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A new year is on the horizon and new opportunities are coming your way so make haste and prepare.
Despite our best intentions, it’s almost the end of the year and most of us haven’t run a marathon or fixed that weird noise our car makes. 2017 is on its way out, and while much remains the same a lot has changed for the better.

The markets are up, unemployment is down, and consumer confidence hit a 17 year high in October. This all means that Americans have more cash in their hands, and are more willing to spend that cash than they have been in years.

As we move into 2018, some of this momentum will continue, some will get lost, and—hopefully—we’ll pick up some new steam as well. Below, we look at 10 trends small businesses should keep an eye out for in 2018 and some ways to prepare for them.

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1. A BUBBLE, SOMEWHERE, WILL POP

There’s a bubble out there, but no one is really sure exactly what this means or where it is. Stocks have risen to crazy heights, with price-to-earnings ratios well above their “normal” ranges. The housing market has rebounded in such a way that talking heads are calling home ownership “an escalator to wealth.”

2018 seems to be pushing hard for a burst bubble. According to The Economist, “The hunger for assets that is driving up prices is also leading investors to take more risks—risks which may not be fully priced into their investments and which they may not fully understand.”

If we’re, en masse, investing in things we don’t really understand, chances are we’re about to have the rug pulled out from under us. Higher prices also mean less room for error.

A bubble floating in midair via Wikimedia Commons 

We’re all just waiting for it to pop… (via Wikimedia Commons)

When prices for houses and investments are at a reasonable level, people make purchases without overextending themselves. When earning a higher return requires paying a higher premium, people have to dip into their financial buffer to receive an adequate return.

What does all this mean? People have less in the tank to draw from if things go south and could be forced into selling at a loss to cover their daily expenses. Then the cycle repeats.

The good news is that we’re already hesitant about our current bubble. People aren’t celebrating their newfound wealth like they did in 2007 and 2002 just before past bubbles popped.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Diversification is the key to surviving almost any dramatic shift. If you have investments, make sure they’re properly balanced to match your demands for risk. It’s easy to forget about your growing nest eggs and end up with a ton of money in stocks at the exact time you want more in something stable, like CDs.

Consider diversifying your business’s revenue streams, too. Having all of your customers come from one social demographic, profession, or geographic area increases your risk of catastrophic failure. Try branching out to smooth any potential bumps before they rock the boat.

2. MILLENNIALS WILL GET THEIR SAY

One of the reasons people might be reserving their monetary leaps for joy could be that a lot of the people getting richer are millennials, a notoriously anxious and cautious group.

Millennials currently spend on the order of $600 billion every year. As that number grows to an estimated $1.4 trillion in 2020, more and more businesses are catering to millennials. In practice, this means more experiential sales and marketing, less emphasis on glitz and glamour, and a push for consumers to “connect” with brands.

Values-based selling is already on the rise, with campaigns such as State Street’s Fearless Girl and Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” seeking to make deeper connections with millennial consumers.

If all this isn’t your cup of tea, I’ve got bad news: millennials are here to spend money and everyone is courting them. As a generation, they’ve seen their parents’ savings wiped out, they’ve exited college only to enter one of the worst job markets in decades, and they’ve lived through some of the worst attacks to ever take place on American soil.

As a result—they’re not overly excitable.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

To sell to millennials, small businesses must find ways to be honest and transparent. The last thing you want is for your marketing or business to come off as gimmicky or a blatant sales presentation.

Compare Netflix to Uber. Netflix has made a real commitment to transparency and collaboration, pushing to give employees power and accountability in a flexible environment. Uber has been dogged by internal complaints and external failures that throw its operating model in stark relief against its publicity.

Netflix is walking the walk, while Uber seems to just be talking.

3. IOT, AI, AND ML WILL BE THE ONGOING BUZZWORDS OF 2018

The internet of things (Iot), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML)—or Iotaiml—were the buzzwords that Big Tech couldn’t stop talking about in 2017. Expect more of the same in 2018.

While the terms themselves have reached an almost parodistic level, the ideas behind them are having greater effects every year. Small businesses now have access to many of the benefits of these technologies at low or no cost.

