Finding customers to sell to is at the heart of owning a thriving business. Even better is the ability to retain your customers thus ensuring that you can enjoy repeat business.

Today’s entrepreneur is privileged to have access to more business-enabling assets, including information, resources, tools and skillsets, as compared to any other era in the long history of entrepreneurship. While it is now much easier to…(Read the entire post here)

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Aspiring entrepreneurs can at least take heart in the fact that not all of the available stats about business failure are credible. One of the foremost of these invalid stats is attributed to a study done by Bloomberg and which declares that 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months. The stat has been widely referenced including here. It’s sort of reassuring that this particular study is non-existent.

According to the SBA approximately 50% of new businesses survive for 5+ years while about one-third survive for 10+ years. There is however sufficient reason to question this statistic as well and this has to do with how the reason for failure is defined. Indeed, businesses close down for a variety of reasons, apart from failure. The SBA’s stat is therefore inaccurate.

This position is supported by a University of Tennessee 2013 study which showed that only 25% of businesses failed in Year 1 while just 36% failed in Year 2. An alternative independent study estimates the number of closures at 3% to 25%.

I digress though. This post isn’t about business failure stats but rather the reasons why new businesses fail.

Hopefully you are now more upbeat about launching your business venture. Don’t let your optimism cloud prudence though. Here are some reasons why your startup could make the annual damned 25% list:

Business failure is a harsh reality...

Business failure is a harsh reality…

1. Your motivations for entrepreneurship are misguided

To succeed in an entrepreneurial career you have to be pragmatic right from the get-go. In addition to having a passion for what you intend to do, your reasons for starting a business should be based on a practical foundation. Your startup must be focused on providing a practical solution for an identified need in the market.

If your reasons for starting a business are to make more money, escape the 9-to-5 lifestyle and be answerable to yourself only, etc, you clearly need to rethink things. These are the perks of a successful entrepreneurial lifestyle and they don’t come easy. In entrepreneurship things typically get worse before they get better.

Giving customers a unique value proposition is the sure way to make your business stand out

2. Lack of a unique value proposition and innovativeness 

Deciding to offer a product/service that virtually everyone else is providing and doing this in the exact same way is really business suicide. Naturally you will have to contend with poor revenues month after month. The probability of making real progress is virtually zero – how can this happen when you are barely able to make enough?

Startup clones or copycat businesses in a couple of industries have been failing remarkably. There are however several suggestions for how to make this business model work for you.

Many businesses offer the same products/services but the most successful among them are the ones that do this in a unique way. Think about your business – what can you do to set it apart from the rest? Once you find the answer make sure that this uniqueness is well communicated to the target market.

Ignoring customers feedback is the one-way street to business oblivion...

Ignoring customers feedback is the one-way street to business oblivion…

3. Ignoring customers feedback

One adage that you must never forget as a business owner is that the customer is always right. The reason is simple – without customers your business is useless. Engaging with your customers therefore will give you a firsthand opportunity to learn about those things they feel will make their buying experience better.

Customers feedback, whether offline or online, will give you hints about what to improve on with regards to your product/service, business practices, pricing, etc. Ignore feedback at your peril – when customers decide to ignore you back the failure list could be where you are headed.

Business success depends on how well an entrepreneur handles the managerial role...

Business success depends on how well an entrepreneur handles the managerial role…

4. Incompetent management

Being the owner of a new small business often means that you are in charge of just about every aspect of running the enterprise. You are therefore supposed to handle or oversee the critical roles of production, sales, purchasing, finance, marketing, customer relations, hiring and managing staff, etc. Don’t forget that you are the custodian of the company’s mission and vision – in charge of providing direction and strategically steering the company forward.

The characteristic volatility of the workplace and marketplace ensures that no two days are the same. To be successful as a manager therefore you must learn how to be proactive and to stay on top of things. Indecision, neglect, lethargy and other qualities of this ilk are the hallmarks of a poor and dysfunctional leader.

Before launching your startup take time to accumulate enough money to run the business until it becomes stable

5. Insufficient capital and poor cash flow

One very significant reason why many startups fail is the lack of sufficient funding. Before launching a business you must ensure that you have enough funds to cater for startup costs and to support operations until the venture becomes self-supporting.

Clearly one needs to be realistic. Businesses do take some time to get going. Having enough funds to cater for operational expenses for a year or two is advisable in order to give the business ample opportunity to establish itself in the market.

Having good cash flow is also of utmost importance. Only this way can your startup pay for the things that keep it running including rent, stock, salaries and other operating expenses. Here are tips for boosting cash flow.

Finances are the lifeblood of your business; you must be accountable for them

6. Financial mismanagement

Failing to properly account for business money is a sure path to failure. From a financial perspective, effectively running a business means that you’ve got a grip on cash flow, expenses, taxes, employee salaries and benefits, etc.

Many business owners opt to delegate this aspect of running a business to accountants or bookkeepers out of sheer reluctance to learn the basics of money management.

Opt to not be ignorant. At the very least you should be able to understand simple financial documentation including a balance sheet, P&L statement account and a cash flow statement.

An unsuitable location does your business a major disservice

Are you sure that your business’ location can’t be better?

7. Poor location

Even the best funded and managed startup will find it difficult to survive and thrive if the location is wanting. Remember the old adage “location is everything”?

Consider the spot where you intend to open shop. Is it easily accessible for your target customers and suppliers? Is it secure? Are all the necessary amenities provided? Is the local community receptive or hostile to new businesses? Is the cost running the business from there manageable? Would it be wiser to relocate to a cheaper neighborhood?

Adaptability is all about offering useful solutions in order to remain relevant

8. Failure to adapt to market changes

The marketplace is typically dynamic – never static. Your initial business model may be working wonderfully for now but moving forward you’ll need to adapt to the changes in the marketplace in order to remain relevant.

Many a business owner has opted to adamantly maintain status quo in the face of changing times only to make a belated realization that in the business world it is “adapt or die”.

