Producing Useful Content Must Be Part of Your Marketing Strategy

By: Debbie Page, www.debbiepage.com 

I hear it time and time again from small business owners, “Who am I to create content? I don’t have anything new to say. People are overwhelmed with information mine won’t cut through the noise.”

And here are my replies:

  • YOU have a unique perspective on your industry and it’s among the reasons people hire you and buy from you.
  • YOU have a LOT to say about your industry and why your clients get exceptional results when working with you. 
  • YOUR message will cut through the noise when it comes from a place of education, information and service. 

When you focus part of your marketing endeavors on quality, useful content you are helping your SEO in big and little ways. Focus on what your customers and clients want to know and tell the story in your own unique way. It’s ok if it doesn’t land with everyone. Your marketing isn’t supposed to, it’s only supposed to land with your ideal clients. 

Not sure where to start? Keep a log for the next week on the questions your current and prospective clients ask and note how you respond to them. This is the beginning of a content plan that you can turn into audio, video and written content that can be repurposed over multiple platforms from your website and blog to social media channels. 

Not only will this help you from an SEO perspective, it will build a library of resource information you can share with clients, colleagues and prospects adding value and deepening relationships.  

What will you do today to begin incorporating content as a key part of your marketing strategy?

Get more great marketing tips from Debbie at this year’s 23rd annual Biz Fair at the 2:30 p.m. Marketing Tips & Tricks seminar on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Renton Technical College.

Five Inspiring Facts about Female Entrepreneurship

By: Susan Perreault, Business Impact Northwest

For many women, small business ownership is the gateway to financial stability for themselves and their family. However, prior to 1988, a woman could not get a business loan on her own! In the 31 years since the passing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act (HR 5050), the United States’ landmark federal legislation which allowed women to take out business loans without a male relative as a co-signer, women have made great strides in the field of entrepreneurship and as business owners. This is affirmed by the impact of women-owned businesses (WOB) on the economy. Based on current data on business ownership in the United States, women business owners are closing the achievement gap with their male counterparts with the number of WOB growing at a rate five times the national average from 2007 to 2016. Women-owned businesses currently make up 39% of U.S. 28 million small businesses (Source: SCORE’s Spring 2018 “The Megaphone of Main Street”). There are an estimated 11.6 million WOB generating $1.7 trillion+ in revenues and employing almost 9 million people as of 2017(Source: The State of Women-Owned Businesses, 2017, Commissioned by American Express).

Inspiring Facts about Female Entrepreneurship:

  1. Women-owned businesses (WOB) have grown 114% versus the overall national growth rate of 44% for all businesses over the past two decades (1997-2017). (Source: The State of Women-Owned Businesses, 2017, Commissioned by American Express)
  2. Women owned approximately 20% of all employer businesses nationwide in 2015. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs)
  3. Women-owned employer businesses increased to 1.12 million in 2016 (approximately 2.8% increase from 2015). (Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs)
  4. Women of color business owners accounted for 46% of all WOB and 25.9% of W-O employer firms. (Source: The State of Women-Owned Businesses, 2017, Commissioned by American Express).
  5. Women’s early-stage entrepreneurship has increased by increased by 15.4% from the 2016 rate and 29.1% from the 2007 rate. (Source: Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship: Early-Stage Entrepreneurship in the United States, 2017)

As we celebrate the achievements of women businesses owners, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the trailblazing female entrepreneurs, business owners and advocates who contributed to the passing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act.

To view Business Impact NW’s original post, please visit https://businessimpactnw.org/five-inspiring-facts-about-female-entrepreneurship/

You can find Business Impact Northwest at the Biz Fair Resource Center on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. to speak with business counselors and sign up for business workshops.

Social Media Marketing Tips for the Small Business Owner

By: Megan V. Torgerson, Business Impact Northwest

Marketing is a frame of mind and it touches all aspects of your business.

