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More women are speaking up for gender equality and advocating for equal opportunities and compensation, as well as a workplace free of harassment. While women are eager to ask for what their teams and colleagues need, they are a bit reluctant when it comes to negotiating for their self.  

When negotiation contexts are clear and unambiguous, it results in few gender differences in the likelihood of initiating a negotiation. For example, you would not expect men to be more likely than women to initiate a negotiation for a customer contract or a supplier agreement. However, when the appropriateness of negotiating is less clear—as is so often the case for negotiating promotion opportunities, visibility, and resources—gender differences do emerge.

Often, women view key assignments and promotions as a reward for doing a good job, so they wait to be rewarded instead of negotiating with supervisors for new opportunities. In contrast, research has demonstrated that men are comfortable seeking promotion even if they only meet some of the requirements of the new role.

Women should actively advocate for themselves and negotiate at critical junctures in their careers on their way in, by putting themselves in the running for new jobs and negotiating their compensation packages; on their way up, by targeting and seeking development opportunities, visible assignments and promotions; and even on their way out, by negotiating the terms of their exit from a company.

Here are five strategies that can help women negotiate effectively across their career.

Be Prepared

Successful negotiations start with preparation. This means that if you find yourself caught off guard by a conversation, buying time is a good strategy. If you are in the hallway when your boss stops to talk about a new role within the company—or if you are unexpectedly demoted—requesting time to regroup allows you to approach the discussion knowing what you want and how you will ask for it.

You need time to prepare in order to ensure that the right issues are put on the table. Consider ahead of time how your differentiators can help to address the employer’s pressing business needs. It is critical in employment negotiations to highlight how you are unique in some way so that the company can do something for you without establishing a precedent that requires them to do the same for everyone else. Avoid any discussion that only focuses on salary since this single-issue conversation is likely to damage the relationship.

Preparation is also useful when initiating discussions about your future. If you are seeking a promotion or a stretch assignment, be ready to clearly articulate the value you can contribute. Preparation also builds confidence and helps to counter the “inner critic” that frequently convinces women they are not ready. Even if this legwork does not land you the opportunity you want, presenting a strong case for why you should be considered may prompt your boss to provide mentoring or further development that leads to another opportunity.

Focus on the Other Side’s Needs

Always frame your offering in terms of what the employer needs. Take, for example, a female executive who was offered the role of CEO at a company based in another state. The one-year contract the board offered her was not acceptable given the impact a move would have on her spouse and her school-aged children. So she framed her request around the company’s needs: she presented a five-year turnaround plan, laying out what it would take to hit yearly targets and requested a five-year contract to go with it. The board agreed. The executive advanced the company’s agenda, and she got what she needed.

When you can lead the discussion, you want to lead; you will gain an advantage by creating the starting point, putting the right issues on the table, and being the one who frames the rationale.

What happens when you are leaving an organization instead of arriving? It may seem counterintuitive to think about the employer’s needs when you are being let go, but it can be fruitful. I am aware of a senior leader who learned she was being terminated. After taking a moment to regroup, she focused on the company’s need to manage the possible repercussions of her exit: communication with the firm’s clients, transition plans for the teams, and communication with the internal team to ensure employees did not follow her out the door. By making the case that she was uniquely positioned to help the company, she bought herself room to negotiate an exit that took into account the company’s priorities and her own needs.

Lead the Discussion

A large body of research has demonstrated that people who make the first offer get better outcomes. In job negotiations, people often defer because they think that the company may offer more than they would request. More likely, though, waiting leads to disappointment with what the company offered.

Granted, taking the lead can be difficult because you should not begin to negotiate until you have actually been offered the job. Additionally, particularly early in your career, the offer of employment and the terms of the offer are often confounded. In these situations, you cannot go first. However, as you become more senior, an employer may say that they are interested in hiring you and want to discuss what it will take. In this case, you would absolutely want to speak first. You would also want to lead in a negotiation with your current employer over a promotion or new assignment, as your existing role gives you more influence.

In other words, when you can lead, you want to lead; you will gain an advantage by creating the starting point, putting the right issues on the table, and being the one who frames the rationale. Moreover, when you lead, you are in the relationship-enhancing position, whereas when you follow, you are in the relationship-damaging position, needing to reject or critique the employer’s initial offer.

