Friday, May 15, 2009

Blog has been moved to a new Platform

Dear Friends,

Thanks for visiting my blog. I made the decision to move to a hosted blog and you can now find me at I hope those of you who currently follow me will continue to do so and look forward to your questions and comments there as well.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

How to Organize Letters with Negative Messages to Your Clients and Customers

It may not be possible to make your client or customer happy with the news you have to convey, but you may be able to structure your message to create a positive feeling and maintain goodwill. The following 3 points can help with this:

1. Appeal to your customer’s ability to reason. When you have a reason that readers will understand and accept, provide that reason before giving the negative information.

2. Remember that one of your goals when conveying negative messages is to reduce future correspondence on the same subject; therefore it’s wise to insure that you clearly present the negative information just once.

3. If a compromise or alternative is available go ahead and present it then end on a positive note, with a forward-looking statement.

Methods of Conveying Negative Messages to Your Clients and Customers

Most people do not like changes and do not react or respond well to changes. It disturbs the natural order or flow of their lives. It gives them one more new thing to absorb and adjust to.

Negative messages may be conveyed through an e-mail, a letter sent through the 'snail mail', or more informally in a memorandum. While a follow-up call is a great idea, the original message should not be conveyed on the telephone. For one thing you want to eliminate any misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the message. Your goal should also be to reduce the need for future correspondence on the subject.

You may also want to convey negative messages in written form so that you can phrase your words in a way that the reader can be led to the conclusion that your decision was unavoidable, but fair and reasonable. Further, if they were in your shoes, they would have done the same thing.

Please feel free to add your comment and share how you handle negative messages to your clients and customers. We love to keep the conversation going.

***Next we'll consider how to organize negative letters.***

Friday, April 17, 2009

3 Reasons for Communicating Negative Messages to Customers

Most very small business owners, entrepreneurs and solo-professionals cringe at the thought of approaching clients or customers with negative information. Invariably we know that regardless of how much we try to cushion the negative information between positive messages, our clients or customers are going to be disappointed or angry.

We may need to convey negative messages for the following reasons:

(i) Announcement of policy changes that may not be to the benefit of the client or customer.
(ii) Give notice of a product or service price increase.
(iii) Since in many cases we do not make the product we sell, it may become necessary to advise of a product recall.

A bonus reason is delivering any information that the client or customer may perceive as being intrusive or even insulting.

What methods can be used to convey these negative messages? We’ll consider those in my next post.

Please leave your comments. We love to keep the conversation going.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Are You Making the Most of Your Time Everyday?

Today I read a post that I'd like to share with my readers because we often hear of the importance of Time Management. I believe that it really should be Self-Management. When we know what our goals are we will take the steps to achieve those goals, including using our time wisely to accomplish daily tasks.

The article is "Planning Your Time Just Right" at Please read and share your thoughts on what works best for you. What strategies do you find most effective to get the most of your day?

I am still working on developing the mindset not to open e-mails first thing in the mornings as an hour can slip by just reading e-mails, attachments and links. I have to get over the thought that there could be something urgent that I need to respond to and so I check. Does anyone else have this challenge?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

3 Ways That Solo Entrepreneurs and Home-Based Business Owners Can Turn Their Fear Factor into Fun Factor

As Solo Entrepreneurs, Small Business Owners, Direct Sellers we are often affected and impacted by many negative forces outside of our control and these can cause F.E.A.R! According to the Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, fear is defined as dread, terror, trepidation; emotions that react to stimulus, external or internal. The definition I'd like to focus on is False Evidence Appearing Real.

I believe that because we are natural nurturers, women more than men are anxious to see that everything follows a specific path; the slightest deviation from that path causes us intense anxiety and result in fear lurking its ugly head. In our minds we see gloom and doom when the reality is that it may just be a temporary setback. Could injecting more humor into our businesses dilute the fear factor? Could we use humor to turn fear factor into fun factor?

1) "I'm having a hard time finding customers" - Are you prejudging people you meet? You never know who your next customer or team member may be. The rules of Marketing, even for offline businesses have changed, so make it your goal to stay informed and use methods to attract the type of people you want. Be happy and positive! There's enough negativity to go around and people want to be around positive people.

