Why Customer Engagement is Important? Part 1 – Rave Reviews and Rants

Customer engagement has become an important parameter for business success today. In this context, customer engagement is now almost synonymous to customer satisfaction. Customer engagement can happen through both online and offline channels. Positive customer engagement not only boosts your brand’s reputation but can also help drive sales. There are several ways a business interacts with its customers.

Product Review Sections

Customer review sections are some of the most visited sections on e-commerce sites. A product review is like a personal endorsement from a genuine purchaser. New buyers read these reviews for making a decision. The more negative or positive reviews you get the more effect it has on your sales.

Social Media Pages

Buyers also leave reviews on social media brand pages. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become a medium for buyers-seller communication. Popular brands have been engaging with customers on social media for a while now.

Review Aggregators

These independent review sites let people rate their buys and offer advice to new buyers. Users can also rate offline products and services here. For example, TripAdvisor lets users share their experience of hotel stays.

Online Forums

User forums have also become quite popular with first-time buyers. Websites like Quora have become an important source of information for the netizens. Again, these forums are quite useful when you are looking for offline product reviews.

Customer Care

Customer care numbers still get a lot of queries and complaints. Although a bit conventional, this is a more interpersonal medium for customer engagement. Generally, customers can rate their experience through SMS and email questionnaires after the call.

Significance of Rave Reviews and Rants

• The most visible effect of 5-star reviews is that these reviews help drive your sales. The closer you are to a 5-star rating, the more buyers choose your product over the competition. Replying with thank you notes to your customers can further enrich user experience.

• Happy customers not only help improve online sales but can also drive offline sales. Nowadays, social media and word of mouth can spread a customer’s experience like wildfire.

• Unhappy customers can also be a source for driving sales. Timely resolution of user concerns can motivate them to reverse their initial review. This in turn can make a potential buyer confident in trading with you.

• Furthermore, user rants can also be beneficial for your company. Analysing negative reviews can help you understand the ways customers use your products. Based on that you can develop alternative usage scenarios for your product. Also, genuine user concerns can be used as a guide for future product development.

• A good user engagement strategy will also increase brand loyalty. A buyer is more likely to shop for your product if he/she has had a positive experience in the past. Buyers may also look for your brand’s other offerings in such instances.

Concluding thoughts

User experience or UX is fast becoming a key factor in increasing sales/growth for companies. The theory was brought to fore by the late CEO of Apple Inc. – Steve Jobs. The success of Apple all these years later is a testament to the enduring philosophy of UX. Customer engagement forms a large part of UX and is critical for any business’s long-term success.

Got a Growing Sales Team? A CRM can help!

So here’s the thing. Growth of a business and consequently a larger sales team is a potentially positive development. A larger sales team means that more customers are being catered to. At least more clients are wanting to engage with your business which led you to hire more people.

All of this is great. However, what you also need to be mindful of is the management of this customer base. Customer satisfaction and retention is directly related to customer relationships. You would never want the quality of interaction to suffer due to increasing quantity. The solution hence is to turn to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and invest in a good CRM tool.

Why CRM and what will a tool do?

Typically CRM refers to all that businesses do in order to analyze customer data, their patterns, behavior as well as interactions during the entire time or life cycle that the customer is with them. This information is extremely helpful, as it will enable you to formulate strategies and best practices both to be able to give your customers the kind of service required and also to have them stay on with you for longer.

There are a number of CRM systems that are available in the market and it is better for you to do some thorough research before choosing which system you’d like to invest in. However, that being said, most CRM systems are designed to incorporate these features below:

-The CRM system will identify the different points of contact between the customer and your business and then compile this data for analysis. These points of contact could range from anything such as social media handles, telephone, website or email marketing etc.

