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How to Promote your Business without a PR Department

If you’re a business owner, prospective or current, you may be asking how you can promote your business without a PR department. Promoting your business is essential to gaining new customers and keeping old ones coming back. Business promotion is two-fold. The first part is to actively let consumers know about your business, services, and/or products. Don’t rely on word-of-mouth, as it’s not reliable. Anyway, people are more inclined to talk about how bad a service or product was for them than they are to rave about how great it was. The second part is to set a budget. It doesn’t have to be an expensive business operation either. Here are a few low-cost/free ideas for effective business promotion:

  • Promote in Communications – Sure, you may have business cards with the name, address, and phone number of your company, but this isn’t enough. Your emails should have an automatic signature featuring the same information, and any physical paper documents you send out should have a letterhead with this information.
  • Vehicle-Turned-Billboard – During your commute to and from work, or even while just enjoying the open road, how many vehicles advertising businesses do you see? Probably quite a few. There’s a reason they’re so popular – because it’s an effective advertising tool! Think about it, it’s the best way to get people to actually look at your company and the products/services you provide. Vehicle wraps are the way to go in the advertising world.
  • Blogging and Social Media – Does your company have active and engaging social media accounts across various platforms? What about a regularly updated blog on your website? One of the most effective advertising schemes in our newfangled digital world is to be active on social media and keep current with blog posts. You should aim to post at least a couple times a week on social media across various platforms. For blogs, you should upload at least one post a week. You can even promote a new blog post within a social media post, with a link to your site’s blog.

There are many more ways to promote your business for little-to-no money at all. Some strategies may work better than others, so research effective methods for your area of business. And don’t forget to come to The Enterprise Center at Salem State University on December 14 for a special presentation by PR Consultant, Robin Samora, beginning at 8:30 am.

The Steps to Take to Protect your Customers’ PII (Personally Identifiable Information)

If you have a company, chances are you keep a log of your customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) such as names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, etc… which is readily available to perform business functions. If such is the case, what steps do you take to protect all this sensitive data? It is important to keep this information private and secure, otherwise it could end up in the hands of people who wish to do harm, whether it be financial, cyber, or another form. Leaving this information unprotected and susceptible to thieves and/or hackers could mean the loss of loyal customers and their trust, and possibly even a lawsuit. Keeping sensitive information protected and out of the hands of would-be thieves not only protects you and your customers, but it’s a good business practice as well. Let’s take a look at some steps you can take to protect this information:

 

  • Inventory – The first step to protecting this information is to know what information you have and where it is located. In our current digital age, the majority of this information is probably on your computer. To this effect, inventory any and all electronics which store data. The next step in this process is to identify: who sends information, how your company receives and processes it, the kind of information you collect and where it is kept and, finally, who has access to it. You should focus most of your attention on personally identifiable information, as thieves will mostly use this to commit fraud and/or identity theft.
  • Minimize – The next step to take in protecting information is to really consider if your business needs to keep it in the first place. If not, make adjustments to the electronics which receive information and dispose of the information securely and properly. If, however, you find the need to keep this information, only keep it for as long as necessary.
  • Keeping it Secure – Once you determine the information you need to keep, be sure you have a proper procedure for doing so safely and securely. This can be done in one of the following four ways: physical security, electronic security, employee training, and the security protocols used by contractors and service providers. Whichever you choose, be sure to store the information properly and securely, keeping up-to-date with any modifications or updates on the best practices of storing information.
  • Proper Disposal – When you’ve decided to get rid of data, what do you do? How do you get rid of it? You can dispose of physical paper records by shredding, burning, or pulverizing. If you’re looking to dispose of electronics which contain sensitive client information, use software to clean out the hard drives and disks where this information is stored. Be sure all employees follow the same procedures.

 

  • Plan for the Future – Security breaches are a threat to any company and its clients. Implement an effective security plan to combat any security attack or breach. In the case of a compromised computer, the first step should be to disconnect it from the network. If a security incident does occur, investigate it immediately to determine and close up threats and vulnerabilities. Lastly, know whom to notify both inside and outside the company in the case of a security breach. This may include customers, law enforcement, and/or credit bureaus . Consult your attorney as well, as a number of states have laws and regulations in place to properly address data breaches.

Optimizing Communication with Customers

How does your company communicate with clients? Email, text, video conferencing, snail mail, or in-person contact are a few of the ways to do it. But are you doing it right and at the proper times? Business communication specialists recommend optimizing all the ways that you communicate so that clients have a positive experience regardless of the method. Let’s take a closer look at communicating with your consumers.

 

  • Email is a great communication tool because it allows the viewer to look at the communication when it is right for them, versus the need to reply to a phone call or instant message immediately. The urgency is lower with emails and they also allow for communication that can reach several parties, thus keeping everyone in the loop. One negative aspect of email is the vast amount of messages that most business people receive on a daily basis.
  • Phone – Sometimes when an issue needs close attention and immediate feedback, it is best to just pick up the phone. It allows for human contact and tells your client that you are handling the problem as you speak.
  • Newsletters – Whether done electronically or in paper form, these are still worthy of creating if you want to reach a
  • broad audience and hope to keep everyone on the same page or make announcements about new products or news.
  • Virtual Conferencing – Regardless of the platform you use, whether it is Google Hangout or Skype, seeing your client can take away all the guesswork of reading the mood and reception to an issue or problem. These conference calls are great with remote clients or clients in several locations.
  • Texting – If you need a quick answer that can be done in a few characters this may be the way to go, especially if you have just had contact with the client and you are already on the same page.

