Archive for August, 2016

3 Things To Tell Every Customer

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Customer Communication - 3 Things To Tell Every Customer

Your customer’s or prospect’s attention is extremely important to your business.  Let’s look at three statements you should be making and backing up to your customers.

Must Have Customer Communication

1. We Want Your Feedback

At the end of any purchase, project or service with your customer, let them know you want to understand how the customer experience was for them. While it’s great to use many different methods to get your customer’s thoughts post-sale, you will get more feedback by personally letting them know you care about it and want it.

Customer Communication - We Want Your Feedback

My bank let’s me know they want my feedback with signage, for example. (See the image above.)

This mention of desiring their feedback also takes your feedback process from surprise to an expectation. When your customer survey call, email or mailer arrives to request their feedback they aren’t surprised one bit.  You also have increased the responsibility of the customers to respond since you made a personal request of it.

Best of all is your extra touch of mentioning. This speaks to your business’s culture of caring about your customer’s experience and that’s valuable in itself.

2. Here’s What You Get And How Often

I see endless requests on websites, in store signage and everywhere a business can place an icon to ask people to sign-up for their email marketing, follow or like them on social media or opt-in to their mobile/SMS marketing. You absolutely should be making every attempt to gain more channels to communicate with your customer, but you can do it better.

“Sign up for our email list and get just a once per month email containing our specials, tips and clearance items.”

You just set an expectation and a value of your communication with them and they clearly understand what they are opting into.

I find endless “Join Our Email List” fields on websites without a single mention of how often you’ll be emailing them or what with. Do you know what your customer likely thinks of this? That you’ll email them daily or more with every sales pitch you have. How many customers want to sign up when they think that?

Customer Communication - Here's What You Get and How Often

This email newsletter sign up lacks any detail on the content or frequency of this communication.

If you are asking for mobile numbers, which I think are marketing gold, make sure you clearly state when you’ll use it and how valuable it will be. Customers guard their mobile number and rightfully so. Make sure your mobile campaign delivers great savings, insight or enables your process to be perfect (like reminders).

You’ll find more customers subscribing and following if you state your offering, timing and value.

3. This Is Our Number One Differentiator

In our world of competition, access and pricing, it can be very hard for a customer to understand who is best for their needs. They combine what you say about yourself with what others say about you to make a decision.

Are you clearly communicating what your biggest difference is with your service or product? You need to be. If you don’t control this messaging and clarity you rely on your customer figuring this out themselves from online reviews, referrals and other sources. Make it easy for prospects to decide. Give them your biggest difference right up front.

The best version of this is to be specific as well. While you can state it’s your staff, you’ll be better off stating why your staff is great. “Our technicians set us apart from other Windshield installers with over 40 years experience and multiple Master Level certifications.”

Telling this to your customers is just as important because this is messaging they are likely to repeat to others when referring your business.

Great Communication Wins

All of these examples and tips center on clear and valuable communication with your customers. Showing customers you care, you respect their time and where you are unique will help win more first time and repeat customers.

Customers Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “3 Things To Tell Every Customer” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Bulgaria PM Takes Over Preparations for EU Presidency

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is assuming the position of National Coordinator for the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, the government has said.

The change means Borisov is taking over from Deputy PM and Education Minister Meglena Kuneva.

The government’s decision is motivated by a need for a “strong political commitment” following the decision to reschedule Bulgaria’s six-month term.

Bulgaria was to preside the Council of the EU between July and December 2018, but will now do so six months earlier after Britain renounced its own term following the Brexit referendum.

Borisov will now oversee the preparation, while Kuneva will be in charge of logistics and staff management. Another Deputy PM, Tomislav Donchev, will look after the presidency’s “infrastructure” and will be assigned the interaction with National Palace of Culture (NDK) officials, as some of the events will be held in that building.

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Small Business Loan Approval Rates at Big Banks Decline, Biz2Credit Index Finds

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

The July 2016 Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index Reports that Small Business Loan Approval Rates at Big Banks Decline

Turbulence in global markets has made big banks wary of approving small business loans. That’s what the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index (PDF), the monthly analysis of more than 1,000 small business loan applications on Biz2Credit.com has revealed.

Details from the July 2016 Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index

According to the report, small business loan approval rates have dropped at both big banks and alternative lenders in July.