The IoT is fueling hyper local advertising and search (more on this below) while allowing businesses to track shipments and customers like never before. AI lets you turn a bunch of seemingly random data into actual insight about the way customers are interacting with your business.

All the while, ML is pushing your products and services to the best customers on Amazon and Facebook. Iotaiml represents a suite of tools and tech that can help small businesses increase revenue while avoiding rising costs.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

It’s likely that your small business will never directly implement any part of Iotaiml, but it will certainly employ software or services that tap into the tech. My bet is that in 2018, you will touch this tech more than ever before and—if properly implemented—see associated returns.

Be on the lookout for proven Iotaimal software and services. There will be some hype to avoid, but there will also be some winners making the lives of small business owners much better.

4. “MADE IN AMERICA” WILL MAKE ITS RETURN

Okay, “Made in America” hasn’t really gone anywhere, but it has been a smaller movement in recent years. Back in the ’80s, Walmart launched a “Buy American” ad campaign and pushed for products made in the U.S. in its stores.

This year, American products and jobs have often been a focus of the Trump Administration, leading to a reevaluation of U.S. trade agreements and tariffs. While it’s simmering as a social issue right now, in 2018 American made will be a big deal.

Photo of a worker in an American Giant factory in North Carolina

An American Giant factory in North Carolina. (via American Giant)

Manufacturing in America has been on the rise since 2010, after falling steadily from the mid-1980s. Adidas and Under Armour are building manufacturing plants in the U.S., and companies that make difficult to ship items—cars, heavy machinery, and the like—are also onshoring jobs.

The real push in 2018 will have to come from consumers. Large enterprises are becoming increasingly consumer-led, as revenue growth once again takes precedence over cost cutting. By increasing their top line more quickly, businesses can make up for squeezing their costs to the limit during the recession.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Small businesses are obvious winners in this environment as they offer local alternatives to national chains or services. The key to selling your local service is to make it clear that you understand the needs of your community, and are interested in being a part of something bigger.

That can mean taking on interns, hiring out of regional universities, or giving back to local charities. Whatever it is, make sure you’re not selling while you’re doing it. People—millennials specifically—hate to be sold to, especially when the sale comes in the guise of charity.

5. YOU’LL GET HACKED

This one isn’t so fun. In 2018, you’re going to get hacked. Maybe it’ll be personal, maybe it’ll be your business. One way or another, you’re going to have to put up with someone getting their hands on something you’d rather they didn’t.

The Equifax hack was just the most recent and galling version of what’s in store for us. As more and more of our data is put online, it increases the incentive for hackers to find ways to gain access to it. The U.S.’ relatively lax punishments for businesses that lose information to hackers compound the problem.

Equifax lost the personal information of 145 million Americans. As a result, the company’s stock is down about 15% year over year. Yes, you read that right: only 15% for affecting 145 million Americans. Under Armour’s stock value lost more than that in a single day, just for saying it was going to sell fewer shoes.

With nothing to lose for inactivity, large corporations will continue letting standards slide, which means you and your customers are going to have to deal with the repercussions.

Payment processor Stripe, for example, “[provides] detailed information about disputes and fraud so you can be as informed as possible as users are ultimately responsible for them.” That means, if you accept a fake card, you’ll be paying the price for it.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

I recently spoke to Darren Guccione, the co-founder of Keeper Security, about all this. The short story—it’s the kind of thing everyone should be worried about, and also the kind of thing no one thinks seriously about until it happens to them.

Get yourself a security plan, a password system or manager, and think about freezing your credit. And buckle up, because 2018 is bringing more hacking and theft with it.

6. SCHEDULING LAWS ARE GOING TO CHANGE THE LOCAL LANDSCAPE

In a few weeks, New York City’s new scheduling laws will take effect for fast food and retail employees. These laws have lots of implications, with the largest surrounding changing employee working patterns.

If you don’t give employees 14 days’ notice about a shift change, you’re going to have to pay them a fee. It gives some certainty to employees, but also makes scheduling an even more complex minefield.

