Solopreneur: Customer Service and the New Way to Start-Up

 

Life as a solopreneur can be a breeze!

Your phone alarm beeps and you wake up at the crack of dawn.

You head to the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on to brew. Surveying the fridge, you wish you had just a bit more time to catch some zzz’s.

Breakfast in tow, you sit down to check your schedule for the day: Industry research, appointments, meetings with investors… (and at this point in the process for a solopreneur, everything feels like it’s live or die!)

You ask yourself: How do you build a brand with the prowess of a successful company when you’re starting out as one-person show?

And what does it take to harness the customer service to make your name stick, all while attending to the many needs of an up and coming company? It’s not easy to be superhuman, with only so many hours in the day!

Here’s the truth: You love your business, but the endless to-do lists sometimes make your head spin.

That’s okay. Another cup of coffee might help you. But maybe, just maybe, there’s another way.

After all, polishing your presentation to get in league with the big dogs as a solopreneur takes work.

Fear not! We’ve got a few insights that can give you a running start.

Use Tools and Tech to Work Smarter

Though your company might seem incomparable to bigger businesses, your technology helps level the playing field.

But how?

Well, it’s all about the infrastructure. After all, you’ve already got the goods (a great product or service). As a solopreneur, your offering might even be yourself! The next step is building processes to serve as the foundation of your customer service.

Ask yourself:

  1. Are your customers able to get in touch?
  2. Does a friendly voice answer your phone?
  3. How quickly and efficiently are you meeting their needs?

During our time as a start up, Ruby quickly learned that we cannot deliver on the apex of customer service (making personal connections) without mastering the basics. In response, we developed The Ruby Service Pyramid as a road map to striking the delicate balance between people and process.

Proper infrastructure creates better experiences. Even as a solopreneur, by investing in tools that enable you to work better and faster, you’re well on your way to fostering a little happiness.

And giving that coveted above-and-beyond customer service (that leads to referrals!), puts your business a cut above the rest.

Mastering Your Touch Points

Just like an interview or a first date, your potential customers are sizing you up from the moment you meet. From the tone in your voicemail to the look of your website, your customers get to know you from the way you present or display your business. Each touch point counts!

More than anything, the phone call is what wins business. So when a customer calls, giving them an exceptional experience starting from the first “hello” can keep them calling…and buying!

Here are a few flawless phone answering tips that you’ll be wanting up your sleeves…

  1. Greet your callers graciously
  2. Mind your manners (your p’s and q’s)
  3. Deflect with style
  4. Avoid dead ends
  5. Keep calm and carry on!

Curious? Get the full scoop here.

So, whether it means starting a blog, personalizing your invoices, or sending a handwritten note, take the time to make the extra effort. No opportunity to impress is too small or insignificant. Every step along the buyer journey is a chance for your customers to fall in (or out of) love with your business. Be sure to keep them swooning.

Hint: maximize your impact through accessibility. When your website shows up on the first search, and your emails include a click-to-call phone number, they don’t have to take that extra step to get in touch. Make it easy to connect!

Grow In Grace

Once you’ve got the building blocks lined up and business begins to flourish, don’t lose momentum.

More business=busyness—and when calls are coming in and you’ve got work to be done, the growing pains can be real.

Kind of like where you are, right this moment: schedule jam-packed, to-do list ever-long, still waiting for the coffee to kick in.

The good news? You don’t have to go it alone. If you have the cash flow, bringing on an employee can be a great way to increase productivity, as well as your customer service offering.

But…that isn’t your only option. If you don’t have the extra wiggle room in your budget for a full or part-time hire (or simply don’t want to complicate your business by adding another person to payroll), going virtual is an excellent solution.

What does it mean?

A (good) virtual receptionist service fills the customer experience gap that so often gets missed by a hustling business owner. There to answer your phones when you can’t, a team of live, remote professionals gives your company a polished, established appearance, while building trust with every answered call. At Ruby, we take messages, answer and transfer, make outbound calls, collect intake, and more (just like an in-house hire, but like…waaaaay less expensive).

