Here is a random list of 50 things I’ve seen successful businesses do to keep their doors open.

  1. They call customers by name as soon as possible.
  2. They greet everyone who comes into the business. Hello is fine.
  3. They have the most personable employees answering the phone.
  4. They answer the phone before three rings, however the phone doesn’t trump a conversation with a live customer. That’s why God made answer machines.
  5. Customers notice dust. Successful businesses keep their business clean.
  6. They make sure all employees know what products or services are in their ads.
  7. They train their employees to upsell. A digital camera should never leave the store without a case or additional memory card.
  8. They keep track of their daily average sale. Especially if they have a cash business. Among other things, it clues them in to possible employee theft.
  9. They “Hire for attitude and train for skill.”

10. Their employees are well dressed and professional looking.

11. They help promote or volunteer their time to local charities and fundraisers.

12. They join civic groups. Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.

13. They sponsor local sports teams.

14. They cross promote their products or services with other businesses.

15. They have a formal, written business plan and review it often.

16. They spend at least 20 minutes each day reading about their business or industry.

17. They test unadvertised specials in-store before rolling them out to mass media.

18. They upload their TV ads to YouTube then link them to and from their web site to make them last longer at no additional cost.

19. They use social media. Pintrest, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to introduce new products or keep in touch with their customers.

20. Rather than “Employee of the Month” they find a way to recognize each employee publicly for a good job at least twice a year. Better company moral.

21. Rather than spend a ton of money testing a fancy mailer, they send out postcards with their test offer, to see what will work and not work.

22. They make sure their web site is included on their after hours answer machine message.

23. They work from home before leasing office space. Meetings in Starbucks are all the rage.

24. They make it easy for customers to complain if something is wrong.

25. If a customer issue arises, they make sure every employee is empowered to make things right, if the owner is not there.

26. They never, ever advertise anywhere unless there is at least a 75% expectation that the ad will produce more revenue than it costs.

27. They understand that advertising is an investment; it can never be an expense. Advertising must pay for itself.

28. They know they should have a yearly Grand Opening. New people move to town every year. They are low hanging fruit, if you can reach them early.

29. They know people don’t buy based on price — but value. Successful owners show value that mitigates the price issue.

30. They are pro-active rather than re-active to their competition.

31. They know that there is a time to spend, and a time to save, and the wisdom to know the difference.

32. They know how to read and understand their financial statements.

33.  They have and use an employee policy manual. It’s nearly impossible to discharge poor employees without a clear disciplinary policy. It will also save you a day in court. See your local Job Service office for free help in developing what you need.

34. They know the company name; web site and phone number must be on the rear, in addition to the side, of every company vehicle.

35. Successful people read about other successful people. Get the best business books from the library, and then buy the ones you need to refer to regularly.

36. They know everyone has a cell phone. They make sure their phone number is either on their sign, or somehow visible from the street.

37. They read and keep up with the Top Fifteen Business Web Sites.

38. They use pictures in all advertising. Either people or products. People attract more attention than products. A picture of someone using the product is best. Think pictures of Disneyland with empty rides.

39. They know a good headline is critical in print advertising.

40. They know good keywords, not headlines, are critical in web advertising.

41. They know the value of a “Call to Action” in their advertising. Return a coupon, call the 800 number, limited time offer.

42. They know that, “Buy One; Get One Free,” will produce more sales than “50% Off” or “Half-Off.”

43. They know they can profit by linking their business to a local or national event. Can you find a way to tie your business to the World Series, London Olympics, etc.?

44. They know “fear of loss is more powerful than expectation of gain.” “Don’t miss out on this special offer.” ”Supplies are limited.” Fear creates need and sales.

45. They know that all employees should have business cards and an incentive to give those cards out. They should be rewarded in some way if they bring you a customer.

46. Successful owners know it’s easier to copy what is successful than to re-invent the wheel.

47. Successful businesses assemble “Advisory Boards.” Successful friends, customers, and non-competitive business owners you can bounce ideas off of when necessary.

48. They know they can use a radio ad to direct people to a much larger ad in the local newspaper. Use one media to direct customers to another one.

49. Successful business owners know the value of a “swipe file.” When you go through your junk mail, file what you see that you like. Not the product, but the colors, the paper, the typefaces, phrases and descriptions, pictures, and the layout. When you create your ads pull these out to inspire you to design the best ad possible.

50. Successful business owners know the value of area demographics. Customer age, income, education, home ownership, which will determine what to sell or services to offer.

51. They always give customers a little more than expected. You expected 50 things; you got fifty-one.

Some Final Thoughts

There are tons of good ideas for both startups and established businesses. The point of this little exercise is to encourage you to explore what works in business. Who’s doing what and how are they doing it? And can you do the same thing or something similar?

If there is one secret to success in business it’s this, “Find someone who is successfully doing what you want to do — and do what they do.”

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