Think about it, when you pitch an investor, that’s marketing. When you’re working on your customer acquisition strategy, that’s marketing. When you’re entering a cross-promotional partnership with your neighboring small business – you guessed it – that’s marketing. For some people, marketing puts a bad taste in their mouth, they think of it as a means of coercion or advertising. But when you reframe marketing as storytelling, relationship building and community sustaining, it becomes a posture we can choose to maintain as we navigate the choppy waters of business ownership. The best form of marketing is always word of mouth, but for life in the digital age, that could mean a friend sharing a Facebook post or tagging you on Instagram. If you’ve heard of the Rule of 7, or the magic number of touchpoints you need to have with a customer before they make a purchase or enroll in your services, then you know that you need to maintain your marketing posture in offline and online circles to stay top of mind in a crowded market.

Social media is one tool to engage your audience, and content marketing, a.k.a. storytelling is a strategy that can be used via social media. Centered on creating, publishing and distributing content, content marketing encompasses writing, audio, video and photography, that is shared mainly digitally via social media, blogs, newsletters and websites.

Digital Marketing is an umbrella term for all online marketing efforts that includes your business’s website, social media channels, newsletters, earned online coverage, content marketing, SEO, or search engine optimization and more. It also includes the promotion of programs or products through measured marketing campaigns that can be analyzed for ROI purposes.

A few things social media can be used for include:

  • Telling your organization’s story
  • Building awareness
  • Growing community
  • Driving traffic to your website

There are many digital marketing strategies and social media platforms out there. It depends on the demographics of your target audience which platforms you choose to engage. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind that are applicable to all social media channels.

Social Media Considerations:

  • Take the time to analyze each platform and the objective for each platform.
  • Ask yourself who you are hoping to reach with each platform.
  • Consider the “why” of your presence on each unique social media channel?
  • Build distinct brand standards for your voice or messaging (a.k.a brand voice) and visual brand identity.
  • Determine what type of content will be used on each platform.
  • Build a calendar of major events where social media will play an intricate role and schedule posts to bring awareness to your events.
  • Take the time to analyze your insights or analytics to determine who your audience is, the ideal time and day to post, and what posts result in the most (and the least) engagement.
  • Is your goal brand awareness, creating advocates, selling products, community building/ all of the above?
  • Define which metrics are most important to you. Is it comments, shares, likes?  Incorporate these metrics into your goals.
  • Go beyond, followers and shares for your goals. Figure out how that’s converting to new supporters/ sales by using Google Analytics.
  • Track time and budget.
  • Follow and engage with clients, partners, collaborators and competitors.
  • Use social media to tell your small business’s unique story!

To view Business Impact NW’s original post, please visit businessimpactnw.org/social-media-marketing-tips-for-the-small-business-owner.

You can find Business Impact Northwest at the Biz Fair Resource Center on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. to speak with business counselors and sign up for business workshops.

Can Your Business Weather a 12.5% Cut in Profits?

By: Sherri Daymon, Washington Small Business Development Center

Does your business employ minimum wage employees? If so, are you aware that effective January 1st, 2020, the minimum wage in Washington State is increasing 12.5% (from $12.00 to $13.50 an hour)? Holy schmoly, that’s a HUGE increase in costs (i.e. a GIANT dip in your company’s profits). Your business advisor at the SBDC is here to help you plan for your particular situation, but below are some general strategies to make this cost increase a little less painful.

Increase Prices

When deciding whether or not to increase prices, you need to ask yourself, “Will our customers pay a higher price? Is our product worth this much more? Will our sales volume drop with a price increase?”

Sell More!

Are you sitting on a lot of inventory? Are there frequently a lot of empty seats at your restaurant? Are your landscaping tools or machinery often idle? If so, these are sure signs that you could use some marketing and sales assistance to increase the attractiveness of your current product or service. The SBDC can help you identify your target audience and tailor your marketing message to better reach potential customers.