2) "I don't know anyone" - Start making a list of the people you already know and pull out all those business cards you've been collecting for the past several months. Give the people you're already acquainted with a call and see if they would like to try one of your new products or line of service they've not tried. I would suggest that you work on building a relationship with those persons you've never spoken with before you offer them your product or service. When you make your phone calls, have a smile in your voice, be upbeat without sounding fake and keep it short. Convey urgency! When you sound positive and upbeat, it arouses curiosity.

3) "I'm tired of calling my same list of customers" - Then don't call! Send them an ezine/newsletter with short interesting articles. Too challenging right now? Send a postcard to say you're thinking of them with one or two quick tips based on your niche. Your customers will know you're thinking of them and because you stay in touch with them, you'll be the person they call when they need something in your product or service line.

There are many other ways to turn your for fear factor into fun factor but you get the idea. Don't let false evidence rob you of your joy in running your own business; instead, work on the things you can control and put some fun into your business.

Please share some ideas of what you do when for any number of reasons fear starts to creep into your thoughts and how you keep the "fun" in your business.

Monday, March 30, 2009

5 Reasons for Stress in Your Home-Based Business

A growing number of men are pursuing successful businesses from home; however, it would appear that the majority of home-based businesses are managed by women. Many of these women are mothers, especially of small children; wives; caregivers for elderly parent/s; involved in social and volunteer activities, and the list goes on. 'These are normal activities for many people,' you may say. True, but these same responsibilities can create tremendous stress for solo-professionals working from home.

Maintain a proper balance between personal and professional life

a) Location: Your office building is your home. Your office may be a desk and chair in an already occupied room. Or you may have a room designated as your office. Can you make and receive phone calls without interruption or background noise? At the start of your day, do you dress as if you were expecting a client in your home, or as if you were leaving for a job outside the home? Nothing excessive, but doing whatever is necessary to make you personally feel you're going to YOUR office to work?

b) Setting Parameters: One of the reasons many mothers with small children choose to work from home is the desire and preference to raise their children themselves while others with older children desire to home-school their children. Does your family understand that once you are at your desk you should not be disturbed unless it's very important? Do they understand that tools (pens, pencils, notebooks, etc.) on your desk are for business purposes only so that you don't waste your time finding them when you need them?

c) Setting a Schedule: A basic schedule is essential. Where babies and very small children are involved it can be challenging to adhere to that schedule; that's a concept that they have not grasped yet but can be trained as they get older. You, though, need to know what your goals are on a given day because without a plan the day goes by and you've accomplished very little in your business. It's been said that if you fail to set goals, you'll reach them every time.

d) Managing yourself not just your time: A proper diet and exercise are essential to function properly in any situation. Many solo-professionals I've spoken with find this a challenge, and I often do as well. I'll get so caught up in what I'm doing that I forget to eat, which leads to headaches. Unfortunately, this will only add to your stress level and may result in health issues. Exercise engenders a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction and can create a sense of well-being that allows you to find humor even in stressful situations.

e) Isolation: Many people love working alone. Others hate it! They miss the rapport with co-workers, the watercooler chit-chats and jokes, and face-to-face interactions with people. Depending on the type of business you're pursuing, you may not have regular interaction with people. Regardless of how much we love our children, most of us crave adult coversation. If you work with clients/customers mainly on the telephone, why not arrange to meet them in person from time to time? If there are networking events in your area, why not make arrangements so you can attend one or two each month?

Working from home does not mean you have to control every situation instead learn the art of delegation. Share responsibilities with other family members. You may also have to learn to say 'no' especially when family members and relatives fail to respect your time or appreciate that you have a business to run. Do not rely only on just yourself and maintain a sense of humor.

I would love to hear what you've found works best for you. How do you cope with stress as a work-at-home professional? Please share your thoughts in the Comments.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Part 1 - An Overview of Stress in the Lives of Home Based Business Owners and Solo Entrepreneurs

All of us who own and manage our small businesses from home became business owners for various reasons and as a result of varying circumstances. Many did so after carefully making a thorough assessment of their personal and financial situation, others launched a business because they were laid off from their jobs and need to find another avenue to make money, while others did so because they wanted to be home with their children and needed to have an income.