Similar laws are in place in San Francisco and Seattle already, with 13 additional states considering similar regulations.

These rules change how you hire your employees, and they mean you have to be smarter about the way you draw up the schedules for those employees. You can’t just rush out a schedule the week before and hope everyone can make it.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Scheduling laws are part of a larger workers’ rights movement that includes everything from minimum wage increases to paid parental leave. Scheduling is a small part of the overall movement, but it’ll have the biggest effect on your day to day operations.

If you’ve got more than a few people on staff, I’d suggest getting some employee scheduling software—many of the options make use of Iotaiml tech.

7. HYPER LOCAL ADVERTISING WILL HIT THE UNCANNY VALLEY

Your phone now knows where you are at all times, which means that every app you’ve absentmindedly installed and allowed location access knows where you are too.

While that can make games such as Pokemon Go awesome, it can also make advertising incredibly targeted. Hyper local advertising uses your location to serve ads relevant to where you are.

Instead of getting an ad based on that weird Facebook link from Cousin Dave, you’ll get ads based on the fact that you’re near a McDonald’s and it’s lunchtime. I think it’s a pretty cool idea, and it means I’ll see less of the nonsense that usually floods my phone—such as ads for one of the software companies I’ve been researching.

The uncanny valley is just around the corner, though. Soon, you’ll open your phone and get an ad from the store you’re in offering an alternative to something you searched for on your laptop. That’ll give even the most enthusiastic tech adopters among us a moment of pause.

Millennials aren’t interested in being sold to, even if they’re interested in buying. Pushing their personal information right back into their faces is going to backfire, but I suspect the temptation is too much for some brands to resist.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Small businesses are in a great position to build rapport with customers and market to them in traditional, but personal, ways. Instead of trying to figure out who’s walking by so you can throw a targeted ad at them, opt for a catchy, clever sign that will pull people in and maybe even nab you a social share.

You can get foot traffic the old fashioned way. It stands out from the digital noise, is easy to understand, and doesn’t make anyone feel like their privacy has been violated. Push against the tide and make your brand stand out.

8. REMOTE WORKERS ARE ON THE RISE

According to a Gallup poll, more than 40% of Americans now do some part of their job from home. While the future won’t be office-free, that’s a number that’s only going to rise in 2018.

Employees and employers both get something out of remote work, though the overall benefit hasn’t been proven. Remote workers get to work from the comfort of their own home, while employers need to buy fewer desks.

Former President George W. Bush speaks during a meeting at a restaurant 

The remote Oval Office. [Source: White House]

Productivity is the number one challenge here, but there are plenty of ways to keep your remote teams productive. The best route to go is to give employees the flexibility they require and the tools they need to stay connected.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

While it can be tempting to micromanage teleworkers by clocking them in and out or pinging them every thirty minutes, you’ll get more out of your employees by treating them like responsible adults instead of school students. Give people the space to succeed, but make it clear that their remote work option is dependent on results.

Freeing yourself from the office can help you keep everyone happy while expanding the geographic area you can hire from. This opens you up to new talent pools, allowing you to find the best candidates for your business.

9. CUSTOMERS WILL FIGHT TO CONTROL THEIR PERSONAL DATA

We all know that trusting random online businesses is a bad decision. Even so, we keep doing it. We tweet, post, and share without regard for who sees the final product. In 2018, that will start changing.

In part, it’s going to be a function of privacy concerns. Equifax, Target, and every other business that’s been hacked has increased consumer awareness of the risks they’re exposing themselves to on a daily basis.

A larger part will be driven by a handful of companies that see the dual value in selling a product that doesn’t rely on personal information and but does rely on edge computing power.

In short: edge computing moves the heavy data lifting from the cloud into the world of devices. Data storage and some work is still done centrally, but by moving a lot of the logic to your phone, apps can reduce the latency that normally comes with transmission.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

This technology in still in its infancy, but early adopters can make something special here and now.

Savvy app designers can also reverse the data structure, allowing you to keep all of your identifiable info on your phone and only manipulating it on your device. This means you hold onto your data, even while it’s powering the same processes and decisions it always has.

