5 Free And Easy Ways To Start Promoting Your Brand Online

5 Free And Easy Ways To Start Promoting Your Brand Online

Remember when marketing was putting your product or service on flyers and brochures? 

If you had the budget for it, you might have even invested in a billboard. Though these traditional forms of marketing still exist, we now have digital marketing. And the methods for digital marketing are endless. 

Now’s the time to maximize growth for your business. You can do it by taking advantage of the digital marketing avenues available — they’re only a click away.

There are several user-friendly platforms you can leverage for connecting with your target audience and building lasting client relationships. And the beauty is — many of them are free!

Because of the digital platforms at our disposal, we small business folks can stand a chance against large businesses — and even win. 

So, what are you waiting for?

If you’re ready to take your digital presence to the next level and grow your business, this article is for you.

We will discuss how to:

  1. Get discovered on Google with Google My Business
  2. Delight your audience with your company blog
  3. Connect with your audience on social media
  4. Design professional assets with Canva
  5. Maximize reach with email marketing on Mailchimp

1. Show up on Google Maps and Google search results with Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is a free online tool that enables you to create, manage, and optimize your Google Business Profile to increase your chances of being discovered. GMB will enhance your business profile by allowing you to appear in Google Maps and local Google search results. 

Why it’s important

Very often, GMB is the first thing customers notice when searching for your business — especially local customers. And first impressions matter. But so does accessibility. Having essential business information on your profile, such as your contact information and website, will make your business easily accessible to potential customers while increasing the chance they will contact you. In fact, 60% of smartphone users have contacted a business directly using search results. 

In addition to Google profile discoverability and accessibility, GMB allows you to: 

  1. Interact with customers by answering questions, responding to reviews, and publishing posts
  1. Provide essential business information on your Google Business Profile by letting you add your location, business hours, phone number, website, and other details to help you stand out from the competition
  1. Measure and analyze search performance by giving you access to key insights such as actions taken on your profile, search queries used for finding your profile, where your profile is seen the most (e.g., Google Maps or Google search), and the performance of your photos compared to others in your business category
  1. Optimize local search engine optimization (SEO) by adding keywords to your business profile to improve your ranking in search results

How to get started

Setting up your GMB account involves completing and verifying your process. The verification process can take anywhere from five minutes to 14 business days depending on your chosen verification method. 

To set up your GMB account, follow these steps:

  1. Log into or create a Google account you want to be associated with your business
  2. Enter your business name and address
  1. Choose your business category
  1. Add your business phone number and website address
  2. Select a verification option 
  3. Enter verification code

2. Create content that responds to your audience’s queries with your company blog

Where is the first place you go to quickly find information and answers to a question? 

If your answer is Google, then you’re not alone. Every minute, there are approximately 3.8 billion searches globally. One way to have your website rank on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) is with consistent, value-packed content optimized for search engine optimization (SEO). 

Though there are several types of content that are used to generate website traffic and attract, engage, and delight prospects, we will be focusing on one type here: blogs.

Why it’s important

Blog content can be used to further support your business by generating website traffic, attracting users with educational, value-driven content, and bringing in leads. It does this by: 

  1. Positioning your website as a relevant result to your prospective customers’ search queries
  2. Keeping your website current to improve search engine algorithms by indexing your website
  3. Giving you opportunities for backlinking to improve your website’s credibility and organic search engine rankings
Source: Backlinko
  1. Increasing the chances of repeat website visitors and raising your website’s authority level

How to get started

There’s no doubt that blogging has numerous benefits to offer — including building and maintaining relationships with your prospective customers. 

If you’re ready to start a company blog, begin by:

  1. Creating and setting goals that contribute to your company’s overarching goals (for example: increase organic website traffic by 25% in Q3)
  2. Determining who you will be speaking to by creating a buyer persona
  3. Conducting SEO research (keyword research) to identify a keyword’s search volume and determine if it’s worth the content investment. SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz Keyword Explorer are all terrific SEO tools
  4. Creating content for each stage of the buyer’s journey (i.e.,  awareness, consideration, and decision)
Source: HubSpot
  1. Creating an editorial calendar for planning your content creation and distribution strategy

3. Connect and engage with your audience directly using social media 

There are now more than 4.2 billion social media users. If your business isn’t taking advantage of social media, you’re missing out. 

Source: Hootsuite

Why it’s important

Social media is an efficient, effective, and free way to reach and engage your audiences and prospective customers. Social media allows you to gain valuable insights into your industry, competitors, and target audiences. It will also help you learn what content works with your audience, and will also lead you to discover new content ideas. 

More specifically, social media allows you to:

  1. Increase brand awareness by reaching new audiences 
  2. Create human connections and relationships with your audience to build trust 
  3. Establish your brand as a thought leader by sharing value-driven content and insights about your niche
  4. Increase website traffic by sharing links in your social media posts to content on your website
  1. Discover content ideas to incorporate in your content calendar 
  2. Interact and engage directly with your customers 
  3. Make business decisions based on what you learn from your audience
Source: Sprout Social
  1. Find out what people are saying about your business and make adjustments accordingly to manage your reputation
  2. Monitor your competition and stay up-to-date with their promotions, new products, and reviews from clients.

