3 Steps to Becoming a Networking Ninja Arielle | March 2nd, 2016

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Ninjas are agile, fast, and efficient. Business networking is typically the exact opposite. It’s often slow, confused, and discombobulated. Yet, while many people avoid it, networking is one of the most important tools in a business owner’s toolkit. When we network, we increase our knowledge and opportunities, and we also amplify the messages we spread about our companies. This is why networking events or conferences are so popular in the business world- especially for startups and small business.

People often avoid networking because of social anxiety, lack of knowledge, inexperience, or doubt that networking can actually be useful. If this describes you – you are not alone. But experienced business owners and marketing/PR experts all agree that such doubts and fears are irrational. People simply lack the necessary skills to feel more comfortable in a networking situation. Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations says:

Small business owners need to do more networking to make more contacts, not only for possible referrals, but as resources and even as friends you can turn to when you have a question or problem related to your business.

Since networking is not exclusive to specifically labeled events and conferences, this means that any opportunity you meet someone is a networking opportunity! Now, this doesn’t mean that every social event is an opportunity to plug your business or work out a deal. It simply means that each of us has many opportunities to connect with someone who could help us in the future. To help ease small business owners and entrepreneurs into the world of networking, here are three basic tips to becoming a networking ninja.

1. Make your first impression count- in a good way.

Making a good first impression is one of the most critical parts of networking. The first impression should be smooth and subtle, much like a ninja entrance. Through extensive studies such as the ones done by Princeton psychologists Alexander Todorov and Janine Willis on first impressions, we now know that it only takes people a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger – based completely on their appearance. The research also found that generally, longer interaction or exposure didn’t alter the initial impression in any way.

The bottom line: look presentable. Make sure that you are appropriately dressed for the venue and/or event (whether it’s black tie, jeans, or pajamas). Dressing out of place causes people to believe that you are unable to pay attention to detail, and can make others feel uncomfortable by feeling out of place. In an article for The Muse, career strategist Jenny Foss talks about a time when overdressed candidates made the rest of the company feel out of place when hiring to fill a position:

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Fresh from the SPRING: folker Audree | March 1st, 2016

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for folker. Check out more great work on folker’s profile page.

Nicely done, folker, nicely done!

FFTS-FOlker

Small Business Customer Service Tips: The Art of the Short Reply Keri | February 25th, 2016

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When I first joined the customer support team at crowdSPRING, I was convinced that every customer or creative needed detailed replies; the next great American novel in email response form. More content means good customer service, right? Boy, was I wrong about that. Think about your own experiences as a customer. Would you rather save time and get the answers you need, or take time to dig for the answers you need in lengthy verse? Less is more. Your customers want answers, not short essays.

So how do you give your customers all of the information they need while keeping your reply short and concise? It’s easy enough if you just train your brain to do it and use the handy tools at your disposal.

Here are the top 4 ways to shorten your responses:

1. Make sure you understand the customer’s question.

I know this seems obvious, but take the time to really read the ticket or email and make sure you know exactly what your customer needs from you. In fact, it’s impossible to show empathy – something critically important when delivering customer service – if you don’t understand the question. This will help you ensure you hit all necessary points and give an accurate response. And of course, there are times when you just need to smile and let the conversation flow, as we discovered in this very odd but very funny exchange with a customer.

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2. Use your FAQs.

More likely than not, it took a group of people on your team a good amount of effort to produce your FAQs, so use them. Answer the question and maybe add “Here is a handy resource to provide further clarification: (and add a link so that the customer can quickly access that resource)” Links to FAQs are helpful because they give your customer a wealth of information, which they can even bookmark and reference back to any time they need it.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 3.20.18 PM Read the rest of this post »

Facebook, Cookies, and Marketing: How To Prevent Your Small Business From Stagnation Arielle | February 24th, 2016

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At some point, even the most successful businesses hit a wall. Sales plateau, the customer base stops growing, morale is low, and revenue is either flat or falling. The best companies – and the best entrepreneurs – find ways to overcome such stagnation.

