1. Launch a brand ambassador program. Activate your loyal customer base by turning them into your biggest advocates with a brand ambassador program, writes OPEN Forum contributor Gini Dietrich. "You can use a brand ambassador program to promote a new product, build excitement for a legacy service or help you sell existing products and services." (From "How to Turn Loyal Customers into Brand Ambassadors," by Gini Dietrich)
2. Amplify your brand with scent. "Scent branding" is the newest way brands and companies are trying to stand apart from their competitors. As people sense smells first and send that information to their brains to trigger associations and memories, some marketers think it's a great way to connect emotionally with consumers. Science has already proven this connection exists, and businesses are cashing in already, writes small-business expert Barry Moltz. "A Canadian book publisher, Oblonsky Editions, used car air fresheners as a promotional item for its new book, Bay Street," he writes. "It placed these air fresheners on windshields of high-end vehicles parked in Toronto’s financial district, and saw a sharp increase in website traffic." (From "Is Scent Branding the Next Hot Marketing Trend?" by Barry Moltz)
3. Bring your online and offline retail technology together. Customers want a seamless experience when shopping at your company's brick-and-mortar store or on your website. The first step in doing this is by integrating your e-commerce technology with your point-of-sale system. One tool that can be of help to small-business owners is the Shopify POS system, which "integrates every major aspect of modern retail by providing inventory management, a DIY online store creator, built-in payment processing, analytics and a complete physical POS system that syncs with all these online tools," writes AudienceBloom CEO Jayson DeMers. (From "3 Steps to Unify Your Online and Offline Stores," by Jayson DeMers)
4. Raise your prices already. If you're keeping an eye out on your competitors both big and small, the writing has been on the wall for some time now: Everyone is raising their prices. And you should follow suit if you know what's good for you, writes small-business expert Grant Cardone. "Most small businesses stay small because they refuse to raise prices until they're forced to," he explains. "This results in profit margins that continue to get squeezed while your cost of doing business only gets higher. This leaves you stuck in the middle, without the funds you need to expand, advertise, hire or reinvest." (From "Why It's Time to Raise Your Prices," by Grant Cardone)
5. Offer to speak on a conference panel. Conferences can sometimes cost more than their worth. Offset the cost of attendance by offering to speak on a panel or give a presentation at the conference of your choosing. Many times conference participants get free or discounted admission for their presence. (From "The Ultimate Guide to Making the Most of Business Conferences," by Kelly Spors)
6. Expand your team on a commission basis. If your business has been stuck in the no-man's land of stagnant growth for some time, it's important to try to drum up new opportunities with your sales team. But how do you build a team without money coming in? Bring sales people in on a commission basis, advises Ian Aronovich, co-founder and CEO of GovernmentAuctions.org. "The right salesperson can excel in such a role, and you don’t have to pay anything until they've landed a sale," writes OPEN Forum contributor Angela Stringfellow. "That means you don't have to worry about whether you’ll make payroll." (From "6 Ways to Free Your Business From Stagnation ," by Angela Stringfellow)
7. Avoid overplanning your next event. Richard Saul Wurman, the father of the world-renowned TED conference, "believes his events stood out largely because most of them were unrehearsed, unplanned, unedited and unscripted," writes OPEN Forum contributor Brian Moran. "He recorded every talk that speakers gave at each of the TED conferences, and what you see on videotape is exactly how it happened live. That, according to Wurman, was the real magic behind TED. (From "TED Founder Reveals How You Can Create a Memorable Event," by Brian Moran)
8. Start from scratch when developing a new product. If the way your company communicates with each other is broken, how can you truly create innovative solutions and products your customers will actually want to buy from you? Matthijs Keij, the CEO of FlxOne, said that his team started at square one when they were figuring out how to scale their business. "We didn’t try to fix a broken system," Keij writes.
More than knowing what was wrong, we needed to know what clients cared about. So we asked them. This query allowed us to think of solutions rather than focus on problems." (From "7 Steps to Develop an Amazing Product Your Customers Want," by Matthijs Keij)
9. Create a system for complaints. While attracting new clients and customers to your business is important, it matters even more to keep your existing customers loyal and happy to improve your bottom line. Let their voices be heard by offering a clear way for them to share their issues with your business. It offers an opportunity for you to learn how to serve your customers better and a chance to retain that customer before they can find another business they feel can better serve them. (From "5 Customer Retention Strategies to Boost Profits," by Charles Gaudet)
10. Keep your work groups small. Your Generation Y employees want to feel as though their contributions matter, and not as if they're just a cog in a big corporate machine. Smaller companies are attractive to millennial workers, but bigger operations can create the culture and feel of this type of environment by keeping work groups to 25 people or less. (From "7 Things Millennials Value Most at Work," by Barry Moltz)
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