Growth “Strategies” Small Businesses Must Avoid

Growing or scaling is one of the core aspects of running a small business. Most business owners CBS Corporate Business Solutions have come across invest a lot of time and money for their companies to grow. There are definitely legitimate growth strategies, and sometimes “hacks,” that small businesses can use to grow. Then there are certain tactics that our consultants strongly advise small business owners to avoid. Here is a list:

Signing up customers to email lists without their knowledge – If a customer is on a company mailing list, then that person should have signed up for it themselves. Some companies use a shady tactic where customers who provide their email address are signed up for mailing lists without their knowledge. While this is not technically illegal, it’s a horrible practice that should be avoided. The customers will not be happy about getting email newsletters they didn’t sign up for. It will, in fact, have the opposite effect. Instead of a customer being more attached to a business, the customer will very likely learn to avoid the business.  Moreover, Congress passed an anti-spam law which imposes certain requirements on businesses engaged in email marketing.  The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is a spam law that established the national standards for sending commercial email (which is different from transactional or relationship email) and providing guidelines for sending behavior, content and unsubscribe compliance. To follow the guidelines in place, you must include a visible and operational unsubscribe option in your commercial emails, a legitimate physical address of the company, accurate “From” information and subject lines, and you cannot send to harvested email addresses.

Adding customers to social media groups – This is a similar tactic to auto-signing up people for email lists. Don’t add customers to Facebook groups or similar social media networks without their explicit consent. People do not like getting random notifications. It may even lead the customers to complain about your company’s practices to social media site owners. That is definitely not a position a brand wants to be in.

Aggressive selling from the get go – If an interested person signs up for an email newsletter or like the brand’s Facebook profile, don’t target that person as a potential customer right away. Don’t start trying to push products on the potential customer. The interested party needs to get used to the brand and build a trustworthy connection before he or she buys a product. If the business starts to aggressively sell right away, this connection will be severed right away.

Posting fake statistics – Companies do get a lot of leeway when it comes to making marketing claims. However, don’t push it. While some exaggerations may be acceptable, don’t try to paint these exaggerations as actual fact. You may call your brand the number one in the field, but don’t make up statistics or studies to “prove” a claim like that. Don’t post fake statistics about customer satisfaction levels, various “scores” for products, and so on. These will only be lies and your long-term growth plan will only get hurt.  Moreover, using fake statistics is not considered harmless by state Attorney Generals who are charged with protecting consumers against businesses making false claims. Such claims are prohibited by consumer protections statutes against misleading advertising and also under general business statutes involving unfair business practices.   For legitimate techniques a small business can use to promote growth, consult with a Corporate Business Solutions expert.

What to Do When Customers Bash Your Brand or Product on Social Media

Social media is essential for engaging with customers. Sometimes though, small businesses may wish customers were not so engaged on social media. If clients are taking to social media, not to praise your products, but to bitterly criticize, then your company will have a full-blown crisis on hand. Understandably, not all customers who engage with a brand post positive or neutral comments. The goal of a marketing strategy is to maximize positive engagement and minimize negative engagement down to near zero.

But what happens when the negatives end up overtaking the positives? How can a small business respond without spending too much or making the crisis worse?

Don’t Confront the Negative Posters – Being confrontational on a public platform like social media will never end well for a brand. Unless being confrontational is actually one of the traits the brand is trying to promote. Most brands, however, do not want this. If your team tries to confront the accusers, regardless of the merits of the claims, you risk a small argument from snowballing into a veritable social media spectacle. It takes years to build the reputation of a brand, and only minutes to destroy it beyond repair.

Take the High Road and Put the Matter to Rest Quickly – For example, learn about what happened to Iggy Azalea, a promising musician who damaged her brand permanently by relentlessly arguing with critics on Twitter. Keep in mind that the negative reviewers are not losing massive profits by arguing with a business. Therefore, the company should take the high road. Without sounding condescending or deceptive, put the matter to rest with a genial post. Keep it short and apologize if you have to. Don’t drag on an argument any longer than it needs to and let the news cycle move on.

Ask a Consultant What to Do – Marketing experts like the Corporate Business Solutions consultants can help your small business respond to a major PR crisis in a timely and sensitive manner. If your marketing team is inexperienced in responding to negative feedback that is making its way to media, hire the experts to manage the problem.

The main thing during a PR crisis is to avoid the problem from getting worse. Refer to CBS-CBS.com on how your small business can prepare for negative publicity in advance.

How Famous Businesses Create Great Company Cultures

If a small business wants to retain its top talent, increase employee morale, commitment and productivity, then the business must have a great culture. Company culture is a term that pops up a lot in business-related news articles. It refers to the internal environment of a business and the rules and procedures that drive employee, manager, and customer relations. A good company culture is essential for long-term business survival.

