3 Ways Not to Run Your Business

    Running your business is an adventure. You’re finally out from your boss’s thumb—you’re the boss now!—and you can do whatever you want . . . right?

    Wrong. If you’re starting a business with the attitude that you personally are the center of your own business world, think again. It’s your customers who really make the business thrive, and it’s your employees who are the face of that business. Ignore them at your peril.

    1. Not understanding your customers’ needs

    If you don't keep track of your customers' shifting needs, they could slip away.

    If you don’t keep track of your customers’ shifting needs, they could slip away.

    It’s definitely a good thing to focus on improving and refining your products or services—but not to the exclusion of taking your customer’s needs into consideration.

    If the market is moving away from your business’s current position in the industry, it may be time to consider expanding your services to make sure you continue to meet the needs of your shifting market.

    Consider this: producing the highest quality camera film in the world doesn’t change the fact that practically no one has film camera anymore. Unless your target market is a very narrow niche, and you’re planning for this accordingly, you might be swimming in the wrong direction.

    2. Forgetting about customer service

    When you’ve got vendors to deal with, products to develop, and strategic partnerships to maintain, how important can customer service really be?

    As a business owner, it’s sometimes easy to get so wrapped up in the broad overview that you forget that customer service is your customers’ first experience with your business. If your customers don’t feel they’re being treated with respect, it’s very likely they’ll go find a company that will—and unless you’re paying attention, you might never know.

    If sales just aren’t there and you’re doing the best you can in other areas, take a look at how your sales team and service representatives are presenting your company. You may find that a renewed focus on customer care is just what your business needs to get over the plateau!

    3. Ignoring online reviews.

    A 2011 study by Cone Communications showed that a staggering 80 percent of consumers back away from companies based on negative online reviews—a number significantly up since last year. If you’re not paying attention, this could be happening to you.

    It’s vitally important that you monitor your online reputation so that you can address concerns as they arise. Online review sites like Yelp! have been seeing higher and higher traffic, and with so many people using these sites to make their decisions, negative reviews could be absolutely killing your chances at scoring business.

    As a personal anecdote, I can tell you that planning a wedding 6 hours away from where I live would have been nearly impossible without online review sites. When I was looking for a florist, I looked at a few different review sites to see what past customers thought of them. Three florists consistently had 2-3 stars, and one ranked consistently higher at 5 stars. Guess which florist got my business?

    Consumers don’t always have time to do intensive research on their own. (I can certainly vouch for that!) Help them end up with your company, first by giving great service that will be reflected in your customer’s reviews, and then by keeping tabs on your online reputation.

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