How does leading the discussion look in practice? Say, for example, you are being considered to lead a major initiative at your company. You know that this initiative will require a strong leader who can establish internal and external support from many constituents. Knowing how important it will be for the leader to get buy-in throughout the organization, you make the case that in order to have enough credibility, it is essential for you to have a vice president title. You also include in your negotiation a discussion of the timeline for the project, key success metrics, and a salary consistent with the vice president role.

Leave Room to Concede

Many people, especially women, mentally “negotiate down” their own demands based on what they think the employer will accept before they even enter the negotiation. However, asking for more puts you in a stronger position from the outset.

Go into the negotiation with a credible plan—remember, your reputation is at stake. But be ready to concede in the process. Design your plan with room to make certain concessions, and develop a rationale for these concessions.

Say you need a full-time, dedicated support person on your staff. Knowing that the company has a hiring freeze, you may be tempted to ask for just a part-time position. A better approach might be to request two staff positions—one to work directly with you and one to support the team—with “room to concede” down to one full-time person.

You need to have the opportunity to concede, so be certain to negotiate either face to face or on the telephone. You should never negotiate for yourself via email, text, or a voicemail message.

Offer Alternatives

Coming to the table with three offers rather than one can help you to get what you want. These “multiple equivalent simultaneous offers” (MESOs) help facilitate agreement. If you are arranging a meeting, would you offer just one day and time? Of course not.

In negotiating employment issues, MESOs change the conversation from “are we going to work together?” to “how can we work together?” Provide three packages, varying the issues that address the employer’s interests but are easy for you to provide, such as the strategic initiatives you will focus on, the timeline for doing this, and the metrics that will be used to define success. salary. Roles, responsibilities, exposure, flexibility, and the kinds of customers one works with might also be on the table. Offering alternatives showcases your ability to collaborate and your willingness to find solutions that benefit the company—and help you. Just as importantly, it can also convey information about how you specifically are best equipped to address the company’s pressing needs.

For example, in the scenario above where you are proposing a vice president role for yourself, you might vary the timeline for the initiative, the plan for internal and external engagement, and the success metrics across the three offers. You might hold constant the vice president title, and in two of the options include the salary consistent with this role. In the third option, though, you might include a base salary that is slightly lower—but also a very significant bonus tied to achieving the success metrics. These three options will promote a discussion about the best way to carry out the initiative and what success will look like; they will also highlight your confidence that you can do this job well if you are a vice president. This is likely to be a far more productive conversation than one focused on your salary and your desire to be a vice president.

Negotiating for yourself does not mean that you should focus on yourself—in fact, by focusing on the other side’s needs and the company’s priorities, you are far more likely to achieve the outcomes you desire.

Source: Kellogg Insight

Launching the first collection of a fashion brand is just the initial step. It takes a lot more to sustainably grow it over time, requiring discipline and commitment. Supriya Ghurye outlines the business aspects every fashion entrepreneur needs to follow to make a brand successful.

So, you’ve started off your fashion brand. You may have your own store, maybe stock your collection at a number of boutiques or sell online. You’ve worked hard the last six months designing and then coordinating every aspect. Your first collection has been a reasonable success, though you had to negotiate hard with suppliers and boutiques as you’re a new name in the crowded space of designers. So how do you make sure you grow profitably?

Here are some guidelines that you need to keep in mind, if you wish to succeed in business. Remember, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of fashion brands ready to take your place if you fail. Competition is intense and customer loyalty is notoriously fickle. So, plan and execute well these seven steps to a successful fashion business.

Keep a close eye on trends. Trends change frequently and what is in vogue today may not be when you launch your collection.

As designers, we plan collections months in advance, so be sure you have a good idea of the trends shaping current fashion, and whether they’re likely to stay.

Design for your core audience. Your first collection may have been designed to express your creativity for a particular audience. But remember that customers decide what sells.

So, keep a core audience in mind when you design a collection. Persona mapping is a technique used in marketing research that is extremely useful in figuring who your audience is and what they might be looking for.

Cost control. It is easy to let your creativity run wild, but a customer has to be willing to pay for the designs you’ve made.  Keeping a tight control on costs – material, manufacturing, even marketing – is essential to ensure that you make a profit. Remember, you may be discounting a part of your collection towards the end of the season, so factor that into your calculations.

Marketing. Your collection will sell when you market it well to the right audience. Invest wisely in your marketing efforts, using a good mix of in-store, social media and word-of-mouth through existing customers to ensure a good response while keeping marketing costs in control.

