Financial Planning: Calculating the Value of Customer Relationships

 

PeopleShakingHandsAs a financial planner, you already know how to calculate the value of investments. But do you know how to calculate the value of relationships? You should: the Information Economy is quickly giving way to the Trust Economy, and there are gains to be earned for the smart and savvy.

Here’s a good definition of Relationship Marketing from HelpScout:

“With a focus on loyalty, retention and long-term relationships, the aptly named practice of ‘relationship marketing’ is designed around developing strong connections with customers by directly providing them with information that is tailored to their needs, wants and interests.”

 

In the financial planning business, you’re used to forecasting for the short, medium and long term; you need to apply this to your customer relations as well as your financial forecasts. As customers age, change jobs, have children, and retire, their human as well as financial needs change. You must stay attuned to and responsive to these changes. A man at thirty is not the same person as that man at sixty.

As the years go by, you and your clients will have a fluid, hopefully mutually rewarding relationship and, as with any relationship, communication is a key. Use a proper system to keep notes about the client, jotting down any salient points after meetings and calls. “Thinking about private school for future children” is the obvious kind of thing, but go beyond that to “Grandmother’s name is Julia, they are very close.” Before the next meeting, read over the notes so you can be fluent in your client’s unique language when you speak. It’s subtle, but effective. It will come naturally to you in a very short while; you’re a people person, or you wouldn’t be in this business in the first place.

Knowing as much as you can about the client you’re speaking to means you can be useful to them in ways that are not directly related to your bottom line. If you know that Susan is an avid golfer, and you also know that the pro shop across town has a sale, tell her. She may not be so overcome with joy that she throws her entire paycheque at you, but she will be grateful, and she will remember you. You are no longer just a service provider; you’re a friend.

Take this mindset with you to networking occasions: don’t just look for people who can immediately sign up for your services, but instead make yourself generally useful. Be friendly, interested in other people, and seek out ways to be of assistance to them.

Social media plays a role in relationship marketing too. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to put yourself out there to the wider community and, by making yourself useful with information and referrals, establishing you as a trustworthy, authoritative practitioner in your field. Build a line of communication between you and your followers. Instead of just broadcasting out tweets and Facebook posts, interact. Open communication and personal contact is one of the biggest strengths of a small business, so play it up!

Social media and in-person relationship marketing is a very powerful tool. It’s Word of Mouth marketing amplified, and investing in that relationship can result in pretty powerful payoff.


General Contractors: How retaining your customers is like constructing a house

Graphic by Alex Banman

Graphic by Alex Banman

Building a house right involves a lot of time, effort and planning. Cutting corners or skimping on supplies results in an inferior home, and ultimately, more work. Building a relationship between you and your contracting clients so that they call you next time they have a contracting job to be done is no different. Here are five ways the practices you use to retain a client are exactly like the steps involved in constructing a house.

1. Create a blueprint

Imagine if you were working on a property, and only noticed halfway through working on the roof that you don’t have enough flashing to make sure it doesn’t leak. Just like any construction job, you can’t try to work on retention without any sort of strategy, and hope it works out. Think of your retention strategy like a blueprint: you can plan exactly the way everything is supposed to go, and you can always refer to it if you are busy or forget the next step.

2. Get the right materials

As any contractor knows, you need certain tools to do certain jobs. When you’re faced with a fastener that needs a 3/8 “ ratchet, only having a ½ “ ratchet in your tool bag definitely doesn’t help. Retaining your customers is no different. There is no generic “one size fits all” gadget to help all small businesses with retention: you need to have a toolkit. Things like asking your customers for reviews, giving them offers on your services, and sending them e-mails reminding them that they might be due for a new shingling can all contribute to building retention. Devote some time into thinking what methods will best reach your customers.

3. Building a sturdy foundation

The entire structure of a house relies upon the sturdiness of a good foundation. Any flaws in the foundation could impact the integrity of the house, and could even bring it crumbling down. Think of a house like your retention relationship with your customers, and your first job with them as the foundation. When you build that business relationship with a customer for the first time while working with them over the first job, you are building rapport and trust. Keeping the customer informed, being accessible, and of course, doing a good job, can all make an impact on whether or not the customer will work with you again. Do a job sloppily, leaving a mess, or even not properly conveying to a customer why a job may take a little longer due to weather or other circumstances are like cracks in the foundation- you will have to work a lot harder to repair that relationship, and even then, they may choose not to reach out to you the next time they need a contractor to help with a future project. Construct a strong foundation, and you will find the relationship easier to build on.