Reduce Fixed Costs

Fixed costs are your monthly expenses, regardless of sales volume (examples include things such as rent, insurance, and debt repayment). Whereas increasing your prices can be done rather quickly, reducing your fixed costs can take some time. You may need to find another location, negotiate with your landlord for reduced rent, or find a symbiotic business to share your space. You may need to shop around for a more cost effective insurance policy. You may need to refinance or restructure your debt. Essentially, now is the time to go through every lineon your Profit & Loss financial statement and ask yourself the hard question, “How can I reduce (or even eliminate) this ‘fixed’ expense?”

Reduce Variable Costs

Your variable costs are the expenses directly related to your sales and/or production volume and ideally appear on your Profit & Loss financial statement as COGS or Cost of Goods Sold. Variable costs include items purchased with the intent to resell (in the case of retail) or ingredients that go into your dishes (for a restaurant example). Finding suppliers with lower costs and reducing waste are just two ways to reduce variable costs.

Examine Hours of Operation

Hourly labor can be tricky. On one hand, if business is slow, you can send an employee (or several) home to reduce costs (suggesting that labor is a variable cost). On the other hand, if you have set hours of operation, a component of your labor is fixed. Thus, it’s worth a serious examination of your daily and hourly sales to identify if you can and should reduce hours (or even full days) of operation to save on hourly labor expenses.

I worked through this analysis with one of my clients, who realized that he was consistently spending more in labor than he was generating in revenue the first and last hour his shop was open. By shaving 14 hours off his weekly hours of operation, he increased his annual profitably by over $17,000 (since a minimum of two employees are required in his shop at all times).

Reduce Labor Hours

If you don’t have daily and hourly sales data available to make the strategic decision about reducing hours of operation, but you want/need your total minimum wage labor costs to remain at the current dollar level (despite the $1.50 increase in the hourly minimum wage), here’s the formula to help determine how many hours to reduce, come January 1, 2020: Current minimum wage labor hours x $1.50 / $13.50. For example, if you currently have one minimum wage employee working 40 hours per week, you’ll need to reduce the hours worked per week to 35.5 hours.

Consider Cutting your Losses

If your business is struggling now and you rely on minimum wage employees and the suggestions above seem unfathomable to help weather a 12.5% cost increase, you might consider closing your doors. Regrettably, it’s not uncommon for business owners to pour their heart and soul into an enterprise and exhaust their personal savings trying to keep a business going. If you are currently paying employees minimum wage and forfeiting paying yourself and exhausted trying to turn your business around, I encourage you to be honest and brave in knowing it’s only going to get more challenging in 2020. Treat yourself with kindness and consider cutting your losses.

Remember, your SBDC business advisor is here to help you grow (or at least maintain!) your level of profitability. Contact us today so we strategize a combination of tactics to weather the imminent spike in the minimum wage.

You can meet your local Washington SBDC advisor at the Resource Center at Biz Fair on Saturday, Sept. 21.

This article reposted with the permission of WWU and Washington SBDC, see the original post here.

Evaluating a Business: Big Rocks First

By: Kris Fuehr, Paulson Exchange

When you evaluate a business to buy, you don’t have to know everything about it at once. Richard Branson once said he mainly focuses on three measurements to monitor his business:

  1. Butts in seats – or whatever your equivalent for “sales/consumption of capacity”

  2. Customer loyalty and satisfaction

  3. Employee satisfaction

Everything else will just be details that can be ironed out.

As Steven Covey famously said, “The Big Rocks are your most important, so put them first. That way, you make the less important things (gravel) fight their way in.”

Apply this concept to your business evaluation. Your FIRST step is to understand DEAL-BREAKERS. What could KILL your business? What isn’t SUSTAINABLE? Then, determine the details of the expenses to ensure that overruns can be identified.

Below are some examples of LESS effective ways of evaluating a business. This comes from an exchange I had with one prospective buyer after I sent him the P&L for a business. Can you distinguish the big rocks from the pebbles?

“Thanks for the info. I have a few questions: How many estimators in the business? Do they also function as Project Managers? What is the role of the owner in the business? Was the large expense of entertainment the Christmas party? Costs of sales are high. Is there other ways to decrease this? Would they have a current Work in Progress report? What makes up the balance of the office staff? Do they have a breakdown of business by revenue – eg. government contracts vs industrial vs retail/commercial? “

There are some important questions in here, but the Christmas party probably wasn’t a huge priority in this early stage of evaluation.

