Author Archive

January 14, 2015 10:49 am

Time to Ramp up your Marketing?

January is often a busy time of year for most businesses. Clients are done with their Christmas shopping and are now making New Year’s Resolutions that often require different services.
Consider these scenarios:

    • People who decide to buy/sell a home over the holidays might need a stager or decorator
    • Clients might make a New Year’s Resolution to redecorate their home or a specific space. They’ll be looking for decorators, feng shui experts, and/or redesigners!
    • “Getting organized” might very well be in the top 10 New Year’s Resolution Lists. Enter you, Professional Organizer!
  • So how do you ensure you get a piece of the “New Year Client” pie? Smart vendors will beef up their marketing during this time. Here are some tips you can use to start your New Year Marketing Campaign!

    Marketing Strategy

    1: Think of a “New Year” Campaign

    Relevant content, as we all know, is the #1 most useful element in any successful marketing campaign! Think about what type of message you could launch seasonally that will resonate with your specific target audience.

    These messages could be along the lines of “New Year, New You”, “Time for a Change”, “Start the New Year off Right” or whatever other message you think might work.

    Just remember: Your target audience has to read your message and think “Hey! That’s me!”

    More Content

    2: Develop your content

    Once you have a great idea for a New Year campaign, think about how and where you can spread the message. You can develop some targeted content for:

    • Your blog
    • Your social media accounts
    • Your paid advertising
    • Your SEO efforts
    • Your email marketing campaigns
  • Of course, you can develop only a few pieces of content and repurpose them for the above channels. The key is to deliver a punchy message for the channel where you’re advertising.

    For example, say you write a great blog article about “things to do after a New Year Engagement”. Your target audience here is pretty clear, right? Ok. Now you can develop Social Media content that links to that article. You can build SEO strategies around getting more traffic to that one article. You can even run an email marketing campaign for it!

    3: Increase your presence

    In addition to spreading your new seasonal content, consider simply upping your game on all channels.

    More exposure of your brand – whether it be to your seasonal content or not – will do you some good if you believe there is an increased demand for your services.

    Examples of increasing your presence would be:

    • Adding keywords and increasing budgets on your paid advertising
    • Increasing your blogging frequency (if you typically blog once a week, increase to three or four times a week. If you blog once a month, try once a week or even more frequently during peak seasons.)
    • Increase your post frequency on social media (but don’t go overboard!)
  • 4: Analyze your Results

    Analyse Results

    Very quickly, you should be able to tell if your targeted campaign is working or not. This is where your website analytics are vital!

    Especially if you’re using paid advertising, be sure to closely monitor your spend after you launch your campaign. You don’t want an irrelevant ad to eat up your entire marketing budget.

    If you’re seeing a large amount of inbound traffic without much other impact (no increased leads or additional client sales, for instance), then likely potential clients like your marketing message but don’t see the continuity when they get to your website. You might want to consider a targeted landing page in this case.

    5: Remember to end it!

    Have you ever roamed the Internet in April only to find an ad for “Christmas Sales”? It happens. That’s for one of two reason. Either:

    1. The business plum forgot to take down the ad; or
    2. The business purposely decided to leave the ad up because it performed better than other ads in the past.

    If you’re thinking #2 above is a good idea… then we need to have words. Please don’t do it. If your seasonal ad is performing wayyy better than any other ad you’ve ever had, then think about why the message is doing so well, and how you can devise another message to be equally as productive.

    By the way… You might also want to consider what metrics you’re using to decide how successful your ad is!

    Do you ramp up your marketing during peak seasons? Have you had much luck with this approach? Let us know in a comment!


    The holiday season is a time for being kind. Exchanging gifts is all part of the fun! If you’re in a working relationship with someone, however, is it appropriate to send gifts? Should a professional send their clients holiday favors to keep up good rapport?

    If you have many clients, vendors, and business contacts, who should you send gifts to? What kinds of gifts are appropriate? Figuring out proper gifting etiquette can be stressful, but don’t let it drag your holiday spirit down! Here are some tips to help calm your gifting worries.

    Should you send a gift to your clients?

    As long as you conduct yourself professionally, most businesses agree that sending small holiday presents to your clients is acceptable. Some even encourage it! For your client, a small gift is a warm reminder that you appreciate their business and would value the opportunity to work with them again.

    For you, gifts are a holiday-friendly way to remind people that your business is a good choice. As long as you aren’t bombarding customers with blatant advertisements during their personal time, sending a small token of your appreciation can be a smart idea.

    Handing a small present

    Who should you send gifts to?

    Whether you send gifts to a select group of people or many clients and business partners is a personal choice. If you are a small business owner with just a few regular clients, it might be worth sending a gift to everyone. If your business is large, with many different clients and vendors, you might want to avoid sending gifts to every person you’ve ever encountered.

    A person that you had a short consultation with two years ago who didn’t actually book your services might be confused if they suddenly receive an expensive bottle of wine from your company. Large companies generally keep their gifting pool to just clients or vendors that they business with regularly. Gifts will be reserved for their biggest accounts, most frequent clients, and often used vendors.

    Whether you send gifts to a select group of people or many clients and business partners is a personal choice. If you are a small business owner with just a few regular clients, it might be worth sending a gift to everyone. If your business is large, with many different clients and vendors, you might want to avoid sending gifts to every person you’ve ever encountered.

    A person that you had a short consultation with two years ago who didn’t actually book your services might be confused if they suddenly receive an expensive bottle of wine from your company. Large companies generally keep their gifting pool to just clients or vendors that they business with regularly. Gifts will be reserved for their biggest accounts, most frequent clients, and often used vendors.

    Holiday present for clients

    How much should you spend?

    Even though holiday gifts are an opportunity for gentle marketing, try not to go over board. The goal here is to spend a little bit of money making your clients feel appreciated. Don’t drop lots of cash as though it’s a big advertising campaign!