4. Framing Construction

Once you have built a strong foundation, it’s time to erect the framing. The same way that framing is the backbone of a house, retention strategies provide the necessary support for a continuing relationship with a customer. The same way that a wall needs more than one stud to prop it up, you should strive to have more than one touch point with past customers that you are working to retain. Set up your retention practice to allow for several opportunities to reconnect with your customer. Some great ideas are: e-mail follow ups, review requests, offers, Facebook posts (for some ideas of how to market yourself as a General Contractor on Facebook, read Canadian Contractor’s article about it here), and service reminders. Each opportunity will make it more likely that you will come to mind when the customer in need of a contractor.

5. Calculating your gain after the investments you have made in time and materials

When you run your own contracting business, you always have to keep your eye on the margins. How much money you have sunk into a job when it comes to time, paying your employees, gas, tools and materials all has to be subtracted from what your customer is paying to calculate your overall earnings on the job. You can apply the same sort of thinking to calculate your return on investment when it comes to retaining a contracting client. Take the time that you are investing into retention strategies and any money that you may be spending on marketing platforms, and subtract it from the worth of a retaining client. If the numbers are unsatisfactory, it may mean that you might want to re-evaluate your retention strategy. If they are positive, you know your retention strategy is working

 

Actively investing in customer loyalty is a strong marketing strategy. Not only do your satisfied customers rely on you whenever they need a contractor, but they are very likely to recommend you to friends and family. Remember, retaining customers is a lot like building a home: if you’ve constructed a strong foundation, there will be less need for maintenance later on.


8 Things Every Home Office Needs

Home office cover maybe

Part of the beauty of running your  business out of your home is that you  have absolute control over your work  environment. That being said, it’s easy to  fall into the temptation of wearing  pyjamas while you talk to clients over  the phone, or set up your home office in  a way that might be a little less than  productive. You may not have the  wherewithal to design your home office  to look like the beautiful ones featured  on HGTV, House and Home , or Houzz,  but you don’t have to do a total overhaul  to improve your work station! Below are  eight simple things that you can add to  your home office to make it comfortable,  functional, and efficient (and make you  efficient along with it!).

 

1) A dedicated space

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It might be tempting to pull out your laptop and do some work in bed or just set up shop on the corner of the kitchen table, but this can be disastrous not only for your productivity but for your work-life balance. By running your small business out of your home, you’ve already blurred the lines between your work life and your personal life. Keep everything as separate as you can by dedicating an area of your house to be your home office, and make an effort to conduct all of your work there. That way, when you are in your office you are in your “work” headspace, and will be less distracted by your personal life. You also may find it easier to keep work from leaking into your personal time as well!

2) A filing cabinet (or some kind of organizational system)

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Maybe no one but you sees your work area, but that is not justification for having a messy desk! Keep organized by purchasing a filing cabinet and folders, and sort out all of your papers, invoices, and receipts. You’ll be able to save yourself a ton of time searching for documents and (bonus!) you won’t spend tax season frantically hunting for all of your receipts. Take it one step further and actually organize all of your computer documents as well by creating accurately named folders, and then sorting your files accordingly. No more saving on the Desktop! For some tips on organizing your computer documents, check out Lifehacker’s article on it here

3) A comfy chair

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Chances are you have experienced the dreaded pain and soreness you get from sitting too long in an uncomfortable chair- it’s an epidemic among office workers and students. But you’re not an office worker; you’re the owner of a small business that you run out of your own home. You’re the boss. As the boss, don’t you think you deserve a comfy chair?

A good, high quality chair should help support your spine and posture, reducing stress in your shoulders, neck and back. Make sure that the arms, height and back are adjustable, so you can customize your chair to be perfect for you. For a breakdown on how to pick the perfect home office chair, check out Spine Health’s article here.