The website notes that America's small businesses...account for 39% of the country's gross national product. However, "The Office of Advocacy defines a small business for research purposes as an independent business having fewer than 500 employees," so for the most part many home based business may not be included in these statistics. Nonetheless, like any large organization we have challenges and arising out of these challenges we have stress.

Many of us left corporate jobs to start our own businesses so we could reduce stress, or so we thought. What are the reasons for some of the stress we experience? How can we reduce our stress level? Where can we find information to help us? In my next three posts I'll cover points on these topics.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Managing Our Emotions on a Daily Basis

As I sat in my office this morning and thought about what I wanted to write, I realized that for my thoughts to flow, I would need to take a moment to pray, think and then write. You might wonder what was so special about that?

On my 'Things to do list' this post should have been completed by 6:30 a.m. and it's now almost 8:30 a.m. Instead of being able to start writing at 6:15 a.m. I had to deal with issues with my Internet connection and while waiting for that to be resolved, worked on faxes and mail. The flow of thoughts I had were disturbed and it seems that while outwardly calm, negative emotions were creeping in. It was time to pray and ask for God's direction and peace...and I received it.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because you may have had something that disturbed your normal routine or just feeling out of sorts this morning or on any given day. You may have lost your motivation for the moment and it could affect your entire day if you let it. Do not allow that to happen! Fight the feeling to quit, even temporarily.

Those of us who are self-employed enjoy our flexibility but because we are our own boss we can give ourselves permission to put off what needs to be done 'because we don't feel well' or 'just don't feel up to it today.' If we worked for someone else, would we be allowed to have pity parties and not show up for work? It's essential to remember that managing our emotions is our responsibility. Not if, but when we feel overwhelmed, reach up! For me, I like to pray and I also have accountablity partners that I can reach out to.

As a small business owner, entrepreneur, solo-professional, what do you do when you feel overwhelmed or feel that you're losing your motivation? Please share your comments. We can learn from each other.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Trust - How Can Trust Be Achieved in Online Marketing?

It cannot be stated too often. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Although it's the third component of the equation, it is most critical. People first have to get to know you, either face to face or through online social networks.

Challenge - Getting Others to Know You: Online marketing is even more challenging because unlike face to face marketing where your facial expression, voice tone, body language and even appearance are able to convey your message; online marketing is dependent on what you say and where you say it. "Where" is the easier part - it may be a static website, a blog, social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other forums. "What" is harder! Why? Because every person who reads what you say can understand or interpret it in a different way. You could easily say something that in your view is funny but others read and take offense. That's why many people will add things like LOL, :), tee-hee, or other indicators of humor to help convey the tone of what's been written.

Challenge - Getting Others to Like You: As you reveal your true self and become real to people that's when they will get to like you. In all aspects of business, but moreso in online networking and marketing, it is so important that you show you care about others by offering your assistance and providing quality information when possible. This is part of the steps required to build relationships so that people who have never met you or are ever likely to meet you come to regard you as the person next door, the one they can look to for solid advice or recommendations.

Challenge - Getting Others to Trust You: Trust is not only a logical act but also an emotional one. In giving trust to others you may need to expose your vulnerability to others. Interestingly, some of the most successful entrepreneurs/business owners in internet marketing have stated that their list grew when they revealed a mistake they'd made or something that indicated they were not perfect and how they corrected it. Do you see how one action leads to the other? They trusted the 'world' not to ridicule their mistakes and the 'world' responded positively showing that they felt the inidividual could be trusted; they're human just like the rest of us.

All forms of business and marketing present their own challenges. Understanding how to minimize the obstacles can help us to become more effective in building our online businesses.
Please feel free to post your comments. I would love to get your opinion on the topic and invite you to share your experiences.

I also invite you to visit my website at to learn more about a relationship-building card system that allows you to stay in contact with your customers easily and effectively. Send me an e-mail request and I will send you a copy of my FREE report "One Dozen Reasons to Send a Follow-up Card."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Breaking Out of Your Clumps at Group Events

Do you remember from your school days the proverb, "Birds of a feather, flock together?" It is a truism, isn't it, and not just for birds. It is a natural tendency in humans to want to stay in groups with others we feel comfortable with - either people we already know or those with whom we share similar interests.

