Big-League Customer Advises Bush-League Vendor

Sudden growth is rarely a smooth ride, especially for a boot-strapped venture. Well past their fifth year in business, one small custom manufacturer serendipitous developed a product that met a real need in a niche market populated by industry giants. The vendor’s new customers were used to buying from large, well-managed firms. As a custom manufacturer, this company had the freedom to focus on one customer per product. It wasn’t yet clear to them that they had entered into a phase of development where the signs of professional management would be taken for granted by customers. In this case study, a frustrated customer advises the vendor to learn how to manage their resources to simultaneously (and seamlessly) complete commitments made to past customers and start projects for new customers.

This is one in a series of case studies highlighting “Key Questions and Course-correcting Quotes” taken from 20 years of B2B customer insight projects. All names are fictitious, but the situations are real. Case studies paint a picture of how important it is to learn what your B2B customers think–but aren’t saying. These are real-world examples of how soliciting and acting on customer feedback has helped companies hold onto customers longer, grow relationships bigger and pick up new business faster.

Case study: Your Bootstraps Are Showing

Key Question (asked of a VP–the vendor’s chief contact in a 6-figure relationship):

VP: “This vendor’s president was badly criticized by customers who attended last year’s trade show. He changed how his company prioritizes customer issues. Do they now seem to be on the right track, or are they overlooking a blind spot that’s obvious to you?”

Course-correcting Quote:

“Their president has to get his organizational structure in place and build a senior management team. He has a bandwidth problem. On the one hand, he hasn’t delivered on all his outstanding obligations to his existing customers. On the other, he needs to make enough sales to keep his company afloat. They need to learn not to make contractual commitments for products that take resources away from their existing obligations. Reality for a small company like that is, you have to make the big sale. It takes a lot of discipline to not over-commit. They need to get a better handle on their existing staff’s capacity.”

My Client’s Quandary:

This $7 million vendor had a product that Fortune 50 companies were interested in, but the company was having growing pains. Their founder knew how to design and develop new products, but he didn’t have a lot of management training or experience. His senior managers were two of his buddies with the same technical background and lack of management experience. His company was at risk of being marginalized by a stronger competitor as soon as someone else developed a decent competing product.

More immediately, the president would be facing his customers at an upcoming trade show. He had been badly pilloried a year earlier. Before risking that again, he wanted a customer relationship consultant to conduct deep-dive interviews with his customers and expose the themes and patterns that would clarify which decisions he needed to make.

Conclusion:

Several of his customers gave similar feedback. My recommendation: Acquire experienced outside talent to manage operational and customer-facing functions. He hired the experienced talent he needed, held onto his customers, attracted funding, grew the company to serve additional niche markets, and eventually found a strategic buyer. Honest feedback from his customers helped him find his way and achieve his vision.

I categorize projects as assessments, investigations, treasure hunts or rescue missions. This project was an investigation. The client’s question was “Why are our customers still angry with us?”

Choosing A Chemical Search Engine – 5 Features To Look For

A chemical search engine is of immense use if you regularly need information on chemicals. If your line of work or study involves the use of many chemicals then you will definitely need accurate information on a number of different chemicals. There exist many databases of chemicals that include all relevant data about chemicals; they have search engines which enable you to extract useful information from them. If you have the CAS No. of any particular chemical then you can use the database to identify it correctly and get all available information about it.

Be sure to choose the right chemical database and search engine that has the following features:

1. Comprehensive data: The database should contain all necessary data on every known chemical. It should have high quality information which is indexed correctly and updated very often, and is assembled by a team of scientists. The best databases are recognized by reputed organizations in this field, both in the private and public sector. They can have large numbers of entries divided among organic and inorganic chemicals.

2. Depth of data: CAS records contain a lot of data such as chemical names, formulas, structural diagrams etc. Certain databases give out a lot more information about others and you will have to choose one based upon the depth of data you require.

3. Ease of use: The search engine should enable you to browse the database by category or name, depending on which one is more convenient for you. Similarity searching is also very important. It should also make use of advanced technologies that enable accurate results to be obtained as early as possible.

4. Affordable: Search engines rarely offer data free of charge, especially if the information is of very high quality. However, it’s a good idea to locate one that offers results at reasonably low prices. This will enable you to keep your overall costs down and is a very important factor if you need to use it on a regular basis.

5. Quick: The search engine should be able to provide answers within the shortest possible time, often no more than a few seconds, ensuring that work can proceed with as few interruptions as possible.

Since chemical search engines generally require you to set up an account before you can access the data and charge you for their services, it’s a good idea to do the necessary research before selecting one to use.

