Customer Retention: The Benefits of a Loyalty Program

Customer Incentive.jpgAt a few TAB meetings I’ve recently facilitated, the business owners around the table have asked how they can ensure their customers keep coming back. When the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times more than the cost of customer retention, we need to show our customers that we care.

Many of you may be familiar with loyalty programs in your personal life such as from your gym or a preferred airline, but loyalty programs are also relevant for those who sell B2B products and services. So, what constitutes a loyalty program?

Loyalty programs can encourage your customers to continue purchasing your products or services by providing them rewards for their continued business. Such rewards may include discounts or free products by spending earned points, advance notice of a new product, or participation in loyalty members-only sales.

I’d like to share with you four possible benefits of implementing a loyalty program:

Money Savings

Not all money-saving offers, such as frequent sales and deeper discounts, are likely to be ideal for your business, but some loyalty programs allow customers to earn their own personal sale so you don’t need to cut prices across the board. A good example of this is programs that give money back after spending a certain amount (Spend $X, Get $X Back). You could create service packages like this as well. The customers get the satisfaction of feeling like they are saving money, but in reality they tend to spend even more money at the time of reward redemption.

Loyalty programs can increase your sales without needing to lower your overall prices, giving your bottom line a valuable boost.

Promotion of New or Less-Popular Products

As a business owner, you might find that your business has difficulty selling certain products/services or getting customers to try something new. A well-designed loyalty program can offer greater rewards – and greater incentives – for specific purchases, which can compel customers to add or explore products or services that they would normally ignore.

Collection of Unique Customer Data

In order to sign up for your loyalty program, you’ll need your customers to provide you with some basic information. This is an opportunity to ask for more targeted information than what you may already have on your customer, which in turn allows you to customize future offers to them. You may ask them about their preference for certain services, packages, or types of offers they’d like to see. Keep the questions brief, and offer dropdowns with possible answers for a simple user experience.

Knowledge of Your Customers’ Spending Habits

Once a customer is registered for a loyalty program, you can track their activity with your business through an identification number or membership card. The more they use the program, the more data you collect on how often they make purchases, when they tend to shop at your business, and what products/services they buy and in what combinations. You can never know too much about your customers’ spending habits.

If you do decide a loyalty program is a right fit for your business it can become an integral component of your customer retention program, but it can also be a deciding factor for a potential customer to choose you over one of your competitors.

Building customer loyalty is just one of many solutions to help business owners grow their business. Contact me today to discuss the benefits of working with TAB and growing your business!

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When Does It Make Sense to Hire an Intern?

k-11_dsc4360_palm-bwI know it’s only the beginning of March, but college and university students have been lining up their summer internships as I write this blog. On the surface, many small business owners consider interns, particularly unpaid interns, a great way to get those unwanted tasks completed in the office. However, interns can help a small business but only in certain situations. In this blog, I will discuss those situations where an intern may or may not be beneficial to your business.

Do You Have the Time To Train an Intern?

An intern may be a great option for you if you have a specific project that you haven’t had time to do, or a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool you haven’t had time to research. However, before you jump on the intern bandwagon, consider more than the “low-cost extra help” viewpoint, and look at an intern as a training opportunity for them. This will require you or a dedicated experienced staff member to be available to train the intern, and the special project should have defined goals and measurable outcomes for interns to complete. You’ll need to ensure internships are relevant to the students’ career interests and that supervisors and mentors will be available to provide regular feedback and evaluation. To make the most of the experience for both your business and the intern, clear directions and proper training need to be provided. This is particularly the case if the intern is being provided through an educational institution.

Need a Fresh Set of Eyes?

Interns are typically young and eager to learn and therefore usually are bursting with ideas. They approach the job with a more open mindset, rather than someone from another department with set habits and preconceived ideas on how to do certain tasks. Be sure to include the intern in brainstorming sessions and encourage them to speak up in meetings, as their fresh ideas and approaches can be great for your business. However, implementing their ideas may be best suited for your current staff as they have a better understanding of the businesses processes and protocols and accountability.

What are Your Business’ Long-Term Plans?

If your business also has long-term plans to expand, an intern might be the first step in that process. Consider any recurring projects that are about 12 weeks in duration, or your regular use of contractors for overflow projects or tasks; these could all be completed by an intern. When you consider adding an intern, a person who is bursting with new ideas and is plugged in to the latest technologies, who knows what they may come up with – perhaps an idea that changes and improves the way you do business!

Determining if your business needs could use an intern can be challenging for many business owners, and one I often see as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!


Four Tips to Deal With Conflict on Your Team

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.10.03 AMEvery business owner has had some amount of conflict on their team, whether it has been the slamming of doors, a screaming session, or someone walking off a job site. No matter when it happens, or who started it, as the owner you’ll need to address the conflict and provide resolution as soon as possible.