    Giving very expensive gifts, particularly if you’re a small business, gives the wrong impression and makes clients uncomfortable. How much you spend, specifically, depends on how big your business is and how many clients you’re gifting to, so use your judgment. Remember that a gift shouldn’t be expensive enough that your clients feel guilty or pressured!

    When should you send the gifts?

    Gifts are a great gesture, but you don’t want to interrupt your clients’ actual holiday with business reminders. Most companies will send their gifts at the very beginning of the season, near the end of November when work Christmas parties begin.

    For example, American companies might begin sending clients holiday favors after Thanksgiving. If this is not convenient for you (perhaps that’s a very busy part of your season!), wait until after Christmas and brand your gift as a ‘Happy New Year’ favor.

    Sending gifts too close to Christmas, or during your clients’ vacation time, can make them feel like their personal space is being stepped in. If you send things too close to Christmas, some clients take trips, so your cookies might go stale in their mailbox!

    Is a Christmas card acceptable?

    Not every business sends their clients actual gifts. Some companies, particularly big ones, will send nice holiday greeting cards instead. If you’re the owner of a small business, cards are a fine idea, but they will not make your company’s name stand out in the same way as those who send a thoughtful gift.

    What kinds of gifts should you send?

    There is no formula for choosing what kind of gift to send your clients. You can be creative with your ideas as long as you reach a happy medium between too personal and too business-like.

    You are sending a warm holiday favor to show clients that you care, but this is still a business relationship! The more creative you get, the more likely your business’s name is to stand out, but remember that your gift should still be appropriate. Here are some common holiday gifts for business clients!

    1. Holiday treats (ex. gourmet chocolates, nice Christmas cookies, etc.)
    2. Branded mug and warm holiday drink (ex. coffee, tea, hot chocolate)
    3. Small, affordable technologies (ex. branded USB memory sticks)
    4. Gifts that people might actually use (ex. a nice quality stationery set).

    Even though you want your gifts to be simple and affordable, avoid giving your customers something too cheap that might be viewed as junk or thrown away!

    Consider gifting things that actually relate to your business as well. A destination wedding planner might give clients nice passport cases, while a makeup artist might choose to send a holiday themed makeup product from their favorite brand. There are many different options. Choose something appropriate that your clients will appreciate!

    Crafting Christmas Presents

    What kinds of gifts should you be cautious about?

    The gifts you choose for your clients are your choice, but there are some things that smart business people try to avoid. Be wary of giving the following gifts!

    1. Blatant advertising products or things that are too business-like can seem cold around the holidays. Sure, discount cards for your services might be useful, but are your clients really thinking about your latest low-price deal during their family holiday?
    2. Some companies make charitable donations on their clients’ behalf, but this is very risky. What if they don’t support the same causes as you?
    3. Gift cards for businesses other than your own can be a nice gesture. Everyone needs gas and groceries! If you choose this, though, make sure that it’s a large enough chain that your clients will have access to a location, so your money is not wasted.
    4. Holiday treats are a common gift, but be careful. People can be wary about accepting food. Consider common allergies and avoid things with nuts. Choose packaged treats like chocolates, or baked goods from a reputable local business. Someone might feel uncomfortable receiving a chicken potpie that you cooked yourself and put in an unlabeled box, even if your intentions are good and the pie is delicious!

    There are many perks to sending client gifts during the holidays, but it’s not mandatory. If you believe that it’s an uncomfortable practice, or your clientele is one that largely doesn’t celebrate Christmas, you’re not obligated to participate in a gift exchange. Consider which practice is best for both you and the people you do business with, and remember that friendly favors during Christmas time can be positive for business relationships.

    Set yourself apart from your competition by checking out more Business Tips from the Blog!

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    November 26, 2014 8:00 am

    Interior Decorating Consultation Kit

    Design Consultation Kit

    One of the very first things you’ll do with a new decorating client is conduct a consultation! This meeting is beneficial for both you and the client, because it gives each of you a chance to discuss details and see whether working together is a good fit. Because this meeting is such an important step, you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared when you arrive!

    What is a Consultation?

    An interior decorating consultation is a meeting with a client about a potential new contract. You will visit the space you’ll be working with and discuss the details of what they want you to do. This meeting is a chance for them to ask you questions about pricing, tell you what their expectations are, and speak to you about their budget. For you, the meeting is an opportunity to see the space, get the full details of the job, and make sure that you can price properly for the amount of work that contract would require.

    Why is a Consultation so Important?

    Conducting an interior decorating consultation allows both you and the client to decide whether entering a contract together is the best option. The client might decide that the estimated price for your services is too high and they’re not ready to commit. You, as the interior decorator, might decide that the amount of work you’re seeing is beyond your scope or that the client doesn’t seem serious about their interest in your services. The consultation is your chance to predict any difficulties this potential contract might involve and prepare for those, both mentally and in terms of pricing. Essentially, this meeting saves both you and the client from moving forward with a contract that isn’t the in the best interests of one or both parties, which can save you both time and money!

    Design Consultation - 1

    What Do You Need?

    Coming prepared to your consultation is a sign of professionalism. Your client will be very impressed and much more open to working with you if you arrive with all of the necessary materials ready! You will also feel more confident analyzing the space and providing the client with an estimate if you have everything you need on hand. If you forget things and arrive unprepared, the client might feel as though their time has been wasted, and you might lose that contract. To avoid this, make sure you have the following things!

    Your pricing rates:

    Consultations are meeting, and usually paid ones at that. You are still performing a service for that person, even though you haven’t signed a contract yet. You should discuss your pricing with the client before you meet. At the very least, give him a ballpark idea of the cost for the job he’s requesting. You should also bring your pricing rates and information with you to the consultation. This way, you can walk him through the process of calculating your estimate for the contract, so he can see what the total cost would be, how you determined it, and what services he’d receive at that rate. Whether you’re charging a flat rate, an hourly fee, or using another pricing method, being prepared to openly discuss pricing lets the client feel comfortable with your professional approach to finances.

