The way we engage and interact today is far different than it was 10 years ago, thanks to the World Wide Web; that’s the Internet. If you stop to think about it, we trust the Internet with a lot of our information; we enter credit card numbers to pay for goods on sites like Amazon; we tell people how our day went on Facebook; we exchange messages, photos, and other personal information all the time sometimes without necessarily realising that it’s the Internet that’s making this communication so easy. It is because of this that it still shocks me when businesses ignore the chance of enhancing their business in one way or another because the enhancement (usually a Service as a Software) is in the cloud.
What does “in the cloud” mean exactly?
The “cloud” is simply a fashionable name for running applications and holding data, securely of course, in the Internet. But let’s keep in simple: if you have used an email package such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail then you have already embraced the cloud. Nothing is held on your PC, mobile device or tablet, and you can access your email from anywhere in the world. It’s that simple. Now just take the same concept and apply it to the world of business applications.
What are the benefits of being in the cloud?
The cloud is immune from natural disasters such a flooding, hurricanes, and fires. If you still operate on a paper filing system, or use downloaded software on your PCs and you become the victim of a natural disaster, say goodbye to your business records. If your computer crashes, say goodbye to your business records. This worry is eliminated by using the cloud. Your information is hosted on secure servers, and is backed-up on a daily, sometimes minute-by-minute basis. Your office could burn down, and you could lose everything; however by embracing the cloud you can go to Best Buy, buy a laptop, and continue running your business all in the very same hour.
Some people worry about data security in the cloud. However companies that offer cloud computing use encryption to guard against hackers, or other ways company data could be shared. This means your data is for your business’s eyes only, and cannot and will not be shared.
2. Freedom and Flexibility
By operating your business using cloud applications, you have the freedom and flexibility to access your business information from anywhere at any time, as long as you have an internet connection. You can access information straight from your smart phone on the road, or from someone else’s laptop. You aren’t confined to laptops or PC’s that have your downloaded software on them.
3. Reduced Costs
With cloud applications, you don’t need an IT team, servers, or other large expenses that often come with downloadable software. Updates are included in the low monthly subscription fees and you aren’t tied to paying for a large “piece” of software. If you don’t like what your cloud based software does, you can simply cancel your subscription and move on. There is no risk of purchasing a product and spending the time downloading and implementing it, just to realize that it doesn’t actually help your business, or isn’t what you are looking for. The cost is manageable for small businesses, and the rewards are high.
The truth is, thanks to Apple’s Apps, CRM companies like Salesforce, and a strong push for social media and digital marketing in the business world, the cloud IS the future. Quite frankly, businesses that don’t recognize this, and don’t act accordingly, will be easily surpassed by those businesses that embrace the idea that new technological advances will indeed give them the competitive upper hand. At the end of the day, as a service company, how do you expect to deliver the same value that a competitor with information at their fingertips 24/7 can? The solution is: get your head IN the CLOUD. It’s designed to make your life easier, so maybe it’s time for you to embrace it.
For more information on why the cloud is the way to go, watch this video produced by Salesforce:
Sometimes, it’s hard to be the little guy. You don’t have a big budget behind you like a large corporation does, you don’t have the manpower that a business with 500 employees has, and you probably don’t have an executive team of Harvard grads making the big decisions for you. Lacking the things that bigger businesses have can make life difficult, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. However there are some big mistakes that small businesses should avoid at all costs in the endeavour to make their business profitable. Here are the 5 of the biggest mistakes that small businesses make, and suffer from.
1. Not Having a Website
It’s 2012. Cars that can drive themselves are in development, our phones can do SO much more than call people, and the world might end. Not having a website is detrimental to your business. In fact, while your business might survive short term without a website, it definitely won’t long term. Today, people want information about your business at their fingertips so they can ensure your company does what they need and compare you to your competitors. Why would they take the time to call your company to ask you these questions when they can easily get the answers from a competitor’s website? Not having a website makes you invisible to most of your potential customers. Being invisible eventually means you won’t have a business.
2. Not Having a Call to Action on Your Website
Ok, so you have a website. That’s good. But that’s just the first step. Then there is the website content, the SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and most importantly the calls to action. What is a call to action you ask? That is your first mistake. A call to action “is a term used for elements in a web page that solicit an action from the user.” These usually come in the form of buttons such as “Contact Us Now,” or “Learn More Here.” Buttons like these allow you to capture information about your website visitors. They give you free leads that you can then follow up with.
3. Not Investing in Branding
Your brand is your business identity. Not only is it your customers’ first impression of your business, but also what sets you apart from your competition and makes your business memorable in people’s minds. It is why people can spot a McDonald’s from a half a mile down the road; everyone knows the golden arches. If you don’t have a unique, identifiable logo, a catchy tagline, and a consistent color scheme, you not only fail to look professional and competent, but you also look cheap. Why would someone choose to use your company if you don’t LOOK like a capable company?
