We have all dealt with them at some stage – businesses and business people who make you wonder how on earth they can actually even run a business! Why not strive to be a business that people love dealing with? Here are a few tips to help you become more efficient and effective in business and to ensure that your customers keep coming back!
Return Calls and Emails promptly.
There is nothing more frustrating than when businesses advertise in community flyers or on signboards and then never answer their phone calls (or return them) and don’t bother to respond to emails. Clients should be able to at least contact you via email and a land line number. Return calls as soon as possible and if you are not in the office to check email for most of the day, set an auto-responder that lets people know when you will be checking your email and possibly include your cell phone number as well.
This entails addressing the name of people in your emails, keeping a business mindset when meeting with clients or talking to them over the phone - Your clients don’t need to hear the intricate details of your personal life! Being professional also means checking your emails for spelling errors, following-up on enquiries, being punctual when meeting with clients, responding to telephone calls promptly as mentioned above, sending out quotes timeously . But by far the most important factor about being professional is being consistently professional!
Create systems and adapt them as necessary
As your company grows, it may become more difficult to manage and keep track of things. A useful way to deal with this problem is to create systems within your business for any specific task that requires multiple steps or procedures. This will help to create a smooth workflow and allow you to keep track of things a little easier. A web designer, for example, might create a checklist for new websites. The designer might need to check that they have ordered hosting, a domain, completed optimization, received the client’s approval and uploaded the pages for the website. Systems might need to be tweaked now and then to allow for new ideas or company changes etc.
Get an Email address, Email Signature and Website
There is simply no excuse not to have an email address! You can get free email addresses from Gmail, Webmail and Yahoo. Although an email address that reflects your business domain name looks a lot more professional, any email address will do if you are just starting out. If you don’t have an email address it can seriously affect the way that people perceive you as a business person, some people just won’t take you seriously.
Don’t be scared to try new things or to listen to ideas of your employees
Trying new things whether it be a marketing strategy, a new business system, a piece of software or a new product/ service, can be good for the growth of your business. Create a working atmosphere that nurtures and appreciates new ideas. If your staff feel as though their ideas are listened to, considered and possibly even implemented, the more likely you are to have some great ideas being generated!
Planning and Research
Market research may take weeks, months and sometimes even longer but watching a business idea fail because you didn’t do your homework can be heart wrenching. If you want to introduce a new product or service into your existing business, research the idea thoroughly, ask your existing clients what they think of the idea and try and get some solid facts. Once you are convinced that it is a feasible idea, start planning and implementing. You will feel a lot more confident going into the new project knowing that you have the research to back it up. If the idea doesn’t work despite solid market research, learn from your mistakes as mentioned below.
Learn from your mistakes
Make a concerted effort to learn from your mistakes, assess why your ideas didn’t work or why you lost a particular customer etc. Once you have made the mistake and are aware of the reason behind the failure, use it to your advantage and try a different strategy or modify your idea.
Protect your Business
Insure your equipment and computers as well as anything else that could be detrimental to your business if it were stolen, destroyed or lost. Keep your warrantee slips on any new office purchases and make sure to do data back-ups regularly – to an external hard drive or a remote server. Get trademarks and copyrights to protect any business ideas or concepts that are uniquely yours. If you are a sole trader, consider registering a cc to protect the name of your business. You don’t want to punt a business name that may be registered to someone else. CIPRO offers a service to check proposed business names before registering them.
Yes it is an old cliché but don’t give up, if you have a great idea and believe in it, keep persevering because eventually it will pay off! This also translates into other aspects of business as well, whether it is a new marketing idea or a potential client or business lead.
Market your business wisely
Although many businesses rely on word of mouth advertising, it is still a good idea to merge this with an actual marketing plan. If your budget allows, consult a professional marketing firm or start off with the basics and try to get your business as much exposure as possible through various platforms such as; a website, e-newsletter, business cards, a company brochure, vehicle branding and possibly an advert in an industry magazine.