Encouraging Repeat Business with Exceptinal Customer Service

Maybe it’s a cliché but the old adage, “the customer is always right” is truer than we think. We all know that customer service is a huge component in repeat business. Going above and beyond what is asked of you and your service will not only produce a reliable and devoted customer, it may also create wave of repeat and referral business.

Lets look first at going above and beyond the client’s expectations. If your customer needs information, give him all that he asks and more in a timely manner. Provide more than is required. If it is a service you provide, say virtual assistant work, be willing to make your client shine. We all appreciate someone who works hard on our behalf. We all admire the one worker who carries out his or her duties thoroughly and humbly. When you let your client look good due to your efforts, he will return to you with more business and be sincerely grateful for your efforts.

What about when things go wrong? In this scenario, be frank. An error has occurred, there is no need to grovel, and you will take a personal interest in setting the matter straight. Also, keep your customer informed of your progress. Fix the error and move on, these things happen. Your speedy and candid professionalism will speak greater volumes than the fact that an error occurred in the first place.

Lastly, keep in touch. Always take an opportunity to express your appreciation for the work your client provides you with. You may communicate daily in a business sense, once in a while send a card to say thanks. Also, find out their hobbies, interests, and important anniversaries. Let them know you interested in them as a person. Business is important yes, but you are concerned for the individual behind the business. People love that kind of genuine involvement and thought from others. You will be creating an open and hospitable feeling that extends far beyond the needs of business.

Fostering Your Child’s Instinctive Entrepreneur Skills

Every child is a natural-born entrepreneur. Perhaps it is the innocence of youth, the excitement of playing grown-up, or the challenge of trying something new, but children have a keen business mentality. Let me elaborate; how many lemonade stands have you passed in your lifetime? Perhaps you ran such a stand long ago on a warm summer’s afternoon? When you were young, did you travel the neighborhood asking to mow the grass next door for a few dollars?

Without any prodding on my part, my children are demonstrating this forward-thinking, self-sustaining attribute: one is imagining someday opening a clothing design shop while another wants to turn our living room into an art studio to sell his paintings. It is amazing to think that they have a concept and talent and wish to monetize it.

Now I ask myself, what can I do to foster their entrepreneurial desire and give them an education above and beyond their school curriculum? There are three key strategies I want my children to know as they progress through the initial steps of this rewarding and fulfilling enterprise.

Upon recognizing a child’s innate skills at creation, entrepreneurship, and even marketing, I want to be a guiding hand, gently leading the way. A proactive approach of guidance will serve them here and now as well as here after. Remembering back to my childhood, I do wish my parents had been more proactive in fostering basic business and money concepts. Perhaps they did and I wasn’t paying attention, however, I do not wish to sit back and assume my children will inherently know the ins-and-outs of running a small business (lemonade stand or home art studio).

I will let my children know they are the business owner after all. However, I would like to assist, this is their venture; I will make suggestions, but theirs is the ultimate decision. Along those lines, weekly meetings are important to give and receive feedback. How is the business going? What is the next phase envisioned? Though granted certain attributes, children often suffer from short-term memory or thought. This leads to the next point.

Most adults lack clear, focused vision as to where they are headed in life. This is doubly true with children and teens. It seems a cruel twist that adolescents think in terms of the immediate when the teen years are optimum for future preparation. As mentioned earlier, I want to encourage my children to think of the next step: how can we monetize this wonderful gift or creation of theirs? What should we do to fulfill the dream?

I want my children to know that the procedure is as important as the invention/service. To this end, a clear road map is needed. The old adage of beginning with the end in mind will serve our children well. Thinking beyond the moment, not focusing on the current minor setbacks, creating vision of the possibilities will lift the young entrepreneur past the unfocused meanderings of youth. Children naturally begin and end projects with great rapidity; I hope to encourage fortitude and commitment.

Lastly, I want my children to understand that their endeavor is a family enterprise. They can be the CEO, but we are in this together. Family comes first in our household and entrepreneurial undertaking is a joint venture. As I said, I will happily be a junior partner and a gentle guide. My children can dream, plan, experiment, and market as they see fit.

