As a small business, you likely have a loyal customer base — evangelists who share your products and services with their friends and associates. While word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful asset, businesses large and small are doing their best to snag new customers (including your existing clients). And with research from HubSpot indicating that acquiring new customers is 60 percent more expensive than it used to be, keeping your customers happy is more important than ever. So, what’s a small business owner to do?
A customer-centric mindset and operational model are critical; that same HubSpot research revealed excellent customer service is key, with 93 percent of customers reporting customer experience as a driving factor for repeat business. The foundation of excellent customer service is communication and understanding how customers want to interact with your team.
If you haven’t considered how your customers want to reach you, you might be falling short — and potentially missing the mark when it comes to customer experience.
But fear not! Recent research from Cloudli Communications reveals just what your customers are looking for from you when it comes to communication. Here are three insights about consumer communication preferences that can help you get a handle on what your customers expect.
Insight 1: 93 percent of Consumers Who Support Local Businesses Want Text and Voice Options
According to Pew Research, 97% of smartphone users make use of SMS messaging at least once per day. This level of familiarity with text messaging extends to how these users interact with small businesses, but it’s not as simple as just whipping out your mobile device and sending a text to a customer.
The key detail in this first insight is the and. Consumers don’t just want to text your business, they want the option to call as well. And you must be purposeful about how you implement text messaging alongside voice communications— or you risk creating a disjointed and confusing customer experience where it’s hard to keep track of the customer journey — the opposite effect you’re intending!
The solution? Think of voice calls and SMS as two sides of the same coin. Strive to ensure that whether a customer calls or texts, you have a record of every interaction. Be sure to include the ability to easily see their latest communication, who responded, and any contextual clues to the nature of their interaction so you can anticipate their needs and tailor a proactive response.
Insight 2: Customer Communication Preferences Depend on Your Type of Business
When it comes to customer communication preferences, the type of product or service you offer dictates the relative importance of SMS vs voice communications for your business.
As part of the Cloudli survey, consumers were asked whether they preferred voice calls or text messages for different types of businesses and the results were revealing. If you’re running a service business, consumers prefer text over voice by a factor of nearly three times. For retail and restaurants, the preference for text over voice is two to one. When it comes to health and wellness or financial services, texting still maintains an edge over voice calls, but consumer preference for one over the other is less notable.
Regardless of the type of business you operate, the data shows that SMS must be a part of your customer communications strategy. Just how critical texting will be for your business, will vary.
Insight 3: Convenience is King
Above all, customers and clients crave convenience. And to create convenience, as Stephanie Burns writes for Forbes, businesses need to focus on removing points of friction that may emerge as a consumer is buying from or interacting with your brand.
What happens when there’s too much friction and not enough convenience? 87 percent of consumers have turned to online providers to bridge the gap — and that means your business will lose out. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix you can implement to remedy this trend. If you guessed texting, you’re right: 78 percent of consumers said text messaging would make it easier to support local businesses.
Get the Message: Consumers Want Text
Regardless of the type of business you run, the data is clear: SMS is a must-have for small, local businesses, creating the critical convenience factor that enhances the customer’s experience and prevents them from looking for large, online alternatives.
However, equally important to offering SMS options for communication is ensuring that your text and voice communications remain coordinated for each customer. According to Salesforce research, 85 percent of consumers expect consistent interactions when they interact with a business. So, if you implement text messaging for your business in a way that it remains siloed from your other communication channels, you may find that you are not providing customers with their desired experience.
Getting it Right
Implementing SMS alongside your standard phone communications can be seamless and easy. If you have a legacy phone system in place, you might be struggling to see how you can introduce text to your business without causing additional complexity. Fortunately, innovative technologies have emerged in response to consumers’ simultaneous demands for SMS, convenience, and consistency.
Investigating these options that offer consolidated voice and SMS combined with adding enhanced Business Texting features will allow your SMB to better address consumer communication preferences while reinforcing your role as a preferred provider for your loyal customers.
Essential Legal Documents You Need for Your Small Business
Entrepreneurs from Mississauga to Montreal put all of their effort and attention into growing a business, making it important to protect what has been built. If you don’t have the right standard legal documents for your business, you could be leaving yourself open for litigation that could cost you everything.
As a business owner, you are an expert in your field but that doesn’t mean that you know how to protect yourself and your business from a legal standpoint. It’s crucial that you have the minimum of legal documents prepared for your company to make sure that you are protected from lawsuits.
You can work with business lawyers in Mississauga, On, or print off some legal templates that are available online to protect your interests at a minimum. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the essential legal documents that you need for your small business.