    You might be interested in this article: Should I charge for a Design Consultation?

    Your consultation report:

    Many interior decorators have a standard report that they use for each consultation. You can create a report template that you can print and bring with you to make notes and refer to as you go. Saving a report template to an electronic device, like a phone or tablet, is also an option. If you can fill the report out electronically on the spot, you can email a copy to the client as soon as it’s finished. Your report should include a detailed list of tasks that you think need to be completed in the space. If you want, you can also bring a list of contact information for different companies that you recommend for the different services listed in your report.

    Design Consultation - 2

    Color and material swatches:

    Bringing paint color and material swatches to an interior decorating consultation allows you to get an idea of what the client is looking for before you actually commit to the contract. Of course, you won’t sit down and plan the entire room in detail on your first meeting, but having a few tools to help the client express the basics of what they have in mind can be helpful for both of you!

    A pen or pencil:

    It might seem like common sense to bring a pen or pencil, but reminders never hurt! Being prepared with the simple things is still important!

    A watch:

    Keeping track of the time during your consultation is essential, especially if you’re charging at an hourly rate! Bring a watch (or any device that tells the time) so that you can keep an eye on how long you’ve been working. If you think you might go over your estimated time, tell them why. Perhaps part of the space will need a lot more work that you anticipated. Let them choose whether they want to pay for extra time to let you finish, or stop at the agreed upon time and just work with the recommendations you’ve made so far. Once again, coming prepared with something as simple as a clock shows professionalism. The client will appreciate that you respect their time.

    A measuring tape:

    Bringing a measuring tape to your consultation lets you record dimensions and measure spaces where you see fit. Rather than relying on estimates or other people’s measurements, you can take down the details you feel are necessary to estimating what services are needed, and for what price. Some planners choose to charge for their services by square footage, so bringing a measuring tape is especially important if this is your chosen pricing method!

    Prepare the tools that you’ll need for your interior decorating consultation in advance, so that you have time to check your kit over before you go! You will feel more comfortable and confident when you arrive if you know that you have everything you need. Your client will also appreciate your readiness. The more professional you are, the more likely they are to want to work with you!

    Want to Know What Comes Next?

    If you’re interested in learning about what comes after a consultation, check out our Interior Decorating Course! Are you more interested in other areas of design? Take a look at the different design courses that QC Design School has to offer!

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    November 24, 2014 8:00 am

    How to Study

    When I was in university, you could always tell when I had an upcoming deadline because that’s when the house would be spic-and-span and smell like freshly baked cakes or cookies. My younger brother loved final exam time. Needless to say I was the queen of procrastination.

    It isn’t until my senior year that I actually figured out how to study effectively without getting distracted. That’s a tall order. We’ve become a society of serial multitaskers! A lot of it has to do with your habits, yes, but it’s also about not fighting it too much. Just give yourself a fighting chance by creating a study situation that works for you.

    The Where

    Study Space

    I love libraries. They have an atmosphere that make you feel like you *should* be studying and that’s half the battle. If it’s nice out, a quiet local park or coffee shop can also work. If you have a chance to explore study spaces that aren’t in your own home, give them a try. It’s also a great way of separating your studies from your home life, which can help in reducing stress.

    Wherever you decide to study, make sure it’s in an area where you’ll be able to concentrate. Avoid your bedroom if you can. The bedroom should be a place to relax, not to work. If you can’t do this, you should have a separate desk or table where you can set yourself up for success.

    Try to set up your study space where distractions will be limited. Now, here’s the trick: “distractions” are different for everyone. Some people work at their best in a closed-in room, while for others this is the worst thing in the world. Experiment and find a spot that works for you.

    The Who

    Your best bet is likely to set yourself up in an area where you’ll be left alone.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean to lock yourself away from the world, but simply somewhere others will respect your space. If your study space is at home, make sure everyone in the house knows that when you are in that area you are not to be disturbed.

    If your family or roommates have trouble with this, you can print out a fun & quirky sign that gets the message across. Hang this sign on the door or, if you’re studying in a more public place, just hang it on your back. People will have a chuckle but they’ll also be more likely to respect your needs.

    That goes for your phone, too. Put it on silent mode and ideally leave it at least a good 10 paces away from you. If you have to physically stand up and walk a few steps every time you want to check your emails or text messages, you’ll do so far less often than if it’s in your pocket.

    If you’re using your computer for your studies, close that email window during study time. I know you’re an important person, but whatever email you receive, it can wait a few hours for a reply.

    The When

    Are you an early bird or a night owl?

    There’s likely a period of time in the day where you’re at your most productive. It can be first-thing in the morning, right after lunch, or at midnight. It all depends on your internal clock and the habits you formed at a young age.

    While you *can* train yourself to be productive at any time, my advice is not to fight it. Instead just try and figure out your daily “peek times” and try to schedule your studies around those times.

    I know you may not have the luxury of studying on your peek times. Especially if you have a family, and a full time job to boot. If that’s the case, then my best advice is to at least try not to schedule your studies when you know you’ll be exhausted. If you have a Monday-to-Friday job, for instance, maybe save your studies for the weekend, or at least on weeknights closer to the start of the week when you’ll be more refreshed.

    The What

    A few simple tools will help you make the most out of any study space:

    A comfy chair is a must

    Forget the couch, and don’t even think about the bed. Set yourself up on a chair that is comfortable and encourages you to keep a good posture. It will help you keep your energy levels up and will also help your mind stay focused.

    Studying on the couch

    Daylight is key

    That doesn’t mean you should only study during the day. Assuming you’re indoors, ensure the room is brightly lit. Try not to study by a desk lamp alone. If the room is somewhat dark your body will become tired much more quickly. Lights on, my friend. Your brain will thank you for it.

    Background noise required… probably

    Very few people do their best work in total silence. It might be good for meditation, but when it comes to working, it’s best to have some sort of background noise that will help you concentrate.

