Is your small business keeping its promise to customers?

Promises, Promises
Promises, Promises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever broken promise to someone? The saddest is promising to be home early to spend time with your children but you end up staying late at work. On wedding days solemn promises are made but many are broken years later. Public officials make promises especially during electioneering times but a few months down the track are they delivering on their promises?

In the real world we see promises and commitments being broken all the time. Basic services to communities are not delivered, equipment is not maintained and electricity, water and even postal services are not available for extended periods. Continue reading “Is your small business keeping its promise to customers?”

Outside and inside forces that can bring small businesses to their knees

Traditional Fish 'n' Chips
Traditional Fish ‘n’ Chips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tire manufacture that was once a household name recently complained that imports from China were helping to destroy its business. It was looking for help to rescue its business from financial difficulties. One doesn’t really know all the forces that are affecting this business but it’s circumstances does make one think what has management been doing to avoid the crisis?

Small and medium-size businesses can be impacted by outside and inside forces. By external factors, I mean the competition, customers and markets. It could also be legislation. Interior factors would include management, processes and controls as well as costs, cash flow and product quality. Continue reading “Outside and inside forces that can bring small businesses to their knees”

How to position your business so you’re seen as the best choice

First customers
First customers (Photo credit: stavos)

What does a start-up, small business owner or consultant need to know about a customer value proposition?

It may sound like a term used by business schools or management consultants but it’s a tool that can make a difference in your business.

In one way it’s got harder for small businesses to offer greater value than the big giants but in another way the corporate behemoths can’t cover every niche. Continue reading “How to position your business so you’re seen as the best choice”

Are you entertaining your customers enough?

English: Parisian mime working for tips entert...
Parisian mime working for tips entertaining crowd. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A research study asked 500 adults if they were more likely to pay for digital products which provided entertainment (such as music) and solutions (software apps) or for those providing knowledge such as an online newspaper.

The research, says ScienceDaily, found that younger and wealthier users were more likely to be willing to pay for online news. People who had bought software programs, online movies, apps and e-books were also more likely to pay for online news.

This research is important for anyone involved in online or traditional news media. It illustrates the ongoing effects of the digital revolution on news. But it also makes one ask how small business can use entertainment to their advantage.

How can you use entertainment to make your business, products and services more interesting to customers? Continue reading “Are you entertaining your customers enough?”

Do you take on any customer you can find or are you selective?

dazzled maniac Jim Morrison drowns out the hau...

I visited a new fast chicken and sit-down restaurant where the staff gave friendly and swift customer service. This service was so excellent that when the manager and co-owner came around to ask us were we happy with our meal, I asked him could he explain just one thing to me.

My question was: how come your staff are so helpful and friendly compared to the national chain of chicken restaurants that previously had a similar operation on the same premises? Continue reading “Do you take on any customer you can find or are you selective?”

Are you this negligent about safety in your small business?

Duct-tape Moving Van

A staffer at a high-profile women’s magazine posted a tweet saying that they had replaced the safety information sign in their office with something “much more important”.

I wondered what this “something much more important” could be and opened the photo attached to the tweet. A photo showed two women hanging up a mirror on a pillar in their office where the safety information sign had been located. Continue reading “Are you this negligent about safety in your small business?”

Do all these idea generation techniques really work?

You’ve got every right to be skeptical.

Here’s why:

Every day ordinary people come up with ideas. They fix things in their homes, they find ways to reduce their expenses and they get ideas to make delicious suppers.

At work they find new ways to do their work more effectively, write e-mails and proposals and figure out clever methods to cut costs.

Now, why would they want techniques and methods to generate ideas? Continue reading “Do all these idea generation techniques really work?”

Creative heads in the clouds

Creativity in advertising can help catch people’s attention and win customers. Yet some advertisers’ heads seem to be in the clouds when they don’t pay attention to the conversation taking place in their market. Creative approaches need to link with the customer’s world to provide returns.

 Sometimes you just wonder how “creative” advertising can be so detached from its real world surroundings. It’s much too easy to criticize someone else’s advertising so I will mention just one short falling of an advert I saw in a national business weekly. It totally missed a big opportunity.

The advert was about cloud computing and gave examples of its applications in society and ended by mentioning the company’s contribution to global computing. All very good except that this ad was run on the Sunday midway through the COP 17 climate change negotiations in Durban. Surrounding pages in the business section were plastered with ads about climate change and solutions for a low-carbon future. Now, how possibly could the advert fail to mention any reference about climate change? It’s sort of like walking up the road from King’s Cross Station and not being aware that the place has social problems (which we won’t go into here).

After reading the advert on a flight to Durban I asked the passenger sitting next to me: “What do you make of this?” He took a look and said, “They could at least have mentioned something about their e-waste and what they are doing about it.” Later the passenger mentioned that he was the climate and environmental advisor to the presidency of a country in Africa.

Being present to the conversation already taking place

So what is the real message for marketers – off-line and online – with this advert? Simply put, to be present and listen to the conversations already taking place among customers. Surely, the team that put together this advert could have thought about what would be going on when the ad would appear? If they had, they might have recognised that COP 17 would be a major topic of discussion in the papers and online during the negotiations taking place in Durban.

They could have come up with a quick short-list of examples of solutions that their computing is bringing about to help mitigate climate change. It would have then been easy for them to join their customers’ conversation which would have certainly included climate change and the global climate change negotiations. The other advertisers had thought about their timing – some even used leaves symbolically acting as the blades for wind turbines to promote renewable energy.

Creativity doesn’t mean generating ideas that are detached from people and the marketplace. Products of creativity are meant to inspire, entertain, influence perhaps and ultimately sell. Even a five-minute session with a basic idea generation tool would have assisted in this instance with developing the original idea and making it so much more powerful.

Loosen up and fire your imagination

By joining the customer’s conversation, understanding their interests, problems and aspirations, businesses become more relevant and real when they try to connect with customers. Communicating with worn-out come-ons or unsupported authority in a competitive marketplace is just not authentic or meaningful. But to get there companies need to loosen up and become more creative.

The problem is that the words “creative” and “creativity” are such catch-all terms that they have come to even have negative connotations. What we mean here by these words is to come up with new ideas that will profit your business. It involves a search for ideas using creative and innovation tools that help you generate a range of possibilities that hold the potential to produce amazing results whether for your product, service or business.

Encourage expansive thinking

Such expansive thinking may itself sound like needing to put your “head in the clouds” but it is vital when your business is under threat or you need innovation to compete against increasingly strong competition, especially in 2012. Innovation, coming up with new products, services and new ways of doing business, is essential for responding and anticipating a changing business environment. For smaller businesses that are much closer to their customers whether on main street or in industrial parks innovation is critical for maximizing returns on any investment.