Big-League Customer Advises Bush-League Vendor

Sudden growth is rarely a smooth ride, especially for a boot-strapped venture. Well past their fifth year in business, one small custom manufacturer serendipitous developed a product that met a real need in a niche market populated by industry giants. The vendor’s new customers were used to buying from large, well-managed firms. As a custom manufacturer, this company had the freedom to focus on one customer per product. It wasn’t yet clear to them that they had entered into a phase of development where the signs of professional management would be taken for granted by customers. In this case study, a frustrated customer advises the vendor to learn how to manage their resources to simultaneously (and seamlessly) complete commitments made to past customers and start projects for new customers.

This is one in a series of case studies highlighting “Key Questions and Course-correcting Quotes” taken from 20 years of B2B customer insight projects. All names are fictitious, but the situations are real. Case studies paint a picture of how important it is to learn what your B2B customers think–but aren’t saying. These are real-world examples of how soliciting and acting on customer feedback has helped companies hold onto customers longer, grow relationships bigger and pick up new business faster.

Case study: Your Bootstraps Are Showing

Key Question (asked of a VP–the vendor’s chief contact in a 6-figure relationship):

VP: “This vendor’s president was badly criticized by customers who attended last year’s trade show. He changed how his company prioritizes customer issues. Do they now seem to be on the right track, or are they overlooking a blind spot that’s obvious to you?”

Course-correcting Quote:

“Their president has to get his organizational structure in place and build a senior management team. He has a bandwidth problem. On the one hand, he hasn’t delivered on all his outstanding obligations to his existing customers. On the other, he needs to make enough sales to keep his company afloat. They need to learn not to make contractual commitments for products that take resources away from their existing obligations. Reality for a small company like that is, you have to make the big sale. It takes a lot of discipline to not over-commit. They need to get a better handle on their existing staff’s capacity.”

My Client’s Quandary:

This $7 million vendor had a product that Fortune 50 companies were interested in, but the company was having growing pains. Their founder knew how to design and develop new products, but he didn’t have a lot of management training or experience. His senior managers were two of his buddies with the same technical background and lack of management experience. His company was at risk of being marginalized by a stronger competitor as soon as someone else developed a decent competing product.

More immediately, the president would be facing his customers at an upcoming trade show. He had been badly pilloried a year earlier. Before risking that again, he wanted a customer relationship consultant to conduct deep-dive interviews with his customers and expose the themes and patterns that would clarify which decisions he needed to make.

Conclusion:

Several of his customers gave similar feedback. My recommendation: Acquire experienced outside talent to manage operational and customer-facing functions. He hired the experienced talent he needed, held onto his customers, attracted funding, grew the company to serve additional niche markets, and eventually found a strategic buyer. Honest feedback from his customers helped him find his way and achieve his vision.

I categorize projects as assessments, investigations, treasure hunts or rescue missions. This project was an investigation. The client’s question was “Why are our customers still angry with us?”

Curate and Control Your Online Reputation

Shakespeare, in Act 2 of his circa 1603 play Othello, said it best: Reputation, reputation, reputation. It is the original personal brand and one of the defining realities of our lives. For Solopreneur consultants and other self-employed professionals, reputation governs the number and quality of projects made available to us and therefore, reputation impacts our income and the kind of life we’re able to live. It pays, in more ways than one, to cultivate a peerless reputation and guard it vigorously.

In the internet age that is especially so, in both the personal and professional sectors. Mistakes and mischaracterizations made in digital formats are extremely difficult to dodge, ignore, deny, or correct. One’s online reputation is the ultimate flypaper. Take steps to ensure that what sticks to your name is all good.

Images

Along with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are the sites where images of you are most likely to be posted, by yourself and others. When cameras are around, meaning whenever anyone has a cell phone, which is about 24/7, make sure that your behavior represents you and your brand well.

There’s nothing wrong with being photographed in an obviously casual gathering. Just make sure that you (or others) are not in the midst of activities that could be misconstrued and reflect poorly on you sometime in the future. If you regularly appear in photos that you know or suspect will be posted to social media sites, counteract with a photo of your own that shows you at work, paid or volunteer. Balance your accounts, so to speak, and show that there is more to you than non-stop partying.

Content

Create and regularly post original content that makes you look smart, professional and successful. On your LinkedIn account, announce when you will attend a symposium, serve on a panel, teach a course or workshop and definitely broadcast the good news if you’ve recently earned a professional certification or advanced degree.