4) Adequate Lighting

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Lighting doesn’t really occur to you when you are staring at a backlit computer screen all day, but having the proper lighting in your work environment is crucial. Dim lighting can cause headaches, migraines, and eye strain. Position your home office by a window for natural light, install some overhead lights, or invest in a few desk lamps. Also take time every fifteen minutes or so to look away from your screen. Your eyes will thank you.

5) A dedicated phone line

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There’s nothing that undermines a business’s professional image faster than a child answering a phone call from a customer, as cute as it may be. Whether it’s a landline, a cell phone, or even an internet calling service like Skype, make sure that all of your inbound business calls come to you separately from your personal phone number, and that you are calling out from that same number. That way, when your phone rings, you know to put on your best business voice.

6) Back Up External Hard Drive

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Losing all of your data and documents on your computer due to a power surge or computer crash can be incredibly frustrating for the average computer user, but for someone who has their whole business on the computer, it’s debilitating. To stop your business crashing when your computer does, invest in a back up external hard drive, and use it frequently to make secondary copies of all your work. That way, if anything happens, replacing or rebooting your computer is all you need to worry about. Need help figuring out how to back up your system? Check out this Microsoft article here.

7) A paper shredder

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When you run a business from home, the paper can pile up fast. You can’t just toss your documents en masse into the recycling come spring cleaning because a lot of them contain sensitive information. Investing in a shredder for your home office not only saves you time hacking at papers with scissors, but they’re also kind of fun too!

8) Daily Essentials

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It is very easy to get distracted when you work from home. Limit the amount of time you spend wandering away from your desk by keeping a drawer full of essentials to get you through your work day. In addition to the usual office supplies like pens and sticky notes, add things like hand cream, lip balm, phone chargers, first aid supplies, granola bars and eye drops.
Of course, the best thing about a home office is that you get to decide exactly how it looks and what goes in it. If you think pictures of friends and family or an instant coffee machine will make you more productive in your day, go for it! Just don’t lose sight that your work area is for working in.


5 Tax Deductibles You Get As a Small Business Owner That You Haven’t Been Claiming

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Every year during tax season, Canadian small business owners miss out on a  huge opportunity to write off many of their small business expenses as tax  deductions because they don’t know what they can and can’t write off! We’re  here to give you the down and dirty on what expenses you may not have  realized you can declare for the next time around.

 1. Your car

Using your vehicle to get from client to client or job to job? Any time you  climb in your car for business purposes can be declared on your taxes. Think  about it: if you had a job for a corporation that required you to drive around,  they would give you access to a company vehicle, or at least let you claim  your expenses. Being a small business owner is no different. Depending on  your business, you can deduct some of your gas, insurance, and maintenance  expenses. Make sure to track the distances you drove, the dates that you  went, and your destinations, so if Revenue Canada questions you, you can  support your claim.

 

2. Business coffees and lunches

Whether you’re trying to woo a client over coffee or discuss business strategy over lunch, at least part of those meals and munchies can be written off during tax time. Just be careful to draw a firm line between business and personal, and don’t declare anything that falls in that gray area (like a social outing with a client). Same rule as before: keep a record and keep your receipts.

3. Office Expenses

You might have guessed that you could declare work items like pens, laptops, software and staplers, but did you know you could also declare something as seemingly arbitrary as luggage, coffee machine, or even chairs? If it’s directly related to your business, it’s a legitimate expense and you can write it off. Just understand there is a limit. If you are ever examined, you need to be able to prove that all of the purchases you claimed were just for the business. As much as you might wish they would, the CRA won’t buy that a big screen TV or a hot tub was a “necessary business expense”.

4. Your Home

Is your “office” a corner of the dining room table? Does your regular morning commute consist of wandering down a flight of stairs from the bedroom to the living room? If you run your business from home and you’re self-employed, then you can actually write off some of your home expenses as business expenses. By filling out the Canadian Revenue Agency’s Statement of Business or Professional activities (form T2125), you are eligible to declare a portion (prorated) of everything from rent, utilities, home insurance, property taxes and maintenance.
Read up on what you can and can’t declare on the T2125 form here.