    Music is usually the first thing that comes to mind, and it works well for most people. If lyrics are distracting, try something instrumental.

    Another standard go-to is white noise. Something that literally just drowns out everything else. As I write this, I’m listening to a track of a thunderstorm I created on the site naturesoundsfor.me. There are many free websites like this one out there where you can create custom sound tracks. From sounds of storms to a horse-drawn carriage on a snowy night, to Darth Vader playing tribal drums… if the sound helps you concentrate, go for it!

    Don’t be afraid to experiment with less-than-traditional forms of background noise, either. You may think I’m crazy but I do my best work while I’m listening to the Die Hard movies. A friend of mine writes more effectively while listening to old Abbott & Costello episodes. Embrace whatever works best for you.

    Computers not allowed

    Ok… that’s a bit harsh.

    But using a computer for your studies can be your greatest mistake. Sure it’s needed in some cases, but your computer is likely the greatest source of distraction you will face. Not to mention, staring at a computer screen will tire you out much more quickly than a piece of paper will.

    Try to avoid the computer if you can. Print out your study materials and read them on paper. Take notes with a good old fashioned pen and notebook. Write your first drafts of assignments by hand instead of typing them. You’d be surprised what a difference this can make.

    The How

    We’ve already talked about how to set up, now it’s time to quickly cover good habits to develop:

    1. Study in short bursts. Give yourself a 5-minute break every 20-30 minutes or so to allow your brain to refocus.
    2. Keep well hydrated. Your brain is working hard! Drink a lot of water. Many people overlook this step.
    3. Get some fresh air. Step outside for a few minutes every now and then and take a breather. Not only will it calm you down but it’s also good for your health.
    4. Set goals. Keep yourself motivated by setting realistic goals. Reward yourself when you accomplish them.
    5. Be well rested. We mentioned this earlier. Don’t try to study when you’re exhausted. It doesn’t work.
    6. Find the right temperature. Some people work best when it’s nice and hot in the room, others like it a bit cooler.
    7. Stay clean & organized. Starting out with a neat & tidy workspace will help you study more effectively and will limit distractions.

    Studying

    The Why

    Not surprisingly, a better study environment will lead to a better educational experience. While most people are able to muddle through in less-than-ideal conditions and scrape by with a passing grade… is that really what you went back to school for? Why not spend some time finding the perfect study situation and get the most out of your courses?

    I hope the tips outlined above will help you study more effectively and, in turn, enjoy your school work even more!

    Do you have any unusual study habits that work for you? Let us know what they are in a comment!

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    November 18, 2014 8:00 am

    How to Calculate Scale

    When it comes to interior decoration and other forms of design, it takes more than just an instinct for style to transform a room! Designers and decorators must also learn how to calculate scale, so they can create a floor plan. This ensures that the design they have in mind will work well with the physical layout of the room and the space that they have available. Professionals who master the art of calculating scale will save time and effort, letting them concentrate on things like the atmosphere they’d like to achieve with their décor, rather than shifting heavy furniture that doesn’t fit the way they’d hoped!

    Calculating the size of a room and converting it on a scale to make your floor plan takes practice. Once you’ve become familiar with this skill, however, you’ll find that it’s one of your most useful tools for every room you design! Not only does using a floor plan to scale help you with your design itself, it also helps you communicate your ideas to clients or team members in a way that lets them visualize your ideas! Here are some tips for both calculating scale and translating from one scale to another to complete your design!

    What is a Floor Plan and why is Scale Important?

    Floor Plan

    A floor plan is an aerial drawing of the room you’re working with. Instead of trying to think about your design in large, real-life proportions, you’ll draw a smaller representation of your room so that you can visualize your plan more clearly. If you simply draw a rough sketch of the room, however, you’ll find that your measurements will be off when you try to translate that floor plan back to the real thing. Furniture and wall hangings might not fit in the spaces you want them to, and you’ll have to re-evaluate.

    This is where calculating scale saves the day! By taking real measurements of the room and scaling them down so that they’re small enough to draw but are still proportional, you can create an accurate floor plan to create your design on. This way, when you translate the scale back into real-life measurements, your spacing should work!

    Measuring Your Space

    The first step to creating an accurate scale is taking measurements of the room. When you do this, make sure that you take your measurements in feet and inches, as this is the standard that most professional designers and decorators use. Remember to round all of your measurements up to the nearest inch. Rounding makes your scale much easier to calculate and translate. Measuring up saves you from realizing later that your furniture or wall hangings barely fit! For example, the height of a wall from floor to ceiling might be 7 feet and 7 ¾ inches, which you would write as 7’8”.

    Ruler

    Here are some key things to measure:

    Floor Space:

    Measure the lengths along the floor where it meets each wall. This gives you the general size of the room.

    Walls:

    Measure the height and length of each wall so you can draw the shape of the room in the correct proportions on your floor plan, to scale.

    Windows:

    Make sure you take note of where the windows are. Not only will you need these measurements if your design includes things like curtains, but you’ll also want to make sure none of the furniture you place blocks the window!

    Doors:

    Like windows, you’ll want to note the size and placement of your doors. This way, you can draw them to proper scale. First, measure the size of the door opening so you can make sure none of the furniture in your plan will block people from getting into the room. Next, if there is one, measure the door itself. If it’s the kind of door that swings into the room, note how far into your space it goes so that you don’t place anything where the door will hit it or be stopped from opening.

    Other Features:

    Take note of the size and placement of key features throughout the room. Remember that you’ll need to leave space for these or leave them accessible when you’re planning your furniture. Look for the following things:

    1. Floor vents
    2. Radiators or heaters
    3. Electrical outlets and telephone jacks
    4. Fireplaces
    5. Raised platforms/areas

     

    Calculating Your Scale

    Drawing a Floor Plan

    The easiest way to draw measurements to scale on a page is by using 1 inch (1”) to represent 1 foot (1’). This means that, in your floor plan, a table that is 3 feet by 2 foot (3’ x 2’) would be drawn as 3 inches by 2 inch (3” x 2”). It helps to translate your scale using a ratio.