If you’ve presented a webinar, request the replay and turn it into a podcast for your website and YouTube. If you write a newsletter or blog, link it to your website and LinkedIn. If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, produce streams of high-quality feed and images that convey the competencies and values that you want to be known for.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can feature glimpses into your personal life as well and it could all be for the good, as long as you are strategic about what is revealed. Your volunteer work is always a safe bet. Training for a marathon or even a fun and casual volleyball or softball league would be excellent. Your parent’s wedding anniversary party would make another good personal aspect to include in your online narrative. Be aware that narrative is the operative word. Create the story that you want to be told, in a manner that makes you look wonderful.

Search

About every three months, search your name and your company name in engines such as Bing, Google and Yahoo and see what comes up in the first 50 listings. Are you happy with what you see? Try keywords related to your business along with your city and check your professional reach in a more profound way.

If you find that your business has been reviewed in a negative and inaccurate way, contact the reviewing site and request that the offending post be removed. If customers have offered criticism that just may be constructive, address the matter. Apologize and offer your side of the story. Make amends if possible. By doing so, you’ll add to your credibility and customer service reputation.

It’s been reported that 70% of U.S. employment recruiters have rejected potential job candidates when something about them that was considered unsavory appeared on social media. Solopreneurs should assume that prospective clients will do the same. Maintaining and monitoring your online reputation has never been more important.

Catering Equipment for Year End Functions

It’s that time of the year when holiday cheer is in the air and companies are in full steam with planning their year-end functions. That means they are actively looking for a venue that will make their function a special one. They want to ensure that the venue looks good, food tastes great, and that all the facilities are there to make for a convenient and fun evening. Therefore, it is time for you to prepare your venue for the busy season ahead.

For small to large year-end functions you will need the following catering equipment.

· Robot Coupe Combo Food Processor. Food preparation is usually the lengthiest part of the cooking process. The Robot Coupe Combo Food Processor will enable you to automatically cut, slice, and grate vegetables thus saving you valuable time.

· Anvil Potato Peeler. If you’re serving hundreds of guests you’re going to have to peel a lot of potatoes. The Anvil Potato Peeler is a robust unit that automatically peels 12 kilograms of potatoes in 2 minutes.

· Chafing Dishes. For large numbers of guests, it can be challenging to keep a lot of food warm. They are also beautifully designed with a polished finish. This is a great way to keep food heated while it is waiting to be served.

· Bussing and Transport Carts. You’re going to need to clear up the dishes from at least 10 guest tables if you have a hundred guests. A bussing and transport cart will allow the waiters to quickly clear the tables and move the dishes to the kitchen. This will also minimize breakages.

· Water Jugs. Placing a jug of water and a jug of juice on each guest table will make them feel welcome.

· Dinnerware. For catering purposes you will need more than enough dinnerware such as plates, side plates, cups, and saucers. Also make sure you have drinks, wine, and champagne glasses. If you are serving a hundred people, ensure that you have dinnerware for 110 people. The additional amount of catering equipment is a contingency for any eventuality with breakages or damages.

· Urns. Once guests have had their meal they may want to enjoy a cup of hot coffee or tea. Having a coffee/tea station with an urn filled with hot water will keep your guests satisfied.

· Scotsman Ice Machine. A lot of cool drinks and alcoholic drinks are usually served at year-end functions so the demand for ice is very high. You will need to provide ice for hundreds of guests and their multiple drinks. An ice machine constantly makes ice on demand so you won’t run out of ice mid function.

· Commercial Refrigeration. You will need to keep a lot of drinks cold throughout the function so make sure that you have a refrigerator that can accommodate all the drinks.

Booking Your Business Dealings In The Best Meeting Rooms

Having your meetings in innovative-designed meeting rooms pays off a lot. In terms of satisfying your clients, this is one effective way of doing it.

When you are to hold a meeting, it is wise that you find a place that will give your business associates the professional feel they seek, an ambiance that is inviting and a place that is well equipped to address the things that your clients may need while in the business meeting. Being able to provide these to you clients gives you the edge and will more likely be a start of a new partnership of an extension of a business contract you may have with them.

Renting out meeting rooms is an option for you, should you don’t have a traditional office wherein a small to medium size business conference room is usually built in. Also if the size of the attendee is quite big then the more you need to rent out a space that will be able to accommodate them. It is not hard find though as there are several meeting rooms for lease that can provide the needs your business colleagues as well as of the meeting to be done. These rooms can also be useful should there are events your company plans to organize.