10. CHAOS. SO MUCH CHAOS.

“May you live in interesting times.”

While these are six words no one wants to hear, we do live in interesting times. The U.S. is politically divided in ways it hasn’t seen for generations, the EU is struggling to hold onto its states, and—despite living in the world’s most advanced global society—almost every continent is engaged in some sort of war.

It’s nice to think that 2018 is going to be the year we sort all this out, but that’s just not going to happen. If anything, more chaos is going to descend. Aliens are going to buzz the tower (NSFW: language) and cause us to slop our collective coffee all over the place.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

All you can do is be flexible and positive. Roll with the inevitable punches and make sure everyone who works for or with you is safe. It’s crazy out there—bring a friend.

YOUR PREDICTIONS FOR 2018

In 2018, we’ll see a little more of the same, some new directions here and there, and consumers realizing the power they wield.

What do you think we’ll see? Is Amazon going to start selling software? Will the NASDAQ crash? Is bitcoin ever going to collapse? Share your predictions for the coming year in the comments below, or shoot me an email and let me know where you stand on 2018’s trends.

Article by Andrew Marder in Knocking Down Doors
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Organization is so important in life and business and Erin Henry has it down to a "T" ! 

Our mission is to help bring local and economic consciousness one town at a time through our markets that consist of local businesses and charities.

We are revamping out pricing to meet out market goals for our vendors! If you want to book with us more then once consider prepaying for your space so you will not have to scramble with getting a space and knowing that you are secured. 

Here at Koutour we want to make sure that our most loyal vendors are well taken care. We want to make sure that each vendor feels they are getting the most value out of our events.

Become a VIP Member?

Who are VIP's?
Small business owners, artisans, and crafter's
Our most loyal and committed vendors

What does a membership mean?
Exclusive rights to vend with Koutour Event. This means once you have paid for a membership your business and it’s likeness is the ONLY one who can vend with us unless you are absolutely not available.

What are the benefits?

1. You can pay for events in advance ranging from 3 to 12 events at a time with one flat rate. Non members have to pay the vendor fee which can change depending on the event but members pay a flat rate no matter what the vendor fee is.
2. You also get first pick on spots at every event you want to attend.
3. You are priority over non members so when we have our FREE vendor events you get first pick! These events happen 2 times a year and all members are welcome to participate but it’s not mandatory.
4. You get up to 40% off events even after your paid term is up for 2 more events.
5. Active members will get 25% off Parker’s Cup products at parkerscup.com.
6. Free business marketing! The third of every month the Shopkeeper’s Secret is sent out to over 600 email subscribers and 4,568 social media followers and your business information is our priority over non members.
Speaking of marketing we will submit all of our events to local news outlets so they can put them on their calendars.

Current VIP Member's 

Lularoe
Email    lularoeemilyhaynes@gmail.com
Phone    +1 (832) 655-7343
Company    Lularoe
Website     https://www.facebook.com/LuLaRoeEmilyHaynes/

Scentsy 
Email    Mikedanier@aol.com
Phone    +1 (817) 689-1066
Company    Scentsy
Website     https://danier.scentsy.us/

Lipsense
Email    PuckerUpPassionateKisses@gmail.com
Phone    +1 (281) 433-4033
Company    Lipsense
Website     https://www.facebook.com/groups/PuckerUpPassionateKisses/

 
Come out this weekend and participate in a V-day market right in the heart of Kingwood, Tx. in their Town Center park. We are looking for crafter's, artisans, artist, bakers, chocolatier and small businesses.

This is event is really special because it is in the hometown of the Tiffany Parker, the owner of Koutour Event and we all excited about how big this will be!

February is the month of LOVE and we want to show our support and love for a local charity! This month we are going to donate 5 % of our January coffee and booth sales to HKAP. HKAP has done so much for the Kingwood area and surrounding area and their mission is "Utilizing the generosity of donors and volunteers, HKAP Inc aims to help families within our five areas of focus while providing community outreach."

We think that it's beautiful and we are proud to support their efforts the best way we can.

