Your Receptionist May Be Your Most Important Employee

In Small Business Marketing, Receptionists Are on the Front Line

Your Receptionist Might Be Your Most Important EmployeeReceptionist positions are often considered entry-level with high turnover. Small businesses don’t spend much time training the receptionist, sometimes just giving her an admonition to be friendly and punctual.

But from your customer’s perspective, your receptionist just might be your small business’s most important employee! An effective receptionist:

  • Is a customer’s first impression of your company
  • Develops meaningful customer relationships
  • Keeps customers happy
  • Is a key source of business intelligence

Everytime the phone rings or someone walks through the door, your receptionist is the spokesperson for your business. Customers will evaluate your business based on their interactions with the receptionist. More often than anyone else, she is in a position to execute your marketing strategies.

Receptionists are also in a position to uncover important business intelligence that should inform your small business marketing strategies. They talk to customers all day long. Through skillful conversation, they can identify how customers learned about you, what competitors they evaluated and problem areas in your products or services.

Does your receptionist know how important she is to your small business? Help her understand her professional role, and you’ll welcome a new, valuable member to your marketing team.

What NOT TO DO on LinkedIn

What Not to Do on LinkedInWe have all seen cringe-inducing social media marketing posts that make us say, “WHY would they share THAT?” I think these mistakes are particularly embarrassing on LinkedIn, because it is a professional network. Businesses, brands and individuals should showcase themselves at their professional best. Here are a few things to avoid:

  • DON’T use an overly personal photo. Your profile picture needs to be friendly and professional.
  • DON’T share updates that are trivial or don’t promote your brand. Save the captioned cat pictures for your personal friends on Facebook, not your customers.
  • DON’T get political. Left or Right? Either way, you’re sure to offend half of your customers.
  • DON’T ask for recommendations from people you don’t know.
  • DON’T post content with typos or misspellings. Proofread and post well-designed content.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for LinkedIn marketing: if you wouldn’t say it in-person to a customer, don’t post it.

Share this list with your employees and colleagues to make sure everyone in your organization avoids embarrassing your brand– and themselves!

How to Take a Professional Headshot Photo

Most small businesses feature pictures of their team on their websites, social media platforms or even in their physical location. When customers see pictures of the business owner or your team, they will associate the quality of the picture with the quality of your business. Everything is marketing!

With the popularity of selfies and casual smartphone photography, it can be difficult to get professional headshot photos of your team. Here are some simple tips for taking great headshots:

  • Don’t take a selfie. Even if you can’t hire a professional photographer, ask someone else to take the photo for you.
  • Plan the background. The background of a headshot photograph shouldn’t be distracting. Avoid backgrounds that contain other people or traffic. Easy background choices include brick walls, an interior wall painted a simple color, trees, or other non-distracting natural elements.
  • Think about lighting. For most headshots, it’s fine to use a smartphone or consumer-grade camera, as long as you have good lighting. Ambient daylight will make for the best results, so have fun taking your photo shoot outside.
  • Take the photo straight on. Unless you have an artistic vision that uses unique angles, take the simple approach of having your photograph taken at eye-level, while looking at the camera.
  • Stay focused. Make sure the camera is focused on you and that the picture is clear and sharp.
  • Look the part. Plan your wardrobe, do your hair and smile!
  • It’s great to be quirky, but have a purpose for the composition. Think of settings that are relevant to your brand personality. If you don’t have a lot of time, classic portrait approaches are always great for professional headshot photography.
  • Ideally, the photos of your entire team will complement each other. Using similar angles and backgrounds will reinforce customers’ impressions that you all collaborate.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at some examples.

Examples of Good Headshot Photos

Good Headshot Photo Example
Incidentally, this is my professional headshot, taken by the amazingly talented Laura Poland of Reflected Spectrum Photography

Good Headshot Example

Good headshot example

Good headshot example

Examples of Bad Headshot Photos

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

By following these tips and putting in a little extra effort, your small business will have team headshots that represent your brand.

Small Business Marketing Memes

Small Business Marketing MemesThose of us with small businesses “wear a lot of hats,” but many elements of small business marketing are similar whether your’re in retail, B2B, service or other industries.

Here are some memes small businesses share that show our enthusiasm, ingenuity and tenacity:

  • Putting out fires
  • We’re real go-getters
  • Do more with less
  • Think outside the box
  • Give 110%!
  • Too many chiefs
  • Don’t drop the ball
  • I love my job

In your small business, how many of these phrases do you and your employees use? What other metaphors and phrases are popular with your team?

