Business Growth: How to Improve Your Customer Retention Rate

blog-member-retention-tipsI work with many business owners who are very often so focused on customer acquisition that they forget about how important and cost-effective customer retention is. According to the Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

One strategic business approach that I often recommend is to go deeper with the clients you have rather than invest the time to attain new ones. I’ve outlined below several tips to help you improve your customer retention rate:

Are your customers leaving you? If you want to improve your customer retention rate, you need to be aware of how many customers are leaving (the churn rate) and determine what is causing them to leave. Ask yourself what as a company you are doing that is causing your customers to leave.

Customers don’t buy from companies; they buy from people. 60% of all customers stop dealing with a company because of what they perceive as indifference on the part of salespeople (Peppers and Rogers Group). Have your salespeople become complacent? Are you making an effort to make your customers feel valued or do you take them for granted? Are you rewarding your loyal customers for their business?

Listen to your customers. Talk to your customers – after all, they chose you. Invest the time to ask them how they feel about your products/services. Understand what they are looking for and what their plans are for the future. Personal relationships are powerful and inspire loyalty. The customer experience is key to your success.

It’s not all about price. Companies are often totally focused on being the lowest cost provider. While being competitively priced is very important, there will always be someone who can come in at a lower price. Price alone won’t keep your customers; delivering the best value will. Value is a combination of price, trust, customer service, delivery, relationships and support.

Has your company lived up to expectations? It’s one thing to win the business; it’s another thing to keep it. Make sure your brand has delivered on its promise and your product/service meet or exceed expectations. Take a look at creating a great customer experience. Managing customer expectations is an important part of customer retention. Set realistic expectations. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Communicating with your customers will keep you top of mind. Remember, there is always going to be someone lurking in the wings to swoop in and steal your business. Find out how often and by what channels your customers want to receive information. Always address your customers’ concerns immediately. If you make a mistake, own it and fix it. Your customers will appreciate your honesty and your efforts.

Do you prize deliverables over results? Every deliverable must be able to show a measurable result that will positively impact your customers’ business and help them achieve their goals and objectives.

Bonus Tip: Conduct an exit interview. There is no company in the world that retains 100% of their customers, no matter how good they are. If one of your customers is leaving, take it as an opportunity to improve. Conduct an exit interview to learn why they’re leaving. This information is extremely valuable and can help you to make changes in order to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Are your customers leaving you? Want more advice on customer retention, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


Why Join A Peer Advisory Board?

round table.jpgForbes published an article on the importance of peer advisory boards, “10 Reasons To Join A Peer Group.” While I thoroughly enjoyed the read, I noticed the author overlooked a few key benefits that I’ve been lucky to witness firsthand as a facilitator. As a business advisor, I take pride in facilitating a peer advisory board that has proven results for my members. The peer boards help business owners reach new heights and succeed in ways they never imagined.

Peer advisory boards led by trained facilitators embody the power of collaboration, accountability, and perspective. A deep bond can be created and a business asset is formed that business owners crave and are hard pressed to find in any other forum. I’d like to share with you my list of top 7 reasons many business owners join a peer advisory board:

1) Perspective

One of the greatest benefits of joining a peer advisory board is the exposure you’ll receive to other small business owners much like yourself. Entrepreneurship is unlike any other job, which means the challenges you face on a daily basis are just as unique. As a member of a peer advisory board, you’re able to share ideas with people in similar situations. As a result, the business ideas you’ll be provided with won’t just be erroneous but tried and true.

2) Accountability

As the owner of a business, there aren’t many people you have to report to other than perhaps a Board of Directors or other shareholders. When you’re part of a peer advisory board, however, your fellow business owners will often hold you accountable for the executive decisions you’ve elected to make. Many peer groups meet once a month and they often expect some form of progress each month.

3) Feedback

We’ve all had ideas that we considered to be foolproof, but as we’ve come to know in business, not every idea is feasible. In becoming a member of a peer advisory board, you’ll receive constructive criticism from the board regarding your potential business decisions. This allows you to fill in any gaps that you may have overlooked.

4) Confidentiality

With competition at an all time high, it’s difficult to know whom you can share your ideas with. With peer advisory boards, anything that is discussed is confidential among members, so you’ll receive reassurance in knowing that you can freely discuss your business decisions without compromising trade secrets.

5) Motivation

As previously mentioned, you’ll surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs as a member of a peer advisory board. What this means is that you’ll witness them experience successes and/or setbacks, just as they’ll witness the same for you. Either way, you’ll challenge one another to learn from your mistakes, grow, and ultimately succeed.

