Author Archives: The Running Start

About The Running Start

B2B Marketing Strategist and Corporate Storyteller

You’re in the Business of Happy

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It doesn’t matter what business you’re in; your number one goal should be to make customers happy. Happiness brings customers back again and again. It makes business relationships easier and makes your work more meaningful. It gets people to talk about your product or service with others.

In turn, it means higher profits for you and satisfied customers who are grateful to you for making their jobs easier, more efficient, and profitable.

It sounds so simple and straight forward. But how do you know if you are doing a good job at making your customers happy?

For large corporations, you can measure happiness through customer satisfaction surveys, CSAT (customer satisfaction) scores and Net Promoter Scores (NPS). You can also monitor customer sentiment on social media, via your customer service team, or online user forums.

But for small businesses, especially if you are selling a service, these best practices can be costly and require resources that you just don’t have right now.

Instead, the fastest way to measure if you’re customers happy, other than repeat business, is through word of mouth.

As a freelancer, my business is 100% reliant on my clients being happy with my work for them. The best leads I get, no matter what other marketing initiatives I am working on, come from my happiest customers — simply passing my name along to a colleague.

Positive word of mouth is paramount. If you have to prioritize one marketing initiative above all else while you boot up your business, start there.

It costs a lot less than investing in social media and a beautiful website. Yes, you need a web presence but it doesn’t have to be perfect to start making money. And you can grow a lot faster as a small services business if you just make your existing customers happy.

So, if you are getting calls from your customers’ contacts, you know you’re doing something right. If not, it’s time to start asking yourself and your customers (an old school phone call or face to face meeting will do the trick) what’s up?

If they are happy but not passing your name along, you can be so bold as to ask them to do so. Just be sure to reward them in some way for their efforts. A Starbucks gift card, thank you note, or lunch will all do the trick. It doesn’t have to be fancy or cost a lot.

If they’re not happy, it’s time to rethink how you run your business. Can you scale down services to focus on what you do best? Can you do more to make your customers feel valued? Again, simple and scrappy solutions to determine how to fix them problem are fine in the beginning.

Nothing is perfect when you first launch a business. But you’ll be a lot happier, and less stressed, if you focus on what’s most important. After all, “happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy.” — Gretta Palmer

 

 

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My Post-Mat Leave Plan

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Going on mat leave for the second time this past winter was bitter sweet for me. On the one hand, I was very excited to meet my new daughter and looked forward to spending time getting to know this brand new person. On the other, I was anxious to leave a business and job/clients with whom I loved to work.

Would my clients be angry that I was going on leave? Would they be willing to take me back after almost a year off? How would I cope with two kids this time around? All of these questions were swirling around in my head.

Well, it’s been almost 8 months since my daughter was born and I am so thankful that self-employed women in Canada are able to contribute to EI (employment insurance) and take mat leave just like women who work for someone else. I have truly enjoyed this time with her and with my son who is so proud to be a big brother.

So, now I’m facing another bitter sweet moment. I am planning to start working again in a few months and have a million more questions about how things will change for her and for me.

To prepare my family and my brain (which I feel like I haven’t used in a while) for what’s to come, I’ve devised a strategy to make the transition smooth for everyone.

Here it is for other self-employed moms to see:

  1. Make a plan with my child care provider for how I’d like the transition to go with my kids as I build my business back up.
  2. Reach out to clients a few months in advance of my return to work — so they have time to figure out if, how and when they’d like to begin working with me again. I’m happy to say that one of them has already confirmed that we’ll be working together again. I want to give them enough time to get budgets approved so I can hit the ground running as soon as my mat leave is over.
  3. Develop a new marketing strategy to get my name “out there” again.
  4. Work with my accountant to plan for the year ahead and develop a budget for future expenses.
  5. Build out a schedule for how I’d like my workdays to flow — knowing that things need to remain flexible because, let’s face it, life is unpredictable when you have kids.

Since this is the second time I’ve built my business back up after a mat leave, I feel more confidant this time around that I can make it work. The biggest challenge is always managing my time wisely and ensuring I build in enough of it to spend with my family and integrate my home life with my work life.

Do you have any tips for transitioning from mat leave back to work — especially as a small business owner? If so, I’d love to hear it. Please share your sage advice below.

Why This Mamma is Hooked on Amazon Prime

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A time-starved, working mom who does most of the household shopping online. I’m an ecommerce marketer’s dream!