Your aim should be to make your product recognizable…market it effectively

9. Ineffective marketing

It’s no good to have a superb product or service if no one knows about it. If they don’t know about it they won’t buy it and if they don’t buy it you’ll be out of business. Marketing is therefore imperative for business success.

Marketing doesn’t have to be all complicated and expensive. Depending on what you are offering you definitely have several cost-effective options to consider starting with word-of-mouth which is absolutely free. How about using social media to spread the word even further?

Be prudent about expansion. Ask yourself if the growth is sustainable…

10. Overambitious expansion

Upon achieving early business success many entrepreneurs erroneously embark on an expansion spree without adequately thinking about whether the move could be premature. The reasons for success vary and could indeed be temporal.

For this reason, steady business growth is most advisable. Expansion efforts should be based on well observed and deliberated business realities as well as marketplace trends and opportunities. Steady growth will allow you ample time to secure the required systems and people that will give the new addition to your business a fair shot at success.

Hiring a dysfunctional team is catastrophic for business sucess

Hiring a dysfunctional team is catastrophic for business success

11. Hiring the wrong team

Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that nothing quite beats having a good team. Your staff should be individuals who are equally motivated to succeed and see the business grow and go places.

It is therefore important for you to hire people who can talk and walk the part. Getting such people won’t be easy but once you find them make sure that they have a good reason to stay.

You still think it’s possible to get away with hiring mediocre staff? This infographic should motivate you to think again, hard.

Click To Enlarge

Consequences of Hiring the Wrong Employee & Tips for Making a Better Hire

Via AkkenCloud

12. Lack of a website or any online presence

The number of people with Internet access globally is at an all-time high and continues to rise by the day. As such, conventional methods of conducting business searches are being tossed aside in favor of online convenience.

The lack of an online presence is therefore counter-effective for a modern-day business. Even though your business doesn’t sell goods/services online it is of utmost importance that people know about its existence. The site must of course be presentable enough so as not to put off potential customers.

It's of the essence to ensure that your small business has an online presence

It’s of the essence to ensure that your small business has an online presence

The least you should do in case you don’t have a website is become part of the social media conversation. Starting a company Twitter or Facebook account is a more than sufficient way to guarantee your business’ visibility and relevance.

It’s likewise for small business owners. They have to fend off the competition until they secure the prize…their customers’ loyalty

13. Underestimating the competition

For a new business, gaining customer loyalty is quite akin to wooing a beautiful lady – the loyalty has to be earned, and the suitors are plentiful. As such, you cannot afford to take your customers for granted assuming that they’ll always come back for more.

Remember that your competition is eyeing the same target market; up the game best and the customers will come in droves, remain mediocre and stare failure in the face.

Why risk burnout and the failure of your business when all you have to do is ask for a little help?

Why risk burnout and the failure of your business when all you have to do is ask for a little help?

14. The belief that you can do it all

However high your motivation and energy levels are it will be foolhardy for you to believe that you can alone deliver success for your business. It’s prudent therefore to seek advice from persons with longer and better experience about how best various aspects of business operations can be handled. Delegating tasks to capable staff is equally vital.

However difficult running your business can get you can’t afford to lose sight of your objectives

15. Unwillingness to take responsibility

As the business owner you must be willing to admit and own your mistakes without exception. Apportioning blame to others or to circumstances will only briefly soothe the ego but the realities of the situation will still need to be addressed. Running a small business successfully is about the ability to remain objective and goals-oriented.

 

Hope springs eternal though. Things may be really grim for your business venture right now but hopefully it isn’t too late for you to turn things around. It’s not going to be easy but if you are committed to the cause your entrepreneurial dream need not be added to the “crashed and burnt” list. Here are some tips for how you can turn around the fortunes of your business for the better.

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The United States Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy asserts that small businesses make up 99.7% of all U.S. firms. It’s therefore safe to say that small businesses are the economy’s driving force.

Starting a small business is basically about setting up shop, finding clients and earning money. This is true for whatever form of business you plan to start.

Several more traits are also used to define small businesses as follows:

The costs of setting up a small business vary but are on average quite low

1. Low startup costs

Depending on the specific type of small business, startup costs are typically quite low.

A retailing business doesn’t have to start big; simply buying the initial inventory and renting a suitable space will do. A consultancy service doesn’t have to start in a plush office with a flashy address; starting out in your home office where the overhead costs are minimal is certainly prudent.

This article will give you a glimpse of the cost required for startups in different industries.

Majority of small businesses have 10 or less employees

2. Just a few employees

It’s typical of a small business to have a single worker – the owner. For this reason these businesses are commonly referred to as “one-man-shows”.

In fact, according to this 2004 SBA survey, 59% of startups had zero employees. 91% of all employer firms were startups with 10 or fewer employees and these were responsible for 61% of employment.

Nevertheless, as operations grow you may need to hire a number of employees. To keep your operating costs low you may, like many other small business owners, find it feasible to hire independent contractors or freelancers.

Small businesses find and serve target markets

3. Small market share and intense competition

A small business serves just a small portion of the market; what really matters is its target market. This is as compared to the significantly larger shares of the same market that corporations and larger businesses can control thanks to their bigger capacities.

Also, since there are a huge number of small businesses that need to compete for business opportunities in the same market, competition is rife. This typically results in product/service innovation and differentiation.

4. Limited budgets and funding

As compared to larger firms, small businesses typically operate with limited budgets. With their limited finances these enterprises have little or no choice but to keep their costs of doing business low. Cost-efficiency is the name of the game for small business owners.

Thanks to the internet small businesses now have a global reach

5. A single location

Most small businesses operate from a single location; not many of these businesses have branches or outlets in multiple cities or states.

Also, the rising prominence of home-based businesses means that a significant number of enterprises are now operating without formal business facilities. In the above survey 50% of small businesses were home-based.

To their credit, many small businesses now have a global reach thanks to running internet-based operations.

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During an economic downturn or recession like the one we experienced a few years ago our survival instincts urge us to cut down on spending. This in turn impacts negatively on business owners, some to a greater extent than others.

