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What’s the Difference? Pt. 2 June 19, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Business Tails, Mouse Clicks.
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BizMouse Sporting GoodsOn Monday I wrote about differentiation strategies to help your small business stand out from the crowd. 

(Read Part 1 Here

The strategies I mentioned focus on the big picture.   But what if there is more than one business in your area.  For example, two sporting goods stores that are both focused on having the best service possible.  How do you make your customer service be a homerun?  Well, you need to look at your business at every step of the customer relationship.

Peter Griffin over at Flyingsolo wrote a great article about how to break down your busines process in what he called the “Seven Step Customer Care System”. His focus is on high service businesses such as Finance and Banking, but we can break it down for our Sporting Goods store.

1. How is the service delivered?

Do your customer service representatives smile when they are talking with the customer?  Is it easy to find a customer rep?  If they have to go into the storeroom to look for a product, do they return quickly?  This is the most visible part of customer service and an absolute must if you want to compete in service.  Your customers should enjoy visiting the store. 

2. Does your service enhance the experience?

Are your employees knowledable about the products?  Can they inform the customer about the products features and usage?  Now, this won’t be needed for every baseball, but if a customer is buying an automatic baseball pitcher, they might have a few questions about it that can’t be answered by the box.  Encourage your employees to use your products at home, or even have field days where you show them how to use more complicated products.

3. How do you communicate throughout the buying process?

Even if you have great floor representatives, make sure your Point of Sale staff is up to speed as well.  They should be knowledgeable about the current promotions and able to answer any questions the customer may have (or know who to ask to quickly get the answer).  They should be able to explain to the customer how discounts are applied and what their final total will be.

4. How do you complete and mark a transaction as completed?

What types of payment does your store accept?  Is it what the customer wants to use to pay for his/her large purchase?  Are they given all warranty information and is it explained?  Does a customer rep help them load the product into their vehicle if it is large (and please, don’t make them stand there for an hour waiting for someone to come help)?

5. How do you thank the customer for their business?

Do you reward customers for shopping with your Sporting Goods store?  Coupons for steady customers?  Or maybe just a thank you  and followup letter if they have made a large purchase.

6. How do you treat the customer after their product or service is delivered?

If a customer has a problem, can they bring the product back with minimal hassle?  If they have a question, can they call and ask?  What are you doing to make sure they are happy with their purchase.

7. How do you stay in touch with the customer?

The whole point of good customer service is to keep the customer returning to shop with you.  How are you encouraging them to come back?  Do you call and follow up to see if their automatic baseball launcher is working great?  Do you ask for feedback from them on their experience?




Marketing with M&M’s June 9, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Clear Tracks.
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I’m always on the lookout for great promotional ideas and about a year ago I ran across one that seemed like a sweet idea.  Printing your business logo or custom message (or both!) on M&M’s in any of the 22 colors they offer.  These little candies can make a big impression.  You can even get your own picture printed on them (one color printing only) if you can get over the idea of people chewing you to pieces.

They are available in bulk or in custom packages for an extra fee.  A ten pound bag will run you from $250 – $450 depending on the design.  Read more about them at http://mymms.com/business


WiFi Security June 6, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Business Tails, Mouse Clicks.
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WiFi Security is a hot topic issues these days. It’s important to protect your proprietory information from falling into the wrong hands, and packet sniffing is all too common these days. From g-Wh!z


Employee from Division X is on the road at a conference then is going to make a business call afterwards.

While at the in between sessions at the conference they plop down in one of the wifi hotspots and start corresponding with the home office in prep for tomorrow’s meeting. The team back home has prep’d a presentation and plenty of attachments and are sending those across by email attachment but first need to do some IM to make sure it’s all good.

Turns out it’s not so good. Some things need revision. So, the agreement is to make it all available via ftp and the address and credentials are passed along.

Employee finishes out the conference, goes back to the hotel room, cleans up, has dinner and goes back to the room to pull down the zip files for tomorrow. Logs into the ftp server only to find there are no files. Frantic phone calls find the team leader back home. Who then raises IT. Who then checks the ftp logs and determines the right account was used from the convention center ip.

[WRONG] Conclusion back at base: the remote employee borked the files… log files say so.

The truth is that the majority of internet connections are NOT secure.  This could happen to you.  If you are dealing with sensitive information (passwords, customer data, creditcard numbers, all fall in this category) the wireless hotspots provided by coffee-houses, hotels, even McDonalds can be easy targets for identity theft.

Several cases of Identity theft made a big splash in the headlines recent.  Unfortunately Identity theft is relatively easy to pull off and hard to track.  It is a PR nightmare to any company whose customer data is compromised.  Protect yourself!

Read the full article here:  http://gwhiz.wordpress.com/2006/08/31/public-wifi-security/

Video SEO June 5, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Mouse Clicks.
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I tend to post a lot of videos on my blogs.  I’m a very visually orientated person and implementations like Youtube and VodPod and other video based technologies make it more and more accessible for small business owners to use videos to their advantage.  But how does this affect your website?  Search Engine Optimization is mainly based on the text of your site, not the videos.  If your site is entirely videos, you could have the most relevant information, but your rank would be low.

ABS-SEO had some interesting information on how to optimize your videos for Search Engines.  Check out article here.  Some are good tips for everypage, not just videos.

Budget Busters March 29, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Business Tails.
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A big thank you goes out to Helen for bringing this article to my attention.   Posted over at Bankaholic.com this article gives some good tips on how to keep your small business afloat.  It has some basic concepts such as start small but think big.  There is however one point I would modify slightly.

6. Paying your bills late.

Whenever possible, meet your expenses with the cash that you have one hand. Rack up big bills on that shiny new business credit card and you could end up putting as much money towards accumulated interest and late fees as you are towards growing your business.

Now, paying your bills late is bad.  Nearly everyone knows that.  However, spending the cash you have on hand could be a liquidity error.  Credit cards can be a good tool when used correctly. My mother (and she is of course the expert on everything) always told me that using a credit card to make purchases is fine… as long as I pay it off every month.  Now, that may seem to defeat the purpose of charging it in the first place, but it keeps that much needed liquidity in the bank for the longest amount of time possible.   Just keep track of your expenditures and don’t go overboard… but they cover that in points 1, 2, and 5….

So here it is: 8 easily avoidable causes of business debt