Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#BizGold Vol. 2 - What To Do For the Unhappy Customer

One of the most basic aspects of entrepreneurship is of course dealing with customers. It's a privilege, but it can also be rough. Hopefully, every client you interact with will love the product and service you provide, but inevitably, a product will arrive late, will break, or (heaven forbid) will not live up to the customers' expectations. I've learned it happens to everyone and that an unhappy email usually shows up in your inbox when it does. That's a hard thing, but what's sometimes worse is when you get no email at all.

When I was just beginning my jewelry business, I had a long conversation with a woman who was an experienced jewelry designer and business owner. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was to go above and beyond when fixing a problem for your customer. If something breaks, replace it for free. Pay for shipping both ways. Throw an extra gift in the box. Do more than they expect you to. I have since had occasion to use that advice (thankfully, only twice), but I would add something else to it:

Go to the unhappy customer before they come to you.

A couple of months ago, one unhappy customer bypassed my inbox and went straight for the review page... I received a notice that someone had left a review on my shop, and upon opening it, found 3 out of 5 stars winking at me (they were smug, those stars). The necklace the customer received was adorable, she said, but it broke after wearing it for a brief amount of time. 3 out of 5 stars changed my shop review as a whole from 5 stars to 4... and I began to panic. 

In a perfect world every customer would go to you first when they have a problem, instead of writing a bad review, but often that just doesn't happen. In that case, you fly to the customer. I quickly responded to the review and told her that I would send her a replacement the next day for free. She immediately changed her review to 5 stars, and I started breathing again. When I mailed the replacement piece to her, I stuck a discount code in the box and a note reminding her that I was always available to fix issues for my clients.

I walked away from that little experience knowing that if I had not been so quick to respond, the customer would probably have forgotten to change her poor rating (disaster). (Being extra quick is the best way to guarantee the customer stays your customer.) But I also learned that going above and beyond to serve the customer means going to them. You can't guarantee that once you put your product into someone's hands, they'll follow up when something goes wrong. Whether it's with a comment card in the actual box, an email asking them how they liked your product, or a prepaid means of returning your item, communicating with them first makes them feel like they're free to communicate with you.  People need to know that there's a human on the other end of the transaction, not just some company that doesn't care about them.

What are some of your customer experiences and have you taken measures to anticipate disaster? :)

If any of you bloggers have a business-related post that you would like to share, feel free to link up by following the instructions below. #BizGold takes place on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month. Next up is April 14th!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

7 Books for Growth (My Current Reading List)

 Lately, I've been eager to get my hands on as much information as possible about growing a small business. Here are 7 books I have high hopes for, that I believe are not just for small businesses. Most of these look great for anyone looking to improve the way they operate in the world. I'll let you know what I think of them as I knock them off...

 Make It Happen by Lara Casey. I got this one free for being a member of the Influence Network. We've been going through Lara's book in the very laid back Influence Network book club, and so far it's resonating with me in many ways. You'll be inspired to stop living for your own purposes, and bravely live for God's.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is one I've been wanting to dive into for a while now. The title is pretty self-explanatory and pretty well-known. I think I'm afraid of this one, to be honest. :)

 Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath was recommended by Whitney English in a class that I took a few months ago. It is supposed to be helpful for developing your personal brand and knowing what tasks to delegate.

Good to Great by Jim Collins was another one recommended to me. How does an average business become a great one? That question is supposed to be answered in this red book...

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was recommended by my mother! The title of this one always used to bother me, but I really think it's more about understanding and working with people, not manipulating them. :)

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is a recent addition to my list. How does something become popular? What small factor creates a trend? The theories in this sound invaluable for anyone with a product to sell.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber was a Jess Lively recommendation. This has been on my list for quite some time. From the description, I'm expecting a business handbook for a non-business person. Gee, I hope I'm right.

Have you read any of these? Would you like to? :)


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#BizGold Linkup Vol. 1 - 4 Keys to Brand Success

 I'm so excited to launch my first linkup today! If any of you have a business-related blog post you would like to share, feel free to link up by following the instructions at the end of this post. BizGold takes place on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month. Next up is March 24th!