Marketing is easy when you’re awesome

A couple weeks ago, I published a post imploring businesses to be good. Being good is important for your business, though it might not make your marketing any easier. But what if your business is not just good, it’s awesome? Being awesome opens the door to great marketing opportunities that makes your marketing strategy easy.

Here are three ways marketing is easy when you’re awesome:

1. PR and social media are easy

For many businesses, developing a compelling PR and social media strategy is hard– what do we say? who will care? who will spread the message? But for businesses that are awesome, PR is easy.

Grady Veterinary Hospital in Cincinnati, OH accepts animals in need from the SPCA. Right now, they are caring for a kitten that had been set on fire and loosed on a city street. Each day, they provide updates on the little guy’s progress. Because they do awesome things, their public relations and social media strategy is easy: Tell stories about the wonderful animals we help.

2. Word of mouth marketing is easy

It’s pretty obvious that if your business is awesome, your customers will want to talk about you. That’s the essence of word of mouth marketing. Give your customers something to talk about– a charitable initiative, an innovative application of your product or service that goes above and beyond what they could have imagined.

The BonBonerie is an extremely successful confectioner here in Cincinnati. Customer demand is so strong that they have an entire cafe dedicated to wedding cake tastings. Their business has been built mostly on word-of-mouth marketing because their business is amazing. The beautiful cakes, delicious flavors and careful service give customers plenty to rave about. Crafting this business wasn’t easy, but the word of mouth marketing is creating itself.

3. Employee satisfaction is easy

Happy employees make happy customers. When an employee believes in what she does, she wants to help each customer as much as she can. And, no surprise, employees find it easiest to believe in awesome employers.

When I worked at Apple, my fellow employees were 100% dedicated to the company’s way of doing business. Apple has a great employee training program and customer service methodology, and the employees already believe wholeheartedly in the products they sell. Because employees believe the company is awesome, they are able to provide customers with awesome experiences.

Marketing is easy when you’re awesome. “But my business isn’t awesome,” you might reply. So what are you going to do about it?

Your employees want to be cross-trained

How do I know your employees want to be cross-trained?

They’ve told me.

In my work with Yastrow & Company, we do extensive, in-depth employee research, and cross-training is the most universal request we hear. Practically every group of employees, in every industry and every job role tells us, “I wish I knew what everyone else in the company did everyday. It would help me do my job better if I understood where my coworkers are coming from.”

Restaurants can schedule back-of-house staff to individually work the front of the house for a shift. Companies with IT departments can have IT staff rotate through the various departments they support– and show the other employees the demands of the IT department. A retail store can ask their purchasers to work a few hours on the floor.

Sometimes management gives pushback to the idea of cross-training, and their reluctance is understandable. It’s a cost, and it takes valuable employees away from their work for a time. But the investment in cross-training helps build teams and breaks down barriers across departments. When employees understand what their coworkers do in the course of their jobs, they will be more helpful to requests. Asking back-of-house employees to work with customers for a day will make them realize the importance of the customer experience.

Offer some cross-training. I guarantee your employees will find it valuable, and it will help unify your business.

Customer Service: Trust Your Employees

Customer service interactions are a big part of marketing for most companies. Customer service employees are often the face or voice of a company when customers have problems, whether it be to accept a return, resolve a billing issue or answer questions. Before a customer service interaction, customers may be frustrated or confused, leading to a lack of patience.

Many of the biggest problems in customer service occur when a company’s process or policy doesn’t apply to the situation a customer is experiencing, furthering their impatience, frustration and confusion. Being told, “I’m not allowed to do that.” or “This is company policy.” doesn’t resolve a customer’s problem, and all too often customer service employees are put in the position of angering customers.

For instance, last week FedEx delivered a package of mine to the wrong address, so I needed to pick it up at their warehouse. Their process states that anyone picking up a package must show government-issued ID with the same address as the ship-to address on the package. However, the whole reason I was at the warehouse was because the ship-to address was the wrong address. This policy clearly didn’t account for my situation, creating a bad customer service experience.

What can companies do to prevent policies from getting in the way of good customer service? They can trust their employees to make the right decision and allow them to bend policies for unusual situations.

Many managers out there may be gasping in horror, exclaiming, “We have the policies to prevent people from doing stupid things!” We only need to look to Nordstrom, one of the most successful retailers, for a counter-example.

For many years, the Nordstrom Employee Handbook was simply a single, 5″x8″ grey postcard reading:

Welcome to Nordstrom

We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

Len Brzozowski, of the Xavier Leadership Center, wrote a very interesting piece on customer service culture and Nordstrom. He states, “Nordstrom boasts the highest sales per square foot performance in the retail industry – by almost double.” And they do it by trusting their employees.