One effect the All-at-Once approach has is that it discourages you from nearly every business you look at and the whole transaction becomes intimidating or you may walk away from a great opportunity.

Keep a realistic view of what’s important and what’s just sand and pebbles so you keep your eye on what really is going to lead to success or failure in your business.

Want to learn more about buying a business? Attend the “Buying a Business” seminar at Biz Fair on Saturday, Sept. 21, lead by the author, Kris Fuehr.

Basics of estimated taxes for individuals

By: The IRS News Room

The U.S. tax system operates on a pay-as-you-go basis. This means that taxpayers need to pay most of their tax during the year, as the income is earned or received. Taxpayers must generally pay at least 90 percent (however, see 2018 Penalty Relief, below) of their taxes throughout the year through withholding, estimated or additional tax payments or a combination of the two. If they don’t, they may owe an estimated tax penalty when they file.

The IRS has seen an increasing number of taxpayers subject to estimated tax penalties, which apply when someone underpays their taxes. The number of people who paid this penalty jumped from 7.2 million in 2010 to 10 million in 2017, an increase of nearly 40 percent. The penalty amount varies but can be several hundred dollars.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in December 2017, changed the way tax is calculated for most taxpayers, including those with substantial income not subject to withholding. As a result, many taxpayers may need to adjust the amount of tax they pay each quarter through the estimated tax system.

Here are some simple tips to help taxpayers:

Who may need to pay estimated taxes

Individuals, including sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders, may need to make estimated tax payments if:

  • they expect to owe at least $1,000 when they file their tax return.
  • they owed tax in the prior year.

Taxpayers who may need to make estimated tax payments include someone who:

  • receives income that isn’t from an employer, such as interest, dividends, alimony, capital gains, prizes and awards.
  • has tax withheld from their salary or pension but it’s not enough.
  • has more than one job but doesn’t have each employer withhold taxes.
  • is self-employed.
  • is a representative of a direct-sales or in-home-sales company.
  • participates in sharing economy activities where they are not working as employees.

Wage-earners and salaried employees can avoid estimated tax payments by having their employer withhold tax from their wages. To determine the right amount to withhold, use the Withholding Calculator, available on IRS.gov.  Then, based on its recommendations, they can use Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to tell their employer how much tax to withhold from their pay. Anyone can change their withholding any time during the year.

When to pay estimated taxes

For estimated tax purposes, a year has four payment periods. Taxpayers must make a payment each quarter. For most people, the due date for the first quarterly payment is April 15. The next payments are due June 15 and Sept. 15, with the last quarter’s payment due on Jan. 15 of the following year. If these dates fall on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is the next business day.

Farmers, fishermen and people whose income is uneven during the year may have different rules. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information.

If a taxpayer doesn’t pay enough or pays late, a penalty may apply.

How to figure estimated taxes

The IRS recommends that everyone do a paycheck checkup early in 2019, even if they did one in 2018, to determine if they need to adjust their tax withholding or make estimated tax payments throughout the year. Although especially important for anyone with a tax bill for 2018, it’s also important for anyone whose refund is larger or smaller than expected. By changing withholding now or making estimated tax payments, any taxpayer can better ensure they get the refund they want next year. For those who owe, making estimated tax payments in 2019 is the best way to head off another tax-time surprise a year from now.

Taxpayers should also make adjustments throughout the year if changes occur. When figuring their estimated taxes each year, taxpayers need to account for life events, like marriage or the birth of a child, that may affect their taxes. They should also adjust for recent changes in the tax law.

Individuals, sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders generally use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES. They’ll need to know their expected adjusted gross income. They’ll also need to estimate their taxable income, taxes, deductions and credits. Some taxpayers find it helpful to use information from their prior year’s tax return when they complete the worksheet. Their estimates should be as accurate as possible to avoid penalties.

