Twitter Link Roundup #217 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | March 28th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The video above is a creative and fun take on the song “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry, performed in 20 different musical styles (as it would have been performed by Queen, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frank Sinatra, etc).

smallbusinessblog

Understanding the Power of Your Human Networks – crowdspring.co/1faDoBX

Success can build a culture of arrogance that will destroy a company – crowdspring.co/1diGeKi

startupsblog

Why There’s Never Been a Better Time to Found a SaaS Startup – crowdspring.co/1mqljr6

Understanding the Power of Your Human Networks – crowdspring.co/1faDoBX

Silicon Valley Investors, Low Interest Rates, And The Tech Bubble | Business Insider – crowdspring.co/1gkKBnb

Ageism In Silicon Valley Is So Bad People In Their 20s Are Getting Cosmetic Surgery – crowdspring.co/1lgVtFQ

Free Startup Docs: How Much Equity Should Advisors Get? | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1dylWfX

Success can build a culture of arrogance that will destroy a company – crowdspring.co/1diGeKi

socialmediablog

The Secret About Online Ad Traffic: One-Third Is Bogus – crowdspring.co/1mql4we

Billion Dollar Dart Throwing – crowdspring.co/1hyw8Aq

Facebook brands and organic reach: Why no one likes your self-promoting posts anymore – crowdspring.co/1fd4SqG

Problem of bogus Web traffic and ads is clearer when you realize how many buys are automated – on.wsj.com/1mpcqOC

The Two Words Steve Jobs Hated Most – crowdspring.co/1iKL42s

“every Facebook Like will cost you $1.82 in Promoted Post payments.” – crowdspring.co/1gkKmJ0

TV Advertising: What I Miss – crowdspring.co/1gi1NKj

Intriguing study reveals the secrets of successful infographics | Webdesigner Depot – crowdspring.co/1gyOlkv

The 10 Best Minimalist Print Ads – crowdspring.co/1ihKtEA

designblog

20 Free, Minimalist and Clean Icon Sets Every Designer Should Have – crowdspring.co/1gyKAM3

Create a Vintage Notebook Illustration in Adobe Illustrator – Tuts+ Design & Illustration Tutorial – crowdspring.co/1gyOsgb

Really smart and creative packaging for meats – crowdspring.co/1mgb09e

Read the rest of this post »

TV Advertising: What I Miss Mike | March 24th, 2014

Recently, as I binged through multiple streaming episodes of the Wire on HBO, House of Cards on Netflix, and Homeland on Showtime, I had an uneasy feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Something was missing from the experience. An absence that the marketer in me noticed but, at first, could not quite put my finger on. Sitting back watching Season 2, as Kevin Spacey channeled the Danish Prince and Robin Wright hit the perfect notes as Lady MacBeth of our nation’s capital, it suddenly hit me. What I wanted was a big ol’ bowl of popcorn! No, wait. I don’t like popcorn. What was missing was a popcorn commercial!

Consuming television the “new way,” via a stream from an online content provider is completely devoid of commercials (so far, at least). Just a few short years ago, I simply cranked up the TiVo and enjoyed my shows the old-fashioned way, using the 30-second skip button to avoid the commercials. And in the years before that, I sidestepped them via the fast forward button on the VCR remote. It seems eons ago that I actually had to watch those insistent little messages that cluttered my rooftop-antenna-provided “stream.” Is this evolution a good thing? Hmmmm not quite sure. There is a part of me that misses both the artform of the 30′ spot as well as the rhythm the commercials imposed on the structure of a television episode. Back in the day TV dramas especially had a very specific 4 act structure that was forced upon them by the nature of advertising in that medium. A typical dramatic episode began with a short “teaser” scene followed by the opening credits. This was followed by an advertising break and then the real drama began, in 4 formal acts, each bookended by advertisements.

And some of the commercials were fun! Jaunty jingles, high-toned announcers, shimmering product shots. Of course for every great spot, there were probably 50 or 60 clunkers, but you could always get up from the sofa to turn the channel knob and choose from one of the other 4 stations available, or you could head to the kitchen to make that bowl of popcorn! Here are a few that I actually kinda miss from the 1970s era of the 4-act drama. But I can’t really hang around talking about it, because Kevin Spacey takes no commercial breaks and I do not intend to miss what happens next!