Those businesses that somehow keep thriving during such times can be described as being recession-proof.

While there are some obvious examples, looking at the situation from another perspective can help you to identify even more ideas for your startup.

Think about the new lifestyle changes that people adopt in order to cope with salary cuts, loss of employment, change of work status from full-time employee to independent contractor, and so on.

Generally, there are four traits that can help you to identify a recession-proof job or business idea.

  • A business that provides essential/critical products and services – Here you can think about healthcare provision, pharmaceuticals, education and tuition, plumbing services, etc.
  • A business that is clearly positioned – Here the focus is on businesses that have a strong competitive edge over others in their industry niche. Such competitive edges may be based on effective pricing, excellent customer service, superior expertise, etc.
  • A business that keeps abreast with technological and social trends – The most obvious of such businesses are the ones that provide IT solutions, communications and access services, etc.
  • Businesses that will always sell despite the economySuch businesses don’t really feel the pinch because what they offer is essential. Restaurants, liquor stores, debt collectors, and the like, fall into this category.

Now therefore, what are some of the recession-proof business ideas you can start making money with?

NB: For some of these business ideas selling online is now the way to go; here are some handy tips about how to go about doing this.

1. Internet marketing

Thanks to the internet, virtually every product and service you require is just several clicks away.

Thanks to the internet, virtually every product and service you require is just several clicks away.

Thanks to widespread and ever-increasing internet accessibility, more and more business opportunities suited for entrepreneurs and solopreneurs aka webpreneurs are being created.

Reading the profiles of some of the blogging industry’s most iconic names you might be surprised to know what these guys were doing before they became big.

Before getting started you’ll want to get acquainted with web traffic optimization. You can then proceed to earn money by doing what you love, say running a fashion advice blog or offering content writing services.

There are indeed a slew of jobs available online for freelance specialists and you can make good money offering some of these in-demand services.

2. Food and beverages

People will always appreciate the taste of a fine meal regardless of the times.

People will always appreciate the taste of a fine meal regardless of the times.

Not surprisingly, people kept eating and drink during the recession years…hey, was there an option?

Nevertheless, your decision to start an eatery must be carefully conceived and implemented. After all, just like in any other business, there are plenty of risks to consider.

Making your restaurant’s theme a fit for today’s healthy lifestyles may be a good place to start. A restaurant that promotes healthy eating can do well in recession times because people will identify with the need to reduce consumption, stay healthy, and cut down on unimportant purchases. The “stay healthy” theme will also work well for a restaurant that serves organic food products or another that targets vegetarians.

If you don’t fancy running a restaurant then you might as well consider starting a food catering business.

3. Selling cosmetics

Ladies have and will always want to look beautiful.

Ladies will always want to look amazing.

Regardless of the poor state of the economy you can bet that every lady will always try her best to look gorgeous. A man will grumble and mumble about how unnecessary spending on beauty products is but the mere memory of how beautiful the woman he loves looked during an unforgettable date will be enough reason to make his thin wallet a tad poorer.

The impressive sales volumes of nail polish and mascara in recession-hit 2009 is an apt example of a cosmetic business’ viability.

4. Providing laundry services

Our need for clean clothes is really second nature.

Our need for clean clothes is really second nature.

To avoid looking shabby and unkempt people will always want to wear clean clothes. This is why starting a laundry business is an idea that makes so much sense and cents.

It’s hardly complicated.

You just need washing machines, dryers, pressing irons, detergent, a good team and effective word-of-mouth advertising.

5. Candy store business

M&Ms were first sold in 1941...

M&Ms were first sold in 1941…

Thanks to the Great Depression of the 1930s we now enjoy tasty treats like Snickers and Three Musketeers.

Somehow, our liking for candy surges during economic recessions. Not surprisingly, Nestle and Cadbury reported 11% and 30% profit rises respectively in 2008.

6. Alternative healthcare services

There are plenty of business opportunities in the health sector - even for entrepreneurs who don't have a medical background.

There are plenty of business opportunities in the health sector – even for entrepreneurs who don’t have a medical background.

People interested in the healthcare business but lacking the requisite credentials to offer primary healthcare services, say opening a general medicine practice, can still make good money in alternative healthcare.

There are plenty of other options too. How about designing healthcare software, supplying medical equipment to practices, repairing and maintaining medical equipment, etc?

7. Provision of wedding services

A catalog of different wedding services jointly help to make such a day brilliant and memorable.

A catalog of different wedding services jointly help to make such a day brilliant and memorable.

However gloomy the times are, a nicely organized wedding will always help to ease people’s worries, albeit for several days.

The scope of business ideas in this niche is quite varied. You can think about becoming a wedding and honeymoon planner, offering wedding photography and video recording services, designing customized wedding invitation materials, designing bride and bridal party gowns, offering wedding catering services, etc.

8. Selling baby products

Perhaps it needs a fresh diaper or medical attention...new babies bring new business.

Perhaps it needs a fresh diaper or medical attention…new babies bring new business.

Babies will always be born; baby products will therefore always be in demand.

Whether you decide to sell baby wear, toys and gear, baby products like oils and powders, etc, the potential for profitability will always exist.

You can also opt to offer allied services like babysitting (and daycare services later on).

9. Running a funeral parlor or offering funeral-related services

The entire process of laying the dead to rest ensures that several entrepreneurs will get paid.

The entire process of laying the dead to rest ensures that several entrepreneurs will get paid.

Successful undertakers are a unique breed. For them special days like holidays and anniversaries don’t really exist.

Why, you ask.

It’s quite simple.

Everyday people are always dealing with the demise of family members and friends.

As the proprietor of a funeral parlor you will need to respond to the requirements of bereaved people day and night and get the job done; all this while maintaining the desired quality of service and empathy.

Providing this service definitely makes for a viable idea – the industry was worth $15.9 billion in 2013.