Presentation and selling. Visual merchandising – offline or online – determines whether a customer will be attracted to try out your designs.

If you stock your brand alongside others in e-retail or boutiques, make every effort to make your collection attractive enough for the customer to take a closer look and feel.

Keeping tabs on sales, inventory, channels and cash flow. If you stock your merchandise at multiple outlets on consignment, keep track of sold and unsold inventory and the receivables due. For online, tracking sales is much simpler, and updating inventory is critical to ensuring you don’t get orders that you cannot fulfil. Also, the issue of returns has to be handled diligently.

Maintaining relationships. Keep good relations with your best suppliers and ensure they are happy to engage in business with you, as their quality and timely delivery will ensure your brand’s consistency.

Customers are the lifeblood that keep your brand alive, and therefore, ensure you keep in touch with them and get feedback whenever possible. They’re also the ones who ensure you keep getting new customers, so it might be a good idea to reward them for their loyalty, if possible.

 

By Fashion4Fuel

It’s no secret that women in STEM still face a difficult struggle to reach gender parity. Many women working in science, technology, engineering and math report everything from “boy’s club” hiring practices to toxic working environments. STEM fields, like many other industries have a long way to go before they’re properly gender balanced. A new study published in Nature by female geoscientists and engineers diagnoses the problem more thoroughly — and offers some pretty brilliant solutions.

According to previously collected data, the women behind the study explain, women around the world show no shortage of passion for STEM: they make up 53 percent of global undergraduate and Masters students in science and 43 percent of PhDs, but only 28 percent manage to become researchers. The numbers get narrower the further you get up the ladder: in Europe in 2013, women made up only 24 percent of tenured science academics and only 13 percent of professors. And the problem isn’t that things are “still catching up”; there have been enough qualified women to do these jobs for decades. The structural barriers in place simply aren’t letting them get there.

The women also did a survey of over 300 people in their own field. Their numbers showed some pretty chronic under-representation in all the most vital areas, from journal publications to big scientific committees and high-prestige jobs at universities and institutions. Female researchers surveyed reported extensive gender stereotyping and not being taken seriously, a chronic lack of female role models in higher jobs, and being excluded from social events and attempting to network or get funding. It’s only a small study, but the trends aren’t exactly new.

The scientists behind the survey came up with a seven-point plan, and it sounds like it could truly knock gender bias on the head. And, importantly, they apply to men as well as women, and can be implemented across a broad swathe of industries.

The researchers laid out their plan as follows:

  1. Advocate for more women in prestige roles;
  2. Promote high-achieving females;
  3. Create awareness of gender bias;
  4. Speak up;
  5. Get better support for return to work;
  6. Redefine success; and,
  7. Encourage more women to enter the discipline at a young age.

The study’s conclusion outlines more actionable ways to implement these steps. “I think there are many [female] role models out there, but not enough are publicised the way males are,” one survey respondent noted, referring to step two. And the researchers also placed an emphasis on having all members of the community, not just marginalized ones, speak up when they see examples of bias happening: “(sadly) men might be more inclined to listen when a fellow male engineer calls them out on their sexism,” another respondent said, according to the study.

Furthermore, on a structural level, things need to change. “It could be having a secure position and contributing to the field while working flexible hours and enjoying life beyond work, as opposed to being a ‘star performer’ based on often quantitative workplace and disciplinary criteria,” write the researchers. The ‘no home life, all work, all genius’ model tends to discriminate in favour of men.

Finally, giving women the permission and the push to enter STEM disciplines at a young age, and mentoring them when they do, may be a key factor in evening out gender inequality, the scientists note. Clearly women possess both the talent and the love for STEM to study it in huge numbers. But supporting them through their early careers is crucial for helping them to push forward and succeed.

The thing about this seven-part plan of attack is that it’s not just a good idea for STEM. It’s a decent set of approaches for any industry that deals with gender and wants to make women a key, respected and equal element. If you work in another industry or business entirely, but recognize that some of these approaches will seriously help out, go on and start making them a thing.

By JR THORPE

Entrepreneurship is not a fools-errand but a journey that requires certain skills and dedication that if applied earnestly will catapult you to the extraordinary success of a lifetime. As a woman in business (entrepreneur), you should be enthusiastic about a particular word; Freedom. You should always be eager to pursue your dream irrespective of the failures and hardships you encounter. Sequel to the fact that Entrepreneurship is an ART, there is a process or method on which it operates. Therefore if as a woman you want to become a successful entrepreneur, then you must not focus on only a set of skills because it might turn out to be an impediment to your success.