6) Structure

A common benefit I hear from board members is that a peer advisory board allows them to focus on developing their business rather than working in the business. Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities of a business owner is someone who knows the ins and outs of their product or service, but when it boils down to growth, strategic decision-making is a necessity.

7) Reassurance

As the saying goes, “it’s lonely at the top.” But it doesn’t have to be. Your fellow board members are there to support you through your journey, and many if not all are experiencing, have experienced, or will experience the trials and tribulations you are facing as a business owner. They are as much of a support group as they are anything else.

 

Have you ever considered joining a peer advisory board? What would be your top reason for joining?


LinkedIn: A Powerful Business Tool at Your Fingertips

linkedin tipsLinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with over 300 million registered users in over 200 countries and territories, so it should come as no surprise that LinkedIn is one of the most powerful business development tools available today. Business owners and key sale leaders can leverage the power of LinkedIn for forging strong connections and finding new business.

LinkedIn has become the new “Rolodex”, the go-to place for finding colleagues, current clients, potential clients and vendors. With a professional profile, image and regular participation in groups, your network will increase, which in turn increases your reach and exposure and potential business opportunities. Many business owners would agree that LinkedIn has great potential, but are either concerned about the time commitment or are unsure how to go about getting started.

Here are a few simple steps to get you started in engaging in business development activities on LinkedIn:

  • Step 1 – Look Professional: Just like a face-to-face introduction, your profile page is your first chance to make a good impression. Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn. This means:
    • Invest some time in writing a professional summary
    • Add your skills
    • Have a professional picture taken (do not take a selfie)
    • Add volunteer experience and any awards you have won

They have recently added a recommendation feature on LinkedIn, which is like having an endorsement for your services. Try to have at least 4 recommendations on your profile page.

  • Step 2 – Make Connections: Having a long list of connections is essential for increasing exposure and the likelihood of others finding you, but make sure they are the “right” type of connections.
    • Decide if there is an industry you want to target or a type of job title e.g. accountant – simply search for exactly what you are looking for
    • Once you have a few potential connections, find out more about them by visiting their profiles, seeing if you have connections in common, where they are located, etc.
    • Send them a connection request by introducing who you are and the reason for contacting them
    • If they accept your invitation, be active and take the initiative by arranging a phone call or a face-to-face meeting
  • Step 3 – Join Groups: Think of these as a local Chamber of Commerce. There are groups for every industry, and they function as a place to ask questions, perform research, make new connections, and get noticed.
    • Search groups that you think your target audience will visit
    • Join ONLY as many groups as you can manage. Groups tend to send notifications, which is good if you plan to keep up with them, but annoying if you don’t
    • Participate in the groups on a regular basis if you can. Your audience needs to hear from you and see you being active and offering expert advice
    • Comment on other people’s posts, “like” them, and most importantly see who the regular contributors are and see if there is opportunity to work together or connect in some way
    • To connect with them, follow Step 2

In addition to using LinkedIn as a business development and marketing tool, the platform can also be used for recruitment. Whether it’s sharing a job posting on your company profile, or paying for a job posting or sponsored job ad, LI allows you to see in a click of a button a more complete look at your candidates.

As you can see, LinkedIn has a lot to offer but the biggest step is making the decision to give it the time it deserves to foster and manage potential leads. From personal experience, investing time in LI as a business development tool will yield results that far outweigh that time investment.

Do you use LI for business development now? How much time do you dedicate to it and are there other features of LI that you have found helpful for business development?


Are You A Risk Taker?

105730-106894We take risks every day in all aspects of our lives and risk-taking is important in business. In order to sustain consistent growth, be prepared to take on the risks and challenges that will help your business be successful.

Taking a risk requires careful evaluation and calculation. This will allow you to see if you are able to manage the risk and if your business is able to take on any challenges this risk may bring.

With my experience helping CEOs mitigate and evaluate business risks, I’ve come up with a list of 5 risks every business owner will face when growing their business:

  1. Sacrificing personal capital:

While some business owners are able to begin their journey by relying on external funding, many have to use their personal funds. Using your own funds may be a necessary risk that may be influential to the growth of your business.

  1. Putting trust in your employees:

It is impossible to do everything yourself. At some point in your business’ journey of growth, you will need to rely on employees. Putting a large amount of trust in employees is a risk you’ll have to take to move your business forward.

  1. Trying something new:

If you haven’t seen positive results from the way you’ve been running your business, try something new. Develop a new strategy, consider your product/service line – thinking outside the box and not being afraid to explore new possibilities has proven successful for many businesses. Change can lead to success.

  1. Putting yourself out there:

Get out there, meet people, and connect – not easy at first, but this is the best way to make valuable connections and grow your image as a business and as a business owner. Attending events, working the room and being active on social media are all methods of making connections and, while they can initially be intimidating and unfamiliar, are sure to produce short and long-term gains.

