Posts Tagged ‘small business’
Posted by Vicki Moulton on April 26, 2011
As a freelance communications professional, I’ve signed a lot of contracts with clients over the years for provision of services. It’s something I have to do in order to protect myself from potentially unscrupulous companies that could effectively steal my work and not pay me.
Sometimes the contract is enforceable, and sometimes not. There can be times when the contract language is so convoluted that I just want to rip my hair out and scream. (Been there, right?) But before we all start yelling, repeat after me: check with a lawyer before signing ANYthing! The last thing you want is to be stuck in a bad contract AFTER you’ve signed away your rights.
Movick Marketing has permission from the Maryland-based small business lawyer Phil Marcus to repost the following newsletter article on the subject. Thanks, Phil! (Copyright 2011 Philip L. Marcus. All rights reserved. Visit www.smallbizlawyer.us for more information and a huge archive of great articles.)
Check with your lawyer BEFORE you sign a contract.
When you are trying to get out of a bad deal, or to enforce an unenforceable contract, it is too late.
Often someone comes to see me with a contract a retailer had them sign, or they will cobble something together for their own use from bits and pieces off the Web. They either want to force the other side to fulfill their promises, or they are sorry they signed and want to get out. Either way, it is probably too late. What they cobbled up is unenforceable. And a lawyer who knew what they were doing wrote what the retailer had them sign, and it is virtually unbreakable.
“But it was a standard contract.” With a few exceptions, there is no such thing. (The law regulates most contracts of insurance, and Retail Installment Sales Agreements, but little else.) It may be standard for that retailer, but no government regulator has vetted it. Contract signer beware.
There are some legal limits on sales contracts to sell a house, but still plenty of room to favor the buyer or the seller, depending who drafts the contract. I used to almost cry when someone would call and ask me to come with them to settlement to make sure it all goes right. There is little a lawyer can do at that point but hold your hand. The right time was when you as buyer made a written offer, or you as seller got the written offer to buy.
Employment contracts can have all kinds of stuff in them, and when there are significant dollars at stake both employer and employee should have a lawyer involved. Same for a contract, for example, to buy or sell a business, or engage a company to take over maintaining your computer system.
My son got an offer from a big New York company to publish his book. It was thirty pages. He, his agent and I spent three months back and forth with the publisher on the detailed language before he signed. However, many authors sign whatever a publisher hands them, happy to get anything, unhappy in a couple years when the publisher screws them (for example, on the e-book version). The agent, of course, is happy to nail down a commission.
When it comes to contracts, it doesn’t pay to do it yourself. Reality is “Let the buyer and seller beware.” And in a deal of any real importance both of them should get their lawyer involved before they sign.
Posted in communications, MarComm | Tagged: client, consult a lawyer first, contract language, freelance contract, MarComm, Phil Marcus, protect your rights, small business, unscrupulous companies | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Vicki Moulton on April 6, 2011
It’s always fun to find a blog that imparts wisdom. Today I found out about a great blog from a company called Talent Grow.
For many of my colleagues, the idea of fostering creativity is something completely natural. For some of my clients, it’s completely alien.
One of the Talent Grow blog posts hit home for me today, and I’d like to share. Here is an excerpt from a January 2011 post called “Creativity is for Everyone“:
What can everyday, ordinary people do to become more creative?
- Exposure to creativity begets more creativity. The more people are surrounded by or allowed to witness creative thinking, creative ideas, and creative problem-solving, the more likely they will be to model that kind of divergent thinking.
- Positive emotions and lowered risk-aversion increase creativity. The more positive and uninhibited they are, the more likely people will be to think more creatively. If they feel like they have to act very seriously and be perfect and error-proof, the less likely they will be to take risks or let down their guard. Their creative thinking will be stifled as a result.
- Take yourself outside of your comfort zone. Being in a new and different environment, or using things in ways they weren’t meant to be used, can help creative break-through thinking and spark new ideas.
Posted in communications, MarComm | Tagged: branding, communications, creative thinking, creativity, divergent thinking, marketing, small business, taking risks, Talent Grow | 4 Comments »
Posted by Vicki Moulton on March 4, 2011
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend toward rudeness among business contacts, and it’s time to stand up and say something about it.