There is not need to add to the crowd a cafe has just so you can discussion your dealings with your clients. Opting these meetings rooms will be able to provide you a way better place to have your transactions done with comfort and at no base at all or be bother by the sounds or noise of the nearby tables. And one other edge these rooms have is the fact that they are located in prime business places, which all the more the clients would prefer.

Booking your meetings in the said places would not be that difficult for there are personnel in the serviced offices that will accommodate you call as well as your queries. For the inclusions of the varying rooms they have, you will be educated on that for you to decide which one to pick. For the amenities, they got free information technology support ready for you and of course free wi-fi for use.

All in all having these serviced meeting rooms are your best choice and the perfect workaround if your place is too small to accommodate your clients. As for impressing potential clients, this is where you can best take them

Types of Custom Promotional Merchandise

As a smaller business, you don’t have the unlimited budget of a large corporation when it comes to your custom promotional merchandise, which means you need to look for branded merchandise that is affordable and will work into your budget. Just because you are a smaller company, doesn’t mean you should ignore this amazing branding opportunity.

We have put a list of the top custom promotional merchandise options for the smaller business, that will work into your budget and provide clients with a branded item that they can use, boosting your brand visibility on a daily basis.

The first and probably the most popular of all the custom promotional merchandise that you can buy is T-Shirts. Ensure when you choose to brand t-shirts with your company logo that you choose a good quality garment, such as a polo shirt, which can be worn by men and women. Whether you are getting your team to wear the t-shirts to promote your business wherever they go or you are looking for promotional t-shirts you can give or sell to your clients, never ever compromise on quality.

Another great opportunity for the smaller business is branded pens. Everyone uses pens and they are cheap. You can buy a high volume of pens branded with your logo at a price that works into your budget and you can use them in-house and hand them out to clients, so that your company name is being seen throughout the day every day.

Further you may want to look at coffee mugs. Almost everyone has their own coffee mug at the office and drinks at least one cup of coffee while at work. The benefit of these mugs is that they are branded with your company name and logo, along with any other important information you want to put on them, what this means is every sip of coffee or tea your client takes, your name is seen and remembered, not only by them but the others in the office.

Key chains are another great branding opportunity when looking for affordable custom promotional merchandise. Have some key chains printed with your company name, logo, address and phone number. Clients can use the key chain on their keys and in the event they are lost, hopefully someone has contacted your company or dropped them off. In addition to branding these are a great opportunity to add a bit of added value to your service.

If you have a store, then you definitely want to look at reusable bags that your clients can take away from your store and use time and time again when they do their basic shopping. The great thing with reusable bags is that your clients can use them for anything and at any time and what that means is your company name is being seen by a variety of people every time your client leaves their home with your bag in hand.

If you are on a very tight budget, then take a look at lanyards. Lanyards hang around your neck, with your branding of course, but the benefit is that clients can use them to hang their access card for the office or even their keys to reduce the risk of losing them. They can be used for all types of applications, boosting your brand in the process.

Other options can include the credit card wallet, because these days with the number of credit cards, debit cards and loyalty cards you receive, they cannot all fit into your wallet easily. The credit card wallet can free up your clients purse or wallet, enabling them to keep all their cards in one handy place.

Brandz is a United Kingdom based company specializing in promotional products. This well-established company provides a complete turnkey service from the initial stages through to completion. They provide their customers with an experienced team who focus on helping their customers improve their branding with a range of promotional products to meet their requirements and marketing budget. Brandz offers a twenty four hour service, the highest quality products and affordable prices. Samples are available on request to help their customers identify the best promotional products to choose from based on the extensive range available on their easy to use and secure website.

Some Information About Hair Extensions

Every woman desires for love and beauty. If possible, most of the women want to try different new looks so that they can be different all the time. How to achieve that easily? The answer is to purchase hair extensions. Most high quality hair extensions are quite expensive, so choosing an affordable extension is important to someone who wants to be fashionable but does not have enough money.

If you want to get your desired look, and also want to protect your hair, you can go with human hair extensions. These extensions can help your hair grow out and keep it shiny and smooth. Since human hair is not cheap, so it is important for you to take care of the extensions made of human hair. Unlike your natural hair, the extensions can not get nutrition and natural supply of moisturizer, so they will look dull and dirty if not being well-maintained. Girls all know that if they take care of the extensions, they can get their desired styles all the time.

How can you give adequate moisture to your brittle, dry and frizzy hair through an easy way? Here are some tips:

1. Do not pull off them when they are tangled. If the hair is really tangled, you can put leave-in conditioner on it and slowly entangle those locks with fingers or by using a wide tooth brush.