Some taxpayers earn income unevenly during the year. For example, a boat repair business might do more business in the summer. Taxpayers like this can annualize their income. Under this method, they’d make unequal tax payments, based on when they receive their income, rather than four even payments. Doing so could help them avoid or lower a penalty because their required payment for one or more periods may be higher with this method. See Worksheet 2-9 in Publication 505.

How to pay estimated taxes

Taxpayers can pay online, by phone or by mail. The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System and IRS Direct Pay are two easy ways to pay. Alternatively, taxpayers can schedule electronic funds withdrawal for up to four estimated tax payments at the time that they electronically file their Form 1040.

Taxpayers can make payments more often than quarterly. They just need to pay each period’s total by the end of the quarter. Visit IRS.gov/payments for payment information.

Penalties related to estimated taxes

If a taxpayer underpaid their taxes they may have to pay a penalty. This applies whether they paid through withholding or through estimated tax payments. A penalty may also apply for late estimated tax payments even if someone is due a refund when they file their tax return.

In general, taxpayers don’t have to pay a penalty if they meet any of these conditions:

  • They owe less than $1,000 in tax with their tax return.
  • Throughout the year, they paid the smaller of these two amounts:
    • at least 90 percent (however, see 2018 Penalty Relief, below) of the tax for the current year
    • 100 percent of the tax shown on their tax return for the prior year – this can increase to 110 percent based on adjusted gross income

To see if they owe a penalty, taxpayers should use Form 2210.

The IRS may waive the penalty if someone underpaid because of unusual circumstances and not willful neglect. Examples include:

  • casualty, disaster or another unusual situation.
  • an individual retired after reaching age 62 during a tax year when estimated tax payments applied.
  • an individual became disabled during a tax year when estimated tax payments applied.

There are special rules for underpayment for farmers and fishermen. Publication 505 has more information.

2018 penalty relief

The IRS is waiving the estimated tax penalty for many taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year. The penalty will generally be waived for any taxpayer who paid at least 80 percent of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of the two. The usual percentage threshold is 90 percent to avoid a penalty.

The waiver computation is normally reflected in commercially-available tax software and in the latest version of Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates and Trusts, and its instructions.

This relief is designed to help taxpayers who were unable to properly adjust their withholding and estimated tax payments to reflect an array of changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The updated federal tax withholding tables, released in early 2018, largely reflected the lower tax rates and the increased standard deduction brought about by the new law. This generally meant taxpayers had less tax withheld in 2018 and saw more in their paychecks. However, the withholding tables couldn’t fully factor in other changes, such as the suspension of dependency exemptions and reduced itemized deductions. As a result, some taxpayers could have paid too little tax during the year if they did not submit a properly-revised W-4 withholding form to their employer or increase their estimated tax payments.

The IRS and partner groups conducted an extensive outreach and education campaign throughout 2018 to encourage taxpayers to do a “Paycheck Checkup” to avoid a situation where they had too much or too little tax withheld when they file their tax returns.

Although most 2018 tax filers are still expected to get refunds, some taxpayers will unexpectedly owe additional tax when they file their tax returns.

More information:

 

Want in-person help with your small business taxes? Attend the “Taxes and the Small Business Owner” seminar at Biz Fair on Saturday, Sept. 21.

How will your LLC be Governed?

By: Stacey Romberg, Attorney

When limited liability company (LLC) members chose to work with an attorney to form their business entity, the attorney will draft an “Operating Agreement,” which is also sometimes referred to as a “Limited Liability Company Agreement.” RCW (Revised Code of Washington) 25.15.018(1) provides that an Operating Agreement governs “[r]elations among the members as members and between the members and the limited liability company” and, if applicable, “[t]he rights and duties . . . [of the LLC] manager.”  In other words, the Operating Agreement sets forth the procedures for how the LLC will be governed. An attorney drafts this governance document in consultation with the LLC members. An Operating Agreement is needed for LLCs that have one member, hundreds of members, and everything in between. Sometimes, in addition to the lawyer representing the business entity itself, the LLC members will retain their own individual attorneys to advise them confidentially concerning the Operating Agreement’s provisions and assist them in negotiating for beneficial terms.