So, exactly how can a small business create a good company culture? Let’s look at some examples of famous brands that have managed to create truly excellent company cultures (selected by Corporate Business Solutions consultants):

Twitter – Twitter has managed to avoid some of the major pitfalls tech companies faced by developing a good company culture. The workplace is highly team-oriented with an emphasis on motivation and inspiration. Twitter also offers other benefits like free lunches, yoga classes, and even unlimited vacations for select employees. Those are only some of the reasons why Twitter employees cannot stop boasting about the company.

Warby Parker – Warby Parker is a major prescription eyeglasses brand. The company ensures that the internal culture is positive by arranging numerous events that drive positive interactions between employees. For example, working at Warby Parker means attending fun events, going out to interesting lunches, and overall socializing with co-workers a lot.

Zappos – The online shoe brand does not tread slowly when it comes to company culture. Zappos is heavily invested in providing great customer service. But the customer is not the only focus here. Zappos has 10 core values that all employees must learn. Zappos believes that happy employees lead to happy, and loyal, customers.

Squarespace – Squarespace is a highly successful startup that was once ranked as the best place to work in NYC. Why? Well, the reasons are many. The company has a “flat” hierarchy where the management level between the employees and the executives are few. Squarespace is actually applying a common startup tactic to a much larger company. Also, the company offers amazing benefits to employees like full health insurance coverage, pleasant workplaces, in-office stocked kitchens, and flexible vacation periods.

There are many things small businesses can learn from the above examples of creating a great company culture. CBS Corporate Business Solutions also want to include the importance of taking steps to reducing the incidents of verbal abuse and sexual harassment at the workplace if a company wants to create a truly great culture.

Tips for Managing Freelancers

Freelancers—it’s a word that evokes both elated and derisive responses from small business owners. Companies, both big and small, rely on freelancers to a certain extent. Inarguably, it doesn’t make sense to hire full-time employees for temporary tasks that may not exist in several months. Some companies, especially tiny ones, rely on freelancers if hiring full-time employees is too expensive.

Corporate Business Solutions can help your small business decide whether it wants to hire freelancers or not. But the tough part comes when the business has to manage the freelancers. Here are several tips on how to manage freelance employees of your company:

Get Ready to be Flexible—Most people work as freelancers to have flexibility. That is to say, freelancers don’t like working 9 to 5. That doesn’t mean freelancers work less efficiently. Most freelancers keep irregular hours and tend to prioritize work based on fees and importance. Therefore, when negotiating with freelancers, be flexible. Set deadlines instead of hours.

Do Convey Your Expectations—Unlike office workers, freelancers are practically strangers who don’t know about the goals and priorities of your company. Therefore, for each project, the expectations should be conveyed clearly. Be explicit about the standard of work you expect and when you want things to get done. If you require the project to be completed in stages, be clear about that as well.

Communicate Well—Do keep in touch with freelancers when a project is ongoing. It can easily clear up misunderstandings. If expectations or standards for project changes, don’t wait until the last moment to inform the freelancer. Keeping in touch is very important for striking a good working relationship with the freelancer.

Build a Good Relationship—It’s a nightmare to hire and fire freelancers all the time. Therefore, test a few and start building a professional relationship with freelancers your company can rely on. If the relationship is strong, your business will be able to rely on the freelancer for years.

Do you think your business could save time and money with more freelancers? Opt for Corporate Business Solutions Reviews to find out whether hiring freelancers would help or weaken your small business’s team.

Small Business Loans Explained

Borrowing money for a small business can be tricky. The finances involved in this category are quite complicated. More often than not, small business borrowers don’t really understand the terms associated with business finance. Here is a brief explanation from Corporate Business Solutions consultants of some types of business loans available to small business owners:

Term Loan – These are a common type of financial assistant in the business sphere. A term loan is simply a sum of money that the borrower must pay back with interest over a designated period of time. The length of the payment period is important here. Term loans are paid back over a longer period of time, in contrast to short-term loans, colloquially known as payday loans which have high effective interest rates and are not a smart way to borrow money. Term loans offer the major advantage of having reasonable interest rates and lower monthly payments. However, businesses need to be in very good financial standing to obtain a term loan.

SBA Loan – These are small business specific loans made under a program authorized by the Small Business Administration. SBA loans are highly recommended for companies because these offer lower costs than typical term loans. The loans are created to boost small businesses, so the lender has your best interests at heart. While highly affordable and quite ideal for small companies, obtaining one of these loans requires following the procedures set forth by the SBA.

Line of Credit – Traditional business loans are borrowed once and paid over installments. Line of credit business loans are different in that small businesses can continuously borrow and pay back as many times as desired. Line of credit does have a maximum borrowing threshold, so borrowers can only obtain amounts lower than this threshold at any given time. Line of credit loans are largely similar to using revolving credit since no new approval process is needed as long as you stay within the limits established under the original terms of the line of credit.

