Archive for July 29, 2013

5 Tips for a Small Business to Survive

Small businesses are often said to be the job engine of the US economy. There are about 28 million small businesses operating in the US, according to the United States Small Business Association Office of Advocacy. Out of this huge number, only 44% survive for the first four years and a mere 31% of businesses survive their first seven years. Hence it’s quite evident that achieving success in a small business is not easy. It of course needs your hard work and also a few tricks. Below are five tips that every small business owner should follow for his success:

Be Recognizable

Probably the most common advice a new entrepreneur or a small business gets is to be “unique”. Unique is a difficult word. More than being unique, it is important to be recognizable. Your customers should be able to recognize your business and product/service – it should stand out among similar other products or services. This is the first step of the sales process. But that does not mean that you should do things that are unnatural and outrageous. For example, if you are selling popcorn, do not try to add pizza to your menu. Rather focus on selling popcorn and try introducing new flavors of popcorn.

Develop a USP

No matter how small you are, it is important to find a USP of your product or service.  That will actually help to carve a niche for your business. Customers must come to you and not go to your competitors. For this there must be something unique that your product should offer. For example, if you are selling popcorn, try to offer customers more variety and new flavors that your competitors do not sell.

List Out Your Strength

When you are in the same business, it is obvious that you will have many things in common with your competitors -list out the things that you have in common with your competitors. You should try to find out the strength of your business so that you can add that in this list as well.  Excellent customer service or a timely service delivery can also be the strength of your business. Think of that one thing that differentiates you from competitors and also adds value to your business.

Create Your Own Identity

You define your business. There may be others out there who are in the same business domain, but those businesses are not run by you. It is important that you create an identity for yourself and also for your business. Every business must have its own rules and ethics and every decision you make as the business owner must coincide with these rules and ethics. Your business decisions should validate the rules of the business.

Know Your Customers

Knowing your customers is crucial for the success of a business. The better you know them, the easier it will be for you to satisfy them and identify their pain points. It also helps in positioning your products and services.

Don’t Want to Use Toll Free Numbers for Your Business? Well, This is What to Expect…

The internet is flooded with articles and blogs that discuss the significance of a toll free number for a business. We all know that toll free numbers provide the best possible tool for business communications. It is important for marketing campaigns and is also responsible for increasing sales. A toll free number, also known as 1 800 number makes a business look professional, helps in building its national presence and most importantly encourages people to call a business and inquire. But what if a business decides not to use this number? If an entrepreneur is ignorant of the benefits of toll free numbers, or if he prefers to stay away from one such number, following are the things he should be prepared for:

#1: Stay Relaxed – No Calls, No Inquiries

It is almost impossible for a small business or a new entrepreneur to invite people call them without 1 800 numbers. They can try online strategies and tactics to make a strong online presence and let people know about them, but making people call them is a different story. Usually, people are concerned about their rising phone bill and hence they do not feel comfortable calling a new business – about whom they are not sure of. So, an entrepreneur can be rest assured of not getting disturbed by phone calls and inquiries now and then.

#2:  Put on Your Thinking Cap to Assure Customers of Your Product/Service

A toll free number assures prospects and customers of the service to expect from a business post purchase. Deciding not to use a toll free number offers entrepreneurs a good opportunity to exercise and build their writing and verbal communication skills. Entrepreneurs are sure to spend hours either in writing articles and documents explaining to customers about their service or speaking with the customers and trying to convince them about the same, though it is difficult to be certain about the consequence both these efforts bring.

#3: Enhanced Creativity

Vanity toll free numbers are special toll free numbers that make a phone number memorable. You can expect calls from people only when they remember your phone number. If an entrepreneur is not using a toll free number, he has to find out a new way to make his business number memorable to his customers. This is no doubt a great challenge to the creativity of an entrepreneur. Why use a vanity number and curb your creativity? Instead try to find a new way to make your number memorable. You need to remember only one thing here and that is time. Marketing your product at the right time is important for a successful sales process. Can your business really give you this luxury of time? Well, you are the best person to decide.

#4: Keeps You Honest

One of the most popular reasons for businesses using 800 numbers is that it makes a business look professional, credible and bigger than it actually is. These are important for the success of a business and for closing a sale successfully. If a business is operating without one such number, it must be prepared for ways to show its professionalism and credibility despite being small. Though this can be a good way to display your honesty, it might not prove to be too good for your business, especially for its sales.