When it comes to business events like large training groups, business functions and networking events staying within your groups or your clumps may not be a good idea. What's usually your main reason for attending these events? Would it be for exposure? Even if your goal is 'only' to learn, these are opportunities to get to know other coaches, marketers, etc. If you congregate with just your known circle, you are not allowing yourself to make meaningful connections and possibly reach new people and companies that you'd like to do business with. You may also have the personality or type of business someone else needs. Would it be fair to deprive others of getting to know you?

Breaking out of your clumps or clusters may be challenging but it can be done. Develop the mindset of a Host who has to circulate among everyone in the room just to be sure they are comfortable. This could mean asking yourself, Who can I help to establish new contacts? Which two people can I introduce to each other-whose businesses could support each others? Which speaker impacted me that I can sincerely give a compliment to?

Just a reminder, because I've been guilty of this too. You may be nervous, but force yourself not to talk too much. Make brief comments then ask questions that will elicit positive responses. In so doing you take the pressure off yourself and the person to whom you're speaking will be thrilled at your level of interest in what he or she has to say.

I invite you to post your Comments and share your experience on this topic.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are You Making the Mistake of Handing Out Your Business Cards too Freely at Networking Events?

Networking events are great meeting places and as the name implies, they provide a venue to work within a group - usually of professionals. Like any other successful method of marketing, there is an art to networking that involves many areas, but we'll focus on just one for now. What is you goal when you attend networking events? Is it to quickly tell everyone who you are, what you do, hand out as many cards as possible, then leave?

If your goal is to get your card into the hands of as many people as possible without taking the time to find out who they are, what they do and how you can help them, then your purpose for attending would have failed. It's important to remember that networking is about building relationships and to achieve this it is important to be others focused. Get to know people by asking questions about them. Ask simple conversation starters like: What do you do? You can follow with questions like, How long have you been in business or working this particular business? Who is your target market? How can I help YOU?

Someone may say that if all they're to be concerned about is the other person, what's the point in attending these events? The point is that when you show that you care about others, they begin to build a measure of trust in you. People are so accustomed to being pitched to so that when you display the opposite behavior they lose some of the defense wall surrounding them and will more readily want to learn more about you and find out how they in turn can help you.

Go with a mindset to GIVE, and you'll be pleasantly surprised how much you GET.

And now I invite you to sign-up on the form to your right to receive notification when my new Ezine articles are published.

Please feel free to comment on my blog, and I would love to know what topics that affect Relationship Marketing you would like to be discussed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

4 Reasons Why Businesses Fail to Follow-Up

Most business owners recognize the need to cultivate and maintain good relationships with their customers. At the same time, many overlook the need to follow-up after the sale or service. Here are four of the many reasons why they may be hurting themselves and being like the ostrich that sometimes waits for the danger to come to it.

1) AFRAID OF APPEARING "PUSHY": Persons involved in Direct Sales often seem to be overly-concerned about this. Keep in mind that there is a difference between being pushy and being proactive. I feel very appreciated when someone from whom I purchased an item calls to see how I liked the item, or sends me a Thank You card. Wouldn't you? And, if during the follow-up call she mentions that one of the ways she grows her business is by referrals, that in no way offends me because I would want to refer my friends or family to someone who cares enough to follow-up.

2) WORKLOAD - Admittedly small business owners and entrepreneurs often carrying a weighty load of responsibility and have to multi-task as the CEO, the Sales Person, the Marketing Department, etc. However, customers are why they got into business and why they stay in business. It may be necessary to analyze if productivity would be enhanced by hiring someone to assist with less essential tasks so that the focus can be on where it's required most.

3) FEAR - There is an old saying that What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You. In business it's the opposite! What you Don't Know WILL Hurt You - your relationship with your customers and your bottomline. Are you afraid to call your customers after a sale or service because you may get a negative response? Would it not be better to know what their concerns are right away so that these can be addressed? And if customers are happy, would this connection not be the perfect opportunity to ask for a testimonial or referral?

4) NO DATABASE: Each of us has to determine how serious we are about growing our business. Having a comprehensive updated database is not an option, it is a requirement. I'm trying to think of any type of business that could function effectively without a database and none comes to mind. Some business owners may argue that the nature of their business does not require their customers' names and addresses. What if you placed "Comment Cards" on the counter and asked customers to complete in detail the first time they fill it out and add an offer to make it worth their time?

