Friday, February 26, 2016

5 tips for dealing with difficult customers

By David Ronald

With the good comes the bad and, in business, this sometimes means having to deal with difficult customers.

"The customer is always right" is a common adage but, as any experienced vendor knows, perhaps as the consequence of a painful experience, is an adage that’s untrue—your customers can be wrong and, indeed, can be wrong often.

What is true, however, is that the customer is always the customer, even if he is ill-informed, inexperienced or downright deceptive. And his status as customer, and source of your livelihood, dictates that you try your best to interact effectively with him.

But even simple personality differences can cause friction that, over time, risks destroying business relationships. And keeping a positive attitude when you must overcome feelings of frustration, dislike or distrust, can be especially challenging.

In this post I’m going to examine five communication skills that can enhance relationships with even your most difficult customers.

1. Listen

True listening is a disappearing art but, in order to communicate effectively with anyone, it's an imperative. Although the ear is only the organ that delivers sound waves to the brain, a good listener also engages her heart and mind. She does not allow herself to become distracted, but focuses on the speaker. She doesn't formulate answers before the speaker completes a statement. Nor does she give the appearance of being defensive.

2. Accept

Accept what the customer says at face value, even if you think he is wrong. He thinks he is right, and perception is the most important thing. If he perceives that you accept and believe him, he will be more likely to relax and get to the point. A common hallmark of strained interactions is that the main bone of contention is saved for last. The complainant will build up to his real issue by talking about the peripheral ones first. And that also allows him to build a mountain of anger out of his molehill of frustration.

3. Respect

If the customer receives respect from you, he will likely return it. If he feels disrespected, it will be perceived as a personal attack. Remember, you can learn something from anybody, regardless of education level, financial situation, or physical appearance. Everyone deserves respect simply for being human.

4. Empathize

You can offer sympathy to someone who is having a problem, but empathy will go much further toward achieving your goals. Put yourself in the customer's place. Wouldn't you be disgruntled or angry, or even fearful, if a product or service didn't perform according to its advertising or worse, caused some type of damage or injury?

5. Negotiate

If you successfully employ listening, accepting, respecting and empathizing, you will pave the way for negotiating. You will have put the difficult person at ease and he will be better prepared to drop his aggression and enter into negotiations, more confident of being treated with fairness, honesty and integrity.

Always try to resolve a customer's issue with one conversation—the quicker the issue is resolved the better the customer will feel about the interaction.

The reality is that problems will occur. Allow yourself to learn from difficult customers in a way that helps strengthen your business and increases the probability of your overall success.

You just may begin to be grateful for the difficult customers out there every now and again.

Thank for reading. Leave us a comment if you found this blog post useful.

Friday, February 19, 2016

7 tips for entrepreneurs who are managing for the first time

By Sharon Lee

Becoming a manager can be both a positive and overwhelming experience—management is not easy and requires a broad range of skills that take tie to acquire such as communication, coaching and motivating. But everyone needs to start somewhere and there some important steps that can make the transition a bit smoother.

Many entrepreneurs find themselves becoming first-time managers when the company they founded begins expanding. In this blog post I’m going to provide some tips for new managers who want to start strong and thrive as employee count grows.

1. Lead by example
Through the good times and bad, who are people going to look to when they need inspiration or an example for how to act? The answer is simple: you. You are now the example that others need to follow. The values you demonstrate, the way you handle adversity and ambiguity and the way you persevere through the biggest challenges, is now considered the measuring stick for how others will act and behave.

You are going to need to be very mindful of your emotions and how you react in certain situations. You are going to need to slow down, be patient and develop an informed perspective, so you can lead in a way that people will admire and model.

2. Stay in the trenches
Now that you are a manager it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do the “dirty work” that helped your business succeed in the first place. It is an endearing quality that your direct reports will respect when you are willing to do any job at any time to help them move forward.

Keep an eye on things day-to-day and when there is an opportunity to jump in and help, grab the opportunity and run with it. At the end of the day the success of the business is what matters and a culture where anyone, including you, is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish things is a culture that will thrive and endure.