 

Regardless of which method you use to optimize communication with your clients, try to be aware of the positives and negatives of each method.

Communication: Best Business Practices

Communication is the life of any company whether it is communicating with employees or clients. Business leaders are expected to be able to effectively and clearly communicate with stakeholders, customers and employees. While many business leaders have found their own unique skill of communicating through years of practice, there are some common strategies that they all seem to master. Let’s take a look at the best practices of communicating skills. 

  • Be Clear – If an employee leaves a staff meeting not quite sure what you mean then you are not being clear enough in your speech. When speaking and giving directives to employees give clear and precise points. Many successful business leaders find that being repetitive about goals, work habits, and projects can help employees understand what they need to accomplish.
  • Be Approachable – As a business leader, you want clients, employees and business partners to feel that they can come to you for clarification about an issue without feeling like they are in trouble or bothering you. Be open and understand that clarification can only mean that they are trying to give you what you are asking for.
  • Use Many Communication Formats – While it may seem that everyone is on technology these days, communication should come in all different forms from: emails, inter-office communication, newsletters, phone calls and in-person visits. Different personalities respond better to varying forms of communication.
  • Be Present and Timely – When clients, employees or others need to talk with you, be present with them instead of trying to juggle multiple activities at once. In addition to being present, respond in a timely to questions or issues whether it is via email or in person.
  • Listen and Ask – One of the most important parts of communicating is not talking, but rather listening and asking questions to find out the heart of the matter.

Managing your Reputation Online

What is your company’s online reputation?  If you Google yourself or your brand name what is it that you find? Do you see positive comments on social sites or negative comments on review sites like: RipOffOnline, Yelp or the Better Business Bureau? Worse yet, is your knowledge limited of what customers, clients, vendors and employees are saying about you? Here is a quick guide to help you and your brand manage your online reputation.

In the past few years having an online presence has changed drastically. What used to be static sites and little user interaction has blossomed into daily interactions and comments on social sites and review sites. These types of sites are easily accessible to the public and can show up on a general search for your company, name or brand. No matter the size of your business, people are talking about you. If it is positive, then great. But if it is negative, you better have a way to take control of your reputation. Using Online Reputation Management Tools is probably the best way to go for busy business owners.

According to research and tutorials from Neil Patel at QuickSprout online, there are several steps to taking control of your online reputation. Most of them are fairly simple and will save you money in the long run.

Google Yourself

The first step is to Google yourself. Literally type in your name, brand or email address and see what comes up. There should be social media profiles, your web page and all the good stuff that you want potential customers to see about your and your brand. This is the information you can control.

Manage your Reviews – 

One great tool that’s free is called “Me on the Web” by Google. What you want to do is log into your Google account and your Google dashboard and then click on “Me on the Web.” The main features of this tool allows you to search for yourself and most importantly get alerts when your name is mentioned on the web. This includes your name, email, business name or brand. 

One of the most important things you want to be alerted to is if there are any negative mentions or reviews of you or your brand so you can respond quickly and professionally. There are so many review sites out there like Yelp, RipOffOnline, BBB and a host of others. You can choose to go to each, individually, to view what is being said about you, or you can get help with an online tool such as  Go Fish Digital or Mention.net. Sites such as these can search all the complaint sites at once or alert you by email if it has found your name mentioned. Being proactive can save you time and money. Companies who have not reacted quickly have seen consumers react in powerful ways such as taking their business elsewhere or even escalating negative reviews.  

 

Tips for First Time Managers

Are you about to be promoted to a leadership position in your company, or have you just gained employment in your first management position? First of all, congratulations! Being in charge of a team is exciting and requires juggling many things at once. If you have never been in a leadership position you may be a bit intimidated at the thought of being a leader and having team members look to you for answers and directions. There are, however,  a few things that you can do to make the transition to leader/manager a little easier. Here are a few tips from management experts and human resources professionals.

  • Know Your Stuff – In other words, know the business inside and out.  This may take time to study, research and ask tons of questions but the more you actually know the more you will be respected and seen as a source of information. This also goes for knowing what each member of your team does. Spend time with senior leaders as well as team members and ask questions. The more you know, the more you can help your team focus.
  • Delegate – A common problem with new leaders is that they tend to take on too much and get overwhelmed. Realize that you can not be everywhere at once  or do everything alone. Create an environment where you are actively relying on others to help carry projects. You will still be informed, but you need to let others lead so they can grow their abilities and perspective.
  • Create Priorities – As a team leader or manager, there will be lot on your plate.  Start by prioritizing what needs to be done and communicating that to your team.  The more they understand what is important to you the better they can work.
  • Find a Mentor – Whether it is senior leadership or someone in your field, find someone you can trust to be a sounding board in tough times. This person should be someone you are not in direct competition with but has a vested interest in seeing the company and you succeed.
  • Be a Role Model – As a leader, you are probably the inspiration and model for your team members. Your employees are going to look to you to gauge how they should act and how to persevere through workplace challenges. Be a role model and lead by example.  Allow for give and take and learning opportunities. Remember, you are still learning too.

