Gifts for Your Business Clients

Your clients are essential to success; their relationship is key to your success, but it’s also more than just a transaction. It’s important to be thoughtful when choosing gifts for them.

“A thoughtful gift and accompanying personal note provides a way to show your appreciation for your client in a powerfully human way,” said David Sturt, executive vice president of marketing and business development for O.C. Tanner, an employee recognition and corporate gifting firm. “It highlights the significance of the personal relationship itself, rather than on the day-to-day transactions of products and services. It elevates the relationship.”

Getting a gift just right is bound to warm your client’s heart, and keep that valuable relationship solid and healthy. Put some thought into your gifts for your clients, and your bound to see reciprocity when it comes to doing business throughout the year.

Whether it’s a holiday greeting or a token of gratitude, here are 15 gifts for your business clients that fit any budget.

Save your sales team from wasting time manually logging meetings. David Radin, CEO and co-founder of the Confirmed scheduling app, recommends using add-ons to automate meeting logs.

“I have traditionally added an app that helps the user log his calls from a lead view or contact view, which reduces data entry tremendously,” Radin said.

You can also use add-ons to automatically log meeting requests into Salesforce. Radin has built in this feature into the Confirmed app to help sales reps.

“The sales person can use the app to get a higher meeting acceptance rate and still have the data in his Salesforce.com records ready for his use and for reporting and analytics,” Radin said.

 

Tips Success for Small Business

When it comes customer relationship management (CRM) software, Salesforce is king. It offers a ton of features and capabilities to help you acquire and retain customers, boost sales and manage contacts, but its complexity can also bog you down. Used correctly, however, Salesforce can be simple and easy to use for small businesses. Here are five Salesforce hacks to make your life easier.

For an in-depth look at Salesforce, visit our Salesforce review.

 

1. Use Salesforce right from your inbox

Salesforce works with a gamut of popular business solutions, and email integration is going to become your best friend.

“The absolute biggest timesaver for me has been Salesforce IQ Inbox, which links up my GSuite Gmail account with my Salesforce account,” said Brian Forrester, co-founder of Workshop Digital, an SEO and digital marketing firm.

This integration works with a wide range of email clients, including Outlook, to sync all sorts of data to streamline your workflow.

“It syncs my calendar and email with Salesforce and allows me to create new leads and opportunities right from my inbox,” Forrester said.

You can also automatically link email communications with a lead or opportunity and even see whether contacts have opened your emails.

 

2. Clean up your contacts – automatically

Take the leg work out of contact management by automating data entry. Casey Tongg, digital marketing strategist at transportation and shipping company CFR Rinkens, recommends Salesforce’s Data.com service, which cleans up Salesforce accounts and automatically updates contacts with the most current information.

“[Data.com] saves time and increases productivity because it’s one of the most complete sources of business and contact information,” Tongg said. “The best part is that it’s already available to you in an easy-to-use, organized format.”

Tongg also uses Datanyze, a technographics tool that analyzes and automates Salesforce data.

“The tool uses different forms of tracking and analytics that can provide assistance with everything from prospecting to closing more deals,” Tongg said.

Datanyze can help you find new accounts, research contacts, locate email addresses and build contact lists – and then automatically enter them into Salesforce to save you time.

 

3. Use Salesforce in Chrome

Google Chrome users can take advantage of this time-saving browser trick: save the Salesforce search box as a search engine within the browser.

“All you have to do is right-click on the search box, click Save As Search Engine, and change the keyword to ‘SF,'” Tongg said.

This hack lets you run Salesforce in the browser without having to launch or switch to the app.

“Anytime you open up a new tab and type ‘SF’ and then hit space, you’ll be able to search inside Salesforce from anywhere,” Tongg said. “It’s a huge timesaver.

 

4. Automate meeting logs

Save your sales team from wasting time manually logging meetings. David Radin, CEO and co-founder of the Confirmed scheduling app, recommends using add-ons to automate meeting logs.

“I have traditionally added an app that helps the user log his calls from a lead view or contact view, which reduces data entry tremendously,” Radin said.

You can also use add-ons to automatically log meeting requests into Salesforce. Radin has built in this feature into the Confirmed app to help sales reps.

“The sales person can use the app to get a higher meeting acceptance rate and still have the data in his Salesforce.com records ready for his use and for reporting and analytics,” Radin said.

