Since March, many of us have been doing the bulk of our business from home. And even if you’ve had the luxury (yes, I said luxury) of getting out of the house and going into the office, you’ve likely had to conduct a lot of business via Zoom, Skype, Go-To Meeting, etc… For those of us who’ve always believed that creating personal connections and fostering authentic relationships with clients is the best and most effective way to do business, this poses more than a small problem.
The good news in the bad news here is that EVERYBODY’S DOING IT. From watching our children adjust to at-home learning, to virtual doctor’s appointments, to families hanging out via Google Hangouts, we’re all in the same strange boat. So the question becomes, how do I tailor my business strategies to this new world while making my clients feel that they’re still getting a genuine piece of me? We’ve got a few suggestions that’ll help you close the real-life gap between you and your clients.
PLAY CATCH UP
People are dealing with big life shake ups across the board. Maybe their college age child has had to replan their education. Maybe an elderly parent has been isolated for months. When scheduling virtual meetings with clients, build in a few extra minutes at both ends solely devoted to checking in on them. How has quarantine been for them? Is everyone healthy? What strange new challenges have they faced on the home front? This will allow for an extra layer of personalization that clients might be missing these days.
BE OVERLY AVAILABLE
People are having to change their schedules to accommodate their businesses and their family’s new found circumstances. If your clients used to hearing from you strictly between the hours of 9am-5pm, reach out and let them know you can and will “meet” with them whenever it’s best for them. Falling on that sword shows them that you understand the challenges of this new landscape and you’re willing to adjust the way you do business to suit their needs.
NO WIFI - NO PROBLEM
Though it seems almost impossible to believe, some people in the year 2020 still don’t have WiFi. Or even electronics for that matter. In these cases we recommend breaking the rules - safely. Have elderly clients or clients who always insist on meeting face to face because that’s just how they do business? Suggest a safe, socially-distant, mask-to-mask meeting. We’ve seen lots of people get creative when it comes to seeing loved ones during quarantine, so what’s stopping you from doing the same for your clients?
In times like these when we know everyone’s lives have been affected in one way or another, maybe the best business is no business. Make the time or take the time to simply call, send a text or email, write a letter - WHATEVER - and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Are they in need and is there a way you can be of service? In this time of isolation, you’d be surprised what a simple phone call can do for someone.
These are unprecedented times for the bulk of us but that doesn’t mean you have to jump ship on the personal aspect of running your business. Just because you can’t meet in person, doesn’t mean you have to operate impersonally. Follow these few pointers for finding meaningful ways to run your business remotely and we think your clients will be virtually delighted.
Motivation seems to have become one of those inspiration trigger words that gets thrown around, especially on social media. Everyone is a spiritual guru on Instagram. Every girl on FaceBook that you went to highschool with is trying to pump you up to sell face cream with her. Your racist aunt Martha is spamming your family chat group with politically charged memes. Everyone is trying to motivate you to do something or feel some way, somehow.
We know motivation comes from the word MOTIVE, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act”. Simply put, that which propels you to do what you do and conversely, that which keeps you from doing what you don’t do.
We can examine our motivations for literally EVERYTHING we do on a micro level. Why we get up early or why we sleep in. Why we grab a salad for lunch instead of a greasy burger. Why we choose a certain outfit over another. There’s always something informing every tiny decision we make. Ok, that’s easy to make sense of. There are tangible things driving our actions.
But what if we look at motivation in our lives on a macro level? How we choose a partner. How we decide on a profession. How we decide whether or not to start a family. What informs our decision to propel forward into a major life decision or to step away from one?
The answers are FEAR and THE PAST. If you’re a thrill seeker at heart and there’s been nothing in your history that’s informed you to be weary of that, you’re more likely to go bungee jumping. If you or someone you love was ever involved in a car accident, you’re more likely to be a nervous driver, or rider, since you’ve been close to the negative side of driving in the past.
The trick is being able to look at the root of your motivation. To look at the root of what drives you and your decisions. And watch how your decision making changes. Once we’re able to see past fear and negative experiences, our motivation will likely change. We’re more drawn to taking a risk to better our lives. We’re more apt to take that vacation we’ve been thinking about, knowing that we only live once. We’re more likely to get up and go for that run, knowing that the pain lasts 45 minutes but the effect on your mental health lasts all day.