Would you expect a client to wait more than 30 minutes for you to show up to a meeting? How about a good friend or maybe a member of your family? It’s considered good manners, and good business, to show up on time to your appointments. If you are unavoidably detained–accident on the highway, family emergency, stuck in another meeting–then at least send an email or a text message comunicating the delay. Don’t just leave your client, vendor, or friend twisting in the wind, wondering what the hell happened to you.
I’m not the most punctual person in my personal life, it’s true. If you are one of my friends and we plan to meet for coffee, I am likely to be running about 5 minutes late (or more, now that I have a new baby). But I do not show up late for business appointments or conference calls. I am prompt and professional enough to expect the same from my clients and associates. Making someone wait more than half an hour to hear that you’re running late is just rude. And if you’re the client, and you do this repeatedly, you should expect to be billed for that time.
Just because you run a small business does not make your time any less important or valuable than your client’s or colleague’s time. Be clear about your expectations for professionalism, and your reputation will reflect that. And if your reputation is solid, that’s great PR for your business.
Posted in communications | Tagged: clear expectations, client, communications, customer service, great PR, late for meeting, professionalism, punctual person, reputation, rude behavior, small business | 2 Comments »
Posted by Vicki Moulton on January 19, 2011
Most of us could whip out a story about a bad customer service experience at a moment’s notice. But when was the last time you told a friend about a company that provided really good customer service?
Here’s my happy-ending story about customer service.
A cute top I ordered online for my daughter arrived in the mail last week. She wore it for a few hours, and then I noticed that two of the five unique flower appliques that made the shirt so fashionable had fallen off. They were ironed on rather than sewn on, and the idea that something so flimsy had been passed off as great workmanship made me want to give the company a piece of my mind.
So I went to the website, searching for some kind of complaint forum, maybe an online comment form or something. I found the name, email address, and direct phone number for the customer service manager (and thought, wow, that’s unusual). I sent a message detailing what happened; this was during a three-day weekend.
Within a couple of days, I got a return email with an apology and a request for a photo of the shirt to see whether it was still in stock. (The photo I sent is included in this post.) Another email included a request for my address (I had purchased it through a third-party website). I replied with an email asking whether it would be safe to put this replacement shirt with the iron-on appliques in the washing machine. The reply I got stunned me: the replacement shirt we would receive, free of charge, no merchandise return required, would be specially prepared for me to avoid this problem happening again (hello needle and thread!).
Not only did this manager provide the right kind of customer service–solving my problem without making it seem like I did something wrong–she also went above and beyond my expectations by doing something special just for my circumstance, without my even asking for it.
This got me thinking… How often we forget that our clients are people too. Nobody likes to be treated like their problems don’t matter. If you’re the one who caused the problem, making it right is your responsibility. And if you can go that extra mile to ensure complete customer satisfaction, you’ll safeguard your company brand for the next client. That’s just smart business.
Posted in marketing | Tagged: applique, brand, client, complaint, customer service, MarComm, small business, solving the problem, website | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Vicki Moulton on September 28, 2010
You see them everywhere, those little taglines designed to bring a company’s purpose to life. Some have even been set to music (remember “plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is”?).
If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably been through the exercise of creating your own slogan. But have you ever stopped to think why some slogans stick with you, even after just one viewing?
The slogan’s job is to raise a question, touch a nerve, or identify a need. The slogan is not your only marketing tool, and therefore it does not need to be all things to everyone.
The slogan IS…
- an enhancement to the overall brand
- focused on the customer benefit and/or key differentiator between you and the competition
The slogan IS NOT…
- a definition/explanation of the company name
- an explanation of the logo design
- a literal statement about how the company functions
Think about some memorable brand slogans and how they say a lot with very few words (and remember that all of these companies hired big ad agencies to create these slogans–all trademarked and used here for illustration purposes only):
- Nike: Just do it
- Kaiser Permanente: Thrive
- Avis: We try harder
- MasterCard: Priceless
- GE: Imagination at work
- Allstate: You’re in good hands
- ING: What’s your number?
- Weight Watchers: Watch yourself change
- Capital One: What’s in your wallet?
- Taco Bell: Think outside the bun
I particularly like that last one. There’s something clever about how it takes an overused business term and turns it on its head while slamming the competition. (Or maybe it’s just time for lunch.)
Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, messaging | Tagged: brand enhancement, branding, clever slogans, communications, customer benefit, key differentiator, MarComm, memorable slogans, overused business term, slamming the competition, slogan, small business, taglines, the slogan IS, the slogan IS NOT | 1 Comment »
Posted by Vicki Moulton on June 17, 2010
I received some unexpectedly enthusiastic feedback from a new client today. I didn’t count the number of exclamation points after the word “spectacular,” but there had to be at least 10. Now that’s a happy client!
As I was posting that nice comment on my Testimonials page, it got me thinking about how hard it can be sometimes to believe it–to truly accept it–when someone compliments your work.
We women tend to downplay compliments in general, and that can spill over into our business lives. It’s never smart to walk around like a proud peacock 24×7, bragging about how awesome you are. And neither is it smart to disagree with someone who takes the time to tell you that you’re awesome. It’s always better to make an attempt at accepting compliments graciously–even if it doesn’t feel right, act the part.
Take a moment to think of yourself as worthy of a nice compliment. Allow yourself to let that feeling wash over you. Remember it the next time you hear someone says something nice about you, and be gracious.
Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing | Tagged: accepting compliments, client, communications, customer service, enthusiastic feedback, happy client, proud peacock, relationships, small business, Testimonials | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Vicki Moulton on April 16, 2010
What’s the difference between an excuse and an explanation? The answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you need to buy more time, maybe build up a little sympathy for your situation, then that’s an excuse. If you need to clarify misinformation with a matter-of-fact statement, then that’s an explanation.
My excuse for not blogging recently has to do with a whole host of changes happening in my life, which have turned my attention away from the blog as a business marketing tool… but only temporarily. (Fear not: I’m still here, ready to work!)
When changes started happening about a month ago, I originally intended to take just a few days off from blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. A few days turned into a week. One week turned into two. And now here it is, mid-April already, and I’ve let myself fall out of the loop entirely. My good intentions were completely dashed to hell. Clearly I wasn’t coping well with the changes happening around me. And while all of this was going on, I had two computers crash and burn, culminating in the loss of three weeks’ worth of data and email. (Insert angry, frustrated expletives here.)
Sprinkled throughout these weeks filled with challenges were emails and phone calls with potential clients, meetings with colleagues and collaborators, and successfully completed projects for steady clients. So actually the work didn’t stop–just my means of communicating with the wider world.
Where does that leave me on this warm Friday afternoon? Feeling motivated to get back into the groove, glad to have posted something new here and on Twitter before the weekend, and intending to embrace those life changes instead of letting them derail me. Change is good. (Yes, it is.)
Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, networking | Tagged: back in the groove, blog, change is good, client, communications, computer crash, coping with changes, excuse vs explanation, Facebook, fall out of the loop, good intentions, MarComm, momentum, motivation, relationships, small business, Twitter | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Vicki Moulton on April 1, 2010
If you’re having the kind of year I’m having so far, then you’ve probably been struggling a bit trying to find the right kind of client for your business. You know, the kind that appreciates what you have to offer, wants to work with you right away, and remains loyal for the long term. In other words, the absolute ideal.
I found this article by Angie Segal of Action Coach very inspiring. It’s reprinted here (in edited form) with permission.
“What Kinds of Customers Are You Attracting?”
How do you get the customers you want and deserve? Are you randomly stabbing at the marketplace, or do you have a plan for getting the type of customer you want to work with?
Here are some tips for planning to attract the ideal client:
First, decide who your ideal client is and write it down. What size are they? Where do they operate? What do they look like?
Next, describe this ideal client to everyone in your sphere of influence. Communicate this clearly. Then ask your partners and alliances to describe your ideal client. How they answer this question will tell you whether you’ve been specific enough.
Find out where you can interact with people who fit your description of the ideal client and attend those functions.
Finally, look at yourself and make sure you present yourself in a fashion that would attract those people. In other words, dress for the job you want.
Clarity is a key element in finding your ideal clients. Once you are clear on whom you are trying to meet, and your actions are in line with that, it’s easy to find your ideal!
Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, messaging, networking | Tagged: Action Coach, Angie Segal, attracting ideal clients, audience, client, communications, dress for the job you want, law of attraction, marketing, networking, planning to attract the ideal client, relationships, small business, sphere of influence, strategy, target | 1 Comment »