Apart from being an undertaker, there’s also money to be made in funeral-associated jobs including providing cremation services, making caskets and coffins, designing epitaphic tombstones, etc.

10. Selling beer, wine and liquor

During happy or depressing times you can always expect bars and pubs to enjoy good business.

During happy or depressing times you can always expect bars and pubs to enjoy good business.

Don’t expect people to stop drinking when times get tough. They’ll simply ignore the pricier options and guzzle down the affordable stuff.

During the recession some interesting observations were made in support of this stance. In 2009 bar revenues and restaurant sales of wine by the bottle dipped drastically. Nevertheless, wholesalers of beer, wine and liquor enjoyed good business. Restaurants also saw a rise in sales of wine by the glass.

11. Property staging

Can you make a house look worth its price tag? Real estate agents and house sellers will readily pay for your expertise.

Can you make a house look worth its price tag? Real estate agents and house sellers will readily pay for your expertise.

The work of a property stager is to ensure that a house which is to be sold off looks the part. Basically, you, as a property stager, need to advice the seller on how best the things in the property must be arranged and presented in order to maximize the likelihood of making a good sale.

For starters, you need to have a keen sense for style, décor and detail. Next, you need to make a name for yourself. Making acquaintances with real estate agents and independent sellers is a good place to start.

This business can really thrive in recession times. We can all recall the many property sales that characterized the aftermath of the property market’s fluctuation.

12. Virtual assistance

Reputable virtual assistants are almost always in demand all year round.

Reputable virtual assistants are almost always in demand all year round.

Becoming a virtual assistant is yet another viable business idea that has resulted from increased internet access. This will be a worthwhile option for you if competent administration and organizational acumen are your forte.

Opportunities abound for such persons considering that many companies, in a bid to cut down on operational costs, are retrenching conventional assistants and instead outsourcing the position to qualified persons around the world.

If you are one of those who have been retrenched then making the switch shouldn’t be too hard. After working with several clients you may even think of training and then hiring others with the aim of expanding your business.

13. Tutoring and coaching

Skills are passed down successive generations hence the need for tutors and coaches services.

Skills are passed down successive generations hence the need for tutors and coaches services.

This is especially applicable for people who excel at teaching or instructing others, be it in academia or other skills e.g. playing the piano. If you also can coach/train players in soccer, tennis, baseball, or indeed any other sport, there is money to be made by turning your skills into a business.

Despite poor economic times learning, music, acting and sports always thrive.

14. Pet care services

Pet lovers don't hesitate to spend good money on excellent pet care service providers.

Pet lovers don’t hesitate to spend good money on excellent pet care service providers.

The love that people have for their pets doesn’t wane even when the times get tough. The reason is simple – for some people, having a pet helps to soothe them through hard times.

Accordingly, pet care service providers enjoyed soaring business during the recession years. Additionally, the low cost of business setup was a boon for service providers, as was the large target market – estimated at at 65% of Americans.

Veterinary service providers also enjoy good business from pet owners. Industry estimates for 2014 put the figures at $15.3 billion.

15. Tax accounting

Expert accounting services are especially sought after during lean times because business owners are keener to save more money.

Expert accounting services are especially sought after during lean times because business owners are keener to save more money.

You’d be wrong to assume that during recession business owners’ start doing their own bookkeeping in an attempt to lower operational costs.

It was business as usual for tax accountants during the recent economic slump. The reason is quite interesting – business owners were keen to get maximum refunds while avoiding any errors that would prove costly.

16. Thrift stores

Flea markets and thrift stores will always exist because we all love a good bargain.

Flea markets and thrift stores will always exist because we all love a good bargain.

People will carry on shopping during an economic recession but instead of doing it at elite shops like Nordstrom they will opt for thrift stores.

The numbers tell the story. In 2008 just 14% of Americans shopped at thrift stores on a regular basis; this rose to 20% in 2012. The country’s premier thrift store company, Goodwill, reported a 10% rise in sales volumes annually between 2007 and 2011.

So, do you have a passion for selling secondhand goods at affordable prices? Why not set up now? You may be just in time for the next recession – they do say we expect one roughly every six years or ten years, right?

17. Security services

The need to feel safe and secure always necessitates the hiring of security personnel.

The need to feel safe and secure always necessitates the hiring of security personnel.

When times get tough many people become desperate and frustrated. Eager to make quick bucks, many people resort to various forms of crime. Burglary is especially prevalent in these circumstances; with the exception of unexpected benefits.

In response to the threats posed by perpetrators of the vice, homeowners and proprietors of valuable establishments, commercial or otherwise, hire the services of security firms. Of course, these services are always in demand even when the economy is thriving.

18. Garbage and/or waste collection

Without garbage collection services our homes, offices and streets would be a mess.

Without garbage collection services our homes, offices and streets would be a mess.

Keeping your house free of garbage and waste remains a priority every day of the year.

This is therefore a business idea you can implement – if you don’t mind the dirt, variety of unpleasant aromas, and the typical low regard many people have for this job. No worry, no one will look down on a garbage collection firm successful CEO.

19. The sale of contraceptives

To enjoy safe sex people will always need pills and condoms...

To enjoy safe sex people will always need pills and condoms…

Having sex is a natural urge that must be fulfilled.

Procreation is not always the agenda though. For this reason people will always purchase contraceptives, be they couples, young adults or teenagers.

As the owner of such a business an economic recession will be the least of your worries.

20. Repair services provision

The constant need for repair services at home, in the office, etc, means that handymen will always be in demand.

The constant need for repair services at home, in the office, etc, means that handymen will always be in demand.

Whatever the economy looks like there will always be business opportunities for repair experts.

However much you hold off on having your broken window panes replaced, your leaking roof re-tiled, your car’s gearbox replaced, or your blocked pipes and/or sinks unclogged, you’ll eventually have to pay someone to make things right.

If you have the training, skills and equipment required for offering repair services in or more niches you might as well set up shop now. Using word-of-mouth you should soon get a few clients; make a good reputation by offering top-notch services and then keep growing.

