Documenting Business Processes

Whether you are a business owner or an employee, you likely use a number of business processes every day. This means going through the same steps for doing specific tasks (i.e. generating reports, processing invoices, communicating with new leads, etc). Business processes are designed to streamline the way you and your team work. Putting business processes in place and following a set of thought out steps is helpful when training new employees, and will also result in fewer errors, less duplicated work, and overall efficiency and satisfaction for employees and customers. With so many tasks at hand you’ve probably also experienced the results of inefficient processes, which can wreak havoc on a business, its employees and its customers. For that reason, it is important to regularly review business processes and make improvements when they are not working well.   Follow these steps for documenting and reviewing your business processes:   1. Map the process First you have to write everything down. Document each step of the task. A flowchart is helpful for this because it allows you to see the steps visually. It’s important think about the details of each phase and to include every sub task, even the minor ones. You may also want to consult your staff who regularly use the process to make sure nothing is left out.   2. Analyze the process Use your map or flowchart to pinpoint potential problems in the system. Think about these questions: Which steps might cause frustration from employees or customers? Do any steps create a bottleneck and/or delays? Which steps require the most amount of time? Where can...

Setting Goals and Getting Organized for the New Year

The beginning of a new year marks a fresh start. In addition to setting goals for myself for the year ahead, which I prefer over the term “resolutions” that seem to fail after a month or two, I always get the urge to clean and re-organize, purging my house of unnecessary items and bringing back a sense of order after the chaos of the holidays. The same mentality can be applied to your business! Setting goals that are smart and attainable for your business and decluttering your mind and work space are key to being productive. Here are some guidelines we recommend that will help you set goals and get organized in the new year:   Declutter Tidy up your work space by filing papers and archiving digital documents. Throw away unnecessary clutter (mail, magazines, catalogs, etc) and invest in some organizing bins so you always have a place to put things. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a motto I live by! Starting the year off in a clean, organized space will give you that “fresh start feel” we’re talking about.   Set the bar high (but not too high) Goals should move your business forward but setting realistic goals is critical for success. If your goals are too difficult, you’ll be frustrated when they aren’t met. If they are too easy, your business could go stagnant. To achieve the most, you want to set goals that are high but reachable.   Be specific Setting goals that are specific and in line with the big picture of your business will be more effective than...

Navigating the Slow Season in a Seasonal Business

Depending on where you live, industries like painting and landscaping are seasonal. For many seasonal businesses, moving into the winter months means gearing up for a slower period. As a seasonal business owner you have to carefully plan and budget for the year to make it through your slow season. So what can you do to prepare and how do you keep yourself busy during those months?   Budget, Budget, Budget Financially speaking, businesses have both fixed costs that stay the same throughout the year (rent, insurance, etc.) and variable costs that change depending on the amount of work you’re doing (salaries, materials, etc.). You’ll have to cover your fixed costs, but you should adjust your monthly budget to keep those variable costs down during your slow period. It’s important for you to conserve money and build up a cash reserve during your busy time so you enter the slower season with a cushion. Once work slows down, execute your budget adjustments.   Discounts and Promotions To keep some business moving during your slow season, try offering discounts or promotions to your customers. PEP makes it easy to include a discount on proposals for the materials, the labor cost, or both. Check out this video to learn how!   Focus on Your Business Put extra time to good use during your slow period by catching up on work that is often pushed to the side during the throws of a busy season. Document the processes you use in your business. Give your website need a face-lift. Start a newsletter or blog. Increase your social media presence. Your slow season...