Manage the digital transformation

A growing number of companies have embraced the need for strong digital leaders. Our 2016 study of chief digital officers (CDOs), which analyzed the presence of such leaders among the world’s 2,500 largest public companies, revealed that 19 percent of these companies have now designated an executive to lead their digital agenda. This number is up from just 6 percent of companies in our 2015 study. And the uptick has gained momentum in recent years: Sixty percent of the digital leaders we identified in our most recent study have been appointed since 2015.

Such trends reflect the movement at many companies toward a state of more advanced digital competence. In our experience, it is typically at this stage that top management becomes focused on the need for digital leadership. In the early days of a business, different business units and corporate functions conduct scattershot experiments and pilot programs in hopes of kick-starting their digital efforts. But once a company decides to design a coherent, comprehensive strategy to capture the benefits of digitization, that decentralized approach will no longer suffice.

When it comes to implementing a digital strategy, the new class of CDOs often encounter several major obstacles upon assuming their role: ad hoc digital initiatives spread throughout a large organization, lacking central oversight; a traditional culture that resists change; a gap in the talent required; and legacy systems and structures that threaten to derail their ambitions. The right CDO for your company will have the background and experience to tackle these issues. The mix of requisite skills won’t look the same at every company, but will enable a CDO to lead your organization’s digital transformation, to the point at which fundamental changes in organization, governance, capabilities, business processes, underlying technology architecture, and culture take hold.

We use the title chief digital officer to refer to any executive tasked with putting into practice the digital ambition of his or her company or business unit. This could be a high-level member of the C-suite — a chief digital officer, chief technology officer, or chief information officer, among other roles. However, a company may instead have a vice president or director of digital operations leading the effort. Across industries, we see many of the latter positions represented: The percentage of CDOs who are members of the C-suite hasn’t changed significantly since 2015; it still hovers around 40 percent (see Exhibit 1).

business loans with no credit check

According to a recent report, of the estimated 68 percent of business owners trying to secure funding through a bank, only 27 percent were successful. While access to traditional small business funding does seem to be improving for the creditworthy, the obstacle of finding cash remains for those with less than stellar credit. Banks simply won’t work with the entrepreneur with poor credit, even if they’re excellent at running their business.

Access to capital is one of the biggest challenges a small business owner and startup faces in the process of growing their business. Unfortunately, bad credit is an issue for a large percentage of small business owners. The financial crisis of several years ago has made it very difficult to secure financing – even with stellar credit, let alone poor credit. Thus, many alternative lenders have stepped up to offer cash solutions to merchants that find themselves with little to no financing options.

Alternative Cash Solutions for Merchants with Bad Credit

Securing additional capital allows a business to grow and expand more quickly. It also ensures the business has enough cash to cover payroll, hire new staff, increase inventory, purchase equipment and boost marketing efforts. Alternative funding programs with a high-risk specialist like First American Merchant provide the capital these businesses need to cover such operational costs.

No Credit Check Financing

FAM offers business loans with no credit check. This cash solution provides businesses with the funds they need, regardless of bad credit or no credit history. This business funding opportunity can be secured by merchants of any type and size. This alternative business loan does not involve endless documentation and financial requirements for approval. Instead of analyzing a business owner’s credit score, the business’ cash-flow is considered to determine how much financing the business is eligible for. For example, in deciding whether to offer a small business a loan, FAM considers the company’s cash-flow, assets and liabilities, business plan and down payment.

Merchant Cash Advance

One of the most popular alternative financing options, a merchant cash advance, can be applied for by businesses with bad credit, no credit or those labeled as “high-risk. The cash advance provides merchants with quick cash in exchange for a share of the business’ future credit card sales; a very flexible solution for merchants who have regular monthly credit card sales, but don’t have good credit. Credit scores below 500 are approved, and funds are received in as little as 72 hours.

ACH Loan

Another alternative financing option, ACH loans can be applied for by businesses of all types and industries. Bad credit is not an issue. These loans are based on future earnings, and do not require the merchant to create a formal account. The payback process is also flexible. With FAM, for example, a pre-determined amount is taken from the business’ checking account for annual repayment of loans.

If you’re struggling to secure the capital you need to grow your business, cover payroll and increase inventory (or any other day-to-day business operations) because of bad credit, consider alternative financing. Past credit issues shouldn’t stand in the way of your business’ growth and success.

 

 

More Online Reviews for Your Business

Whenever someone does a search for your business, they’re bound to get someone else’s opinion about it. Even if your business efficient, well-run and has a great mobile presence, all it takes is a lack of reviews – or some persnickety comment – to derail a potential sale.