1. The Oscar Mayer Kid  This guy was so cute and the jingle so catchy, that there wasn’t a reasonably warm-hearted person in the whole USA who could resist. The spot set a tone that was oft copied by other brands, but Qscar Meyer was the king of cute!

 

1. Slinky means fun  In the days before Lego made movies and before Nintendo, kids actually played with toys that were, essentially, simple machines. The Slinky was the greatest of these and the spot (as well as the memorable jingle) was an inspiration. A flight of stairs, a tightly would metal spring, and a kid could have hours of fun. All that and check out those outfits we used to wear. Who knew? Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #216 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | March 21st, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The video above was created by student Brian Hull. In the video, he sings the hit song “Frozen” in the voices of 21 Disney and Pixar Characters. Most are spot on.

smallbusinessblog

13 B2B Newsletters That Really Shine – crowdspring.co/1dagMGF

Four Important Small Business Insights – Marketing in 2014 – crowdspring.co/1eRYMvL

Sick Leave for Your Employees: Why it Matters – crowdspring.co/1gFez17

Online commenter critical of business can be sued for defamation, Oregon court says – crowdspring.co/1d6RpW8

startupsblog

4 Hard Earned Lessons from Ben Horowitz – crowdspring.co/1emJcIa

When Does Establishing a Good Startup Culture Outweigh Being Cheap? | by Mark Suster – crowdspring.co/1g0di8W

Sick Leave for Your Employees: Why it Matters – crowdspring.co/1gFez17

Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem – crowdspring.co/1gFjLC8

13 B2B Newsletters That Really Shine – crowdspring.co/1dagMGF

Good long video interview by Frank Gruber with Jason Fried about Chicago, Basecamp, building great teams & more – crowdspring.co/1gEsBUD

For Tech Investors, The Midwest Is Flyover Country No More | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1mfz1wZ

“To be trusted is a much greater compliment than to be loved.” | by Howard Tullman -crowdspring.co/1l24JO5

Online commenter critical of business can be sued for defamation, Oregon court says – crowdspring.co/1d6RpW8

Good read for entrepreneurs & startup employees on liquidation preferences – crowdspring.co/1neVvzy

How Aaron Levie & childhood friends built Box into a $2 billion business, without stabbing each other in the back – crowdspring.co/1emK8w1

“Chicago’s venture funding performance is improving [but] Chicago is still trailing several major metro areas.” – crowdspring.co/1lPU1Ks

socialmediablog

13 B2B Newsletters That Really Shine – crowdspring.co/1dagMGF

How to get your first 100 email subscribers – crowdspring.co/1d6QjcX

Mobile Ad Market Soars 105% in 2013 | eMarketer – crowdspring.co/1g0eF7x

Read the rest of this post »

12 Questions: Meet Tayo Adetola (Nigeria) Audree | March 18th, 2014

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Tayo Adetola (crowdSPRING username: HisP1611 ) today. Tayo lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.

Tayo Profile

1. Please tell us about yourself.
Hello, my name is Tayo Adetola [HisP1611 on Cs]. My wife Peace and I both live and work in Lagos, Nigeria. We recently moved back into Nigeria last year, having spent 7 years in the United Kingdom. I have a diploma in Architectural Technology and a BSc. in Architectural Design Technology/Building from Coventry University. I have worked with several architectural firms both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. I currently run a small design studio called His-P Design Studio whilst still freelancing on cS. Did I mention that I ComEd 01am an “Arsenal” fan? COME ON GUNNERS. And also have a thing for TIES, just love to wear them, most especially SUNDAY mornings to church.

2. How did you become interested in design?
Pretty much from junior high. I used to so much cartoon DVDs and still do. I became very much interesting in illustrations, characters, and anything and everything design wise. I have always wanted to become an architect, I worked as one for years and decided to change career to graphics design. I am proud to say I am an architect turned graphics designer [self-taught]. And I love my job.

