The Fetch Blog

The best events and reads for professionals

How to Keep Your Small Business Reputable — November 11, 2016

How to Keep Your Small Business Reputable

The margin of error for small business owners has never been as small as it is these days. Thanks to the web, the competition has never been this huge and the bad word travels further than ever before. Because of this, all small business owners need to be sure that at least their reputation is good and that it is something that will actually attract new customers, instead of pushing away the existing ones.

But, how does exactly a modern business owner keep his or her small business reputable.

Honoring Deals

Above everything else, it comes down to honoring the deals that you have made. This does not only work for service providers. If, for example, you run a very local bait shop, you have entered a deal with your customers and your potential customers that you will provide a certain product of a certain quality at a certain price. Honoring deals may be more obvious with services, but even small businesses that sell or manufacture products need to honor their deals. Not honoring your deals means letting down your customers and letting down your customers is the quickest way to a catastrophic reputation hit. A hit your business might never recover from.

Protecting Your Integrity

Over the course of a company’s life, there will come times when certain parties may question the integrity of your company and the way you run it. For instance, some parties may come forward saying that you have not fulfilled certain terms of a contract of some kind. This is where commercial litigation can rear its ugly but necessary head. You cannot have people putting your reputation in danger without responding. Hire a company that provides litigation support services and take back your reputation.

Improving Your Customer Service

Customer service is becoming more and more important as people are getting jaded due to a variety of reasons. Simply put, if your customer service is not stellar, it will be seen as sub-par. It has really come to this. Because of this, you should always emphasize the importance of great customer service within your organization. Your people need to understand that customer service lapses will not be tolerated. Also, in case you are automating any aspect of your customer service, make sure to allow your customers to talk to real people, too. Recent studies show that people still want a human customer service.

Monitoring the Web

These days, companies’ reputations can be destroyed online with just a few bad reviews or outbursts from dissatisfied customers. Restaurant owners have notoriously had to struggle with bad Yelp reviews that can easily drive people away from their door. With all the different social media platforms out there, there is no knowing who might badmouth your company. The important thing is to know how to deal with this by engaging dissatisfied customers, learning why they hated the experience and offering both your apologies and possible solutions.

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Admitting Your Mistakes

If you make a mistake, own up to it. There is nothing worse than companies trying to weasel their way out of something that was clearly their mistake. It makes them seem unprofessional or even incompetent. If you cannot admit you have made a mistake, your customer might think that you do not know what a mistake is. Why would they do business with someone who does not understand their business? It is all very common sense.

All of the world’s biggest companies admit when they make mistakes. Sure, they may sugarcoat their apologies and use vague language, but at the very core of it, they admit their mistakes. You simply have to do this. Companies that admit their mistakes and work towards remedying them keep their reputation.

In the end, it is all about that. Keeping your reputation intact.

About our writer // Dan Radak is a marketing professional with ten years of experience. He is a coauthor on several websites and regular contributor to BizzMark Blog. Currently, he is working with a number of companies in the field of digital marketing, closely collaborating with a couple of e-commerce companies.

How to Increase Your Rates Without Losing Clients — November 5, 2016

How to Increase Your Rates Without Losing Clients

Whether you’re a solo-preneur, a small business, or a massive corporation, everyone has to raise their rates at some point. As the business grows, as experience is earned, and as things change, the needs of your business change as well. No one has ever said it’s easy talking about raising your rates with clients, but it’s not as bad as it may seem.

Today I’m going to offer you ten tips for raising your rates that won’t scare off your best clients. Follow these guidelines and you’ll find that the conversation is nowhere near as stressful as you thought it would be.

10 Tips For Raising Rates (And Keeping Your Clients)

As someone who has had this conversation more than once, I know how daunting it can be to talk about rates with your clients. That being said, it cannot be avoided if you want success and happiness in your career.

So, today I’m going to show you 10 ways you can make your next discussion about rates less painful for everyone involved (and keep your clients when it’s finished).

1. Be Honest

It may be tempting to sugarcoat your reasons or maybe downplay the changes in your rates, but neither of these are smart approaches to business. Your best clients have a relationship with your that is formed on trust, which is why honesty is key.

Tell them exactly what changes are coming, how the new pricing will be implemented, and ask them to voice any concerns or questions they may have. This will set the stage for a smooth conversation.