#5: No Complaints, No Feedback

Toll free numbers establish an effective channel of communication. Customers call you to air their complaints or simply to share their feedback. Both these are important for the growth of a business. It helps in locating the strengths and weaknesses of your products and services. If a business does not have a toll free number, it is sure not to receive either complaints or feedback. In other words, the scope for its growth gets reduced – steadily.

Do Not Allow Communication to become a Hindrance to your Business Growth

Most of the start-up entrepreneurs complain about the lack of proper communication in their business. They feel their businesses lack proper communication both from the top down and the bottom up. Management and managers play an important role in developing a healthy communication system in an organization. They can also take the help of certain tools to build an effective communication system. A virtual phone system and a toll free number are two important tools that any business and especially a start-up business should use for building an effective communication system.

Ensure Easy Flow of Information

Entrepreneurs have to communicate their ideas and products to their business partners, investors and also to the rest of their team. Most importantly they have to communicate with customers. They must be able to understand the pain points of their clients and position their solution accordingly. All these can happen only when an entrepreneur is able to establish a proper channel for communication. Using a virtual phone with toll free numbers is just perfect for this. Virtual phone systems are quite affordable even for a start-up business and together with 1 800 numbers they help in creating a professional and credible image of a business.

Advanced Features for Better Communication

Virtual telephones have certain advanced features including call forwarding, voicemail box, auto attendant and virtual fax that can help a business to grow.  Importantly, these features ensure a healthy and strong communication system not only with the clients but also among the employees and also with the company’s partners, vendors and investors. Using a 1 800 number you can create multiple extensions thereby dedicating each extension to a particular person or department. This is also a wonderful way to make a business look bigger than it actually is.

Answering Calls According to Your Choice

With virtual phones your office goes with you anywhere and everywhere. It allows you to answer calls even when you are out of the office, traveling or on vacation. Use an 800 number as your business number and have your calls forwarded to your cell phone, home phone or other phone numbers of your choice. You can also decide the day and time when you wish to receive calls on a particular number.

Using All Modes of Business Communication

Though there have been quite a few new communication tools, facsimile is still considered an important mode of business communication. With virtual phone systems, entrepreneurs enjoy the power of mobile faxing or faxing on the go. A virtual phone allows sending and receiving fax without a fax machine. So now it’s possible for an entrepreneur to ensure effective communication using all forms of communication – phone, email, fax and voicemail even when he is away from the office.

Best Practices For Business Social Media Accounts

This is a guest post from Ryan Cory (Train ACE)

Setting up social media accounts for your small business can contribute to its growth and expansion, provided the necessary precautions to protect your investment are taken. This can be accomplished by keeping a tight rein on your accounts through personal access and control.

As a business owner, you should be fully aware of the pros and cons of social media accounts. When used right, they can be a tremendous asset to your business. Uncontrolled accounts, however, have the potential to damage your business or taint your business reputation. For this reason, it’s imperative to be knowledgeable on how your social media accounts work and keep an eye on what is being posted regularly.

The following provides some guidelines on what you can do to protect yourself against misuse of your company’s social media accounts:

Create Accounts using Company Email

When setting up accounts, request that employees utilize the company’s email or one provided for that purpose rather than their own. This gives you immediate access to the account should you have need. It will also safeguard the account for the future if the employee leaves the company.

Change Account Password when Employees Leave

Former employees who retain access to your company’s social medial accounts pose a security breach, whether they leave on good terms or not. Avoid potential eventualities by changing account passwords & security questions every time one of your employees decides to leave.

Best Practices For Business Social Media Accounts

Document Social Media Accounts

If you have various accounts, you will need to keep accurate records of each to include user name, password, e-mail address for opening the account and the security questions used for setting up each account. This information should be within easy reach for when you have need.

Set up a Policy for Social Media Use

It is to your advantage to set up a policy with standard procedures for employee usage of company social media sites. This will serve to remind your employees of what kind of information is suitable to share on social media sites. It also gives you a means of moderating social media content and deleting what is inappropriate or has the potential to hurt your business reputation. You may even want content screened in advance by a team of administrators before publication.

Limit Social Media Accounts

As a small company, you may want to limit your accounts to those that offer the greatest potential for your business needs. If your company deals primarily with other companies, LinkedIn may provide the professional audience you need. If you offer products or services directly to consumers, Pinterest or Facebook may better suit your purpose. There’s nothing wrong with creating a social media strategy to maximize the use of your accounts.