3. You were awarded for designing the new ComEd Bill. What was your process for organizing all that information into an easy-to-read format?
ComEd Bill, one of my favorites till date. I was born to design this bill. :] From the very first day I read the brief, I just knew it was made for me. I am a sucker for infographics and this just fit the bill for me. [Touché]. The brief was well detailed enough and it just like speaking to the client face-to-face and knowing what they wanted. I had to go back and forth on the previous bill, the comments their already customers made with regards to the look of the bill and what they wanted changed. I always keep my notepad with me during the time spent on the project; illustrating new ideas, icons, what needed to be added to make reading easy for users. My approach to this project was, what if I am a ComEd customer, how would I like my electricity bill to look like? That really was the key thing for me to producing such a design.
Read the rest of this post »

Sick Leave for Your Employees: Why it Matters Mike | March 17th, 2014

Beginning next month businesses in New York City that have 20 or more employees will be required to provide a minimum of 5 paid sick days for those workers every year. This could represent a meaningful expense for many of those businesses, but also represents a meaningful opportunity to increase productivity, improve employee morale, and develop a stronger company culture of caring and confidence.

Is the tradeoff worthwhile and is it fair that businesses (especially small businesses) should have to meet this requirement? According to a new survey from FindLaw.com,  a strong majority of the American public believes that paid sick leave protects workers from being fired if they need to take time off when they are sick or if a child or spouse becomes sick. In addition, paid sick leave laws improve overall public health by keeping sick workers and students at home where they avoid contact with vulnerable colleagues and in turn leads to a healthier company workforces.

Current Federal law mandates that employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons, without losing their health insurance or being in danger of losing their job. But recently states and municipalities have been enacting laws requiring paid sick leave. San Francisco, for instance, in 2007 passed the first such law and in 2012 Connecticut became the first state requiring such coverage. The trend has continued, in cities such as Seattle, Portland and the District of Columbia states have also enacted laws requiring paid sick days, with Vermont being the latest to consider new rules.

Why is this good for small business? Among other reasons, these laws encourage workers to take better care of themselves, incentivize employers to provide health coverage that focuses on prevention, and improves productivity by reducing overall absentee levels. This last may seem counter-intuitive, but when a sick employee comes in to work because it is their only alternative to having their pay docked, they can infect others whose productivity is then also reduced. Businesses large and small can also benefit from reduced employee turnover rates and a healthier, happier workforce.

Photo: Country Doctor — by W. Eugene Smith/Life Magazine

Twitter Link Roundup #215 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | March 14th, 2014

duckad

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The above ad for Aflac is arguably, one of the most interesting ad placements ever.

smallbusinessblog

Brand NEW edition of Empower Your Small Business, crowdSPRING’s small business newsletter – crowdspring.co/1gnb0N1

9 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Their Customers – crowdspring.co/1loBthB

Thinking about buying some online ads? Most people ignore them – crowdspring.co/1fWp19y

The Essential Email Marketing Metrics You Should Be Tracking | Hubspot blog – crowdspring.co/1gY786G

It takes 3 years [before you know if your startup can be a real business] – crowdspring.co/1kK2ZJ8

startupsblog

Guerilla tips for raising venture capital | VentureBeat – crowdspring.co/P6hM3O

Does A Billion-Dollar Valuation Buy Employee Happiness? | ReadWrite – crowdspring.co/1ekm5xR

Good read for entrepreneurs & startup employees on liquidation preferences – crowdspring.co/1neVvzy

Our Dangerous Obsession With The MVP | TechCrunch by Bill Aullet – crowdspring.co/P5QJpf

9 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Their Customers – crowdspring.co/1loBthB

Why Big Teams Suck – crowdspring.co/1g1zYk1

1871 to launch incubator for female entrepreneurs – crowdspring.co/1gnuwsz

Yahoo: Destroyer Of Startups | ReadWrite – crowdspring.co/1gY8bTY

It takes 3 years [before you know if your startup can be a real business] – crowdspring.co/1kK2ZJ8

How Aaron Levie & childhood friends built Box into a $2 billion business, without stabbing each other in the back – crowdspring.co/1emK8w1

A Deeper Look at Uber’s Dynamic Pricing Model – crowdspring.co/1kK4gjw

4 Hard Earned Lessons from Ben Horowitz – crowdspring.co/1emJcIa

“Chicago’s venture funding performance is improving [but] Chicago is still trailing several major metro areas.” crowdspring.co/1lPU1Ks

The Rise and Future of the New York Startup Ecosystem | Nick Beim – crowdspring.co/1gYew1W