-There is arguably one feature of a CRM system that is very beneficial for businesses. Whatever data the system collects gets consolidated and reflected into a single database that you as the business owner or your sales team can easily manage and access. Having all of this information in one place helps to get a bird’s eye view of what your customer base is up to and what is it that you need to do to mange them effectively

-A good CRM system can also help with the productivity and efficiency of the sales team. There are options such as marketing automation and contact center automation. These features help in automating certain tasks such as sending out marketing alerts to potential new customers automatically. Options include using a pre-recorded voice system for problem solving and giving out information

-A CRM system also records the various customer interactions and you can use this information to track and evaluate performance as well as the productivity of your sales team. A growing sales team makes it harder to micro manage and this is where the CRM system can step in and make things more effective

CRM systems are very popular with most growing businesses and it would make sense for you to evaluate your needs and invest in one. With a larger team, automation and streamlining of processes not only boosts efficiency but it also leads to much better management of your customer database, something that is critical to your business.

Another plus point and one that is also very important is to be able to track lead generation. A lead that is lost is a conversion opportunity gone down the drain. This is not something that you would like to consistently encounter in your business model. CRM systems help in effective lead tracking and facilitate the process of cultivating a positive customer relationship too.

The point being, a CRM system will eventually be an eventuality. If you want to seamlessly transition into the next level of your business growth plan, it will be helpful to invest in such a system sooner rather than later.

Advertising for SMEs – Do You Need It?

SMEs for the most part are strapped for funds. In fact, because of this, fundraising becomes an almost ongoing activity for entrepreneurs. Given that money is tight, every rupee counts. When accounting for costs, as a small or medium business owner you need to take stock quite carefully and expenditure must be decided based on the ROI. In such a case, advertising costs might seem like an overhead that you can do without.

This, however is not the correct approach. All businesses, whether big or small need to advertise. There is no getting away from it. Advertising is an important tool to build brand loyalty, credibility and a strong customer base. In the case of SMEs, the only thing you need to be mindful about is the tools and methods that you choose. By choosing effective methods of advertising that will work both in terms of cost as well as returns, you can maximize the results and gain a lot out of the exercise.

Here are a few things that can help you get the most out of your advertising efforts:

Hire Professionals: While investing in the services of a full scale advertising agency might seem like a burden, you need to treat this more like an investment. Even if you can’t go to a top-notch agency, make sure that you go to a smaller one that is efficient. Advertising does not magically work on its own. It requires strategy, backed by creative thinking and the ability to position the brand and company in a way that will drive sales. You will need the help of a professional to be able to achieve this.

Research: No advertising campaign should ever be attempted without proper research. You need to know exactly who your target audience is, what is it that they are interested in and how you can best present yourself to them. Research helps to identify consumer persona and it makes a lot of sense to get an idea of what your consumers want or like before you serve anything to them. In fact, more importantly, proper research will help you identify who your customers are. It’s more important to know who to sell your product to, before you get to the how.

Track your advertising: You have to find ways to determine whether the advertising you are doing is working or not. If you are going for traditional methods of advertising such as print and mass media, there are ways to find out whether there has been any spike in sales. Depending on when the ad is put out, you can track the period and link it to any jump in sales that you may experience. If it is online advertising that you are utilizing (as you most probably are, given the times), then you need to understand the tracking metrics of various platforms such as Google AdWords and Facebook to see how your advertising efforts are faring.

When it comes to advertising for SMEs, a lot of efforts are being concentrated on online advertising or digital marketing as it is called. Digital Marketing includes advertising via Search on Google as well as putting in money to boost your Facebook posts and create sponsored ads.

What is important to understand when it comes to online advertising is that conversions actually take time and you need to be patient. Also, targeting the right customers and the right demographics is absolutely crucial. You can get a sense of who your frequent visitors are on your page and this will help you understand the kind of customer group you should be targeting.

Online advertising, if done right, can reap a lot of rewards. In most cases, the returns are not by one-time orders but rather but repeat customers as building up brand loyalty.

Advertising is not optional, whether it is a big, small or medium size business. Make it work for you by being smart about it and reap the rewards.

