5 Ways To Give Back To Your Customers This Holiday Season

The festive cheer is upon us, and I am sure the majority of us are looking to spend quality time with loved ones and indulge in creamy eggnog and food! However, the festival is so much more than singing carols and decking the halls. It is also about “giving and receiving.”

As a small business owner, you know better than anyone else how valuable your customers are to your continued success. And irrespective of sector, Christmas is responsible for a substantial portion of your business’ total sales.

That’s why, take the opportunity to not only sell to your customers but also “give back” to them, this Christmas season. Here are five simple but effective ways to win your customers’ loyalty for the year to come:

1. Sponsor an event

A great way to connect with customers is to sponsor an event in your community, be it a local marathon or a children’s fete. That not only supports your community’s social life but also helps you boost your brand’s visibility.

You can also set up a stall at the event where customers can come and interact with you, learn about your product and get discount coupons or free samples. That is an excellent alternative to the usual business-oriented events, as customers get to see that you take a genuine interest in community life.

2. Collaborate with other small businesses

Another useful way to boost your business’ visibility is by collaborating with other small businesses to sponsor an event or campaign. This exposes your brand to their audience and their brand to yours.

The important thing here is to choose a brand whose products and services complement yours rather than competing with them. By doing this, you get a chance to tap into more diversified markets and understand the consumption patterns of your customers better.

3. Donate to a cause

Research from Cone Communications shows that 92% of customers want to buy from businesses that support a cause. Therefore, this holiday season, you can give back to the community by donating a percentage of your profits to an NGO or charitable cause that you genuinely believe in.

You can share the news about what you are doing by sending out an exclusive holiday email to your customers or talking about it on social media. Use the right tone in your writing so that you connect with your customers emotionally and show them that you truly believe in supporting the cause.

4. Host a contest

Nothing amps up the festive mood among your customers like a giveaway in which one or more of them stand to win prizes. Host a festive-themed concert that is open to both your online and offline customers and offer attractive gifts to the winners.

To boost participation, you can also offer small vouchers or samples to everyone who takes part. Create a buzz about the contest on social media, encourage your employees to send out regular content to promote the contest and announce the winners with fanfare.

You can also host a series of contests to increase the chances of winning and to keep up a sustained flow of participation.

5. Host a get-together

One of the best ways to encourage festive cheer among your employees and customers alike is to host a get-together for them. This allows your customers a behind-the-scenes look at how your business functions, thus allowing them to feel like insiders.

Create a buzz about the event in the weeks leading up to it by sending out invites and sharing “sneak peek” content about it on social media. Host the event at a venue that allows plenty of scope for mingling.

You can serve snacks and mocktails at the event, have live music playing and organize some fun contests for everyone to participate in. Be sure to have goodie bags ready for all your customers to take away at the end of the event so that they can have a memento of the pleasant evening you hosted for them.

Endnotes

The Christmas time signals “buy, buy, buy.” Therefore, while the internet and local shops are saturated with deals to attract customers aggressively, there’s no better time for your business to stand out and “give back” to the community. So, do it now!

Lastly, I hope you have a little relaxation and reflection time set aside this holiday season. Everyone entrepreneur deserves to take a pause and breathe. So do you. Happy holidays!

Dealing With Negative Employees? Here’s What To Do.

A typical work environment doesn’t always bring out the best in people. An angry boss, spiteful colleagues, stubborn subordinates—these characters create the everyday drama at work. The thought of it is pretty exhausting but it’s a reality for most people, especially managers.

Destructive employee behavior, intentional or otherwise, can leave anyone reeling or demotivated. That person may criticize you or your work, disrespect you, or simply disrupt the overall workplace.

In such cases, how can you avoid feeling completely deterred? What’s the best way to deal with such a negative person? Take notes from the following:

1. Listening is the Key

Sometimes, you’ll get so irritated with that negative employee that you won’t be able to focus on the real problem, so try lending an ear to that person. The best way to get to the core of the issue is to have a sit-down discussion with the employee about what the problem is. Talking may not always solve the problem, but it would can set things into better perspective and throw light on the way to move forward.