    Take our scale of 1” = 1’, for example. There are 12 inches in a foot, so you would write your ratio as 1:12. 1 inch on your page represents 12 inches in real life (or 1 foot).

    Graph Paper

    Some designers choose to use scaled graph paper to create floor plans. This makes calculating your scale very easy, because each square on the paper can represent one foot. To draw your 3’ x 2’ table, you would simply count 3 squares across and 2 squares deep. As long as you are consistent with keeping to that scale, your floor plan should translate well to your actual space.

    Try it out!

    By scaling down measurements like this, you are able to organize a plan for the room that works well in the space. Staying consistent with you scale means that your measurements stay properly proportioned and can translate back into the real life space. Scaling lets you try different furniture and decorative options within the space without the ordeal of moving the furniture repeatedly!

    Scaling is easy to practice! Grab some graph paper and try drawing a floor plan for the room you’re in!

    For more helpful information about skills like calculating scale, check out QC’s Online Design Courses!

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    November 13, 2014 10:04 am

    What to do in the Off Season

    Almost every industry has a busy season. This is a time where many clients are trying to book your services and it becomes a little easier to get a great contract! For most businesses, however, that increased customer volume isn’t a year-round guarantee. Customer demand for many services comes and goes in waves, often depending on the season or time of year. This means that any business that experiences a very busy season will also experience slow business, or an ‘off-season’.

    There are many examples of businesses and industries in daily life that experience off seasons. While wedding planners experience a surge of clients in the warmer spring and summer months, they are often less busy during colder times of year, because winter weddings are less popular. Fitness clubs and personal trainers see increased business in January when everyone makes New Years’ resolutions about fitness and before the summer when people are setting swim wear goals for their beach vacation. The fitness business slows down in the fall when people resume regular working hours after holiday time and school begins again. Florists, food vendors, construction workers, farmers, and many other industries all experience a change of pace when the seasons change.

    Having lots of business is ideal, but experiencing an off season doesn’t have to be a bad thing! There are many useful ways that business owners and freelance workers can spend their industry’s down time that will be beneficial later!

    Expand Your Knowledge

    • – You have time to do some research. Are there any industry-related articles or publications you’ve wanted to read?
    • – As long as you can still balance the business that you do have, the off season is a great time to take a course and expand your skill set!
    • – If you are brand new to the industry, is there any opportunity to shadow a more experienced professional that you can take?

    Investing time into improving your knowledge and skill is a great use of your off season time. The experience you gain through your work during busier months also helps you improve in leaps and bounds, but the off season affords you the time to do beneficial things like gain additional qualifications.

    Research Your Market

    • – Have any studies related to your industry been conducted that you could learn from, in preparation for your next busy season?
    • – Is there any type of feedback you’ve received from customers that you might consider making changes to your services based on?
    • – Is there anything that has become more popular or in demand within your industry that you aren’t already offering?
    • – Is there anything about your current marketing campaign that you’ve been thinking of changing?

    Market Research

    The extra time that you have in the off season can be useful for taking a look at your clientele and making sure that you’re offering what they want and need. You can use this time to assess whether you’re still targeting the right groups, or whether a shift needs to happen in what kinds of services you’re offering and how you’re performing them, in order to keep up with market expectations.

    If you’re not set up with website analytics yet… this is a great time to start! Read this for more info: A Beginner’s Guide to Web Analytics

    Investigate New Strategies

    • – Are there any advertising tactics that you’ve been considering?
    • – Are there any changes to how you go about providing a particular service that you’d like to try?
    • – Are there any materials, like business cards or websites, that you’ve been meaning to update?

    Using your off season to make changes to or update your business can be extremely beneficial. This allows you to adjust strategies and functions that you probably wouldn’t have time for during your busy season, which puts your months of slow business to maximum use.

    Write a Blog

    • – Do you already have a blog that you’ve been meaning to use more ?
    • – Does your existing blog need a makeover?
    • – Have you been thinking of starting a blog, but never had the time to get the idea rolling?
    • – Have you been storing blog ideas away for a chance when you have more time to dedicate to them?

    Writing a blog maintains your presence in the industry, even during slow seasons when your business isn’t extremely active. Clients that aren’t seeking your services right now because they’re not ‘in season’ might still be interested in reading about what your company has to offer. Writing attention-catching blog posts can spark the interest of prospective clients that might use your services when the busy season arrives again. Blogs can be a lot of work, but they are a great investment, and keeping them active during slow business periods generates attention for you in preparation for your rise in customer volume.

    howtowriteablogfeatured

    For more information, read this article: How to Write a Blog

    Network

    • – Are there any industry-related conferences or conventions that you (or your team) can attend?
    • – Are there any businesses you’ve been considering working with that you can contact or begin researching?
    • – Are there any events happening that you might become involved in as sponsors or supporters as a marketing, advertising, charity, or networking opportunity?

    Continuing to network, even during times of slow business, keeps your name and brand on the scene. If you can stay active in your off season, clients and other businesses won’t have forgotten about you by the time your industry hits peak season again.

    You might be interested in this: How to Rock at Trade Shows

    Being Pro-Active is Key!

    Letting the slow business season get the better of you isn’t beneficial to the growth of your business. Instead of feeling discouraged by the lack of demand, put that time to use elsewhere and build up your brand in preparation for when the seasons change and more clients begin demanding your services again.

    Through activities like networking, blogging, attending conferences, and taking courses, you can use your off season to positively boost your business. Work on projects that you didn’t have time for earlier in the year and generally put work into maintaining your company’s image and reputation. This kind of effective use of your off season will benefit you in the end!

    How do you fill your time in your off season? Let us know in a comment!

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    As a marketer, I live on Google Analytics. I’m not ashamed of it! The tool is free and there’s nothing better to help you focus your efforts and make the most out of limited time and resources.