Expectations vs. Reality: 8 Lessons From The First Year As CEO – crowdspring.co/P90kM2

socialmediablog

The Essential Email Marketing Metrics You Should Be Tracking | Hubspot blog – crowdspring.co/1gY786G

Twitter’s ad rates continue falling, down 18% last quarter. My guess: poor results & low demand – crowdspring.co/1gY63vJ

Social, Digital & Mobile Around The World (January 2014) – crowdspring.co/1gYcVJm

Thinking about buying some online ads? Most people ignore them – crowdspring.co/1fWp19y

4 Surprising SEM Stats Every E-Commerce Marketer Should Know | Search Engine Land – crowdspring.co/1kD9ZHH

designblog

iPad Air Template (PSD) – crowdspring.co/1eVTeiX

Best Cities For Freelancers | Business Insider – crowdspring.co/1eklyfu

Read the rest of this post »

9 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Their Customers Mike | March 10th, 2014

In this series, I have typically chosen a group of people and looked at the unique things they do from which we can all learn. These lessons have sometimes been silly, and sometimes serious, but they have always tried to focus on how, as entrepreneurs and managers, we can draw lessons from the world around us.

As management has become increasingly data-driven, the best managers have developed a facility with extracting and analyzing data: market data, competitive data, and (most of all) customer data. The information we collect on our customers can help us to develop new products and services, test marketing campaigns and pricing models, and find ways to more efficiently deliver value to our intended audience. The best way to do this is by asking questions and looking to your existing customers for the answers. Those questions will necessarily vary from business to business, but the commonalities within a customer or user base are striking. Here are 9 ways that virtually any business can learn from their customers and how to do so.

1. Customers complain. It’s inevitable. They will complain, they will be frustrated and they will let you know it. So if they’re gonna do it anyhow, the best thing you can do is make it frictionless for them to do so. Make yourself available via phone, website, and email and be sure to listen when they speak.

2. Customers explain. They have ideas and suggestions, too, and good managers learn to listen closely to those.  It is important to listen closely when your customers complain and ask them for feedback and ideas for how you can improve.

3. Customers behave. No matter whether your business is online or off your customer’s data can be mined for insight into their behavior, their preferences, and their habits. Track their data and understand why they do what they do and use those insights to improve your product and better your ability to respond.

4. Customers leave. As often as not, customers have choices and, for now at least, they have chosen you over your competitor. This doesn’t mean they will stay with you and when they do leave, you need to understand why. Exit interviews or surveys are an excellent tool for gathering this information. Be sure to offer an incentive to help motivate a customer to respond and to share information with you. Even a $5 Starbucks card goes a long way to improving response rates.

5. Customers talk. Monitor social media carefully for mentions of your company. Set up simple searches so that you know whenever someone is talking about you on Twitter or Facebook and be sure to respond quickly and professionally. It tends to impress people to see that you are paying attention and is a wonderful way to strengthen relationships with your customers. Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #214 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | March 7th, 2014

marylin

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The image above is a fun look at how celebrities would look if they worked in a tattoo parlor. More tattooed celebrities in the Other section below.

smallbusinessblog

Small Business Marketing 2014: Smart Web Design Best Practices and Tips - crowdspring.co/1dn9KvH

Small Business and Startups: Tips for Reducing Refunds - crowdspring.co/1eLxfzG

Don’t fear competition. Many of the best companies embrace it - crowdspring.co/1kgAen9

startupsblog

Small Business and Startups: Tips for Reducing Refunds - crowdspring.co/1eLxfzG

Startup and Small Business Marketing 2014: Smart Web Design Best Practices and Tips - crowdspring.co/1dn9KvH

Don’t fear competition. Many of the best companies embrace it - crowdspring.co/1kgAen9

The simplest and most important dashboard for early stage startups - crowdspring.co/1gMgfqV

Employee Retention - crowdspring.co/1f2fAz5

How Modern Marketplaces Like Uber and Airbnb Build Trust to Achieve Liquidity - crowdspring.co/Ntc8Yi

A Guide To Post Seed Financing Options | TechCrunch – crowdspring.co/1eVEel8

Short-term Profit Taking vs. Long-term Value Creation: The Future of PayPal | by Reid Hoffman – crowdspring.co/P1TEzj