The Member: Andrea Brown, Rachel Clark Flores, Jodi Anderson Rodgers, Justin Brown and Rob Flores
Come out this weekend and participate in Koutour's post V-day market right in the heart of Kingwood, Tx. inside Town Center park. We are looking for crafter's, artisans, artist, bakers, chocolatier and small businesses. We understand that life get's in the way and you need an extra day to celebrate your love and would love to find a unique gift that he or she will love! 
5 WAYS SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE TACKLE MONDAY MORNING

One of the most popular posts I’ve written on this blog is How Successful People Start Their Day. It seems like every entrepreneur is interested in learning how to get ahead early. But starting every day isn’t the same as starting a Monday. Mondays are proven to be harder to face.

Many studies have shown that on Sunday afternoons, most people start to feel depressed. Maybe you’ve felt it. Work is coming. The weekend is over and it wasn’t all you imagined it would be. The pressure of another week of performance begins to hit early. There are hundreds of reasons why, but Sunday afternoon and evening is generally a downer.

No wonder Monday seems to be so, well… Monday.

Over the years, I’ve studied how people can ramp up for the work week. I’ve come to believe that there are not naturally “Monday” people, but that there are disciplines people follow that help them beat the Sunday blues and ramp up for the work week ahead.

Sleep, but don’t snooze.
Entrepreneurs are notorious for burning the candle at both ends, but the National Sleep Foundation says that you cannot catch up on lost sleep. There may be no more important night to get rest than Sunday night, and no better remedy for Sunday blues than a solid night’s sleep. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “Sleep is the best form of meditation.”

On the flip side, do NOT hit the snooze button. Dr. Rafael Pelayo of the Stanford Sleep Center says that by hitting the snooze button, you are telling your body “false alarm!” That results in a more groggy and slow wake up than if you just went ahead and got up when the alarm goes off. Monday is enough of a drag on its own. Hitting snooze only digs a deeper hole for you to climb out of.

       2. Get Physical.

Getting the body in its proper state often precedes the mind and emotions coming its way. If there’s any day this is most true, it is Monday.

An article by Ron Friedman of Harvard Business Review sites countless studies that show exercise not only motivates and improves work performance, but also pulls us out of a slump. One study found that when a group of people suffering from mild to moderate depression exercised (i.e. strength training, running or walking) for at least 20 to 60 minutes 3 times a week, they were significantly less depressed 5 weeks later. The benefits were immediate and were maintained for these participants as long as they consistently exercised.

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I’ve taken this message to heart and have made it a practice to never take both Sunday and Monday off from working out. If I do skip Sunday, Monday morning workouts are a must.

Want to beat the Sunday blues? This Monday, get out the door and walk or run.

It doesn’t have to be a P90X workout. Cosmopolitan Editor-In-Chief Joanna Coles makes a Monday walk with her dog a must and says it helps her start her week. Many of my best ideas have come on Monday morning walks with Moses, Vanderbloemen Search Group’s Chief Canine Officer.

Mondays can leave you low on energy and more unwilling to workout than normal. Here’s an old trick I’ve used on myself for years:

I lie to myself.

I’ll head out the door saying “I’m only running 10 minutes, then I’m quitting.” Turns out, I have never wanted to quit once I was out the door and moving for 10 minutes. And I almost always felt better afterward. By releasing some stress, and some endorphins, you will likely kick your body out of the funk Monday can bring.

Keep email in check until you get to the office.
Dave Karp, CEO and Founder of Tumblr, says that he will not respond to email until he gets to the office. I’ve found this to be especially effective for Mondays. The beginning of the week is the time when you set your mental state for the week. Stay focused on the big projects ahead and devote brain power there. The distractive power of email can take your brain away from big planning and into minutia that can wait. Honestly, when is the last time you had a Monday email that had to be dealt with right away?

Never quit (or make big decisions) on a Monday.
There’s an old saying, “Don’t make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.” That couldn’t be more true than on Mondays.

In our work helping churches find their key staff, Monday is the number one day for resumes to come to us unsolicited. People get bummed out on Sunday afternoon or evening, come into work Monday, and decide that they have had enough. After working with tens of thousands of candidates, we have come to believe that Monday is the number one day people quit their job.