According to Denis Waitley, the author of The Psychology of Winning says, “Constant learning is the least yardstick for success in any field.” Master multiple skills and your impeccable success will follow. There are a few skills possessed by great entrepreneurs that may surprise you. The eagerness to put your best entrepreneur foot forward is just the first of many. In fact, you can “fake it until you make it” (until those entrepreneurial skills are mastered)

Every woman should understand that they are not alone in the quest for success. According to a Cox Business study, reported that over sixty (60) percent of women entrepreneurs started a business to be their own chief executive, and over 50 percent became entrepreneurs to become masters of their own fate and future.

It is pertinent for women who intend to become entrepreneurs to leave their comfort zone and take a bold step into being the architects of their own greatness. So any woman who yearns to achieve the feats of trailblazers like, Sara Breedlove (Madam C.J Walker) and Oprah Winfrey should master these skills as an ART of business survival and indelible success. The skills include curiosity, productivity, and the capability to ease stress.

Curiosity is a pertinent trait to an Entrepreneur
Curiosity is one of the most sacrosanct arts (skill) successful entrepreneurs make use of every day. Those who take the risk of asking the question “what if” are the women that succeed. So if you just want to make do with what is already in existence, then your whiteboard may stay blank forever.

Women entrepreneurs who have made their marks and achieved greatness in entrepreneurship thrived on innovations. They push themselves through new ideas, methods, and technology. They take ‘Risk more than others think is safe’; Nancy de Fays CEO of Linedock said “The thing I am the proudest of is making the shift to becoming a full-time entrepreneur. I think we all have dreams, ideals, and aspirations that keep us alive. It’s probably the hardest yet the most fantastic thing to be fully devoted to nurturing, shaping and making sure these come true. Curiosity will keep you on the cutting edge, and success will follow”. Curiosity will make you master more skills and remember, curiosity never kills an entrepreneur cat.

Every woman should stick to their personal Vision
Every successful woman entrepreneur possesses their own vision. Oprah Winfrey and Sara Breedlove had their own unique vision which took them to the heights they got to in life. Gail Blanke, CEO of LifeDesigns stated “Walt Disney told his crew to ‘build the castle first’ when constructing Disney World, knowing that vision would continue to serve as motivation throughout the project. Oftentimes when people fail to achieve what they want in life, it’s because their vision isn’t strong enough”. Your personal vision can make you become pro-active and innovative hence, a successful entrepreneur.

A successful woman understands the Power of COMMUNICATION
We live in a world where technology has become very dominant and has introduced a lot of ways to enhance communication. This development (technological advancement) has made one-on-one communication or interaction very minimal. Women entrepreneurs, who master the ART of communication, communicate efficiently.

When you take a preview of women entrepreneurs who have achieved great success especially in the twenty-first (21) century then you will behold charismatic goal-getters. To be effective and efficient in your business, you need a proper channel of communication and not an indiscriminate use of social media or sending e-mails.

As a woman in business, you need to take cognizance of all available communication techniques. Efficient online presence and communication are paramount for effective message delivery. This is key to business thriving and survival.

According to Paul Meyer, “Communication-the Human connection- Is the key to personal and career success” You can spend less time with someone in a conversation but deliver a clear message.

Speak and make sure People Listen
The importance of ‘communication’ cannot be overemphasized but it is pertinent to know that when you speak, people should always listen. The watchword is ‘speaking’ and not ‘talking’. Every entrepreneurial woman needs to master the ART of speaking (persuasion).

Mastering the ART of speaking is very sacrosanct because with it you will achieve extraordinary success. Hilary Clinton got to where she today owes to the fact that she has a voice.  Melinda Gates said “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.”

To be a successful woman entrepreneur, you must try as much as possible to be impactful in your talks every now and then. Mastering the ART of speaking and making people listen when you speak will enhance your relevance in entrepreneurship. 

In the words of Joseph Conrad “He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense.” Therefore speaking deliberately, succinctly, and in a calculative manner are key aspects to being heard as well.

Master the ART of easing entrepreneurial stress
Every woman in business (entrepreneurs) should understand that stress is inevitable. Therefore understanding how to ease that stress is key to the healthy flow of ideas and innovations. Engaging in business or even a new one is like having a newborn child and a newborn child comes with a lot of stress.

