Who Are You? Establishing Your Brand

Designing Your Brand

Establishing a local, solo, or niche business—even in the age of the internet—is easiest when you generate real word of mouth.

Easier said than done, right? But it is possible. Creating a genuine brand story and embodying that story throughout your customer touchpoints will set you on the right path!

Here’s a great example for you. I recently bought an old house that needed some plumbing work. After asking around, I got a recommendation for a plumber known for his work on old homes. He was described as genuine, honest, and kind. He doesn’t advertise and doesn’t have a website. His business is run on satisfied clients spreading the word.

How does he do it?

He obviously didn’t sit down and build out a 12-step plan for establishing a brand. Instead, he decided what values are important to him, and consistently acted according to them. He’s not the cheapest plumber. He’s not the fastest. But he’s honest, reliable, and knows old homes and their challenges. Clients who are looking for someone fitting this description, know that they can turn to him.

Now, how can you take his strategy and apply it to your business? Here are three steps that can help you define your brand story —and use that story to grow your business!

Ask the question: who do I want to be?

establishing your brandNo brand is everything to everyone. You can’t be both a high-end expensive furniture store, and sell cheap and attainable couches.

So, when you’re establishing your product, service, and brand voice, it’s important that you know who you want your client to be. Even more importantly, you need to establish who you are.

If you’re an attorney, do you sell yourself on price? Approachability? Your ability to win the case?

As a contractor, a realtor, or candlestick maker, you have to answer questions about your methods, specialties, and motivations. The more you’ve formulated your identity, the more authentic you can be—and the value of what you have to offer will shine through.
A good practice is to list out how you would like people to talk about your business. Spend an hour writing down words like affordable, reliable, transparent, passionate… whatever your phrases may be. Then figure out how you can apply these principles to your business.

Spread the word

Spread the wordIf you’re branding yourself in a certain niche, with certain qualities, you’ll want to share these differentiators when spreading the word. Add your keywords to your website. Tell your story to customers and potential customers. Be honest about who you are.

Include your brand story on your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles, your website, your customer communications. The more you self-define, the more likely people will align your business and the value you deliver according to that definition.

In fact, it’s amazing how people love to share positive experiences! If you make a promise and fulfill that promise meeting or exceeding their expectations, your clients will share their experiences. If you want to provide excellent customer experiences, and you deliver those experiences, your customers will tell their friends, write reviews, and the word will spread.

Be consistent

Creating consistent customer experiencesIf you say you’re the friendliest roofer in town, it’s important to make sure you’re always friendly—holding up your promise. If you say you’re the cheapest, you need to be the cheapest.

Consistency is key.

Any inconsistency, any failure to deliver what you promise your clients, runs the risk of damaging your reputation. Unsatisfied customers will go on Yelp, Facebook, and other review sites to call you out onsub-par service or broken promises… Your self-definition, your brand story, has to be honest. It has to be true.

Want to learn more about branding your business? Learn 5 steps to establishing your brand story!

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How Gratitude Can Benefit You and Your Business

If there were a simple solution proven to lead to fewer sick days, higher team morale, happier customers, and a more pleasant work environment, you’d probably give it a whirl, right? What if it could also make you physically and mentally healthier, and even extend your lifespan?

Good news: this magic cure exists—and it’s free and accessible to everyone.

It’s gratitude.

Study after study has shown gratitude helps people become healthier, happier, and more successful, and it can impact your business in the same ways.

Gratitude’s proven benefits

Enhanced teamwork and customer experience. Gratitude inspires prosocial behavior—that is, behavior intended to benefit other people. When employees are willing to pitch in and help each other, more gets done. Prosocial behavior benefits customers too. A team that’s naturally driven to go above and beyond for each other is likely to do the same for customers.

Stronger work ethic. A study by Glassdoor reports 81% of employees are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. The majority of those polled also said they’re likely to stay at a job longer when they feel appreciated. Happy, hardworking employees and reduced turnover? Sounds like a business owner’s dream come true!

Improved health. People with a positive mental attitude have been shown to have healthier hearts and sleep better. What about those who aren’t naturally positive? Good news: adopting a gratitude practice can improve heart health, sleep quality, and overall wellbeing—so even if your health isn’t 100% today, gratitude can help you turn things around. A recent study showed decreased heart disease risk in patients who regularly journaled about two or three things they were grateful for. Best of all, these impressive results were noted after just two months of journaling.