The challenge often isn’t in finding ways to quickly increase customers and revenue or to decrease costs. Most entrepreneurs and business owners can identify short-term fixes. But it can be very difficult to find a lasting solution.

We can all learn from the experience of one of today’s most successful social media platforms – Facebook. Today, more than a billion people are connected through Facebook. Originally only open to students enrolled at Harvard University, Facebook was created to help Harvard students connect. When founder Mark Zuckerberg found that no new Harvard users were signing up, he opened the website up to students at other Ivy League schools. Yet this still wasn’t widespread enough for long term success, so he allowed Facebook to be used by high school students, and eventually by the general public.

Whether he knew it at the time or not, Mark Zuckerberg was relying on something psychologists call the scarcity principle to overcome his company’s stagnation. Scarcity principle is defined as our heightened desire for things that are not easily or readily available. When Zuckerberg encountered stagnant points, he used such points to his advantage instead of leaving himself and his company stuck. Since his product was so relevant to many people, Facebook kept pulling in more potential users with related products. Zuckerberg explains:

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Fresh from the SPRING: SAC Audree | February 23rd, 2016

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this Small Website project.

Let us start the slow clap for SAC. Check out more great work on SAC’s profile page.

Nicely done, SAC, nicely done!

FFTS-SAC

 

 

 

 

Twitter Link Roundup #295 – Terrific Reads For Small Business, Entrepreneurs, Marketers and Designers! Ross | February 19th, 2016

It’s  difficult to beat the sincerity and purity of a cute three year old singing “Part of Your World” from the Little Mermaid. The video above will  put a smile on your face.

Now, we hope you enjoy another great set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our crowdSPRING Twitter account (and on my Twitter account). We regularly share our favorite posts on entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, logo design, web design, startups, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

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The Surprising Ways a Distributed Team Can Help Your Company Succeed –

The 25 Best Free iPhone Apps For Business –

The Right Way to Fire Someone | HBR –

The Science of Productivity and Happiness: Why Your Office is Hurting Your Company (and what you can do to help) –

Why you should focus on building a strong brand, not just a strong business –

How to Stay Focused on Your Goals [The Ultimate Guide] –

Busted or Confirmed? 3 Common Myths About Starting A Business –

Why Monopolizing The Market Is Poor Customer Service –

How to Avoid Failure: Two Common Small Business Mistakes –

Why A Generic Logo Design Will Hurt Your Business –

How Your Slow Website Burns a Hole in Your Pocket | Hosting Facts –

7 Things NOT to Say To Customer Service | crowdSPRING Blog –

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The Resetting of the Startup Industry | Bothsides of the Table –

Busted or Confirmed? 3 Common Myths About Starting A Business –

Why Monopolizing The Market Is Poor Customer Service –

7 Things NOT to Say To Customer Service | crowdSPRING Blog –

The Right Way to Fire Someone | HBR –

Useful set of slides (including data) about the state of the VC industry in 2016, from Mark Suster

Tech’s Most Unlikely Venture Capitalist –

Why you should focus on building a strong brand, not just a strong business –

4 Mistakes New Product Managers Make –

How to Stay Focused on Your Goals [The Ultimate Guide] –

The Science of Productivity and Happiness: Why Your Office is Hurting Your Company (and what you can do to help) –

The Surprising Ways a Distributed Team Can Help Your Company Succeed –

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Why Monopolizing The Market Is Poor Customer Service Keri | February 18th, 2016

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We’ve all played the classic board game Monopoly, and we know how frustrating it is when a player gets all of the prime real estate and has the gaul to put countless hotels on each space. It’s infuriating to watch them laugh their way to the bank while you hemorrhage all of your fake cash.

You may be thinking that it’s a blast to take the cash and win the game (and no one is saying you’re wrong there), but have you considered the ways monopolizing the market hurts you, your customers, and even your customer service team? Stick with me here- I promise I have a point.