When we step away from fear of the unknown and whatever from our past is holding us back, we’re more likely motivated to go big for the dream. The career you desire. The partner you desire. The life you desire. Not the one you think will be the quickest or the safest or the easiest.
This sounds like some big time, next level spiritual stuff, but really it’s not. If you’re ready to change your life, think about what you really want and why. Simply. How long have you wanted this change? What could it bring you? How will you feel when it’s done? Those are the things that should inform your decision before anything else.
If you’re focused on the tiniest impetus of your desire, a decision should be easy. Don’t let that fire go out from the winds of fear and the ties that bind us to the past. Dig deep, look clearly and go for it.
When you’re looking for an auto body shop that won’t rake you over the coals or a kid-friendly dentist, what do you do first? Do you do a Google search or do you ask your local friends? We’ve all used Facebook to look for recommendations or texted a group of parent friends to see who they’ve used and would use again. This is because we trust other people’s experiences more than we trust what a company says on their website or in their ad. Luckily for the business owner, this is simple human nature and if you have a good product backed by good service, you probably already have referral marketing at work for you.
Referral marketing uses word of mouth communication and recommendations from past customers to grow a business. It takes a customer who’s happy with your product or your service and puts them out into the world as a walking, talking billboard.
Here are some ways it can work:
1. LOYALTY ROYALTY - REWARDS PROGRAMS
Do not underestimate the power of loyal customers. If you have a happy client who you know is going to spread the word about you, why not incentivise them with a referral rewards program? When a new customer gives you business, asking them how they heard about you gives your past customers a chance to earn rewards for their referral.
2. PASS IT ON - REFERRAL CARDS
A business card used for referrals, is a simple and glorious thing. Jot your client’s name down on a few of your business cards and ask them to pass them along to friends who might be in need of your services. When a new customer comes in with a card from a past client, you know exactly who to thank and you’ve identified a referral at work.
3. BE WEBSITE READY - PREPARE TO BE SHARED
The share function is alive and well on the internet making this strategy as easy as clicking a button. Have sharing functionality available on multiple pages of your website and on all of your social media platforms so people can quickly and easily share your business with people they know.
4. LEARN FROM THE BEST - STAY EDUCATED
Whether you have a few solid referral marketing strategies that work for you in place already or if you’ve tried a few and struck out, you have to always be open to finding new ways to get the word out. There are valuable resources from seasoned veterans in your field like CAC that can teach you tried and true strategies for using Facebook to find leads and lock them down.
5. SHOUT IT OUT LOUD AND PROUD - PUBLIC RECOGNITION
People love a shout out! When a customer has thrown some new business your way, taking the time to thank them publicly can pay off big time. Social media is an outstanding tool for this strategy. Not only does the customer you’re thanking see how much you appreciate them, but their friends and family will likely see the gesture and know that your business appreciates their customers.
6. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER - WHO ARE THEY AND HOW CAN THEY HELP YOU
Ok, this sounds creepy, but it’s not. If you’re a physical therapist and you deal with a lot of sports injury patients, it obviously benefits you to know if one of your clients works in a gym. This is the case with any profession and it doesn’t mean you have to become a stalker. There are a few simple questions you can ask clients to find out who they are and what they do. This is a must when it comes to being able to identify a client who can bring you additional business.
7. GIVE AND GET - REFER YOUR CLIENTS TO OTHERS
If a potential client comes to you and you realize that maybe you aren’t the right fit for them, refer them to someone who you know can help them. This does two things. You build trust with that potential client because they see that you won’t take advantage of a customer. Also, you’re helping out a fellow business which will hopefully turn around in your favor and come back to you one day.
8. BE INFORMATIVE - EDUCATE YOUR CLIENTS
You don’t want people on the street misrepresenting your business and/or what it does. Make sure you’re clear about what you and your company can do and how it does it so that prospective clients are getting an accurate understanding of how things work when they come to you.
9. GENEROSITY FOR THE WIN - FREE CAN BE KEY
If an opportunity arises where you can showcase your product, services or skills at no charge to potential clients, do it. Something like a street fair or a fundraiser where you can put your business front and center and offer a bit of what you do at no cost is a great way to show that you put clients first and a great way to build potential business relationships.