I definitely have my go-to destinations for household items. Grocery Gateway, Well.ca and Walmart.ca are great but the site that has truly captured my heart (and the one I always use for price comparisons before I buy anything) is Amazon. And Prime is the reason that I can’t live without it.

About a month ago, a friend of mine asked her network on Facebook whether it was worth trying out Amazon Prime for free. I had so many reasons to share with her but instead of writing a really long list on Facebook, I thought my arguments in favour of Prime would be best outlined on a blog post. And no, Amazon did not pay me or ask me to write this…I’m just that much of an addict.

While the benefit of free shipping goes without saying, below are some of my tips and tricks for getting the most out of an Amazon Prime account.

1. Coupons, convenience and lightning deals

With a four month old daughter and a preschooler at home, I am always in need of the basics. The Amazon deals section, which also highlights warehouse and daily lightning deals (Prime members get early access too) contains a continuous stream of great coupons to clip whenever you run out of granola bars, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc.

You can get most of your non-perishable grocery items on Amazon and with Prime, you don’t have to pay for shipping like you would with other grocery sites. Too bad Amazon Fresh isn’t available in Canada yet. I’d be all over that.

I got hooked on Amazon coupons when I was pregnant and was pretty immobile during my last trimester. I ordered almost everything we needed grocery-wise online and saved my husband the time and annoyance of having to get things on the way home from work during the winter.

2. Amazon Basics has you covered for batteries

I like to think of Amazon Prime as an online Costco membership because of Amazon-branded items like batteries which are a great deal. And Prime members save an additional 20%! Since we just had a baby, we have been buying batteries like crazy. Is it me or does it not seem like the battery companies are in cahoots with the toy and baby gear companies to keep each other in business? I don’t know what I’d do without Amazon Basics just for this reason.

3. Prime Video

After the kids are in bed and I have a little time for myself, I occasionally check out what’s new on Prime Video as it is now part of my membership. There is some great Amazon original content on there that you can’t see anywhere else. I recently finished watching Good Girls Revolt (loved it!) and am looking forward to watching The Man in the High Castle next.

The only downside is that you have to watch it on a mobile device or your laptop via Amazon’s website or app.

4. Buying Prime items is a safety precaution

Online fraud is everywhere and occasionally a fake retailer slips through the cracks and scams Amazon customers out of their money. Shame on me as I have been fooled twice.

The good news is that Amazon is very good about refunding the money if the item never arrives. You first have to try and contact the seller to see if there was a problem. If the seller never gets back to you, that’s when Amazon steps in and helps.

If you don’t want this to happen to you, stick to buying things that have the Prime symbol beside them as these are always fulfilled by Amazon. Otherwise, stick to well-known brands and/or sellers that have their own ecommerce website in addition to having a presence on Amazon.

Bonus tip #1: Use a wish list to check weekly for price reductions

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. If a returned Amazon item has a minor flaw (e.g. the box has a slight tear), Amazon knocks like 25% off the price of the item (it could be more or less…I’m just going off my own shopping experiences). But you have to act quickly and scoop it up before someone else does. So, if you’ve got your eye on a high priced item, it’s worth saving it to your wish list to see when Amazon has one on sale.

Bonus tip #2: Join the Savings Guru Facebook group

This group shares discounts from various online retailers but the majority of the deals shared are on Amazon. If something goes on sale, this group is gonna catch it for you. It’s definitely worth joining to check there first before buying baby or household items.

Will Prime be my BFF?

Amazon is quickly becoming a monopoly and is eating into the profits of other businesses — even Walmart is feeling the pain (not that I feel sorry for them specifically). So, I do feel a little bit of guilt for shopping there as a result. But on the flip side, a lot of smaller online sellers use Amazon as a sales channel to attract new customers and as their fulfillment center.

So for now, I’m sticking with my Prime membership and am enjoying saving lots of money and time to spend with my growing family. I haven’t jumped on the subscription bandwagon yet but plan to as I figure out our needs for diapers, baby wipes, paper towels, etc. in the near future.

One day, I may even get an Amazon Echo so that I can just shout “Alexa, I need dish soap” from my kitchen and a drone will drop it off on my doorstep later that day. I know it’s only a matter of time.

Have I missed a tip for making the most of your Prime membership? Please share below.