But quitting on a day you’re down is a really bad idea. In fact, making any major decisions when depressed is almost always counterproductive and later regretted.

Making major decisions on the day when you’re down can have serious consequences. Most big decisions can wait until Tuesday, particularly if you start to shape your schedule around the idea.

When I was younger (read, when I knew everything) and leading churches, I thought it was a great idea to start Monday with marathon meetings filled with big agendas and decisions. I even scheduled our board and committee meetings for Monday nights. I was dead wrong.  Turns out, not every day was designed for intense decisions.

Schedule work that has tangible results on Mondays.
Just like working out will help you out of the low points, so will working on projects where you can see immediate results.

Behavioral Psychologist Kelly Lambert has done a lot of research that shows handiwork can pull us out of depressed moments. When we knit a scarf, for instance, Lambert says, the brain’s executive-thinking centers get busy planning.

Spend your Mondays with a punch list of attainable goals.

Do tasks and projects that can be completed and have a box to check. Maybe it’s organizing your desk, planning a month of your calendar, writing notes of encouragement to staff, or knocking out some of those menial tasks you never seem to “have time for.” I have learned to keep a running “Monday punchlist” throughout the week so that I have some projects ready to go before I ever get to the office. If you’re anything like me, you will find that finishing a to-do list will do wonders for your soul.

I’m sure there are other tips out there for getting out of a low spot, and maybe some of you don’t suffer from post-Sunday Blues. But if you do, know that you’re not alone, and that they will pass.

I know when I was preaching, as much as I loved it, I often thought, “Sunday seems to come around every seven days!”

The good news is, Tuesday does, too.

THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES: OFFICE EDITION

Like it or not, your job is kind of like a romantic relationship. Your co-workers and clients see you at your best (your presentation to the SVP) and your worst (pulling your hair out at the end of a 70-hour week). You’ve made a commitment to spend every day with them (at least for a couple of years). And, just like marriages, business relationships take work to make them last over time.

So, it’s not a huge stretch to say that advice for our love livescan also be applied at the office. There’s a famous book called The Five Love Languages, which details how different people prefer to give and receive love from their partners, and how you can make each type feel most appreciated. The premise—that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to showing others that you care—is also pretty invaluable advice when you’re trying to attract a new customer, strengthen a client relationship, or keep your co-workers happy.

Here’s an overview of the five ways that people feel loved—and how you can translate and use that to your advantage in the workplace.

QUALITY TIME

For some people, there’s nothing better than good, quality face time. This is often true with new or prospective clients who want to feel comfortable in a relationship before moving forward with a deal or partnership. For these types, sending an email every couple weeks won’t cut it—try taking them out for coffee or dinner, stopping by their office for a meeting, or finding a way to give them some face time on a regular basis.

Quality time is also extremely important in some company cultures, and many managers place high priority on how much time you spend in the office. Arriving early, staying late, and generally being visible at the office will count during reviews, and hustling out at 5 PM or skipping after-hours work events is frowned upon. In these environments, the best way to show you’re a team player is to show up—all the time.

GIFTS

Just as a suitor sends an unexpected bouquet of flowers to someone he wants to impress, there are times when you might need to woo your clients or colleagues with a gift. Don’t worry—we’re not talking about bribes, kickbacks, or anything else that would go against your company policy.

Gifts in the workplace can also come in the form of information, like sending your boss or colleague a relevant article. And promotional items, boxes of treats, or a gift during the holidays can be meaningful gestures that are sometimes more appreciated than an office drop-by (especially for the “I’m too busy for everything” types). The point is to deliver something that shows you’re thinking about the person and that you’re actively interested in keeping the relationship alive.

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION

Most couples exchange encouraging words, and business relationships benefit from them, too. Some clients won’t think twice about the company post-its you dropped off and will consider your monthly lunch meeting business as usual, but they’ll be ecstatic over a thank-you note sent for a purchase order or a meaningful email telling them how much you appreciate their business.