Checklist When Buying Industrial Premises for Business Use

Industrial premises are very important because it has various uses. It can be used for storage, manufacturing and for the workplace. It is important that when buying a commercial property to use it for business, it is thoroughly checked. A background check prevents problems in safety and damages. Buying an industrial property may have underlying risks which are often undetected until you’ve purchased the property. Do a thorough check before going through with any sale.

When buying a property the first thing to check is the safety of the environment. Regardless if it is used for storage, manufacturing or office, it must have a building permit. Having a permit means it has passed the standards of safety especially on seismic requirements. These structures are usually large therefore it is heavy. It needs a lot of safety measures installed so that in case of emergency, the safety of employees as well as manufactured products is maintained.

From checking the safety of the place, the accessibility is also very important. When using the place for manufacturing, there should be enough space inside for tractors to move about in transporting materials. This is one way of making operations smooth and ensuring fast delivery time. Having a good road for travel is also important especially if the place is to be used for an office, outlet or manufacturing.

Checking for damages and things to repair is a must. This must clearly be reported by the agent or space owner before the contract of sale is signed. Buyers need to know such to ensure repairs are made before the place is used. Any damages can be unsafe for people working inside and it may potentially disrupt operation.

The space of the place must be enough depending on how it will be used. For instance, if it is a storage place it means there will be transportation of items done. The place therefore should give space for delivery trucks. If the place is to be used for an, office it should allow free movement of employees inside. Otherwise this can be very uncomfortable for people inside and problems and complaints may arise later on.

Be sure to also check that facilities such as lighting and water supply are complete. These are very basic amenities needed in a commercial space. Otherwise if there are problems in access to water and electricity no businessman would ever buy such property.

Does Your Business Have This Kind Of Flexibility?

How much flexibility do you have in your business?

One of the biggest advantages of the Information Marketing business is that it truly is a business you can do from anywhere.

Sometimes things happen and you have to be away from your business for periods of time. Sometimes, events come up that require you to be away unexpectedly… even when you have appointments on my calendar, and it’s great to have the flexibility to be able to go handle situations or to support a family member, and not miss a beat in your business.

And, if you can do that without rescheduling a bunch of things because you can do business with a phone and a laptop. Or an iPad or some other kind of tablet or device like that.

You don’t have to miss coaching and consulting clients calls. Whether you have an information marketing business or you have a brick and mortar business, you should think about whether or not you have your business set up in a way that allows you to do things in your life as they happen and as they come up, that you want to be doing. That’s why you opened your own business, right?

You wanted freedom, You wanted to make more money – or at least have some control over it, you wanted the time freedom and do the things you want to do.

So, if you’re missing out on things with your kids, or things with your spouse or partner because of your business – and it’s happening on a regular basis, you might want to think about how you have things set up in your business.

You don’t need to get a new business, or be in the information business (but it’s a great adjunct and it’s a great lifestyle business). How can you make your business meet your lifestyle?

Have you ever been told you live to work? Most people work to live.

How much flexibility do you currently have in your life and business? How much would you like to have in your life, to be able to do more fun things, to be able to travel, or own another home or buy an RV or jewelry, or more time with your kids?

It doesn’t have to be about things, because in the long run, it’s not the things that are important, it’s the time that you get and the time freedom you have.

What to Remember When Choosing Office Chairs

Posture is very important because it allows our spine to be aligned properly. When there is a problem with our posture a lot of things can happen. Poor posture may cause misalignment of the spinal cord which in turn can lead to several problems like osteoporosis, headache, stiff neck, back pains, and it can even lower down confidence. This is why it is important to carefully practice good posture and use tools that will allow you to have continuous good posture. For instance, choice of seat is important to ensure you maintain good posture practice.

If you work in an office, you’ll most probably be seated the whole day except for the occasional bathroom break or during your lunch break. If this is the case, you need to ensure you have a good seat so you are seated comfortably all throughout the day. An orthopaedic office chair will definitely help your back during the long hours in the office as it is specially designed to meet your postural needs. This chair has the right measurement to ensure you are not just maintaining the right posture but you are comfortable at work as well.

Good orthopaedic office chairs are usually 16 to 21 inches from the floor. Making sure of this height is essential because this allows your feet to be planted firmly flat on the floor. There should be 2 to 4 inches space between your knees and the back of your chair when you sit down. This allows free movement and comfort. It is essential to always be comfortable while sitting down the whole day so you will not experience any body pains and you can complete your tasks without discomfort.

The most important thing to ensure when choosing and orthopaedic chair is its lumbar support quality. This will allow not only comfort but ensure you lumbar area will not be stressed since it will be supporting your upper body weight the whole day while you are seated. Adding support and comfort to lumbar area will prevent any postural problems and discomfort. Strain on your spinal cord may also cause slipped disk or dislocation which can be very painful and will cause greater problems when it impedes veins in the spinal column. It helps if there is good cushion on the chair for maximum comfort. Foams too soft are not ideal. Having a firm padding made up of breathable cloth can be comfortable at the same time while ensuring good postural alignment.