Read More:

Success Formula for Small Businesses

Warning Signs That State Your Business Is in Big Trouble

 

The GST Game – What Can SMEs Do to Stay Ahead?

With GST having become a reality now, every business and service provider is dealing with its ramifications, the good ones as well as the bad ones. As a business owner, no matter what you think of GST, India’s biggest tax reform is here to stay. In case you are looking for how dual GST works or want to have a general idea about GST, please click here to read the previous article.

In such a scenario, compliance is no longer a choice but a mandatory requirement. As a small business owner, it is helpful to understand what needs to be done to stay ahead of the curve.

Managing Your Working Capital:

Inability to generate and consequently not being able to manage working capital effectively leads to slowdown in growth for many small businesses. GST affects working capital as well. The trick is for you to understand how and then also to find a way to use the same to your advantage.

Earlier, there was a limit to what the business owner could claim as credit, especially for money that was spent on overheads. Under GST, this concept of input tax credit has been broadened. So, now you can claim input tax credit on all tax paid for services used for furthering of business. Thus, cost of operation will go down and margins will increase. The bottom line, you will need to understand input tax credit quite well.

Digitization:

One of the biggest changes under GST is that the process of taxation and compliance has been made online. Given that invoice matching is critical to GST, investment in technology as well as capacity of staff are things that you will need to invest in big time. In addition to this, you can also look at purchasing some compliance software that will make the task of filing much easier.

Deeper understanding:

To play the game well and stay ahead, you need to invest time and get involved to fully understand the implication of GST and how it will affect your business. Rules of compliance should be thoroughly considered and all required transitions should be expedited. It will make sense for you to get a good tax consultant on board who can offer advice and complete transition of any sort of implications under the new guideline.

Competition:

The GST game, as we are calling it, will open a world of opportunities for you as a small business owner. It will allow you to play on the same field and market along with much bigger businesses. By the opening of this platform you will be able to compete with the big boys. One of the rules to stay ahead in the same thus, would be to bring out your most dynamic strategies and leverage the competition to your advantage, the best that you can.

When it comes to the overall effect of GST on small businesses, there are both pros and cons. As a business owner while it will be easier for you to start a new business with better and more streamlined logistics as well as faster delivery of services, there is also the downside of compliance costs going up.

Given that the tax reform has only just come into implementation, whether the effects of it are going to be more positive or negative remains to be seen. Your business needs to be GST ready and that is a reality. There are steps that you can take to ensure that you are optimizing the benefits and navigating the challenges effectively. Other than that, the larger overall scoreboard of this GST game is yet to come to the fore.

The Ultimate Guide To Grow Your Business Online

The Ultimate Tips To Grow Your Business Online:

Given the economic climate, for any business intending to grow to its maximum potential, there is no shying away for exploring the online space. In fact, as a small business owner what is important and critical for you to understand is that optimizing your business on the web is no longer a choice that you can contemplate making or not making. It’s actually a necessity and a reasonable amount of time and resources need to be diverted for this.

The big question however is- how do you get the best returns on your investment and what is it that you can do to make sure you are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding new ways of growing your business online?

Here is the best practices guide to help you navigate this space effectively:

Build your online presence:

The first step for you is to evaluate your online presence. What we really mean by this is that “being online” can mean number of things. A lot of people confuse online with just social media. Do not make that mistake. Your online presence quite literally consists of a combined effect of all the different avenues available to you. This usually consists of your website, all the social media handles that you are on and tools like email marketing that you can employ. A complete overview of your online presence and an in-depth strategy on how the different platforms are going to be connected to each other is a must.

Think about mobile:

With over 300 million people in India accessing the internet via their mobile phone, you need to make sure that your mobile strategy is well thought out. For this to happen, your site needs to be mobile savvy and you need to work on that. Invest in building a mobile site that is nicely accessible on smartphones and also rich in content. Search engines consider mobile friendliness as an important factor when they rank your site. It is important to keep this in mind as, if you are not able to do this, you will lose online visibility and this will affect your online growth immensely.