The above is only a very brief explanation of the type of business loans available to owners. Small businesses should not borrow indiscriminately just because the financial instruments are available. Consult with us at CBS-CBS.com to find out if your business is borrowing wisely and what are the best options available for your business.

 

Sleep Scientists Awarded a Nobel Prize Because That’s Just How Important Sleep is

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael W. Young, and Michael Rosbash—three scientists who have been studying the circadian rhythm, or our internal biological clock, for decades. Their research was vital for understanding how sleep affects our health, and, mainly, performance. Optimal performance is crucial for maintaining a high level of productivity at workplaces. It’s these scientists who, at least indirectly, helped companies understand the importance of sleep.

In the past (as in about 5 years ago), it was considered a sort of badge of honor to work all day and sleep 4 hours a night. Working long hours was even considered by some to be an indication of productivity. By now, science has found overwhelming evidence that this is, in fact, not true at all. People need at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to optimally perform the following day. Corporate Business Solutions consultants recommend that small business owners and employees prioritize sleep at night to ensure personal productivity the following day.

The Nobel Prize-winning scientists also suggested a strong link between lack of sleep and poor health. Sleep deprivation is linked to increased risk for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer. We all know that cognitive performance, the ability to think and concentrate, is necessary for productivity. Lack of sleep can significantly impair a person’s cognitive performance. If your employee was up all night working on a project, his or her ability to deliver the following workday will be markedly impaired by the sleep deprivation. In other words, if you want an employee to pay attention to a project, it’s important to make sure that they have gotten a good night’s rest.

Lack of sleep is also linked to increased irritability. Small business owners sometimes spend a lot of money to design workplaces that are pleasant and contribute toward a good company culture. If the employees are sleep deprived, this won’t matter much. Even a pleasant work environment is linked to sleep.

If you are a small business owner seeking to increase productivity and employee satisfaction at work, then make sure to encourage all employees to sleep well at night.  CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultants advise not to encourage working late because nothing will harm employee performance more.

How Should a Small Business Handle a Publicity Crisis

It’s the worst nightmare of any business. Public relations or perception crises are not wholly uncommon to small businesses. Usually, it’s the big businesses that are plagued by publicity issues. But small businesses should not feel too secure. Publicity crises can happen for many different reasons. It could be due to a misunderstanding, a mistake on the part of the business, or even unforeseen legal issues popping up. Whatever the cause is, here is some brief advice from Corporate Business Solutions for small businesses on how to weather a publicity storm:

Diagnose the Problem – First of all, the company should move quickly to understand exactly what the problem is. If outsiders are accusing the business of anything, there should be an internal investigation to find out if such accusations hold any merit. Once the CEO and the top managers know exactly what is going wrong, then the business can move to address the problem effectively.

Leadership is Important – Leadership is most important during a time of crisis. Without a good leader, a CEO or a senior manager, there’s little chance that the business could navigate the crisis. If the executive officers are not showing good leadership skills at the moment, or if the crisis is somehow their fault, it’s time to find a new leader capable of keeping the company together in a time of crisis.

Take Swift Action – If action is called for, don’t wait around to do it. In most public relations crises, businesses are accused of malpractice or selling low-quality products in some form. If the customers are complaining, then don’t wait to apologize. At lease inform that the problem is being looked at. Do not try to shift blame, because it will not be perceived well.

Stay in Touch with Customers – Don’t ignore customers and their complaints during a time of crisis. It’s more important than ever to provide good customer support as the crisis is unfolding. They won’t be too happy, but it’s important to keep communication lines open to avoid complete abandonment.

Inform Shareholders and Investors – Keep internal stakeholders like shareholders informed of what is happening and keep them updated on new developments as the business addresses the crisis. The last thing a company needs in a time of disaster is a shareholder revolt.

Last but not least, call in a consultant like CBS Corporate Business Solutions to formulate a plan of action to address the disaster head-on.

 

Negotiation Tactics for Small Business Owners

Negotiation is a major aspect of doing business in any sector. And yet, small business owners who don’t have extensive professional backgrounds could find it difficult to strike effective negotiations with partners or clients. Corporate Business Solutions consultants can assist small businesses in certain types of negotiations. But there are certain techniques that any business owner must know.

If you are a small business owner who needs to improve negotiation skills, here are several tips to follow:

Know the Dynamics of the Deal: Don’t go to the negotiation table without understanding what’s in it for you and the other side. Which party needs the deal more? It’s important to understand who needs leverage before the talks start. Also consider the constraints the other party is facing, as well as alternatives that could put your side at a disadvantage.