How you approach resolving the issue is a question on the minds of many business owners because conflict resolution can disrupt the momentum you’ve set as an owner, your team dynamics and possibly your entire company. We all know how important it is to confront the issue directly before your workplace becomes toxic. I’ve outlined below four tips to keep in mind when dealing with conflict.

Pick Your Battles

When your staff work alongside each other every day, it’s inevitable that small disagreements will arise, so let these small issues work themselves out. However, when there is hard proof that an employee is causing conflict, it is an ongoing conflict, or other employees are being negatively impacted by this conflict, then it is time for you to intervene. More often than not, your staff is waiting for you to resolve the issue and if you wait too long, it can put your leadership reputation at risk.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

As owners, we are often too busy to create formal roles and responsibilities, but by not creating these documents, it can leave your employees unsure about what is and what is not part of their job. This ambiguity can often lead to one employee blaming another for issues on a project. The best way to ensure any role conflicts do not happen is to create and define each role and responsibility by clearly defining task objectives and expected outputs, and ensuring their job descriptions are up-to-date and reviewed regularly so their role’s purpose and duties are clear.

Don’t Take Sides

Just as there are low-performing employees who can irritate their coworkers, there are also high-performing employees who insist on doing things their way. Sometimes in a small office, we might even have members of our team who we get along with more, but it’s critical as a business owner to ensure that all employees feel heard and understood, and know that their manager is willing to step in and help solve an issue, rather than “side” with an employee who is liked or valued more.

Keep Things Private

Effective and supportive communication is often all that’s needed to solve conflicts in the workplace. Find a private setting, or maybe go grab a coffee with the employee so they feel supported and feel they can speak freely without judgment or embarrassment. They need to feel they can trust you to help resolve the conflict. Trust forms the foundation for every important relationship at work and typically, workplace disputes should not be discussed with the entire team unless it becomes necessary.

Conflict is an issue that you can minimize in the workplace and by doing so, can help you to build a more supportive, welcoming and productive environment. If you’re a business owner dealing with issues like this, don’t face it alone – contact TAB to find out how to become a member, or contact me today.


As a Smaller Business, Are You Prepared for Marijuana in Your Workplace?

herbal-3122362_640There really isn’t too many Ontarians that aren’t aware of the new legislation about to be passed in July regarding the legalization of marijuana. There are copious articles on how big business is planning on dealing with this. However, what has many of my clients, owners of smaller businesses, asking me is will this impact their business and if so, what do they really need to know to be prepared?

I’ve outlined below a few of the key areas of concern for smaller business owners, as well as a few tips on how you can prepare your workplace for the effects of legalized marijuana.

A 2017 study of over 650 Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) members reveals that almost half of employers do not believe their current workplace policies adequately address the potential new issues that may arise with the legalization and expected increased use of marijuana. Many owners want to know and need some direction about:

  • How to accurately test drug levels (with no reliable test of THC)
  • What constitutes use, and how to adjust internal policies to reflect medical vs. recreational usage
  • Possible increase in poor performance, decreased productivity, reduced attendance, and safety issues

Many owners feel this new legislation will not impact their employees or workplace, but I am recommending you take a look at the following tips, because every business owner who hires staff must be aware of how this could impact their bottom line:

  1. Create/Update Your Policies
    Review your drug and alcohol policies, if you have them, and add in a line or two about marijuana usage. If you have legal counsel, have them take a look at the language. This way, you are covered from a legal and optics perspective. If you don’t have policies, take time to think about drafting one (there are some templates available online).
  2. Be Sensitive
    Detecting possible impairment of your employees in your office must be approached and handled very carefully, particularly when signs of marijuana use are apparent. You’ll need proof to make a case for a clear connection between substance use and a drop in productivity.
  3. Watch Behaviours
    Start noting (not tracking) your employee behaviour. This may be easier with a smaller team, but if you can have someone in your office (e.g. main reception, EA) dedicated to simply noting current employee behaviours, then once the new legislation is in place, if there are any outliers (e.g. employees are late, taking more sick days, or their performance has been slipping), you’ll need to meet with them to go over this and put steps in place, with timelines for improvement.

We are entering fairly new territory with regards to policies on marijuana, so right now there are no hard and fast rules on this, but making a few small changes will help you navigate.

Is your business ready for marijuana legalization? Contact me to help you navigate these waters.


When Is Hiring A Contract Worker A Good Idea for Your Business?

shutterstock_189811220As a business advisor, staffing has to be one of top issues that business owners need help with, particularly whether to hire more employees and what type of employee. You may have read in recent media coverage that a growing trend for 2018 is the increased hiring of contract workers by small businesses. We know that a contractor is someone who works for your business on a defined basis, and they can sometimes be referred to as freelance workers or consultants. But it’s very important to remember that contractors are independent businesses, working for you. They can help your business through periods of growth or difficulty, but they are not full-time employees.

