Business At The Speed of Human

When digitally transforming businesses, clients ask us about online presence.  What should they say, how should it look, etc.  While moving your business online may seem foreign, it is quite similar to how you look, feel, and talk today.  The advantage is those small and medium-size companies are made of humans.  Humans are social creatures, and they have conversations, they sound human.  The human voice is open, natural, and uncontrived. 

Whether it is online or in the physical world, humans are the same.  Your business already has a voice, an image, and a following.  Digitally transforming it brings more opportunities to converse with more people

The digital world enables conversations among human beings in ways that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.  Modern marketing in a digital world cannot be hollow, devoid of character, or flat.  Your digital presence should be genuine, human, empathetic, welcoming, and engaging.

People now understand that online, they can get far better information and support from one another than from hollow sounding, disconnected, and one-way advertising from big corporations.  You can’t imitate the human connection; it must be genuine.  Engaging directly with your clients is one of the most significant advantages of digitally transforming your business.

Corporations that speak in the language of a pitch, presentations, one-way ads, and talking heads are no longer speaking to anyone.  Humans want to have conversations with other humans.  It is one reason your physical world business has been successful. 

You can’t merely position yourself. You need to take a position.  And just like your physical business, that position should relate to something relevant to you and your customers. By remaining digitally distant, uninviting, or arrogant, corporations build walls that keep their clients at bay—something you want to avoid when digitally transforming your business. 

Be Present

Speaking in a genuine voice in a digital world is not something that can be learned or imitated.  You must share the concerns of, and belong to your community. If you are not present, you become invisible.  Again, you are with them today in a physical world.  Taking yourself digital  can be natural and inspiring when using the right partners and tools to do so. 

Engage

Millions of people online today perceive corporations as little more than inhuman legal entities. They want access to corporate information, its best thought leadership, and genuine knowledge.  People simply ignore a remote controlled brochure, website, or information from a faceless entity.  People are immune to this in an online world. Your clients are searching for you, the real genuine you.  They want to talk to you when they want to. The great news is your greatest asset in a digital transformation is yourself. 

In the digital world, your clients want to talk to you.  They want you to tell them something. Something interesting for a change.  And likewise, they have ideas for you; new tools, products, and services they need.  Products and services they would gladly pay for if you are there to listen and respond. 

Delight

The unfortunate situation is that we have also become digitally impatient.  If you are not present, responding, and engaging, your clients have an entire world of others they can talk with who will engage and respond.  You know this from the physical world today.  The opportunities online are far greater because travel to these businesses is eliminated.   

An advantage of digital transformation is the ability to accelerate change in your business in response to the needs of your clients.  Digitally, you can achieve this even faster than you can in the physical world, and your customers will appreciate it.  They are changing too, daily in fact.  It is a journey you can take together.

Since you started your physical business, its success has been built on humans delighting other humans.  Digitally transforming this, especially for a small to medium business, is not difficult, it’s just a continuation of you.


Grow your business. Live your life.

We would love to learn more about you, your passion, what drives you,
and how we can help!

6 Steps to Reach Customers in Challenging Times

“If you build it, they will come,” from the classic 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams” does not apply to business in today’s COVID 19 reality. “You need to reach them” is now the more likely approach.  Even in the best of times, we must effectively communicate great ideas, strategies, and work plans to have value. In our isolated world of today, being heard and getting what you need is more challenging than ever.

In a recent research paper by Accenture, “COVID-19: A New Era in Customer Engagement,” they rightly state that while COVID-19 has been one of the biggest challenges of our generation, customer behavior is changing at a staggering pace. Digital adoption has become necessary for survival. Post-Pandemic, businesses will need to accommodate these new attitudes and behaviors.  Leaders should be taking action now to meet customer expectations post-crisis.

Six ways you can pivot your communication
for the new reality

Establish new Rules of Engagement

Your staff needs to understand what to say and not to say or do.

Focus on your digital image. Current events might dictate a change, but more likely, it will be time to double down on your logo and colors. Being consistent will make you familiar to your customers when they find you online and enhance your brand recognition. Now is an excellent time to consider rebuilding your website, bringing it in line with the new way of doing business digitally.

Do your research on the proper timing for communications. The frequency and delivery method have changed now that your customers are primarily online. Researching how often and where you send communication pieces will help you reach and track responses to gauge customer retention.  
 