In conclusion:

There are lots of other recession-proof ideas. How about some suggestions from you?

Every role that an entrepreneur needs to play requires proactive thinking. Do you have what it takes?

Every role that an entrepreneur needs to play requires proactive thinking. Do you have what it takes?

You’ve now launched your own business.

A long-cherished dream has finally seen the light of day.

Deep within you truly desire to succeed.

You’ve read about what legendary entrepreneurs have and are doing to ensure that they are always at the top.

You know that being an entrepreneur means you are responsible for making your vision of success a reality.

You also understand that this responsibility will require you to play a number of roles. Well, here are some of the different hats you’ll have to wear.

You certainly don’t need to be good at all these roles to be a successful entrepreneur. What you aren’t good at – at the onset – can always be improved upon with time.

 

1. Head of new customer acquisition

You’ll need clients for your products/services.

Unfortunately, they won’t start coming to your premises automatically; you’ll need to attract and then convince them to start spending their money on what you have to offer.

At this point in time you already know who your ideal target customers are. You just need to find the best message that will strike a chord with them.

Reaching out to your target customers appropriately will bring them in droves...

Reaching out to your target customers appropriately will bring them in droves…

Marketing your business will be a continuous effort moving forward.

You’ll always need to create relevance for your business in order to keep drawing in new clients.

2. Customer experience and service architect

Once customers have started trickling in, it’s upon you to ensure that all their interactions with your business are top-notch.

Customers should be assured of satisfaction whatever their engagement with your business involves.

This is what superb customer experience is all about – and it starts right from your mission statement which you always have to live up to.

Top entrepreneurs understand that keeping their customers satisfied is absolutely vital.

Top entrepreneurs understand that keeping their customers satisfied is absolutely vital.

Your customer experience strategy will need to be complemented by exemplary customer service which involves all the things a business needs to do to make a customer feel valued and important.

3. Chief salesman

Making sales is the only way your business is going to earn revenue. Ideally, the healthier your sales volumes, the higher your revenues and profits will be.

Ensuring that your product/service gets out there and convincing people to spend money on it is an art that you must perfect. Even if you have a sales team it is clear that they will look up to you for inspiration and direction.

Simply put, if you lack passion for your product/service don’t expect the sales team to work miracles on the ground.

Self-explanatory.

Self-explanatory.

Selling is an aspect of business where your input on the front lines is really required Steve Jobs-style.

Interactions with your customers will reveal many pointers and ideas that you can take advantage of in order to make your sales effort more precise and focused.

4. Minding the business’ coffers

It’s quite ironic that for many entrepreneurs the sight of a healthy bottom line is what causes them to grin widest yet they are stubbornly hesitant to learn about how to prepare balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flow statements.

While finding and paying fine accountants and bookkeepers to handle these matters on your behalf is undeniably convenient, the truth of the matter is that entrepreneurs who are personally involved in their business’ financial matters are best placed to lead their ventures to long-term success.

Successful entrepreneurs are involved with the money right from the get go...

Successful entrepreneurs are involved with the money right from the get go…

Being in charge of the financials will enable you to among other things know your business’ health, be sure of its tax compliance, and be able to monitor trends such that you can plan ahead based on facts rather than assumptions.

5. Undisputed team leader

As the business owner you also have the distinction of being employee #1. This means that even if your business does not hire other people you’ll be responsible for leading yourself.

Being team leader means that you’ll have to espouse all the qualities of an efficient team and lead from the front.

There can be no other way for entrepreneurs to lead - it must be from the front

There can be no other way for entrepreneurs to lead – it must be from the front

Running a business successfully is no walk in the park – it requires dedication, commitment, zeal and focus from everyone involved. The team will eagerly play ball if they see you doing your part with vim and then some.

6. Head visionary and strategist

How big do you wish to grow your business?

Does your vision portend success?

To achieve mega growth you will need to have a solid strategy for the future.

Indeed the most successful entrepreneurs have all grown from the ground up because one eye is firmly fixed on the big picture.

Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture and strategize on how to get there...

Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture and strategize on how to get there…

As such, even as you are engaged in the day to day running of your nascent business’ operations, you should ensure that all the present effort is essentially about preparing the groundwork for future growth and success.

Long-term vision is imperative.

7. Head of creativity and innovation

Unless you are dealing with something quite unique that virtually nobody else can offer e.g. corks then constantly wearing your thinking cap is not an option.

Why?

You need to ensure that your business will always remain relevant and competitive.

New and relevant ideas will be key for your business'success...

New and relevant ideas will be key for your business’ success…

Businesses often reinvent themselves after their previous brilliant offerings become obsolete.

Reinvention is about progressively providing new offerings that can satisfy the needs of your customers.

Reinventing is actually an investment of time, money and brain cells. Done well, you’ll certainly reap handsomely moving forward.

8. Chief perceiver of opportunity

Your ability to utilize the entrepreneurial qualities of foresight, instinct and alertness will definitely contribute to your business success.

Given the dynamic nature of societal trends, new opportunities and possibilities are constantly being revealed. Only the entrepreneurial eye can identify these opportunities and only the entrepreneurial mind can come up with a blueprint of how to harness them profitably.

As an entrepreneur you need the ability to sense opportunity...

As an entrepreneur you need the ability to sense opportunity…

You therefore always need to keep an eye on trends. Specifically, you need to be aware of changing needs and requirements with the aim of providing innovative solutions.

9. Informed calculating risk-taker

This role is ideally connected to that on opportunity perception described in the previous point.

Entrepreneurial calculated risk-taking describes the willingness to perform the actions required to harness an identified business opportunity knowing full well that the actions could result in profit or loss.

...as well as the skill and capacity to make a profitable swoop

…as well as the skill and capacity to make a profitable swoop

As such, considering the unknowable nature of the result you expect, your actions in this regard will need to be based on informed assumptions.

It is for this reason that many successful entrepreneurs have on several occasions invested time and money in seemingly profitable opportunities only to have their fingers burnt. On most occasions though, these entrepreneurs’ achievements can justly be described as legendary.

