Small Business and Startups: Hold Hands and Leverage Your Customer Service Mike | January 19th, 2015

From Day One we viewed crowdSPRING as the ultimate light-touch, self-serve, highly scalable internet business. We determined that we would build the product and out website such that even the least sophisticated visitor could learn for themselves how the system worked and could then take self-led actions to source the creative services they came looking for. Our idea was that a very small team could operate a two-sided e-commerce marketplace and serve a large community of users by providing powerful tools and features, offering great educational content at every turn, and by being at the ready to very quickly answer their questions and solve their problems when they came to us looking for help.

Sounds reasonable, right? Well we’ve learned a great deal through the years, and while we have done a spectacular job at building the tools that users want and responding with lightning quickness when they ask for help, we have done a poor job at building strong and lasting relationships with many of our customers. This is not to say that users haven’t been loyal to us and that we haven’t steadily increased the lifetime value of our customers. Rather, it is to say that we have missed an important opportunity to connect in a simple and meaningful way, by making one material adjustment to our approach to customer service. For us 2015 will be the year of proactive service; instead of waiting for them to reach out to us when they have a question or need an issue resolved, we are building tools and processes that allow our team to energetically reach out to customers on the site to draw them into conversation, to actively educate them about our service, and to build relationships. In other words, we have determined that we are in the hand-holding business and that every single customer on our site is worthy of our attention and our effort to engage.

To do this, we have looked hard at how we can identify potential customers amongst the visitors to the site, how we can make an initial contact with them, and how to take that contact from the “Just saying Hi” stage, through the full process of drafting, posting, managing, and completing a crowdSPRING project. AND (perhaps most importantly) how we can make this rather profound change leveraging the assets we already possess. To do this we determined would take four basic steps: 1) identify those who are most likely to be customers, 2) find ways to politely and respectfully make contact with them, 3) educate our new friends about how things work here guide them through a complex process , and 4) surprise and delight with high-quality service and meaningful gestures.

1.Force them to raise their hand.
The first problem we had to attack was finding ways to identify among thousands of visitors to the site, those that are most probably potential customers. Like all internet businesses, we know little about a new visitor to the site; we can figure out where in the world they are, we can make some assumptions about their demographics, we can scan to see if their browsers contain any relevant cookies, but other than that we don’t know for sure who they are or why they came. One way to find out is to do something very simple: ask them! To that end we have implemented tools that, based on behavior, will take a moment to interrupt a visitor to ask them if they are willing to share with us a bit of information. Those that choose to do so are clearly interested enough in our offerings to answer a couple of quick questions and provide us their contact data. Those that aren’t willing are welcome to continue exploring on their own.  The idea is that the people we are least interested in getting to know are those that decline to share. It’s those that do agree to share information with us that we value the most and that we are focused on serving.

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Twitter Link Roundup #252 – Sweet resources for Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | January 16th, 2015

Open office plans work for many small companies but some teams just do not function well no matter what the office looks like. Here is one company (and one worker) that struggles with the issues common to all of us. Just with some unique personality twists – enjoy!

But enough about office life – it’s time for our weekly roundup! Great links and articles we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We do like to talk about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! I hope you enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

MBA: Worth Your Time or Money? crowdspring.co/1xoOekN

Technology’s Impact on Workers | Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project – crowdspring.co/1BwA7Jp

startupsblog

Can A Cup Of Coffee Make Workers Less Likely To Lie? | Co.Design | business + design

Racial Bias, Even When We Have Good Intentions crowdspring.co/14mLGbB

The Most Controversial Productivity Hack: Getting High At Work | Fast Company | Business + Innovationcrowdspring.co/14mJPn6

What’s Love Got to Do With It? | Inc -buff.ly/1Byddnd

What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation | HBR – buff.ly/17HF2Ou

