Show Your Customers You Care

Showing your customers that you care and value their business is more important now than ever. But how can you do this credibly, and genuinely? The key is to have a reason to communicate (other than just simple appreciation).

Read on for a few effective ways you can show your customers you care:

Say thanks.

An e-mail is good, but a hand-written card makes a much bigger impact. Add a personal touch: Reference a recent contract or project and if possible include a detail showing you know your customer on a professional and a personal basis. A pre-printed card with the message “Thank you for your business” carries little impact; what if you instead wrote:

“Dear Mary,

Thanks for awarding us your database project – we will once again make sure you are absolutely thrilled with our work. Please contact me directly if you have any questions or concerns… and I hope Mark and the kids are doing well!”

Stay simple and to the point, and if you don’t know anything personal about your customer, make finding out a few details a priority. How? Just ask: Most people are delighted to talk about their families and their interests. You don’t have to become best friends… but you can establish a rewarding personal connection that also creates a competitive advantage.

Ask for opinions and feedback.

But do so with a purpose. Don’t send out a generic survey that in effect asks, “How are we doing?” And avoid appearing to be going through the motions; if you do, your customers will go through the motions, too – and that’s if they respond at all.

Many people also use surveys to ask questions like, “What could we have done better on the last project?” The problem with that approach is it automatically calls to mind your failings rather than your successes. Plus, if you truly know your business, you should already know what you could have done better.

Instead, look for specific opinions and feedback that shows your customers you truly value the input they are uniquely able to give. Not only will you continue to build a business relationship, but you will probably get valuable insight into improvements you can make.

Another approach is to ask how you can help your customers provide better service to their customers. For example, your customer’s website visitors may have asked for a particular widget or for client-accessible web tools. The answers you get may create new opportunities for you to service your client.

No matter what you ask, be prepared to make changes based on the feedback you get. When you ask for the input you implicitly create the expectation that you will do something with that input.

Walk-in your clients’ shoes.

Looking out for your clients’ interests shows you care. But you don’t have to call or write to find out how they’re doing or what’s new with their business; you can periodically check their website or blog (and make comments to their posts), subscribe to their newsletter, or use a tool like Google Alerts to keep up.

Say you’re a web developer and you read an article that has nothing to do with programming but everything to do with a client’s business. Forward the article and simply say, “I came across this and immediately thought of you…”

Not only is it a great way to stay in touch, but it also gives you a reason to stay in touch… and to show your client you care about their success, and not just in a “What can they do for me?” sort-of way. Or say you receive a Google Alert that your client was quoted on an industry blog – write a quick email and congratulate them.

In short, look at the world from your clients’ perspective, and find useful ways to stay in touch and on their radar. You won’t have to ask for the business – they’ll automatically think of you.

Suggest and make helpful changes.

Improvements don’t have to be major; for example, call a client and ask if they would prefer to receive electronic rather than paper invoices. Ask if a different delivery schedule would help. Or ask if more – or less – frequent communication and status checks will help keep a project on track.

But don’t ask questions blindly. Take the time to be sure you understand the possible needs of your customer before you ask.

If you’ve recently implemented a new service, that’s also a great time to make contact. For example, if you’ve set up an online scheduling system, let your customers know! Stressing the benefits to your customers – because, really, they don’t care if the new system helps you better run your business – shows you’re committed to providing the best service you can. While you’re at it, consider running a promotion: Offer a discount to the first fifty people who schedule an appointment online, for example.

Above all, make it personal.

Which makes the bigger impact: The flowers you send your significant other out of the blue, “just because you care,” or the ones you send on an anniversary? Usually, an unexpected gesture creates the biggest impact.

Look for openings to learn more about your customers. If a customer says, “I won’t need the project complete for a couple of weeks… I’ll be on vacation next week…” use the opportunity to ask about their vacation. Jot down a few details, and next time you talk, ask how the vacation went.

In the end, showing you care takes time and effort – but that effort can pay off in long-term business relationships that survive and even thrive in uncertain economic times.

Advertisements

Help Your Small Business Survive and Thrive in 2020

We asked Barry Moltz, a widely recognized expert on small businesses, for tips on how small businesses can thrive in today’s economy. Barry’s tips are based on his hands-on experience as a small business owner and his research as a professor and published author. So whether you’re a provider on Elance or an employer, you’re sure to get a lot out of these tips:

I often joke that the original title of my first book was: “The Worst They Can Do is Eat You! Surviving Your Business during Tough Times”. That title seems very appropriate today as we head into a very tough part of the economic cycle.