Our mobile app is pretty cool, too. You can change your call-handling instructions on the fly, view messages, and all call activity. We can *also* give you a local number so you can choose to use your personal or local business number when making a call. BOOM. Two lines, one phone. No more giving out your personal phone number to customers or juggling two separate devices.

Whether you’re just starting out or find yourself uncomfortable in the midst of a growth spurt, Ruby can help. With our small business roots, we know what it can take to ramp up business, and keep it booming. From the solopreneur still working a day job, trying to get their dreams to take flight to the more established, tenured business owner needing just a little extra help, we see you. Ruby’s got you covered.

Plus, we grow (and go) with you.

 

Happy callers turn into customers, and happy customers bring in referrals. With the proper tools, a little mindfulness, and some customer service skills, you’ll be bringing in steady business in no time.

You’ve got what it takes to bring your vision to life, but if you need it, we are…

Here to help!

 

 

 

 

 

Your Complete Guide to the Virtual Office

You know how I like to spend a day at the office?

Sipping on a cappuccino at my favorite coffee shop.

Or perhaps, looking out over the ocean from a sea-side cafe. Maybe with my cats, wrapped up in blankets, and drinking ever more coffee.

Like many other business professionals, the virtual office has become my office of choice.

What is a virtual office?

Remember the days of being shackled to a desk by a landline and typewriter?

Me either.

But, what I do remember is needing to be in the same place as my team to accomplish 90% of my work. Now, with a little tech magic, this isn’t always necessary.

In all of its on-the-go, work-from-wherever glory, the virtual office is the modern-day business solution to the traditional bricks and mortar.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, a virtual office is

 “the operational domain of any business or organization whose workforce includes a significant proportion of workers using technology to perform their work at home.”

To put it plainly, a virtual office primarily exists in cyberspace and without a designated physical location. In opting for a virtual office, employees can work from virtually (heh) anywhere with an internet connection.

Who does a virtual office work for?

Working remotely requires a particular kind of culture. You need go get ’em employees, highly motivated, self-directed, and equipped with the proper tools for success.

The advantages in running a virtual office are especially beneficial for the solo-practice or small business owner. With a small number of employees, or none at all, this can be good for your budget and optimal for growth. After all, moving your team from the internet to a shiny new HQ is much less work (and way less expensive) than hopping from office to office.

The Perks:

  • No commute! Unless, of course, you want one.
  • Employees are able to work when they work best
  • Employees are able to work where they work best
  • Access to talent isn’t limited to a geographic location
  • Lower overhead costs
  • Reduced turnover
  • Assist in the growth of your company

When does it work?

Creating your ideal work environment day to day, hour to hour, is a freedom. This, however, might not work well for everyone.

The Challenges:

  • Seeking out locations to meet with clients
  • A lack of face-to-face interaction can stifle a developing company culture
  • Coordinating meetings and projects with employees in different time zones
  • When you work where you live, “clocking out” and maintaining a separation between work and home can prove problematic
  • Two words: technical difficulties

These drawbacks can pose a real pickle for small businesses. However, if you have big dreams of working from a virtual office, fear not:

There are tools to help you move past these challenges.

Shall we?

Tell me more.

Ruby’s virtual receptionist service + your virtual office = Virtual Love.

We are in the business of virtual, of working remotely, of maintaining a relationship with our customers despite the miles and time zones that separate us.

So, I suppose you could say it takes one to know one.

Here is how we can help:

  • Present a professional, unified front. And look bigger while you do it. Your callers will think Ruby’s receptionists work in your office—even if you don’t actually have one. From answering and transferring calls to you and/or your team, taking messages, making outbound calls, scheduling, and more, you receive all of the skills you’d want from an “in-house” receptionist without having to actually hire one.
  • One number to rule them all. *Cue Lord of the Rings puns.*  Are you running your business from your cell phone? Yikes. How does the idea of being able to choose between a business or a personal number from one phone sound? Yup. Two lines, one phone. We can give you a local or toll free number to grant you a little separation between church and state. It’s really that easy. Plus, regardless if you are a one man show or a team of ten, having one central number makes your business look less piecemeal, and more established, to your customers.
  •  Focus on what you need to accomplish while Ruby takes care of your calls. Take some extra time to do some virtual team building or call a meeting with your employee four hours ahead. Rest assured knowing your callers are receiving a memorable customer experience.

