All posts by TheDSEF

DSEF & CBBB: So Facebook Goes Public. So what?

DSEF & CBBB: So Facebook Goes Public. So what?

Today’s highlighted blog post from the Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB):

What will it mean if Facebook, currently a private company, goes public this May or mid-2013, or at some other date predicted by pundits?

For investors, plenty. Experts disagree as to whether or not the high-priced stock will be worth it. Some think obscene wealth will be within reach; others think that the company may burst like a dot-com bubble. Remember the rules. Don’t invest more than you can afford to lose, investigate before you invest, and do your homework. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is a good resource for learning about the stock market.

For Facebook users? The Internet verdict (from blogs and news articles) is almost unanimous: Less privacy. According to an article in the L.A. Times, Facebook will most likely “step up its efforts to harvest its users’ information as it tries to meet Wall Street expectations.

“The richest IPO in history is all based on the harvesting and sale of users’ information,” [says Jeffrey]Chester, [Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy]. “The IPO makes clear that Facebook intends to further friend the most powerful advertisers on the planet, help them better target the vast social network audience.”

(Speaking of preferences, did you know that your friends’ “likes” influence yours? The U.K. Guardian states: “…if I “like” Whole Foods on Facebook, you, as my friend, are presumed to harbour a preference for organic food as well – hence you are more likely to see a Whole Foods advertisement when you log on.” My best friend and I must be skewing their system—we are complete opposites.)

A Little Bit of Background
As the company prepares to become an even bigger deal in our marketplace, here are three things you should know about Facebook.

First, where does the money come from? An article in PC World quotes the company’s SEC filing as listing “digital cows, crops, and mafia hit jobs” as large revenue streams for the company. “Social game maker Zynga was responsible for about 12 percent of Facebook’s [some reports say $3.71 billion] revenue in 2011.” If you’ve played Farmville, you’ve supported Zynga.

Second, who are Facebook’s current shareholders? The Washington Post lists companies like DST Global, Accel Partners, Goldman Sachs, and T. Rowe Price along with company executives and its board of directors (including the Post’s CEO Don Graham). Another famous shareholder  is Erskine Bowles, a former White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton. Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg owns 56.9 percent of the voting shares.

Third, who are FB’s major advertisers? According to the Huffington Post, the top five include AT&T, www.match.com, and Google. This January there was a bit of an imbroglio over an alleged scam site, but that has since been removed.

Final Thoughts

“When Facebook goes public it will be under increased scrutiny, held more accountable, and required to be more transparent,” says the Guardian. “But, at the same time, the need to maximise returns means the use of personal data is likely to increase, only raising privacy concerns.”

In November the company settled with the Federal Trade Commission over alleged “unfair and deceptive” practices of making public information that users thought was private.

DSEF and Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) fosters honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information. 

How to Build a Unique Business

How to Build a Unique Business

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see a red bullseye? If you’re like most people, your answer is Target.  What is it about Starbucks that makes it different from other coffee establishments?  Perhaps it’s the taste of the coffee itself, the blended language of their drink sizes, or maybe even the first place to bring the culture of Italian espresso bars to the U.S.  These are exceptional examples of a million dollar idea, but they are also standards that we can look up to.  Sometimes it seems as if everything has been done before.  Even so, your business can be a unique endeavor if you can apply and incorporate your own individuality.

  • Focus on your personal strengths.  Even if your business is very similar to others, there is only one you.  Do some serious personal reflection to pinpoint what makes you different.  What can you bring to the table that no one else can?  For instance, you may be one of many direct sellers in your area working for the same type of company.  However, use your strengths to make yourself stand out from the rest.  A consultant with a background in theatre might do very well using his/her knowledge and expertise to create an entertaining and polished sales presentation unlike any that customers have seen before.  Your business is a reflection of who you are, so take advantage of that, and give it your personal flair.
  • Choose a micro-niche.  Instead of casting a wide net and trying to cater to a large market, narrow down your business and your target market.  The more narrow and specific you make it, the more recognized in your field you will become.  For example, a hair salon might focus on children’s hairdressing.  A micro-niche would be a salon that specializes in children’s hairstyles for the pageant circuit.  Now, a very specific target market can be reached, and the business can become a well-known one among those in that circle.
  • Make customer service a top priority.  Considering experiences you have had with other small businesses, what were their strong points?  Where were they lacking?  Use this knowledge to perfect your own customer relations.  Is there something you can offer that goes above and beyond what your competitors are doing?  Think about learning your customers’ names, something personal about them, and what they could get of your business that would somehow make their lives easier or more pleasant.  Modern technology has stolen much of our culture’s person-to-person interaction, so the better your customer service is, the more memorable you will be.
  • Use unusual interests to your advantage.  Whether you are starting a brand new business or looking to make an existing one more innovative, take a close look at your own interests.  Is there something unique or unusual about them?  For example, a forward-thinking individual named Jason Sadler developed an idea for wearing t-shirts to advertise companies wanting viral exposure.  His website has become its own community of people viewing and sharing his team’s content.

The key to building a unique business is identifying your own personal distinction.  What other ways do you bring originality to your business?  Share with us in the comments section below!

Socialize to Increase Business

Socialize to Increase Business

Socializing is the art of meeting and engaging people. Mastering socialization skills will not only help you in developing better relationships, but will also increase your business. Incorporating these characteristics into your everyday interactions will help you find and reach your target market.

  • Sincerity – Most people can see through a fake smile or greeting and are therefore turned off by it.  Be genuine in your interactions.  Your customers will know that you truly do care about satisfying their needs and giving them a positive experience.
  • Confidence – Project confidence not only in yourself, but also in the product/service you are offering and the manner in which you conduct your business. It reassures your customers that you are knowledgeable about your field and qualified to meet their needs.
  • Inquisitiveness – Getting people talking is all about asking the right questions.  It is of utmost importance that your customers feel that you have a sincere desire to learn more about them, but they won’t divulge anything without being asked.  Decide what you really should know about a customer to meet his or her needs and strike up conversations with people that relates to those topics. Tip:  Create a “script” to get you started that includes a few pre-planned questions, topics, or anecdotes to break the ice or fill a pause in a conversation.
  • Listening – There is a great difference between hearing what is being said and listening to it.  Listening requires you to process information; a person can easily tell if you are listening to him or her.  Show that you are listening by responding when prompted, making eye contact, and reading the body language of those to whom you are speaking.  Tip: Listening skills role-play makes a great activity for professional development.  Plan a few topics ahead of time, and take turns speaking about and listening to them for five minutes at a time.
  • Positive – People are turned off by negative people. Make sure your conversations stay positive. Even if the conversation turns critical, always maintain a positive view. The impression you will leave after the conversation is an optimistic and can do person. And that’s the kind of person people want to do business with.
  • Promote others – Make sure most of your conversations are about others. This shows people that not only are you caring, but also gives you an opportunity to highlight your ethics and values. Customers are loyal to businesses that they like and trust.

Places to socialize with your target market:

  • Community events and hot spots (local fundraisers, playgroups, sports games, farmers markets, dog parks)
  • Informal and formal parties (summer barbeques, beach outings, holiday cookie bakes, New Year’s celebrations)
  • Online through blogging, social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), your business website
  • Self-sponsored open house or grand opening event

However you choose to do so, socializing with your target market requires you to know exactly who they are.  Once you have identified them, put yourself in situations that allow for meaningful social interactions.  You will not only promote your business, but also learn more about how to satisfy your customers’ needs in the process.

How do you interact socially with your prospects? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: http://on.fb.me/KsIN6P Pass it on!

What Do Your Customers Want?

What Do Your Customers Want?

In any given industry, customers have a plethora of businesses from which to choose.  When they finally do make that choice, they are doing so because the business offers something they want.  As a small business owner or direct seller, you have the advantage of catering to many different types of customers, so finding out what they want is essential to building your business.  Read on for some suggestions.

1. High quality products/services – In these tough economic times, making the decision to spend any amount of hard-earned money is a serious one for lots of people.  Nobody wants to put money out for something that is poorly made or not performed correctly.  Make sure what you are offering your customer is something that you would feel good about purchasing yourself.

2. Friendliness – Odds are that you already enjoy interacting and socializing with your customers; this is a quality that it priceless in small business.  Customers want to interact with others who are friendly, courteous, considerate, and generally pleasant to be around.  Show them that you value them above any sale.

3. Convenience – It seems that people’s everyday lives are getting busier and busier.  Implement convenience measures into your business model that work for both you and your customers.  Can they find product information and complete orders on your website?  If there is a problem with a purchase, can they easily contact someone who will resolve the issue?  Make their shopping experience not only a positive one, but an easier one as well.

4. Knowledgeable staff – If you employ others who have regular customer contact, they should be thoroughly trained in all products/services offered and any purchasing policies that may be in place.  Many potential customers do their own research before they buy, but often the tipping point is in the answers that can be acquired from a real live person in the business.  For example, before purchasing a new camcorder to capture videos of the new baby, first-time parents might spend a good amount of time online researching the different features, prices, and reviews of various products.  However, they will usually decide exactly which one to buy and where to buy it based on how well the staff can answer their questions and help guide them in the right direction to suit their needs.

5. The right to change their minds – For whatever reason, sometimes a purchase just wasn’t the right one for that person.  When that happens, how do you react as a business owner?  Make it a core value of your business that customers should leave happy with how any problems have been handled.  Sometimes this even means going above and beyond the norm.  If a customer needs to return or exchange an item, find out what the concern is and help them select something that might be better suited to meeting a need.  Furthermore, the process of resolving any issues should be as painless as possible; when a customer sees you doing everything in your power to give them a good shopping experience, they will appreciate it, remember it, and continue to come back. 

It’s never possible to please everyone all the time, but by incorporating some basic elements of customer satisfaction into your business, you will be able to attract and retain customers.  What have you found to be the wants of your customers?  Please share with us in the comments below!

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: http://on.fb.me/KsIN6P Pass it on!

DSEF & FTC: Zappos Customer? Take These Steps to Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft.

DSEF & FTC: Zappos Customer? Take These Steps to Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft.

Today’s highlighted blog post from FTC/NCPW:

Zappos Customer? Take These Steps to Redue the Risk of Identity Theft.

January 18th, 2012 by Nicole via OnGuard Online.gov

In light of Zappos’ recent announcement that its database was hacked, OnGuardOnline.gov offers the following tips to help you reduce your risk of identity theft:

If you used your Zappos login ID or password for other accounts, change them. Identity thieves have been known to try IDs and passwords on many different websites to gain control of other accounts. When creating your new password, keep these tips in mind.

When you read your email, consider whether any of the messages could be a phishing scamHaving your stolen information could make it easier for crooks to send emails that appear to be from Zappos or another shopping site. If you get an email asking you to provide your credit card number or Social Security number – don’t.

Monitor your financial accounts and billing statements often. If you see charges you don’t recognize, get in touch with the fraud department of your bank or credit card company right away.

Be sure the information on your credit report is accurate. The law requires the three nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to give you a free copy of your credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to order your free copies. To find out how to correct errors, visit ftc.gov/freereports.

 

For 13 years, the DSEF has been proud to partner with the FTC and other organizations to offer a wide array of education events and resources that encourage consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions.

You’ll find a wealth of resources at www.ncpw.gov that will help you protect your privacy, manage your money, learn more about credit and debt, decipher advertising messages, and steer clear of fraud and scams.

Please take a moment to share the resources on this Web site with others in your communities and companies and, together, we’ll help build a nation of better-informed and educated consumers.

Charles. L. Orr
Executive Director

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Overcoming Underearning

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Overcoming Underearning

Today’s highlighted post from Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series (Click here):

Overcoming Underearning

Barbara Stanny will help us understand the characteristics of underearners. She will discuss the process of Overcoming Underearning in five steps. You won’t want to miss this thought provoking and life changing teleseminar.

Barbara Stanny, author of Prince Charming Isn’t Coming; Secrets of Six-Figure Women and Overcoming Underearning

Barbara Stanny is a woman on a mission. That mission is to motivate women to become financially empowered. Barbara grew up relying on her father (the ‘R’ of H&R Block), then her husband, to manage her money. But a devastating financial crisis became a personal wake-up call. Barbara’s journey to financial independence is inspiring. She is an author, popular keynote speaker and hosts Overcoming Underearning workshops.www.barbarastanny.com

DSEF proudly sponsors the free Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series hosted by Marcia Brixey, Founder and President of Money Wise Women Educational Services and author ofThe Money Therapist: A Woman’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life. The series covers topics related to business and finances and provides women the opportunity to learn from professional experts in a safe, comfortable environment.

To find out about upcoming teleseminars, visit http://www.moneywisewomengetsmart.com/

DSEF & CBBB: No Sale Prices? Will JC Penney Make it Work?

DSEF & CBBB: No Sale Prices? Will JC Penney Make it Work?

Today’s highlighted blog post from the Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB):

No Sale Prices? Will JC Penney Make it Work?

NO! NO! NO! I’m sure you’ve all seen the new JC Penney commercials where consumers are screaming NO! I don’t know about you, but I wanted to mute the TV immediately, but I wanted to also find out why they had all these people screaming no.

JC Penney has now released the concept behind the advertisements – here are two articles which explain, one from Business Week and one from the Wall Street Journal.

It will be interesting to see if this works – if consumers can give up their addiction to 50, 60 and 70% off sales and believe that prices could be lower without a sale. It sure would be nice, as a consumer, to shop on price points versus whether an item is 50% off.

BBB’s regularly review advertisements and comparison prices are so prevalent in today’s market.

Do you think it will work?

DSEF and Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) fosters honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information.

Event Ideas for Your Business

Event Ideas for Your Business

Events can be a powerful marketing tool. They provide something new, timely, and interesting you’re your customers and prospects to talk about. By building some excitement around your event, you build excitement about your business. Because of this, it is important for your small business to plan events that help with both marketing and customer service.  The following are some ideas to do so both in the real world and online.

  • Monthly clinics or seminars about a product or service you offer – These can give you a chance to highlight chosen products/services, bring in new clientele, and network with others in your community.  If done successfully, these types of regular events will also create buzz about your business and expose it to potential customers. 
  • Host an after-hours gathering for your employees and friends/families.  If you have a brick and mortar location, after-hours events can be effective marketing tools, but even if you are home-based, you can tweak this idea to work for your business.  Provide refreshments, music, and put together some special displays on which to focus the event.  Be sure to provide business cards, brochures, a free sample or giveaway, and other promotional materials to your guests. 
  • Host an Open House for your community. Consider holding an open house with city officials (mayor, congressmen/women) and local press in attendance.  Center the event around a theme or cause that is of interest to your community. 
  • Sponsor a holiday window design contest for art students at a local school.  Involving the young people in a community is a surefire way to spread word about your business.  You can even modify this idea to include technology students competing to design your next online ad or website graphic.  The announcement and celebration of the winner could be incorporated into the unveiling of the finished product.
  • Host an open-mike night for local business owners.  Most comedy clubs reserve their slowest nights of the week for amateur open-mike nights.  You can use this idea by hosting a forum for other local small business owners to exchange ideas for marketing and customer service.  Each participant could take a turn at the mike to offer input and take questions from the audience.
  • Do a Twitter Q&A about your industry or products.  This obviously requires you to have a moderate following on Twitter, but with the right promotion among your customers and preparation by you, it can be done fairly easily.  You can even offer a reward or incentive at the end for participants that can be tweeted about intermittently throughout the session. 
  • Host an online suggestion box via video chat headed by a panel of related industry experts.  Choose like-minded people in your field and/or fellow small business owners in your community with which you have no competition for your video chat using a program like Skype or iVideo.  Invite customers to “call in” with suggestions for what they think would improve their own shopping experience.

What events you have sponsored or attended which you have found to be informational and fun?  Tell us about them in the comments section below!

Improving Your Customer Engagement

Improving Your Customer Engagement

In this era of big box store dominance, it is more important than ever to help your customers feel that doing business with you is a worthwhile experience.  Improving your customer engagement builds customer loyalty, which in turn can help grow your business.  There are several ways to develop relationships with your clients so that your engagement with them results in a positive perception of you and your business.

  • Make yourself personally available to your customers.  As a small business owner or direct seller, you have an edge over big corporations in that you are able to personally interact with your customers.  Be sure to provide your customers with every possible way to reach you. Use it to your advantage by taking some time out to contact them once or twice a month.  Make a phone call, send out an email to 15-20 customers a month, connect over Facebook, or make time to have coffee with a few of them. Discover their passions, connect and start the conversation with topics important to them. Then, ask how satisfied they are with a recent purchase, ask if they need further assistance, and find out if there is some other way you can be of service to them.  Your customers will appreciate and remember the individualized attention, and won’t hesitate to mention you to their friends.
  • Use social media wisely.  If the thought of maintaining a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, a website, and a blog are overwhelming to you, then don’t try to do everything at once.  Start with Facebook. Be a positive and supportive voice online. Post fun, useful tips and be their cheerleader online. Treat them like a friend, and they’ll remember how you made them feel.
  • Ask and listen for feedback regularly.  Most people find it difficult to hear others point out what they’re doing wrong.  However, it is essential to seek out constructive criticism in business because not only will you be able to improve, but you also show your customers that you care about their satisfaction.  Eliciting feedback can be done in a variety of ways, including email and phone surveys, face-to-face conversation, and links placed on websites and blogs.  Be creative in your search for feedback; you can use reward and referrals systems, contests/giveaways, or even feedback parties.  Whatever you decide, make sure your customers know they are being heard by taking their suggestions to heart and thanking them for their input.
  • Invite your customers to participate in your business.  Many small businesses are encouraging participation by using “customer models” in ways that promote a product or service.  For example, a company that sells clothing or jewelry could ask customers to Twitpic a photo of themselves wearing a product, which would then be displayed in a special section of the company’s website.  By doing so, you are incorporating your business into your customers’ lives and making yourself more memorable than your competitors.  And to top it all off, you’re interacting with customers and promoting a product all at the same time.
  • Promote your values and build trust. Regularly talk about what’s important to you and the high standards you bring to your business. Put your high standards on your marketing materials and in your business practices. Your customers will begin to depend on your services/products and trust you as a person.

Customer engagement is all about having a genuine concern for your customers’ satisfaction.  With that idea as your guide, any or all of the above ideas can be tailored for your specific needs and allow you to improve your relationships with clients.

How have you engaged with your customers?  Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

 

Return On Investment (ROI): Evaluating Your Progress

Return On Investment (ROI): Evaluating Your Progress

What does ROI stand for? It means Return On Investment; the effort and time you put into something and the measurable return for your hard work.

Have you ever tried to shoot a basketball into a net? For most of us, the first shot is almost always a miss. But from that first shot we make many small and large adjustments. Things like aim more to the right, use more force, create more arc, push with your legs and eliminate distractions.

Imagine going through this kind of process for your business. What kind of success can you achieve based on accurate evaluation and ongoing improvement? Here are some ways to help you evaluate your progress and point you towards building a successful business.

  1. Establish a goal. Give it a time frame and completion date.
  2. Separate your goal into smaller tasks and give each task a completion time. However, be prepared that you may need to adjust your completion date depending on the circumstances.
  3. Decide on what you want to measure. Here are some more common areas that you may want to measure depending on your goal:
    • Number of prospects
    • Number of customers
    • Time needed for each process related to your business (where can you improve/streamline?)
    • Retail value of sales
    • Amount of expenses in relation to income produced
    • Changes in seasonal cycle
    • Impact of training on performance
    • Engagement
    • Performance level of team members
    • Online marketing results

4. Once you have this data, look for improvements, trends, patterns, negatives, positives and how you are measuring  up to your goal.
5. Decide on how often you need to evaluate your progress.
6. Create a report and make some conclusions on how to improve.

It’s important for any business, whether home-based, small or large, to evaluate their process of doing business. This process will give you insights to quickly improve, adjust, minimize risks and help you plan for the future.

How do you evaluate your ROI?  Share with us in the comments section below!