Are your Customers your Biggest Fans? To Score a Business Loan - Check your Credit Score. Conduct a Webinar for Fun and Profit

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1 Business Briefs for July 2010 Are your Customers your Biggest Fans? Besides your mother and perhaps your cousin, who are your biggest fans? It should be your customers. For a small business, your customers represent your most valuable asset and they should be cultivated and appreciated through excellent customer service. To Score a Business Loan - Check your Credit Score For many small businesses having access to financial capital is the key to fuel the growth of their company. Unfortunately, obtaining a business loan is a mystery to most small business owners. Unless the owner has applied for a loan before, the loan process can be mysterious and intimidating. However it doesn t have to be a daunting challenge, if you understand the terminology and the process involved. Read more Providing superior customer service is both a responsibility and a smart business decision. Unfortunately, many salespeople and business owners view customer service as an administrative burden that takes time from making a sale. The truth is, providing quality customer service presents great opportunities for increasing sales and generating additional referrals Conduct a Webinar for Fun and Profit Have you attended a webinar lately? There is hardly a day that goes by without receiving an invitation to attend a webinar. Webinars have become ubiquitous covering topics from business financing, hiring employees or finding a spouse. Perhaps it is time for you to conduct your own webinar for your business. Read more Sign-up for Contracting Opportunities The SBDC will be identifying various contracting opportunities available to small businesses. Our goal is to publish these contracting announcements on our web site and via special messages. If you would like to receive these timely bulletins, please click here to sign up. 1

2 Are your Customers your Biggest Fans? Besides your mother and perhaps your cousin, who are your biggest fans? It should be your customers. For a small business, your customers represent your most valuable asset and they should be cultivated and appreciated through excellent customer service. Providing superior customer service is both a responsibility and a smart business decision. Unfortunately, many salespeople and business owners view customer service as an administrative burden that takes time from making a sale. The truth is, providing quality customer service presents great opportunities for increasing sales and generating additional referrals. What do your customers think of your company, products and services? If your customers were given a satisfaction survey, how would they rate the level of service they are receiving from you? Marketing research indicates that the little things make a big difference to customers. Quality customer service is frequently defined in terms of attention to detail and responsiveness to customer requests. Naturally, the top customer complaints with regards to customer expectations are unreturned phone calls and s and a failure to keep commitments. Savvy business owners value developing lifetime relationships with their customers and always "go the extra mile" when providing service. In today's global and hyper-competitive marketplace, owners know that their customers are aggressively prospected by competitors and their loyalty cannot be taken for granted. If you could you use a few more referrals, then you need to "Go the extra distance" when providing service and turn your customers into fans to help you promote your business. Your referrals and follow up business are directly related to the quality and quantity of service you provide current customers on an on-going basis. At the moment the customer begins a relationship with your business, he or she has specific expectations regarding you and your company. These expectations are usually based on their past experiences as well as their perceptions of your company, product, and your employees. It's important to speak with your customers and clarify what they expect. If they have incorrect or unrealistic expectations, you need to be clear with them regarding their expectations and give them a realistic view of what is possible and what you can deliver. How do you measure your customers satisfaction? It is simple, just ask them. Customer service is based on the customer s perception; customer perception is reality. Service is based on how your customers perceive its value. Knowing more about your customer's needs and expectations will allow you to customize the service you provide. If you don't already have a customer service feedback system in place, it is time to establish one and monitor how your customers perceive your service. When it comes to satisfying your customers, it's the personal touch that really makes the difference. An effective customer service program requires you to stay in contact with customers and keep good records. You need to carefully record the information gathered from customer meetings. The company should maintain a written record of customer service issues and programs. This is very important when clients are reassigned to new 2

3 salespeople. It's a smart idea to setup a customer relationship system to track important contact dates such as client review calls and birthdays. Relationship building and responsive customer service are critical components for promoting both customer retention and revenue growth. Business owners that fail to execute an effective customer service program actually do a disservice to their customers and risk losing them to their competitors. For additional information regarding increasing sales, please visit with our business consultants by contacting us at the SBDC North San Diego County at (760) To Score a Business Loan - Check your Credit Score What is a credit score? For many small businesses having access to financial capital is the key to fuel the growth of their company. Unfortunately, obtaining a business loan is a mystery to most small business owners. Unless the owner has applied for a loan before, the loan process can be mysterious and intimidating. However it doesn t have to be a daunting challenge, if you understand the terminology and the process involved. Let s begin by understanding the importance of a credit score. In essence, a credit score indicates the probability that a loan will be repaid. Small business borrowers often find that their loan approvals are dependent on their credit scores. The score is a combination of commercial and personal credit factors. The score is determined by taking into account criteria such as time in business, past payment patterns, tax liens, lawsuits, personal payment trends, monthly cash flow vs. monthly expenses and charge-offs. Sometimes, the smaller the loan request, the more banks will rely on the credit score. For loan needs of less than $100,000, owners should be confident that their personal credit histories are in good shape. They also should correct any known personal or company credit reporting errors prior to submitting a commercial loan request. For larger loan requests, usually greater than $100,000, borrowers should prepare loan packages for the bank so all information is neat, formatted and orderly. The package will usually consist of: A summary of the financing request 3