Procurement Skills: 9 Steps to Boost Your Persuasion Skills Through Improved Presentations

Presentations are an inherent part of today’s workplace… business presentations, public speaking and general communication. All involve formal and informal levels and ultimately impact your career progression. So here is a 9 step process for how you can improve your persuasion skills and so become a more effective persuader.

  1. Understand the issues faced by your audience. It is often said that a busy person (and who isn’t busy these days?) can only deal with 5 topics at any one time. If you are going to get air time with busy people you need to make a connection from the very beginning with what is currently on their mind. So you need to link the subject matter of your presentation to one of these key items which means you need to research your audience.
  2. Decide what kind of presentation it is. Is your presentation a pitch for something (such as resources for a project, agreement to go ahead with something or even a pay rise), is it informing the audience or is it to build goodwill (for example at a supplier event)? Is it a formal presentation in front of many people, an informal presentation to a few or even a one-to-one conversation with someone?
  3. Decide your objectives. What is it you want as a result of the presentation? Do you want people to leave feeling enthused for your project? Do you want commitment to give your project money? You need to decide what you want before you design your presentation.
  4. Create a “hook”. This is a vital part of your presentation. You need to grab your audience’s attention from the very beginning. For example, Robert Cialdini has found that the most absorbing presentations and articles start with a mystery. The presentation then engages the audience as they unravel the mystery together.
  5. Create your memorable opening. This is closely linked to the hook. In their book “Made to Stick” Chip and Dan Heath tell the story of someone pitching to venture capitalists for investment in developing a new laptop computer. He started by throwing onto the table a plastic folder and declaring that this was his new laptop. Clearly it wasn’t but it started a discussion about how a laptop could be made so thin and small.
  6. Craft your action focused ending. Too many presentations follow the formula “tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you have told them”. This might work if your objective is to inform the audience. For every other type of presentation it is insufficient. What you want is action of some kind so finish with what you want them to do – a “takeaway” list of actions.
  7. Use graphics for impact. Most people respond better to images than to text. Think about all of the slide shows you have had to sit through that are crammed full of text and bullet points. Images have more impact as long as they are relevant to the topic and are unique. Avoid stock photographs that bear no relation to the point you are trying to get across.
  8. Pull it all together into a coherent story. Do not underestimate the power of a story. We are conditioned from a very young age to engage with and respond to stories. Don’t get “cute” but do have a story that unfolds with a well-crafted opening, middle and end.
  9. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. As a golfer once told me, amateurs practice until they get it right – professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.

How To Develop A Business Strategy For Your Home Business

It has been found that tested theories and frameworks still form the foundation when developing a strategy for your business. To develop the right strategy for your business you need to do the following things:

Identify a product or service to sell

This is the first step in developing your business strategy. You need to remember that there are thousands of products and services that you can sell; however, for you to compete effectively with other businesses, you should ensure that your product is unique and better than other products in the market.

You need to think for you to come up with a good choice. To be successful in your efforts, you should go for products that you like and you enjoy selling. It’s recommended that you choose a product that you are able to visualize yourself selling it.

Experts recommend that you should be able to see yourself selling the product or service for the next five or 10 years.

For you to settle on the product or service, you should ensure that there is real demand for the product or service at the price that you are interested in charging.

You should also ensure that the demand is high enough for you to make a profit. The demand should be concentrated such that you are able to advertise, sell, and deliver the product at a reasonable expense.

Identify your customers

There is no way your business will be successful if it does not have customers; therefore, you should ensure that you identify the customers who will buy your product or service.

The right customers should have the ability of buying the product at the price that you will be selling at. This means that you should be able to tell whether you will be targeting the poor, middle class, or the rich.

You also need to ensure that the product is valuable to the customer. Here you need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and see whether the product will be of value to you.

Identify how the product will be sold

Once you have identified the right product and the right customers, you should determine how you will sell the product.

You can decide to sell the product by yourself or you can hire other people to do it for you. You also need to determine how you will promote your product or service. Here you can promote using word of mouth, or other ways such as TV, radio, or social media.

Factors to Consider When Making Custom ID Cards

Custom IDs play a very important role in many settings. They could be used to identify people in conferences, used as entry cards in offices and also to reassure employees of their positions in a company.

Traditionally, many companies made their ID cards in the same format, only making very few changes on the names and logos. However, with the modern technology and invocation, it is possible to come up with custom ID cards. These types of cards are easily created using desktop publishing tools, and anyone can create them.

What To Consider When Making Custom Ids

Whether you choose to create the custom IDs on your own or engage a professional company, you must consider the following factors.