2. Apply alcohol free shampoo. Use a good quality, gentle shampoo that is suited for your hair type to protect the hair from getting dry, avoid the harsh styling products. When removing the dirt and build-up from the extensions, do use high quality shampoo.

3. Apply good quality conditioner after shampooing your hair. Make sure to apply a large amount of conditioner to the hair after washing it with the gentle shampoo. The conditioner can make the hair look soft and shiny.

Do apply conditioner about twice a week to keep the hair in good condition.

What benefits can you get from wearing hair extensions?

1. You can get thick and long hair instantly with using hair extensions. If you have thin, fine or limp hair, you can use extensions to add volume as well as length to your hair.

2. If you require a confidence-boosting look for a special occasion, then you can just weave the extensions into spectacular braids and enjoy yourself.

3. You can add highlights or desired colors very easily to the extensions ranging from mild to hot to get an extraordinary look.

To make the most of your extensions, you can get some advice from a local specialist. Make sure you ask how they will minimize the damage to your own hair when the extensions are removed.

The Ways to Improve Fundraising

Donor management is never easy no matter how easy it may seem; there is always some information that you will need to get and some that you will need to impart in order to learn some of the best ways of it.

In the many things about donor management the one that counts to be the most important of all is improving fundraising and getting into the skills of it all for the best results. Here in this article are the ways you need to follow and imbibe to improve the fundraising program for your nonprofit or church.

1. Be Transparent with Your Donors – Though this might seem like an obvious point, it is usually the one that is most ignored, and the most important of all. What is important about transparency is your donors being able to trust you with all – from your plans to our ideas and ideologies. Also, this is an important point to note because only when they trust you will they be able to steward their money well and you must be able to show them you are doing so. By ‘transparent’ we mean both financial and program transparency.

Financial Transparency: You might not be considering financial transparency to be an important point but this should definitely be on your list of important things. It is considered important to release a note time to time which would show how you are allocating your funds, but your donors are not going to sit and read through that long document. Make sure you give your donors an easy way to digest how you are investing their money. Create a graph, chart, infographic etc. And if it looks like you spent more in say, fundraising, than expected, explain why. Your donors love your mission and giving them a peek behind the curtain creates a sense of belonging and teamwork.
Program Transparency: Program transparency is all about the IMPACT. If you can show your donors the impact their money has made in changing the lives of those you’re serving or where the money has impacted, you can be sure you’ve done your thing right. Create annual reports showing the graphs of how far you’ve come with the support, meanwhile mentioning exactly where you want more changes and where you’re striving to achieve more.

2. Optimize our Donor Experience – Your donors shouldn’t be there for just one years or only a period of time, and that is possible only if you manage to optimize the donor experience convincing them that there are things that’ll help you stay in contact for more than one donation period. Try personalization (which definitely does no longer mean just hey and the first name); it is always recommended to stay in touch with the donors through emails, letters and phone calls. You can segment based on last gift amount, last gift date, a specific campaign – anything. And then create fundraising messaging around each category.

3. Audit Your Systems – Thought this is not important? Wrong!!! One of the most important points to be considered to improve fundraising is to audit your system – audit on your end – use the right set of tool and the right techniques. Keep the audit impartial and keep it clear – this will help you understanding how far you’ve come with your fundraising program and exactly how far you will be able to go with it.

Fundraising for churches, charities and non profits is the thing that does the most benefit and an increase in the finds over a stipulated period of time is exactly what they’re striving for. It is therefore recommended that you use these set of tips mentioned above and create a draft accordingly of you new ideas and plans for an increase in the funds.

How To Develop A Business Strategy For Your Home Business

It has been found that tested theories and frameworks still form the foundation when developing a strategy for your business. To develop the right strategy for your business you need to do the following things:

Identify a product or service to sell

This is the first step in developing your business strategy. You need to remember that there are thousands of products and services that you can sell; however, for you to compete effectively with other businesses, you should ensure that your product is unique and better than other products in the market.

You need to think for you to come up with a good choice. To be successful in your efforts, you should go for products that you like and you enjoy selling. It’s recommended that you choose a product that you are able to visualize yourself selling it.

Experts recommend that you should be able to see yourself selling the product or service for the next five or 10 years.

For you to settle on the product or service, you should ensure that there is real demand for the product or service at the price that you are interested in charging.

You should also ensure that the demand is high enough for you to make a profit. The demand should be concentrated such that you are able to advertise, sell, and deliver the product at a reasonable expense.

Identify your customers

There is no way your business will be successful if it does not have customers; therefore, you should ensure that you identify the customers who will buy your product or service.

