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How to take a look back on this years business.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 @ 09:53 AM

I wrote this blog post four years ago but I thought I should bring it out again with a little up dating as well.


Here are ways to look back at the end of the year and set up to do in the new year to focus on the positive and hopefully change any negatives to make your next year even more merry and bright.


1. During the year, monthly, or even weekly if you have time, record your progress for that time period. At the end of the year, you’ll be able to look back and see how much you really have accomplished. If you did not do that this year it is not too late to get out the appointment book or job accounting records, take a look at your email account and take a trip down memory lane. Keep lists of the following:

• all the new contacts you’ve made in person;
• all the one-on-one email, Facebook or similar B2B contacts you’ve made;
• any networking events, lunches, meetings you’ve attended and the benefit you got from them;
• press releases you published or any free publicity you’ve received;
• any classes you’ve taken to further your business, and how they improved your business plan;
• any recognition, award or nomination you’ve received;
• new clients you’ve gotten this year and how much they financially impacted your bottom line;
• volunteer projects you’ve taken on;
• how many referrals did your referral program bring you;
• potential clients who’ve shown an interest in you that you can revisit this next year;
• creation or improvements of your web site, social media, business cards and other marketing materials.


2. Join a Business Success Team. These weekly group meetings with other small business owners are great for sharing ideas and the agenda often requires participants to report what they’ve done the past week and set a new goal for the following week. This is great incentive to do what you said you would. Not all “B&I” groups are the same so find one that fits your marketing style and has members you think you can learn from.


3. Ask clients for feedback on the work you’ve done for them. Get verbal testimonials over the phone, in writing is best and if possible shoot B&A video of jobs with the customer’s reaction after work in finished. Photo B&A will work too.


4. Keep an e-mail folder where you keep testimonials and any positive feedback you’ve received for something you’ve done. Add these monthly to your web site, Pinterest board, or as footnotes to your e-mails.


5. Call up a friend, networking buddy or another entrepreneur and go for coffee. Getting out of the office and sharing similar concerns with a like-minded person is a great morale booster and problem solving activity. Knowing you are not the only one in the same boat or that has faced the same difficulty leaves you feeling better and hopefully with a solution or possitive outlook.


6. Finally make your self a list of how you can use these positive things to promote and make your business better in the next year.


Happy Holiday and Happy New Year to you all.

Tags: analysis, Best Management Practices, business plan, End of Year

Mid Year is Here!

Posted by Linda Chambers on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 @ 02:02 PM

Well the Summer Solstice has just come and gone so this means half the year is already pasted us by. What have you accomplished in your business and what is still on your to do list that you haven't even started?

It is not too late to begin even some major business projects that will still add to this years bottom line. And do not let this busy time of year stop you from doing a fast 30 minute evaluation.

Get out our business plan, your business calendar, your to do list and any of the other helpers you have made to use as a method to gauge your progress so far.

Print out a year to date comparison from your accounting software like Quickbooks and see how you are doing. This is something you should already be doing every month. Are you ahead of last year, or the year before, are you where you projected you needed to be?

With these tools go over the positives and negatives and use them to change or update your business plan for the upcoming six months.

Are you doing the necessary social media connections that you should be doing to bring in new organic business? Not enough time, then try to delegate some or all of these tasks.

Is your referral program bringing you the number of jobs you planned so far? If not how can you improve it or expand it?

Are you noticing too many of our quoted jobs are going to your competition?

Is your pricing structure not giving you the profit you need?

If you need to review some of our past blog posts to create the tools you should be using here are some to check out:

What is a business plan. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/102796/What-really-is-a-Business-Plan-and-Why-should-I-make-one

Building Success in 20 min's a day. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/92822/Building-Success-in-Twenty-Minutes-a-Day

How to monitor your Social Media Footprint. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/71888/How-to-monitor-your-Social-Media-Footprint-in-10-minutes-a-day

Referral Programs, why they work. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/63253/Referral-Programs-Why-they-work

How to use and analysis a referral program. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/79408/How-to-use-and-analysis-a-referral-program

Competitor Comparison to see where you stand. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/78895/Competitor-Comparison

How to avoid pricing mistakes. http://info.soapwarehouse.biz/blog-0/bid/60013/How-to-avoid-pricing-mistakes

I hope this year has been a good one for you so far and if not I hope some of these ideas will help you make improvements. Have a great day.