Whether you’re looking for a better way to run your business or simply needing a little extra wiggle room in how you work, going virtual is probably a lot more viable than you would have thought.

Where would you go if there was no office-bound desk to hold you back?

Dream big.

 

Interested in learning more about a virtual receptionist? Check out our What is a Virtual Receptionist eBook!

Let’s Go

Five Easy Ways to Stand Out From the Robo-Advisor Crowd

In a world of technology investment apps, the human touch is a critical differentiator for financial advisors seeking to keep current clients happy and earn new business. Research proves clients want real, person-to-person  communication that apps can’t provide. The Spectrem Group reports that 57% of Millennials and GenXers say it’s important that their advisor calls them regularly, and 87% of Gen Xers expect advisors to respond promptly to inquiries and questions, as do 58% of millennials.

And yet, robo-advisors remain a real threat, especially when it comes to next-generation investors. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates $30 trillion will be passed down to new wealth inheritors by 2020, the vast majority of whom won’t stick with their parents’ advisors. According to wealth management strategist April Rudin of The Rudin Group, a whopping 98% of heirs change advisors soon after receiving their inheritance.

Whether next-gen investors are tempted by cost-effective robo-advisors or good old-fashioned human competition, the risk of losing new inheritors is real. So, how do you separate yourself from the pack and keep the clients you’ve worked so hard to earn? By building trust—and luckily, little everyday actions can help create meaningful connections and show clients the value of your service. Here are five you can implement today!

Communicate with gratitude.

Whether in person or over the phone, make the most of every exchange by using appreciative language, listening, and getting to know your clients. Follow your client’s lead: If they’re up for a little friendly chitchat, engage them and take advantage of the opportunity to build rapport, and if they’re more down-to-business, use the opportunity to showcase your expertise. Regardless of where your conversations take you, aim to express gratitude. The words “thank you” never go out of style!

Build a repeatable process.

After a phone call or meeting with a client, a follow-up email is a good opportunity to reiterate information and make sure your client is heading in the right direction. Forget to mention a bit of helpful info during your conversation? Include it in your follow-up. Don’t have anything specific to relay? Send a thank-you email anyway—or even a personal card! A simple “It was great to talk to you” goes a long way.

Customize and connect.

When’s the last time you received a handwritten note in the mail? It’s rare these days—and that’s what makes it so special. Mailing personalized messages to clients is an easy and inexpensive way to show you care. Try sending a card to commemorate a client’s service anniversary or birthday, or simply to say, “Thank you for your partnership.” Try keeping a stack of cards and stamps handy and set aside time to pen a few notes each week.

Create an exceptional experience.

Every time a client calls, you have the opportunity to enrich a relationship. And for potential clients, that first call is critical: According to Invoca’s report, The State of the Mobile Experience, 74% of callers will move on to another business after one bad phone experience. With all the time you spend networking and all the money you invest in marketing to get your name out there, you surely don’t want to make a poor impression when an important client calls. Next-gen investors are looking for responsiveness that your trusty voicemail can’t deliver—but, of course, you can’t always be available to pick up the phone. A virtual receptionist service is an affordable solution that ensures every call is answered by a friendly professional. Even if you have a dedicated in-house receptionist, a virtual receptionist service can be a great safety net, providing overflow phone coverage as well as coverage during breaks, vacations, emergencies—whenever you need a hand!

Set yourself apart with a virtual receptionist.

Financial advisors often find that leveraging a virtual receptionist helps give that human touch clients are looking for. For Bob Pedrick, Executive Vice President at Chartered Advisory Group, virtual reception has proven an invaluable asset. Pedrick says his virtual receptionist service “brings extraordinary value and efficiency to our practice. When our clients call, a super nice person—not a machine—answers the phone and is able to connect that client to us no matter where we are.”

