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How to build shopper loyalty (it’s cheaper than earning new customers)

(BUSINESS) If it’s less expensive to hang on to a current customer, how exactly does one go about building shopper loyalty?

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shopper loyalty

Entrepreneurs and new business owners often fail to appreciate the difficulty of attracting new customers. Entrepreneur magazine refers to this as “field of dreams marketing.” It is assumed that unlocking the shop or advertising a service will result in customers coming through the door or ringing the phone. In reality, however, getting new customers is an expensive and lengthy endeavor.
This is why experienced businesspeople will do all they can to hang onto a customer once they have one. It is significantly cheaper and more effective to keep an existing customer than get a new one. That does not mean it is easy to keep them though. What are some best practices for building shopper loyalty?

First, great companies know what their customers want. This does not mean successful entrepreneurs must be telepathic. Nor do they need to give every customer a survey at the cash register (please no more). In retail, most customers are signaling what they expect when they walk into a store. If it is a clothing store, they just might be there for some clothes. If it is a coffee shop, guess what? They want coffee.

Businesses occasionally spend far too much time and money on the assumption customers might want something other than the items already on the shelf. Nobody proves this point better that Google. One of the most successful companies of our time still rolls out their flagship product as a simple search field in the center of a big white space. They know people who go to a search engine just want to search.

Second, great companies give their customers what they want. If a customer enters an electronics store to purchase a phone and the clerk spends 20 minutes trying to sell her a tablet, selfie-stick, or camera, then the customer’s satisfaction level will be low. Perhaps she will purchase the phone, but she will not be eager for a return trip. Had the clerk simply sold a great phone, the customer just might have popped back in sometime for that tablet.

Today’s shoppers value their time, are well informed about products, and typically know what they want when they enter a shop. Major American cable companies are learning this the hard way as customers leave them in droves for smaller, nimbler streaming services that will simply give them what they want without pressing them to pay for many channels they have no interest in.

Third, successful businesses give customers more than they want. This is not the same as selling them more than they want to buy. For example, if you walk into the Asian coffee retailer J.Co and order a cup of coffee they will give you a donut too. Surprise! No one complains about a free donut. Even customers who refuse it for health reasons will be impressed that it was offered. That extra benefit, although small, draws people back. Giving away donuts is much cheaper than advertising for new customers and it eventually increases sales.

How to apply this principle will depend on the particular business. A cleaning company can refill the bathroom soaps, a bakery can include a serving knife, and a dress shop can give away a nice garment bag. To be most effective, these should be unadvertised surprises. They are not a benefit the customer is paying for; rather they are examples of going above a beyond. These little extras increase customer loyalty and will improve sales.

Fourth, the best companies give customers an excellent value on what they want. There are few shoppers in this world with truly unlimited budgets. In reality, most people are motivated by good prices. Walmart climbed to the top of the retail world with its motto, “Always the lowest price. Always.” This does not mean a business should strive to be the cheapest option every time. However, it does mean that customers should never be overcharged and pricing schemes should be clear.

Start-up companies are sometimes tempted to overprice goods and services because they are desperately trying to build good income streams. This is a temptation that must be avoided. Customers who feel they are getting what they want at a reasonable price will likely return for more. If they do, it will not take long for new businesses to grow a healthy income.

Knowing what a customer wants, giving it to them (with a little extra), and at a good price will draw them back again and again. Implementing these ideas is not rocket science. New business people can find inspiration by imagining themselves on the other side of the counter. What would they want if they were doing the shopping?

“Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you” is a great rule for building customer loyalty. The results can be truly golden.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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Business News

You should apply to be on a board – why and how

(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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board of directors

What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but sometimes things can go south – here’s how to escape when they do.

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

Australia vs Facebook: A conflict of news distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following a contentious battle for news aggregation, Australia works to find agreement with Facebook.

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News open on laptop, which Australia argues Facebook is taking away from.

Australia has been locked in a legal war against technology giants Google and Facebook with regard to how news content can be consumed by either entity’s platforms.

At its core, the law states that news content being posted on social media is – in effect – stealing away the ability for news outlets to monetize their delivery and aggregate systems. A news organization may see their content shared on Facebook, which means users no longer have to visit their site to access that information. This harms the ability for news production companies – especially smaller ones – from being able to maintain revenue and profit, while also giving power to corporations such as Facebook by allowing them to capitalize on their substantial infrastructure.

This is a complex subject that can be viewed from a number of angles, but it essentially asks the question of who should be in control of information on a potentially global scale, and how the ability to share such data should be handled when it passes through a variety of mediums and avenues. Put shortly: Australia thinks royalties should be paid to those who supply the news.

Australia has maintained that under the proposed laws, corporations must reach content distribution deals in order to allow news to be spread through – as one example – posts on Facebook. In retaliation, Facebook completely removed the ability for users to post news articles and stories. This in turn led to a proliferation of false and misleading information to fill the void, magnifying the considerable confusion that Australian citizens were confronted with once the change had been made.

“In just a few days, we saw the damage that taking news out can cause,” said Sree Sreenivasan, a professor at the Stony Brook School of Communication and Journalism. “Misinformation and disinformation, already a problem on the platform, rushed to fill the vacuum.”

Facebook’s stance is that it provides value to the publishers because shared news content will drive users to their sites, thereby allowing them to provide advertising and thus leading to revenue.

Australia has been working on this bill since last year, and has said that it is meant to equalize the potential imbalance of content and who can display and benefit from it. This is meant to try and create conditions between publishers and the large technology platforms so that there is a clearer understanding of how payment should be done in exchange for news and information.

Google was initially defiant (threatening to go as far as to shut off their service entirely), but began to make deals recently in order to restore its own access. Facebook has been the strongest holdout, and has shown that it can leverage its considerable audience and reach to force a more amenable deal. Australia has since provided some amendments to give Facebook time to seek similar deals obtained by Google.

One large portion of the law is that Australia is reserving the right to allow final arbitration, which it says would allow a mediator to set prices if no deal could be reached. This might be considered the strongest piece of the law, as it means that Facebook cannot freely exercise its considerable weight with impunity. Facebook’s position is that this allows government interference between private companies.

In the last week – with the new agreements on the table – it’s difficult to say who blinked first. There is also the question of how this might have a ripple effect through the tech industry and between governments who might try to follow suit.

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