5. Your family

Have you got a spouse or one of your kids working for you? The CRA allows you to deduct a family member’s wages just like you would a regular employee’s, as long as you follow the three conditions:

 
1. You pay them

 
2. You pay them the same amount that you would pay someone else to do the same job

 
3. They are doing work that is necessary to the business and will help generate revenue

 
It’s pretty obvious that this is a deductible that could easily be abused (or falsified), so be sure that you keep documentation to prove that the family member has been receiving wages.

Small business owners get a lot of tough breaks, but they get some tax breaks too! Just claim all of your eligible expenses and make sure to always keep receipts and documentation as proof in case of an audit, and you will be rewarded by a hefty return in the form of a government cheque come tax season.


Are You Sabotaging Your Own Success?

Six Common Mistakes that Might Be Hurting Your Business

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Managing your own business can be incredibly rewarding, but, like anything, comes with a learning curve that might be pretty steep. You’re bound to make mistakes, but as your own boss, you won’t have someone looking over your shoulder and telling you what you’re doing wrong. We’ve come up with six common mistakes that might be impacting your business… so hopefully you can avoid them!

1. Underselling your worth or undercharging your customers

When starting your own business, it can be tempting to be the cheapest service in town. After all, you want to bring in customers, and what better way than to lure them from the competition and reel them in with low prices? However, undercutting your profit can hurt your business in two major ways.

Long term profitability: This seems like a no brainer, but you should always be asking yourself, with any decision you make, “will my business grow in a sustainable way?” If you have set prices that you can’t support the business with as it grows, you are setting your business up for failure before you even start. Planning to raise prices after you’ve secured a client base isn’t the best idea either: you’ve built a client base that is used to your low prices, and will resent it when you raise them. Lowering prices is much easier. So set the bar (realistically) high.

Underselling yourself: When you set a price, you are telling your customers that you think that the services or products you provide are worth a certain amount of money. Set the price too low, and instead of having people thinking of what they’re saving, you’ll have them wondering if the work you do or the products you offer are cheap. That said; don’t set the costs sky high either. Make sure you are setting a price that properly represents the value of your business.

2. Not keeping track of your ledgers

How much is your business making a month? How much are you spending? What are your expenses? Doing finances might take you away from other parts of your job, but it is crucial that you always know exactly how much it costs to run your business. You can track what is working well and what is floundering, be prepared for any emergency expenses, and always know exactly what you’re bringing in at the end of the month. Otherwise you can end up in the red and not even know it. Consider investing in accounting software- it will do all the hard work for you!

3. Not Delegating

You can believe the “if you want to get something done right, do it yourself” maxim all you want, but if you try to do each and every job, you will spread yourself too thin to do anything effectively, let alone run your business. Hire capable individuals, empower them to be able to work independently, teach them the way you like to have things done, and then focus on the things that only you can focus on.

4. Not investing in marketing

At OutRank, one of the biggest mistakes we see is small businesses not paying enough attention to their marketing. Delving into customer service is great for serving existing clients, but what about when your pipeline dries up? By taking a bit of time to work on marketing your business, especially online, you can help your business by having your marketing pour new prospective leads into your client pool, ensuring that it never runs dry.

5. Not focusing on retention

Big businesses can rely on one-off customers making a purchase, never to return again, because they have a much larger pool of prospects. As a small business, not only do you have to make sure every customer is satisfied, but you have to try to make sure they come back again too. Repeat customers form the backbone of a small business. Did you know that it can cost between four and six times more to get a new customer than it can to keep a current one? Or that repeat customers spend, on average 67% more? Not only are your repeats making you more money, but they have the power to bring in new people themselves, through recommendations and reviews. So focus on giving your customers excellent customer service: they could just pay you back with their loyalty and more customers.

6. Not giving yourself a break.

We get it. It’s hard to find that work/life balance when so much of your life (and your money!) is tied up in your business. It makes sense for you to always be checking your e-mail and your phone. After all, a missed call could be a missed opportunity, which could mean money missing from your pocket. However, you need to find ways to take a step back and turn off, if only for a moment. Come up with a set of rules that you adhere to; it could be not checking your phone over dinner, making sure you take an hour to yourself for lunch, or setting a time at night that you don’t read your e-mail. Whatever they are, stick to them. If you don’t detach, you can risk burning out, and your business will suffer. Make sure you eat regularly, sleep, and get exercise.