10. ADJUST YOUR MINDSET - ACKNOWLEDGE NEW PATHS
If you’ve been thinking that you have to start from scratch to get new business instead of using pre-existing customers, it’s time to take a step forward and get used to the idea of referrals as a way to secure clients. It may not be the way our parents and grandparents did it, but there are way more resources that can put your business in front of new eyes these days. Don’t let traditional marketing approaches hold you back.
Statistics say that word-of-mouth referrals are likely to bring in more than 5 times as much business as a paid advertisement and customers brought in this way spend twice as much. If you’re looking for a way to make use of already-happy customers, you’ve got to give some of these strategies a try.
Whatever industry you’re in, there is a legitimate and substantial amount of debate on the use of scripts when your sales team is cold calling potential clients. Some argue that a script leads to a less personalized, more robotic conversation, but a seasoned sales person will tell you that there are ways around that. If you’re on the fence about bringing script software into your sales strategy, check out our thoughts on a few of the benefits you need to consider.
At the end of the day, you want each call your sales team makes to be a foot in the door to new business, so you should aim to make sure they’re putting their best foot forward. There is no harm in sending them off to represent your product with the best tools possible and a well-planned script is a great start to that journey.
Let’s think of the COVID-19 crisis that began for Americans in March 2020 as a wave. A tsunami, if you will, but one we could see growing in China in January before it quickly came sweeping across the globe to land right at our American doorsteps only two months later.
Two months seems like a lot of time to prepare for something, right? In the case of an ACTUAL tsunami, victims sometimes only have minutes to brace for impact. But even knowing what we knew going in we could not fully predict what the effect would be on human lives, the economy and the future. And now, very likely in between swells in the virus’s outbreak, we’re bracing for the second wave.
Business owners, especially small business owners, are asking questions about how to keep their business afloat. The question of their “essential-ness” was at the forefront from March to May, the months of the virus’s tightest grip. Now, with most states entering phase 2 and phase 3 of reopening, many businesses will get to experience modified restarts, but lots are wondering if it could possibly be enough to sustain them.
The best advice for your business is the same advice we should have heeded when this all began - BE PREPARED. Here are a few things you can do to help bring your business back to life in this strange, new world of ours:
1. BE HYPER AWARE and COVID-FRIENDLY
You want employees, clients and customers to know you’re on top of keeping them safe when they enter your business. Proper signage stating your business’s COVID-19 compliance with CDC guidelines is a must in allaying people’s fears. Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and clearly marked stations providing people with acceptable social distance from one another is key.
2. STRATEGIZE and PRIORITIZE
It’s time to get creative and figure out how your business can meet the needs of your customers in this new climate. If you own a restaurant, figure out where you can find ideal outdoor space to seat patrons. If you’re a retailer, find the best way to redesign your space to make it the safest for your customers. Identifying your business’s new challenges and solving them is your best bet at bringing your customers back into the action.
3. BUDGET ACCORDINGLY
Unless you were deemed an essential business, you’re likely already behind the eight ball due to months of quarantine. Now you’ll be pulling double duty trying to make up for what you lost, but you’ll also need to be aware of what the implications of a second wave of the virus could mean for your budget. You may be being asked to do the impossible in this situation, but keep an eye on your budget and make sure you’re prepared.
4. GO WITH THE FLOW
Know that you’re going to have to be constantly bobbing and weaving to stay on top of the oncoming waves. Just like you’re looking for security for your business, clients and customers are looking to you to be able to continually meet their needs and no one knows what the next wave will bring. There will likely be cutbacks and duck dives along the way, but we’re all riding the same surfboard on this one.
God willing, we’ve seen the worst of what the pandemic is going to bring us, but if not, at least we have some sort of idea of what we’re dealing with. Take note of what’s gone on in the last three months, creatively address the needs of your clientele and stay safe. It's going to be the best way to ride out this storm.
We aren’t taught to dream small. It’s probably safe to say that none of us sat on the swings at the playground in elementary school daydreaming about the day we would be someone else’s second in command. Or third. Or twenty-seventh. None of us laid in bed at night in footie pajamas, falling asleep to visions of breaking our backs one day so we could hand over all of huge chunks of our hard-earned cash to The Man.