So how can you incorporate more gratitude into your life and work, and encourage your team members to do the same?

According to Dr. Robert A. Emmons, there are three stages to a gratitude practice:

  • Recognizing what you’re grateful for
  • Acknowledging it
  • Appreciating it

It’s called a gratitude “practice” for a reason—it takes practice. While being grateful may not be something we’re naturally prone to do, it’s a habit well worth developing. With a few tweaks to your daily routine, you, your team members, and your business can enjoy the many benefits of gratitude.

Easy ways to integrate gratitude into your routine

Look for it. Before you can be thankful for something, you have to find something to be thankful for—and if you’re not used to doing that, this can be the biggest step. If you’re struggling, set reminders to pause and reflect on the day’s events. Take a walk around the block, spend a few minutes sitting on park bench, or just focus at your desk, and consider the positives things you’ve experienced. Don’t pressure yourself to look for something grand. Simple things like a sunny morning, a less-hectic-than-normal commute, or a good cup of coffee count.

Act on it. The next time you think, “How nice of my coworker to do that!” let that coworker know how you feel! When gratitude strikes, get in the habit of acting on it. Work that muscle and make it part of your everyday routine. While thoughtful, well-timed gifts are great, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to show your appreciation—and some of the most meaningful displays of gratitude don’t cost a penny. Whether it means sending a quick email or text, making a phone call, writing a notecard, or simply saying “thank you,” don’t let those little flashes of gratitude pass without expressing them.

When it comes to your customers or clients, keep your antenna up and look for an opportunity to express gratitude in every interaction. Aim to be specific—instead of “Thank you for calling,” up the ante with “Thank you for being a devoted customer since 2007!” or “Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback about our new platform!”

Write about it. As noted above, journaling daily (or nearly every day) about a few things you’re grateful for is a simple way to cultivate happiness and health. By taking the time to reflect on those things you’re grateful for, you solidify your gratitude practice. The Ruby team recently embarked on a 21-day happiness journal challenge, and you and your team can do the same by setting aside just a few minutes each day. Grab a pen, a notebook, and get to thinking and thanking!

Systematize it. Whatever your preferred ways to show gratitude, create systems to support them. At home, that might mean setting a reminder to journal every evening before bed. At work, you might schedule 10 minutes every day or 30 minutes every week to pen a notecard, draft a thank-you email, or reach out to a customer with a phone call. Stocking the office with notecards, envelopes, and stamps is a low-cost way to encourage your team to send thank-you notes when the mood strikes.

Try adding gratitude checkpoints to your business processes. For example, you might make it a standard practice to send customers a handwritten note on their service anniversary, or surprise customers with birthday cards signed by the entire team. There’s no end of ways to show you care, so play around and see what works for you and your team, then commit to it. You’ll be grateful you did!

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3 Ways a Virtual Receptionist Can Help You Accomplish More

Real, Live Virtual Receptionists

As a small business owner, you probably don’t need scientific data to convince you that a little distraction-free time now and then would be incredibly helpful, but here’s a stat just for good measure: we accomplish roughly 50% less when we try to do two—or more—things at once. If you don’t have in-house phone help, a virtual receptionist service can be a life (and sanity) saver when you need to hunker down and get things done, giving you the freedom to focus without worrying about incoming calls. But a virtual receptionist service can give you a lot more than just a little peace and quiet—in fact, a quality service can improve the overall function of your business during crunch time and beyond.

Here are three ways a virtual receptionist service can increase your efficiency:

Improved customer service.

Pop quiz: When you’re interrupted in the middle of an important project, are you a) very likely to be friendly and upbeat, b) not particularly likely to be friendly and upbeat, or c) highly likely to be questioning why you chose this incredibly stressful career in the first place? In order to give your customers the service they deserve, you need to be in the right frame of mind. A good virtual receptionist is an expert trained in the art of customer experience, dedicated to making each caller happy. Let your virtual receptionist warmly greet callers, connect the calls you want, and take thorough messages for the rest, setting you up with the details you need to make informed follow-up calls—so you can catch up with customers when you’re ready, and they never have to see you sweat.

Virtual Receptionist Services for Small BusinessesStreamlined day-to-day operations.