So what should you do? Here are a few suggestions to help you manage this critical part of your online identity.

 

Be proactive

The first thing you can do is a little old-school marketing. If you have a traditional retail location, put a placard or sign somewhere asking people to leave a positive review on Google Maps, Facebook, Yelp or another service where you see a lot of traffic. You can also offer a discount, such a small percentage off a service or an inexpensive freebie, in exchange for an honest review.

Check-ins are worth promoting as well. If someone checks into your store on Facebook or a service like Swarm, people in their timeline get a chance to see what they’re up to. None of these are a guarantee, but they’re a solid place to start.

 

Take digital control

Every site on which you can receive reviews has a platform where you can manage your presence. The Facebook Business Manager has a ton of tools (of varying ease of use) that let you tweak the appearance of your page. It’s also the main hub where you can see the number of reviews, check out visitor stats or respond to those who have left a comment.

Additionally, Google has ramped up the capabilities of how your business appears during a Google search, particularly on mobile. Be sure to grab the Google My Business app to take charge by adding pictures, information, or the details about your business. A similar tool is available for Yelp, which remains a popular source of reviews.

By having an active presence, you’re more likely to get reviews and can nudge your customers to send in a few. This is especially critical on Facebook and Google, where they play a major role in how your brand’s presence is analyzed by those who may find it.

 

Respond to reviews (even if they’re negative)

There’s bound to be a time when you get a review that you’re not thrilled about. The question is what to do about it. Facebook, for example, doesn’t let you delete reviews just because they’re less than five stars. You can report one if it violates the company’s guidelines, but your best move may be to gently push back.

Google offers some suggestions for this process if you need some guidance. The key takeaway is to be professional and courteous. Offering a refund or explaining the situation in more detail may be enough to assuage an irate customer. At the very least, it will demonstrate to others that your business is responsive and listens to feedback.

The most important determinants of brand loyalty

Customer satisfaction is one of the most important determinants of brand loyalty. High-quality service can be the difference between a one-time buyer and a lifelong repeat customer.

But not every company does a good job of retaining its customers. InContact Inc., a provider of cloud contact center software, workforce optimization and analytics, recently surveyed more than 700 consumers to identify gaps in customer satisfaction across 10 different customer service channels. The results found that, overall, customers are not getting the resolution they are looking for.

“With eight in 10 customers saying they’d switch to a competitor due to poor customer service, businesses can’t afford not to focus on providing consistent, positive touch points along the entire customer journey,” said Paul Jarman, CEO of inContact. “Whether it is on the phone, via email or online chat, businesses need to ensure they’re resolving customer issues as quickly as possible. [Doing so] leads to positive customer experiences and brand loyalty.”

Customer satisfaction is one of the most important determinants of brand loyalty. High-quality service can be the difference between a one-time buyer and a lifelong repeat customer.

But not every company does a good job of retaining its customers. InContact Inc., a provider of cloud contact center software, workforce optimization and analytics, recently surveyed more than 700 consumers to identify gaps in customer satisfaction across 10 different customer service channels. The results found that, overall, customers are not getting the resolution they are looking for.

“With eight in 10 customers saying they’d switch to a competitor due to poor customer service, businesses can’t afford not to focus on providing consistent, positive touch points along the entire customer journey,” said Paul Jarman, CEO of inContact. “Whether it is on the phone, via email or online chat, businesses need to ensure they’re resolving customer issues as quickly as possible. [Doing so] leads to positive customer experiences and brand loyalty.”

How can you accomplish this as a small brand? Here’s what inContact found about consumers’ likes, dislikes and expectations when it comes to customer service, and what you can do to cater to those needs. [Want to provide better customer service? Avoid these key mistakes.]

 

1. Offer the human touch

The study revealed that speaking to a live person is still the most preferred way to deal with customer service – less than half (45 percent) of respondents are satisfied with communication through agent-assisted and self-service channels.

As businesses today explore and adopt automation technologies to improve contact center operations, they need to consider strategies and solutions where technology can augment human interactions – not replace them – in order to ensure fluidity between channels.

 

2. Move customers out of email and interactive voice response (IVR) channels quickly

According to inContact, IVR and email have the lowest consumer performance ratings and elicit the strongest emotions of anger, disgust and frustration.