How to Follow-Up On Painting Estimates to Increase Closing Rates

Guest post by Brandon Lewis with The Academy of Professional Painting Contractors.   Apparently, it’s a dirty word… because even painters don’t use it very much. When I ask if they’re doing it regularly, painters are ashamed to admit – they aren’t. It’s embarrassing really… Lest you get offended because your mind is where it shouldn’t be, the “F-Word” I’m taking about is “Follow-Up.” Specifically, follow-up on estimates done in a thorough, proven, and most importantly persuasive manner. This is important for both residential and commercial painting leads. Even large, successful and profitable painting companies can drop the ball here – leaving untold thousands on the table because they “think” they are maximizing their follow-up efforts. If you want your follow-up to be powerful, let me ask you to “Turn Up the T.E.M.P. 3X” on your unconverted estimates using this powerful acronym – T.E.M.P. 3X.   When you turn up the T.E.M.P. 3X, your unconverted leads are contacted using four mediums simultaneously for three rounds of contact at minimum. Please note: From an operational standpoint, I recommend you phone, email, text, and mail in that order… unfortunately P.E.T.M. does not spell anything easy to remember 😉 T is for text: Text message all of your clients because open rates and reply rates are higher for text than email. More people are likely to immediately reply to you after leaving a voicemail.   E is for email: Email your clients because many of them process their personal business out of their email box in their own good time and will get back with you.   M is for mail: Yep! Good,...

What Do Customers Really Want?

Last time we gave you important tips on how to be professional when dealing with customers. Today, we’re going to offer you a little insight to what customers really want from you… It’s probably not what you think! Without customers, your business would fall apart so their experience needs to be a major focus. Acting in a professional manner is top on the list for keeping your customers happy. How you dress, speak and behave are extremely important. While instant gratification has become ubiquitous in today’s world, many people are still choosing quality and experience over fast, cheap service. So give customers more of what they really want!    How to Provide What Customers Really Want…   Communicate quickly, clearly and often. Clear communication ensures you’re always meeting your customers’ expectations. Technology plays a big role in communication today with everything at your fingertips (phone, email and social media, etc). Making yourself constantly available (within reason) is one thing customers really want; many have expressed it as being important when choosing one business over another. We’ve talked about how PEP can help with automating your email communication but setting up an automated chat function on your website is another way to stay in touch with customers during “off hours.” You can also set alerts on your phone when a customer asks a question (via email or social media) to help respond quickly. Choose quality over speed. While efficiency is something your business should strive for, delivering a quality product or service will ultimately please your customers the most. Skimping on quality in the beginning will make it harder to deliver down...

Be Professional: Tips for Making a Good Impression

Working in the service industry, it is important for you to be professional when dealing with clients. That not only means looking clean and put together but also refers to how you communicate and manage your time. The classic line of “we’ll be there between 10AM and 4PM” may work in some industries but do customers really like waiting around all day? And what if the service person arrives with dirty clothes, disheveled hair, isn’t knowledgeable about the work, and uses more slang than real words? Would you take them seriously? We are here to help you be professional with tips on making a good impression.   Dress the Part Your clothing should be appropriate for the work you are doing. Are you going into a home to make an estimate? Will you be painting or doing any physical labor? Your clothes and shoes should be comfortable, clean, and free of holes. Uniforms or business branded shirts are always helpful but when in doubt, dress conservatively; nothing too trendy, too tight, or too revealing.   Be On Time and  Prepared Arrive to appointments on time and ready to work. No matter how you feel, you need to show interest and enthusiasm. Make sure to have all your supplies and equipment ready to go. Act business-like at all time both on-site and in the office. If you are in a client’s home, be mindful and respectful of their things. No smoking, eating or drinking on the job.   Behavior To be professional you want to act friendly but not be over-familiar with your clients. You don’t want to be super...

Long-term Email Campaigns

Email marketing is a powerful tool for customer retention because it keeps your business front and center. Many small business owners underestimate the value of automated long-term email campaigns as a way of staying connected to leads and customers. A while back we talked about how to create successful email campaigns and the benefits of setting up a drip email campaign to help you automatically follow up with your customers. Want to motivate new business? Encourage repeat business? Delight your customers? Use email marketing! 4 long-term email campaigns you should consider: Email Nurture Series These emails offer helpful information to new leads about the products or service you provide. They also contain industry knowledge, which adds value without the need for running a promotion or discount. The ultimate goal here is to encourage leads to convert to paying customers. We suggest sending 1 email per week. Educate your leads. Teach them about your specific products, services, and share relevant industry knowledge. Help leads get to know your business. Expand on your story and what makes you unique. Embrace storytelling. Testimonials from satisfied customers are a great tool to get new customers to choose you over your competition. New Customer Email Series Once a customer has chosen your business for the job, the next steps are crucial to how your relationship will develop. Send a welcome email (immediately). You are now welcoming a new customer into your business’s family. Tell them more specifics about your products or services and what to expect next. Schedule job-related work and appointments (same day). Talk about the timeline of the work and get new jobs on...