Mistakes are unavoidable, and you will learn and grow from them. But by keeping an eye out for the pitfalls we described, you can limit the impact the mistakes you make will have on your business.


“So, You’re A Lawyer Right? Can I Ask You A Quick Question?”: 5 techniques to deal with friends, family and acquaintances trying to solicit free legal advice

Lawyer talk at party pic

Having computer problems? Call your friend  who’s in IT. Car won’t start? Invite your  buddy who owns an auto repair shop over for  a drink and get him or her to have a look at it.  Going through a divorce? Surely it couldn’t  hurt to ask your lawyer friend for a bit of free  advice.

To a lot of people, all of those situations are  the same. They can’t understand why you, as  a lawyer, are not comfortable giving advice,  and they don’t know that you are bound by  professional restrictions (and also, hey, you  like to get paid for the work you do: you  deserve to earn a living, just like everyone  else). Refusing can cause resentment, and get  you known as another snobby stuck up  lawyer. Declining can have the potential to  make for a few awkward dinner parties.
Here are five strategies that you can use with  your friends, family, acquaintances and people who have you have just met to deflect.

1. Tell them, “That’s not my area of expertise”

Many people suffer under a misconception that as a lawyer, you have knowledge about all areas of law. Asking a divorce lawyer about how to evict a tenant is no different than asking an ear, nose and throat doctor about unusual heart palpitations: sure, you might be able to speak to it a bit from years of study, but you are in no way an expert. If it is a friend or family member asking for your assistance, you might feel pressure to help. Unfortunately, as you’re probably well aware, even a bit of casual advice offered at a dinner party, if they act on it, could lead you into a malpractice lawsuit. Instead, be straightforward and tell them that it’s not an area of law that you have any knowledge in, and you could very easily give them bad advice.

2. Explain that any advice you give could put you on the wrong side of the Code of Conduct

The Canadian Bar Association Code of Professional Conduct, says “The lawyer should not undertake to advise an unrepresented person but should urge such a person to obtain independent legal advice and, if the unrepresented person does not do so, the lawyer must take care to see that such person is not proceeding under the impression that the lawyer is protecting such person’s interests.”
When giving someone advice, it is very easy to slip into a lawyer-client relationship inadvertently. If the person takes your advice and loses a case, they could come after you for incompetency, and you could find yourself being sued for malpractice. Take the time to explain that you have a professional code of ethics that you are bound by, and can’t cross those boundaries. Asking them politely to understand your situation should do the trick.

3. Refer them to someone else

You don’t need to shut someone down when they come to you for advice. Instead, refer them to another lawyer in the business that might be able to help them. It may feel like you’re blowing them off, but in fact you are helping them: by giving them a name of a lawyer you know to be good at what they do, you are ensuring that they will get good legal service. You are also helping a fellow in the profession, and (hopefully) might have the favour returned to you some day. Just make it clear that they won’t offer their services for free.

4. Offer to take them on as a (paying) client

If someone you know needs legal advice in the area you specialize in, why not offer to help? It’s not like you are completely forbidden to help friends, family or acquaintances with legal services…but it pays to be cautious, and of course, it pays to be paid. If you are approached by someone you know for legal advice, suggest that you take them on in a professional capacity as a client. By forming a lawyer-client relationship outside of your social connections and making sure you conduct due diligence to ensure there is no conflict of interest, you will not only protect yourself from malpractice, but will draw professional boundaries. That way, the expectation on both sides is that this is outside of your friendship or other connections, and that you will both act accordingly.