Head to Women On Business to learn three more ways.

Smart Toolkit: For Solopreneurs With Fast Growing Businesses

When I first started my writing consultancy business, I was happy and excited to embark on the journey of a solopreneur. I had a handful of clients. I mostly did writing work, which meant I just needed a reliable internet connection to do the job. Raising invoices hardly took time. Payments got cleared without any follow-ups. Life was easy.

As the years rolled by, my writing work remained an integral part of my daily routine. However, it was not the only thing I focused on as a solopreneur anymore. Business development, client relationship management, coordination with fellow freelancers, and branding also got added to my scope of work.

Suddenly I had too much on my plate, and my organizational skills went for a toss! But, I quickly realized we live in the golden age of technology with tens of thousands of tools at our disposal. So, I decided to make the most of that.

I soon started using a fair number of tools for managing different aspects of my business. Life was easy once again, and my business continued to thrive. If you are in a similar state of disarray, go through the toolkit I have created explicitly for solopreneurs with fast-growing businesses. You can thank me later!

I. Writing

1. HubSpot’s Blog Ideas Generator

Ideas have a problem. They don’t always come to you when you want them to, and that can be frustrating for a solopreneur whose work includes writing corporate articles regularly. In such a scenario, the HubSpot tool is a life savior!

Type in five nouns to get 250+ blog ideas — enough for a year’s work. I use it from time to time to search for ideas on a topic done to death. The results never disappoint!

free-tools-every-solopreneur-needs-hubspot

Cost: Free

2. Headline Analyzer From CoSchedule

No matter how well-written an article is, it won’t work unless its heading is appealing. I always face a lot of trouble in coming up with interesting titles, so I resort to the CoSchedule tool, which gives me a detailed analysis of the overall structure, grammar, and readability of the proposed headline. And that’s good enough to tell me if I should keep the headline or trash it.

free-tools-every-solopreneur-needs-coscheduler

Cost: Free

3. Grammarly

I hate making silly typos and grammatical errors while writing, but mistakes creep in no matter how careful one is. While Microsoft Word and Google Docs do a basic spell-check, that is not enough. Grammarly’s paid version picks up wrongly spelled words, suggests synonyms, corrects an ill-framed sentence, and more. I always run all my articles through it.

Cost: Freemium

II. Website

4. WordPress

Website development is an expensive activity. So, I always kept a blog on WordPress to showcase my published work. But when my business started scaling up, I realized I needed a website with a custom URL. And since I was not financially strong enough to get a website designed from scratch, I upgraded my WordPress account.

That gave me access to their premium themes. I picked one and customized it according to my brand guidelines. If you have a Business plan, use free and paid plugins such as JetPack, YoastSEO, and Easy Google Fonts to enhance your user experience. You can check out my WordPress website here.

free-tools-every-solopreneur-needs-website

Cost: Paid

III. Social media

5. Buffer

I love Buffer! It is easy-to-use, offers useful analytics, and hardly ever has scheduling issues. Managing multiple social media accounts from a single dashboard is convenient. The free version allows the user to schedule up to 10 updates on any three social media channels.

Buffer also fetches images from the links you want to publish, which means you don’t have to download pictures separately and upload them. The paid version is even better. For starters, you can schedule Pinterest Pins and have an approval system for scheduled posts (perfect when you are working with a team).

The analytics reports are more advanced too! I highly recommend the tool to my startup clients who are at the cusp of establishing a social presence.

Cost: Freemium

6. TweetDeck

As the name suggests, this is a tool only for Twitter posts, and I genuinely enjoy it. Thanks to its layout, you can not only use it to converse with influencers and connect with industry peers but also stay on the top daily news. I don’t think there is any limit to the number of scheduled posts on TweetDeck. And, that’s what makes it so awesome!

Cost: Free

7. HootSuite

I was once called the unofficial brand ambassador of HootSuite by my colleagues because I was mad about the tool and recommended it to everyone. Nothing’s changed even today. I use Buffer and HootSuite for different clients, and it works magically!