9 Quotes to Inspire Great Team Productivity crowdspring.co/17b4trH

The Authenticity Paradox – HBR crowdspring.co/1rTiPWJ

Communicating Values: Show, don’t Tell – buff.ly/1xrfPN0

While toiling over the perfect startup name, keep in mind there’s a company called BlaBlaCar that’s raised over $100M pic.twitter.com/ulzyUDfe64

The Rising Table Stakes in SaaS | by @ttunguzbuff.ly/1DHbwFY

Get the Boss to Buy In – HBR crowdspring.co/14mLDMV

Maynard Webb, Yahoo’s Chairman: Even the Best Teams Can Be Better crowdspring.co/1AsM3xs

5 things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Charlie Hebdo | crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/14kNPDZ

Here’s the Advice I Give All of Our First Time Founders | First Round – buff.ly/1xrEwJt

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Fresh from the SPRING: niteshthapa Audree | January 14th, 2015

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 niteshthapa. Check out more great work on niteshthapa’s profile page.

Nicely done, niteshthapa, nicely done!

FFS-Niteshthapa

5 things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Charlie Hebdo Mike | January 12th, 2015

Ugh. We woke up one morning last week to the worst of news: 12 people had been slaughtered in Paris for saying what they felt needed saying, for challenging the status quo, and for pursuing a business model they had built over decades.

This news touched us at crowdSPRING in a meaningful way: the people who were gunned down were artists. Creative people who practice their craft, and use artwork to communicate ideas are the people we celebrate every day and work hard to support through our business model and our community. It is shocking and saddening that we have lost these fine artists to a warped ideology of revenge and paranoia.

So what do we do here? My answer is the same as ever: we learn. We take the time to  discover what it is that these people did. How they lived their lives and how they ran their enterprise. We take lessons from the things they did everyday and the conviction with which they did it. So, here are 10 things that we can all learn from Charlie Hebdo and the wonderful artists who gave their lives on that awful day.

1. Believe.
Charlie Hebdo was a company that believed in what it did. Their mission was simple and clear: to satirize, to offend, and to push back against what they viewed as the hypocrisy of organized religions, and of authority of any kind. They were passionate in the pursuit of their belief and they did it with humor and creativity. We can all learn a great deal about how we run our own businesses from their  lesson: approach your work with ardor and run your own company based on the beliefs you hold and the values you cherish.

2. Focus.
As managers we understand the importance of staying focused, whether it is on the larger picture and your strategic approach to your business, or on the small things we do everyday. By maintaining our focus on what we do, we can be more productive and reach our goals more quickly. The management and artists at Charlie Hebdo clearly understood this and it was displayed with every issue they published and every eye they poked their stick into. By clearly defining their mission and focusing intently on carrying it out, they were able to build a brand and carve out a distinct space in the French media landscape.

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Twitter Link Roundup #251 – Cool ideas about Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | January 9th, 2015

Tragedy will not stop the creative mind nor the creative process.

It’s time once more for our weekly roundup! Great links and articles we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We do like to talk about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! I hope you enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

Small Businesses and Startups – 3 New Years Reflections and Resolutions | crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/14niIbA

Fast–And Cheap!–Ways To Make Your Office Space More Productive | Fast Company | Business + Innovationcrowdspring.co/1JWVWaJ

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Steve Jobs about Business | by @trengriffinbuff.ly/1xy7FsN

startupsblog

Why Career Development And Advancement Aren’t The Same Thing | Fast Company | Business + Innovationcrowdspring.co/1BwA14h

For Leaders, Looking Healthy Matters More than Looking Smart | HBR -buff.ly/1vSlc8y

11 Simple Ways To Push Your Creative Boundaries | Fast Company | Business + Innovationcrowdspring.co/1A3eLDy

Self-made wealth in America: Robber barons and silicon sultans | The Economist -buff.ly/1KktVKk