5. Suggest they look into Legal Aid or Unbound Legal Services

As nice as it is to think the best of everyone, as a lawyer you will get people who are hoping to dodge some hefty legal fees by getting some free advice from you. If you’ve tried referring them another lawyer or even offered to take them on as a client, and they’ve made it clear that they just can’t afford to pay (or have awkwardly shuffled around the idea of fees), suggest that they look into legal aid or unbound legal services, depending on their situation. For any situation that would not be covered by legal aid, unbound legal services could be a solution for someone on a budget. Instead of paying a lawyer for the whole process, the person in question could ask a lawyer to only assist with a specific service, and pay accordingly.
It always is a good idea to be cautious when giving out your advice for free. At best, you have given away something you otherwise would have been paid for. At worst, you can get a reputation for being someone who gives bad advice, or even find yourself on the wrong side of a malpractice suit. At least by saying no, you may end up with a reputation as someone that people can’t pester for free advice.


On the go while on the job? Eight Top Tips to Turn Your Car Into A Mobile Office

You know how it is. You’re too busy to be stuck behind a computer all day, but also too busy to be out of touch for long. That’s the problem; the solution is to turn your car or truck into a mobile office, and we’ve scoured the web looking for the tools that can help you do it quickly, efficiently, and without costing you a fortune.

1) A computer and accessories you can fit in a bag

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Whether you prefer a tablet or a laptop, make sure that it is light and easy to carry. If you pick a tablet, a good idea is to choose one with an attachable keyboard so you aren’t struggling with a touchscreen to format documents and e-mails when you can type a lot faster. A wireless mouse is also light, portable, and depending on your situation, can make the time you’re spending working on the go much more efficient, especially if you are used to a desktop.

2) Add Applicable Business Apps

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Load your tablet or your smartphone up with useful business and finance apps like Mint, Piggybank, mileage trackers, Google Maps, and your shop software, whether Jobber, Mhelpdesk, or whatever else you use to keep tabs on your jobs and your team. Use it in those dead times while you’re waiting for someone to show for a meeting, to jot down notes on a job you’re prospecting, or even (depending on the software you use) to accept a customer’s digital signature on a change order. The variety of free apps is staggering, and if the ones you need cost a little, you can still submit them as a tax deductible.

3) Stay connected

 

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It’s not really being “mobile”, if you are jumping from coffee shop to coffee shop looking for Wi-Fi. For when you just can’t find a Wi-Fi hot spot, invest in an internet stick. An internet stick is a USB that you plug in to your laptop or tablet that gives you that instant connection. Like your internet at home, you pay for a monthly plan, so we suggest only using it for when you need it.

4) Pack yourself a Cooler/Heater/Thermos

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Are you on the road most of the day? A good food and beverage storage solution can keep you free of junk and fast foods, keeping your blood sugar level and your productivity high all day. Drive through options are high in fat and sugars and low in nutrition, not to mention costing more than making your own meals to pack and bring with you.

5) Speak to an Accountant

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If you do a significant amount of business in your vehicle, talk to your accountant or insurance consultant about the ramifications for your taxes. You might be pleasantly surprised at what they say.

6) Pivoting Desk/Work Surface

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These are available with “no drill” mounts so they fit in any vehicle and make a much more comfortable work surface for your tablet or laptop. Ergonomics are important, the more important the more work you do in a constrained environment, so it pays in the long run to make sure your work surface actually works for you. These are available at various price points from a myriad of online suppliers.

7) Car Caddy

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A car caddy is a big hold-all bag with compartments for your laptop, tablet, cords, books, papers, pens, snacks, and more. This more than pays for itself every time you use it, as you can pop all your expensive doodads into it, pick it up with one hand, and stash it securely in the trunk instead of scrambling to secure a hundred separate items in a dozen different pockets., or just leaving everything in frustration only to return to a smashed window.

8) Bluetooth

 

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It allows you to call (legally) while driving, search the internet, get directions while on the go and even compose emails. Not only does a Bluetooth headset stop you from having to pull over to make a call (or be pulled over for making a call) but it will also result in a higher quality call reception than just sticking your phone on speaker. They’re a little pricy, but they’re worth it.

Given the hours you put in on the road, you might as well make them as comfortable, and productive as possible. Drive safe!


How to be CASL Compliant: It’s not as difficult (or as scary) as you think!