What I love about HootSuite is that you can monitor multiple streams in one place! You can add streams of new mentions, followers, and likes to keep up to date with what interactions customers have with you on social media. The tool is a boon for B2C businesses that deal with customers daily.

Cost: Freemium

IV. Analytics

8. Google Analytics

I am sure you have a website. So, how actively do you leverage Google Analytics? After all — it is the most basic tracking mechanism of a site! With the tool, study metrics such as bounce rate, average time spent on a page, customer acquisition through social channels, and trending keywords. Identify what’s working with the website and what isn’t. Trust me — it will help you create a far more effective inbound strategy for your business. (Photo from Neil Patel)

free-tools-every-solopreneur-needs-google-analytics

Cost: Free

9. Kissmetrics

Every solopreneur, irrespective of domain expertise, thinks they understand the target audience well, but such is usually not the case. With Kissmetrics, you can track the actions of every user on your website. I use the tool for one of my clients to study the weekly reports on monthly revenue projections, paying subscribers, top referrals, and results of any A/B tests.

According to its founder, Josh Ledgard, Kissmetrics helped his clients in calculating the Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) rate and making improvements in the landing page templates offered on the website. While Google Analytics highlights the data, this tool shows what needs to be done with that data.

Cost: Paid

V. Email marketing

10. MailChimp

I love MailChimp! It offers a range of templates, and its drag-and-drop editor makes it easy for anyone to design visually impressive emails. You can set up a drip-email campaign to educate the subscriber about your products or services and nurture them to become your customers. Even if you only want to send automated messages like a “thank you” email in response to an email subscription, MailChimp is ideal.

Cost: Freemium

VI. Proposals

11. PandaDoc

A friend of mine introduced me to the tool, and I instantly got hooked! PandaDoc allows you to create custom branded documents for your business. I find its web-based document editor particular easy-to-use because of its drag and drop feature.

Moreover, your clients can electronically sign the document from any device. Sending proposals, invoices, contracts has never been this easy! And, it is cost-effective too.

Cost: Paid

VI. Finances

12. Wave

The same friend of mine also introduced me to Wave, and now I use it for creating invoices. But it is so much more than that! Exclusively designed for freelancers, businesses, and consultants, Wave comprises many features, including payment tracking, paid receipts, finance management, payroll, and more.

You can link your bank and PayPal accounts with Wave, and directly send the invoices to your clients. The tool will also send out a follow-up email to those clients who haven’t paid up with a specific timeframe. Feel free to pick up a template and customize it as per your business needs.

free-tools-every-solopreneur-needs-wave-apps

Cost: Freemium

13. Quickbooks

Any new business would initially have just one finance person to maintain the books manually. But as a business grows, arises the need for a software that can do this task with ease and within a narrower timeframe. QuickBooks is a convenient tool to automate the entire bookkeeping process.

Cost: Paid (with a 30-day free trial)

VII. Project management

14. Trello

If you love to color-code your tasks and want to be able to see your entire schedule in one go, Trello is right for you! Seriously — I can’t imagine my life without Trello and have made boards for both professional and personal tasks. It is such a simple tool!

Also apt for project management, Trello helps multiple teams categorize their tasks and conveniently displays what everyone is working on. If you work with a freelance team, go for it. It is also easier to chase deadlines on Trello because it shoots an email every time the user is near the deadline.

free-tools-every-solopreneur-needs-trello

Cost: Freemium

15. Basecamp

If you work extensively with freelancers, then keeping track of them and their tasks daily is necessary. Basecamp is an efficient task management tool that offers a regular “check-in” feature for keeping all the freelancers on the same page.

Cost: Paid

16. Asana

Project management is key to business growth, and that’s a skill every solopreneur should master. Mapping out every task and organizing even the tiniest details under one dashboard can make it easier for solopreneurs to work through stages quickly.

Asana is the right tool for you and your freelancers if you wish to stay in sync, meet deadlines, and achieve business goals. It not only helps you work together transparently but also increases the ownership of each task and drives better results.