Set yourself apart from the robots of the world and have a real person answer your phone. Test our service and experience the Ruby difference for yourself!

Experience Ruby

How Financial Professionals Turn on a Dime, Save Time, and Serve Clients with a Remote Receptionist

Financial and Insurance Answering Service - Ruby Receptionists

Remote Receptionists for Better Control, Productivity, and Service

The landscape for financial service professionals has been shifting over the years. The adoption of smartphones and the use of social outlets has impacted the ways advisors connect with their clients. Most people are digging for details about businesses by using their hand-held mobile devices, which puts the capacity for making a phone call merely a click or tap away.

Mobile search will drive more than 73 billion inbound sales calls to small and large businesses in 2018. Looking ahead, it’s predicted that a whopping 162 billion calls will be made to businesses in 2019. Phones will be ringing off the hook!

Potential clients are calling for something they can’t obtain in a web/mobile search alone. Popular reasons people are calling include: quickly getting an answer (59%), talking to a real person (57%), and getting more information (54%)—plus many find it’s convenient to call (42%).

They call because they want to know they’ve been heard and are kept up-to-date on important portfolio items. This is especially relevant as the financial market is unpredictable; when shifts happen, clients are looking for answers—from a real person. Fostering those personal relationships can reduce the risk of clients moving to another advisor.

How can all this dialing drive better results for financial services professionals? First, let’s explore expectations of these callers.

Aligning Customer Experiences with Expectations

Ruby Receptionist for Finance Professionals

While call volume is growing, there is increased expectation for quality customer service. The Spectrem Group reports that 57% of Millennials and Gen Xers say it’s important that their advisor calls them regularly. 87% of Gen Xers expect advisors to respond promptly to inquiries and questions, as do 58% of Millennials.

It’s critical to ensure a good experience that meets or exceeds caller expectations. Understand that they want to speak with a live person—they don’t want to reach voicemail or an automated system. They are calling to talk to someone who can help them.

When to Connect and When to Stay on Task

Should you answer the calls yourself? Between client meetings, creating new investment plans, and personal appointments, sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day. How can you handle incoming calls personally without compromising your productivity, flexibility, and focus? Do you interrupt a client meeting to answer a call? Do you let it go to voicemail? Consider how those behaviors are perceived by your clients and callers, and if you are missing out on connections.

Can You Share the Incoming Calls with Your Team?

You must be confident that team members are equipped and have the bandwidth to help callers or route them properly. Keep in mind the costs associated with having your team answer phone calls versus focusing on higher value-added tasks. It can work if you and your team are ready to make this part of everyday practices.

Should You Hire an In-House Receptionist?

Take the insights of Wheelhouse Wealth Advisors, for example. “We realized the importance of having a live person answering our calls,” says John Postizzi Jr., Branch Manager, Financial Advisor at Wheelhouse. “We knew we didn’t want to hire an in-house receptionist because in this line of business that’s no small undertaking. It would require a thorough screening process and fingerprinting in order to deal with all of the sensitive information related to this line of work.”

Designed to help you best serve your clients, a remote receptionist gives financial service professionals the flexibility to run your business in a way that best meets your needs and your clients’ needs. That real, human touch helps you create meaningful connections with callers. Plus, you gain the freedom to work the way you want—in the office, on the road, wherever!

What’s a Ruby Receptionist?

If you’re interested in experiencing the difference a quality remote receptionist service can make for your financial services business, Ruby® Receptionists is here for you! We serve many financial service professionals from small boutique brokerages to LPL and our partners NAPFA and FPA. We’re the front-line voice for more than 7,000 businesses in the U.S. and Canada, and passionate about helping small businesses grow and keeping those essential human interactions alive.