 

BLS Provider CPR (1-day Initial or Renewal Course, multiple sessions available)

(Initial or Renewal Course based on the 2015 AHA Guidelines)
Basic Life Support (BLS) is the foundation for saving lives after cardiac arrest. This course teaches both single-rescuer and team basic life support skills for application in both in-facility and prehospital settings. This course is designed for healthcare professionals and other personnel who need to know how to perform CPR and other basic cardiovascular life support skills.

In addition, BLS training can be appropriate for first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, as well as for laypeople whose work brings them into contact with members of the public, such as school, fitness center, or hotel and restaurant employees.

Students must pass a written exam and skills test in order to qualify for a BLS Course Completion Card.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will receive a completion cad valid for 2 years.

Conveniently scheduled on Saturday, please choose the session that works best for you.

REGISTER NOW!

Providing Exceptional Customer Service

There are so many facets to your business to maintain and nurture on a daily basis that it is sometimes overwhelming to figure out where improvements should be made. One area that can always be improved upon is customer service – the life and heart of your business.

Standing out in today’s competitive marketplace means putting exceptional customer service at the top of your list of “things to do.” No matter how great your product is or how talented and experienced your staff is, one of the things that customers are most likely to remember is the direct interaction they have with your company. Whether that interaction is positive or negative is all up to you and your front line employees. Here are some tips to delivering exceptional customer service to each and everyone of your clients and consumers.

1. Training, Training and more Training– While this may seem boring or tedious, the better your employees know their job, the product and the customer, the better they can handle issues that arise. The more an employee knows about the general workings of the office, who does what and common issues that arise, the better they can not only handle customer questions and complaints, but they will almost be able to anticipate them before they happen. In addition, the more breadth and depth of knowledge the employee has about the products/services your company offers, the more likely they will be able to answer questions and concerns without having to pass it off to a more knowledgeable member of your team. There is nothing worse than getting passed off with a statement of, “Sorry I can’t find the answer for you!”

2. Customer Service Skills – Inevitably there will be that customer. You know the one. They are angry, passive aggressive or frustrated. Dealing with this type of personality may seem Herculean, but with a little finesse and practice it can be done – and even have a positive outcome. Acknowledging the issue, using active listening and reflecting back on their feelings is a great strategy to diffuse a volatile situation.For example say,

  • That must have been very frustrating.
  • I would be upset too.
  • So this is what I understand the issue to be, right?
  • Let’s clear this up.

A little attentiveness, clear communication and a whole heap of patience will do wonders.

3. Online Follow Through – With so many avenues for customers to interact with your company, it is a good idea to regularly check social media pages and online reviews for customers who are less than pleased. Follow through with issues online and make sure you post how the problem was resolved. For example, if a customer complains via Facebook explain the resolution in a “reply post” and thank them for bringing it to your attention. This will show not only that you are active online but that you follow up on customers needs in every arena.

Customer Relationship Management

Remember the “good ole days”  when businesses used a Rolodex, paper files and index cards?  It really wasn’t all that long ago that those methods were used to store customer information and organize contacts. Now we have CRMs or Customer Relationship Management.  What is this and what are the more popular CRM systems?

What is CRM?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that a company uses to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer’s life cycle. The goal is to improve business relationships with customers.  A CRM system gathers information about the customer from different departments within the company and from across different channels such as social media.  A typical CRM would include information such as: email, company website, phone, live chat, direct mail, social media and any other marketing materials your company uses.  Also included would be the customers buying preference, purchase history and any specific concerns. All this information in one place means it is easier to manage and help customers quickly and professionally during sales visits, phone calls or meetings.

CRM Software

CRM software consolidates customer information and documents into a single CRM database so business users can more easily access and manage it. Some of the most popular CRMs include: Salesforce, InfusionSoft CRM Software, Snapforce CRM Software, and Sage CRM.  Click on each link to see a demo, find prices and ask questions about each type of software.  Choose depending upon the size of your company, marketing and sales needs and interaction types common in your company. To view the Top Ten CRM Software Packages follow this link to Software Advice online.

CRM Goals –

Customer relationship management is often thought of as a business strategy that allows a company to meet several goals. These include:

  • Understand the customer
  • Retain customers through better customer experience
  • Attract new customers
  • Win new clients and contracts
  • Increase profitably
  • Decrease customer management costs

The biggest benefit most businesses realize when moving to a CRM system comes directly from having all your business data stored and accessed from a single location. Before CRM systems, customer data was spread out through different departments and stored in various computer files.  With CRM, files, contacts and interactions are all stored in the same place thus stopping redundancies and confusion in the workplace.