As an entrepreneur, you are sure to experience some form of stress and if you don’t find a lasting solution to it, it might become a big obstacle to growing your business. According to Roy Lawrence Ash, the co-founder of Litton industries, “An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it”. So if you engage yourself in a business enterprise that is too demanding and stressful, device a way to cool off those steams of stress and stay healthy to keep booming your business.

Success is sure when you Master the ART of Negotiation
Women in Business must understand that conceiving an idea is one thing and make it a success depends on your power of negotiation.

Negotiation is many times disregarded by some women entrepreneurs which are not a good trait for a successful business. Every woman entrepreneur needs to possess the power to be able to negotiate with both her clients and employees to have good productivity- hence success in business. Growth or expansion in business means more negotiations for the entrepreneur. So brace and equip yourself with that power if you wish to become one of the greatest entrepreneurs of your time.

The reality is a great success in business stems from just one a small idea. There is no ‘success wand’ that catapults you from your comfort zone to that extraordinary success you dream of but success comes as a result of mastering the ARTs of business survival listed above. Mastering and adopting those skills will lift you up and place you in the league of those extraordinary women who thrived in Entrepreneurship.

By Charles Emekpo

By – Bestwill Johnny

Days ago, while I browsed the internet in search of a certain information, I came across the quote above, by Robert Louis Stevenson. The quote struck my chords and plunged me deep in thoughts. I had to even put off the search for information I came online for.

You see, selling happens daily. Everyone is trying to sell something. Products and services are not the only things being sold. The executive at the board meeting is trying hard to sell an idea to the board that she thinks will ‘sell’. Little Kelvin is trying to sell mummy, the idea of buying him a new set of toys, as they shop. Husband is trying to sell wife, the idea that getting a new set of furniture is not an unnecessary luxury.

Anytime there is an attempt to convince someone or to get someone to agree with an idea or to get someone to take an action, selling is going on. It even gets really funny in business. Anytime there is a meeting between a marketer and a prospect, a sale is initiated. Yes! A sale is made.

Either the marketer sells the product or service to the prospect, or the prospect sells, the reason why he cannot make a purchase, to the marketer. Once the marketer buys that, the deal is closed. There has been a sale.

In the next few lines, I will highlight how you can sell more as a marketer pushing your business and be sold to less. (Based on the illustration in the last paragraph). Grab a pack of popcorn.

Do not sell what you do not believe in.

On this point, a profound quote by Zig Ziglar will help: “If the salesman can make the prospect feel about the product the same way he feels about the product, the prospect is going to buy the product, if there is any way in the world he can come up with the money”. I think you may have to read the quote again, and again maybe. I know I looked at it a couple of times when I first encountered it.

Selling is basically a transference of feeling. You are making an attempt to get the prospect to feel as enthusiastic about the product as you are. That is the high point of selling. If the prospect can get excited about what you are selling, he will buy. If you can transfer the same excitement you feel about the product to him in the same proportion, he will sign for an order, because that is what you would do if you were in his shoes.

But how about if you do not have the feeling you are trying to transfer? In order to transfer a feeling, you must have the feeling. The entrepreneur is a believer! As a matter of fact, it is the ferociousness of his belief in the product that draws the prospect in. This ferociousness is expressed in words and passionate gestures. (Assuming it were a live presentation). Change products, if you do not believe in what you currently sell. Sell a product that you can believe, anyone who does not buy, is the greater loser!

Do not confuse your situation with your prospect’s.

Always look at your goods and/or services through your prospect’s eyes. Practice empathy. This will help you to be able to mark out your target audience with all the streamlined demographics. Then you must not confuse your excitement or reservations towards the product for his. You must think through and see the products with the eyes of your prospect.

For instance, I love noodles very much. But I cannot begin a business of selling noodles simply because I love it that much. A lot of people I will meet, pushed by my excitement, do not share my excitement. And I will play the fool.

As a smart entrepreneur, you will, therefore, separate yourself from the people you are going to meet. Make a checklist of their likes, vain desires, interests, and wants. Then see how you can either create a product or service that meets them or weave your current product or service to meet them. Then let your description of how your product meets their wants, vain desires, likes, and interests, dominate the phrases you use in your marketing.

In summary, give the people what they want!

Hear what the prospect is saying, not just what he says.