2. Explain Your Reasons (And How You’re Offering More Value)

The reasoning behind your increased rates could vary across a number of factors. Ultimately though, you should be prepared to explain these things in a way that shows your client how they are getting more value as part of the increased pricing.

This could take the form of additional features in a product, or more availability for your services, but always keep in mind that you should add value for your clients when you decide to raise your rates.

3. Offer Multiple Pricing Models

Depending on the work you provide for your clients, you should consider giving them several methods of payment. For example, instead of charging per hour, you could switch to an agreed retainer that covers a specific amount of work.

By doing this, you can increase rates, but also offer a different and perhaps more efficient means of tracking and paying for your services. Depending on your industry or craft, one pricing model may be more beneficial for everyone involved.

4. Expand Your Skill Set

Clients are more willing to pay a company a premium than a single freelancer. As you grow, look for ways to expand your personal brand and your online business. For example, you could start a blog and create unique and informative posts while also polishing up your writing skills.

If you have a professional website or blog, then you can argue that you’re expanding your brand and your business. This is a perfectly valid reason to raise rates as you take on new clients.

5. Offer Multiple Tiers of Services

Instead of offering a standard option for your services, you could introduce multiple tiers under your new rates. The older rates could now be charged for a standard level service, while the new rates are for a “premium” level of those same services.

In some cases, clients will stay with the standard rates, but in most cases they will want the best version of your services that you can offer. Using a word like “premium” to describe this level of service will also be enticing for them.

6. Stay Confident and Courteous

When speaking to your clients about something sensitive like raising your rates, remember the tone that you take. This applies to your wording and your voice if you’re speaking over the phone. Remember to maintain these characteristics during the conversation:

  • Explain your reasons in a confident and non-defensive tone.
  • Showcase any investments you made into training or additional availability to justify the increase.
  • Provide real examples of how you’re offering additional value.

Remember to have these conversations at least two weeks before you implement the new rates. A month is more ideal, but the idea is that you shouldn’t spring your new prices on the client. Give them time if needed to decide what they would like to do going forward.

7. Throw in a Freebie

If your client seems like they are looking for the exist when you mention higher rates, give them a reason to stay. Offer them a free sample of something they’ll be getting as part of these new rates. In some cases that could be a small service or a portion of your new product.

Either way, this is a good way to pull them back into the fold and play off of their curiosity and their desire to see what value they could be getting if they stick around.

8. Give Them Fair Notice

The worst thing you can do in this situation is spring the news on your clients. Let them know well in advance that you plan to change your rates. Reach out to them several weeks before the change and explain everything in detail.

This will help ease them into the new model without making them feel like you’re throwing them a curve-ball.

9. Enter a New Market

If you find that your current client base isn’t responding to the new rates, you could consider branching out and trying to enter a market with more affluent clients that will readily accept your new pricing.

You’ll need to network and possibly revamp your services, but it could lead to a more diversified client selection and ultimately better rates for your growing business.

10. Offer Entry-Level Discounts

If you have clients that prefer your services because of competitive rates, you can ease them into this new pricing model as well by giving them a discount for the first few weeks or months in the new pricing model. This way they can see the improvement and the value and decide if they want to continue paying at the new prices when the promotion is over.

More often than not, your clients will see the value being offered to them and happily spend the extra money to continue using your services.

Final Thoughts

Raising your rates is a fact of business, but you also don’t want to lose clients. Follow these tips when you are planning on raising your prices and you’ll find that your best clients are extremely understanding and willing to work with you.

How do you discuss price changes with clients? Let us know in the comments!

About our writer // Ralph Scharf is an experienced freelance writer and blogger with over a decade of experience writing online. You can follow him on Twitter @ralphscharfllc1

Why San Francisco Isn’t The Future of Tech — January 31, 2016

Why San Francisco Isn’t The Future of Tech

San Francisco has been dubbed the ‘7×7’ because it’s a grid area of 7 miles by 7 miles. Because of this, there are often many insanely successful tech companies concentrated in the same spot. Amazingly, Twitter occupies the same building as Square and Uber on Market Street. Airbnb, Zynga, Pinterest, Dropbox, and Yelp are all located in SoMa. With so much happening in a single city, can San Francisco continue to be the epicenter of the tech startup world?