10. Motivation guru

The rigors of running a business are such that you’ll always need steady hands to steer the vessel forward towards success. Even so, the exertion will regularly take a toll on you and the team hence the need for everyone to enjoy some down time for purposes of re-energizing.

Every team member needs to feel fully appreciated and involved in order to be optimally productive

Every team member needs to feel fully appreciated and involved in order to be optimally productive

Keeping the team well motivated is essential and there are many ways to do this besides paying competitive salaries. You can start by making the workplace atmosphere and culture truly conducive to productivity.

It is also vital to make the team part of your vision; you can really use some of the bright ideas and suggestions your team can offer. Rewarding effort and goal achievement is also imperative.

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Your customers and prospects should never have to wear this expression…

Consider the following facts and stats about customer service:

  • 80% of people who do not receive good service do not complain
  • 73% complain when things go badly wrong
  • A person who does complain tells nine people
  • 12-16% leave without registering a complaint after receiving poor service
  • 10-30% of customers leave after one complaint
  • >80% leave if they have experienced three or more mistakes
  • 5% increase in retention increases profits by 25-125%
  • Acquiring new customers can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers.

Looking at these pointers it is clear that whether you are running an online store or a brick-and-mortar outfit, customer satisfaction is at the heart of your business’ success.

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. ~ Kenneth B. Elliot

Providing stellar customer service is really not that hard. Once you get started you just need to maintain the habit. Knowing how necessary this is for your business’ success is definitely sufficient motivation to keep you on course.

Good service is good business. ~ Siebel Ad

The following customer service practices need to become synonymous with your business:

1. Easy accessibility

How easy is it for customers to contact you?

Being easily accessible is one of the small joys you should never deny your customers.

There’s really no joy in being the proverbial needle in a haystack, or do you have something to hide?

And who says that all calls are trouble? You could be ignoring a huge order.

Customers and prospects should easily be able to reach you via several channels of communication...

Customers and prospects should easily be able to reach you via several channels of communication…

Accordingly, ensure that your contact information is readily available.

Also, whatever the channel of communication is, don’t make customers wait too long to get a response from you; having to run after them after they become disgruntled won’t be much fun.

A 24 hour response time should be fine with most of your customers provided that you meet a 2-4 hours window.

You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. ~ Laurie McIntosh

2. Taking responsibility

As a small business owner you need to realize that you are your product or service.

Your employees, if any, need to realize that when dealing with customers they are the voice of the business. It should be clear that they need to stand behind the business’ products and services.

This applies regardless of whether the product/service you are offering has been created in-house or if you are distributing/wholesaling/retailing a product.

Fighting customers over faulty products you sold to them is a quick way to ruin your business' reputation

Fighting customers over faulty products you sold to them is a quick way to ruin your business’ reputation

Should anything be the matter with what you are selling, customers will expect you to take responsibility for the fault. After all, it is you that received their money. You obviously don’t expect them to take up the matter with the product’s manufacturer.

Shirking responsibility in such situations reeks of blatant disregard for customers and you will lose them in droves.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. ~ Bill Gates

3. Empowering your employees

This is absolutely vital.

You can be sure that customers will notice and appreciate this because of the practical benefits that accrue to them from you doing so. In fact, employees may prove to be inefficient backers of the business’ products/services if you haven’t empowered them to deal with customers’ problems.

A team that speaks with one voice gives customers and prospects the confidence to do business...

A team that speaks with one voice gives customers and prospects the confidence to do business…

You should therefore refrain from stifling your employees’ freedom of judgment and voice. This way you will spare customers the agony of having to hear excuses like “I’m not allowed to do that” or “Let me call the boss”. What happens if you are not around for the day?

You should understand that customers tend to be loyal to businesses where they are assured of good service come rain or shine. And who knows? Perhaps your employees are better at public relations than you are.

Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. ~ Donald Porter

4. Customer appreciation

It’s true that “Cash is king”. Nevertheless, it is customers who bring in the cash.

Your business therefore needs to show customers that their business is truly appreciated and there are many ways of doing this.

With time, as the relationship grows, appreciatory habits will become second nature.

An appreciated customer is a happy and loyal customer...

An appreciated customer is a happy and loyal customer…

Your business should treat its customers as individuals. Learn your customers’ names and refer to them as such. Gradually you will notice things about them that will feel okay to compliment. Remember that they are people too and they’ll be able to tell whether or not you are faking it.

Every great business is built on friendship. ~ JC Penney

A sincere relationship can be very rewarding – the possibilities are endless.

Perhaps your customer is the nurse you’ll need to take care of you in hospital or indeed the sleuth who’ll help to apprehend a “customer” who vanished without a trace after you trusted him with some merchandise.

Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. ~Ross Perot

5. Anticipating customers requirements

When customers purchase a product or service from your business you are basically helping them to solve a problem. Understanding this is crucial because if you can no longer solve that problem then your relevance to the customer will start to diminish.

Knowing what your customers need it's quite easy to think of alternative ways to keep them satisfied...

Knowing what your customers need it’s quite easy to think of alternative ways to keep them satisfied…

Accordingly, you should make efforts to know your customers much better.

In case what they usually buy from you isn’t available you should try to find suitable substitutes and convince them to give them a try. Perhaps they will like them.

Good customer service in this case will require you to be proactive.

Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet. ~ Kevin Stirtz

6. Selling at the right price

Issues of price will always be a source of concern for customers everywhere. Your customers will always be keen to know whether the prices you are charging them are fair or not.

Do your prices feel like extortion? Very soon no one will want to buy...

Do your prices feel like extortion? Very soon no one will want to buy…

You cannot afford to overcharge a product/service that customers can easily buy elsewhere. Even where you have the privilege of setting your own price, e.g. for freelance copywriting services, you need some sort of pricing strategy to help you decide what rates will be appropriate for different clients.