A hair seller starts an online chat with a prospect who seems interested in buying hair. After giving full details, the prospect suddenly says she is not interested in buying because she has bought several similar products in the past that ended up not being durable as the sellers had promised. She makes one or two snide remarks. If the hair seller is not very skilled in selling, she will end the conversation right there. Maybe you reading this would do same too. Let me give you a breakdown. For a prospect to suddenly emotionally blurt out reasons why she cannot buy, means that she has actually deeply considered buying. But when she made the consideration, a sudden fear fueled by previous bad deals seeks to stop her. She is crying to you for assurance. She wants you to give reasons why yours will not end up like the previous ones. She wants you to assure her and give her a good deal. This is what she is saying. Ignore what she said.  If you fall for what prospects say, you will lose many sales, trust, and great relationships that would have been.

Summarily, most rejections prospects give, are simply calls for assurance and clarity. As a smart entrepreneur, you should very well detect that.

That will be all for now.
Take action on these and watch your marketing yield 7× more results.

Small and medium-sized enterprises account for 99% of all business entities in the advanced industrial world. The importance of SMEs to the real economy is immense, particularly in outlying areas, where they often play a critical role in the life of the community. Finding ways to inject vitality into small businesses is clearly a high priority for industrial economies seeking to overcome the sluggish growth of recent years. At the same time, government policy can only accomplish so much in terms of promoting small business reform in today’s highly complex society. Each company needs to adopt strategies appropriate to its sector and tailored to its own circumstances. Corporate social responsibility has a significant role to play in such private sector-driven reforms.

CSR is, in fact, an essential element of business strategy for today’s SMEs. In some ways, SMEs are in a better position than large corporations to reap tangible benefits from socially responsible business practices. That said, SMEs also face unique challenges rooted in local conditions and the fundamental constraints surrounding small businesses.

Of course, “SME” is a broad category, encompassing relatively large organizations with the resources to adopt big-business approaches to CSR – appointing full-time personnel to dedicated CSR units, publishing CSR reports detailing their many initiatives, and so forth.

According to Andrea Newell in his article “Corporate Social Responsibility for Small Business”, CSR works for large and small organizations alike. There are a number of DON’TS that must be effectively followed through.

  • Don’t try to beat the system or cheat. Take a shortcut or fabricate results and anyone finds out – your reputation takes a beating and there is no shortcut out of that.
  • Don’t put in minimum effort and call it CSR. Recycling a few boxes doesn’t make you carbon neutral. It’s ok to start with small changes — just report their results honestly and grow from there.
  • Don’t simply give money away without a plan. CSR does not equal philanthropy. It’s a long-term strategy, not a one-time financial donation.
  • Don’t spend so much time writing a plan, that no one gets a chance to follow it. Formulate some simple strategies and implement them in a timely manner. CSR is too complicated. It doesn’t have to be.
  • Don’t expect a direct financial ROI on CSR. Some returns are not easily measurable, and as a long-term strategy, some CSR initiatives might not show results immediately.
  • Don’t base the success or failure of your program solely on that.
  • Don’t communicate your CSR efforts in a weak or preachy way, either to your employees or your customers. This will undercut your sincerity and passion about your CSR initiatives. Neither your employees nor your customers will buy it. If you craft a solid CSR program, do it justice by communicating it confidently and clearly.
  • Don’t give individuals responsibility without authority. This holds true in all aspects of a business.
  • Don’t treat CSR as a separate company initiative. Incorporate it into all aspects of your company’s philosophy.
  • Don’t measure without action. Measurement is a good first step. Then work toward improvement.
  • CSR is expensive. Everyone is tightening their belts, and no one expects small companies to spend a large amount on fledgling CSR efforts. Make small affordable changes. Some efforts, like turning down the thermostat, turning off the lights and recycling, can actually save companies money with a little effort and minimal financial output.

The rest of the list can be summed up like this: start small, be honest, and grow from there.

CSR is a fad or marketing gimmick? Studies and discussion this year alone show us that it’s not.

Many large companies have gotten a lot of press for their CSR efforts and some have gotten even more for their high-profile failures, so it’s easy to see why small companies might feel daunted by the idea of starting their own programs.

Many small businesses might feel that CSR isn’t necessary for them to do business, but studies and reports show that customers of businesses large and small care about CSR. In addition, many large companies are requiring their vendors to meet certain greenhouse gas measurement requirements as the price of doing business. Many small businesses might find CSR thrust upon them sooner than they think. It’s always better to craft your own program that is in line with your business and its strengths and values than to have it suddenly forced on you.