Be Courteous: Talk patiently and be courteous when entering into negotiations. Do not be overly aggressive, as you could be perceived as a difficult person to deal with. But don’t be too agreeable either, because then you would be seen as someone who is easy to persuade. Hold your ground, but be professional and do not get into verbal battles.

Dress Appropriately: Do dress properly for the negotiation table in a manner that won’t offend the other party. It may be common to wear casual or even business casual clothes at the workplace, but the same attire could be interpreted by the other party as you not being serious about negotiations. The dress is an unnecessary thing to be troubled over. Therefore, dress in formal and practical clothes when meeting in person to negotiate.

Don’t Drag It: Time is the bigger killer of deals. If negotiation talks are prolonged, chances are high that the deal might go sideways or get killed before completion. Therefore, don’t take too long to conduct talks. But don’t rush things as you could end up with the short end of the deal.

There’s no doubt that business negotiations can be tough. If you require expert help, you can contact one of our CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultants for valuable advice.

Paid Advertising Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid

Paying for advertising is one of the biggest investments small businesses make. Therefore, the money should be spent wisely. CBS-CBS.com consultants advise many clients on setting up small businesses budgets. One of the major issues we have seen is wasteful spending on digital marketing. Here is our advice for small businesses that want to avoid overspending on online ads. These are some mistakes to avoid:

Using an un-optimized landing page—The landing page is the primary reason your Google Adwords traffic becomes conversions. If the landing page is slow, boring, irrelevant, or not optimized in any meaningful manner, your site will not see increased sales. Therefore, make sure the landing page is tested to drive conversions.

Limiting promotions to only one paid advertiser—Paid advertising is a varied genre. Therefore, don’t limit your budget to just one, like Google Adwords. Make use of other paid channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Also, try to find niche paid advertising channels in which your target audience is most likely to engage. If your company is B2B, for example, then LinkedIn would be a better place to buy ads than Facebook.

Ignoring specialized publishers—When you buy an ad on Google or Facebook, you are advertising to a general audience. If you want to advertise to a very specific audience, then you need an ad publisher who can reach websites, blogs, and media companies that reach this audience. Therefore, do invest in publishers like BuySellAds and Blogads to reach niche audience with the likelihood of high conversion rates. You can contact a CBS Corporate Business Solutions consultant regarding reaching niche audiences through paid advertising.

Not using remarketing strategies—Remarketing and retargeting strategies aim to attract people who have already visited your website or followed a link. Visiting at least once indicates the interest of some sort. Therefore, paying for advertising to this audience is a great way to attract high-quality traffic. You can get more for your money considering that only users who were at least once interested in your products are returning.

Last but not least, your paid advertising strategy must match your budget and vice versa. If you are on a limited budget, redo the strategy to benefit from only the most lucrative channels, and not experimental ones. You should match the budget to strategy to avoid both overspending and underspending.

Hurricane Harvey Highlights the Importance of Small Business Disaster Preparedness

Hurricane Harvey has made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast turning quiet streets into raging storm rivers. While the rescue operations are ongoing for regular folk, it’s important to pay attention to the hurricane’s impact on the small businesses in the area. The area Harvey is barreling through is a major hub of the state’s offshore oiling business. As a result, there are many small businesses operating in the region. Unlike the bigger companies, small businesses are hit hard during disasters like hurricanes.

As much as 40 percent of small businesses don’t survive disasters like Harvey, says a disaster specialist with Fox Business. Experienced Corporate Business Solutions have noted that many small businesses do not adequately prepare for natural disasters. It’s understandable that most people might be concerned about personal safety. But small businesses can lose a lot during disasters. The business can end up literally torn apart by a hurricane and lose inventory and property. Here are several suggestions from our consultants on how small businesses can prepare for disaster and minimize losses:

Have an Emergency Management Plan – All small businesses should have an emergency management plan at hand. Such a plan makes an early assessment of potential damages a small business could experience in case of a disaster. Also, such plans prepared in advance roles to take on for employees and managers in case a natural disaster strikes unexpectedly. In simple terms, this is basically a handbook on what to do in case of a flooding, hurricane, or a tornado. Your business absolutely needs to make this plan in advance, preferably with the help of experts like the ones you can find in CBS-CBS.com.

Take Necessary Steps to Physically Secure the Business—Small businesses should always have at hand the necessary tools to board up a store in case disaster strikes. Well prepared managers should call construction experts in advance to find out the best ways to secure the store so it can withstand most natural disasters.

Get Insurance Coverage – Business insurance coverage should include a provision for natural disaster emergency situations. Your company must be covered for the most common natural disasters the area you are located at faces. The FEMA website has some useful information for companies about getting disaster insurance.

Small businesses should also have a system in place to address local government emergency alerts for disasters. Set up a communication system so that all employees are informed of such alerts and evacuations when needed, are facilitated.