The New Science of Building Great Teams | HBR – buff.ly/1AovjWH

8 Things That Will Immediately Make Your Company More Sellable (Long Before You Sell)crowdspring.co/1489Syk

How Successful People Stay Calm – Business Insider crowdspring.co/1xrna2M

Things I’ve Learned from Doug Leone About Startups & Venture Capital | by @trengriffin -buff.ly/1wo39Hu

Why Leading and Managing Are Two Very Different Things crowdspring.co/1xrnaj5

What I Learned About Life After Interviewing 80 Highly Successful People | by @jaltucher -buff.ly/1DndD1o

7 New Habits Of Highly Successful People | Fast Company | Business + Innovation crowdspring.co/14mLARp

Even Scientists Think You’re Working Too Early in the Morning crowdspring.co/14mLAks

Reasons to Ignore the News and Boost Productivity crowdspring.co/1w4igWz

Questions to Know if You Should Jump on an Opportunity crowdspring.co/1Bx7V8W

12 Tech Tools Productivity Experts Can’t Live Without | Fast Company | Business + Innovationcrowdspring.co/1DklpGF

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Fresh from the SPRING: Dogwings Audree | January 7th, 2015

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 Dogwings. Check out more great work on Dogwings’ profile page.

Nicely done, Dogwings, nicely done!

FFS-Dogwings

 

 

Small Businesses and Startups – 3 New Years Reflections and Resolutions Mike | January 5th, 2015

Alright then. Hangover from New Years eve is gone these past few days. The last long weekend of the holidays is done. And now, once again, we turn our gaze lovingly back to our business, our customers, and our team. As managers, we are so focused on the moment at hand, the task that needs accomplishing, the strategy that needs executing, the data that needs analyzing, that we often neglect to take time to simply reflect. Reflection is a critical activity for effective managers and strong leaders and there are natural moments for the act of contemplation that sometimes feels like a luxury we simply can’t afford.

We’ve written before about New Year resolutions in the context of business and management, but this year I want to put these into more of a ruminative  frame. In other words, let my reflection on each of these drive my resolve to improve each.

As a manager some days I do a pretty good job while on others my performance may be poor or ineffectual. So I have chosen 3 areas where I know I can improve, where I can strengthen my focus, and where I can change things up with the goal of advancing, refining, or reviving specific aspects of the business. I’d love to hear your own reflections and thoughts on these or on your own reflections and resolutions.

1. Focus on the customerAs the manager of an internet business, our approach has always been “light-touch” and our assumption has always been biased towards “self-serve.” Like many internet businesses we have built the company around the assumptions of scalability, and that necessarily means finding ways to serve a large customer base with a small team. We’ve preached and practiced the lean approach to business and, while I still strongly believe in it, I have come to the conclusion that we haven’t done a good job connecting with and engaging our customers. People tend to buy more from, and return more often to, companies they feel a strong connection to. At crowdSPRING we are resolved to make 2015 the year of customer relationships; we will not be satisfied to simply wait for our users to contact us with a question the need answered or a problem they need resolved. Rather we will reach out proactively, work hard to build and maintain relationships, hold our customer’s hands and help them answer those questions before they are formulated and solve those problems before they arise. The goals are improved conversion rates, increased customer satisfaction, and greater word-of-mouth. We will collect data on these factors as the year progresses and adjust our approach as we go.

2. Support the team. I have always enjoyed and dreaded the year-end reviews we do for each member of the team here. We discuss the year that is closing, reflect together on each person’s growth and development, talk about whether the goals we set last year have been achieved and what new goals we might set for the year to come. While my door is always open to any discussions with any team member, the end of year review is a great time to offer myself up for and feedback, positive or negative, that they may want to share and I actively encourage them to do so. What’s interesting is that there is always something to be learned and there is always something shared that catches me by surprise. Why is that? I don’t have the answer to that question, but I have resolved that in 2015, I will spend more time focused on the team; give more thought to what they might need from me; consider more and better ways to communicate. The goal is that at next year’s reviews, none of the feedback should come as a surprise and none of the criticism be about something I was not aware of. I intend to keep my finger more firmly on the pulse of the team and be way more proactive about soliciting their thoughts and ideas about the company, the product, and my own performance.

