Small Business

Running a small business is no small feat. Expert tips for marketing and growing your company.

It’s not who your customers are, it’s how they behave

Wow. I’m humbled by the commentary from my first post. I hope I can maintain such passionate interest!

Businesses cannot exist without customers, so it’s sadly ironic that many, if not most, businesses, actually understand so little about them. As a company grows, a smaller and smaller percentage of the staff interacts with the customers. In fact, those folks on the “front line” (think call centers, service counters, retail stores) are typically among the lowest-paid and have the least authority.

Meanwhile, back at headquarters fundamental decisions are made with extremely limited information about customers. There, understanding the customer is often considered someone else’s responsibility, because, “we have a department for that.” No department has a complete view of the customer, however, and so in place of true understanding are models and frameworks that attempt to describe the customer. Many companies don’t go beyond demographics and market segmentation. While it’s helpful to know how they break down by age, sex, income, region, and other easily measurable characteristics, there’s actually very little you can actually do with that information. In order to become customer experience-driven, you need to go beyond who your customers are, and understand what they do. …more at It’s Not Who Your Customers Are, It’s How They Behave – Peter Merholz –, published on 11 February 2009

Flickr photo credit: Roger B.

By | February 23, 2009|Blog, Small Business|0 Comments

Ask an Expert: You’ve got to impress clients from the get-go

Q: Help! I own a small consultancy business. A new client e-mailed me a few days ago but the message ended up in my spam folder, as did her follow-up. Now she won’t return my calls. How can I get her back? — Aaron

A: You probably can’t.

The new client concluded, fairly or unfairly (but fairly, I think) that if things are going wrong already, at the start of your working relationship, it does not bode well for work down the road.

But I suggest that a bigger issue is at play, namely, the value and power of first impressions. And especially in this economy, first impressions are more important than ever.

Back in my UCLA days, I once got a job as at a new pizza joint. My roommate at the time gave me some advice that has served me well ever since. “When you get a new job,” he told me, “work extra hard the first month. Do extra without being asked. Say yes to everything. They will see what a good, hard worker you are, and forever more will look at you through that lens.” I must say that I have since found this to be quite accurate. …more at Ask an Expert: You’ve got to impress clients from the get-go –, published 16 February 2009

Flickr photo credit: cursedthing

By | February 17, 2009|Blog, Small Business|0 Comments

Small firms resort to freebies and special deals

While the strategy can help lure hesitant customers, high costs run the risk of leaving some companies worse off

Faced with a deepening recession and evaporating sales, an increasing number of small businesses are resorting to a high-risk strategy: costly giveaways and promotions to lure the reluctant consumer.

If the strategies work, these companies could have a powerful weapon in their struggle to weather the economic storm. But if they don’t work, the more vulnerable businesses could find themselves in a bigger financial hole.

“Offering things for free is a very dangerous area to get into” for little-known small companies, because it threatens to establish the brand’s reputation as cheap, says Barbara Apple Sullivan, managing partner at New York communications strategy firm Sullivan & Co. “Clients or prospects [may see] the product as worth what they’re paying” during a promotion, she says.

But, she adds, the promotions can give the companies a shot of finding new customers — something in short supply right now. …more at Small Firms Resort to Freebies and Special Deals – Wall Street Journal, published 2 Feb 2009

Flickr photo credit: mitchiru

By | February 11, 2009|Blog, Small Business|0 Comments