4 Financial information (both personal and corporate) Business projections A business plan An explanation of any inaccurate/negative information of which the loan applicant is aware If the owner has prepared properly for the loan, the greater likelihood they will secure a loan approval. A popular system larger banks use to calculate a credit score was developed by Fair, Isaac and Co., of San Rafael, CA. This software enables a variety of industries such as financial services, direct marketing and retail, to make faster, more profitable decisions about customers, operations and portfolios through its pioneering concept of "predictive technology." In short, the software processes raw customer data, both corporate and personal, such as that provided in a small business loan application, and computes a credit score. Fair Isaac provides a credit score, ranging from 100 to 300, which is almost a perfect score. Loans totaling $50,000 or less typically are heavily dependent on the credit score with scores higher than 160 usually resulting in an "approved loan request." However, despite 80% of deals often scoring between 160 and 250, loan approval can be denied if tax liens, lawsuits, charge-offs, and other such factors offset a good credit score. This article provides only a basic overview of the influence credit scores have in securing loans. If you wish additional information about obtaining a business loan, please contact us at the SBDC North San Diego County at (760) Our consultants have expertise in securing business financing. 4

5 Conduct a Webinar for Fun and Profit Attract new customers Have you attended a webinar lately? There is hardly a day that goes by without receiving an invitation to attend a webinar. Webinars have become ubiquitous covering topics from business financing, hiring employees or finding a spouse. Perhaps it is time for you to conduct your own webinar for your business. First, let s be clear about what a webinar is and how it is used. A webinar describes a specific type of web conference. It is typically unidirectional from the speaker to the audience with limited audience interaction. This option is similar to a webcast. A webinar can be collaborative by permitting participation between the audience and the presenter. In some situations, the presenter may speak using a standard telephone line, while delivering visual information onscreen and the audience can listen over their own telephones. There are web conferencing technologies on the market that have incorporated the use of VoIP (voice over the Internet) audio technology, to allow for a 100% webbased communication. Businesses can use webinars for a variety of applications such as: Training employees Product and service demonstrations Sales calls Customer service Creating a webinar is something that you should take seriously just as you would if you launched a new product or ad campaign. You want to be creative and use plenty of multimedia, but it can t be too flashy. Naturally, you also want to make your point or main theme clear and easy to understand just as you would in a personal customer meeting. So how do you start? Here are 10 tips to help you produce and deliver a professional webinar for your company: Plan and Plan some more You need to develop a webinar plan that includes schedules, potential speakers, a registration process, budget, promotion, success metrics and follow through. 5

6 Promote it or they won t Know it You will need to promote your webinar just as you would for your product. Know your target audience for the webinar and articulate the benefits for your attendees. Implement a promotional plan to attract prospects to your webinar. A Webinar isn t a Standalone Project The webinar should be integrated with your company s marketing plan. Your sales and marketing staff should be involved with the planning and execution of the webinar. Everything is Timing Just as you would have a party, you want to schedule your webinar when the highest number of people can participate. You should know what day and time is most convenient for the majority of your target audience. Get your Audience Involved You will be competing for the attention of your audience during the webinar. Most business people multi-task when viewing webinars such as reading s or searching the web. Your challenge is to ensure that your content is informative, useful and your speakers are interesting. Listen to their Opinion By conducting online polls, you can learn more about your audience and what they care about. This information can be useful in your marketing activities. Practice to be the Best and Plan for the Worst You should coach your speakers. Presenting at a webinar is very different from presenting in person and most people aren t comfortable with this new media yet. Like other technologies, webinars isn t 100% reliable. You should have options available, for unexpected technical problems. Selecting the Best Webinar Platform There are many web conferencing vendors and platforms on the market. You should carefully evaluate the features and support offered by the vendors before you make a decision. Registration Opportunity When people register for your event, you have the opportunity to learn more about their interests and business needs. You can leverage the registration information to deliver additional promotional items like demos and white paper downloads. Respect their Time People take time out of their day because they are interested in solving a problem and learning valuable information. So your webinar needs to deliver something of value and that is useful for your audience. Now that you have decided that you want conduct a successful webinar, it is time to get started. If you still aren t sure about producing your online event, please contact us at the SBDC North San Diego County (760) for more information. 6

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