Inside The Facebook-WhatsApp Megadeal: The Courtship, The Secret Meetings, The $19 Billion Poker Game | Forbes - crowdspring.co/P0srgy

Going Through Y Combinator (S13): Nine Lessons Learned - crowdspring.co/P0pmwP

$1 billion dollar funds are no longer cool. Who’ll be the first to raise $10 billion? crowdspring.co/1l7OfAL

How a Startup Created the No. 1 Rated Mattress on Amazon / on.recode.net/1cumiUe

The Pro-Rata Participation Right | AVC - crowdspring.co/1f2emUK

Failure is Opportunity: It Was Good That Shaun White Lost in Sochi | by Barry Moltz - crowdspring.co/1gMg1js

Top 50 Startups To Work For After College | Business 2 Community – crowdspring.co/1kJbIIh

socialmediablog

7 Things Marketers Can Learn From 2,616 Viral Headlines. | ripenn - crowdspring.co/1gSudHW

The Sale After The Sale: The New Reality Of Selling Display Ads - crowdspring.co/P1Tb07

Responsive, adaptive, mobile or native? What’s the best option? | Econsultancy - crowdspring.co/1eVVwyw

Small Business Marketing 2014: Smart Web Design Best Practices and Tips - crowdspring.co/1dn9KvH

Nude Webcams and Diet Drugs: the Facebook Ads Teens Aren’t Supposed to See -crowdspring.co/1kgyNFe

designblog

What’s new for designers, February 2014 | Webdesigner Depot - crowdspring.co/1k4hOTg

25 Fresh Free fonts Created In 2014 | Creative Nerds - crowdspring.co/1eVU7Ib

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business Marketing 2014: Smart Web Design Best Practices and Tips Ross | March 4th, 2014

If you don’t have a dedicated website for your startup or small business, you are not alone. But you’re in grave danger to fall further behind your competition.

You might be slowly building a fan base on Facebook (if you’re buying fans on Facebook by advertising, you’re very likely wasting your money), sharing small bits of content on Twitter and posting images to Pinterest. But without a digital home, you’re scattering your efforts and missing an incredible opportunity to engage and connect with your customers and potential customers through a dedicated website.

Today, we’ll cover small business web design best practices and tips. It’s been a few years since we’ve written on this topic. Many things have changed – we’ll point you to great new resources and examples – but the fundamental best practices of good web design have remained consistent.

Here are our top 10 tips to help you create an awesome website design in 2014:

1. Keep the design simple, fresh, and unique.cs-site

Your website reflects your brand. It is the first impression a visitor will form when they visit your site for the first time. If you use an off-the-shelf template and your website looks like thousands of other sites on the Internet, you’ll miss an opportunity to create a unique impression. Why would a potential customer remember your site when she has seen dozens of other sites that look just like your site.

The homepage is typically the most important page in a small business website because your potential customers will likely see that page first when they visit your website. Moreover, because most small business sites have fewer than a dozen pages total, the homepage is an important anchor for your overall site. It must answer several important questions – including who you are and what you do.

Consider the impression you want to make and the message that you want to communicate to your customers and potential customers.

Make sure you have a professional logo design. A logo created from clip-art or a template won’t be unique and will create a poor  impression. Even worse, it may expose you to substantial legal risk.

You should keep one very important fact in mind: users typically read only 28% of the words during an average visit. Don’t overload your homepage with a lot of text and images. Consider the most important content and images you want your users to see and get rid of everything else.

Consider too that your visitors might be visiting from laptops and mobile phones, so try to avoid designing pages for a large monitor size or pages that use more complex features such as flash animation or complex navigation (flash isn’t supported on the iPhone and iPad, for example).

Tip: You can implement modern design trends to make your site look current. For example, flat design has become popular. If you’ve used iOS 7 on an iPhone or iPad, or Windows 8, you’ve seen flat design first-hand. Flat design eliminates gradients and shadowing, making images and fonts smaller and easier to read. Other 2014 design trends include blurred backgrounds, simple animations, more scrolling, and bigger fonts. For even more about 2014 design trends, I recommend you read 18 pivotal web design trends for 2014.