Essentially, the same principles hold true for companies large and small. Plan CSR around your core business values, integrate it into all parts of your business, implement what makes sense for your company in terms of effort and investment, get your employees on board and communicate honestly with your customers. In other words – get started and do your best, and your employees and customers will respect that.

This expose is adapted from articles by Kageyama Makoya and Andrea Newell.

 

The presence of a worm taints even the most popular type of apple including the corporate kind.

Is it any wonder, then, that iPhone loyalists felt betrayed when Apple confirmed customer suspicions that it had been deliberately slowing down the performance of its older models? Although Apple claimed it wanted to preserve battery power and avoid sudden operational shutdowns, consumers weren’t buying it; to them, the lack of transparency seemed disingenuous.

Had Apple simply been honest with its users from the get-go, the organization wouldn’t have faced such suspicion and found itself compelled to issue an apology for not having been clearer. Sure enough, iPhone sales dropped in the first quarter of 2018. Customers’ reactions were proof that transparency, and the customer loyalty it engenders, can never be taken for granted. Anything less can turn even the most loyal customer from an advocate to an adversary.

Yes, consumers can handle the truth.

“You can’t handle the truth!” might have turned into one of the most overused memes from filmdom, but it seems to be the sentiment among many brands. Though they all hope to attract and retain customers, they forget that sincerity is a direct path to loyalty.

A 2016 Label Insights survey revealed that 94 percent of customers remain loyal to completely transparent brands; 73 percent of respondents said they’d pay more for products if the company were always truthful with customers.

Honesty really is the best policy when trying to retain customer loyalty through bad times and good. Practice the following principles, and you’ll elicit more cheers than jeers from customers.

  1. Understand thy customer.
    When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was asked about his decision to enable user reviews, he explained, “We don’t make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.” In other words, he knew that unless he got in the heads of consumers, he couldn’t deliver exceptional experiences.
    Trust takes a lifetime to earn and can be lost in a minute. Consequently, you can’t make assumptions about customers because you’re bound to miss key elements of their needs. Rather than giving mere lip service to the idea of partnering with your customer, dig in deep like Amazon.
    Read negative and positive reviews of your brand, and get on the ground with your sales teams. Sideline your subjectivity, and open your eyes to the customer perspective. The insights you gain will help you keep customers’ best interests as a top priority and show customers that your brand is actively and honestly working toward maintaining their business.
  1. Never close the feedback loop.
    You need feedback; otherwise, how will you learn from the mistakes you’ll inevitably make? The more feedback you glean, the faster you can do a course correction and beat the competition. Plus, customers value having a voice in an age when their concerns can sometimes get lost amid internet chatter.
    Not sure how to initiate a steady cycle of feedback? Twitter may have the answer. The app’s customer feedback tool allows certain companies to start a dialogue with individual tweeters, asking them to engage in surveys and other satisfaction-measuring devices. The rich data culled from the results can give a stream of consistent, immediate feedback that can then be turned into a seamless part of any brand’s customer service process.
    Twitter’s feedback tool allows brands to get on their customers’ levels and gain the insights necessary to keep them loyal. Seek feedback early, then continue collecting and using it to openly modify your brand’s appeal, which will help you make genuine progress toward customer retention.
  1. Drill to the core.
    Are you listening to the people who make up your key demographics? Don’t immediately say “yes.” The way you ask for information impacts the quality and accuracy of the feedback.
    When Disney wants to know about its target personas, for example, it institutes focus groups of preteens, toddlers, and elementary-aged students. Not only do Disney executives and marketers study the way the kids react to their products, but they also solicit opinions from even the youngest focus group members. Each experience allows them to get more personalized with their products and delivery mechanisms.
    Often, brands aren’t being as creative as they might, which leads to getting only half the story. As big as Disney is with its movie franchises, theme parks, and collectibles, it’s still willing to ask what makes some of its key audience members tick. Consider initiating small sessions with narrowed-down focus group demographics, and reward your users for their time and effort, as Disney did when it doled out participation stickers to its tiny focus group members. And don’t forget to implement the feedback you’ve received. These strategies show customers you value their time and patronage, which makes them more inclined to keep buying from you.

Ideally, your relationship with customers should satisfy both your needs: You’ll have the loyalty you want, and they’ll get the solutions they deserve. Cultivate that two-way street by planting roots in a soil based on collaboration, mutual respect, and transparency. Then, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

 

By Jeffrey Epstein