Remote reception services have come a long way from the answering services of the past, and they offer a heck of a lot more than, “The office is closed for lunch. May I take a message?” Sophisticated technology means a quality virtual receptionist service can make a powerful impact on your workflow. Look for a service that will work with you to create customized call handling instructions for different scenarios and employees. With the right setup, your virtual receptionist team can answer frequently asked questions, provide driving directions, weed out telemarketers, collect information from new customers, and much more—including differentiating between urgent and not-so-urgent calls, so you’re interrupted when you need to be, and only then. Many virtual receptionist services can make outbound calls on your behalf, too, so you can check “appointment reminders” off your to-do list for good.

Enhanced peace of mind.

One of the greatest things about a virtual receptionist service is it’s not a “service” in the traditional sense—it’s more like an extension of your team. The best virtual receptionists are truly invested in the success of your business, and knowing that your calls are being handled by bright, talented, real people is beyond reassuring. Just like an in-house receptionist, good remote reception services can adjust your call handling on the fly when you’re stepping into a meeting or taking a much-deserved break—and unlike an in-house receptionist, virtual receptionists don’t take breaks or lunches, or call out sick when you need them most. Instead, a virtual receptionist is reliably there for you and your callers—so that no matter what you’re focusing on in the moment, your business stays focused on thriving.

Interested in adding a virtual receptionist to your team? Our free checklist can help you ask the right questions when shopping around!

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3 Powerful Benefits of Data-Driven Decisions

When you measure your small business up against the big guys, it can be easy to sell yourself short. You might assume their greater resources give them a huge advantage—and often they do. But when you’re small, you’re more agile. You’re more capable of moving quickly and taking greater risks.

And that’s great—successful businesses take risks! The key is to make data-driven decisions and take data-driven risks. Your capacity for flexibility combined with the smart use of data can be key to carving out your niche in the market and pulling ahead of the competition.

1. Data Gives You a Clear Picture of Your Situation

When you’re creating a strategic plan for your business, data is the signpost that points you in the right direction. Not sure how prospects feel about your newest product or service? Check your data. Not sure if your customers are satisfied with your service? The answer lies in the numbers. Not sure where you should be focusing your marketing efforts? The signs are all there if you’re ready to look for them.

Numbers don’t lie, even when we might want them to.

Data can tell you who your audience is and where your audience is. It can even tell you what your audience likes—and whether or not they’re liking your products. Trends lead to insights, which gives you direction and enables you to make decisions that are both bold and smart.

2. Data Tells You What Works

The social media platforms we interact with measure us by collecting demographic data, noting our interests, and gauging the likelihood that we’ll buy what they’re selling.

You can use these tools to do the same for your business. Beyond getting to know your audience, you can gain insights into your success. From video views to direct mail conversions and Facebook click-through rates, you have unlimited data at your fingertips. How you use it is up to you.

Just one Facebook post lets you see how many people liked, shared, and commented on your post, how many took action, and whether or not viewers decided to unfollow you as a result.

Data can tell you:

  • Who is seeing your advertising, buying your product, interacting with your brand, and having a negative response.
  • What draws your customer’s attention, convinces them to buy, or causes them to cancel services.
  • When customers are more likely to buy, less likely to buy, most responsive, and are on social media.
  • Where you can reach customers, and where they’re located.
  • Why customers actually buy your service or product.

Content Marketing Metrics


Data can get you the who, what, when, where, and why of almost anything. The trick to gathering that data and putting it to use is to:

  • Test
  • Review Data
  • Repeat

3. Data Helps You Overcome Stress

Does data make you anxious? Do too many numbers leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused?

The process of tracking all the data available to you (which is a lot) and attempting to apply it can be overwhelming.

The best way to overcome this struggle is to acknowledge that you can’t track everything. You have to choose the data that is most important to your particular company and your goals. Overcoming data stress is as simple as selecting the data you want to use to measure your goals—something that can be done during your goal-setting projects.

Using data correctly doesn’t have to be stressful. Instead of collecting all the information that is available to you in a world of data, you can just collect the information that matters—the data that helps you solve the toughest dilemmas and keep your company’s strategic goals moving forward.

Bonus: Data Can Build Character

Working with data makes you a better decision maker, thinker, and employee. It forces you to better your processes by taking an evidence-based approach to decision making. Using it correctly can help your business grow by leaps and bounds.

The best part? Data never gets less useful. There are always ways to interpret and utilize it to benefit you and your business.

Gabe Arnold

 

Gabe Arnold is the founder of Copywriter Today where you can get unlimited fresh content for all your marketing needs. If you want 250 free headline ideas for your next marketing campaign, use their free tool here.