And now, please visit my website at : to create a Free Gift Account and send two cards to try our relationship-building web-based tool. You will create the cards online but actual greeting cards will be stuffed, stamped and sent through the US Mail.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

5th of 5 Reasons to Follow-Up With Customers

Referrals and Testimonials - Customers who know you care are happy to give you their business and they will also be happy to refer their friends and family to you.

It is said that 'word of mouth' is the best form of advertisement and this is even more important in our current economy. People have become more conscious of good customer service; it's no longer a matter of purchasing sales and services from just any provider or supplier. They want to know they are doing business with a person or company that has an excellent reputation for providing great service after the sale.

The result of happy customers should be unsolicited testimonials. When customers give these verbally ask them to put their testimonials on paper and if you have not started doing this, start today. A simple system would be to use a 3-ring binder with sheet protectors and every time you receive a written testimonial you add it to your binder. This creates added value for your business as savvy customers are more inclined to make their decisions based on referrals or recommendations from their peers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

4th of 5 Reasons to follow-up With Customers

Builds Trust - Many times customers make a purchase and they are dissatisfied, but it's just too much work to return to the place of purchase. Has that ever happened to you? Very recently I purchased a headset with microphone from a giant retailer and after two or three uses one of the earbuds separated from the headpiece. I know that this retailer has a reputation for willingness to do exchanges or refunds so while it's aggravating I'm not unduly worried about it; I just have to make the time to return to the store. What is your return/refund policy if you are selling a product? Do your customers know your policy? Do you have any flexibility in your policy for long-standing customers? How about if you are a service provider? Do your customers know if they are unhappy with a service they can call you within a stated period? Although it may be unfair, small businesses and entrepreneurs seem to be held to a higher standard and while comments like "I bought an item from XYZ large retailer and it was not a good buy" will hardly affect that retailer, a similar comment about a small business can have a deadly effect.

It takes work, it takes scheduling, it takes time but by following-up after the sale, if there is any dissatisfaction and this is cheerfully addressed, you, the entrepreneur or small business owner, will have a loyal customer. That customer will trust you and want to do business with you time and time again.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

3rd of 5 Reasons to Follow-up With Customers

The Invisible Sign - Everyone wears an invisible sign around their neck that says "Make Me Feel Important." Business owners must promote ideas and implement strategies to ensure that each customer is made to feel special. There are numerous ideas, including many tried and true methods, but ultimately each business owner has to determine which ideas would be best for his or her niche.

Some basic suggestions that work for most small businesses would be:

Gifts with Purchase
Add-on Service
Customer Appreciation Days
Thank You Cards
Follow-up Calls and/or Surveys
Special Day Cards
Thinking of You
"I Value Your Opinion" - Referral Cards

By making your customers and clients feel special, you are building strong, long-lasting relationships.

And now I invite you to visit my website at: to learn more about a relationship-building tool that supports following-up with your customers and clients. You can test the system by opening a FREE gift account and sending a card to a client, customer, or a family member).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2nd of 5 Reasons to Follow-up With Customers

Reduces Customer Dissatisfaction - Customer dissatisfaction results when customers feel that very little person interest is shown in them and that they are viewed as just a number on the balance sheet.

Honest communication is a requirement for lasting relationships. In business this is no exception. "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care" is a well-used quote but is so accurate. It never ceases to amaze me that when customers have a bad experience they are likely to share that with just about anyone who will listen, whereas many times the good experiences are shared with only a few. Would you not prefer that the person they share that dissatisfaction with is you, the business owner or entrepreneur? They will if you show by your surveys or programs for follow-up that their satisfaction with your product or service is important to you.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

5 Reasons to Follow-up With Customers

Over the next five days I will submit five reasons why it is essential to follow-up with customers in a down economy. Please free to add your comments and submit additional reasons to do so.

1. Cost Effectiveness: It's been said that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one. In some industries the cost ratio may be even as high as 20 times more to attract a new customer than selling to your existing customers.

For every customer you lose it will take time and resources to replace just that one customer when that time could be spent enhancing existing customer relationships and providing an environment that encourages customer retention. In the meantime, the loss of a customer also means the loss of revenue for your business.

Tomorrow we will discuss how following-up with customers reduces customer dissatisfaction.