    Now, if you’re a business owner… you have a website, right? If not, please stop reading this post and instead read this one: Building your Website: What you Need to Know.

    If you’re still reading, that means you have a functioning website.

    Now… let me ask you:

    Where do your website visitors come from?

    How much time do they actually spend on your site?

    What pages do they visit the most? Why?

    Unable to answer these questions?

    You’re not the only one.

    In fact, you’re probably asking yourself how you could possibly ever know what people are doing from the privacy of their computers!

    Allow me to rock your world.

    What are Analytics?

    Web Analytics CycleWhen you use your website analytics (let’s just assume you’ll all be using Google Analytics), Google keeps track of a whole lot of information about your website visitors. Think about how you would change your marketing strategies if you knew this information about your visitors:

    • Their age, gender, geographical location;
    • The type of browser they’re using and the device they’re on;
    • How they got to your site in the first place;
    • The amount of time they spend on each page;
    • The website pages where they leave your site;
    • You get the idea…

    Here’s the thing: Google already has all this information about your visitors, and it’s more than happy to give it to you for FREE! All you have to do is create an account on Google Analytics, and then add a snippet of code to your website.

    How you’ll use Analytics

    Let’s assume you’ve already set up your analytics account. Allow me to run you through some of the basic tools you’ll use, and how they can be beneficial to your small business.

    Audiences

    The audience tab in analytics gives you information about the type of user visiting your site, including their location, type of device they’re using, and the time of day they’re visiting your site (hint: that’s also a good metric for the time of day you should post to social media!).

    Audience Age Range

    Under the audience tab, you’ll also find a great sub-header for “interests”. This shows you what your users are following besides your site. You might find that a lot of your online visitors are also movie lovers, shopaholics, beauty mavens, aspiring chefs… this is great insight for the type of marketing that might appeal to your audience!

    One of my favorite Analytics report is the Users Flow report. This is where you can see the most popular visitor flow on your website, including where they drop off. If you can find a pattern, you can start to modify your site accordingly to try and keep them around longer!

    Audience Overview Analytics

    Acquisition

    The Acquisition tab lets you know which of your online marketing efforts are most effective by tracking how your visitors are getting to your website. Maybe they’re coming to your site from Google Organic… maybe you’re paying for those visits through PPC channels. Maybe your Facebook page is the most useful in getting visitors!

    Once you understand where your visitors are coming from, you can choose one of two courses of action:

    1. Invest in the winning horse: If you already have a channel that’s outperforming the others by a mile, you might want to invest more time and money in this channel and make it even more successful.
    2. Harvest the low-hanging fruit: If some channels are under-preforming, you can invest your time and cash on making changes to these channels to drive up those numbers.

    Acquisition Overview

    Behavior

    You can use the behavior tab to find out the most popular and most problematic pages on your website. On this tab, you can drill down how the content on your site is performing.

    Is there a page that gets tons more traffic than any other? Ask yourself why that is and try to make more pages like it!

    Is there a page that has a higher exit rate than any other? Ask yourself why people choose to exit your site on that page. Maybe you can make small changes to that one page that will help reduce your exit rate.

    It’s your turn!

    So… what are you waiting for?

    Even if you look at your analytics once a month… it’s worth having them set up! I know it’s incredibly intimidating especially when you’re first starting out… but don’t let that stop you. There are a million things that you can do with analytics, but if you just focus on the three main tabs that I discussed today, you’ll be miles ahead of the curve in a very short amount of time.

    Interested in how you can make the most out of your small business? Check out our Business Blog Posts for more great tips!


    November 3, 2014 3:28 pm

    How to Handle Bad Reviews

    While I hope this never happens to you… the reality is every business, at one point or another, is going to receive poor reviews or negative comments from less-than-satisfied customers.

    If you’re a good and reputable business, this shouldn’t happen very often. But still, your heart can sink when you see that negativity from a past customer. If you know how to deal with it, you can at least minimize the effect this has on your business.

    Monitor your Brand Mentions

    Before you can respond to any negative review, you need to know they exist. Be sure you monitor all your websites and social media accounts… and have alerts set up for brand mentions outside your website!

    You can use Google Alerts to notify you when a specific term is used on ANY website, anywhere. This is a FREE service from Google. Just make sure you put your brand in quotation marks otherwise you’ll get tons of notices of unrelated content.

    Don’t Panic

    Let me say that again: Don’t Panic!

    Once you’re alerted of a bad review or negative comment about your site, you will likely become very angry and defensive. Hey, it’s only natural! You’re proud of what you offer and for someone to come along and slag it off… WHO ARE THEY TO BADMOUTH YOU!?!?!?!

    But the reality is, that’s not a productive attitude. So take care.

    If you need to vent, do it privately. Go make use of a punching bag at the gym or scream into a pillow if you need to… but don’t let your colleagues and/or partners – and CERATINLY not the public – see you sweat.

    Just Breathe

    Investigate

    Once you’re over your initial reaction of frustration, take a bit of time to look into the matter objectively. Remember, being defensive doesn’t help you here. You need to approach the situation with the understanding that you very well may have done something wrong. And you need to be accepting of that possibility.

    Learn as much as you can about the person who’s making the complaint. Is she a past or current client of yours? If so, you should have records of all dealings with her. If there were any incidents that could have led to this review, I hope you took careful notes during the fact. These will come in handy now.

    Uncover the Facts

     

    If the person is not a direct client (past or current), then you need to learn a little more about them. Without being creepy, check them out on social media and try to figure out what their beef is with your brand. Are they someone who simply likes to complain in order to get free stuff? Or did you truly offend them in a way that requires an apology?

    Note: Often times, if a non-customer complains about you it will have something to do with your marketing. They could be offended by something you’ve posted on Social Media, or about an ad you put out in front of your store, etc. In this case, it’s important to remember that for every person who complains, there are probably a hundred others who were equally offended but didn’t bother letting you know about it!