For a more sophisticated look, you can consider parallax scrolling, although this is typically overkill for most small business sites. Parallax scrolling presents the webpage as multiple layers; the background layer scrolls at different speeds compared to the foreground layer (or may not move at all). Sometimes, animation also helps to enhance the effect. For more on parallax scrolling, including tips and examples, I recommend you read 2014 Will Be Year of Parallax.

Advanced Tip 1: Once you design your homepage, you can run very simple tests to figure out which buttons, colors, and pieces of content earn the most clicks. After all, marketing is as much a science as it is an art. For more about A/B testing, I recommend you read 7 Dead-Simple A/B Tests You Should Run on Your Homepage.

Advanced Tip 2: Particularly on your homepage – but also on any pages where you’re trying to persuade the user to take some action – think about what action you want the user to take and create a prominent “call to action” button. For tips on creative effective calls to action, I suggest you review 10 Techniques For An Effective ‘Call To Action’.

The call to action (CTA) on your homepage is an important element to draw visitors deeper into your site. You should consider a few important factors when you design your CTA, including: (a) location (above the fold – visible on the monitor when the page first loads is typically ideal), (b) make sure the CTA stands out from the other content on your site (notice how the crowdSPRING “Learn more” CTA is pink?), (c) create a link to another page so that your call to action will draw the visitor deeper into your site, (d) create a less-emphasized alternative variation (notice the “take a quick tour” link below crowdSPRING’s primary CTA, (e) and test design, content, and placement.

2. Showscase your products and services.

You’re selling a product or service. Make sure that you clearly showcase that product or service on your homepage. I’ve seen many small business web designs that failed to effectively show their products or services and many others that tried to showcase far too many products or services on one page.

You have only a few seconds to make a first impression and you should make sure that the impression you make is professional.

Read the rest of this post »

Small Business and Startups: Tips for Reducing Refunds Mike | March 3rd, 2014

How often does your business have an opportunity to increase bottom-line profitability, improve customer retention, and generate positive word-of-mouth with a zero-dollar investment in marketing or advertising? This huge opportunity is right under your nose and you probably don’t even know it. “What is it?” you ask. “Why is my nose so large?” you wonder.  It’s easy – simply spend the next month focused on one thing: reducing your refunds!

Most businesses, large and small, have a formal refund policy and yours probably does too. Whether your policy is to offer an unconditional money-back guarantee, to accept returns within 30-day window, or to charge a restocking fee, chances are that last month a larger-than-desired portion of your customers chose to ask you for a refund. You may not have been smiling on the inside when you gave the money back, but you knew that you had to and for a good reason. A strong guarantee policy gives your customers the comfort they need to buy whatever it is that you are selling. As consumers we are much more likely to part with our money if we know that we can get it back should we be unhappy with the purchase.

How much of an impact will reducing refunds have on your business? The math is pretty simple: Imagine a small business with gross revenues of $100,000 and a profit margin of 20%. If this business has a refund rate of 10%, the annual net-profit would be $18,000, right? Now imagine that this business is able to cut its refund rate in half. Suddenly instead of losing $2,000 from the bottom line, they have effectively improved profits by $1,000 – a gain of almost 6%! And (best of all) they were able to do so without spending an extra dollar on marketing or acquiring a single new customer. Instead, they have made a customer happy who otherwise might have never returned, and they have dramatically reduced the likelihood that someone will be out there yammering all sorts of negativity on Twitter, Facebook, or Yelp! Lots of wins there…

Here are a handful of things you can do right now to reduce your  refund rate and add dollars straight to your bottom line!

1. Offer an unconditional guarantee. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the first step in reducing your refunds is making it crazy-easy for a customer to get one. First-time customers in particular are looking to do business with a company they can trust and there is no better way to prove your trustworthiness than by clearly advertising how you stand behind your product. Keep your guarantee policy front and center; make it easy to find and easier to understand and you will have taken a huge first step towards building a customer relationship based on trust.

2. Be available. Great customer service reduces refunds rates and the first step in providing that service is to make yourself available. Help your customers to find you when they need you and to contact you using a channel they prefer: email, web-form, phone, chat, FAQs, and long hours are critical components of great customer service as are fast and friendly responses to a customer contact. Try to limit the use of auto-responders and canned responses and try to answer every support request within hours, not days. A customer who is made to wait for an answer to a questions is multiple times more likely to ask for a refund than the customer who received that prompt and helpful reply.

Read the rest of this post »