The tone and how you speak to customers ‘digitally’ will also reflect on your brand. Everything you post will reflect your brand. Knowing proper etiquette for online will prevent you from alienating your customers. It is ok to use a unique voice, but it should be consistent and become recognizable to your customers once you establish it. Your customers will take comfort and trust a constant voice in every communication you send.

Don’t limit your channels for communication. It can be comfortable to keep to one type of communication, but right now, trying new channels and thinking out of the box will increase your chances of reaching your customers. Your communications should compliment each other.  Examples might be a blog post to one audience, a picture on Instagram, or even an SMS text campaign to your loyal customer base. 

Educate your customers about what you (now) do

If you are changing how you do business, you need to re-educate your customers.

Make sure you can find your business online. Use search engines to determine if your site comes up.  Google has specific tools to determine if your website is in their index and ways to submit it here.  It is also an excellent opportunity to consider Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising as it is a smart move to engaging your customers.

Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is more relevant to you now when your customers cannot visit your physical business. Engage experts to review your digital presence so the search engines can correctly identify your content.

Connect with your customers via social media during critical moments (see our links below as examples). Birthdays, Anniversaries, Holidays, Graduations, and local events can be opportune times to add a personal touch and celebrate with your customers. 

Stay ahead or leapfrog your competition. Not everyone will take advantage of the opportunity presented, and it may be your time to arrive first, engaging and welcoming new customers that might not have otherwise found you.

Create an open-door communication channel

Make sure customers know they can engage you in whatever method is comfortable for them.

Use digital options to make your business more approachable. Your customers spend most of their time on phones than ever before. Texting is not only convenient but practical. A service to consider may be eztexting, which allows your customers to sign-up via text to receive updates from you.

Highly value and learn from feedback 

Be genuinely interested in suggestions, comments, and concerns; addressing in a timely manner.

Your customers want to help. They want to engage and tell you how they feel. Being open to feedback is the best way to respond. Keep a record of comments and communicate what you are doing to respond to concerns. A method to gain feedback may be email survey campaigns, keeping an open survey on your site, or even allowing customers to chat with you directly from your website. Be careful to take all feedback in context and not merely react to each as it comes in. You will be looking for trends in the input. It would not be ideal for fixing something for one customer, only to break it for ten others. You should avoid panic moves. Be prepared to pivot your business if the feedback warrants it.

Frequently communicate where you are going

Update your customers regularly about your goals and vision.

Now is the time to develop and execute a new marketing plan. One that delivers persuasive communications and achieves the outcomes you need. Adapt your style to your customers’ for a more significant impact and create conversations or dialogs. Avoid one-way messaging as much as possible. Use a seasoned marketing partner to assist where possible in laying out a strategy that accelerates returns for your business.

Remain positive

If you maintain a positive attitude and work with others who can help, the current problems and tasks become lighter and more comfortable to bear. It will get better.

Prepare your business for the bounce-back surge. Be ready and agile to quickly respond. These unique circumstances provide unique opportunities to build relationships. Also, use this downtime to finish your digital to-do lists. The world is changing fast.


Grow your business. Live your life.

We would love to learn more about you, your passion, what drives you,
and how we can help!

Taking Your Business Virtual

Behind The Scene Consulting was born as a digital company.  The recent months of COVID 19 have confirmed the imperative for small-and-medium-sized businesses to update their time trusted business model. What worked for decades suddenly changes as customers have had to find new ways of shopping.  Business owners need to be able to meet their needs in an online world. For some businesses, this may be their only option for survival.

Case in point, Debbie ran a small wind chime shop in a mid-sized town.  Passionate about wind chimes, Debbie had served her community for the last thirty years in the same location.  She knew everyone personally, and her wind chimes were well-loved.  When COVID 19 hit, Debbie’s customers suddenly stopped coming in.  Her sales went to zero, but the expenses continued to accrue. Existing and new customers still wanted to purchase her wind chimes but had no way to do that outside of going to her physical location.

Like Debbie, up to thirty million other small and medium businesses in the US find themselves in the same situation.  The feeling is very much like starting over and can be overwhelming when your livelihood depends on contact with your customers.  Add to this the mounting expenses of each day delayed.

Moving your business anywhere, including online, doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  Expanding to online can be fairly inexpensive and will likely provide you with access to more customers than your current brick and mortar.  The critical path, however, is to move, and move with speed so your customers find you vs. your competition. 