Initially, some business owners may focus on the bottom line and think of the hiring of contract workers as a way to save costs. I’ve outlined below some of the key factors you might want to consider when determining if hiring contract workers makes good business sense for you:

  • Your business has turned down major projects due to lack of resources
  • You’re preparing for a seasonal change in business and demand is uncertain
  • You’re trying to remain lean but your budgets are a concern
  • Your business needs someone to hit the ground running
  • You are considering testing out an internal need without a serious commitment
  • The project requires a specialized skill that your company lacks, or as a business owner, you don’t plan to specialize in
  • If you are in an industry that is a fast-growing, such as technology, you can hire a contractor faster than a full-time employee to keep up
  • If you have a virtual office or small space, a contract worker can work offsite

Create a Network
You can hire independent contractors for one-off projects or even long-term business functions such as I.T. or payroll, to help you manage workloads during peak periods. This is why it is so important to create a network of contractors that you trust, so that your business can say “Yes!” to more projects. Being able to hire reliable and available contractors on an ad hoc basis can be a good strategy for growing your business.

Determining your hiring needs and making informed decisions is an area that can be challenging for business owners, and one I see often as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!


Small Business Trends for 2018 – Are You Ready?

shutterstock_365392142Welcome to 2018! After a hopefully restful and enjoyable holiday break, it is time to get back to business, and this year promises some interesting trends I want to share with you. In my 30+ years of experience helping small businesses, I have seen many significant changes, and this year brings new ways you can further expand and develop your business. I’m excited to highlight some of the trends worth noting, and look forward to working with you to implement these changes to grow your business even further in 2018.

The Mobile Experience – Consumers are using mobile devices to search for information, browse social media, and make purchases more than ever before. Ensuring that your business has a website that is easy to find and navigate, specifically on mobile devices, will help you expand your business’ reach to new customers.

Taking It Outside – Getting tasks done through freelancers, contract workers and outsourcing is becoming easier and more popular than ever before. Many businesses are leaving one-time functions or administrative tasks, like shipping, logistics, graphic design and content writing to others, thus leaving your staff to focus on other areas of expertise, and potentially saving overhead costs as well. Furthermore, giving your own employees the means to work and contribute from outside of the office can improve productivity, and satisfy your employees.

Engaging with Customers Online – The Internet is being used more and more by customers and companies to engage in business and share experiences. It’s becoming more important that businesses keep an online presence in order to communicate their brand, answer questions, respond to comments, and engage directly with consumers to highlight positive experiences, and minimize negative ones.

Storing and Protecting Data – Businesses are increasingly dealing with large data files and technical planning and software in their work. In order to best maintain, organize and protect their data, businesses that leverage the Cloud and other software can save storage costs, work with distant clients and partners, and increase their productivity.

Want more advice on ways to build on the success of your business with these trends, or general advice from other business owners like you? Make 2018 the year you join a TAB Board and get the support you need to make your plan a reality. Contact me today!


New Year’s Resolutions for Your Small Business

k-120-name-1081With the holidays set to soon begin, most businesses will close or reduce their operations until the new year. Many of us will spend time celebrating and relaxing with family and friends, rather than worry about what needs to be done at the office. But the small business owners I speak to are always thinking about ways to improve their business, and they love to be prepared well in advance. That’s why I’d like to outline some new year’s resolutions to improve your small business, well in advance so that come January, you’ll have thoughts and ideas ready to go:

An IT Analysis

The start of the new year is as good a time as any to implement brand new processes and procedures that could make things run more smoothly. For small businesses in particular, a new software tool or production technique can do wonders towards improving your productivity. Particularly within operations and accounting, there are websites and software tools out there – even some that are available for free – that can make things faster and easier for you to manage. Now is the perfect time to review the tools that you’ve heard great things about, and have discussions with family and friends, so that you can implement a new secret weapon to get your business running faster than ever in 2018.

An HR Overhaul

It’s no secret that businesses across North America are being exposed as more hostile and unwelcoming than many would have ever thought. For many people, they had no idea that things were so bad for others. That’s why it’s so important to review your HR policies, and have an open conversation with your employees. This might be one of the only ways to expose issues that you didn’t necessarily recognize. But what’s just as likely is that you’ll come across small, simple changes that you can make to improve the culture and morale at your workplace. Change works best when it’s implemented from the top down, and it’s clear now that issues and concerns should be addressed head-on, to improve the workplace for everyone.

A New Social Media Approach

In 2018, it’s clear that utilizing social media is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of marketing your business. Just as you aim to improve the internal functioning of your business, you should aim to improve the external perception of your business. You may just be looking at the creation of a Facebook or Instagram account to share basic information and show off your products. Or, you might be looking at the development of an entirely new online strategy. Either way, web pages need time to accumulate page views and reviews to become more prominent and legitimate. That’s why the time is now to embrace social media, as it can only serve to broaden the audience who discovers and interacts with your business.

With the new year approaching, now is the perfect time to reflect on tools, policies and changes to make to ensure that 2018 is the best year yet for your small business. If you’d like to hear other recommendations, or talk to other local small business owners to bounce ideas, contact me today!