Engage on social media:

We cannot emphasize this point enough. Using social media for business can be tricky but if played well can reap very high rewards. Remember, you can use your social media handles as the voice of your business. Whatever you want to convey about your business, your products and services can be done via these platforms. You can use these handles to talk to your customers and this will keep them engaged. In addition, your customers will get to understand your brand better and this usually leads to a more personal connect and builds loyalty. One way to sustain this engagement is to remember that your handles should not become cluttered with information just about your business and promotions. Create a content calendar that has space for sharing information about the industry, storytelling and giving your followers a chance to interact with you and your business directly. Focus on authentic and creative ways to hook your followers.

Social Media Marketing:

In the present web scenario, there is no running away for online marketing. Most platforms expect you to invest some money in online advertising and it’s only with that that they will give you the outreach that you desire. The good news however is that if you are able to invest smartly, you can get very good returns on this money and you’re the visibility of your business can really grow online. For this to happen you need to make sure that target audience is chosen well, the posts that you are going to promote are picked after some research and thinking and also make the best of what each platform has to offer in terms of advertising. Other than this, regular SEO for your website is a must and reaching out to customers and keeping them informed consistently via e-mailers is very important.

While it doesn’t end with these four, given the expanse of the web, even investing and getting these right as basics can help kick-start online growth, something that can then be built on consistently.

Business Loan Apply Online

Keeping your Company’s Cash Flow Happy – Debugging Budgeting!

Keeping your Company’s Cash Flow Happy

Does cash flow translate to revenue? Certainly not. Deteriorating revenue with a robust cash flow is not going to be a saving grace for a failing company, but a good cash flow plan in a relatively stable business can work wonders. The important thing to note here is that cash flow deals with actual cash, as in payments received from the customers. 

So, what is Cash Flow Actually?

Money enters the company through sales, investments, etc. and exits the system through operations, investments, taxes, processes and the like. The record of this incoming and outgoing money comprises the detailed cash flow statement. Cash flow is indeed a crucial factor in any company’s finances, but not the totality of it. What methods need to be implemented depend upon the capabilities, strength and weaknesses of each method, in the light of the proposition that is offered by cash flow.

Understanding the Cash Flow Statement

The complete financial statement of any company, is made up of the balance sheet, the income statement and the cash flow statement. The income statement of a company depicts the profitability over the course of a financial year. The balance sheet details assets and liabilities of the company. The cash flow statement can clearly depict the working capital requirement of your company. In other words, the operating funds needed by your business to run efficiently. Keeping a close watch on the cash flow statement can help you regulate the funds required to keep your business running steadily. Here are some helpful tips that might aid you in better cash flow management in your business.

Understanding and Analyzing the Monthly Bank Statement

The bank statement is not just a ready reckoner for the funds that you have left at the end of the month. You will need to compare the balance you have in the beginning of the month with the balance at the end of the month. There might be instances wherein you haven’t made any purchases in a month towards restocking your inventory or spending on expanding your business, and that might make the month end balance more than the month’s beginning figure. That will not be an accurate measure of how your business is doing. On any average month, where you have regular spends and income, the ratio between the opening and closing monthly balance will be a good yardstick to measure your cash flow amount. In short, cash flow adds together the monthly accumulation of profit, accounts receivable & payable and change in the inventory.

Cash Flow Budgeting

If the cash outflows of your company are more than the inflows, it should be addressed on an immediate basis.

Ascertain Cash Inflow (Receipts)

As soon as goods and services are sold, they should be recorded immediately. Expenses occurring at the same time should be considered as well. Always keep in mind the profit and loss budget while deciding on the cash receipts of the month.

Ascertain Cash Outflows (Expenses)

Salaries, rent of the office/warehouse location, telephone bills, electricity bills, including management costs of the inventory, operational costs, spends on different departments and expenses incurred in execution make up your cash outflows.