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We work with a lot of small  businesses, and we know  that  there is a lot of  unnecessary  worry going  around about  CASL (the  Canadian Anti Spam  Law).  So we did some    investigation, consulted  our  legal team, and called  up senior  policy advisers  for your peace  of mind. By  following these 5  simple  rules for compliance,  you  can go on sending  commercial e-mail  messages  stress-free!

1) Give your recipients a choice: Unsubscribe Button

Many commercial messages already have this, and if you do, you’re ahead of the game! Basically, you just have to make sure that if someone getting your commercial correspondence doesn’t want to any more, there is an easy way for them to unsubscribe. It’s as easy as putting an unsubscribe button or hyperlink at the bottom of your e-mail. Just make sure that once a person has unsubscribed from you that you do not contact them again.
An unsubscribe button actually benefits your business; someone who unsubscribes from your messages is someone who would ignore them in any case. This way, you can make sure your messages are going to people who will be more likely to take the time to read them.
Of course, you can just make sure that your content is so attention grabbing and engaging that no one will want to unsubscribe!

2) Be straight-up honest: tell them who you are and how to reach you

On each message that you send out, you must provide your name, business address, and your means of contact. Far from being a negative thing, giving your name, address, and a way for people to reach you helps increase the likelihood that people will be willing to pick up the phone and call, turning them into a potential lead. Also, seeing a physical address also lends your business authenticity.
Also, be sure that you are using honest e-mail subject lines and that the email messages aren’t deceptive. As well as being CASL compliant, it’s a good business rule. People who have an idea about what they are opening are more likely to have a positive reaction and be receptive.

3) Consent, Consent, Consent

You would never send an e-mail or text about your business to someone you don’t even know, would you? That’s just bad business practice. Think of CASL’s rules of consent as an extension of that. Basically, you need someone’s implicit or explicit permission to send them messages. Explicit consent is very clear and straightforward: someone says that you have their consent to send them commercial electronic messages. There are all kinds of ways you can get explicit consent: an opt-in checkbox, a sign up form for your newsletter on your site, signing up for an e-mail list at a tradeshow, them giving you their business card, or even oral permission all count, as long as you keep it on your record,. When you have explicit consent, you can send clients messages whenever, at any time, and you only have to stop if they unsubscribe.

4) Keep a Record

Just to be on the safe side, keep a record of everyone that you have consent from. Keep a list of everyone that you have consent from, the date that you got it, and the proof that you have it.

By sticking to these tips, you’ll not only make sure that you’re CASL compliant, but that you’re actually making your customers happy as well.

 

 

Just a note, this is not a legal document. If you want to learn more about CASL, you can reach out to a lawyer or Industry Canada.


Accounting 2.0: Five new ways for you to connect with your clients

Accountant at work The accounting landscape has changed. Laptops,  smartphones and tablets have made it easy to send  invoices, prepare taxes, or do other work on the go. Cloud  computing means that you can have all of your work with  you wherever you are, without having to carry a USB or a  SD Card.

You’ve updated the way you do accounting… now it’s time  to change the way you find and connect with your clients.

 At Rogers OutRank, we’ve helped over 600 accounting  businesses in Canada with digital marketing and lead  generation –helping small and medium- sized businesses  get and keep more customers is kind of our specialty. Here  are five of the strategies that we use that you can  implement to attract, convert and retain your clients.

1. Work on your website

We can’t stress enough the importance of having a good website for your accounting firm. Did you know that 89% of customers consult the internet when considering purchasing a product or service? You want to ensure that people searching the web for an accountant find you, and when they do, your website convinces them to send you an e-mail or pick up the phone and give your business a call. Think of it like your resume: a potential client is considering choosing you for their accounting needs, and you have to prove to them that not only can your firm provide the services that they need, but you’re the best accounting firm for the job.

So what makes a “good” website? The first priority is making sure that your landing page (what people see when they click on a link to your site in a search engine) answers the five Ws and one H: Who you are, What services you offer, Where are you located, When your business hours are, Why they should contact you, and How they can reach you. Keep it brief but informative. Other tabs on your website can offer details on your services, rates, and other information that you want your customers to know. Your landing page should hook the interest of potential clients with quick, easy to find information, and then if it isn’t enough to convince them to contact you, the other content is there for support.