 

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Free eBook: The Business Call is Back

Bizcall ebook

In a world of texting, tweeting, email, and even snapchat, there’s one form of communication that’s proven to be here to stay—the phone call.

In fact, with all the ways we have to connect with one another in the internet age, it’s the phone call that remains the preferred method for customers to interact with businesses. Companies big, small, and every size in between are seeing an explosion of inbound calls.

Why?

Because of the click-to-call revolution! Click-to-call is the ability to call a business straight from Google search on a smartphone, with the tap of a thumb. The days of transcribing numbers from computer to phone are over, and people are making more calls than ever. In fact, the number of calls to businesses from smartphones is predicted to reach 162 billion in 2019!

Are you interested in taking advantage of the click-to-call boom? Ruby is here to help! In our free ebook, we describe how you can capitalize on the inbound call renaissance and turn your phone into a productive marketing channel.

Insights include:

  • How to drive traffic to your phone and prepare for prospective customers
  • Setting your team up for click-to-call success for maximum conversions
  • Telephone greeting best practices
  • A toolkit for creating consistent phone experiences
  • How to close the deal and measure success

Download Your Ebook!

Transitioning to a Virtual Office

Virtual Office

Would you love to check out of the office permanently, with the freedom to work whenever and wherever you want? You’re not alone. For the past five years, the number of American employees working remotely has been on the rise.

New technology and ever-evolving options have made remote work easier than ever. As more employees work virtually, more options become available—including the virtual office.

Have you made the decision to move to a virtual space? These tips can help you get off to a strong start!

Set Your StructureRemote Staff_Small_1

Most of the time, when you hire employees, they work in the traditional time-based payment and review structure. Employees have grown accustomed to being paid based on the number of hours they work—thus focusing on hours as a basis for expectations.

But, in a virtual office, expectations are much less hours-based. It requires both leaders and employees to look at job duties from a new, outcomes-based perspective. Employers have a harder time focusing on the amount of time employees spend “in the office” because they’re never really in an office.

Instead, the focus should shift toward quality and quantity over time. When setting expectations for a virtual company, it’s important that everybody understands these expectations. Of course, for this to happen you have to provide your employees with the tools to meet expectations.

Some key things to keep in mind:

Plan the Transition
Untitled-2

Before you choose to make a move to a virtual office, put together a transition team. It’s vital that everyone is on board with the decision. While a virtual office has its benefits, the change might not be best for everyone. Some may be skeptical about the shift, and others may thrive in a different environment. The key to a successful transition is transparent communication.

You’ll want to communicate:

  • Why you’ve decided to make the transition
  • How the transition is going to look
  • When you’ll be making the transition
  • What the virtual office is going to look like

It’s important that you share the expectations, benefits, and logistics with your team up front. Without a solid plan and communication transitioning to a virtual office can be a big hurdle to overcome.

One last tip: give employees an idea of what a virtual office will look like. People respond well to visuals, and everybody prefers knowing expectations up front. The idea of “virtual” can be scary!

Get the Tools You Need to Succeed

Show your employees how the available technology will make developing and maintaining an effective virtual office easier and more attainable than ever.

  • Stay connected: It’s key that a remote team stays in contact. Tools like Slack, Uberconference, Basecamp, GotoMeeting and so many other options make team communications attainable. When choosing what to use, think about your needs. Do you need video chat? Text chat?
  • Project management: Tools like Wrike, Jira, Trello, Dropbox, and Smartsheets make managing projects of all kinds easier, especially for virtual teams. Project management tools will keep your team in contact and organized.
  • Project-specific tool: What does your team need to succeed? Adobe Suite? CRM? Cloud-based graphic design tools? Industry-specific software? It’s key that you prepare in advance, so you get the right tools in the hands of the right employees!

And don’t forget, a virtual receptionist can help your virtual office grow!

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Pros and Cons of a Virtual Law Office

Virtual Law Office

When you operate a virtual law office, you’re foregoing the traditional brick-and-mortar office for one of two main options.

  1. You’re running your law office out of your home or on the go. This works much the way you would expect. You can set aside an office space in your home, work out of coffee shops and hotels, and keep all of your work organized online.
  2. You’re utilizing a co-working or virtual office network. The other common definition of a virtual office is a space that you rent out but share with other businesses. Instead of having a designated office, you sign up to be part of a network that allows you to reserve rooms for meetings with clients—giving you a physical space outside your home where you can host people. While you would still keep all your work “virtual,” you can receive mail and phone calls to the virtual office location. Often, these virtual offices have multiple locations, allowing you to work out of them as you travel.