Maybe not, according to Darian Shirazi, founder of San Francisco technology company Radius. He reports in Forbes.com that, “Based on our analysis of over 27 million US businesses, we believe the next generation of small business owners will flock to cities not because of growing job rates and income levels, but because of community engagement and access to resources.”

Catherine Clifford of Entrepreneur.com also concedes to Shirazi’s assessment by listing the US metro regions with the highest ratio of tech startups compared to the national average:

  1. Boulder, CO
  2. Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
  3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  4. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA
  5. Seattle, WA
  6. Denver, CO
  7. San Francisco, CA
  8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  9. Colorado Springs, CO
  10. Cheyenne, WY

With thought to this issue, let’s take this theory one step further to compare Australian startup founder Alan Downie’s experience. Downie travelled to Silicon Valley to gain support from US investors and realized that the way Americans and Australians do business is quite different. “Australian founders, and the investors that fund them, seem to be more interested in growing big profitable businesses than they are growing what amounts to ‘get rich quick’ schemes. Perhaps we’re a more laid back culture that is more inclined to take our time to grow success than we are to try and generate it overnight. Perhaps the gap between the rich and poor is smaller here and therefore success isn’t quite as binary as it is in the States. Or perhaps, as a nation, we just don’t idolise the successful but are more inclined to view their wealth with cynicism rather than vicarious optimism.”

But one really can’t diminish the impact and growth of San Francisco’s prominence in the world of entrepreneurialism. In fact, private firms based in San Francisco received $10 billion in venture investment last year, which is a bit more than companies based in Santa Clara, San Mateo and southern Alameda counties combined. In addition, San Francisco companies received 79 percent of all mobile investments, making it a key location for thought leaders and budding entrepreneurs.

However, although San Francisco is on the cutting edge of online businesses, apps, and programs that attempt to ease the burdens of everyday life, is it possible the city could burn itself out? Is the future of tech perhaps not a location, but a shift in motivation? Could we be move away from the pressures and demands of high stakes venture capitalism into a more balanced life with sleep and intrinsic fulfillment?

While the overall adoption of this movement is highly unlikely, evidence does show that the tech industry and its tsunami of startups are evolving enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. The San Franciscos and Silicon Valleys will inevitably keep bursting with workaholics and stress maniacs, but a new entrepreneur is also rising up who will harness the power of the Internet and do business from Anywhere, USA (or Australia or India or wherever you randomly point to on a map), without compromising their quality of life to be the next billion dollar tech startup.

About our writer // Christina Morales is a freelance writer specializing in creating online marketing content. Her dream is to one day rule the world with just an iPad, a case of Cherry Coke, Twizzlers, and a glue gun.

Cate Blanchett on creativity, gender equality and following your gut — January 12, 2016
Coffee talk: Betty Enyonam Kumahor, catalyst for African businesses — December 6, 2015

Coffee talk: Betty Enyonam Kumahor, catalyst for African businesses

Betty Enoyonam Kumahor is an inspiring, dedicated and dynamic individual. Her professional expertise ranges from developing software to working as a founder and CEO. She’s a featured speaker at this year’s YOW! Conference in Melbourne, Australia, where she’ll talk about frugal innovation and overcoming unique challenges in her home continent of Africa.

How did you get to where you are today?

I didn’t plan to become a software developer, systems analyst, product manager, management consultant, CEO, entrepreneur, business owner, public speaker, or to wear any of the other hats I’ve put on. But I always planned to do three things:

  1. Notice the opportunities that came my way
  2. Work hard at them
  3. Return the favor

The journey that these simple three rules have taken me on is beyond my imagination and has been great fun. I got to where I am today by taking chances, working hard, and paying it forward.

You founded The Cobalt Partners, which helps African businesses with productivity, growth consulting, design thinking, software development and more. What inspired you to create the company?

It was merely a practical solution. I had just left ThoughtWorks with the plan to take a six-month sabbatical. Before I had informed anyone, I was already receiving requests for advisory assistance in one form or another. Within two weeks of requests coming in, I had started a spreadsheet to list them all. I counted 21 asks on my growing list.