    Respond

    Once you have enough information, it’s time to respond. Ideally this is done very quickly, before the fire has a chance to spread too far. In a perfect world, you’ll respond to a negative review within hours of it being posted. At the worst… 24-48 hours, tops.

    When you respond, first take a deep breath, and go back to my second point: DON’T PANIC!

    Never respond to a review when you’re angry. Your anger will inevitably pour into your response… whether you mean it to or not.

    Be polite and courteous. Always start out by thanking the reviewer for his or her comments. Whether you agree with it or not, they took the time to inform you of what they consider a serious problem, so you should acknowledge that.

    How you structure the rest of your response depends on whether it’s a legitimate complaint or not. But either way…

    Be professional, but be authentic. There’s nothing worse than a corporate, boilerplate, rehearsed response to negativity these days. People see right through them. Take the time to write something from the heart and be sincere. Trust me, people can tell the difference!

    If it was an honest and fair review

    Acknowledge it and explain how you plan on taking the necessary actions to remedy the situation. Apologise directly to the reviewer, and if there’s anything you can do to help them further, offer that as well. Your goal here should be to turn this complainer into an advocate of your brand through exceptional customer service.

    You don’t have to shell out money!

    Many people think the best way to shut a complainer up is to offer them a refund. While this is true and likely the easiest method, it’s not always the best tactic because it doesn’t show that you truly care. Instead, try offering the customer a sincere explanation, and perhaps a revisit once the issue has been resolved.

    Time for an example. Say a client took to your social media account and complained that you, as a makeup artist, didn’t listen to what they wanted out of a makeup trial. You agree that the client left looking disappointed, but during the trial she didn’t really speak up about what she wanted. Your reply could be something like this:

    Hi [Client] and thank you so much for your feedback. I’m terribly sorry that you didn’t like your makeup after our trial run. I always strive to give people what they want but unfortunately sometimes I can get carried away, especially if the client doesn’t explicitly mention what she likes or don’t like about my work. While I thought your makeup looked amazing, I did notice that you weren’t thrilled when you left my studio and I should have tried a little harder to get a critique from you. I really do care and I hope that all clients leave my studio happy!

    I’d love to have you come back in for another trial (my treat!) and I’ll do my very best to ask for your feedback throughout the process. I hope we can work together to get you that perfect makeup look this time around! Please let me know if you would be willing to give me another chance!

    Either way, thank you for reminding me that just because a client doesn’t say anything negative, doesn’t mean they love my work. I promise I’ll do a better job at getting honest feedback from all my clients, good and bad!

    Now imagine if you just happened to see this complaint on another makeup artist’s social media account, along with this reply. Would the MUA come off as sincere and caring? After reading this thread would you be more likely to check out their services on your own? If this is the case, then it’s a good response!

    If the Review was Unfounded

    Sometimes clients will make a negative review out of frustration even though they have no basis for the accusation. This can happen especially if there are additional fees for the services you provided, or if something unexpected took place that was beyond your control.

    Even if you don’t agree with the negative review, you must still remember the key elements discussed above. Don’t remember them? Let me refresh your memory:

    • Don’t Panic!
    • Never respond when you’re angry!
    • Be polite and courteous.
    • Be professional, but authentic.

    Here’s where things differ. If you received an unfair, negative review, you are allowed to tell your side of the story.

    Apologise to the client for his/her reaction, but DON’T apologise for your actions if you did nothing wrong. Instead, address it in a cordial but firm way.

    Here’s another example. Say you’re an event planner and a client is unhappy about a surcharge that appeared on her final invoice because she changed her mind last-minute on the caterer, for instance. This is a fee that you both agreed to, in writing (you have an email trail). Your response could be:

    Hi [Client] and thank you for your feedback. I’m very sorry you were unhappy at the caterer surcharge. As you’ll recall, when you decided to change caterers only a few weeks before the event, I explained that there would two additional fees: one to cancel the original caterer last-minute, and another to rush the new caterer into meeting our deadline.

    You agreed to these additional fees via an email conversation between the two of us. I am happy to send you a transcript of this email conversation if you do not have it on file.

    As you know, we always strive to keep our clients in the loop on exactly what’s going on with their events, including all fees that their decisions incur. While we are highly flexible and strive to give you exactly the event you want, we also do explain that occasionally there are additional fees that come with our clients’ decisions. When such situations occur, we do our best to get you the best price, and inform you fully of all the fees before we get your go-ahead. This is exactly the procedure we followed in this case.

    Again I’m very sorry that you were unhappy with the additional fees, but at the same time I understand you were extremely satisfied with the caterer at the event so I hope you’ll consider it par for the course.

    If you would like to discuss this matter further, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. I am always happy to hear from you and will make myself available to explain the details once more if that will help alleviate your concerns.

    In the case above, notice how the event planner was able to tell her side of the story, not be insulting to the customer, but still stick to her guns that she did nothing wrong.

    Again, put yourself in an objective position. If you came upon this review on an event planning website and then read the response, would it seem like the event planner handled the situation with grace and decorum? Would you feel like she was in the right?

    Again, if the answer is “yes”, then it’s a good response!

    Always Respond Publicly

    If a customer makes a complaint or posts a bad review in a public manner, then respond in the same way. Don’t resort to a generic “Thank you for your feedback. We have replied to you privately to discuss the situation”. That type of response doesn’t benefit you one bit when it comes to others who might read the review.

    At the same time, just be mindful of privacy concerns. Never give out a customer’s private information when responding to a review… and try to avoid giving specifics such as the exact amount they paid, names of third parties, etc.

    Like Button

    If a Reviewer Starts a War

    Whether they’re in the right or not, there are some nuts out there who just want attention. If the client continues to harass you once you’ve responded and dealt with the situation, then it’s time to take further action. You can warn them that their behavior is unacceptable and if you need to, you can get a lawyer involved. 99% of you will never experience this type of negativity… but if you do, just remember: the absolute WORST thing you can do, is to get into a fight with a client over a bad review. Regardless of how much the person grinds your gears, always remain polite, courteous, and objective. Trust me. I’m doing you a favor here!