The big bank approval rate declined to 23.1 percent in July, down two-tenths of a percent from June’s figure. Meanwhile, alternative lenders approved three out of five loan requests in the same period.

In a prepared release, Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora observed, “The economy in the second quarter was a bit sluggish because of slower global growth; this impacts big banks more than other lenders.”

“When there is turbulence in international markets, such as the angst over Britain’s leaving the EU, big banks tend to become more conservative in their lending. Brexit had some impact, but not a major one, on small business finance.”

Explaining why lending plummeted at alternative lenders, Arora said, “Alternative lenders have steadily lost favor among small business borrowers, in large part because their cost of capital is so high.”

“Credit-worthy borrowers can typically secure better interest rates and terms from other types of lenders. Alternative lenders still have some appeal for borrowers whose credit scores might be low.”

While small business loan approval rates dropped at big banks and alternative lenders, not all the news from July was bad.

Institutional lenders’ loan approval rates bounced back to 62.8 percent, matching an all time index high. Small banks also saw a slight increase in their approval rates.

According to Arora, “This category (institutional lenders) of lender is doing well because of high yields and low default rates. Further, institutional investors from other countries are looking to enter the U.S. market as there currently is much global uncertainty, especially in Europe.”

He also added that the current global market scenario doesn’t have as much impact on small banks as it does on larger ones.

For small businesses that are currently profitable, securing loans for expansion should not be a challenge, the index suggests.

Arora echoed this when he told the New York Daily News, “Rates are still historically low, and small businesses that are currently profitable are able to get loans for expansion and working capital.”

Moreover, the U.S. economy is stable, which is definitely good news for small business owners, Arora obsrved.

For its monthly index, Biz2Credit analyzes loan requests ranging from $25,000 to $3 million from companies in business more than two years with an average credit score above 680. Unlike other surveys, the results are based on primary data submitted by more than 1,000 small business owners who applied for funding on Biz2Credit’s online lending platform, which connects business borrowers and lenders.

Image: Biz2Credit

This article, “Small Business Loan Approval Rates at Big Banks Decline, Biz2Credit Index Finds” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Boyan Petrov Eyes Everest Despite Car Accident

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Mountaineer Boyan Petrov said on Tuesday he is not giving up plans to ascend the world’s highest peak Everest despite the injuries sustained in a car accident earlier in August.

Petrov has told private NOVA TV station that that his recovery was going “according to plan” and his condition was “unexpectedly well” at the moment.

“Physical traumas will not prevent me from being a mountaineer. It is the spirit that matters. I am becoming stronger.”

Petrov added he would seek to climb Everest either “in the spring of next year” or later.

The incident took place on August 23, when Petrov and Andrey Kovachev from Green Balkans, a  Bulgarian nature-conservation NGO, were inspecting an area between the town of Simitli and Kresna Gorge slated for the construction of a section of Struma Motorway.

“After [the crash]… I am even more determined there should be no [section of the Struma] highway there,” Petrov told NOVA.

The Bulgarian mountaineer is famous for his 14×8000 Project for climbing the 14 peaks on Earth which are higher than 8000 meters. 

The Bulgarian mountaineer is famous for his 14×8000 Project for climbing the 14 peaks on Earth which are higher than 8000 meters. – See more at: http://www.novinite.com/articles/175993/Bulgarian+Mountaineer+Boyan+Petrov+Injured+in+Car+Accident+-+Radio#sthash.nVY4mjd6.dpuf

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Spotlight: Bar-B-Clean Franchise Focuses on Cleaning and Maintenance of Barbecue Grills

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Spotlight: Bar-B-Clean Barbecue Grill Cleaning Service Keeps Grills Clean and Healthy

Barbecue grills can be great for summer gatherings and everyday meals. But they can also get quite dirty and aren’t exactly easy to clean. A few years back, one enterprising entrepreneur decided that this somewhat messy niche could make for a great business opportunity. And Bar-B-Clean was born. Read more about the business below in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Cleans and maintains barbecues.

Founder Bryan Weinstein told Small Business Trends, “Bar-B-Clean exists to reduce the amount of grills people have to replace. Barbecues are expensive investments that are expected to last many years. Exposure to rain and sun will prematurely age them, discolor them, and make them look old and dirty. Bar-B-Clean offers residential and commercial customers a convenient, low cost grill cleaning solution. In addition, Bar-B-Clean also offers part replacements, stone rejuvenation services and rodent removal.”