The common thread was that increasingly more organisations and leaders — both foreign and local to Africa — were looking for growth catalysts. I had a unique blend of technology, productivity, and consulting experience, along with the leadership style and access to needed talent.

It was clear that there was a gap in the market, so we formed The Cobalt Partners in hopes of being catalysts for pan-African businesses in need of help applying technology, design thinking, and productivity consulting.

You’re doing incredible things. What’s the most challenging part of your day-to-day routine? What’s the most rewarding?

The most challenging and the most rewarding are actually one and the same: solving problems. I’ve always been a management consultant at the core. We seek clients, projects, and strategies that differ by their nature, so there isn’t necessarily a playbook for replicated success.

Betty Enyonam Kumahor

Every day presents a new challenge — whether it’s internal (such as, “how do we reach a new audience of small medium-sized enterprises who don’t even have email or social media services today?”) or for a client (“how do we formulate an innovative collaboration platform for makers in Ghana’s largest e-waste dump?”). It can be frustrating to formulate a thoughtful and robust solution, but it’s certainly rewarding when you see a solution in action.

Which obstacles do African businesses face most often today?

The challenges are big. I’d say talent is the most significant, especially for knowledge roles and business. The African context is unique in that it’s unlike both the East and West. Because of this, solutions in African context must be heavily tailored — but they should also leverage experience and knowledge gained from other parts of the world. Finding people who can do this is both competitive and difficult.

There are other challenges, too. Access to capital, even though capital is available, is still very difficult. Infrastructure costs such as power, transportation, and telecommunications also mean that the cost of operation in many African locations is comparatively higher than elsewhere.

But possibly even more important to address than all these is the challenge of the outdated narrative of Africa as a struggling (war-torn and disease-ridden) continent.

That narrative is myopic and truly ignores the riches, possibilities, and achievements of the continent. The more that this narrative starts to change, the more we’ll see more partners from the East and West working with us on the solutions that solve all current challenges.

You’ve spent your life and career change the age-old narrative. What are some the creative and innovative solutions you see happening already?

Those of us who grew up on the continent can tell you that we always saw creativity and innovation around us.

It was the pool table made completely out of wood and mud; the radio made out of spare parts; the bicycle that was able to transport an entire family to work and school.

We’re currently involved with a simple barcode hospital record filing system that has reduced wait times in clinics from an average of more than two hours to a mere 10 minutes. This solution boasts many innovations, using the elderly in the community to collect abandoned files, nine data points to uniquely identify patients (even if they show up with a different name or are fraudulently using another person’s insurance), to one-hour power sources in the event that  there is no electricity (ensuring new data is not lost and patient intake/checkout can still occur).

You’re speaking at the YOW! 2015 Conference in Australia. Why this event? What are you looking forward to most?

When it comes to technology — and in particular, software development — I’ve had several interactions with Australian conferences, technologists, consulates and businesses (especially in South Africa). Each has been so positive that I believe there is much opportunity to collaborate together in this space.

I am most looking forward to having conversations about what’s been happening in the Australian software development space within the last year, along with what’s been happening in Ghana. I hope we can do more together.

Who do you admire?

I admire my parents. My father was a pioneer in the Big Four Accounting and Advisory firms in Africa. But more importantly, he balanced his work with being a generous person. If I can have a quarter as much impact in my chosen field and in my extended family as he has, I will be in great company.

My mother is one of the most brilliant medical doctors I know and demonstrated her management skill in the African context as a hospital administrator in Ghana. She expanded the polyclinic for the largest health district into an award-winning hospital, accomplishing all of this while raising five children. 

In terms of well-known people, I point to Steve Jobs and Carly Fiorina. Steve Jobs had tremendous success, but more importantly, marched to the beat of his own drum. That takes tremendous strength and character. Carly Fiorina did a stint at my high school and went on to be a prominent female CEO in technology. She takes on challenges with poise and competence.

Where can we find you online?

Find me on Twitter, @enyok, or Facebook.

Last, how do you drink your coffee?

I avoid caffeine — I get enough from life, I like to think — so no coffee or tea for me.

My favorite drink is water, but not just any water. Must be still not sparking. In a bottle, not a glass. Spring not distilled. Dress it up with some Crystal Light (especially Raspberry Lemonade) and watch me grin.🙂

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