Work Smarter When and Where You Want: 5 Benefits of a Remote Receptionist

5 Benefits of a Virtual Receptionist

Learn More About Remote Receptionists

Born to run… Design Sprints

Design sprints for excellent customer experiences

April 18 was a special day here at Ruby® Receptionists HQ as we hosted our second annual Design Week Portland event! I’m Terri Haswell, Director of UX at Ruby. My team and I hosted an interactive session where we traded in stuffy presentations for a bit of hands-on learning. The audience got to experience how we use design sprints to keep the collaboration radical and customers at the center of all we do.

Our goal was to have audience members leave with enough insight and inspiration to feel like they could give design sprints a spin with their own products and customers.

What’s a Design Sprint you ask? Great question!

  • It’s a framework
  • By design, it promotes collaboration across teams & customers
  • It helps answer critical business and user questions
  • It’s fast
  • It results in an actual prototype to test

The Design Sprint was invented by the folks at Google Ventures (GV). It’s a three to five-day collaborative design process for exploring and testing ideas with a human-centered approach. Each day of the sprint is intended to help you bring together a diverse group of people to examine the problem, brainstorm solutions, prototype, and test your ideas to see if they resonate with your customers.

Clearly Ruby didn’t invent design sprints. The value of Ruby holding this community event was to share how a real organization used and modified the design sprint process to help us focus on continuous collaboration, making things instead of just talking about them, and moving fast.

The five phases of a design sprint are:

  • Understand
  • Sketch
  • Decide
  • Prototype
  • Test

Each phase gets a single day, which means by the end of five, fast days, a sprint team will have agreed on a problem, and built, tested, and gained invaluable insights from a working prototype. That’s a lot to communicate in just a one-hour session! We set out to take our guests through the “cooking show” version of a design sprint, with some pre-prepped artifacts, and lots of audience participation, we got the sprint week done in 1 hour… ish.

The event was a hit, and the audience even stayed late for a robust Q&A. Curious if a design sprint could help you better understand a business/customer problem you may have? Wonder if you could run a design sprint of your own? Let’s take a look at what a GV sprint entails (and what Ruby does a little differently):

Day 1: Understand and agree on the problem

The first day of the design sprint is when everyone slows down, digs deep, and picks a problem to solve. The sprint team starts by aligning on their long-term and short-term goals. After that, they move on to mapping the flow or journey for the person using the product. Experts and stakeholders come in to discuss known pain points, and the team takes notes using the “How Might We” method, looking for ways to reframe issues as potential opportunities.

Ruby Tip: Though a design sprint is intended to garner your team’s full attention for five consecutive days, we weren’t able to stick to that 100%. We found that days one and two truly required our undivided attention. For these days, we went outside of our usual office to keep us focused, and when our co-workers outside of the sprint needed our help, we had designated one person to negotiate if/when to pull individuals away.

Day 2: Come up with ideas

Day two is all about getting inspired and brainstorming broadly to solve problems. The day starts by looking for inspirational designs on the web or in the world. After that, they move onto the most fun part of the day: sketching! The two key sketching techniques are:

  1. Crazy 8s – This is when you fold a piece of paper into eight sections, and you make eight sketches as fast you can (spending no more than one minute per sketch!).
  2. Solution sketching – After everyone has shared their crazy 8s, the team votes to start to narrow the field of ideas. The most popular ideas then become the basis for a solution sketch, which is meant to be more in-depth and show more steps of a flow or journey.

Ruby Tip: When it comes time to solution sketching, we found that some folks work better when they have a little more time and can sketch in their own private space. We recommend going back to your desks to really noodle on ideas quietly and independently.

Day 3: Decide on an idea, and make a storyboard

This is when it starts to get real. After exploring lots of different solutions, the team decides which idea is the best to test. To do that, the team does a round of speed critique and takes a vote! Once there’s a clear winner, the team gets to work creating the storyboard, and writing the testing scenarios. This ensures that everyone is fully prepped and ready to start building the prototype.

Ruby Tip: We found that it was difficult to vote on concepts or sketches as a whole. Instead, we voted for individual parts and pieces. If we ended up voting for competing ideas, we might use our designated “decider” to choose which one to pursue, or we might choose to do a “rumble,” which means we show both in the same testing session to see which one resonates better.