What happens if the LLC members fail to hire counsel to draft the LLC’s Operating Agreement? What if instead the LLC’s members shake hands on a verbal agreement? Previously, the Revised Code of Washington required Operating Agreements to be in writing. But the Washington Limited Liability Company Act, which became effective in 2016, changed that – instead indicating that these agreements can be oral or implied.  While oral Operating Agreements are now allowed under Washington law, virtually all business attorneys would nonetheless highly recommend that the Operating Agreement be in writing. Suppose you have a dispute with another LLC member? Suppose you want to sell your interest and move on? Or suppose you pass away, and your spouse seeks to collect your share of the business’s value as an asset of your estate? Perhaps the business was only worth a few dollars when the handshake occurred, but after years of hard work it has significantly increased in value. Would you want to rely solely on a handshake under those circumstances? Or would you prefer that the rules of the road were clearly set forth in a well-crafted document prepared by the LLC’s attorney?

If the LLC does not have a written Operating Agreement, and if the courts are unable to find the existence of an oral or implied agreement, RCW 25.15.018(2) provides that Washington law, specifically Chapter 25.15 of the Revised Code of Washington, “governs the matter.” In other words, if you fail to proactively provide for governance of your LLC, the answer to the question of “How will your LLC be governed?” will be found in statutory law, even if the default statutory language runs contrary to your own wishes or presumptions as to how your business should function.

For example, suppose ABC, LLC has three members. The first LLC member, Jane, makes an initial capital contribution of $300,000 into the business – an inheritance received from her grandmother. The other two members, John and JoAnne, each provide $10,000 worth of capital. ABC has no Operating Agreement. Jane, through a tip from her brother-in-law, finds a perfect and affordable commercial space to lease located in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. John and JoAnne oppose the move, arguing that the business should instead operate out of JoAnne’s mold-infested basement for free. Even though Jane invested, by far, the most capital, under the 2016 Washington Limited Liability Company Act, each LLC member gets one vote unless the Operating Agreement provides otherwise. Here, where ABC, LLC does not have an Operating Agreement, JoAnne and John outvote Jane, and into the basement they go. Does that result seem fair to you, given the disparity in what each member contributed? It may not be fair. And Jane may not have envisioned this result when she deposited her inheritance into the LLC’s bank account. But again, since the LLC members failed to develop an Operating Agreement, Chapter 25.15 of the Revised Code of Washington will govern the LLC’s decision-making process about where to locate the business.

Don’t be caught off guard by unexpected results in terms of how your business will be governed. Take charge, and proactively work with counsel to develop a comprehensive Operating Agreement so that you know, without hesitation, the answer to the question: “How will your LLC be governed?”

Stacey L. Romberg is the founder of a virtual law firm focusing on business law, estate planning and probate. More information can be found at www.staceyromberg.com.

Attend Stacey Romberg’s seminar “Business Law Essentials” at the 23rd annual free Biz Fair on Saturday, Sept 21.

The Cost of Customer Service

By: Debbie Page, Business Coach for Women

Customer service isn’t just a good idea. It’s the force that drives business. Loyalty isn’t a fad. It’s a relationship that needs be cultivated.

Think about the purchasing decisions you make. Which brands or companies have earned your loyalty, and therefore more of your dollars? Your own habits should be enough to indicate there is something to be said for customer loyalty. You know from personal experience that being the cheapest or fastest option isn’t enough to earn your business and a great customer service experience is more than getting a thank you email.

Your customers and clients know it too.

So, here’s the question: What does your documented client retention and loyalty program include? If you’ve made big investments in marketing and advertising to get ‘em – how are you going to keep ‘em?

I’m going to hit pause for just a second and draw your attention to the word documented. I am a huge fan of having documented systems and processes. After more than 20 years in business, I know documented systems and processes help you maintain consistency and deliver results. If your customer service touchpoints and action items aren’t documented you don’t have a plan, you have ideas.