How do we survive and thrive in 2020? Check out these 10 tips:

1. Do you feel lucky? You should.

We are fortunate during these tough times. That’s right, we are much more fortunate than our big business brethren. It is much easier for us to have a good month since it only takes one more customer to turn around our small business.

As a freelancer, a few more customers can really have an impact on your bottom line. You only need to find a few great clients to make sure your business thrives.

Freelancers are not weighed down by huge overhead and can react to market or customer changes now, rather than later, in order to get more projects.

2. Focus on profitability, not growth.

Many times we need to invest in order to grow our business. In a recession, you can only grow if you are profitable. As a small business owner, if you cannot be profitable and grow at the same time, then focus on just being profitable and learn to market yourself. For 2020, growth can wait.

3. Sell painkillers.

During difficult economic times, people only buy when they are in pain or have a very great need. Focus on selling the painkillers in business, not vitamins. Find your niche and understand who is in pain and what you can do to solve that pain.

Do some research – find out who solves your customer’s pain now and give them a reason to switch to you. Face your fears and start asking prospective clients “will you buy our products?” That answer will be the only one of your small business needs.

4. Challenge all of your business assumptions.

This is no time for sacred cows. If your business can be done in another more efficient way, then adapt – or die. Cockroaches do this extremely well in bad times.

Think about what you can do to increase your gross margin. How can you satisfy your clients at a lower cost? What parts of your business make a profit? Which clients are profitable? What are the nice-to–haves and luxuries in your business? Take no prisoners.

5. Upsell your clients – substitute current products for higher cost ones.

Your product may have become a cheap alternative. In a recession, price trumps it all. Ask your clients if they’d rather purchase a similar, less expensive replacement product or service – and then offer it to them.

6. Focus on cash flow.

Forget about the sales line on your profit and loss statement. Look at your own cash flow statement. Focus on getting paid from your clients, extending your payments to vendors and keeping your inventory as low as possible. Ask clients to pay using Escrow.

7. Get an A+ in customer service.

Outstanding customer service, unless you are a utility company, is the only sustainable competitive advantage. This is how you, as a freelancer, can separate yourself from the rest of the pack. Clients will stay with you and give you more business if you treat them right.

8. Cut costs now, even if revenue has not gone down.

No business owner has ever regretted cutting costs too soon. Don’t get caught in a death spiral.

First, in deciding which costs to cut, use the “cringe factor”. Which bills make you “cringe” as you pay them at the end of each month? And which payroll checks make you “cringe” as you sign them?

If you’re cringing at these costs, it means that you are not getting value out of the expense and you need to either cut it or find another way to get by. Look for more efficient alternatives such as hiring a freelancer to get work done on a project by project basis.

9. Match revenue and expenses.

Keep your resources variable and available. When you hire a provider on Elance, you reduce your overhead and match every expense with offsetting revenue to ensure a profit.

10. Finally, take your eyes off the stock market and your portfolio.

If you have checked the market and gone over your portfolio with your financial advisor, then it’s okay for the next five years. Leave it alone. There is nothing more you can do.

Remember your resiliency. Economic cycles come and go. You have been here before and survived. Cheer the good times with parties, awards and trophies. Mourn the bad times, but then let go. Value action so you have more chances at success.

20 Ways Writers Can Help Your Business

Effectively communicating the benefits of your products, services, and points of differentiation with prospective customers is critical to generating new business. Effectively communicating with current customers so you build a long-term business relationship is just as important – after all, it’s widely assumed that it costs 6-7 times more to find a new customer than to keep an old one.

Here’s a list of 20 projects you can hire Elance writing professionals to ensure you get your message across in a professional and engaging way. For ease in reading, we’ve organized the list of jobs into functional areas, but be sure to browse the entire list.

Website Owners

1. Web Content

Even though the web is definitely changing, content is still king. Web visitors love engaging, helpful, informative content… and so do search engines. Update your website frequently to describe new products and services, provide valuable advice and tips, and build an online community for your business.

A skilled writer can develop FAQs, product descriptions, management bios… and create a consistent style and “voice” for your company that reflects your goals and vision.

Get a copy that engages site visitors… and keeps them coming back for more.

2. Article Writing

The Internet has created an insatiable demand for well-written, information-packed articles on virtually any subject. Not only will articles on your site provide useful advice and guidance, they can also help your site perform better in search engine rankings, drawing more visitors and potential customers. And by using an article distribution service you can place your article – and your contact information – on multiple sites, reaching even more customers.

Subjects can range from how-to guides to product reviews to your thoughts on recent business trends. All you have to do is determine what your visitors want to know or learn about, and a writer can provide the copy you need. To make the process as easy as possible, ask the writer to post articles directly to your site.

