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The Minimalist Guide to Getting More Customer Referrals C2online

Hands down, customers are the lifeblood of any business.


Unfortunately, when a company cuts costs, marketing is typically the first area that usually gets hit. Funds for marketing campaigns and collateral are reduced or eliminated. For small business owners, especially start-ups, budget for marketing can be hard to find.

It’s a catch-22. There’s little or no marketing budget and you need to be visible. Waiting for the next opportunity and for new clients to appear isn’t a viable option. How do you ensure you remain competitive and bring in more clients with little or no budget?

Ask for referrals

Referrals are free – and worth millions in advertising. It doesn’t get any better than that. Go back to old clients and ask for one. With new work coming in the door, always ask for a referral when the work is completed. And it’s also important to ask for a written testimonial that you can include on your website or in print materials.

So, how do you earn referrals from your customers?

Do not meet expectations, exceed them. When a client hires you for a job, always look for an opportunity where you can add value.  If you see an area or process that could be better, make suggestions for improvement.

Always work within the set budget, and if possible, reduce costs.

Make sure that you have considered the cost carefully before you present the budget to your client.  Asking for additional fees in the middle of the transaction can turn clients off. They are also keeping tabs on their expenditures.  Additional fees can affect their other projects. And may mean you aren’t the preferred choice next time.

Deliver on deadline

Always make sure that you deliver on time.  If that’s not possible, inform your clients ahead of time, and state the reason for the delay.  Make sure it’s logical and reasonable.  All business transactions are linked to each other, and any delay can potentially affect other areas of their business.

Keep your clients up-to-date about the project you’re doing for them.

When a client hires you, they are expecting to know your progress.  This is not only to appraise the quality of your work, but also to ensure they are on top of any problems that might crop up.  Always keep your clients informed; whether it’s bad or good news, they will definitely appreciate you being proactive and honest.

Be dependable

Always walk the talk.  Don’t say one thing, while meaning another. If you make a promise, keep it.

Be thankful, and thoughtful

Create a strong relationship with your client by expressing your appreciation for the work. Drop your customer a note, or better yet, phone them to express your thanks for the work and for referrals.  A small gift or token of appreciation is always welcome.

What are the other things you can think of that will drive customers to give you more referrals?

Photo Credit: DCarlton


How to End Your Relationship with a Difficult Client C2online

Let’s face it, not every client was sent from heaven. While some clients are great to work with, others can really test your mettle. If you have a difficult client, you may need to evaluate whether or not the toll this relationship takes is worth the money you’re earning.

We all have to contend with unreasonable or unpleasant clients at some point in our careers. Here are some examples of situations that can cause tension between you and a client.

 

• Invoices are not paid in a reasonable amount of time. This situation can be awkward; no one likes to chase people for money. There may be a number of reasons why payment is late. The client may be too busy to deal with their finances, the project you are working on for them may not be at the top of their priority list or they may be experiencing a cash crunch.

• Extremely high expectations and demands. For example, they may insist you call them ASAP or call you at unreasonable hours. E-mails are sent expecting an immediate answer. If you find them breathing down your neck almost every single hour of the day, it may cause damage to other excellent client relationships, taking up your valuable time..
• You and the client simply do not mesh well.

 

One choice is to grin and bear it. Another option is to change the relationship. And, the final last option is to disengage. Regardless of the cause, working with a difficult client may not be worth the effort.

One choice is to grin and bear it. Here are some tips to ease the transition:

Changing the situation:

1. Picture how you would like the relationship to work. Write down what you would like to say and practice it.

2. Discuss the situation
Talk to your client. Explain your concerns. Talk to them by phone or in person if that’s possible. Be polite and keep your explanation short. Make the conversation as pleasant as possible. Work towards a solution.

 

If you’ve decided to terminate the relationship:
1. Complete tasks
If you still have some tasks that need to be finished, like deliverables your client is expecting from you, make sure you deliver them and finish your commitments. You may have reasons to let a client go but avoid reneging on your promises. Besides, doing so would only give him/her a reason to say negative things about you and keeping your reputation intact should be one of your main objectives.

2. Replacement
If this is an option, try to find a potential replacement to finish the project. Be sure to give a reasonable explanation to your replacement about why you are making the change.

Hopefully you are never in a situation where you are required to terminate a relationship with a client but if you are, we hope these few tips will be helpful.