  1. Investing back into the business:

Even if your business is not as profitable as you may like it to be, don’t hesitate to invest back in to your business, knowing it will benefit the wealth and status of your business in the long run.

Risks shouldn’t steer you away from success but are necessary obstacles in the bigger picture. There’s no way to completely avoid risks but preparing for and recognizing them will help mitigate their impact. The biggest risk in business is not taking one at all.

What risks have you taken as a business owner? Did the result look like you expected? I look forward to an interesting discussion!


Building Rock-Solid Client Relationships

Building-Strong-Business-RelationshipsBuilding strong business relationships seems quite simple, but actually requires a lot of time, effort and tact. The key to building lasting and successful business relationships with your clients is to provide real value to them on an ongoing basis. In other words, you have to help your clients see that there’s more to your relationship than a financial transaction.

Developing and maintaining these connections can be challenging at times, but I’ve found the rewards are well worth it. A personal relationship, whether developed over days, weeks, months, or years, can lead to more connections, positive referrals, increased sales, and a general sense of fulfillment.

The following tips should help you strengthen and build rock-solid business relationships with your clients:

  1. Treat others the way you want to be treated. This is possibly the most obvious suggestion, and often the most forgotten. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and provide the same level of respect and services that you would expect from someone else.
  2. Pay attention to body language. People can tell, consciously and subconsciously, how you feel about them. Keeping your arms and legs uncrossed, smiling, and making eye contact are simple ways to keep clients engaged and feeling at ease during meetings. I find the best tactic is to be yourself and not overthink things.
  3. Honesty is key. Like any other relationship, your business relationship won’t survive if you aren’t honest with each other. Clients are smart and know when they are being manipulated. Being open and honest in all aspects of business is critical, and to cultivate the kind of long-term relationships your business’ success depends on, you should build a reputation with integrity. Keep in mind that meaningful relationships (business or otherwise) take a substantial amount of time to develop and only a moment to destroy. White lies can damage your reputation, so take a genuine interest in the relationship and the rest will take care of itself.
  4. Be a useful resource. The more value you offer to clients, the more they will depend on you. Provide information clients may find useful, whether or not it benefits you. With that being said, don’t waste their time by sharing irrelevant news and offers you know wouldn’t appeal to them.
  5. Manage time well and always meet deadlines. Getting work finished well and on time is fundamental to maintaining strong client relationships. When you say you’re going to do something, do it – there should be no questions in your client’s mind that this may not be true. That freedom from worry helps build trust, and clients will stick with you if they can rely on you.
  6. Think of clients as more than just “clients” – think of them as people! Every client has his or her own likes, dislikes, preferences, issues, concerns and opinions. Your bond with your client will grow the more genuinely interested you are.
  7. Reward loyal clients. It’s easy to make the mistake of growing complacent with existing relationships and focus efforts on acquiring new clients. Rather than leaving old relationships to get stale, honour clients for their loyalty and business by giving them the treatment they deserve. Whether it is through reward programs, exclusive discounts, charity donations, or tickets to a basketball game, find a way to say “Thank you for your continued and highly valued business.”
  8. Be more than an email address. Email may be quick, but it’s also impersonal. Try a phone call, Skype chat, or set up an in-person meeting to bond with clients.
  9. Keep things light. At the end of the day, it’s all about connecting. Make clients feel more comfortable by joking around with them, and if you don’t know their sense of humour just yet, you can always poke fun at yourself to lighten the mood!

Do you have any client relationship building tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your ideas and about your experiences, so share them with me in the comment section!


Business Networking 101 – Networking Tips

networkingI’ve found connecting with others, personally or professionally, enriches your life. Traditional networking tips and guides have made networking seem like a dry transaction, but I believe networking is far more. Networking is most effective when you meet and get to know people before you ask for help, or offer your products or services. Remember that networking is about being genuine and authentic – your aim is to build trust, relationships and figure out how you can help others. Here are a few networking tips that I have found helpful and hope you will too:

TIP 1: Make Networking a Regular Part of Your Life 

I understand your time is valuable and it’s easy to say you don’t have the time to network, but you should make the time for it! Schedule time each week (a meeting, lunch, coffee…etc.) where you can connect with colleagues and key stakeholders. Identify a couple of organizations that will be good resources for your professional development and join them. Finding organizations that align with your values will make networking feel natural, thus, it will become a regular part of your life.

TIP 2: Connect With Professionals who are Different from You 

Your network is a source of knowledge, opportunity, prospective business partnerships, future hires, and more. You never know whom you may meet, or whom they know. A diverse network is a strong network!