Add fresh, informative content to your website.

3. Blogs

Does your website fail to engage visitors? Do they quickly browse your site and never return? While boring, static websites turn people away, a well-written blog can transform your online presence, give you more ways of reaching out with your message, establish your credibility as an expert in your field, and provide support and advice for your existing customer base.

The problem is a great blog takes time to write and maintain. Instead of handling the job on your own, work with a skilled writer to help you develop a great blog. A professional writer can post new articles, respond to comments and questions from your visitors, add links to relevant articles or websites, upload photos or videos… the sky is the limit! And if you occasionally want to write your own articles, great – let an editor review your text before you post.

Create an effective blog – or take your existing blog to the next level.

4. Translation

The global marketplace makes selling your products and services easy in almost any market. But don’t count on all your visitors speaking your language; to promote your service in another country, your website (and other marketing materials) will need to speak their language too.

Skilled providers translate writing and speech while taking into account technical terms and everyday usage. Your foreign language classes probably didn’t prepare you adequately, but that’s okay: A skilled translator is available for almost any language. Plus, the translator can help you bridge any cultural differences and avoid embarrassment in word or phrase usage.

Translate your web copy into any language.

Marketers

1. Press Releases

A press release is a perfect way to make an announcement about new products, new customers, or expanded operations… but no one will notice if it’s not written properly. Most press releases never get picked up by major media because they’re poorly written and seem intended to “sell” rather than to inform. On the other hand, a well-crafted release could catch the attention of an editor or reporter and launch your story onto the web, TV, or print, gaining you free publicity.

Media outlets look for press releases that read like news. (After all, if it’s not newsworthy, why write a press release?) A skilled writer can turn what would have been a quickly discarded press release into one that immediately grabs the attention of readers, media outlets, and customers.

Create press releases that get noticed.

2. Newsletters

Like blogs, newsletters – whether online or in print – are great ways to inform and educate customers while marketing your products and services. Provide some guidance about your audience, possible subjects, and your goals, and a writer can write and even format and e-mail or mail your newsletter to your customer base.

Newsletter articles can also be re-used in multiple ways. You can post individual articles on your website, send appropriate articles to other websites and article directories, or even use content to respond to questions or blog comments and questions.

Writers can be found to handle virtually any industry or topic. Some will already have subject matter knowledge, while others will welcome the chance to research and learn about a new field.

Stay in touch with customers through newsletters.

3. E-books

Sometimes an article just isn’t long enough to get your point across. E-books allow you to fully describe a process, provide guidance, or share your thoughts and ideas on complex subjects – while enhancing your reputation and helping you stand out as an expert in your field. If you’re an expert in your field, but not an expert writer, a skilled provider can help you bridge that gap.

Good writers will adapt to your working style. They can develop content from scratch, flesh out your outline, or even “interview” you to get the information they need. Once your E-book is complete you can sell it, give it away, offer it as an incentive… and even re-purpose it, using chapters as articles or blog postings.

Write an e-book.

4. Ghostwriting

A ghostwriter is simply a term to describe a writer who works on your behalf; you describe what you want, the writer meets your standards, and you control and own the end product, using it as you see fit. Ghostwriters write books, articles, reports, blog posts…basically a ghostwriter can handle virtually any writing assignment you can think of. And their help with your project is transparent to your readers; you “publish” the work under your name or your company’s name – after all, you paid for it!

Ghostwriters will happily sign non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements, work-for-hire agreements (assigning the ownership of the work to you), and other legal documents that protect your ideas and your privacy.

Keep in mind a good ghostwriter is a little bit like a “writing chameleon” – he or she can easily adapt to your requirements for style and tone, and can capture your unique “voice.”

Collaborate with the right ghostwriter.

5. Creative Writing

Need a few jokes? Have an idea for a movie screenplay but don’t know how to pull it off? Have a great plot for a book or story but don’t know how to get it on paper? Or, are you a fantastic illustrator with a great idea for a cartoon series… but without the knack for writing? Elance providers can bring your ideas to fruition… and possibly add elements and twists you never considered!

The key to finding the right provider is to not only thoroughly describe your project during the posting process but also to communicate enough to ensure you and the provider will work well together and collaborate freely with creative ideas and interests. Then, once you find the right creative partner, you can let your imagination soar!

Let your creativity flow.

6. Editing and Proofreading

Do you know what to say, but aren’t sure that your grammar and writing style is perfect? No problem: a skilled editor can polish your prose and make it sing. The second set of eyes can quickly improve your writing. Don’t agonize for hours over how to get your point across: Create a rough draft and let a skilled editor do the rest.