Tags: business plan, referral program, analysis

Happy Holidays from Soap Warehouse

Posted by Trey Miller on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 @ 02:07 PM

Happy Holidays to you all. Hope you all had a profitable year and we look forward to working with you in the New Year. 

Now for many this is the start of your slow time or winter break and you may think you have nothing much to do but sit around and wait for the temps to get warm again next Spring. Well you are sorely mistaken if you want to improve and even build your business through out the Winter months. Here are some steps to make sure your New Year is a good year.

1. Do your budget for the New Year. See what you spent this past year. What was more than you expected? Less? Can you make changes next year that will gain you ROI? Stop doing things that are losing you money. If you can't stop them totally, then change them so they won't be the money pit to your budget they are now. As I mentioned in a previous post, now is the time to shop around for phone service, insurance, equipment for next year. Be sure to include a 5% increase from what you spent this year on every line item in your budget. This way even if the cost of a few things don't go up during the course of the year the ones that do can have funds moved from others without undo stress of looking for that money. It may not be perfect but it will help. 

2. Work on your collateral marketing materials, purchase new clients give-a-way items, update, improve or start a customer referral program. Did the items you handed out last year get you new customers? What worked and what didn't? Don't beat a dead horse and by another 1000 imprinted rulers if you did not earn back their cost. Try something new instead. Got an item like your business card magnets that got to a 600% return on their cost? Double your order for this year and hand out even more!! Good tried and true items for this are: Business card magnets, Note pads, Pens, Clips magnetic or other wise for papers or bags, calendars, and other useful household items like rubber disk lid openers.

 3. Up date your web site. Up load newer B&A photos from this years jobs you haven't had the time to get done. Potential customers may visit your site 3-5 times before deciding to call or fill out your on line form for an estimate. Seeing that you are working, adding new photos and gaining more testimonials may sway that person to go ahead and try you instead of someone else. Adding a blog and keeping content current gets you better SEO. If you do not have a testimonial page or area on your site yet, ADD ONE. nothing convinces a potential customer more than reading statements from satisfied customers. Add video to your site. Action segments do not have to be long and having a professionally produced video will look even better. We use a company called iMotionvideo.com. You can either buy single videos one at a time or like us join their video membership club and have a new video produced each month.

4. Update your customer contact list, e-mails and phone numbers. Check to see if any past customers did not use you this year and try to contact them to find out why. You can send out an email survey to all those contacts to see if they moved, didn't think they needed service this year, went with someone else do to price. Send out a Holiday Greetings E-mail message saying you missed them this year and hope they are doing well. Be sure to send all new customers a Thank you holiday message or New Years savings offer to try and pre book as much work as possible now for Spring. Remember give added value offers not percentage off offers for best results. For example: Book your Spring house cleaning before Feb 1, 2013 and get a free gutter cleaning, or window washing or mail box cleaning. What ever you think is incentive enough for your customers to schedule now instead of waiting until Spring. Make sure you evaluate what worked or did not work last year and possibly increase your enticement. Update or improve on your customer referral package. Send out cards or e-mails offering free services, gift cards, etc for new contact information of friends and family. When these new contacts buy be sure to full fill your referral promises quickly to promote additional referrals coming in.

5. Plan now to network by attending local and National industry events in the coming year. If you go ahead and schedule them into your yearly calendar you can know how much business you will need to book before and after them to still make your monthly budget numbers. Also explore improving or expanding your business with new offerings by learning or becoming certified with new skills. Check out the industry organization web sites, forums, and on line industry magazines to find these opportunities. Many are available during these slower Winter months. If you stop learning you stop growing as a person and a business.

I hope all of you get some much needed family time off this Winter season but also be sure to follow these suggestions and you will have plenty of business to keep you busy all next year.

Tags: Business, marketing, network, business plan, referral program, testimonials, analysis, calendar, budget planning, web site

How to use and analysis a referral program.

