Chained to the Inbox: Avoid Being a Prisoner to Email

July 23, 2007

The Internet is a fantastic communications medium that has completely transformed business over the last 10 or so years. But, for all the email in the world, nothing has quite replaced the relationship building power of a conversation – especially, as our inboxes become increasingly flooded.

As a small business owner, a phone call can be an effective means to enjoy some quality time with a supplier or potential customer. Doing so will not only allow you to better understand the other’s needs, but, their attitudes to your proposition too. These subtleties (voice tones, pace, etc.) are near impossible to judge from 12pt Times New Roman.

When I catch myself opening up thunderbird, I remind myself:

  1. Don’t hide behind email – meaningful business relationships cannot be built through letters. Rather, pick up the phone. Not only will you be more memorable to your customers/supplier, but, you will also get more from the communication. If you must email, keep it short and follow up with a call.
  2. Go for it! You have nothing to lose – Picking up the phone to a potential business partner, customer or supplier is not taking a risk, because there is nothing to lose. You don’t even need to phone with a specific purpose other than to introduce your company and establish a contact. While you’re at it, why not ask how your businesses could work together. You never know if your call will come at an opportune time!
  3. Close the Deal, Here & Now – Often you can use the spontaneoity of a phone call to solicit an approval for a quotation, for example, which would otherwise have been turned down by a simple ‘Reply and Send.’ Not only can you quickly overcome any objections – When it is personal, people have trouble saying, ‘No.’

Communicating openly with your suppliers and customers is essential to building strong and loyal relationships. While an email is quick and inexpensive to send, it should never replace a frank conversation where any significant decisions are being made.

Go on, success is calling.


Chasing the Invisible Customer

July 22, 2007

Does your product or service have a market? No, does it really? Is this market growing, what is its exact size and potential? Don’t have the answers? Don’t leave it up to a vacant shop or quiet sales line to tell you.

All to often, these sorts of questions catch the new business owner off guard. This is surprising considering that you would expect an immediate and emphatic ‘Yes!’ Those that don’t have an answer are effectively walking blind – very dangerous.

The reason why answers to these questions are not forthcoming is that small business owners do not plan. There are simply not enough hours in the day to do so. Instead, even the most critical business decisions come down to a gut feeling. And, without any evidence that a decision is the right one, these gut reactions are often nothing more than a gamble – sometimes they will pay off, but, sometimes they won’t.

It may be time to start asking questions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond the Logo, Understanding Branding

July 21, 2007

Small business owners often remark that one of the hardest things to do when starting out is finding a memorable name. The second hardest, of course, is then trying to find a logo to match. This, they believe, is part of the all important branding process. Truth is, while a catchy name and striking logo forms the basis of a visual identity – it does not materially contribute to creating brand equity.

Let me explain.

Put simply, a brand is not flashy graphic or a play on words. Rather, it is a promise to potential customers. One that if consistently delivered upon, will become credible, widely spoken of, and an asset when marketing. It is reliance on this promise and not the recollection of a fancy typeface that will drive sales.

Read the rest of this entry »