Photo Credit: CELALTEBER


6 Money-Saving Tips for Savvy Entrepreneurs C2online

Lowering your operating expenses is always a good thing. Take a few minutes once or twice a year to think about how you can cut back or eliminate unnecessary expenses. Over time, those saved dollars can add up to a significant amount in your bank account.

 Below are 6 tips for reducing everyday business expenses that you can implement without sacrificing too much.

 

1. Office Equipment

Using energy efficient equipment in your office gives you more bang for your buck: while saving on electric bills and extending the lifespan of office equipment, you are also protecting the environment. Consider using a laptop as it consumes less energy than a desktop.

See: Approximate Desktop, Notebook, & Netbook Power Usage by Penn Computing 

2. Communication

Review your phone plan, or your employee’s cell phone allowances. With employees using E-mail, SMS and social media, does everyone in your office really need a phone to communicate? E-mails can often be faster, less intrusive and more effective since each transaction documents the “conversation”?

    See: Minimizing Distractions: Managing Your Work Environment by MindTools

    3. Cut down on paper use

    Sometimes a totally paperless environment is not possible. If this is the case, try to use less paper. Or use both sides of bond paper for printing and don’t just throw used paper away. Remember to recycle paper.

    See: Working green: 50 tips to reduce your office's waste by Jessica Hupp

    4. Utilities

    Utility bills add up quickly. If you need to paint your office walls you might consider using lighter colors and make the room brighter, reducing the need for lighting. If possible, install timers or motion sensors that automatically turn off the light in a room when not in use. This could save a little on your electrical bill. Set your thermostat slightly lower and encourage your office staff to dress in layers. You don’t want them to be wearing mittens while typing but perhaps they can wear long sleeves or a sweater. Turn off computers when not in use or when leaving the office.

      See: How light affects colour, and tips for choosing paint by Cristina Colli

      5. Advertising

      Word of mouth is your cheapest and most cost effective way to attract customers. If a new prospect calls you, make sure you give them a positive customer experience – for example, ask questions and let them do most of the talking. Go the extra mile and over deliver and under promise. Happy customers will spread the word about you. Use social media as well such as free platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube to create awareness about your business. Leverage your marketing initiatives by using social media.

      See: Word of mouth, social media and viral advertising by Marketing Made Simple

       6. Offer internship programs, or better yet, hire a freelancer.

      Many graduating students would be more than willing to take on any job so that they can complete their on-the-job training requirements. Not only will you pay a minimal wage, but also many interns will be keen to put their best foot forward to finish the job and their school requirements, plus impress a potential employer. Alternatively, you can hire a freelancer. Many freelancers charge less because they work from home.  As a result, you save on office space, electricity, and expenses associated with full-time office employees.

        See: Hiring Freelance Workers in Your Business by Daniel Richards

         

        Think outside the box--there are many more ways you can save money.  Be creative and reap the financial rewards.


        Are Your Internal Financial Controls Fool-Proof? C2online

          

         Protecting your assets—real estate, machinery, equipment, supplies and most importantly, cash—is crucial to running a successful business. Putting financial controls in place is one way of encouraging integrity and honesty within the workplace.   

        As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure the integrity and the credibility of your company and employees. This includes being knowledgeable about the types of fraud that can be committed by your employees, suppliers and even customers and preventative steps you can take.

        Most types of fraud can be avoided by knowing the day-to-day financial details of your business. Over time, financial patterns develop which should be reviewed. Seasonality will affect activities like sales and expenses but the pattern should be somewhat predictable. Forecasts can also be valuable. Further analysis is warranted if gaps in revenue seem to develop and changes in the existing business were minimal.

        To prevent fraud, internal controls need to be implemented.  Handling and managing cash is one area where this is a must. One solution it to make more than one person responsible for doing cash related tasks. Giving too much control to one employee opens the door for potential fraud to occur. For handling cash, clear lines responsibilities should be developed.

        Employees should be made aware where their job responsibility begins and where it ends. The bookkeeper can be responsible to record all the business transactions in the company general ledger. Assign someone to deal with customers, another person who accepts money as payments for sale of goods or services, someone else who disburses payment to suppliers, and someone to do the banking and bank reconciliations each month. These are just a few of the many processes that occur before a financial transaction is complete.

        The individual responsible for a particular process should manage each process consistently.

        Having financial controls in place will provide greater peace of mind and allow you control over the solid financial management of your company.


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