Posted by Linda Chambers on Tue, Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:34 AM

During this month of Business Planning in December, we will take a look again of how to use a customer referral program and how to analysis its progress or failure. I know this will be a long post, but please bear with me.

First of course is to all ready have a referral program in place. Next if you have been using more than one type of reward or style of gaining a referral these must be segmented out.

Next you must count the number and type of responses you got from these referrals and how much you monetarily gained from each type.

Once you have this data you will be able to make predictions for the coming year and institute changes that could improve your results.

Let us take the following results as an example to be able to follow how a referral evaluation might be done.

Say company ABC PowerWash serviced 250 customers during the past year.

Of those 250, 200 where residential and 50 commercial. And of the residential 75% where repeat customers from some time in the last three years 45% in the last 12 months.

And with the 50 commercial customers half are contract customers that you see on a monthly or at least on a quarterly basis with the rest being new or only the occasional once or twice a year customer.

Of the 200 residential customers only 20 (10%) participated in any kind of referral program the entire year: an average of 5 per quarter.

10 handed out your cards and got you 16 new customers from them, with you giving your old customers a $25 credit card gift card as a thank you. Total spent in gift cards $400. Say these 16 jobs brought you an average of $800 per job with a 20% profit that would have been $2,560.00. Thus it cost you 6.4% of your profit to get this work, 2560/400= 6.4. Or 2560-400=2160/16=$135 profit per job.

Now in the next few months (90 days) if you tested out a new incentive offering half of your customers a $50 card instead of the $25. If in this case you saw an increase in the number of booked referrals from the higher card offer you would be able to see if the amount of increased business was worth the expense.

For example you offer the next 20 customers (10 of each offer amount): 2 customers got you jobs at the old $25 rate but 5 customers (1/2 of those offered) got you jobs at the higher $50 per rate. Leaving the average job cost and profit the same let us look at the numbers.

2 x $800 = $1,600 x .20 = $320-$50= left you $270/2 or $135 per job for your profit.  The same 6.4% cost of return that you had this past year with this same offer. Now let us look at the referrals offered at the higher card amount.

5 x $800 = $4,000 x .20 = $800 / $250 card cost = or 3.2%. You might think that was better but look at the total profit per job, 800-250=550/5=$110 profit per job after paying out the cards. But did you lose in the long run? If you go with the set amount that only 2 out of every 10 customers will take the $25 card and give you a referral, that means you will miss the other 3 at the $110 profit for each.

You need to figure out if those potential three new customers a quarter that will cost you the extra $25 per job in profit at the initial job is worth it to you. Could be if you have lots of open time and you need that $330 cash flow for your family. Plus if they become a returning customer or better yet become a free word of mouth referer. So you increased the number of old customers that participated from 20% to 50% but did slightly reduced your profit per job from the year before for these initial jobs with the higher offer.

Now let us look at the other 10 residential referrals from last year that you had. 6 had given you names of a friend or family member that booked a job because you offered them a free service on their next years business (they had turned down the $25 card offer prior to your $100 offer), that was to say, you offered them what you would have normally charged a customer $100 for (but costs you $40 to provide) to be free at their next visit. 

Again let us use the same average price and profit for these jobs. So 6 jobs x $800 =  $4,800 x .20 = $960 / $240 (the actual cost to you) = 25% of the cost came out of your profit. This looks like a much larger cut out of your profit, but look at the profit per job, 960-240=720/6= $120 profit per job. It is actually better than the $50 gift card, since the out of pocket expense is $10 different, $40 vs. $50. While you might think giving away free services wouldn't be smart you can see it could be better on the bottom line by bringing you more work. But since they had already turned down your $25 card offer for the free service is this offer of free service something you want to keep? No real way to tell.

So as stated earlier for the next three months you offer half your customers the $25 card and the other half $50 gift card and don't make the $100 free service available at all and you still got the 5 new customers. Since you have no idea how many of these 5 (or more) you would have gotten if you had kept the $100 value offer you will just have to use the ROI of $110 per job as the result. Your next 3 month test may have to be the $50 card vs. the $100 free service offer.