I do not wish to stifle the youthful creativity and optimism that so many adults lack. However, I will not be a silent partner. Of course, kids need to learn the trade but my job is a guiding partner. This is a win-win, family venture that we all partake in and enjoy.

Everyone is endowed with gifts and unique abilities. Children seem to have an excitement about sharing and shaping these capabilities. Coupled with a childlike interest in optimizing and monetizing these skills, these young entrepreneurs eagerly await their opportunity.

It is my role as parent that leads me to be proactive in their interests and education, help them form and maintain the vision they see, and create a win-win, family oriented environment. What I need to do most is educate myself and practice these principals in my daily concerns.

Top Ten Things You Need to Know to Start Business Blogging

So you’ve decided to start business blogging. Good move — just ask 40% of the Inc. 500 companies (pdf). When done properly, a company blog can be a convenient and cost-effective communication channel for your business. It establishes your online presence, builds your brand, encourages conversation with your customers, and generates better search results so that your market can find you more easily.

Keep in mind, however, that business blogging is not just a matter of setting up a new site and then scattering keywords and promotional jargon all over it. You need to invest time, effort, and human resources in order to ensure that your blog works effectively, and that it is aligned with your business goals.

If you are unsure of how to start, then read below the Top Ten Things you need to know about business blogging.

1. Don’t just start it. Stick to it. The difference between a website and a company blog is this: while the former is static, the latter is always fresh. So update your blog regularly. Dedicate yourself to writing interesting posts, sharing company and industry news, adding videos, and posting pictures, such that blogging becomes a habit. If you are able to generate activity in your blog frequently enough (ideally, about 4-6 posts a week), then syndicate your content by adding RSS feeds to your blog, so readers are notified immediately of updates and new content.

2. Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret: blogs can optimize your search engine performance. That’s why you should first secure a domain name and URL that aren’t only memorable, but also relevant to the subject matter of your blog. If a potential customer is typing in a search phrase in Google for a product or service that you are offering, wouldn’t you like to be at the top of the rankings? The title of your blog should already give an idea of what your content is about.

3. Define your objectives clearly. Ask yourself: what’s the blog for? What the subject matter in focus? Who are the target readers? Be sure to identify your audience and the topics that are relevant to them. Then develop content strategically — based on what your communication objectives are. A business blog can be used to achieve various goals: drive sales, manage PR crises, foster customer relationships, garner feedback, provide a forum for internal communications, or develop a client community. What’s yours? If possible, assemble a team of bloggers who are familiar with your business and who are passionate about what you are offering. These people are the best candidates to tell the story of your company.

4. Write creative quality content. You want to draw in readers and build a following; not keep them away. Misspellings and grammatical errors just cannot happen. Write clearly, concisely, and creatively, and be consistent with the writer’s voice that you are using. Be original in the way you articulate your thoughts, opinions, and perspectives. Conduct research whenever necessary, and use facts to support your views. Proofread and edit painstakingly. The way you write in your blog demonstrates to readers the way you think and the way you work.

5. Use a voice that is at once professional and personal. A professional voice in business blogging is critical in that it captures the essence of what you do and how you do it; it speaks volumes on how you run your business. Your customers don’t want to read about what you did last Sunday or the former classmate whose party you had recently attended. On the other hand, don’t be too thorough and grave to the point that your readers will not understand a word of your corporate cant. Feel free to share anecdotes, as long as they are relevant to the subject matter.

6. Blogs are meant to be interactive communication channels. So don’t fall into the practice of company-centric business blogging; instead, show that your brand cares about its customers as much as the customers care about your brand. When you blog, include your readers and potential customers in your thoughts. Ask them questions. Promote discussions. Encourage them to send their feedback. Understand their wants. Reply to their comments swiftly and satisfactorily. Don’t let an E-mailed inquiry go unanswered. Connect with you audience on an emotional level, such that a two-way conversation is being fostered.

7. Affiliate programs add a touch of professionalism to your blog. Aside from having a link to your company website, also be sure to link up with your affiliates, your partners, and even your stakeholders. Not only will this help your blog rank higher in the search engines; it can also be, according to the pay-per-click mantra, an additional source of revenue. Most importantly, linking generously shows your willingness to participate in a broader dialogue with other influential entities in your online community.