Business Niche

Doing the dirty work.

Weinstein says, “Did you know that every year, 7,000 Americans are injured while using backyard barbecue grills? At Bar-B-Clean, we take safety seriously and go the extra mile to offer advice to our customers during appointments. In addition, the very nature of our services helps keep grills clean and people healthier. We remove metal bristles, rodent droppings and more. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.”

Spotlight: Bar-B-Clean Barbecue Grill Cleaning Service Keeps Grills Clean and Healthy

How this Barbecue Grill Cleaning Service Got Started

Because of a stray rodent.

Weinstein explains, “In 2011, after finding a rodent living in my frequently used grill, I started wondering if my love for outdoor cooking was actually an unhealthy passion. As I probed a bit further, I learned that grillers everywhere are often cleaning up dead, rotted rat carcasses, handfuls of animal poop and cancerous chemicals. Naturally, I looked into the process of properly cleaning a grill, and realized that the task was quite labor intensive that created a problem that most people wouldn’t or simply couldn’t take on themselves. And so I created Bar-B-Clean, a franchise organization that will do your dirty work ranging from rodent removal, bbq cleaning, part replacement and more.”

Biggest Win

Having the first franchisee eclipse $100,000 in 2015

Weinstein says, “This was a win/win as it was a testament to the service and that it’s a profitable business. This has been a milestone in our business and is helping our franchise sales process. This information is listed in the franchise disclosure document (FDD), and is representative of what people can expect.”

Biggest Risk

Jumping into business.

Weinstein says, “Good ideas are a dime a dozen. You have to believe in it and be committed to see your idea succeed, no matter what that takes. Everything I do is for the business. Failure is not an option.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Recruiting and support for the franchise program.

Weinstein explains, “The strength of a franchise system is the franchisees. People are so important, and I aim everyday to foster a sense of community; that we are all a part of something. We share in successes and failures, and we do it together.”

Spotlight: Bar-B-Clean Barbecue Grill Cleaning Service Keeps Grills Clean and Healthy

Recruiting Philosophy

Helping veterans.

Weinstein says, “We also have a hyper focus on recruiting veterans (both as franchisees and employees) and helping them transition from the military to civilian life.”

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: Bar-B-Clean; Top image: Bar-B-Clean Franchisee and military Veteran Matthew Sprague; Bottom image: Bryan Weinstein, Bar-B-CleanFounder

This article, “Spotlight: Bar-B-Clean Franchise Focuses on Cleaning and Maintenance of Barbecue Grills” was first published on Small Business Trends

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UK Futurist: Bulgaria’s Bokova Has Chance to Win UN Top Job Race

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova could possibly win the race to become the next United Nations Secretary General, British futurist Felix Dodds has argued.

Bokova will be “the only Eastern Europe woman in the fourth straw poll,” in his words.

On his blog, he has posted an analysis of the ongoing straw polls at the United Nations Security Council and their results.

Together with Serbian ex-Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremi?, Bokova came third in the last vote earlier this week, after former Portuguese Prime Minister Ant?nio Guterres and former Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Laj??k.

Dodds, however, rules out a win by Guterres based on calls from some countries for the next UN chief to be a woman and from Eastern Europe.

Guterres “fails the regional test of being from Portugal and the gender hope that governments would choose a woman. I think the Russians will once the veto’s come in be prepared to veto Antonio. He clearly is a very good candidate but from the wrong region and sex.”

“The west I think do not want to see Vuk Jeremi? and so would use their veto’s there. That leaves us with an interesting picture Miroslav Laj??k and Irina Bokova must be the two favorites at this point in the process.”

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Xiaomi Introduces Latest Example of Cheap Smartphone Trend with Redmi Note 4

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Xiaomi Introduces Latest Example of Cheap Smartphone Trend with Redmi Note 4

The continuing trend of full-featured and cheap Chinese smartphones is disrupting the segment, as the sales of premium flagship brands keeps declining. While the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is not as cheap as the ZTE Zmax, which came in at $99, its $239.99 and $179.99 price tags are still considerably lower than the high-end versions. This is welcomed news for small businesses looking to integrate mobility as part of their overall collaborative and remote workforce initiatives.

Redmi Note 4 Smartphone Details

The Redmi Note 4 has two versions, and they both pack some impressive specs and what appears to be a quality build. The metal unibody design and curved glass edge which the company calls 2.5D glass gives the phone an expensive look that makes it very hard to distinguish from any other flagship device.  This despite the fact that these devices are still cheaper even than the mid-range smartphones called “flagship killers.”

