Category Archives for "General Business"

The Ultimate 60-Minute Business Audit

Audits. Nobody likes them, am I right?

I get it. I really do. But audits serve a purpose – and if your business is closed right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, then this is the perfect time to change ‘audit’ from a dirty word to a tool that can help your business thrive.

Not sure how? The good news is, it’s easy to do. Your business could probably use some fine-tuning, and an internal audit of your resources and processes can help you get everything in order so, when you do reopen, you’ll be more successful than ever. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

Website Review

Since your website is your online HQ, it’s a good place to start your audit. You may want to review your competitors’ websites to get a handle on what they’re doing. Then make note of anything that’s outdated or not working the way it should, including:

  • Your site’s design
  • Mobile accessibility
  • Navigation
  • Site speed
  • Broken/outdated links
  • SEO

Your focus should be on making your site as fast, accessible, and useful as possible. Anything that slows down or negatively impacts the user experience should be improved.

On a more topical note, many businesses have altered their hours and offerings because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have, your website should reflect the changes.

Payments

I’m willing to bet that you’ve had the experience of adding something to your cart on a website, going to check out, and then abandoning your cart because the payment process was too annoying or laborious to handle.

Bottom line – a difficult payment process is unacceptable. It will cost you sales and customers.

Your focus should be on making the payment process an easy one. That may mean:

  • Increasing the security of your payment page by updating your security certificate, adding encryption, and including a statement about security to reassure your customers.
  • Adding payment methods that are easy for customers to use, including credit cards, PayPal, eChecks, and mobile payments.
  • Keeping your entire payment process on your site instead of asking customers to navigate away.
  • Minimizing the number of steps in your process.

Paying should be quick, easy, and intuitive. Nobody should have to guess what to do or be left wondering whether their payment went through.

SEO/Online Presence

We’ve already talked about auditing your website, but what about the rest of the web?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to audit the whole internet. That would take too long. But what you should do is to audit the rest of your online presence with an eye toward improving your local SEO. Here’s a checklist of what to do:

  • Review your online listings in directories, guides, and other places to make sure your NAP (name, address, & phone number) are consistent. Even small differences, such as using Ave instead of Avenue, can dilute your online presence.)
  • Claim your Google My Business listing and make sure your information (including Google Maps) is up-to-date.
  • Claim any review site profiles you haven’t yet claimed and check all of them to ensure your information is accurate and current.
  • Update photographs on review sites to reflect product updates or menu changes.
  • Review your social media profiles and update them as needed.

These changes shouldn’t take long but they can make a big difference in your local SEO, making it easy for your business to rank on Google.

Email Marketing

Email marketing – well, you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about how much I love email marketing. The ROI is a great and it’s an inexpensive and effective way to communicate with your customers.

Here are some things to review in your audit:

  • Your opt-in form should be short and request only essential information.
  • Subscribers who haven’t opened your emails in 6 months should be unsubscribed. Unless you’re using a free service, you’re paying to keep them on your list.
  • Review (or create) a welcome sequence to send to new subscribers.
  • Consider list segmentation to target your emails to the customers who are most likely to buy from you.

If you don’t already have an email list, this is the perfect time to build one. You can add a simple opt-in form to your site using a plugin.

Social Media

We already talked a little about updating your social media profiles, but there’s another angle you should consider during your audit.

It’s common for companies to think they need a presence on every social media site. That might not be true.

For example, say you’ve got a Twitter account that you’ve been using to no avail. If the ROI on your Twitter – factoring in ad spending and your time – is low, then you can simply deactivate your account. Or you can reconsider how you’re using it to improve your ROI.

The same is true of any other site. You’re better off having one or two active social media accounts than five that aren’t as good as they could be.

If your social media game is lacking, it’s an equally good time to set up a new account to market your business. If Twitter is underperforming, you might turn your focus to Instagram or Pinterest.

An audit might not sound like fun but doing one now can make a huge difference to the health and success of your business.

What are you waiting for?

Navigating the Reopening of Your Business During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the United States both medically and economically. Many states have begun to relax their lockdowns. It remains to be seen what impact reopening will have on the number of cases, but it’s an economic boon to the owners of small and medium-sized businesses.

That said, how do you reopen? What can you do to keep your employees and customers safe? Is it reasonable to reopen or should you wait? These are all questions that loom large for business owners.