Consumers reported that these channels are less personalized, slow and do not provide complete information, and that the phone is the most preferred and effective method of communication. Specifically, the survey revealed that email is the least effective method of resolution, with over one-third reporting the issue as ‘still ongoing’ or ‘nothing more the company can do.’

 

3. Keep customer data at your fingertips.

InContact’s survey shows that consumers, particularly millennials, expect brands to know their purchase history, be proactive and have seamless omnichannel integration. Use CRM software and big data to your advantage and ensure that you have access to as much customer information as possible when interacting with someone.

Choosing the Right Service

Looking for an email marketing service in 2017? Here’s everything you need to know about what an email marketing service is, what it offers, how to choose one and how it differs from an email marketing firm. If you already know what you’re looking for, visit our best picks page to see which ones we recommend, as well as a complete list of others that might work for you.

 

What Is Email Marketing?

  • Email marketing is an online version of direct mail. Instead of sending fliers and coupons to a customer’s home, email marketing sends those same items digitally to a customer’s inbox.
  • Businesses can use email marketing in a variety of ways, such as building brand loyalty, finding new customers and encouraging repeat business.
  • Whereas the impact of direct mail can be difficult to track, email marketing lets businesses see exactly who is opening their mail and which messages are leading to sales.
  • Email marketing has the highest return on investment among all popular marketing methods. A recent study from eMarketer revealed that email marketing had a median ROI of 122 percent, compared to just 28 percent for social media marketing and 27 percent for direct mail marketing.
  • With email marketing, you have a choice of an online do-it-yourself service or a full-service agency that does all the work for you. You can read more about the differences between the two below.

What the experts say: “Email marketing is one of the most effective methods of direct communication between a brand and its customers,” said Seamas Egan, manager of revenue operations for Campaigner. “It is the leading generator of ROI over any other type of direct marketing and can be used for multiple use cases, including promotions, informational content, social sharing, relationship management and more.”

“Email marketing is a marketing tactic that can produce great results by keeping your company or brand in front of your target audience by sending periodic email communications,” said Anthony Kirlew, chief marketing officer for Infinion Marketing. “These ongoing digital communications can also grow the ‘know, like and trust’ factors over time, which can lead to increased customer and sales conversions.”

The senses of consumers to sell their products and services

Advertisers have long tried to tap into the senses of consumers to sell their products and services. New research, however, shows that the specific senses they try to appeal to have different effects on when purchases are actually made.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, discovered that advertisements that highlight touch and taste prompt people to make more immediate purchases, while highlighting sight and sound leads consumers to delay their spending.

“Advertisers are increasingly aware of the influence sensory cues can play,” said Ryan Elder, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor at Brigham Young University, in a statement. “Our research dives into which specific sensory experiences will be most effective in an advertisement, and why.”

The authors came to their conclusions after conducting four lab studies and a pilot study involving more than 1,100 subjects. In one experiment, subjects read one of two reviews for a restaurant. One of the reviews focused on taste and touch, while the other emphasized sight and sound. The participants were then asked to make a reservation to the restaurant over the next six months. [Want to try video marketing? Here are some tips to get started.]

The study’s authors found that the subjects who read the review focusing on taste and touch were much more likely to make a sooner reservation.

In another of the experiments, the participants read an ad for a summer festival that was taking place during either the upcoming weekend or a weekend in the next year. There were two versions of the ad. One emphasized taste and the other sound.

When the participants were asked when they would like to attend, those who read the ad about taste had a higher interest in attending a festival during the upcoming weekend. Those who read ads emphasizing sounds were more likely to be interested in attending the festival next year.

Overall, all of the studies found that participants who were subjected to the taste or touch of a product or event were more likely to have a more immediate interest in it.

Describes Your Company is Important to Know

Almost every business today faces major strategic challenges, but different companies are challenged in different ways. That’s why so much conventional wisdom surrounding strategy — for example, understanding your external environment — can fall short of what a company needs. Winning today requires you to carefully balance your strengths (what you can do incredibly well) against your opportunities (what the market will reward). That complexity requires a level of strategic maturity: the ability to understand what is fundamentally holding you back, and to correct your course accordingly.

A new body of extensive research at Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business, has informed the Strategy Profiler survey, which classifies companies according to the stage they’re at in developing and executing a coherent strategy. The survey takes only three to five minutes to complete, but it can help you see your own company’s strategic maturity more clearly.