Day 4: Make a realistic prototype to test the idea

The fourth day is action-packed! This is when your team starts building and pilot testing your prototype. To get it all done, you’ll need to break up with the work and swarm.

GV recommends dividing into at least four roles:

  • Asset Collector – the person who gathers images and icons for the prototype
  • Maker – the person who makes the visual screens or parts
  • Stitcher – the person who makes the prototype clickable and makes sure there are no “dead end” flows
  • Writer – the person who writes the content for the prototype and the testing questions that you’ll be asking

Once the prototype is done, the rest of the day is spent pilot testing and revising to ensure that testing day will be as smooth as silk.

Ruby Tip: The way you break up prototyping tasks can change depending on the tools you use. We recommend deciding on and working with your tools before the sprint starts. That way you have a good understanding of how it makes sense to break up the work.

Day 5: Test the idea and analyze the data

This is where the rubber meets the road, and the sprint team gets to find out what customers really think about their idea. On this day, the team tests the prototype with real users. Five testing sessions are conducted with one participant and one facilitator at a time. The rest of the sprint team observes the sessions from a separate room, where they watch reactions, capture insights and note down critical user feedback. After testing with just five people, patterns will start to emerge, and the team will see what parts went well, and what parts were confusing or uninteresting.

Ruby Tip: For most organizations, it can be tricky to conduct research with users face-to-face. For testing (remote or in-person!) we use a tool called Lookback.io. This tool allows participants to interact with your prototype remotely while you talk to each other. It shows their face, their screen, and their mouse movements. There’s even a mode for live observation, and all sessions are recorded for future reference.

And that’s it!

Once the sprint is done, you’ll know what was successful and what needs more thought, or as GV frames it, efficient failures and flawed successes! Your testing sessions with customers may even convince you to pivot and go in a completely different direction. But either way, you will have learned a lot about your product idea, and about the people using it in just a few days, instead of waiting to build it, only to find it’s not the right solution and may not even be the right problem.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Tim Brown, a legend in design thinking.

“The faster we make our ideas tangible, the sooner we will be able to evaluate them, refine them, and zero in on the best solution.” —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

Resources

Ready to make design sprints part of your process? Try not to feel like you have to do everything and do everything just right the first time. Do what you can and have some fun with the chaotic challenge of making your idea come to life in one week. Check out these Google Ventures resources. They’re loaded with tons of great information!

Get the event handout

Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Small business marketing tips

It can be difficult to stay on top of the latest marketing trends when you are running a small business. Heck, it can be hard to do marketing at all.

The good news is that marketing isn’t just affordable for big corporations. Any small business can create a marketing plan on little to no budget. If you are trying to stay ahead of the game, there are a few things you can build into your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule that are relatively easy lifts.

Know Your Audience

If you’re a small business owner, you probably don’t need to be told to find out who your audience is, but this is your reminder, find out who your audience is. Your product and message can’t be delivered unless you know who you’re sending them to.

There are free tools like Google Analytics that can give you valuable insights into your audience. Mining those analytics can tell you where your website visitors are coming from, what’s bringing them to your website, and what they are doing once they get there. Knowing who your audience is and their behavior can be an eye-opening experience—and the results might surprise you.

Ready, Set, Goals

Now that you’ve narrowed down your audience, it’s time to set your goals. As a small business owner or a member of a small team, it can be easy to stick with only small goals that you know you can accomplish, rather than dreaming big and going for gold.

Close your eyes. Think about what you want to accomplish. Then, write down all the steps you need to do to reach your goal.

  • What tools do you need?
  • What’s stopping you from getting there?
  • What are your hurdles?

Now take those long-term goals and break them down to yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly objectives. Set up to-do lists, deadlines, and don’t forget to leave time if stakeholders need to be consulted. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and keep your eye on that larger dream. Start big, but work small.