 There are three initial components to a successfully going virtual:

Do not go it alone

Engage a trusted partner to take you on the journey.  One who has done this before, will listen your unique business needs, feel your pain, and provide a comprehensive solution.

Create a digital home for your business

This includes building out a strategy for your web presence, logistics to ship your goods, and a catalog of products and/or services.  Think back to when you first moved into your current space.  You found the right location, then built or modified it to fit your brand and appeal to your clients.  Online is very much the same but takes an even deeper thought-out strategy.  

Tell your clients you are open

A comprehensive marketing strategy and communication plan is critical.  You need to reach your current customers and let them know you are now where they are.  At the same time, you have a fantastic opportunity to attract customers who would have never found you in your local community.  It is also an excellent time to re-visit your branding to ensure it is on point for the future.  

Moving your business online is not insurmountable, the timing is right, your customers are waiting for you, but speed is crucial to reaching your goal. 


Let’s continue the discussion

Grow your business. Live your life.

We would love to learn more about you, your passion, what drives you,
and how we can help!

9 Ways to Cut Back Office Costs

A back office in most corporations is where work that supports front office work is done. The front office is the “face” of the company and is all the company’s resources that are used to make sales and interact with customers and clients. [Wikipedia] In accounting terms, it would exist within General and Administrative Expense.

The term “back office” comes from the ways buildings were laid out in early companies. The front office would contain the sales and other customer-facing staff, and the back office would be those manufacturing goods or recording the transactions. The two were kept carefully together for communication and logistical needs.

It can go by many other terms such as ‘admin,’ ‘administration,’ ‘behind the scene,’ ‘non-public facing,’ ‘operations,’ and ‘support.’

As a small business owner (or freelancer) today, the back office is more of a concept than a physical reality. You have probably already identified with being the back and the front office at the same time. The idea of a back office was born out of the need for efficiency to facilitate revenue generation. That concept is still critical even if the tangible people aspects of it have changed.

Over the years, the back office’s role has continued to evolve from an actual space to remote work, outsourced, or the small business owner taking it on entirely.

In today’s challenges, such as the COVID 19 Pandemic, and many small businesses failing, making the ‘back office’ as efficient as possible to focus entirely on your customers generating revenue has never been more critical. Let’s look at nine ways you can reduce costs to make your back office as efficient as possible.

People

1. Outsource tasks

Focus on your core business. What does it do? If you are a restaurant, is your core competency in accounting or marketing? Other companies do those specific tasks for a living. They are up to date on the current practices, technologies, and regulations. In other words, it is their core business. Consider moving your non-core tasks to a provider who can focus on them for you. Moving these tasks will likely save you costs since you will not have to hire full-time staff (with benefits) when you can purchase a fraction of one dedicated to your work.

2. Don’t go it alone

A lot of your day to day stress may come from trying to be everything for your business. In the modern world of super structure, speed, and compliance, not being on top of your game could be quite expensive. Your focus is still on your customer, but taking shortcuts to do work yourself that your competitors have likely outsourced is a substantial personal risk.

Process

3. Don’t have other employees multitask

This includes you and relates to wage to task value. You know the work that has to get done, there are not enough people to do it, so you end up using resources from the front office to perform administrative tasks. As time goes by, you will increase the cost of performing your back office needs by staffing with more expensive front office employees, while having to hire more front office staff to work with your clients (your real priority). By not using higher wage employees to perform lower value work, you can reduce costs.

4. Eliminate non-value-add activities

The best way to save money is not to spend it at all. Review your back office tasks and consider if they could be consolidated, done in another way, or are not necessary today.

5. Build a continuous improvement culture

Large corporations have programs like TQM, Six-Sigma, and Lean. These are all the same in that they look at processes and thoughtfully find ways to improve them incrementally. You can do the same for your small business. By putting the work in the right place, with the right people, you can take the time to look at how the work is done and improve it.

6. Capitalize on Remote work

All companies have discovered this cost savings technique in the last few months. We have learned how to smartly work remote. Communication with the back office is no longer the issue it was in the early days. Employees can now efficiently work virtually using technology.