Forecasting Cash Flow

Forecasting in any sense always includes careful observation. If you have kept track of the previous two points for quite some time and have a good grip on what your fixed expenses are, this might not be as difficult. At the same time, you will also come to realize the problem areas which affect your cash flow. There might be a few business units or customer segments that turn in the cash receivables at odd intervals or have irregularities in payments. You can then focus primarily on these points and act accordingly to normalize your cash flow.

Collecting Account Receivables Faster

Online, e-wallet, credit card payments if introduced into the business can make cash inflows from your customers a lot faster and boost cash flow for your company. Getting authorized for any of these services is much easier day by day. With a valid company registration certificate or even a current account statement from your bank, you can be set up with a decent e-payment option.

Planning the Flow of Inventory

Timing your inventory restocking with cash inflows is an effective way to protect your operating funds from being depleted. It also reduces the complications of calculating and tallies the incoming and outgoing cash at the same time instead of putting it off for later. Being mindful of the sales cycle helps. All being said and done, we would advise you to move to a digital cum physical bookkeeping if you haven’t already. Google Spreadsheets are a great way to start. If you already have a hang of operating spreadsheets, try out some free accounting software that is available for small business. You don’t necessarily have to invest a lot in a professional software. Cash flow deals with your company’s working capital and there are times when you might need some additional funds. Did you know that Lendingkart Finance offers working capital loans exclusively for small businesses? Want to know what you should keep in mind before applying for a working capital loan? Small Business Loans – Why and Why Not explains that in detail.

6 Amazing Ways to Execute Ideas for Small Businesses

Idea is the core of every business. As somebody who is either interested in starting a new business or is already on that journey and now looking for growth, you are meant to know that, right? What you might know however is that sometimes even the best ideas fail due to the inability of the business owner to execute them properly.

The idea is like a seed and execution is the solid base that helps that seed grow and flourish. It is very important to understand that good execution requires some thinking and coming up with a proper strategy. Moving from the idea stage to the implementation stage can be challenging, especially for first timers. You have a lot to think about, and the ‘how’ piece needs to be broken down to create a plan that not only does justice to the original idea but also creates a solid foundation for a business that can be then taken to the next level.

Here we give you some guidance on six great ways to execute ideas that are going to be helpful:

Spend enough time thinking: Good ideas need time and nurturing before turning them into reality. As a potential entrepreneur, you need to spend enough time in processing the idea for your business and then some more in understanding and developing the strategy for execution. The temptation to run off and launch a fresh idea can be high but it’s important to remember that some breathing time needs to be given before locking down and closing on the final.

Do a lot of research: While you might want to believe that your idea is one of a kind and never been thought before (which it might be, no denying that), it helps to do some research before and during the execution stage, whether someone else has done something similar and learn from their experiences. More importantly, it helps to have a bunch of advisors who can help you with learning from their own experiences. As a new entrepreneur, it pays to be humble. That being said, use your discretion when taking feedback and be smart about what you want to utilize and what you want to leave.

Performance tracking: Don’t be overconfident about your idea. One rule of good execution is to constantly look for improvements and find ways to get better from where you started off. Track your performance and find ways to measure your results so that you are able to use that data and find ways to improve on your existing business model. This is helpful also from growth point of view. Knowing how you are doing in your current business state will help you in taking decisions about where you want to take the business next.

Work on a good pitch: It is extremely critical to have a proper business plan. What you want to do is to have other people believe in your vision and being able to sell your vision well is very important for converting an idea to reality. For an idea to be executed, outside support holds a reasonable amount of value. The belief of your investors and customers is key and being able to simplify your vision and get them to see the big picture and how it is connected to profitability and growth adds power to the execution plan.

Solid communication and teamwork: No idea can ever be implemented by one person alone, no matter how robust and foolproof it is. One way to be able to roll out and master the process of execution is to build a team that believes in the idea passionately and feels ownership of it. In addition to that, you need a rock-solid communication strategy. Then, you are on good grounds for conversion of something that is just on paper into something that is real and tangible.