Don’t Ignore Social Media

Just because you ignore it, doesn’t mean it’s going away. A social media presence is crucial for small businesses, and your potential customers might not trust a company that isn’t on any social media. You may not have the time or headcount to tackle every platform, but you should still find at least one or two that work for your business.

Start by creating your profiles and front-load them with photos and content that represent your business. Then you can move on with a Facebook or Instagram ad campaign, to see which platform connects with your audience and delivers the best results. Depending on your audience, these campaigns can be fairly low-cost. Facebook ads let you get specific with demographics and psychographics—so you can get as targeted as possible.

Social media isn’t just for selling your product or service to your audience―or telling them about the awesomeness that is your company culture. Arguably the most important social media aspect is the ability to listen to your audience. Be sure to check in on social media messages and comments and respond when necessary.

Yelp has some helpful tips for responding to messages, “…contacting reviewers should be approached with care; internet messaging is a blunt tool and sometimes good intentions come across badly.” In that regard, take on only what you can handle. As you grow, you can eventually invest in a social media management tool such as Hootsuite or Meet Edgar.

When in doubt, be sure to share your business content on LinkedIn. Social media is an opportunity to brag about your products, partnerships, and values. It’s a way to keep in touch with your audience and keep them informed.

To Mail or Not to Mail

If you’ve scoped out your audience, have a clean mailing list, and a budget, direct mail may be the answer for you. Despite what the guy next to you says at happy hour, direct mail is not dead. In fact, it’s incredibly effective if managed properly.

Mailing pieces like special promotions can be very effective. Decide what packaging is right for you and your budget. You have options. Maybe a letter in a #10 envelope is best for you. Or maybe a self-mailer, postcard, or something else entirely.

But, if you’re low on budget, don’t forget about the power of electronic mail. With a fairly low-cost email campaign management system, you can deliver solid content in a nice e-package that will be sure to delight your customers. When you use MailChimp, Emma, or some other email system, you can deliver appealing content and produce beautiful reports. With open and click rate data, you’ll be able to pinpoint the content your audience really cares about.

Remember to be patient―marketing is a trial and error game. The good news is, your audience is out there and the opportunities are waiting for you. More good news, if your audience isn’t responding to your marketing efforts or analytics aren’t increasing, then you can stop, adjust, read some more marketing tip blogs, and get your marketing back on the right track to connect with your audience and grow your business.

Happy marketing!

Get More Small Business Tips

5 Small Business Tips from a Sales Expert

 

Small business sales tips

Ruby® Receptionists has roots in small business. We started as a small business driven by the desire to help other small businesses meet their goals. We value the vital contribution they make to our local economies, and work to help them flourish. In honor of Small Business Week, we’d like to share some of our favorite tips to help your business grow!

Invest in Thought Leadership & Build Your Brand

Buyers want to get to know products, and as a small business owner, you are a part of your product-package. People buy from people as a direct result of connecting with a message and a story—your story!

Potential customers need to have access to you, your brand, and your product before they can swoon over it. Focus your energy on where they spend their time. Position yourself as a thought leader by publishing articles, blogposts, or relevant photography on the Big 4 (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram) to reinforce your expertise in your field. Enhance your brand through prowess and accessibility.

While social media is a handy tool to showcase your product, don’t forget to share who you are and what your brand represents. In a high tech-world, creating space for personal connections helps your business stand out against competitors.

Speaking of Technology…

Invest in it—early! With today’s technology platforms and software-as-a-service options on the rise, leveraging technology in the growth of your business has never been easier, or more cost-effective. Content management systems, such as WordPress, make building and customizing your own website a breeze. If your business is service-based, consider integrating a scheduling program to simplify the process for your customers.

Is business ramping up? Implement a cloud-based CRM system to keep track of your marketing lists, potential customers, and new opportunities for growth. Pay close attention to where your best leads are coming from.

And on that note…

Ask for Referrals

Research shows that 91% of B2B buyers trust word-of-mouth marketing when making their buying decisions. Don’t wait for leads to fall into your lap—be proactive! Ask happy customers if they know others who could benefit from the product/service you offer. If you have fulfilled a customer’s needs, odds are they would be more than willing to share promising contacts with you!