In our dreams we don’t fade into the background. It’s just not how dreams work.
If we’re dreaming of being in the Superbowl, we’re catching the winning touchdown, not filling the Gatorade jugs.
If we’re dreaming of being a fireman, we’re crashing through the window of a burning building and saving the life of the child in our hands, not feeding the hose off the back of the truck
If we’re dreaming of being a doctor, we’re holding someone’s beating heart in our hands and stopping off a dangerous brain aneurysm, not shaving 20 year-old bunions off their toes.
When we’re small, our dreams don’t have the filters that eventually fall upon them as we get older. Yes, you wanted to be a ballerina, but now you’re too tall and there’s no time or money for dance lessons. You wanted to be a race car driver but it’s far too dangerous now and you have a family to think about. It’s true that those are the dreams in our reality that have to be considered. That family you’d take a bullet for. And that bank account that’s going to protect your future. Yes to that.
But at what point did you stop wanting to stand out and be the star or the hero of your story. We know it isn’t impossible. We see people do it all the time. Masters at their craft - whether it be business or the basketball court - who have made it happen for themselves and are balancing their dream and their reality. So we know it’s possible.
If we had to take one guess, the number one thing holding you back from stepping out is fear.
It’s comfortable to be comfortable. That comfort zone isn’t bad at all, really. Stable. Dependable. No surprises. Every day like the next.
The backbone of our country, and maybe the world, was built by men and women who sacrificed their dreams to dig in and go the dependable distance. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there were dreams, most likely in situations where people knew they’d never be more than that. In war-torn countries and for people born into societies that offered no chance at a bigger life. Sometimes a dream is too big. Or misplaced.
But what about your dream? Look at it. Is it possible? Is it that far out of reach and so filled with risk that it should be abandoned?
Do you have resources available? Is there still time? Do you still dream about it? Has that swing you used to sit on become a desk chair in an office where you aren’t ever going to stand out? If you have kids, are you laying in bed with them while they fall asleep at night, telling them to dream of middle management and 2 weeks, maybe 3 weeks paid vacation?
You’re telling them that they can do anything they want and be anything they dream, with hard work and courage. That the biggest dreams are only within reach and that they are destined to stand out, as long as they try.
Maybe it’s time you told yourself the same.
As an Agent-owner, your to-do list is neverending. You’re practically guaranteed to fall into a few snafus because you’re spread so thin, there’s always a chance of something being looked over and missed. At the end of the day, your priority should be addressing the big picture issues in your business so that you can actually DO your business, instead of getting pulled away several times a day for the minutiae of running your business.
If you’ve thought about bringing in automation services to help out with the day-to-day upkeep, you’re not alone. Many businesses are finding that adding marketing and business process automation, as well as chatbots and inventory management software, are saving their company valuable time and costs.
Here are a few of our top reasons why you should consider adding one or more automation services to help run your business on a daily basis:
1. SAVES MONEY - Automation services can save you money on hiring people to do labor intensive jobs like data entry or scheduling, things that don’t bring a high ROI to the business. Automating some of these duties frees up budget to hire employees that can focus on more valuable aspects of running your business.
2. HIGHER MARKETING ROI - Marketing automation allows you to compile and utilize large amounts of invaluable customer data at once. They even have strategies you can implement to efficiently grow sales and sustain marketing practices for years.
3. RELIABLE CUSTOMER SERVICE - We’re all human and error is natural. With customer service automation, your clients get a consistent level of service regardless of what kind of day your business is having. Good customer service equals happy customers and happy customers equal repeat business.
4. RESPOND TO CHANGES IN DEMANDS - Every industry experiences the ebb and flow or market demands. Your business may be dialed into handle a certain level of business that can’t sustain a large influx of new business at once. Automation allows for flexible responses to changes in your industry so it can meet the demands of your clientele whatever the climate.
5. TWO-WAY SUPPORT - You give as much as you get when you bring automation into your business. Not only will you have the security of knowing that your client’s needs are being met without a ball being dropped, but your clients will feel that they can depend on you because their needs are being met on a consistent basis.
The demands of running a business along with the challenges of keeping up with today’s technologies are enough to have any business owner needing to find innovative ways to keep up. With so many different kinds of automation services available, you owe it to yourself and your business to check them out and get ahead without getting pulled under.