Starting a solo firm or opening a small law practice can be expensive, and as you grow, you often find yourself focused on minimizing costs as much as possible. Either of the above options provides you with the opportunity to skip the expensive overhead of leasing an office space. Instead, you have more freedom to work the way you want. While this flexibility is very effective for some attorneys, your actual success depends on your work style.

Operating a virtual law office has both pros and cons.

Pros of a Virtual Law Office

When you think about the advantages of a virtual law office, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about the price tag—which is, naturally, one of the most significant advantages. That being said, there are a lot of other pros to moving into a virtual space.

Some advantages include:icon3

  • Lower monthly overhead
  • Eco-friendly and possibly paper-free
  • Greater flexibility to transition between stages in your business
  • Ability to serve a wider client base because you aren’t tied down to a single office location
  • Flexibility with the hours you work and more control over your work/life balance

Cons of a Virtual Law Office

While there are a number of advantages of a virtual space, it also comes with a few distinct disadvantages. As your firm grows, you may outgrow a virtual office at some point. So, it’s important that you keep in mind these disadvantages when choosing your office solution.

Some disadvantages include:

  • Lack of “traditional” office feel
  • Blurred lines between work and personal life—may negatively impact work/life balance
  • If you work out of a virtual office location, you may feel like a guest in your own space
  • You may need to take extra steps to ensure your state bar approves your software and tools
  • You may need to take extra steps to ensure smooth client communications
  • You’ll want to take extra security measures when working out of shared spaces
  • If you work out of your home, you may have to give clients your home address or find another meeting space

Whether a virtual law office is right for you depends on many factors. If you do choose a virtual office, it’s important to have the practice management tools and resources to adequately run your virtual office.icon1

Check out our other resources about the virtual office:

Do you currently work out of a virtual law office? Share your story with us @callruby on Twitter!

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What is a Virtual Office?

Home Office

There’s a lot of talk about “going virtual” these days. But what exactly does that mean?

According to Wikipedia, a virtual office is defined as

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

Basically, a virtual office is an office that primarily exists in cyberspace and without a designated physical location. It empowers businesses to run from virtually (see what I did there?) any location via the internet.

How a virtual office works

When you choose a virtual office, you’re deciding against having a designated physical location where you and your employees go to work. Instead, your office is wherever you are—as long as you have internet access. And your employees’ offices are wherever they are.

Usually, people work out of a home office or a quiet space in their home, but that isn’t your only option. You can work out of hotels, coffee shops, coworking spaces, or even on the beach! In fact, there’s a modern movement of “digital nomads” who run their businesses as they travel.

Having a virtual business means relying on the web for communications and meetings. Instead of spending a big chunk of money on rent (even a small office is pretty expensive these days), you spend a much smaller amount of money on the tools that keep your team in contact. These tools usually include video chat software, text chat tools, and product management software.

Who a virtual office works for

Of course, not every company thrives with a virtual office. Working remotely works the best for small businesses with motivated employees—and it requires a particular kind of culture. To succeed as a virtual company, it’s important to empower your virtual staff by giving them the training and the tools they need to succeed.

Like most things, a virtual office space comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Pros

The advantages of virtual offices are especially impactful for solo or small businesses. If you don’t have any employees, or only have a few, this is often the most inexpensive way to run your business. There are also growth advantages—since transitioning from a virtual to physical office space is easier than moving from one office to a new one.

Benefits of a virtual office include:

  • No commute—unless you want one
  • Employees are empowered to work when they work best
  • Employees are empowered to work where they work best
  • Access to talent isn’t limited to a geographic location
  • Lower overhead costs
  • Lower turnover
  • Can help your company grow more quickly

Cons

There are, of course, situations where a physical location is necessary for your business. And a virtual office isn’t right for everyone.

The disadvantages of a virtual office include:

  • You’ll need to seek out a location for client meetings, as you won’t have your own conference rooms
  • A lack of face-to-face interaction can make building a company culture hard as you grow
  • Coordinating meetings and projects may be difficult if employees are in different time zones
  • A lack of separation between work and home is sometimes problematic—when you work where you live, it may be difficult to “clock out.”
  • Employees who work remotely have to be self-driven

Whether or not a virtual office works for you depends on your personal and company needs. Not sure what office type is right for you? Check out our examination of four different office types!

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