By maintaining greater control over your company’s social media accounts, you can ensure they are used to your advantage in promoting and expanding your business. At the same time, you reduce the risks of having negative content damage your business and ruin its reputation.

Small Businesses Generate More Employment than Big Corporations in the US

Small businesses are said to be the backbone of the US economy. A small business is broadly defined as a company that has 500 or less employees. The business can cater to any industry – IT, healthcare, legal or any other. According to the United States Small Business Association Office of Advocacy, there are about 28 million small businesses in the US and 70% of them are operated and owned by a single person. Small businesses provide a continuous momentum to the US economy.

Business Owners Need to Network and Multitask

Owners of a small business often need to wear multiple hats. Though any business with 500 or less employees can technically be considered as a small business, there are companies that operate with 5 or 10 employees. The owner of a small business does not have the luxury of time. In this age of multi-tasking and networking they just cannot afford to concentrate on one job at a time. Moreover, they also cannot compromise their need of networking. To keep their business up and running they have to network.

A Virtual Phone is More Than a Mobile Communicative Device

A virtual phone with a toll free phone number is one of the must-haves for the success of a small business. A phone system of this kind with a toll free number caters to an entrepreneur’s need for both networking and multi-tasking.  It allows an entrepreneur to be in touch with customers and prospects all the time. In other words, a virtual phone system works as more than a mobile communicative device. It functions almost like a virtual office with capabilities including voicemail, faxing and others.

A Toll Free Number Helps in Building an Image

A toll free number can help a business in building a professional and credible image. It influences the branding of a business, the marketing activities and finally the sales. A vanity toll free number makes a telephone number easily memorable thereby enhancing chances of people remembering and dialing the number whenever they have a need.  A toll free number also offers free calling and can be used like a local number across the US and Canada. Using this number in conjunction with a virtual phone further strengthens the professional image of a business.

Virtual Phone and Toll Free Number Helps Small Business Grow

A virtual phone allows an entrepreneur to screen a call and answer it. If you think the call is not important you can simply forward the call to the voicemail box. Callers who are not able to reach you directly can also leave a message in the voicemail box.  A notification for every voice message is properly sent thereby minimizing the risk of unattended calls or messages. A virtual phone can also be used for faxing.

A virtual phone with a toll free number and a small business is an ideal pair. It’s a great tool that any small business should take advantage of.

1 800 Numbers for Mobile Entrepreneurs

Many of us, especially those who do not need to travel a lot for business, are jealous of mobile entrepreneurs. We often see these mobile professionals as globe-trotters – always moving from one city to the other. But traveling for business might not always be pleasant. You need to have access to certain tools to make exchange of information easy. 1 800 numbers is one such tool. With business traveling becoming more common for small business owners and new entrepreneurs, the need for these numbers are felt more than ever before.

1 800 numbers keep entrepreneurs connected. Without this number, a business travel can be frustrating and difficult.  Thanks to technological advancements, help is available to make business travel better. A toll free number is indispensable for building a healthy communication system and is the life line for every small entrepreneur and business owner.

Contact Colleagues for Free

1 800 numbers  do not charge the caller. Rather the recipient is charged for every call he receives using his toll free number. This is actually a great help for mobile entrepreneurs. Whenever he is on a business travel and is out of office, he has the flexibility to contact his colleagues and employees for free. A toll free number can be used like a local number across US and Canada.

Connected to Customers Always

When used in conjunction with a virtual phone system, a toll free number can be the perfect tool that a small business and its owner can use for their best interest. Using it with a virtual phone allows them access to features including voicemail and virtual fax. While traveling, it might not be possible for you to answer calls all the time.  The voicemail box removes the risk of missing important customer calls and hence business. Callers can leave messages for you in your voicemail box if you are not able to answer their call. You can be notified of every voice message through email or text message to your cell phone.

Helps to Answer Important Calls

Using 1 800 numbers with a virtual telephone also helps an entrepreneur to use auto attendant. No matter if you are at the office or traveling, all your callers will be professionally greeted and will be directed to you. You also have the option of forwarding a call to more than one phone number. You can also screen a call and answer it if you think it’s important or can divert it to your voicemail box. Call screening is important especially when you are travelling or on a business tour and do not have the luxury to answer calls all the time. It helps you answer important calls without missing those that are not that important.