– The purpose

A custom ID meant for an event cannot be designed in the same way as the one meant for an employee. The design and the details to include will always differ. For a seminar, you may need to include: the attendant’s name, the name of the event, location of the event, the affiliation of the attendant with the company holding the seminar and the dates.

An employees ID cards should have the name of the employee, their passport sized photo, their department, company logo and their position in a company. Essentially, the details to include in the ID should be dependent on the purpose of the card.

– Size

It is important to consider a sizeable ID card where all the details should fit in, and be legible to everyone. People must never struggle to read what is written on the ID. However, the size should never be too big and cumbersome to the user.

– Tastes and preferences

The graphics and the shapes used to make custom ID cards should be attractive; nobody wants to carry along an ID unattractive. For a company ID, it is important to find the type that reflects the profession and the theme in an office. An employee should feel proud to produce this ID in any place. An event’s ID should also reflect the events’ theme.

– Costs

It is possible to come up with custom ID cards that are affordable, yet of good quality. Many designers offer a discounted rate for bulk ID printing. Still, by printing the IDs on your own, it will be possible to save on some costs. You must however ensure that the paper material used is of good quality, and can last for long- especially when it comes to employee’s IDS.

Printed Pens and Press Releases: Marketing on a Budget

Multi-million marketing budgets probably won’t do a business any harm, but for a small business which is just finding its feet it’s completely unnecessary. There’s plenty of ways of making your modest budget go that bit further, to maximize your potential revenue and ensure that you’re not getting lost in a sea of competitors.

What you need is big budget results on a small budget.

If it works, stick to it

Trial and error isn’t always advisable when it comes to business, but with marketing it often is. Trying lots of different techniques on a small scale will help you clarify which methods work best for your particular industry. Usually these will vary from business to business, but there are lots of more general concepts which can be used in all sorts of industries.

Make sure you inquire how your leads have come across your business. This will help you identify whether your printed pens or your website is working hardest for you. There’s no need to continually trial new, fad marketing styles. These will usually only work for a very short time (and by the time you’ve heard about it, it could well already have run its course).

What we’re saying is don’t write off the traditional physical marketing techniques like brochures and printed pens.

Market for your business

It might sound obvious, but what works for huge brands categorically will not work for your small café in the center of Leeds. Big brands can get away with all sorts that won’t work from small and local businesses.

Keep things simple, and always keep your customers at the front of your mind. Don’t use language which they won’t understand, or try and over-complicate your product or service. Simple, easy to understand concepts sell best because people don’t feel as if you’re trying to manipulate or trick them with language.

If you have several products, produce a brochure for each to keep things very simple.

Promotional marketing

When you attend trade shows or simply when you’re signing contracts, a printed pen is great to have on hand. These are useful resources which all of us will use at least once a day. It means that your key information will always be on hand. If nothing else you should include your logo, your website address, and your telephone number.

Printed pens are incredible value for money, as they have such longevity.

An Effective Dinner For A Home Business Proprietor

When you want to take your client for dining out, make sure that they are considered in the final selection. If they have any allergic reaction, you must allow for them by going to places where they will not be left with a scenario that makes them unpleasant. Showing that you care about their desires can make for a wonderful first impact. It could also be a respectful reaffirmation of why they do business with you to begin with you, which is because you have their best interests at heart.

If you say that you are going to be at the restaurant at a particular time, get there early. If you arrive before they do, you can take the extra time to make it certain that you are not located someone noisy or near a high-traffic area so that you talk business and hear each other without disturbances.

Based upon the restaurant, paying the bill in advance could be a good strategy. If the customer sees the bill, they may feel a little bit nervous about the prices. You could have the staff members run your card and add a tip percentage just before your client arrives or if you can step away mid-meal. This can leave you with the choice to get the check just before you leave or have them mail it to you. These options will all depend on where you eat, though.

As it comes time to order items, keep your intake somewhat balanced with that of your client. This means ordering similar items and eating at an equivalent pace. Follow your client’s lead is the way to go with food orders and with light drinking. Things could get uncomfortable if you finish your plate before they do.

Be well-mannered to wait of staff. If something comes to your table that isn’t that great, do not get upset or abusive towards the staff. Showing condescension and rudeness can show the client that this is how it is to work with you.

Adding some small talk in with the business talk while you eat can help you get to know or reconnect with each other individually. They will be also examining to see if you dominate small talk or if you listen well. Any major business talk is best reserved for the main course where wait staff tend to interrupt less.

Finally, remember the important parts of your dinner and accomplish any requests your client made during the dinner. Nothing will hurt you and your business more than showing that you cannot follow through with promises and requests.

Connecting with clients is essential to a home business, and dinner is one of the best ways to do this. Take the time to make it an enjoyable experience for you both to build a better working relationship.