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a powerful and inexpensive way for businesses (large and small) to reach customers. Most likely, your customers are already interacting with brands through social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest. Utilizing social media outlets will help increase traffic to your website, raise brand awareness, build conversations and improve interaction and communication with your customers.   Social Media Marketing for Your Business – Keep this in Mind: Not all social media sites are created equal. The use and feel of each platform can be very different. Research which social media sites your customers use most then make your presence on those sites.    Facebook A casual environment where people go to relax and chat with friends. Keep the tone light and friendly.    Instagram The number one social media site for sharing photos. Great for promoting your business in a friendly and authentic way without directly selling to your customers.    Twitter Lets you broadcast your updates across the web. Follow other tweeters in your industry or related fields to help you gain your own stream of followers!    LinkedIn A more professional site that is great for employee networking, sharing content with people in similar industries and posting jobs.    YouTube The number one place for creating and sharing video content. Focus on making useful, instructive “how-to” videos for your customers to view.    Pinterest One of the fastest growing social media trends. It’s eye-catching and image-centered with a primarily female audience.   Post regularly to keep customers interested and engaged. This will also help build brand awareness. Post about recent projects,...

Market Your Business on a Small Budget

To get customers you have to market your business. There is just no way around it. Enlisting the help from a marketing firm is one option but if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you need to find creative and inexpensive ways to get your brand out there. Here are some inexpensive ideas to market your business you can do yourself! Social Media Almost everyone is on social media and your business should be too! Post regularly to keep customers interested and engaged. This will also help build brand awareness. Some social media sites allow users to leave reviews so encourage customers to share their experience on your profile. Website Every business (big or small) needs a website! Your mission should be clear and include (at least) basic information about your products or services. Your contact info, location and hours should be easy to find and you may also want to include customer testimonials, a blog, and your social media links. The most effective websites utilize SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which in basic terms means the process of making your website pages appear in a search engine’s unpaid results. Click here for more information on SEO. Business Partnerships Another inexpensive way to market your business is to team up with other local businesses to promote each other’s work. Create partnerships that make sense. For example, if you’re a painter, try partnering with a paint provider. Yesterday I saw a commercial on tv promoting 1-year of free pizza with a purchase of a new mattress… Does that seem like an odd partnership or what?! Today, I passed a gas...

Why Your Emails Need an Unsubscribe or Opt-Out Option

Have you ever signed up for emails about something you were interested in at the time, but aren’t interested in now? If so, then you will understand the value of an unsubscribe or opt-out option. A couple years ago I was shopping for a new washer and dryer, so I subscribed to several email lists. One contained consumer reviews, a couple more were for special offers from stores. The reviews were helpful and I used a special sale email to get the best deal. But now, 2 years later, I’m no longer shopping for appliances.  The emails are no longer relevant and I don’t care to read them.   Make it easy for your readers to unsubscribe or opt-out from your emails. This is necessary to prevent recipient frustration and SPAM reports.   Of course you don’t want people to unsubscribe from your email communications. The idea is to grow your email list to reach more and more people, expanding your business, right? While that is the ultimate goal, the process is not always straightforward. The most effective email lists aren’t necessarily the largest. The most effective lists contain readers who are interested in the information you send them. If a reader doesn’t need your product or service, they aren’t likely to give you any business. Worse than that, they may get tired of receiving your emails and label it as SPAM. In email, as in life, reputation is everything. Every time someone reports your email as SPAM, your email reputation takes a hit. For this reason, it is important to make it easy for readers to unsubscribe or opt-out...