3. Understand the importance of delegation
You are going to find early on that you want to be involved in everything your team is working on. The challenge here is that you cannot be everywhere at once. You need to 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.

When you need someone to step up and lead on your behalf, be clear on your expectations but also stress to them how important the opportunity is for them personally. When they know how important their role is they will feel even greater ownership towards ensuring an optimal outcome and their contributions will feel even more valuable.

4. Prioritize your one-on-one check-ins
Individual time with your direct reports is critical towards their success and overall career development. It is during this time that you need to keep an honest watch on priorities, metrics, and any questions that might be on their mind.

Set up the one-on-ones, so they happen at a regular and predictable cadence. Block the time on your calendar and do your best to respect this time.

5. Find a mentor
One of the first steps you should take is to find a mentor that you can go to when you have questions or need support. Find someone who has excelled at being the type of manager you want to be; ideally someone who has experience handling a diverse set of situations, so you can understand first-hand the pros and cons for handling certain situations certain ways.

Look outside your company, perhaps someone you worked with in a previous job, and find out if they are willing to provide guidance and feedback.

6. Be consistent
If you constantly flip-flop on decisions or how you make decisions, your team will start to lose trust in your ability to strategically lead. To be a consistent leader you need to be a patient leader. Take your time. Don’t respond to emails with irrational feedback. Don’t make a decision in the moment just because people are pushing you to do so. Find outlets that allow you to think through things. Write up emails and step away before you send them. This can be very hard for people at every level but sometimes the best thing you can do is just slow.

7. Know that relationships have changed
It’s not unusual for an entrepreneur to build a team with people who they have worked alongside in the past. Once you become their manager the relationship changes and you need to be transparent about that—you can never allow past relationships to cloud your business judgement.

You may need to set clear ground rules early on. But be as transparent as possible and if things feel weird, talk about it so you can collaborate on a solution.

Management is an important part of any business but it takes time to develop the skills you need to be effective at it.

Be patient with yourself and believe in yourself.

Your rewards will come in time…

Friday, February 12, 2016

Important advice for small businesses on designing powerful websites

By Sharon Lee

Creating a website that becomes a major revenue driver can be fun. Or it can be a nightmare.

There are some basic guidelines that can be applied to any design process and, if done so correctly, will make the design process easier and more likely to achieve the results you want.

Here are some rules that are most critical to modern web design:

1. Begin by mapping out the user experience

The best websites hold users’ hands and guide them through a specific workflow. The best websites are so intuitive, users don’t have to think at all in order to find their way around it—they are able to navigate through it on their first visit as quickly and nimbly as if it were their tenth.

So, how do you accomplish this?

First, resist the urge to include everything on your site. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think about what information they’d want to find, in what order, rather than what information you want to share with them.

Then, think about what visual cues you can incorporate to draw eyes to the right places at the right times. I’m talking about things like large, high-contrast fonts, sharp visuals and specific trigger words users will be looking for, such as About, Contact or even Start Here.
2. Design for mobile first

78% of website views are happening outside of desktops. This means we’ve officially reached the point where you shouldn’t just be considering mobile devices in our design, but designing for them.

And that 78%? It’s only going to increase as mobile navigation improves, and as more and more devices are released. Tablets are the latest craze to throw the design world for a loop, and smart TVs might just be next.

3. Keep copy lean

Back when the phrase “content is king” started lighting up the internet world, some people accidentally misinterpreted it as “write a lot.”

As the internet becomes more and more sophisticated, people have grown progressively less tolerant of the word-vomit-style sites that used to be the norm. Now, we’re thrilled with websites that are bold enough to fill a screen with nothing but a single sentence—and we’re happy to scroll through five extra screens to read five more sentences (which, if they’d all been presented on one screen, we might have skipped).

4. Find a story that resonates

You’ve probably heard it at least a thousand times: good storytelling is critical for good web design. By telling users a story, instead of just checking off pieces of information, you’re engaging them in a real, human way, and you’re also helping them understand and remember your message.