The right customers should have the ability of buying the product at the price that you will be selling at. This means that you should be able to tell whether you will be targeting the poor, middle class, or the rich.

You also need to ensure that the product is valuable to the customer. Here you need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and see whether the product will be of value to you.

Identify how the product will be sold

Once you have identified the right product and the right customers, you should determine how you will sell the product.

You can decide to sell the product by yourself or you can hire other people to do it for you. You also need to determine how you will promote your product or service. Here you can promote using word of mouth, or other ways such as TV, radio, or social media.

How to Exude Power: A Few Practical Steps

Let us start by clarifying that this article is not meant for those who were lucky enough to be born powerful. First of all, unlike money and other material things, power is an abstract concept which we should analyze and understand in order to use it to our advantage. In fact, rich and poor people alike can easily trick others into believing that they are powerful, thus making it easier for them to attract friends, clients, customers and even success. For example, every experienced salesman will tell you that people analyze every single aspect of your personality and appearance in order to get a general idea of who you are and what you can do for them. If we keep this simple and yet extremely important rule in mind, it will only take a few easy steps to start exuding power.

Personality and Tricks: Whether you are confident or insecure, you cannot exude power while interacting with people unless you pretend to be confident about yourself. Look into their eyes, be firm, talk about things nobody would disagree on, such as higher values (i.e. the importance of friendship, ethics, morals, love, and professionalism). If you are not a born smooth talker, stay quiet and get others to talk more than you by asking them key questions about their work, family, love life, general views etc. Always try to stay away from sensitive topics, such as religion and politics, as if you disagree with your interlocutor, he will lose his interest. A very useful piece of advice most personality coaches give their patients and clients is that people love hearing their own names, which is why we should do our best to say their names as often as we can during a conversation. Last but not least, do not mention sad or depressing stories and do not talk about your problems, otherwise people will not see you as a charismatic, powerful leader.

Looks and Appearances: If you want to exude power, it is very important that you start paying attention to what your clothes say about your social status and professional achievements. What kind of clothes do powerful people wear? Dolce & Gabbana suits, Ralph Lauren polo shirts, Tommy Hilfiger chinos, designer sunglasses, leather briefcases and expensive smartphones. “Cool, but I can’t afford to spend a fortune on clothes every month!” you may say. Well, most of us can’t, so relax. Fortunately for us, there are alternative ways to get clothes and accessories that can help us exude power. Auction websites, promotional offers and used clothes are your best bet! Nowadays, it is very easy to find cheap designer clothes and expensive accessories online. Look for special offers and used clothes (make sure that they are in excellent condition, though), and stay away from fake clothes as wealthy people who are used to wearing designer clothes and accessories will notice straight away and at that point, they will not respect you anymore.

Your Business Needs Steady Cash Flow

The ability to make critical purchases from your vendors, pay down loans, and meet employee payroll has become a common problem among businesses across all industries. Cash flow has always been a major issue with all businesses and without positive cash in your bank your business could fail. By the time a business realizes their cash flow isn’t going to support their payroll, or pay vendors, the owners make rash decisions by going to companies/banks that can destroy their business.

If you realize your business is about to fall into this position, don’t panic. Review your financial situation with your accountant or CPA. But don’t act too fast. There is another option.

So what can you do to avoid this problem?

Before telling you the solution, let’s talk about the 3 things you should NOT do.

1- Bank Loans. If you think a bank will help finance your old or slow paying customers, well they are not.

2- Factoring Invoices or Receivables. Another myth. When companies rely on this method of cash flow, it just reduces your profits. Plus, once your invoices or receivables have been factored, most often this “third” party who now owns them will be so aggressive with your customers to collect the money that it can ruin your business by losing a customer.

3- Collection Agency. If all you want is someone to harass your customers, then call a collection agency. Odds are, they will just irritate your customers with strong-arm tactics that never work and here again you will lose another customer.

What you need is positive cash flow, right? Well you can have positive cash flow and retain your customers by using a reputable company that knows how to talk to your customers in a manner that will actually convenience them to make timely payments without losing them as a customer.

A credit management system can provide effective cash flow by acting seamlessly with your accounting department. This should NOT impact your accounting staff when handled properly. The slow paying customers and poor receivables from your accounting department should be quickly identified and presented to management in a timely manner. It is best you do not use a middleman, or off-shore calling, These will just hurt your business more because your customers know these types of calls who only want to collect the money, not help make a payment plan.

There are many articles to help find a good credit management resource. Do your research and seek out those that have a solid reputation and work with you as your in-house accounting department.