [Infographic]. We frequently visit some bakeries and shops in Kirkwood, MO and in fact are picking up some petits fours on Christmas Eve so I was curious about the Yelp ratings of some of the stores we were going to visit.

I found out that most people rated the stores as highly as we would and thought about this quote from the article mentioned above.

The average increase in annual revenue for small businesses with Yelp accounts was $8,000, and $23,000 was the average increase in annual revenue for small businesses that paid to advertise on Yelp.

Moreover, 90% of Yelp users say positive reviews influence their buying choices, so you may be missing out on business if you’re avoiding Yelp.

Despite the benefits of actively using Yelp, however, 87% of small businesses don’t, and 22% of small businesses with Yelp pages never even look at their pages. Accordingly, a small business that is active on Yelp can seize a competitive advantage.

I wondered how many of the businesses we are going to visit were aware of how helpful Yelp could be in promoting their stores. I know I searched under the topic “Food” for my results and that is one of the top business types searched on Yelp (63%). The Infographic in the article provides a lot of compelling statistics on why you really should at least consider Yelp for your small business.

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Customer Retention Tips

We’ve posted frequently in the past on how important it is to retain existing customer since it so much more cost effective than acquiring new customers, but I was surprised when I checked and we had not posted on this topic for some time when I posted Sales and Existing Customers. How important it is to keep your current customers struck me again when I read a recent article, 4 Tips for Creating a Customer for Life that began with this eye opening quote.

Savvy business owners try to build relationships with everyone who visits their store or website. That’s because they understand the cost of new customer acquisition is as much as 5 to 10 times higher than the expense of retaining a current customer and that repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new ones.

Those are some pretty compelling figures on why you need to make every effort to retain current customers and encourage repeated visits from those customers to your store. The article recommends these four tips to accomplish this task.

  1. Provide exemplary service.
  2. Hire staffers how are committed to customer satisfaction.
  3. Show your customers how much you appreciate them.
  4. Anticipate what your customers want.

By following these four tips you can maximize the spending of that very important customer base, loyal and repeat customers. I think in this instance the old saying “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” applies to customers as well as birds.

 

 

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