To help solidify trust and cooperation in your business, it’s important to have an owner’s agreement in place. With the right amendments in place, you minimize disagreements and can work towards common goals. Your ownership agreement should clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of each of the partners including decision-making power. Your agreement should include a specified breakdown of your equity ownership agreement, and assignment of your intellectual property to the business and not the partners.
Independent Contractor Agreement
When operating your small business, it can be cost-effective to bring in independent contractors to do certain work. Your independent contractor agreement should be in place to specifically designate that your workers are responsible for paying their own taxes and they are not part of your payroll or in your direct employment.
One of the most important aspects of a successful business is ensuring that you can supply your products quickly to customers. A vendor agreement for your suppliers will provide the terms and conditions under which they will deliver the goods that you need on time.
Before you allow any vendors, contractors, or employees into the heart of your business operations, you need to have them sign a non-disclosure agreement. This ensures that outsiders will not be able to disclose any confidential information about your business. Your agreement should clearly outline what is considered to be confidential information, specific information formats, how confidential information should be handled, and a statute of limitations.
ovinces and states require that companies create a set of governing bylaws. Within your bylaws, you should clearly outline how your business will be structured, dispute resolution, hiring practices, and powers of shareholders.
While it may not be legally mandated in your area to keep a copy of any executive meeting minutes, it’s still a good idea to keep this type of documentation. Meeting minutes that record everything that is said in major meetings is an excellent company resource for information to resolve potential disputes.
If you are starting a new business, it’s recommended that you have these essential legal documents ready to ensure that you and your venture are protected.
How to Optimize Your CRM for Winning More Customers
A CRM, or Customer Relationship Management tool, is an all-embracing software solution used to manage relationships and interactions with partners, potential customers, and existing customers. CRM solutions like crm.com.au is a useful tool that can streamline the operations and functions of teams in different departments of an organization, like business development, marketing, or sales. All the important information required for the company, like client data, leads, sales opportunities, and marketing campaigns, can be stored and managed centrally with the help of CRM.
Optimizing CRM adds enormous value to the business process. It will enable businesses to strengthen their client relationships, simplify processes, and improve sales and profits.
There are several ways to optimize your CRM to win more customers. Some of them include as follow.
Automate The Basic and Straightforward Tasks
Automating daily and repetitive tasks is an important step toward improving the efficiency of your business processes. Many businesses mention a shortage of resources and time as the reason for not automating such repetitive tasks. But this is a real mistake business owners are making in this digital age.
Automation helps businesses improve customer traction. It also gives companies the capability to inspect the intricate journey towards real customer-centricity. This process might feel a bit overwhelming for budding businesses with limited experience in CRM.
CRM automation can be used to eliminate repetitive and time-consuming functions like sending newsletter subscriptions, promotion offers, follow-up emails, and other marketing efforts. This will reduce the need to write the same response repeatedly while engaging customers. It is also possible to automate sales processes like call scheduling. All of this will save precious time for team members that can be diverted to more crucial tasks, increasing productivity and boosting business growth.
Understand from Analytics
Another important feature of CRM that makes it attractive is its ability to analyze consumer behavior and trends. Not only does CRM perform the analytics, but all the data is stored in one place, making it easily accessible. This will enable companies to easily access and understand the behavior of clients and push the products and services to suit those trends.
When one marketing strategy becomes successful, businesses should analyze the reason for its success and model the next campaign similar to it.
Having a better understanding of CRM analytics will help companies and their different managerial teams come up with the best marketing strategies and solutions. All the marketing and sales strategies should be designed based on client data to yield maximum results. When the sales team is aware of the location and inclination of the customer, the salesperson can come up with novel strategies to make a targeted sales pitch. It will also improve the chances of getting a good deal. Thus, carefully learning and understanding analytics is crucial for the growth of a company.
Establish and Maintain The Portfolio of Profitable Customers
CRM helps to collect and organize all the client data in one place. The advantage of this feature is that it will enable teams and customer service agents to access how a particular issue or client was handled in a previous similar scenario. This will help the agents communicate effectively in the said scenario and provide consistent customer service by predicting the wishes of clients based on previous responses.
CRM can be used efficiently for helping agents deal with new customers or specific interactions. Specific guidelines or playbooks can be created based on earlier interactions. This will allow the customers to have an idea about what to expect, and they will be happier with the service provided.
You can also prioritize the queries and issues of the most profitable customers and get them handled by the right agent. This does not mean you should delay the issues of other customers. The issues requiring urgent attention should be prioritized above everything else.
Make CRM The Core of your Company’s Marketing Strategy
It is beneficial for businesses to develop their marketing strategies and campaigns based on CRM intelligence. CRM intelligence provides critical insights into marketing, like the best technique to approach a specific market or the most successful tactic for a particular service. All of these crucial insights will assist businesses in developing campaigns that will result in agile and tactile business practices and corresponding business growth.