Even those you don’t necessarily have to “woo”—like your colleagues—value this love language too. Who doesn’t feel better, happier, or more productive when they’re told they’re doing a good job? Sending a colleague a quick email when she’s done a great job on a project will speak volumes about how much you appreciate her work.

ACTS OF SERVICE

For some people, there’s nothing better than when their significant other goes out of his way to do the dishes, take out the trash, or get the oil changed. Similarly, for some customers, nothing will impress them more than an little extra service. It doesn’t have to be a huge effort, either—little things like hand delivery, discounts on fees, or saving your client time by making her travel arrangements can go a long way in making her feel special and appreciated.

Going above and beyond your typical call of duty is also a great way to delight your boss and co-workers. If your colleague is having a particularly stressful week and you have some free time, offer to proof her important report, or see if there’s something you can take off your boss’ plate.

PHYSICAL TOUCH

In a relationship, people who speak this love language like hugs, PDAs, and other physical contact. So what does this have to do with business? Quite a lot! Consider the dead-fish handshake or the death-grip handshake: Both make your colleague or client uncomfortable, and both make an awkward start to a business encounter.

This is also a factor when doing business overseas, as some cultures greet with a bow, a kiss, or a handshake. If you don’t consider the implications of your physical interaction, you may accidentally offend a customer or colleague. Forgoing an important physical gesture may signal that you’re cold and unwilling to do business, and if your colleague or customer values these interactions, no amount of quality time or gifts will make up for your faux pas.

So, how do you know which language to choose? Everyone’s different, so the key is finding out which type of attention makes your colleagues and clients feel most valued. It’s not always clear at first, but listen and watch for what each person responds to over time. Do they rave about the giveaways, frequently ask to have in-person meetings, or spread the word about your exceptional level of service? Also pay attention to how people treat you—often, they will give love in the same way they want to receive it.

With a little effort, you’ll learn—and you’ll know just how to ensure a long, happy relationship.



The Muse , CONTRIBUTOR
A career- and lifestyle-focused magazine and community for young professional women.

DON’T MARKET TO YOUR CUSTOMERS; EDUCATE THEM INSTEAD

Companies all over the world regularly struggle with a seemingly simple problem: How do we explain the benefits of our product? This comes easily to some companies, whose offerings occupy a unique niche, solve a specific problem, or have no significant competitors. Meanwhile, other companies have to contend with stubbornly entrenched “conventional” wisdom, rampant misinformation, a disinterested public, or the very real possibility that customers simply don’t believe they have a need for a given product.

The good news is that customers are better informed than ever when it comes to making purchases. The bad news is that there’s often little difference between marketingmaterials and educational materials.

A webpage dedicated solely to the features of a product will not be successful on its own. Customers want context; they want to know about the product as it exists in the real world. They want to know which problems that product will solve, and what experts in the field think of its merits.

What we’re talking about is insight. And in a world gone mad with ever-more-elaborate marketing ploys, it’s more important than ever before.

Customer Education in the Real World

For many companies, customer education is a built-in problem that needs to be addressed before, during, and after a challenging product is brought to market. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of dietary supplements. The amount of information, misinformation, and conflicting reports can be difficult to sift through, even (and perhaps especially) when credible science enters the mix.

Take, for example, probiotics. Even if you don’t take them, you probably know someone who does, or you’ve at least heard of them in passing. Probiotics are frequently praised as one of the best ways to shore up your digestive health.

On to the next question. Have you heard of prebiotics? Perhaps not; when these two terms aren’t being used interchangeably (and wrongly), probiotics tend to steal the limelight thanks to a sizeable head start and the virtue of ubiquity. But here’s the thing: the scientific consensus is shifting toward the lesser-known prebiotics, which means companies competing in this arena need to double down on efforts to better educate the public on the virtues of this superior, but lesser-known, supplement.

This is the challenge faced by Prebiotin, a Harrisburg-based company that specializes in prebiotic fiber supplements. While they have science on their side, we all know only too well how slow-to-change public opinion can be. And while science is our ally, the language of science is often inadequate in efforts to appeal to a broad customer base.

