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!

smallbusinessblog

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 –

startupsblog

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 –

Read the rest of this post »

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

monopoly-500x287

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.

Baby

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.

rosie-the-robot Read the rest of this post »

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

4462632230_c1c827765f_z

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:

Read the rest of this post »

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 4.38.44 PM

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?

ninja cookies

“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.

grass-is-greener Read the rest of this post »

The Surprising Ways a Distributed Team Can Help Your Company Succeed Arielle | February 10th, 2016

4961717384_f4da868db6_z

I love working with people from around the world and truly believe that distributed teams provide huge benefits for small businesses and startups. I’m not alone to think so – according to a study updated in September 2015, the number of people working remotely risen 103% in the past year.

Still, even as the number of remote workers has increased, some companies continue to resist allowing for more flexible work environments. Even worse, some companies, like Yahoo, have rolled back their distributed teams. This thinking seems very short-sighted.

Business owners report that their biggest concern with distributed teams is lower levels of productivity. The theory is that because no one watches a remote employee’s every move, the extrinsic motivation for the employee lessens and that employee must be intrinsically motivated enough to want to accomplish their tasks. Such thinking has led companies to adopt layers of middle management, confusing and useless reporting, and obscure processes. This one minute scene from the movie “Office Space” will put things into perspective:

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: DBanks Audree | February 9th, 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 DBanks. Check out more great work on DBanks’s profile page.

Nicely done, DBanks, nicely done!

DBanks

Your Small Business Will Not Succeed Unless You Build a Strong Brand Ross | February 8th, 2016

A brand is the sum total of the experiences your customers and potential customers have with your company. Your brand lives in everyday interactions with customers and prospective customers, the images you share, your company website, the content of your marketing materials, and in your posts on social networks.

Today, no company can control all the conversations that take place about the company’s products and services. And yet building a strong brand is more important than ever. Companies that build a strong brand establish trust and credibility. Companies that fail to build a strong brand rarely succeed. It’s one reason we strongly recommend companies stay far away from “ready-made” logos found in online logo stores and avoid making other branding mistakes that can cripple your small business.

Many business owners believe that building a strong business is the same as building a strong brand. The two are related, but not tightly. In the following video I discuss why you should focus on building a strong brand and not just focus on building a strong business.

What do you think? How important is it to for companies to build a strong brand online?

10 Important Things You Can Do To Be A Good Customer Keri | February 4th, 2016

proactive

As customers, we often put our expectations in the hands of the customer service team. That being said, there is so much one can do to take charge of their own experience as a customer. The company, the product, and the team are only part of the equation, and not the only deciding factors on how smoothly your experience will go. So how do you, the customer, take charge of your own experience? I’m so glad you asked…

1. Know your needs- Before taking the leap, make sure you know what you need! Sounds simple enough, but knowing exactly what your needs are will prevent you from getting side-tracked or even roped into spending more than you need to. It’s surprising how many prospective customers haven’t given much thought to what specifically they need. Lack of clarity makes it very difficult for a company to meet their needs and more importantly, such lack of clarity also makes it difficult for the customer to get what they need.

list 2

2. Do your research- It’s best to take the lay of the land before making a purchase. There are so many tools at the disposal of consumers, so use them to your advantage. Even using tools like social media to find company and product reviews can be a big help. Also, if a company offers FAQs or other helpful materials, check it out!

research

3. Get to know who you’re working with- Make a connection with the person or team helping you. If you make an effort to learn names and other details, you are more likely to stick out in their minds, and they are even more likely to go that extra mile for you. Surprisingly, even though most people think that speed of the response is the most important factor in a customer’s interaction with a support team, it turns out that empathy is more important. If you make a strong connection, you’ll usually find a level of empathetic support that will make you smile.

meeting

Read the rest of this post »

How to Avoid Failure: Two Common Small Business Mistakes Arielle | February 3rd, 2016

8226451812_88007f08df_z

We all experience failure at some point in our lives. As business owners, failure is common to us- not every idea can be a winner. As entrepreneurs, the looming fear of failure is all too real. According to Forbes, nine out of ten startups will fail within their first few years of operation. This means that it is more common for a business to fail than it is for a business to succeed, pinning the odds of success against us.

Some argue that failure is overrated and that you should learn from success:

You can learn a great deal more from success than from failure. Here’s why: Knowing what not to do helps you focus and avoid setbacks, but doesn’t help you adapt to changes. You know what didn’t work — does that help you next time when you need to figure out what will work? If you ask successful entrepreneurs whether they would rather hire someone who has failed or someone who has succeeded, I suspect most would prefer to hire the person who has succeeded. This is not surprising — scientific research shows that we learn more from success than from failure.

But, since many more people fail than succeed, it’s important to be able to learn from both success and failure. In fact, the most successful entrepreneurs are willing to take risks and to fail. After all, risks create opportunities, and opportunities often lead to success. ( a word of caution here: not every failure is a learning experience).

Ultimately, the learning process (from success and from failure) is cumulative. Melinda Emerson (@smallbizlady on Twitter), one of the leading small business experts in America, recently wrote in her blog, Succeed As Your Own Boss:

Success is a cumulative process. In other words, you have to start today and do a lot of little things right every single day before you can finally create a track record of achievement that will cause people to see you as successful. The same is true of failure. Some failures can be catastrophic, for sure, but failure is not fatal until it becomes one in a series of many that define your daily lifestyle and your character.

Here are two of the biggest mistakes businesses make, and what you can learn from those mistakes:

1. Creating a good product – for an obscure market niche.

One of the first questions investors ask in a pitch meeting is “Who are your competitors?” Often, startups answer that they don’t have any because their market is so unique that no one has entered the space. In a world of thousands of business, that’s pretty hard to believe.

The truth is that startups always have at least one competitor, even if the competition is indirect. People jump on good ideas, so the chance of being the first to have one of the uniquely great ideas is pretty low. The key to a good startup is tackling a good idea from a new angle, one that makes the startup stand out from the sea of others trying to enter the same space. Yet many startups ignore this insight and attempt to launch their businesses in small, niche markets. However, when a market is too small, it becomes difficult to make recurring profits and survive as a business. By focusing on “great products” and ignoring the size of the market, entrepreneurs fall into the trap of creating something great that nobody wants. Marc Andreessen, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz echoes this idea in one of his LinkedIn posts:

Conversely, in a terrible market, you can have the best product in the world and an absolutely killer team, and it doesn’t matter — you’re going to fail.

Andreessen highlights two other important aspects of a successful business. Even though he claims just having a great team and product aren’t enough, there is still value to be found in strong teams and strong products.

How can you determine the market size for your product or service? We’ve offered advice about this and recommend you read How To Choose a Market For Your Startup Or Small Business and Tips on Defining The Size of a Market for a Startup Business.

Read the rest of this post »

Hey, it's crowdSPRING!

Tens of thousands of the world's best and most successful entrepreneurs, businesses, agencies and nonprofits rely on crowdSPRING for affordable and risk-free custom logo design, web design, a new company name or other writing and design services. More than 186,000 designers and writers work on crowdSPRING. We create designs and names people love. 100% guaranteed.

Get Blog Updates

Free E-Books

interviews with graphic and web designers

12 Question Interviews with cS designers.
Get it »

contracts for graphic designers

Contracts for designers who hate contracts.
Get it »

contracts for software and website developers

Contracts for software developers who hate contracts. Get it »