A good editor can help shape the tone and style of your text, help you fine-tune your message, and avoid embarrassing mistakes. A good editor will also ensure your text maintains your own personal style, letting your individuality show through while delivering your message professionally. Editors can review and improve virtually any copy, from sales materials to web content to blog postings to FAQs. You may want to ask an editor to review and improve all of the text on your current site.

Turn your ugly duckling copy into a swan.

Sales Directors

1. Copywriting

You know your product or service inside-out… but do you know how to best describe it to potential customers so it appeals to them on both a rational and an emotional level? Do you know how to describe the benefits so potential customers feel they can’t live without what you provide? If you were asked, you’d probably answer “No,” so why try to write your own sales letters, advertising copy, or promotional literature?

A skilled copywriter can create bold, attention-grabbing headlines, develop clear, well-defined descriptions of products and services and create a call to action that delivers more leads and sales.

Copywriting is used in a variety of media: website landing pages, product descriptions, online and print catalogs and brochures… anytime you wish to generate a sale, a copywriter can make your advertising expense more effective.

Generate more sales with great copywriting.

2. Proposals and Estimates

Unlike sales or copywriting, a formal proposal – or even a rough estimate – is designed to accurately describe exactly what you will provide, under what time frame, and under what terms. (A proposal is very similar to a contract.) A poorly-written proposal, leaving room for interpretation, could leave you open to misunderstandings.

Each of your proposals should be clear, concise, and accurate. A skilled writer can develop unique proposals or create a template you can modify to make terms and prices unique for each potential customer. (And while you’re at it, get legal advice from an Elance legal professional ).

A clear, effective proposal not only protects you, it also enhances the impression you make on potential customers!

Deliver clear, concise, and accurate proposals and estimates to your customers.

3. Grant Writing

Grant writing is different than other types of writing. Seeking private, public, or government funding is tough: to get funding, you’ll not only need to convince readers your effort will be worthwhile and deserving of funding but you’ll also need to format your proposal and deliver your information in the way organizations expect. The bottom line? A well-written grant proposal is more likely to be funded; a poorly written and formatted grant may fail, even for the best of projects.

A skilled writer will effectively communicate your mission, your goals, your short and long-range plans, and how your project will make a real impact in the community.

Turn your dream project into reality with a skilled grant writer.

4. Speeches

If you’re nervous in front of crowds – or even in front of a few people – you’re not alone. Most people are. But if you have a well-crafted, humorous, engaging speech to deliver, you’ll be a lot less nervous.

Skilled speechwriters can organize material for a listening (rather than reading) audience and create a pace and structure that captures your audience’s attention while giving you confidence and a sense of security. Speechwriters can also help you refine and streamline your thoughts to ensure your point of view and message is clear and meaningful. Whether you need to motivate your employees at a company meeting or talk to an industry group, a speechwriter can make your event a success.

Inform and inspire your audience.

Product & Service Managers

1. User Guides & Manuals

Guides and manuals are great ways to educate your customers and teach them how to use your product and service. They also have internal uses as training guides, process maps, decision trees, etc. Effective manuals and guides also reduce customer requests for assistance, help your employees assist customers with problems or questions, and create consistent process flows that can reduce waste and effort.

Skilled writers have a knack for taking complex information and presenting it in a clear, logical, easy-to-understand way for experts and novices alike. If you’ve been asked the same question more than a few times, a guide or manual may be in order. You can create an assembly manual, a guide for using an application, instructions for creating new accounts… if your customers or employees need to know how to perform a certain task, a guide or manual will help them – and free you up to perform other tasks.

Produce effective guides and manuals.

2. Technical Writing

First, let’s define technical writing. Technical writing is a somewhat formal style of writing used to present information in a clear, easy to understand way. A user manual is an example of technical writing, but technical writers can deliver much more: white papers, product specifications, flow charts, equipment or material lists, functional requirement descriptions, etc.

products and services.

A writer can help you compile information, perform additional research if needed, and create a report or white paper that not only gets your point across but also subtly enhances your professional reputation.

Create clear, concise, and effective reports and white papers.

6. Academic Writing

Academic writing includes research for books and articles, literature reviews for scholarly journals, articles detailing research findings, even articles about new medical procedures.

If you’re a subject matter expert who needs help pulling research and data together and crafting your final document, a great writer is here to help! For example, say you’ve developed extensive data about the technology-related buying habits of 18-34-year olds; an academic writer can help you present your research in a way that gets you noticed!

Research and write scholarly or academic articles and books.