You need to turn those ideas into items you can execute on consistently if you want to grow your customer base and your bottom line.

Just take a look at a few of the numbers I shared recently when talking about the importance of Customer Loyalty.

  • 20% of your customer base is made up by your loyal customers. Those customers will end up driving 80% of your business.
  • It will cost you five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing customer.
  • 68% of customer defection happens when a customer feels like they were treated poorly
  • 95% of the people who have had a bad experience will never tell you.

Those numbers underscore the importance of customer loyalty. Give customers every opportunity to become loyal clients by including these five things in your client retention plan.

5 Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty.

  1. Provide regular updates. Stay in communication with customers through newsletters, e-zines or email updates. Share important information, exciting news or resources they might find valuable. Commit to regular updates and stay in touch.
  2. Under promise and over deliver. Manage expectations by clearly communicating what your customers or clients can expect from you every step of the way. Then surprise them by over-delivering on those promises. For example, if you say you’ll have a contract to them by Friday surprise them by sending it over Thursday.
  3. Show appreciation. Handwritten notes, small gifts, or phone call just to say thank you can go a long way in showing customers how much they are valued and appreciated.
  4. Acknowledge special occasions. Birthdays, work anniversaries and business milestones are all special occasions that can be acknowledge and celebrated in small ways throughout the year.
  5. Remember what’s important to them. Make notes in their client profile of personal interests. Are they a dog lover? Football fan? Quilter? Make a note and use it to surprise and delight them through the year.

Here’s one last thing to consider, you need to develop a process to create customer loyalty whether you have five customers or 5,000 customers. It doesn’t matter which stage of business you’re in, get started and let it grow and develop with you.

Growing your business is easier when you’re not trying to grow it alone.

Want more great insight from Debbie Page? Join her seminar “Marketing Tips and Advice” at Biz Fair at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Renton Technical College.

Why Certify Your Business?

Businesses and OMWBE Certifications

By: Kathryn Akeah, Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises

Small business owners ask us all the time. Should I get my business certified? What kind of certification is best? The quick answer is yes and all of them that you qualify for! Of course, the long answer has a few more details. First, let’s start with the foundation.

Why certify your business?

To verify certain aspects of the business. Certifications can be important to show who owns the business, where products come from, or how the business functions.

What does OMWBE certify?

OMWBE certifies that a business is owned and controlled by a person or persons who are minorities, women, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. A business can get state or federal certification through OMWBE. Most people call these certifications by their acronyms (MBE, WBE, MWBE, CBE, SEDBE, DBE, ACDBE and SBE). To learn more about OMWBE certifications, click here.

Should I apply for OMWBE certification for my business?

We think so and with that in mind, we recently released two new short videos interviewing business owners on how they were certified, what they have used certification for and what being an OMWBE certified business means to them. Don’t miss a chance to be inspired by these heartwarming stories.

Certification Serves a Community

Certification to Grow and Thrive

How would I use OMWBE certification?

There are three primary ways business owners use certifications.

  • To be eligible to participate as a DBE, ACDBE or SBE on federally funded projects. This helps increase visibility and prime contractors can count certified businesses towards their goals on projects.
  • For marketing and increased visibility to city, county and state government, colleges and private-sector companies that have supplier diversity goals. For example, the Governor’s Office has set aspirational goals and state agencies look for state certifications.
  • To qualify for other small business assistance programs such as the Linked Deposit Loan Program.

There are other reasons too. Business owners may get their businesses certified to show pride in their community or for local community recognition.

How do I start?

We just released a short video showing how to complete an OMWBE online application. After you view the video, click to learn more and start your application.

What is the difference between certification and self-identification?

OMWBE certification means that how a business is owned and controlled has been verified by our state agency. OMWBE is the sole agency that does state and federal certifications in Washington State.

Self-identification is when a business registers as a vendor in an online system and the owner checks a box to show that they are minority or woman owned. This may or may not be verified.