    Have you ever had to deal with a bad review from a client? How did you deal with it? Let us know in a comment!

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    October 28, 2014 8:00 am

    Financial Resources for Small Businesses

    Starting a business is a scary thing. It takes planning… and then more planning, and of course financial resources to get started. Today we’ll discuss the different types of financial resources available to you and how you can secure them.

    Business PlanBUT FIRST!

    Before you look to get any financial aid or any other type of assistance for launching your business, you must have a solid business plan! No credible lender or partner will go into business with you or lend you any money before you have a credible, well thought-out business plan!
    Don’t have a business plan? Stop reading and go work on one, now!

    You’ll be happy to know, most of QC’s courses come with an optional business unit where your tutor will help you develop and streamline your business plan!

    Small Business Loans and Micro Loans

    Loan Application

    This is the most common resource available and used by many small businesses to get started. Small business loans are generally granted by banks or federal governments in certain countries. This is a typical loan that is awarded to yourself as a representative of your business.

    These loans generally come with better interest rates than personal loans, but most do require you to provide a personal guarantee to back up the loan. Which means your personal property might be at risk if your business should fail.

    As we mentioned above, before you are granted a small business loan, you will be asked to share your concrete business plan and discuss it with a representative of the institution who would be granting the loan. Be ready to answer questions about your business strategy, competitor research, and any other element that is in your business plan!

     

    Venture Capital

    This is a type of private loan where an individual or firm will provide financing for your business in exchange for a stakehold in the company.

    Generally venture capitals will want to be involved in your business decisions in order to ensure they secure their investment. If your business has a limited operating history and you do not have much collateral, you might need to give up a large portion of your company’s share.

    Again, you’ll need a very solid business plan in order to get funding from a venture capital!

    Personal Loans and Business Partnerships

    An option that is always available to business owners is to obtain personal loans from friends and/or family members. If you choose to go down this road, be sure you outline specific terms including interest rates and a repayment schedule to the lender. If you offer them a stake in the company in exchange for the loan, you should also discuss how much involvement they will have in the company’s business decisions!

    Personal loans can take a toll on relationships. But the more informed both parties are on the specific terms and expectations of the loan, the better off you’ll be!

     

    Personal / Business Credit

    CreditIf you cannot obtain any other forms of loans and you have a good credit history, you should be able to secure an account with major credit card companies. If you have an established business with a solid business plan, you can likely get a small business line of credit that will have a significantly lower interest rate than a personal credit card or line of credit.

    You can apply for most major credit cards via banks or on the credit card company’s website.

     

    Whatever channel you decide to use in order to finance your business, the key is to plan ahead and not give up! The more time you spend on your business plan and the more prepared you are to search for financing, the easier it will be to move forward.

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    October 21, 2014 10:29 am

    Decorating Your Place for Halloween

    Come October first, I start looking for that perfect pumpkin. Fall decorations adorn the kitchen, living room and front porch.

    But, have you ever come across a house that just overdoes the Halloween decorations? I’m talking about that house that has ten singing ghosts and skeletons on the front lawn… and just wait to see what’s inside!

    There are tricks for making the most out of your Halloween decorations without spending a fortune or becoming that house with the crazy Halloweenies.

    Pick one theme and stick to it

    You can go with a lot of different angles with Halloween: Spooky, Classy, Funny, Cool… you can go for witches, ghosts, zombies, fall-themes… but the key is to not go for all of them at the same time. If you decide your house will have a creepy graveyard theme for Halloween, then stick to it. Forget about the cool dancing witch decoration… it doesn’t fit.
    And on that note…

    Think about your audience

    What type of people will be visiting your house for Halloween? Do you have many young children in your area? If so, you might want to avoid scary decorations. I’m sure the last thing you want to do is upset your friends or neighbors by traumatising their kids!

    Stay away from using strobe lights to enhance your decorations. All it takes is one epileptic trick-or-treater to make you regret that decision for the rest of your life!

    Halloween trick-or-treaters

    Avoid noisy decorations

    Things that sing or make other noises when people walk by can be fun… but less is more. You shouldn’t have more than one or two of these pieces in your house or yard, and think about how other people will perceive them.

    Be courteous: While it’s perfectly okay (and expected!) to have decorations that “boo!” when people walk by… save them for Halloween night itself. Don’t turn them on come October 10th and leave them on for three weeks. There, I said it. You’re welcome, neighbors.

    Respect your Lawn!

    While lawn decorations can be super fun, use them in moderation and be aware of the negative impact they can have on your grass. Having pieces on the lawn for long periods of time can kill patches of grass, so it’s best to set these up a day or two before Halloween and to take them down quickly thereafter.

    There’s also a safety concern with any decoration that’s on the ground: Make sure they’re in an area where trick-or-treaters won’t trip over them!

    Try not to be offensive

    Decorations should be fun for everyone. Though you might think hanging a dummy by the neck from the tree in your front yard is a good idea, it could seriously upset someone who’s had a personal tragedy of that type. Same with any type of political messaging in your decorations… while you might think it’s clever or funny to incorporate a message about the upcoming elections in your graveyard theme… others might not.

    Finally, avoid any form of racial innuendos, scenes that might be a little too subjective, or any type of scene that portrays real-life violence. Bottom line: be smart and use common sense!

    You can’t go wrong with the pumpkin!

    No matter what your Halloween décor is like… a cleverly-carved pumpkin is always appreciated. Be creative and have some fun! While Halloween decorations should be used in moderation… you really can never have too many pumpkins. And here’s a tip: If you don’t like the idea of lighting your pumpkin with a candle, use those battery-operated tealight candles from the dollar store. They’re cheap and much safer than a real flame.

    Pumpkins halloween

    How do you decorate for Halloween? Let us know in a comment!

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