Try not to make customers feel that you are pushing them to spend more than they are prepared to pay. Of course, you don’t have to do business if the price isn’t right.

Make a customer, not a sale. ~ Katherine Barchetti

7. Maintaining high standards of quality

Your product/service should meet and exceed your customers’ expectations.

Customers’ assessment of your product’s quality based on its performance, conformance to standards, features, reliability and durability. You can expect that they will be a discontent lot if your product/service fails to live up to their expectations as set by you.

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This is how it should be. Period.

Errors do happen though and your customers will certainly understand the reason why you let them down if you are immediately forthright about the matter and you offer logical explanations and remedial measures.

On the other hand, ignoring their hue and cry is business suicide. You really don’t want customers to start treating your business with some sort of suspicion. Trying to correct this perception later down the line is most likely going to be an exercise in futility; too little too late.

Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you. ~ Mark Cuban

8. Making the customer experience as convenient as possible

Perhaps the best way to address this concern is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Imagine which of your business’ practices make customers feel like they are being forced to jump through hoops despite being the people bringing in the money.

Your aim should be to eliminate such; you need to make customers want to do business with you over and over.

The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary. ~ Sam Walton

Don't make customers and prospects do this - they'll very soon take their business elsewhere

Don’t make customers and prospects do this – they’ll very soon take their business elsewhere

Now imagine the new measures you can adopt to become more convenient.

Would you feel happier as a customer?

You would?

Implement these ideas immediately.

Most of your loyal customers will immediately commend you and spread the word.

Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. ~ Chip Bell

9. Offering sound information and advice

While customers know that they need to purchase a certain product/service, they are sometimes not too knowledgeable about their options, prices, terms, warranties, etc.

Sharing your product knowledge in this case will be a solid opportunity to tilt your customers’ willingness to bring you return business in your favor.

As a business owner you should realize that taking advantage of an uninformed customer can only benefit you once – and perhaps never if the customer is the suspicious type. No one appreciates being taken advantage of.

Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. ~ Damon Richards

Don't be stingy with information and advice - share it with your customers.

Don’t be stingy with information and advice – share it with your customers.

As such, take time to find out what your customers want. See to it that they get the very best you can offer and let them know why you think this is so. In case much better options are available then don’t hesitate to make suggestions.

The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing. ~ John Russell

10. As for online business owners…

A good number of online businesses have managed to set the customer satisfaction bar quite high. The onus is on you to do the same if you rely on e-commerce for your bread and butter. You don’t have to match what big players like Amazon are doing but you can certainly learn a few things from them.

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground. ~ Jerry Gregoire

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Ensure that customers and prospects need just a few clicks to find what they need in your online store

For your website to provide excellent customer service the following issues should be addressed:

  • Content – Always ensure that your site’s content is fresh and enticing, both for actual customers and prospects.
  • Search – Customers and prospects should have an easy time when trying to find a product/service they need on your website. You should therefore ensure that on-site searches return relevant results.
  • Navigation – If customers and prospects find it difficult and cumbersome to access various locations on your website then you risk losing them. Accordingly, ensure that your site’s menus are handy and that the entire shopping experience is well streamlined.
  • Mobile – Today most people are going online via the mobile platform. Your site can’t afford to ignore this fact. Ensure that it is soundly optimized for mobile devices.
  • Language – Basically, an online store is designed for international business. This being the case, your site’s contents should be translatable into at least one other major language. Your site should also offer global support.
  • Integration – Although this may be quite tricky, you should ensure that customers enjoy the same sort of top-notch experience whether they are buying online or offline.

In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away. ~ Doug Warner

Do millennials make up most of your customer base? Here’s an interesting infographic with lots of ideas about how you can deliver top-notch customer service for this generation of consumers:


customer service

Your choice of product packaging tells customers a lot about what they should expect from you...

Your choice of product packaging tells customers a lot about what they should expect from your brand…

However superb your product may be, its success to a large extent depends on your choice of packaging.

There’s no doubt that a product’s performance is more important than its packaging.

Nevertheless, the fact that prospective customers can only make an assessment of a product via its packaging means that you have no choice but to get inspired about this aspect of your product.

Effective product packaging should play the following roles:

  • Function – The packaging should be able to protect your product during transit and as it is displayed on store shelves
  • Attraction – The packaging should be able to entice potential buyers to choose, pick and buy your product from amongst all the options available on the shelves
  • Promotion and facilitating the decision to purchase – The packaging should effectively provide relevant information about your product and which may include source, ingredients used, directions for use, etc. This information is vital in helping potential customers to decide whether or not to buy.
  • Differentiation – Your product’s packaging should be adequately unique to enable customers to identify it easily

Adhering to the pointers below will give you success with product packaging:

1. Keeping it simple

Effective product packaging is all about making a potential buyer’s decision-making process as simple as possible.

Immediately customers reach the section where your product is displayed they should be able to easily identify it from amongst the rest.

There is nothing excessive about effective packaging

There is nothing excessive about effective packaging…

Simplicity is also vital in case it is a new product or you are launching in a new market.

Your product’s name, brand name, package and description should be easy for the eyes thus facilitating and encouraging potential customers to pick and buy.

2. Describing the product for what it is

In an attempt to boost sales you may be tempted to exaggerate the abilities of your product.

Don’t.

Simply state the facts and promise potential users attainable expectations based on your product testing results. If you have a good product you can be sure that sales volumes will gradually increase thanks to the positive feedback and reviews that satisfied users will offer.

Confidently state what your product offers; the consumers verdict will soon be out...

Confidently state what your product offers; the consumers’ verdict will soon be out…

Exaggeration, on the other hand, will ultimately hurt your product’s sales potential as you’ll have to deal with disappointed, dissatisfied and skeptical customers.

3. Being audience-specific

If your product is designed for a specific market audience you must ensure that its packaging plays the part. Just like the product, packaging cannot be universal.

This also applies for products that target the same core audience.

For example, different men prefer different cologne fragrances. As such, the packaging for the different colognes cannot be the same.