4. Not Having A Strategy Plan
Too many businesses open their doors and start operating without a written strategy plan. What is your chosen target market? What is your mission statement? What is your pricing structure? Is it flexible? What marketing tactics are you going to use to gain a customer base? Businesses that don’t have a written plan that addresses these questions and more are foolish. It’s like shooting without a target. Without a defined direction you risk missing the perfect opportunity or, worse still, chasing customers who actually do not match your business’s skills and competence. It’s the quickest way to waste time, effort and money, all resulting in no new customers and jeopardizing your existence. Having a strategy plan gives you, and your employees, direction so you are all chasing the right type of business.
5. Not Managing Cash Flow Properly
It may sound like a cliché, but the phrase “cash is king” is very true. Without it, your business is doomed and your survival becomes very short-term. Many small businesses are quickly excited by their initial successes and overall enthusiasm. And the result? They extend themselves too far, and too soon and simply do not have sufficient cash to fund their progress. It’s simple; no cash means no business so build a business within its means by managing your cash flow properly.
Take a look at these five mistakes. Is your business the victim of any of these? If so, take the time, effort, and money to correct the mistake. It can be the difference between your business succeeding or failing. And remember, it takes a little more effort and money now to get things right the first time. Usually the ROI is much better if you invest now, you will end up saving in the long run.
As a small home service business, you deliver a service or some services to your customers. That’s an obvious statement; but have you considered that this is your product?
The reason for asking this apparently bizarre question is that one such home service business commented recently that “we don’t sell products”. In a sense this is true because there’s no physical item at the end of the process; it’s not as if they’re selling an iPad, a motor vehicle, dishwasher, or anything else. But by taking such an intangible approach and assuming that the customer cannot see anything, the home service business is actually making life more difficult for themselves. How do you sell something that essentially doesn’t exist?
When a business designs and sells a product, decisions are made about how it looks, how it feels, its features, what makes it unique, and what attracts the buyer to part with their cash and make a purchase. But there’s no reason why these types of decisions shouldn’t be made when defining your service.
Here are three reasons why:
- Differentiation – make yourself stand out from your local competitors and define what is so special and different about your service. In the same way that a physical product manufacturer cares about the aesthetics that make their product look unique, apply this logic to your service to help make it stand-out and sell.
- Vision – despite the earlier comment about selling something that “doesn’t exist”, the reality is: it does exist. By defining exactly what you are selling, you can then paint a picture, a vision, in the mind of the customer. They may not physically “see” your product but by outlining exactly what the customer gets, they will clearly “get it.”
- Tangibility – how you market your product is more than just the product itself because you need to look at how you price and promote this, and where you sell it. By ignoring the product aspect and not describing your service, you have nothing to price and promote: there’s nothing to sell!
The third point from the list introduces the powerful, but simple, technique called the Marketing Mix and we will provide an overview of this in a forthcoming blog.
As a small home service business, what are your thoughts about this perspective?
What is Brand Awareness?
What do you think of when you hear Johnson & Johnson? Most likely it’s an image of a happy baby, maybe splashing around in a tub. If someone were to mention McDonald’s, it’s also very likely that the golden arches will come to mind, and your mouth will start to water. This is brand awareness at its finest, when an everyday consumer can instantly identify your company, and what it provides from an image, a logo, a slogan, or just by name.
Why Should You Care?
Brand awareness is important whatever industry you are in, but it is particularly important for home service businesses. Why? There are many home service businesses out there, and it is hard for a consumer to differentiate. It is important then to seize the opportunities you have to capture a potential customer’s attention. People often put off work on their home or business until it is staring them in the face. You want to ensure when they DO need a service, your company is the first they call. For instance, if a consumer is driving down the highway and they see an eye popping, but nicely decaled van advertising home cleaning services, with contact information clearly displayed, that image will most likely stick in their head and you could receive their call.
How to Implement Brand Awareness:
Brand awareness is like taking a megaphone and announcing from the rooftops; “we are a great HVAC service company located right in the center of town, check us out!” Here are some steps to take at your home service business to ensure that you have properly branded your company, and are sharing it with the world.
- Hire a graphic designer to create a logo for you. There are many freelance graphic designers out there that will happily create a logo for you at a relatively low cost. Be picky and specific. Describe your business and what you would like to portray and work with the designer to come up with an image that suits your company and is a good fit. Make sure you include your logo on your service vehicles, your business cards, bills, estimates and the sign on your office.
- Come up with a slogan. You are looking for something catchy and memorable that also helps identify what service your business provides. Take lawncare company B&G Turf Farm of Helendale, California for example. Their slogan is: “We’re easy to get a lawn with.”
- Use the social media world. Broadcast your company’s existence by creating a company Facebook page and Twitter account. Make sure to use your company logo and slogan in both profiles so that it is easily identifiable. Make sure to post company updates and industry news.
- Update the new-aged Yellow Pages. Visit Yelp, CitySearch, Angies List, and other local search and review websites and update or enter your business information. Make sure to include your website, business phone number(s), logo, and address.
- Get Noticed!
The image that you present to the world is the image that consumers will remember. Make sure that you are presenting your business as a professional, clean cut, responsible and knowledgeable company. Demonstrate expertise in your field. By exposing the world (even if it’s just within your community) to your home service company, you increase your potential customer base. Next time a frustrated home or business owner needs a service; your company will come to mind.