So let’s talk about this issue in a language we all speak: Apple. Love them or hate them, it’s the company that all other companies seem to be measured against, so let’s go with it. As you may know, Apple recently unveiled their latest notebook. As with all things Apple, this new MacBook has the future in mind, with tiered batteries and a single port: the soon-to-be-ubiquitous USB Type-C.

The problem, of course, lies in convincing the public that this computer is an investment in a more port-agnostic ecosystem, rather than a flashy, ill-considered, $1,300 boondoggle. The facts are on Apple’s side: USB Type-C is poised to become the port of choice favored by computer, smartphone, and tablet manufacturers the world over. Furthermore, the choice to include just a single port for power and peripherals underscores the fact that the computer of the future will be almost entirely wireless; the rise of the all-encompassing digital cloud has seen to that.

But the fact is this: the new MacBook is a product so alien that many people will dismiss it outright in favor of more familiar offerings from rival companies. And the waiting game for third-party USB Type-C accessories and adapters doesn’t help Apple’s case.

The bottom line is that every company in the world needs to prove that their products are necessary, rather than demanding that customers believe it to be so. Prebiotin has successfully broken down the differences between prebiotics and probiotics; Surgimedics has made a case for smoke evacuation products to remedy little-known surgery complications; Amazon has successfully convinced their customers that their e-Book readers are the only ones worthy of consideration. Meanwhile, Apple has some catching up to do when it comes to explaining why their laptop of the future is going to have a hard time existing in the present.

What Customer Education Really Looks Like

If there’s a starting point when it comes to educating your customers, it’s probably this: Believe in your product. But more than that, make sure you know how to express that belief.

There’s a reason why Apple became one of the most important tech companies in the world: it’s because every time Steve Jobs (and now Tim Cook) got up on that stage, their enthusiasm was absolutely infectious. They exuded confidence in the strengths of their product, and that confidence travels fast; Apple has some of the best customer evangelists in the world.

But, as we established with the MacBook example above, faith in a product is not enough. This is why, for example, Amazon’s Kindle has no serious competition: every other company that put out an e-Book reader failed to explain the benefits of their devices beyond “We’re not Amazon.” I’m sure they believed they had a worthy claim to Amazon’s throne; they just didn’t know how to make their case.

If there’s one thing you can do to educate your customers and encourage their trust, it might be this: take advantage of thought leaders who already have the ear—and the respect—of the general public. Done poorly, this can lead to speculation that you’ve “bought” public figures to use as your personal mouthpiece. When Bill “The Science Guy” Nye did an about-face on GMOs earlier this year, speculation abounded that Monsanto had bought him off. Most people proved willing to believe this childhood hero incorruptible, as the existing evidence would suggest, but it says something about our society that the specter of doubt remains. Nevertheless, The Science Guy has taken to the airwaves to explain, in plain English, what has scientists everywhere buzzing with excitement.

Here’s the bottom line, according to Andreas Eisingerich and Simon Bell of Sloan Review: “Efforts to enhance customers’ service knowledge and provide them with the skills and abilities to use critical information can help companies differentiate their service offerings and provide a strong foundation on which to build trusting relationships with customers.”

That might be long-winded, but it’s accurate; whereas too many modern companies seem to believe that ignorance makes for the best customers, the real world bears things out differently: the more informed and empowered customers are, the more satisfied and confident they are with their choices.

And that kind of confidence almost always leads to loyalty. In the end, isn’t that what all of this is really about?

 

William Craig , CONTRIBUTOR

I write about the secret of company culture in entrepreneurial success

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Grow your business, sales and attention with Instagram

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From Houston Business Strategy Meetup
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Grow your business, sales and attention with Instagram


Wednesday, December 6, 2017
7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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7PM Class session!


Find out how we have been helping people & businesses grow completely from Instagram, getting them new leads daily, more sales monthly and reaching around 1500-2000 new people a day!

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4. How to wake up with 5-10 new leads daily.


5. How to create MASSIVE organic attention, growth and engagement to your business using Instagram.

6. How to get 5-10x account growth.

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