Audience-specific packaging helps to facilitate easy decision-making.

4. Standing out from the competition

Prior to launching your product you should scour the market in a bid to, among other reasons, find out what the competition has to offer.

Based on what you see you should be able to come up with a packaging design that will enable your product to stand out.

The packaging immediately tells you that this is a brand of chocolate may be worth trying...

The packaging immediately tells you that this brand of chocolate may be worth trying…

Your aim should be to create product packaging that is unique, a huge improvement on the competition’s effort, and relevant.

5. Using high quality materials

Product packaging is indeed a substantial aspect of product development; it does require a considerable chunk of money.

This notwithstanding, the need to use high quality packaging cannot be overemphasized.

Your product's packaging design needs to match your core audience's expectations...

Your product’s packaging design needs to match your core audience’s expectations…

Your product’s packaging needs to be good enough to make a strong first impression in the mind of a prospective buyer.

As such, you cannot afford to compromise on quality.

Get the best of what is available as per your budget.

6. Enhancing user convenience

This particularly applies for products whose packaging affects the manner in which they are used.

In this case the packaging design needs to be handy.

Knowing the contents, this product's packaging design is definitely handy...

Knowing the contents, this product’s packaging design is definitely handy…

For example, Harpic’s toilet cleaner is packaged in a suitably designed squeezable plastic bottle with a bent neck and a nozzle, two features that help to get the cleaner under the toilet bowl’s rim.

7. Factoring in future product varieties

After successfully launching the flagship product for your brand you might think of following up on this success by introducing several other product varieties. In most cases your marketing task will be easier if the new varieties will be similarly packaged.

The original Harpic toilet cleaner bottle is black in color. Subsequent varieties are similarly packaged but the bottles colors are different.

8. Ensuring the text’s legibility

All the text on your product’s packaging should be clearly legible.

A prospective buyer should rapidly be able to scan through your product’s descriptions provided on its front and back. This is crucial for decision-making especially if the product is new or use-specific.

The text definitely needs to be legible in this case...

The text definitely needs to be legible in this case…

Proper text legibility is enhanced by several factors including font type, size and color, and overall packaging color scheme.

Additionally, only the most important information should be printed on the front. Reserve the back for ancillary information.

9. Vetting multiple packaging designs

Before you settle on a particular design it is advisable to seek other people’s opinions.

The idea is to present different packaging design options to several objective persons for evaluation and letting them pinpoint the design they think will be most appropriate for your product.

You, of course need to brief them about what need the product aims to address and the section of the market you are targeting.

Chances are that their feedback will provide you with some insights that you had overlooked; perhaps the design you had in mind may after all not be as suitable as you may have thought.

10. Keeping up with the times – packaging redesign

What makes for a great packaging design now may not work when the next generation of your target market emerges. For this reason you need to spruce up your product’s packaging every once in a while.

This is real; top brands do it all the time. Just think of how many times Coca-Cola has changed the shape of its bottles.

The trick is to retain your product’s original charm but to package it for the present.

Some products' classic packaging charm always remains fashionable though...

Some products’ classic packaging charm always remains fashionable though…

The don’ts…

11. Targeting everyone instead of the target market

Borrowing from the old adage “You can’t be all things to all people”, you should realize that your product just cannot work for every other consumer.

This is true, even for universal products like table salt and drinking water.

Although this product's use is well understood, the target audience is unspecified...

Although this product’s use is well understood, the target audience is unspecified…

So, forget about universal packaging; go for what will work for your core audience.

In the same way that you have developed a product for this target market, come up with a fitting packaging design.

12. Using hard-to-open-and-use sort of packaging

If customers find it difficult to open your product’s packaging and/or find that using the product is inconvenient, chances are that they will explore other options the next time round.

As such, don’t go for a packaging design that will require users to learn specialist skills in order to use the product.

Opening and using your product should be quite easy...

Opening and using your product should be quite easy…

There are plenty of design options that you can employ to enhance convenience and prevent wrap rage e.g. perforated openings, flip caps, shrink-wrapping, ribbed bottles, etc.

13. Failing to freshen up your packaging

Very few products can retain their original packaging designs for eons and still sell well e.g. nails, sewing needles, etc.

Even so, manufacturers may regularly have to renew their logos, and so on.

Generally, updating your product’s packaging regularly will contribute to its success moving forward. A snazzy look is a selling look.

14. Assuming that words and terms mean the same thing everywhere

While your product’s name may sound amazing where you come from, the word/s may have a totally different meaning elsewhere.

This is a crucial consideration if you intend to sell your product to a target market that is spread across different tribes, nationalities, cultures and/or religions.

It is for this reason that certain products are sold under different brand names in different markets.

15. Failing to communicate your product’s unique attributes

It is foolhardy to assume that your product will do well even though its packaging bears only a scanty description of the contents.

What information will prospective customers use to make a buying decision?

This is a no-brainer.

16. Failing to provide different package sizes

For some products you just have to provide different package sizes.

Even for regularly used products like cooking oil and detergents, selling a single package size won’t do.

The realization that different types of consumers love and use your product is vital for success.

The realization that different types of consumers love and use your product is vital for success.

Customers make their purchasing decisions based on various factors including price, use frequency, shelf life, sell by date, personal lifestyle, and so on.

Ignoring such concerns won’t augur well for your product’s commercial success.

17. Omitting crucial product label details

All consumers, you included, have a habit of trying to find out all about the various products that they use regularly.

This will naturally start with a scrutiny of these products labels. The scrutiny is typically more intense after a product has been bought, say after the customer is back home after shopping.

A label-less product is a suspicious product. Consumers need details.

A label-less product is a suspicious product. Consumers need details.

Consumers will be more reassured if your product bears all the typical label information they are used to e.g. environmental concerns, product security, sell-by dates, etc.

If your product lacks any of these details it is likely to be treated with suspicion.

Infographic:

The influence of product packaging on consumers’ buying decisions

The Influence of Product Packaging in ConsumerYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan