I’m a huge fan of having systems in place in my business to save me huge amounts of time, money and stress.
But why do so few small business owners that I meet have them?
Usually, I find it is because it takes time and a level of new learning to design and put together any new system. There are always more pressing things to do. And whilst you have fewer clients in the early days, muddling along like this can be ok.
However, when your business starts to grow, trying to carry on without an effective system in place can cause chaos, headaches and a huge amount of lost income.
Systems get you organised. They help you document everything you do, what you need to do and send you reminders when to do things. They help you to be more professional and to scale your business more efficiently. As your business grows, you can use systems to outsource tasks to others.
If you don’t have any systems set up, I really encourage to set aside some time and get it done. Look at any leaks in your business.
- Have you forgotten to chase up an enquiry or an outstanding payment which has resulted in losing you money?
- Have you lost track of what marketing has worked and what hasn’t?
- Have you lost control of your income and expenditure – a very dangerous place to be!
There are so many easy to use online systems on the market, many of which are free to use. Research some and see what fits best with your business. Stop trying to keep everything in your head which will result in failure and lead to massive stress.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
If you only have a few clients, a simple spreadsheet may do but have a look at online CRM systems such as Capsule or Zoho. These help organise your clients, hold all their notes, emails and documents in one place and set you follow up tasks.
It will take time to get your head around some of these systems, but start slowly and simply and you will soon end up wondering how you ever coped without them. And many systems integrate with each other so you always have access to all your information in one place.
Recently, a member of the Absolutely Fabulous Business Women Facebook group asked me about email etiquette for her home based business. She asked if she could send her newsletter to contacts in general, past colleagues and friends in addition to targeting former clients and prospects.
Email etiquette is such an overlooked subject and so many female entrepreneurs fail to understand the implications of getting it wrong.
If you have a list of people that you want to contact but are unsure about email etiquette, here are a few tips for getting it right.
Email etiquette tips
Firstly, I would never recommend sending a newsletter to anyone who has not subscribed. If you are using mailing software such as Mailchimp, this is strictly forbidden and if recipients report that they did not subscribe, you may get blacklisted.
It is also bad manners to automatically assume that someone wants to receive this newsletter and inviting yourself into their inbox without seeking permission first. They may already have an overflowing inbox and your addition to this is likely to cause offence. It’s like walking into their home without knocking and sitting down in front of them with no introduction and starting up a conversation.
Plain rude! And likely to get you in to hot water legally ……..
Legal email requirements
Secondly, in the EU you need to be aware of legal restrictions in spending unsolicited email under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes
22.—(1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.
(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.
(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where—
(a)that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;
(b)the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and
(c)the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.
(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).
If you have a database of contacts, I would suggest contacting these people individually to let them know about your business and inviting them to subscribe to your future newsletters. They can then opt in out of choice keeping you in line with the law.
Also, if you have various types of contacts such as colleagues, friends, clients etc, they are unlikely to all be attracted to just one message. Friends would respond better if addressed in a different way to colleagues as would clients and prospects. It will take a little more work creating separate messages but should get you far better results.
Today I flagged up to a company that I had recommended quite a few people to them and a couple of these had sent emails to make bookings but had received no response. I was informed by the business owner that he did not have time to check his emails as he had an overflowing inbox and people should phone if they want to get in contact.
To say I was dumbfounded is to put it politely. I gently tried to point out how many opportunities he may be missing out on but the response was that his phone number was on his website, Facebook page and business cards so people should use that.
So my next question was why on earth bother putting on contact details of an email address if you have no intention of checking it.
I was hoping to be able to tell you that this is a rare occurrence with small businesses but unfortunately it is not. All too often I come across small businesses with an overflowing inbox that is having a detrimental effect on their business. I know of another business advisor who had been sent a number of clients to speak to. When I asked them why they had not been in contact, they again told me they had too many emails to trawl through so just picked out the most important looking ones.
Please do not let your emails get out of control and fall into this dangerous trap. You never know that an absolute golden nugget may be sat amongst them, hidden from view, and that you let slip by. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think people will make the effort to contact you in another format after a couple of failed attempts. There is plenty of competition out there folks and if your competitor can be bothered to check their emails, then quite frankly, they deserve the business.
The business owner in question took the attitude that if someone was serious about doing business with him, then they would use alternative avenues and make more effort to get in contact with him. My attitude is that if you are serious about building your business and gaining a good reputation, you will make the most of every opportunity to engage with potential clients and make it as easy as possible for them to get in contact with you. And if you give out an email address as a form of contact, people will expect a response if they send you a message.
If you don’t want an overflowing inbox and want to know how to get your emails under control and keep them that way so you don’t ever miss a potential client, drop me a comment below and I will send you an article on ‘How to keep your email inbox under control.’