Long-lasting relationships can be made with customers when you give them what they want and approach them the way they desire. CRM will assist you in determining the most interactive and emerging market, the most desired products and services, and the channel receiving the most traffic.
Integrate CRM With Other Tools
Once you invest in CRM, you should remember to integrate it with other tools and internal systems used in your business processes. CRM can be integrated with enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) to create an automated inquiry management system that is fully developed and includes all client information.
For social media listening, your CRM should also be connected to all social media accounts of your company, like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. This will keep you up to date on important topics like emerging trends, the reputation of your brand, and the impact of your marketing campaigns. All this information can be used to create better strategies for your next marketing campaign.
Update Customer Data
CRM is most effective when the data is up-to-date. Your marketing and sales strategy will only be effective if it is developed using the latest client data, like changes in preferences, location, or contact method. By designing strategies based on the changing needs and desires of the customer, your relationship with them will continuously evolve and become stronger.
CRM is like the real face of your company or support team. This system plays a great role in shaping the opinion of the customer about your company. You should use CRM to create a positive and lifelong impact on your customers. Remember to meet the expectations of your clients and provide a cohesive and consistent service. Also, give focus on providing a seamless customer experience.
CRM is an invaluable tool that can be used for the overall development of the business. By properly optimizing it, you can get more customers and generate higher profits.
Solo Traveler to Solo Entrepreneur
I became a solo traveler to a solo entrepreneur through my love for travel.
I started traveling around 10 years ago and lived to explore the world. I was constantly trying to find packaged adventures that offered to explore off-the-beaten-path corners of the earth, but was unable to find anything. I became tired of the cookie cutter tour companies that only highlighted the touristy attractions and popular regions. Eventually, I gave up trying and decided to create my own trips. I figured if I was looking for adventures like this, then other travelers would too.
photo credit: BornWild
After 4 years of traveling solo, I combined my passion for travel and wild animal conservation and decided to start my own adventure travel company – BornWild.
I began selling unique day trips for the first two years of business which went relatively well, however profits were low. To succeed at making a business out of day trips alone, you would have to be selling the majority of weekdays and dedicate much labor to make an honest living.
Multi-day trips is where the vast majority of profit can be made so I focused into this sector and it has really paid off.
Entering into the adventure travel industry world is no easy task. If you are a solo entrepreneur that has a travel start-up, you have your work cut out.
What I found most challenging is that consumers are parting with much more money and tend to be very careful before purchasing. It takes someone a lot more thinking time and deliberation before buying a trip, than it does to buy an item of clothing for example. Selling travel requires trust built between consumer and business and it’s essential for the business to have a great reputation too.
The travel industry isn’t overcrowded but there is a lot of choice so it requires work and the right marketing techniques to be seen by the right buyers.
Having a socially conscious angle on your business also helps too. From a business perspective, travelers are becoming more proactive in traveling consciously and impacting the planet positively. Consumers are gravitating towards eco-friendly, sustainable and conservation based trips and adventures. It’s a preference that has become highly favored in today’s world.
Being socially committed not only gives your brand kudos and credibility but it helps people see how dedicated you are to doing good.
We have just devised an African Lion Safari which is a groundbreaking adventure that bridges adventure travel with lion conservation. It exposes travelers to resources and experiences you will only encounter through this adventure. It’s the only adventure like this on the market and sets us apart from other companies.
photo credit: Roya Ann Miller / BornWild
Digital marketing is key when getting your business off the ground. I taught myself how to become a digital marketing expert and it’s paid off in many ways. I have tried numerous marketing tactics when it comes to selling travel, from magazine articles to ads, to cross marketing, to social media, facebook live etc. I’ve found that the most effective way is to master the world of SEO so that you can start ranking on google and be visible when consumers are searching for an adventure. The goal is to capture people as they are ready to buy a trip and that’s what’s so powerful when you crack digital marketing.
My advice to all new entrepreneurs in travel is to learn to master SEO and become a digital marketing expert so you become a pro at the very beginning. This will set you up for success from the offset and be extremely beneficial to getting your business off the ground as well as throughout your whole business journey.
Tips on starting your own travel business:
- Find a niche that isn’t already being done
- Become a digital marketing expert
- Post, post, post to rank on google using SEO
- Concentrate in on where your buyers are coming from
- Pinpoint what search terms consumers are using when they are poised to buy and start ranking for these search terms.
- Don’t waste time on marketing avenues that don’t work, plug away at avenues that do.
- Cross marketing with other companies really helps
- Make sure your customer service is 5-star and that you gain great reviews
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