Running a business means taking care of lots of little things. Sure, success depends on the big things, such as your strategy, marketing and technology. But sometimes, we could use a bit of guidance on how to better handle the little things to make our business lives easier.
Here are a few tips and tricks learned in my years of business:
Develop and practice your "elevator pitch," a brief sentence to describe what your business is all about. Use it when you introduce yourself to others, at business mixers, meeting with prospects. You're more likely to land a customer and get referrals if you can clearly describe what you do.
If you're giving a customer or client a discount, let them know it! When you send the bill, be certain to indicate the regular price and then the voluntary discount you're giving them. That reminds them they're getting a special deal.
If you get more than 50% of your business from one customer or distribution channel, diversify. Don't become overly dependent on one source for your long-term economic well-being.
Think of the long-term value of the customer, not just the one-time transaction. It's almost always better to retain a happy customer than to make a big fuss over a small issue in dispute.
Don't nickel-and-dime your customers. Tuck small costs into your hourly rate. (Photo: James Steidl)
• If you're a consultant, don't nickel-and-dime clients with charges for small, routine expenses, such as overnight delivery, parking, copies and such. Figure those costs into your hourly or project fees. You'd be surprised at how many clients who never blink at being billed $100 an hour get peeved by being charged $12 for an overnight delivery.
Make it easy for customers to pay you. Accept credit cards and get the money in your bank fast, often the day after processing. If you're on the go, get a card reader that attaches to your mobile device fromSquare Up, Intuit GoPayment, or PayPal Here.
Get a mileage-earning credit card for business purchases you now pay for by check. Then IMMEDIATELY pay off the credit card bill. Ask your vendors if they accept credit cards. You'll get miles and extend your payment period.
If you travel frequently, look for hotels that feature lobbies set up for working and meeting so you can stay close and cut down on travel time. And look for hotels with free Wi-Fi and, ideally, free hot breakfast.
Build a database of your current and former customers or clients. Get in the habit of tracking every customer interaction, not just orders, and their specific needs and concerns. Then you can personalize your offers, emails, and rewards. And be sure to remember their birthday.
Whenever possible, expand the number of contacts you have at each client company. Other divisions may have additional opportunities. And your current contacts may change jobs. Get to know additional decision-makers.
Join your trade association. Participate in the local chapter if such exists. Attend a national industry convention at least every two to three years. Subscribe to and read an industry magazine or e-mail newsletter.
Keep a list of your best referral sources and best customers where you can see it frequently. Contact these people at least every couple of months.
Fire bad clients. A few reasons to end a client relationship: they don't pay their bills, are unethical, want you to take on work you're uncomfortable performing, they soak up all your time and energy, they make you hate your business.
View customer complaints as an opportunity to learn how to improve your product or service rather than merely criticism.
Keep as little stock on hand as possible and avoid waste. Don't purchase something just because it's a good deal. Inventory is money in a different form.
Never compete on price alone. Make sure you have other competitive advantages that make your customers want to purchase from you even if a competitor undercuts your price.
If you work from a home office, set office hours. Set time aside for personal and family life.
Do everything with integrity. Treat everyone fairly and honestly, including employees, customers, and vendors. Don't rationalize bad behavior by saying, "It's only business." Be someone worthy of respect.
Among Rhonda Abrams' recent books is the 6th edition of Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies. Register for her free newsletter at PlanningShop.com. Twitter:@RhondaAbrams.
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