7. Relocate the back office

If your back office team needs to stay together, does it need to be where it is now? You located your business where you can be in proximity to your customers. Your back office does not interface with your customers, therefore this space can be repurposed for the front office. Consider moving your back office to a lower cost neighborhood. In some areas of the country, there are office parks set aside for this type of operation.

Technology

8. Go Green & Go Paperless

Moving to paperless invoices, proposals, and HR Records helps the environment, but they also enhance your ability to find the things you need when you need them. A customer needs to see their history or order what they did in the past. By going green, you can save time (which is money) servicing your boss, the customer.

9. Invest in Technology

Communication has changed. Not only internally, but with your customer as well. It has become more productive, quicker, and cheaper to stay in contact with a customer who wants to talk to you anyplace and at any time. Several technologies specialize in connecting you both internally and to your customer. Consider looking at platforms such as Microsoft teams or Google G-Suite. Even Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Zoom can be point solutions for you. Many of these technologies have affordable plans for small businesses.


Grow your business. Live your life.

We would love to learn more about you, your passion, what drives you,
and how we can help!

Five Traits of A Successful Business Owner

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics, the survival rate for American businesses looks like:

  • First Year – Roughly 80% of businesses will survive their first year in business. (Recent Bureau of Labor data shows that, of businesses opened in March 2017, 79.1% made it to March 2018.)
  • Second Year – Of the same businesses opening in March of 2017, only 70% (68.7%) made it through their second year, or past March 2019
  • Fifth Year – For businesses which opened in March of 2014, their survival rate past five years is only 50.9%. This means a business has only a 50/50 chance of surviving even five years.
  • Tenth Year – Only 35% of businesses opened in 2009 made it past March of 2019. Two out of three businesses will not survive their tenth year.

This uphill battle for survival can appear daunting until we uncover what the owners of the surviving 35% did right to put them on a path to long-term success. There will be many variables to their success but five common personal characteristics begin to appear which positioned their businesses to make it through their first decade and beyond.

Be Your Business

Owners who are free to pursue their passion and their customers are better set for success. Businesses are like living breathing organisms which take on a character of their own. It is only when the owner is able to breath life into their business that it can florish and grow. When they have the freedom to be laser focused on their passion and their customers as their top priority they find personal satisfaction and success. They have the ability to be committed and patient because they remain in tune with their customer. Sadly, when an owner is saddled with administrative tasks of running a business, it goes on life support or dies completely.

Craft a Vision and a Strategic Business Plan

Business owners who had the time to dream of what kind of company they were creating were far more successful in the long run. Were they building a company for the next five years? The next twenty years? What will the world look like? How will they interact and change along with their customers? Maybe their vision was something much longer, the hundred-year company.

Just as an architect builds a blueprint for a skyscraper or a house, successful business owners develop a well-thought strategy and plan for their business. Building a strategic business plan is a way to solidify the path to their dream and make it a reality. An owner who can develop a strategy (with help) creates a roadmap for his future.

Create Organizational Structure

No business is successful without people. People need to know what ‘good’ looks like and when they are aligned with the vision and strategy created for the business. Successful owners will build culture and structure into their business as building blocks for future success. These will include policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities; rewards for accelerating success and consequences for deviating from the plan. Planning to invest in people is critical to realizing something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Successful owners always view their employees as their greatest asset.

Implement Support Systems

“If you want to go fast, go it alone. If you want to go far, take others with you.” -African proverb
Successful owners will have multiple support systems in place. These can range from family, mentors, friends, competitors (to make you better), technology enabled processes, and strategic partners to offload work to. These support systems allow the successful owner to focus on their passion and their customers. growing their business and living their life.

Communicate Often

Businesses that survive ten years, or a hundred years, had the ability to communicate their vision and plan in a way that resonated with their clients and the world around them. They became recognized for who they were. How many times have you used a Kleenex that was not made by Kleenex, or a Post-It note that was not a real Post-It note. When you look at the golden arches of McDonalds, how did you know what it meant? Successful companies spend countless hours communicating who they are, what they do, and why they do it.

Having a solid marketing strategy and plan that align with your vision, strategic business plan, and organizational structure allow the world to see you how you want to be seen. Your customers are ever changing. While you were talking, they left the room. You can not call them any longer, you must text them. A marketing strategy (developed with help) keeps you connected with the many dimensions of your clients as they change and evolve over time.


Grow your business. Live your life.

We would love to learn more about you, your passion, what drives you,
and how we can help!