So, let’s get into it. Here’s what you need to know to navigate the reopening of your business.

What Are the Key Considerations for Reopening? 

If your business is in a state where reopening is an option, you’ll still need to think about the logistics of reopening before you decide to move ahead. Here are the primary considerations:

  • Your state’s guidelines for reopening
  • The nature of your business
  • The safety of your employees
  • The safety of your customers

State guidelines for reopening can vary widely based on a variety of factors. You should check to make sure you understand your legal requirements. For example, you may need to put social distancing markers in place or install plexiglass shields.

The nature of your business plays a role as well. If you can safely maintain social distancing between employees and customers, it will be easier to reopen than it would be if your employees will be in direct contact with customers.

Of course, the safety of everybody involved must be paramount.

Prepare Your Office for Reopening

Once you’ve decided to reopen, it may be helpful to create a checklist. You can use it to work through your state’s requirements and any additional precautions you’ve decided to take. Here’s a basic checklist from the US Chamber of Commerce:

  • Make a plan that incorporates recommendations from local, state, and federal officials. You can find the CDC guidelines for businesses here, and their cleaning and sanitization protocols here.
  • Buy supplies and make any required preparations. These may include adding social distancing markers on floors, installing plexiglass barriers to protect employees, and other measures.
  • Completely clean and disinfect all areas of your business.
  • Create a schedule for maintenance of cleanliness. Regularly touched surfaces will need to be cleaned and disinfected at least once a day.

Remember that it’s your responsibility as a business owner to create a safe space for everybody who comes through your doors.

Prepare Your Employees for Reopening 

The health and safety of your employees must be a priority when you reopen. Your communication with them must be clear and compassionate. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

  1. Communicate with employees your intention to reopen.
  2. Identify essential employees and positions.
  3. If you have laid off employees and want to rehire them, get in touch, and give them the option of coming back.
  4. Understand that not all employees may want to come back or be able to come back. For example, employees who have underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 or who share living space with a high-risk person may not be able to work safely.
  5. Create a sick policy that requires employees to stay home if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or have had direct contact with an infected person.
  6. Let employees know if their job requirements have changed. For example, have your hours changed? Will they be required to take on cleaning responsibilities that differ from what they did before you closed?
  7. Put an emergency communication system in place, so you can let employees know if they have been exposed to COVID-19 and what they should do if they experience symptoms.

The most important thing is clear and ongoing communication. It’s the best way to ensure that employees feel safe coming back to work.

Create Customer Guidelines

Once you have addressed the needs of your employees, the next step is thinking about your customers or clients. What do you need to do to keep them safe as you reopen? Here are some pointers.

  1. Decide which safety precautions are necessary for customers. These may include:
    1. Limiting occupancy
    1. Requiring customers to wear masks
    1. Adding hand sanitization stations near your entrance
    1. Marking social distancing guidelines on the floor – for example, making store lanes one-way and putting 6-foot guidelines near cash registers
  2. Use your email list or social media pages to communicate your new customer guidelines with your followers.
  3. Put procedures in place to enforce guidelines. For example, you may need to place an employee near the door to check for masks, install an occupancy tracker, or monitor customers while they are in your store.
  4. Provide employees with guidance to handle complaints or refusal to adhere to guidelines. Unfortunately, it’s likely that some of your customers will refuse to do what you ask and it’s important to support your employees and give them the tools they need to cope.

This is one situation where “the customer is always right” needs to take a back seat to your employees’ safety.

Monitor the Situation

Finally, you’ll need to monitor the situation as you reopen. It may be that some of the guidelines you put in place need to be refined or adapted to the reality of doing business.

If you can’t reopen and have not yet received government assistance in the form of a PPP loan, remember that you can still do so. The application is on the SBA website, here, or you can apply through your bank or credit union.

You should also be aware that on June 3, 2020, Congress passed a PPP reform bill that allows business more time and leeway in how they spend PPP money. You can find the details here.

Reopening your business requires careful planning and attention to details. Provided you adhere to the appropriate guidelines and prioritize the safety of your employees and customers, you will be able to navigate the process successfully.

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Are you ready to start another year with a bigger and better business? 

It all depends on if you've set goals for yourself and your business in 2018. 

Don't let January creep up on you without putting a plan into action. 

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4 Ways to Keep Your Employees Happy & Why It Matters

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