How does this hurt your customers? 

No one likes being backed into a corner. If a customer doesn’t have options, they feel trapped. When customers feel strong-armed, they are, naturally unhappy, and that’s just not a good place to be. When you boil it down, customers just want to feel heard, understood, and as though you are looking out for their best interest. That’s just good customer service 101. Even if they lack options, customers are not likely to return if they have been put in a position where they feel as though you are only looking out for yourself and not your customers. One need only look at the ongoing losses of cable television subscribers to see the impact from years of pent-up frustration and negative brand messaging.  Not surprisingly, adding the word “cares” to your Twitter customer service account doesn’t magically transform a poor customer service organization into a good one.

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How does this hurt your customer service team?

A vicious cycle comes into play, and customer service takes the brunt of the heat. Angry customers take it out on the customer service team, and rather than being able to focus on providing world class service, your team becomes a clean-up crew. Your office is no longer a productive work environment. Your customer service team is lost tending to angry people, rather than figuring out ways to learn and grow- suddenly you have a stagnant team and people grow complacent in their jobs.

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Busted or Confirmed? 3 Common Myths About Starting A Business Arielle | February 17th, 2016

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There are many myths about what it takes to start a business. Time and time again, experts in entrepreneurship and business (often with little to no operating experience of their own) offer formulaic advice on what startups must do to succeed.

The truth is that there is no one way to “correctly” start a company. Startups are the epitome of unpredictability and extremes. For every example of a successful company that proves a myth wrong, there will always be one that will prove it right, especially in today’s world of rapidly expanding technology and connectivity. That is why it is imperative for entrepreneurs to critically examine all advice and “truths” about startups. With countless articles and opinions, it can be hard to decipher who’s right.

Fortunately, many startup myths revolve around three common topics (business plans, money, and unnatural hustle). Many aspiring and even experienced entrepreneurs blindly believe those myths to be true and either take too long to start their business or never feel confident enough to get going. So, in the words of Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame, “let’s blow some stuff up.”

Myth #1: You need a complete, elaborate and detailed business plan from day one.

While simple business plans or outlines may help guide startups towards investors or a general plan of action, detailed business plans often rob startups of precious time. Entrepreneurs fall into the trap of spending months crafting plans that may not actually fit the market by the time they begin building their company. William Bygrave, an entrepreneurship professor at Babson College, cautioned in an article for The Wall Street Journal:

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Fresh from the SPRING: Zechariah Audree | February 16th, 2016

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this logo project.

Let us start the slow clap for Zechariah. Check out more great work on Zechariah’s profile page.

Nicely done, Zechariah, nicely done!

FFS-Zechariah

7 Things NOT to Say To Customer Service Keri | February 11th, 2016

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In customer service, we hear many of the same phrases all day, everyday. If given the chance, most customer service reps would likely give you a list of cringe-inducing phrases they hear at work (and in their haunting nightmares). As a self-proclaimed representative of the hoards of customer service workers out there, here are just a few of the things NOT to say when interacting with those of us who genuinely try to lend a hand…

“Don’t give me a cookie cutter answer” Why not? Cookie cutters lead to cookies, and cookies are delicious. What do you have against cookies? But in all semi-seriousness, we create some common responses to save some time and answer customers more quickly, and because customers often ask similar questions. Even then, we adjust most responses to suit a specific situation. All customer service issues vary, as do our responses. But back to the real issue- where are those cookies you mentioned?

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“Fine! I’ll just take my business elsewhere!” It’s your call, but why? We’re awesome and you know you love us. Besides, the grass is always greener. Sure that other company may seem cool, but are they really? Let’s be honest, maybe we get on each others’ nerves from time to time, but I think we know that we are lucky to have one another. We truly work hard to figure out how to solve your problem(s) and make you happy. That being said, to love someone is to let them go, so if you must fly, I hope you soar.

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