We equate maturity with progress on the path to coherence. Companies are coherent when they align their value proposition and distinctive capabilities system with the right marketplace opportunities — and their whole portfolio of products and services. This typically means identifying the few things your company needs to be really good at, and then developing those few complex capabilities until they’re world-class and interlocking. If you can do this, the market rewards you with outsize returns.

These days, most companies recognize the value of this strategic approach, but it isn’t always easy to get from today’s incoherence to tomorrow’s focused strategy. We have identified 11 archetypes, each representing a different level of progress along this path. This analysis incorporated more than 5,000 data points from a previous global study of company decision makers, and from ongoing observations of business strategies. Chances are, your company matches one of these 11 archetypes.

Known Business Models

This is the second of a three-part series. Read Part I and Part III.

The following are some examples of business models that are used by various businesses. The list is by no means exhaustive and is designed to give you a feel for some of the models that exist (business models evolve constantly).

In many instances, the names can vary as they are not typically universally defined.

The Add-On model

In this instance, the core offering is priced competitively but there are numerous extras that drive the final price up so the consumer is not getting the deal they initially assumed. If you have recently tried to buy an airline ticket or car insurance, you will have spotted that the number of extras you are offered can almost reach double figures!

The advertising model became popular with the growth of radio and TV where the TV stations earned revenue indirectly from people looking to promote services to the audience they attracted, rather than via consumers paying radio and TV stations for the consumption of their TV programmes.

Some Internet businesses derive revenue predominantly as a result of being able to offer advertisers access to highly targeted consumer niches (often in the absence of revenue from selling their goods or services).  So if your website is about a narrowly defined topic, it is likely to attract a highly defined niche audience who could be offered complimentary products or services with a higher probability of success than blanket mass market advertising.

However, this business model is increasingly difficult to justify if it is your main revenue stream. For a start, the landscape is extremely competitive and advertisers are spoilt for choice. Building brand awareness and translating that into site visits is a very difficult and costly challenge. Successes such as Facebook are very much the exception to the norm.

If this model is being considered for your startup, it is worth noting that nowadays most savvy investors ignore ‘vanity metrics’ such as Page Impressions/Visitor numbers and want to understand whether the underlying business proposition is profitable. Examples such as YouTube illustrate how hard it can be to monetise free content even when you have significant visitor numbers. In short, this model is in decline for most businesses.

The Affiliate model

An affiliate is simply someone who helps sell a product in return for commission. However they may never actually take ownership of the product (or even handle it). They simply get rewarded for referring customers to a retailer when they make a sale.  Again this business model has been a huge success given the ease with which the Internet facilitates it.

The Auction model

The auction model is synonymous with eBay, these days, but of course auctions have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years.  The tulip market in Amsterdam is one of the more famous examples. There are numerous different types of auction, from English, to Dutch, Vickrey, Sealed Bid, etc., and they all share certain characteristics: the price of the good is not fixed; each individual assesses the value of the good independently; final value is determined via competitive bids. This business model has become very popular in recent years as the Internet has helped to broaden its appeal.

The third of a three part series of business

A business plan is essentially a more detailed version of your business model. A business plan has been traditionally understood as a physical document, although increasingly this view has changed as business plans have migrated online. The business plan format very much depends on the context and business plans are often verbalised via presentations where a presenter pitches their business plan to an audience. Business models are more likely to take the form of either simple verbal descriptions or one page visual representations which can either be produced before a business plan or as part of the same planning process.

Alexander Osterwalder, co-author of Business Model Generation, agrees with the link, arguing that:

‘..when you have designed and thought through your business model you have the perfect basis for writing a good business plan.’ 

It is also worth noting that there are increasing numbers of business plan critics who argue that their composition is too time consuming and that people need ‘to get building’. Some of this criticism has come from software developers (many of whom are proponents of the Lean Start-up Methodology).  I personally feel their arguments are a little simplistic and that entrepreneurs need to map out a viable business model and a business plan in tandem. I also think that the arguments are more valid in an Internet business context, where it is relatively easy to bootstrap a low-cost website which can be used for feedback and constant iterative development.

If you are looking to build a new business and are about to draft a business plan, you should also spend time working out your optimum business model as well as drafting a visual representation of it.  You can use the following framework to map same. In recent years there has been significant innovation in the range of business models, and some of them may be of relevance to your offering. Finally, it is also worth noting that some business models such as the Internet bubble model have largely had their day. Very few investors will invest in businesses these days that have advertising at the heart of their business model.