Your brand is the defining, aesthetic voice of your business and finding the right one is a big deal. The dictionary definition of "rebrand" is to "change or update the image of (an organization or a product)." It would be awesome if we could slap an "image" on an organization or product and it be good enough for all eternity, or if we could find the perfect branding for our product and/or services right from the outset. But, I've come to realize that it usually takes quite a while to nail down just the right look to represent your business. Today, I'm talking about the four things I've found to be vital in a brand. If you're missing one, it might be time to rebrand like me. :)

1. Personal Significance: 
When I initially chose the name Banana Grove Designs, it had personal significance but wasn't really at the core of who I am. I think it's important for the name and voice of what you're doing to really have weight. It should "have legs", be build-able and really resonate with you. That's not self-indulgent, it's just a guarantor that you're going to want to get out of bed in the morning. (I'm gonna geek out for a moment, and tell you that I compare this to a patronus (Harry Potter reference, sorry). It has to be powered by a strong memory to have the desired effect.)

2. Strong Purpose: 
In addition to having personal significance, it's also important to have a definable purpose. Much like a mission statement, can you put into words why you're doing what you're doing? Granted, almost all of us are in business to make some money, but if you want your business to be meaningful to people...it needs meaning! :) There should always be a purpose for what you're pursuing in your life. Make sure you infuse your career with it.

3. A Cohesive Aesthetic: 
You have a pretty product, yes? What kind of pretty? Are your color choices, logo design, fonts, and name the same kind of pretty? For me, I feel like the tropical name Banana Grove Designs captures a few aspects of the jewelry I sell, but it doesn't quite fit everything I'm going for. It doesn't capture the elegance and simplicity of what I'm trying to make. It's important to me that everything make sense to my customers. I want them to "get" what I'm trying to say through the few visual messages I'm allowed.

4. Buzz Worthiness:
Is your brand dynamic? Can you get people excited about it? Does it have possibilities and opportunities attached to it? Any and all buzz is good, y'all. You don't have to feel "un-buzzworthy" because people don't talk about you as frequently as they talk about Coca-Cola (dare to dream, though if that's what you're shooting for) but the customers you do have should want to tell their friends about you. Try to get people excited about you as a brand, not just as a product.

If you're missing one of these keys, it doesn't mean you need to scrap everything  and start over, it's possible some mere tweaking would do the trick. Or, you might find that your current brand is all wrong and you need to do a complete overhaul. There's no recipe. But, I do feel like these are important if you're going to continue moving forward. Show up in the comments if you have branding experience or an idea you'd like to share! :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Biz Gold Linkup Intro

Have you heard of the personality test that matches people with the animal that best represents them? There are four specific animals to cover all the people in the world (a dog, a beaver, a lion and an otter, in case you're curious), but I feel like the blogger and online creative could be represented by a totally different one! Can you guess which? Not a lion, tiger or other vicious feline, not a smart and savvy fox or a bold, energetic monkey. I think the animal that best represents all online business people is...a duck.

Friend, consider the duck. It gracefully and calmly glides across the water's surface with nary a care. Everything's peaceful, pretty and smooth. But, stick your head under the water and you'll see the duck's little webbed feet paddling furiously away. So, it is for the online creative. There's so much fury and frenzy in trying to reach a goal or merely stay afloat in the online marketplace, but the job more or less requires everything to look calm on the surface.

It can be hard to live like that, especially when it keeps you from recognizing that you're not alone. That's why it's been so great for me to find community with other people working towards the same things online, and that's why I'd like to have you join me next week for a brand new linkup I'm hosting called Biz Gold.

Some of you are creative entrepreneurs, some of you run a moneymaking blog, some of you are seasoned and some of you are just starting out, but you ALL have business knowledge and experience! Pop some of it into a blog post and link up with me and other business gals next week. Share what you learned in a recent project, your social media expertise, a victorious moment, "how-to's," a fateful story, a behind-the-scenes look, whatever you'd like to cover on the topic of how you do what you do! :)

Biz Gold is set for the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month and begins next week on March 10th. If you can't join then, I'd love for you to join another week, but make sure you come check out the wisdom and stories of the participants next week. :) We're all paddling away furiously, we might as well share what we're learning and be in community with each other!

 See you back here next Tuesday!