Cost: Paid

17. Airtable

A friend of mine suggested the tool to me almost three years ago. I didn’t like it back then, but I decided to give it another try this year. And honestly, I can’t get enough of it! I primarily use Airtable for curating the editorial calendar of my website.

It is a dynamic tool that allows me to create filters on the sheet and makes viewing tasks much more straightforward. Additionally, it offers multiple templates, including Marketing Asset Management, PR & Media CRM, Event Marketing, Design Project Pipeline, and more. And anyone who knows me knows that I love free templates. 😉

free-tools-every-solopreneur-needs-airtable

Cost: Freemium (The paid version is definitely better!)

VIII. Communication

18. Slack

The idea behind Slack is to make business communication easier and transparent. One of my clients uses it extensively. I am a part of many channels on our dedicated account. On Slack, one can share files, gifs, and respond to conversation threads privately.

I have integrated my profile with the client’s Google Drive and Trello. The tool is free to use, but you can also purchase it to access features such as group calls with screen sharing, corporate exports for all messages, and designated customer success teams.

Cost: Freemium

IX. Design

19. Canva

Designers are an invaluable but expensive resource for any solopreneur. My bootstrapped business has survived without a designer for the longest time — all thanks to Canva that converted me into an amateur designer in a matter of minutes!

I love Canva! It is easy-to-use, has multiple templates in different themes and for all types of digital platforms. Want to make a social media graphic for a school? Want to create a corporate presentation? Want to design an attractive leaflet to promote the business? Whatever your requirements are, you can design anything and everything on Canva.

Cost: Freemium

20. Unsplash

If your work is heavily focused on visuals, then you should keep an eye on platforms to access pre-stock images. One such publication is Unsplash, which features hundreds of thousands of images across multiple industries — be it lifestyle, travel, finance, marketing, branding. Who said searching for images was a task? It certainly isn’t if you are using Unsplash!

free-tools-every-solopreneur-needs-unsplash

Cost: Free

X. Storage

21. Google Drive

Your company is at a stage where it is growing at a rapid pace. Offline excel sheets are not handy anymore. You require a tool that allows smooth collaboration across teams, and what’s better than Google Drive?

I love the fact that I can access files on the Drive from anywhere and complete tasks quickly. It also helps me share edited work with my clients or freelancers, thus maintaining a convenient sense of transparency!

Cost: Free

Over to you

We solopreneurs are always short on resources — be it time, money, or staff. I am always on my toes, juggling different aspects of my business. It is fun and exciting to have something of my own, but I would also like to give my business a competitive advantage.

I believe with the right set of tools, solopreneurs can reduce their teething problems to a large extent, and focus solely on doing a good job and bagging more clients. If you want to sell your business, sell it right — with the help of technology — as I do!

What tools do you use for your business? I am all ears.

Using Pulse Surveys To Boost Employee Engagement

An organization’s job doesn’t end when it recruits an employee. Conducting onboarding and training programs are second in order when a new professional joins.

The general perception regarding employee engagement is positive. From startups and mid-size businesses to large corporations—all of them engage their employees in some way or the other.

However, what’s surprising is 90% of the leadership team agree an engagement strategy has a great impact on business success but only 25% of them actually have a strategy.

Moreover, as of today, 36% of organizations see engagement as a top challenge!

So the next time you ask yourself how employee engagement can contribute to your organization, remember these facts:

  • Onboarding helps align expectations and boosts engagement with the new workforce. It improves employee performance by 11.5%. [LinkedIn]
  • 73% of employees who say they work at a purpose-driven company feel more engaged at work. [Deloitte]
  • 40% of employees with poor training leave their jobs within the first year. [go2HR]
  • 68% of employees claim training and development is the most important company policy. [ClearCompany]

When they are satisfied with their current job profiles, they take less time off and deliver results at work that matters. This attitude is helpful in improving the health of an organization, which means higher profitability. It is a win-win for both parties.

So, what should a potential employee engagement strategy contain? Pulse surveys! My eLearning Industry article explores the topic in detail.