TIP 3: Keep In Touch with Alumni

As important as it is to make new connections, you still need to nurture existing ones. People like former bosses, colleagues, and school alumni already know what value you bring to the table. Keeping in touch with old connections can be a great source of support, connect you to other people, and they can recommend new opportunities to you.

TIP 4: Reach Out 

There’s the obvious LinkedIn connection and the obligatory “thanks for connecting” message, but when you hear or read about someone that impresses you, why not reach out over e-mail? Sending a quick and thoughtful e-mail (keep it to a paragraph or two to avoid information overload) can be a quick and easy way to make a new connection.

TIP 5: Join a Board 

Joining peer boards, like TAB, is a great way to meet professionals outside of your industry. You’ll already have common interests since you both chose to be there, so connecting and finding common ground will be that much easier. Bonus tip: Step outside your bubble and look for boards outside of your industry (see Tip 2 for why!).

TIP 6: Help Others First

When you make a new connection try to focus on how you can help them first, and be prepared to give without receiving. Did they mention their brother or girlfriend is looking for a job and you happen to know of one he/she may be interested in? If so, follow up and ask for a resume to pass along to the right people. Even if you don’t get their brother or girlfriend the job, you’re helping your new connection by trying to fulfill a need they or someone close to them has. Most people will naturally reciprocate, and if you continue to help others you’ll be known for your pay it forward attitude. People will come to you for help, and offer theirs without you having to ask.

TIP 7: Tell Your Story and Speak with Confidence

Start by sharing your personal story. Rather than asking for something or talking about what you want from others, share how you got to this point in your life and why you’re talking to this person. Your story will show off your values and beliefs, and will help spark that connection needed to build a professional relationship. Oh, and don’t forget to smile!

TIP 8: Be Prepared So You Can Relax

When you attend events or meetings do your research so you can ask thoughtful and informed questions that people will remember you by. When you go prepared you’re able to relax so you can have fun! People will naturally be drawn to this energy.

Doing your research also means you might learn about some key people you want to meet.

TIP 9: Remember the Small Stuff

You don’t have to add all your contacts’ birthdays or anniversaries into your calendar, however making sure to send your well wishes will go a long way. Small gestures get noticed.

February Networking Challenge

I challenge each of you to get networking, and meet at least one new person this month. Develop a professional connection with them, or, deepen an existing professional relationship. Use the above tips to help you, and remember to have fun!

Do you find the above tips helpful? Share your thoughts and questions with me in the comment section.


The Art of Networking

Networking Blog ImageSuccessful business owners will tell you networking is a key component to being prosperous and having influence. The art of crafting powerful and mutually beneficial relationships can do wonders for your career and your business. Like any other form of art, time and practice can help you master your skills. I’d like to share with you some things to keep in mind while you’re working to grow your network:

Invest In Your Relationships

Building social capital (a network of personal and professional relationships – nothing to do with money!) is one of the key assets in your portfolio. Your network will help you connect with influencers and build your personal professional brand. Network strategically and you will find your professional world rich with opportunity.

Network Proactively

Being proactive and staying connected is imperative. Having a network you can tap into is highly valuable, and provides an advantage by supporting you with a collection of smart and powerful people. Being active on LinkedIn and attending business events, such as the TAB 2015 Kick-Off event held by TAB Ontario earlier this month, are easy ways to meet new people.

Be Strategic

Do more than exchange business cards! Rather than focusing on meeting everyone in the room, be intentioned and find one (or a few people) to create solid relationships with. These people will help support your business goals, while you help support them with theirs.

Identify whom you already know and whom you need to know, to help you build a powerful network and reach your business goals.

Create Diversity in Your Network

May I suggest stepping out of your comfort zone? Moving away from your comfort zone will help you separate those who can help you build your business from the people you just like to be around.

Leverage Relationships and Pay It Forward

Focus on the business relationships that really matter – mutually beneficial partnerships.

The right people have power and influence. Identify and develop a relationship with the right people, then build trust in your relationship. Paying it forward comes into play when you are willing to ask others for assistance, and provide some help when others need it.

To Be Successful, Surround Yourself With Success

As Jim Rohn once said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Think about it – you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. That means others assist in determining how you think, act, and ultimately, how successful you could be.

Look around and ask yourself, “Who do I spend the most time with?” Picture your friends, family, coworkers, mentors…etc. Have they reached the goals they’ve intended to?

Find others with focus and determination, and feed off their enthusiasm and passion.

What has your biggest networking challenge been? Share your experiences with me in the comment section, and stay tuned for the next blog where I will share networking tactics to help your network grow.  

 

Image Link:

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