Redmi Note 4 - Large Screen Size

The specs on both models are the same, except the $239 version has 3GB RAM and 64GB of storage, while the $179 version has 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage. The storage can be increased up to 128GB via microSD card for both.

The 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) curved glass display has 401ppi pixel density powered with a deca-core MediaTek Helio X20 coupled with Mali-T880 MP4 GPU. A large 4100mAh battery is another impressive feature that again exceeds what might be expected  given the price point of this phone.

Redmi Note 4 - Processor

Images and videos can be captured with the 13-megapixel PDAF (phase detection autofocus) and f/2.0 aperture rear camera with a dual-tone LED flash, and a 5-megapixel front camera. According to Xiaomi, the phone can take 85-degree wide angle shots and record 1080p videos at 30fps.

As with other Xiaomi phones, the device runs the MIUI platform based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. For this model, the MIUI 8 will provide a phone separation function to deliver two independent space systems with two different gestures to unlock them. This essentially creates two phones in one, so companies can separate the personal and business functions to protect corporate data.

The sensors include a fingerprint scanner, infrared, ambient light and hall sensors along with the general gyro, acceleration and proximity functions. The connectivity for the phone includes GPRS/ EDGE, 3G, 4G with VoLTE, Bluetooth, GPS, Micro-USB and Glonass.

Chinese smartphone makers now take up three of the top five global brands. According to Gartner, following Samsung and Apple, which are in first and second place respectively, Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi complete the top five. The report also revealed Apple experienced its first double digit decline in 2016, and Samsung also showed some weakening, although it wasn’t as bad. On the other hand, the Chinese brands are continuing to grow, making up 17 percent of the market compared to 11 percent the previous year.

The one drawback of the affordable Chinese phones is they are not always readily available in the US. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 can be purchased in China and the company’s website, with no announcement if it will be sold by US carriers or retailers.

Images: Xiaomi

This article, “Xiaomi Introduces Latest Example of Cheap Smartphone Trend with Redmi Note 4” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Bulgaria’s New Border Police Chief Takes Over after Public Tender Scanal

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Svetlan Kichikov, the current head of the the border police ships, has been reappointed to take over the border police directorate of Bulgaria, Interior Ministry officials have said.

Kichikov, 49, has been working for the ministry since September 1992. He has spent his entire career at positions relating to maritime border security.

His predecessor, Antonio Angelov, stepped down earlier in August at the request of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, alongside one of his deputies, Yotko Andreev.

The development occurred after a TV investigation revealed a public tender had assigned the transportation of irregular migrants to a company whose owner had been reportedly arrested for migrant smuggling.

Kichikov was introduced to the media at a briefing of the ministry’s Chief Secretary Georgi Kostov, his deputy Georgi Arabadzhiev, and Deputy Interior Minister Filip Gounev.

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Seattle Times: Bulgaria Is ‘Underappreciated and Ripe for a Visit’

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

With a million people, Bulgaria’s capital Sofia is “delightfully livable, with fine architecture, lush parks and plenty of history,” according to an article in the Seattle Times.

“Sofia may be poor compared to London, Paris or Berlin, but you wouldn’t know it strolling its vibrant boulevards,” writes Rick Steves, who spent “lots of time exploring Bulgaria and its capital Sofia” in his student days.

“Because of its strategic position just north of Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria sits on layers of history. From ancient Greeks and Romans to fearsome Slavic warriors, and from Ottoman pashas to Cold War communists, each group left its mark.”

“With glittering treasures from ancient tombs and decrepit monuments to a difficult 20th century, it’s a surprising land.”

Some “surprising oddities” of Sofia are also pointed out, including “natural springs” and “an actual yellow brick road”.

The story is available here.

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Want to Change Your Company’s Name? Here’s How

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Here's how to change your business name no matter its type

One question that small business owners commonly ask is how to change their business name. It’s only natural for a business to grow, evolve or change direction over the course of its lifetime. The name you hatched in the early days may no longer fit your business’ market, activities or brand personality now. The question is: is there an easy way to officially change the business’ name without having to start all over again?