Use technology: This might seem like something very obvious but you will be surprised at the number of entrepreneurs who undermine the power of tech when rolling out and implementing the business idea. Tech should not support, ideally technology should lead and help optimize the business roll out plan. Find the best technology tools that’s suitable for the execution of your idea and use them effectively. This not only will lead to smoother execution but also give you an insight on how to innovate and improve.

While the idea is a start, there is a lot that goes into making it come alive. These guidelines above can help you get the best out of your idea and turn it into a profitable business.

Related posts:

Business Ideas for Women in India
MSME Registration in India – Process and Benefits
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11 Important Things Your Competition Can Teach You About Finance

Competition is the bane and blessing for every business owner. As a business owner you need to keep an eye out for what your competition is doing. This is the ground rule and needs to be followed. In principal, keeping a track of others who are in the same business as you whether it’s for their marketing tactics, their communication, their growth rate and numbers or their new product or service announcements is all part of the game.

The question you might ask is- why do you need to do this?

Here’s why. To learn from the successes and even failings of your competition is smart. Others might be in different development stages than you are and already employing tactics that you intend to explore. Knowing how things are working for them helps you to plan and execute better. Plus, they might be doing some things right. It’s good to adapt and use those solutions for your own business wherever applicable.

For example, let’s take finance. Here are some important things your competition can teach you:

Scale:
As a business already in existence, the next obvious step is to scale up since every business wants to grow. How to use your funds to expand your business is a key question. Given that expanding is a big move you need to put some research in it otherwise things can backfire. This is where you can take a leaf or two from the books of those who have already done it and how it worked.

Managing cash flow:
How you manage your finance is very crucial to the success of your business. Plus, this is a basic requirement for future loan applications. Try to find out from your competition on how to best manage cash flow and learn from them to do this more effectively.

Allocation of money:
How to allocate your existing funds and where to put how much is a big part of business decisions. Those in the same business as you might have understood this well and being able to lay your hands on that strategy can benefit you immensely.

Brand building:
Brand building is very important. How your competition is using their money for communication and advertising is something that you need to learn from all the time. Especially from the ones who are getting it right.

Raising money:
A business needs capital all the time, whether it’s yours or theirs. Some people are more skilled at raising it than others. Keep an eye out for others in the same business as you and incorporate methods that they are employing to get funds and see if you can adapt those methods for your own business. When it comes to small business working capital loans, we at Lendingkart, are always ready to help.

Strong base:
As a small business while growth is important, being able to have a strong base is extremely critical too. If a business grows continually but does not spend some time is deepening its roots, then this can lead to cracks that can pose big issues if left unattended. How your competitors are using their financial resources to consolidate and deepen their roots can help you understand how to do the same with yours.

New Ideas:
No business can grow without new ideas and innovation. How your competitors are using their money to encourage and build on new ideas is something that you can learn a lot from. It is also a very effective use of your money.

Accounting:
Learn from your competitors on how to measure results and profits. A robust and dynamic accounting system can help you reach a good benchmark. Getting this right is very important. Clear financial records are a must and no financial decision can be fruitful without paying attention to numbers.

Prepare for lows:
Every business goes through lows and a part of managing your funds properly is directly linked to being able to survive the challenging times. Understanding how your competition is preparing for such scenarios is very helpful for you to be able to do the same. A competitor who may have successfully managed their financial situation can offer ready solutions but what is important to consider is that another one who might not have done that well will also have some lessons to impart. Don’t ignore those lessons.

Tax:
Another key area directly related to finance is tax liability and how to manage your funds effectively to make sure you do not accumulate a lot of it. Find out which of your competitors is getting this right and see if you can use some of their processes and practices in your own dealings.

Return on Investment:
How your competition measures return on investment can inform your own financial decision making into a more productive space. Learn from their strategies and assess their gains to see how you can maximize our own.

Learning from your competition can be a mix of do’s and dont’s. The idea is to keep your eyes open and recognize the opportunity to learn. Then feed that learning back into your own business for better results.