The trick is to find a story that resonates with and intrigues people. Your story is not the history of your business (not even if that’s a cool story about how a couple of young, inexperienced guys launched something great out of their garage…or what have you).

Most importantly, your story must do two things:
  • relate directly to your target audience’s problems
  • present a way that the target audience can make their lives better. 

5. Show your authenticity

Avoid stock photography as much as possible. Instead, use photos of things we found around your office, like shoes, mugs and office tchotchkes. Alternatively, use images that are descriptive and unique to your business.

Why does authenticity matter? Because in today’s marketplace, it’s not the biggest, strongest, most well-established companies that win—it’s the relatable companies. The ones that seem to understand us, not just as prospects, but as fellow human beings.

6. Remember that the site isn’t done when it’s live

I can’t stress this one enough. Too often, people view the go-live date for a new design treated as a finish line, when it’s really just another step in the journey. There are plenty of things you can and should be doing with your website post-live to both maintain and optimize your web presence.

Designing a website involves many factors and, when done right, produces results. There are pitfalls, however, and I’m hoping this post will help you avoid them.

Friday, February 5, 2016

9 secrets of successful video marketing campaigns

By Scott Mason

No other form of marketing can have the emotional impact of video.

Some business owners, however, consider video to be difficult to create: time-consuming and expensive. And they are sometimes disappointed with the amount of effort it takes to produce a video versus the amount of exposure and visibility that it actually receives.

In this blot post I’m going to provide 9 tips that will increase the probability of your video appearing high in a search engine list and being viewed by thousands of people.
1. Create compelling content

Before creating a video, think of what the online community will be interested in—making a video that is compelling to a niche audience will result in great organic growth. In my prior post I described seven different types of video (here's a link to that post: Think carefully about the one that will resonate best with your audience.

2. Optimize your content

Once your video has been completed think about what keywords you want your video to rank high for. Since Google owns YouTube, the search engine giant gives a lot of weight to videos posted on that property when compiling organic search lists.

3. Create a strong call-to-action

During the video editing process create a lower third graphic that is unobtrusive to the video content. Include the website URL that you’d like to promote as well as your logo and a phone number because this is ideal for driving traffic from the video to your company’s website.

Another good idea is to create an end screen for the video that has a call-to-action. This will be the last memory the viewer takes away from your video so give them a reason to visit your website!

4. Upload your video to YouTube

YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world—over one billion unique users view content on the site each month and more than six billion hours of video are watched every 30 days. Uploading your video to YouTube provide the possibility of content being seen by a huge global audience.

5. Share, share, share

Share your video across numerous blogs and social media channels. The more often your video is shared, the more visibility it will receive—as in link building, if your video is picked up on numerous websites, the search engines will view this content as more powerful which can improve your organic ranking for the video.

6. The more interaction, the better

The more “likes” you receive on your video and the more comments you obtain, the better. Just like a social media post, the more buzz that your video receives will result in greater exposure. For example, if a video receives 20+ combined comments and “Likes” and also generates over 100 views, the more likely there will be spike in YouTube and organic search results.

7. Add a transcript to your YouTube videos

Most people are not aware that you can upload a transcript on YouTube—creating a word document based off of what the subject featured in the video is saying. Since major keywords that you want to rank high for will likely be included in the script, this will provide SEO “juice” for your video.

(Click here to learn more about creating YouTube transcripts:

8. Seek subscribers
The more subscribers you have, the easier it will be for you to gain publicity for a new video that has been recently uploaded. Did you know that when someone subscribes to your YouTube channel, your most recent video will appear on the homepage of their account—therefore, you can expose your content to wider audiences by subscribing to other channels that are interesting and actively participate in comment discussions.

9. Upload your videos to other networks

Although YouTube is certainly the best bet for obtaining online exposure for your video, properties such as DailyMotion, Vimeo and Break will also provide added exposure. (Sites like Vimeo cost money to sign-up for but, depending on your wants and needs for your video, it could very well be worth it.)

Okay, enough from me…

Now is a great time to get started with video marketing campaigns—with compelling content and good SEO exposure, this rich form of media will help you obtain more publicity. Happy story telling!