From a legal perspective, the process of changing a name is more involved than just notifying your customers and changing your marketing material. However, it isn’t as complicated as you might think. The specific steps depend on how you are operating your business: are you a sole proprietor or an LLC/corporation. We’ll cover both situations in this article.

How to Change Your Business Name Step-by-Step

How to Change your Business Name: Sole Proprietors and Partnerships

If you have never set up an official business structure with the state and are operating as either a sole proprietor (single owner) or general partnership (multiple owners), then the steps to change an existing business name are pretty straightforward.

First, you will need to cancel the existing fictitious business name (Doing Business As/DBA) with the state or county. You can contact your local government office where your registration was filed to get the appropriate paperwork. Once your original DBA is cancelled, you can file a DBA for your new name with this same office. You can either work directly with the local government office or have an online legal service handle these steps for you.

Once you have the new DBA, you’ll need to take care of a few remaining issues:

  • Contact your bank to find out if you will need to open a business bank account for the new DBA, or if you can just convert your existing account.
  • Check with your county, city or other local office to determine if you need to update existing business licenses/permits or get new ones for the new DBA.
  • If you have an EIN (Employer Identification Number), you can review the IRS’ bulletin “Do I need a new EIN?” to determine if you need to apply for a new EIN for the new DBA. In most cases, you will not be required to apply for a new EIN if you only changed the business name.
  • Notify the IRS of your new name. This can be done by sending a signed letter outlining the business name change to the same address where you file your tax return.

How to Change your Business Name: LLCs and Corporations

If you have registered your business as an LLC or corporation, you have two different options for changing your business name, depending on whether you want to abandon the original name entirely or just operate under a new name for marketing purposes.

Option 1: File an Amendment with the State to Officially Change your Business Name

If you have no interest in ever using your original business name ever again, then the best course of action is to file an Articles of Amendment with the state where you filed your LLC/corporation. This document is used whenever you make any changes to your business, such as changing the name, business address or officers of the company. It’s a straightforward document and you can either file it directly with the secretary of state’s office yourself or have an online legal filing service take care of the paperwork for you.

Keep in mind that if your business is registered in other states as a foreign entity, you will also need to file Articles of Amendment in each one of those states. And, in some cases you will need to have a Certificate of Good Standing from your state of incorporation/LLC formation in order to file the amendment in another state.

Once you’ve filed your Articles of Amendment and officially changed your business name with the state, you’ll need to look into the following:

  • Contact your bank to find out if you will need to open a business bank account for the new name, or if you can just convert your existing account.
  • Check with your county, city or other local office to determine if you need to update existing business licenses/permits or get new ones under the new name.
  • You can review the IRS’ bulletin “Do I need a new EIN?” to determine if you need to apply for a new EIN for the new name. In most cases, you will not be required to apply for a new EIN if you only changed the business name.
  • Notify the IRS of your new name. For LLCs, this can be done by sending a signed letter outlining the business name change to the same address where you file your tax return. For corporations, you can notify the IRS on your current year corporate income tax return, Form 1120. Or write to the IRS at your regular filing address and notify them of the name change.

Option 2: Keep your Original Name as the Official Name with the State but File a DBA for the New Name

In some cases, you may not be interested in abandoning your original name altogether, but want to operate under a new name for marketing/branding reasons. For example, you may have acquired trademark rights for the original name and don’t want to abandon this property. In this scenario, you can keep your original name as the official name that is registered with the state, but file a DBA for the new name with your local state/county office.

Once you’ve filed the DBA, you will need to:

  • Contact your bank to find out if you will need to open a business bank account for the new DBA, or if you can just add the DBA to the new account. This step is necessary if you plan on accepting checks or conducting other financial transactions under the new name.

Keep in mind that whether you are filing an Articles of Amendment or filing a DBA, you should check the availability of your new name before moving forward with any of these steps. You don’t want to accidentally infringe on another business’ name or trademark.

Searching the USPTO’s online database is a first step toward finding any similar and potentially conflicting names. But, you should also perform a thorough search that includes state trademark databases and business directories. You can have a trademark lawyer or online legal filing service help you with this important search. If your search shows that your proposed new name is available, then go full steam ahead with these legal steps to change it.

A business name is the cornerstone of your company’s brand image. If your name no longer reflects your brand, market or products, it’s more than possible to change it. Just be sure to follow the proper legal steps to avoid potential issues.

Blank Shingle Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Want to Change Your Company’s Name? Here’s How” was first published on Small Business Trends

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