You also want to make sure you can be found. Building your SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) so that you will show up on the front page when people search for accountants in their area on search engines is crucial. Things like utilizing keywords, tags and titles are a good start. If you want to know more about what SEO is and how it works, you can read about it here.

2. Forget ads in the local newspaper…try advertising with search engines instead

Why is advertising online so superior to advertising in your local paper? Three words: Return On Investment (ROI). When you advertise with a newspaper, a billboard, a television station or the radio, you are paying a set (and normally pretty hefty) fee. The thing about this kind of advertising is that all kinds of people are going to see or hear it– and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Think about it. Out of all the people who your ad reaches, how many do you think are at that moment looking for an accountant? Instead of you spending money on advertising in the hopes that someone who sees your ad might need an accountant, why not make it easier for the people actually looking for accountants in your area to find you?

Not only are ads more likely to lead to business online, but you end up paying less for each prospect. Online search engines use a payment system called “Pay Per Click”, which means you only pay each time someone clicks on your ad and is taken to your webpage. Who is likely to click on your ad? Someone who is looking for an accountant.

With advertising that’s not only cheaper but also more direct, advertising on Google, Bing, or Yahoo is the way to go.

3. Get Social (Media)

There is no shortage of articles advising small and medium-sized businesses to take advantage of social media. The question is: what social media? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram…the amount of social media applications out there are seemingly endless. As beneficial as social media can be for a business, it can also be very time-consuming, and the more accounts you have, the more time it takes and the more difficult they are to maintain.
Instead of signing up for anything and everything, pick a few accounts (we suggest Facebook and LinkedIn) and really focus on keeping them updated and building your brand. By posting pictures, commenting, and sharing relevant posts, you add authenticity to your brand. Social media is a good way to attract new clientele, reassure the people who may be doing an online search to find more about your business, and build retention with your current clients.

One of the biggest complaints we hear from small and medium-sized businesses is that social media management takes time. We suggest using a content manager so that you can update several sites at once.

4. Boost your reputation with reviews

Online reviews are the digital age’s word of mouth, and ignoring them or taking a passive approach is not only missing a huge opportunity for business growth, but can actually be detrimental to your business. 79% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as word of mouth. Instead of just letting reviews online happen, take charge. Look online to see what customers are saying about you, and where. Ask clients who have just had a good experience with you to review your business online. Include their testimonials on your website. By taking reviews into your own hands, you can directly affect your brand’s online reputation. Don’t tell people how great your business is – show them with reviews.

5. Retain those clients and keep them up to date with some thoughtful e-mails

As you know, it is much more difficult to attract a new client then it is to bring a past client back in for repeat business. Maintain the relationship and rapport that you have built through working together previously by sending your clients e-mails. They can be anything from thanking them for their business, asking them for a review, or even reminding them that tax season is coming up again. Yes, sending these e-mails takes time, but they are a great investment. To speed up the process, consider using e-mail templates, or better yet, find an e-mail marketing tool that does most of the work for you.

We understand that any time you take to do marketing and business development is time away from your current clients and the paying work that is the backbone of your business. However, if you ignore business development, you risk your client pipeline drying up. Establishing these five digital marketing techniques will help save you time and money, and make sure that you are constantly attracting new clients and maintaining current ones.


Introducing Rogers OutRank Reviews!

5-StarsOur goal at OutRank by Rogers is to help small business owners like you succeed in their digital marketing efforts. We already help people find you online by advertising your business on search engines and by optimizing your website—now we’re excited to announce that we are taking things a step further.

As experts in digital marketing, we have fielded a lot of questions from our customers about digital marketing tools. Figuring that every business owner could benefit from our know-how, we decided to launch Rogers OutRank Reviews, where we’ll be sharing our knowledge and insight gained through years of working in local digital marketing, and offering our insights on popular online marketing tools.

Please note, we have absolutely no stake in any of these organizations, and any opinions we offer are our own. We want to help small businesses build their understanding of the local digital marketing arena, with software and program services that might potentially be useful to your small business.

Praise, complaints, recommendations and more; you can find them all on Rogers OutRank Reviews.

Let us help you get digital media savvy. Check out www.rogersoutrankreviews.com.