8. A blog isn’t just a promotional tool. It’s a channel through which you can give your brand a personal face, fresh and friendly. So dare to be different. In your About page, don’t just insert contact information; tell a story. Implement designs and color schemes that reflect the personality of your brand. Post pictures and videos and interactive content that offer a behind-the-scenes look into your business.

9. Blogs aren’t advertorials. Readers get turned off by blatant sales pitches, so stay away from that. Instead, you can stay relevant and interesting by being as objective as possible. Speak out on issues that customers care about. Share your opinion and expertise in the industry. Do the occasional guest blogging stint. The key is to establish your thought leadership and authority — and to earn the readers’ trust.

10. Don’t forget to have fun. Keywords and search engines are important, but they are not of utmost importance. So don’t let that get in the way of business blogging. If you are passionate about what you do, it will show in your writing. Blogging is a creative outlet through which you can reach out to the people who matter.

Starting a Business Online? Here Are A Few Things To Consider

Everyone is talking about how easy it is to start a business online. It’s an appealing concept, convenient and low-cost. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can jump into the online business bandwagon and succeed from day one.

Starting is one thing; building is another. To achieve results and earn money from the Internet, you’ve got to follow the basic steps in starting a business online.

Idea, idea, idea. Before anything else, sit down and ask yourself, “What am I most passionate about? What do I love to do best?” From your answers, you will discover the things which you are most interested in, and ideas which you can dedicate yourself to nurturing and applying.

You will find out that what you love will bring out the best in you. The key to succeeding in business — be it online or otherwise — is enjoying what you do. Said Napoleon Hill, an American author: “All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea.”

Before diving into the business, do your research. Research here means identifying a niche market to which you will cater, and then identifying the products and services that this specific market demands and will find most useful.

What do the people want? What are their problems and what kinds of solutions are they looking for? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you come up with truly unique business ideas. To make sure that your market is receptive to what you will be offering, find out what they are most hungry for.

You can implement several Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies — such as keyword research — to sharpen your focus and gain greater insights about your potential customers.

Choose and set up an appropriate domain name. If you are going to start a business online, start it right. Baptize your website with a domain name that is relevant to the business you are in. The search engines will rank you higher if your domain name contains the keywords that you’d like to be found for.

Unless you’re world-famous, avoid choosing a URL that promotes only your name and not what you have to offer. An appropriate domain name will also make you look more credible and professional, as will a real E-mail address (not one that’s hosted by a third-party server), a reliable web host (that won’t irritate people with frequent downtimes), and sufficient bandwidth (to support your website).

Build a professional website. The content, design, and layout of your website are critical customer touch points, so don’t scare visitors away with signs of amateurishness, such as annoying graphics, regurgitated content, and frustrating navigation. Develop interesting copy.

Communicate to visitors the benefits of what you can offer them. Use simple but catchy design that reflects your brand personality. Make your pages easy to read and easy to navigate. Include details about your business that make it unique. Share only relevant news and information, and exclude the rest.

Create an FAQ section for the convenience of those who’d like to make inquiries. Remember: a website that creates a professional impression of what your brand is all about and what you can offer will be a big boost to your online business.

Automate! Keep in mind that you can take advantage of Web-based tools and technologies to automate certain tasks needed to run your online business. For example, you can add a simple “Subscribe to my RSS feeds” button to your web page to keep customers and interested prospects in the loop.

And auto responders will help you keep in constant touch with customers and prospects by regularly sending them content in the form of E-newsletters and free E-courses. That way, you won’t have to build your online business and your customer base manually.

Outline a marketing strategy and implement it. So you now have a website up and running. Thing is, an online business won’t succeed unless it generates plenty of visitor traffic. This is why you need to outline a strategy for your marketing efforts, most of which won’t cost you a single cent. Brush up on the use of social media and basic SEO techniques to promote your business. Include your web address in all your promotional literature, including your E-mail signature.

Get listed in search engines by submitting your website to online business directories. Participate in relevant forums. Create a blog. Sign up in top social media websites. Join affiliate programs to establish your authority as well as generating additional income streams. If you have the budget, maybe you can even invest in pay-per-click advertising programs to let yourself be known — by the search engines and your market alike.