In addition to seeking out referrals, keep a watchful eye on customer feedback sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List. If reviews are less than stellar, post a public response and take the appropriate measures to do right by your customer. Sincerity and follow through can work wonders in saving an impaired relationship—and impressing prospective customers.

Misses Calls are Missed Opportunities

After all your curating, marketing, and sales work, don’t strike out on making a connection with potential customers. Studies show that 72% of callers who reach an automated answer will hang up without leaving a message, often calling a competitor. While answering calls is critical to building trust with customers, having the bandwidth to pick up every time the phone rings may be problematic, especially for the small business owner. Trust your calls with Ruby® Receptionists, the live, remote receptionist service that turns rings into relationships! Ruby will delight your callers while you focus on doing the work you need to do to keep your business moving.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Set Goals

Big or small, set goals and hold yourself accountable in meeting each milestone on the way to achieving them. A killer business plan means nothing if you don’t have follow through. In the planning process, consider where you want your business to be one, three, and five years ahead. As a small business owner, it can be easy to lose sight of your vision for the future when you’re just trying to get through the daily grind. Revisit your goals during the hustle and remember that thoughtful execution of well-laid plans is paramount to your success.

At Ruby Receptionists, we pride ourselves on being an extension of your team, helping your business to grow and thrive.

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Training on a Budget for Small Businesses

Budget training for small business employees

A lot is going on in your small business. You have to deal with tight budgets, a small staff, and fast growth, but there’s one thing that people often forget: training.

Though you may only have a handful of employees, and even less time and budget to train, developing your employees has a wealth of benefits for you and your business, including:

  • Greater effectiveness on the job
  • More motivated and engaged staff
  • Increased retention

You don’t need to pay thousands for tuition or hire a full-time trainer to take advantage of these benefits. Get the most bang for your buck with these five cost-effective ways to help employees develop new skills:

Leverage outside resources.

No need to build your own training soup to nuts! There are plenty of free articles, webinars, YouTube videos, and low-cost community events that can help employees build new skills.

To make it stick, be sure to supplement the training with company or role-specific reinforcement. This can be as simple as a few reflection questions, a worksheet, or short handout.

For example, say a team member is interested in a leadership path. You might link them to a TED Talk on body language. In your email or IM, include 2-3 questions that will help them reflect on what they learned and tie it back to their role, such as:

  • Take a moment to audit your current body language. What would someone infer about you from this posture?
  • Describe three upcoming situations in your role where power posing beforehand may be helpful.

Delegate—with support.

Stretch assignments are a great way to give employees hands-on practice. If the team member is brand-new to the skill, pick a low-stakes project and schedule plenty of check-ins to coach and offer encouragement. They’ll likely struggle and make mistakes—that’s where the learning happens! When roadblocks crop up, try using the GROW coaching model to help them discover their own solutions.

70% of learning & development happens on the job, not in the classroom.

Host a book club.

When Ruby was teeny tiny, our Director of Customer Happiness led a monthly book club. We discussed books like Contagious Leadership, First Break All the Rules, Lean In, and The Happiness Advantage. A quick Google search will often point you to pre-made discussion guides.

Pro tip: Delegate facilitating the discussion to someone who’s building their facilitation skills!

Brown bag it.

The more team members you have, the more faculty members you have! Have an employee who is exceptional at customer service? A whiz at Excel? Has an eye for design? Ask them to give a short presentation or lead an activity over lunch. Not only will it expose other team members to new skills, the presenter solidifies their expertise and gets an added ego boost to boot.

Get your money’s worth.

Remember, your employees are building new habits as they learn. To keep them from sliding back into old habits, be sure to set clear expectations before the event and follow up afterward. According to research, the follow up after a training contributes 50% to the entire training’s effectiveness.

Even a simple, informal question like, “What are you still implementing today?” will show you’re serious about the time and energy they’ve devoted to the learning process and help cement their new skills.

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