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Twitter Link Roundup #250 – The very best ideas about Small Business, Startups, and Design! Mike | January 2nd, 2015

With the new year, our thoughts at crowdSPRING invariably focus on what we have in excess: winter, winter, winter. And with winter comes our favorite team outing of the year: Skiing! Check out the beautiful video above and perhaps you’ll be inspired to join in, too

And now, properly primed for the cold New Year, it’s time for our weekly roundup! Great links and articles we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We do like to talk about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! I hope you enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

Many Choose Not to Save in the Health Marketplace – crowdspring.co/12NPwsQ

How Gabriel Bristol Went From Homeless to CEO crowdspring.co/1CP44ba

Rebounding economy could mean more pay raises crowdspring.co/1AcOd40

Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Good for Your Business? |insureon – crowdspring.co/1AcO9kK

startupsblog

What Keeps Them Up At Night? – crowdspring.co/1A8BMUB

Move Over, Millennials: Generation Z Is Entrepreneurial And Plans On Working Independently | Co.Exist–crowdspring.co/13DAMgq

A Testable Idea Is Better than a Good Idea | HBR – buff.ly/1JXEdQw

The Inescapable Paradox of Managing Creativity – crowdspring.co/1DwzCnM

How Competitive Startups Can Fuel Each Other’s Success – crowdspring.co/1yQkEpq

Special guest post by @JTRipton: “The Top 10 Business Books of 2014″| vcrowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1Aiew6K

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Fresh from the SPRING: TheBluesman Audree | December 31st, 2014

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

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

Nicely done, Bluesman, nicely done!

FFS-TheBluesman-Holiday

Twitter Link Roundup #249 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Mike | December 26th, 2014

One Direction without autotune. ‘Nuf said.

And now, perfectly in tune and in the proper key, it’s time for our weekly roundup! Great links and articles we shared with you over the past week on our  crowdSPRING Twitter account (as well as my own Twitter account). We do like to talk about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! I hope you enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

A Liability Risk for Airbnb Hosts – crowdspring.co/1w2ZD8T

Getting Virtual Teams Right – crowdspring.co/1u8p2sv

Small Business Marketing Tools and Resources – crowdspring.co/1wQ2MuP

Customer Service: The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy | crowdSPRING Blog – buff.ly/1DHGnmL

The Real Reason Unlimited Vacation Policies Work | by @mvolpebuff.ly/1w3kqsO

Crowdfunding Campaigns Come With a Growing Price Tag | Yahoo Small Business – Advisor buff.ly/1ug2ciE

5 Pointers for Finding a Quiet Place to Work on the Road – crowdspring.co/1ALSwli

startupsblog

Brands must ‘open up’ and encourage entrepreneurial thinking to stay competitive | The Drum –crowdspring.co/1CVEy52

How Investing in Employees Ensures Your Organization’s Success – crowdspring.co/1G4iZM9

The New Era of Time Management – crowdspring.co/1srLi0Q

Why Startups Are Bad Storytellers | LinkedIn – crowdspring.co/1u8p7fA

Obamacare and Pre-Solving Predictable Problems | LinkedIn crowdspring.co/1u8pmau

Peter Thiel on the Kinds of Startups He Would Never Invest In – crowdspring.co/1u8phDK

Rethink What You “Know” About High-Achieving Women – crowdspring.co/1u4ihc6

Entrepreneur Russ Fradin Makes More Money, Less Noise | Hunter Walk – buff.ly/1A6Bopo

The Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas crowdspring.co/1sNBpe5

Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days – crowdspring.co/1G5fCq0

The Top 10 Business Books of 2014, by @JTRipton! | crowdSPRING Blog – crowdspring.co/1yVVwJ4

Read the rest of this post »

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