So which one is better? It all depends on what your business does and whom you do business with. Some government agencies and prime contractors don’t or can’t recognize self-identification.

 

Kathryn Akeah works in Communications for the Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises. She is passionate about equity and excited that here she can combine her MBA with her experience in community health and community organizing to support diverse small businesses across the state. Stop by the OMWBE table to get more info on certifications during the resource fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Building I. 

Influenza and the health of your business

By: Dr. Yuan-Po Tu and Dr. Dianna Chamblin, The Everett Clinic 

Flu season is coming up and it’s time for business owners to think about your most effective defense against a workplace flu outbreak – the yearly flu vaccination.

How does the flu shot help protect your business?

Vaccinating your staff reduces absenteeism and health care expenses.  It’s estimated that the flu costs the U.S. over $87 billion annually and is responsible for the loss of close to 17 million workdays each flu season. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) tens of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands die from flu-related illness each year in our country.

When should you consider a vaccination? 

Before the onset of flu season, which usually begins at the end of October.  If you vaccinate too early, the immunity may wear off or be too low. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the immune system to fully respond with antibodies that protect against flu virus infection.

If you or your employee is over 65, there are new flu vaccines available that are more effective than the standard dose flu vaccine for seniors in preventing hospitalizations   Be sure to ask your provider about these “senior” flu vaccines.

Nasal flu vaccine (FluMist) will be available for persons age 2 to 49 years of age.

How can you reduce your risks of getting the flu?  Some Center for Disease Control, CDC, tips:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick and if you are sick, keep your distance from others.
  2. Stay home when sick (especially if you have fevers or chills) to avoid spreading your illness to others.
  3. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and promptly dispose of the tissue.  If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
  4. Clean your hands frequently with soap and water.  If you don’t have access to water, use an alcohol-based hand rub (at least 60% alcohol).
  5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth so you don’t contaminate yourself with flu germs.
  6. Clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school.  Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Don’t fall victim to bad information!

Unfortunately, we hear people say, “I’m not getting the flu shot because it will give me the flu!” It’s medically impossible for someone to get the flu from the flu shot because the flu shot is developed from a dead virus. A dead virus can’t give you the flu. So why does this belief persist? Because some people will experience flu or a flu-like episode after getting their shot, but it’s not due to the shot itself.

Here are four reasons why people might experience the flu or like symptoms after getting their shot:

1) A reaction to the flu shot. Less than 1% of people who get the flu vaccine experience flu-like symptoms such as mild fever and muscle aches. While these are side effects, people wrongly attribute these side effects to actually getting the flu.

2) You’re already infected. Once you get your flu shot, it takes about 1-2 weeks for proactive immunity to develop in your body. Unfortunately, some people will get their flu shot late in the flu season (December or later) and are already infected when they get their shot. When they get sick, they will blame their illness on the flu shot, and not realize that they were going to get sick anyway.

3) Your sick, but not with the flu. Many people will attribute any sickness to “the flu,” when in reality, they have another viral illness. The flu shot doesn’t protect against all viral illnesses, just certain influenza viruses.

4) The flu shot isn’t 100% effective. You can still get the flu, even if you get your flu shot because the flu vaccine isn’t effective 100% of the time. This is especially true in older persons.

Where can you get a flu shot?

Start with your health care provider. Or, you can use this handy tool to find your closest flu vaccine provider.

For more information on this topic, check out this handy reference from the CDC, Flu Vaccine Effectiveness: Questions and Answers for Health Professionals.

Here are some other useful resources:

CDC Business Pulse

Info Graphics for Business

We would like to express our gratitude to Drs. Dianna Chamblin and Yuan-Po Tu who took time out of their busy schedules to serve as guest authors. Dr. Chamblin practices occupational medicine at The Everett Clinic and serves as The Everett Clinic’s medical director for the Centers of Occupational Health & Education (COHE). Dr. Tu practices urgent care medicine at The Everett Clinic and also specializes in flu prevention.