Now to the last 4 referrals from the previous year. These where from customers that you had not given any incentive too (maybe you had already given them a great deal, or the job was very small and you did not want to invest any more of your profit into them) but because of your work they had referred new customers to you any way, six in fact. So the cost of a referral program was nothing, and profited you $960, but these customers consisted of less than 2% of your total client base, which is the national average of unsolicited word of mouth referrals.

Now to the commercial jobs. Of the 50 as stated above 25 are contract customers that get special pricing and you gained only two new customers as direct word of mouth referrals from them. Both were non incentive referrals since there was no incentive referral program in place for the commercial customers. So the profit you gained from these new customers was say $3,000 total for the year. Of the other 25, 12 where occasional customers which brought you no referrals and next 11 where new ones you had spent time finding, visiting and getting yourself at a cost of over 50 man hours during the year. The final two were the new referrals your contract customers brought you equaling your 50 total commercial customers for the year.

So let us say you are thinking about expanding your referral program in to your commercial side to see what could be the benefit. You also choose to try the $50 gift card as your incentive. In the next three months this was your result: of 12 customers offered, you got 2 new referrals, one being a new contract customer and the other will probably only be an occasional once or twice a year job. Already you have gained the same number of new referrals that you got in total the previous year. If the one contract customer will give you a profit of $200 per month and the occasional job bring you and estimated $550 of profit for the year you gained 12 x 200 =  $2,400 + $550 = $2,950 / $100 (gift cards) 2.9%, or 2950-100=2850/13 (jobs)= $219.23 average profit per job. And since the previous year you only got the two new contract customers by the free word of mouth method you can look at the $3,000 they brought vs. the estimated if the trend holds of 2 new customers a quarter to bring in around $6,600 over they year. 12 + 9 + 6 + 3= estimate of 30 jobs x $220 average profit = $6,600 estimate. This could be over twice the amount you received with no referral plan in place. It could be more or less depending on when they come on board and if they are monthly or only an occasional customer. And if you can handle the increase in your work load.

I hope these examples has you looking over your referral plan and running tests to see what profit increases and improved cash flow you can make this next year in your business. Happy New Year.

 

Tags: improve cash flow, business plan, added value service, referral program, analysis

Competitor Comparison

Posted by Linda Chambers on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 @ 09:30 AM

Do a Competitor Comparison Chart to see where your business stands in your market.

First list who your competitors are by name and address. Do they compete with you in just one area, for just one service or type of customer? Do you only have competition with one other business for one service by five for another? You might want to switch your service emphasis more to the one with less competition for a possible larger profit?

Not all of you competitors may be easily recognizable. They may not be listed in the yellow pages, have a physical office, or even have applied for a business license that you can reference.

Look in your own mail for coupons for those advertising to do your services, keep your eyes open for signs, vehicles, other print advertisements. Check on line by doing a search by service name and location name. For example: "Roof Cleaning" + "Snellville, GA". I just did and got over 4,000 results, basic "pressure washing" was even higher, 6,780. But more specific services like "exterior house washing" + "Snellville, GA", got only 49 results. So who's name keeps coming up? Those are your competitors.

Just because some may be small does not mean that they are not a threat to you. Nor does the fact that your area might have some big players mean that there is not enough business for you all. What you need to find out is what each player is doing so that you can do it better and gain a larger and hopefully a more profitable share of what is out there.

Here is an example analysis grid. Make changes to headings and cell sizes as needed. For example: Many may not need a selection row. Fill out the me section to compare. You may also have to break down some cells in to sub cells, like "Service" in to multiple services. You might also first fill in what the competitors have to be better able to fill in ours to match "apples to apples". Do not be afraid if you find that you have something no one else does. That may not be bad at all but in fact a great marketing and value point for new customers.

Table 1: Competitive Analysis 

 

FACTOR

 

Me  

 

Strength   

 

Weakness

 

Competitor A

 

Competitor B

 

Competitor C

Importance

to customer

Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Price

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Products

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reliability

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stability

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expertise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Company reputation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Location

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appearance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales method

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit policies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertising

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After you finish filing it out you will have a better understanding of who your competition is, what a customer may see in them and how to improve your postion to these customers to gain their business.

 

Tags: business plan, competition, analysis

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