How to get started

A solid strategy should always come before execution. To maximize the benefits of social media, begin by:

  1. Identifying the goals and objectives that you’re trying to achieve on social media (e.g., leads)
  2. Determining the right social media platform(s) for your business (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) 
  3. Finding out what platform(s) your audience is most active on
  4. Researching your industry and competitors to see what platforms they’re using, where they are receiving the most engagement, and what content they’re publishing is successful
  5. Understanding the purpose and benefits of each social platform
  6. Creating a content calendar of what and when you will publish

When planning your content calendar, aim for 80% of your content around non-promotional content (e.g., culture-focused posts, testimonials, value-driven content, etc.), and 20% max for promotional content.

Once you arrive at the execution stage, use social media marketing software like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to efficiently and effectively manage and execute your social media strategy. 

This software allows you to schedule posts in advance on various social media platforms and monitor performance through native social media analytics tools. 

Pro tip: Consistency is key. Ensure you have the capacity to consistently manage your social media account(s). If you’re only able to manage one platform well, stick with one. 

4. Create eye-catching assets with Canva

There’s no doubt that graphic design matters for brand recognition. Attractive design can turn heads, but it wasn’t always easy producing quality designs … until Canva.

Canva is a free, user-friendly online design platform that has a plethora of templates available (+8k in the free account) you can manipulate. It also has photo editing capabilities and access to fonts, icons, copyright-free photos, and videos. 

Why it’s important

Canva allows you — regardless of your skill level — to simply and efficiently produce attractive designs that’ll help you stand out from the competition. 

Create business cards, a new presentation deck, or even a cover photo for your Facebook business page in minutes. And no fancy computer is needed — only an internet connection.

Once you’ve created your Canva account, you can access your designs on any device, including your phone. That’s the beauty of an online service — all of your designs are stored in the cloud. 

How to get started

Explore Canva’s brief video tutorials to learn more about the platform and all things design-related. Then, create your own free account. You’ll be creating masterpieces before you know it! 

5. Keep your audience up-to-date with educational news and promotions with Mailchimp

With over 4 billion people using email globally, email isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s expected to grow to 4.48 billion by 2024. 

Email marketing is an efficient way to send email newsletters, promotional offers, and links to your blogs. It’s a cost-effective way to engage your audience and nurture relationships with a personalized experience in real-time. However, it can be challenging. But that’s why online platforms like Mailchimp exist — to make it as easy as possible for small businesses to leverage email marketing to grow their business. 

Source: teach:able

Why it’s important

Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 email subscribers. It’s a fully customizable platform with powerful design capabilities and a comprehensive analytics tool. 

Additionally, it allows you to:

  1. Prepare and schedule your emails in advance 
  2. Ensure that you’re speaking to the right audience by creating audience segmentation  (which allows your audience to select topics they’re interested in during the email newsletter signup process)
  3. Integrate with other apps, customer relationship management software (CRMs) like HubSpot, and content management systems (CMSes) such as WordPress

How to get started

Are you looking to maximize reach and nurture relationships with Mailchimp? Get started with an easy sign-up process. Once your account is set up, you’ll have access to your dashboard. Your dashboard is an overview of your account showing you campaign stats, number of daily subscribers, and more. 

Create an email campaign by following these steps:

  1. Manage a list
  2. Build and design your campaign
  1. Send your campaign
  2. Monitor your campaign via Mailchimp’s reports
  3. Create a drip campaign (optional)

Wrapping Up

If you’re struggling to find clients or you’re trying to scale, digital marketing is the most efficient way to do so. 

Now you have an arsenal of effective (and free) digital marketing tools for maximizing reach, gaining and retaining clients, and ultimately growing your business. 

Remember, the time is now. Take advantage of these tools and growth will be in your foreseeable future. 

Here’s a recap of the 5 easy ways to start promoting your brand online:

  1. Get found on Google with Google My Business
  2. Delight your audience with your company blog
  3. Connect with your audience on social media
  4. Design professional assets with Canva
  5. Maximize reach with email marketing on Mailchimp

Did you know Smiledog supports small businesses with virtual reception and appointment setting? Operating a small business involves daily administrative tasks that can take away from planning and executing your digital marketing strategy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Smiledog handles answering your phone and scheduling appointments so you can focus on maximizing reach with marketing, providing quality service to your clients, and ultimately, growing your business. 

Connect with a Smiledog representative to learn more.

5 Small Business Tech Tools To Help Your Clinic Scale Faster

5 Small Business Tech Tools To Help Your Clinic Scale Faster

Today, 80% of small business owners are not taking full advantage of available technology. 

This is not an overly surprising statistic. It’s not because small business and clinic owners aren’t tech-savvy. Most are. The issue is the number of software options available. It’s easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed.  

Smiledog has been in business for over 15 years, and we believe that a software solution should be about helping your team deliver better for your clients. It should be a compliment to your people. It should help to create cohesiveness between them, and that should lead to happier clients.

There is no such thing as an all-in-one software solution that will solve everything. It is about combining different platforms that best fit your workflow, and constantly working to improve processes.

Here are 5 tools we have found that can help bring more cohesion to your team—which can lead to improved communication, and ultimately, more growth within your clinic.

Slack

What is it?

Slack, in essence, is a collaborative communication tool. Slack allows you and your team to seamlessly discuss ongoing projects, client issues, or internal news. 

How it helps:

The most attractive part of Slack for a clinic is the asynchronous work model. Many practices have different practitioners working different schedules, and Slack allows the whole team to monitor the day-to-day when it is most convenient for them.

Features and integrations:

In terms of features, one of the most prominent is its ability to be used as an email replacement. Additionally, it offers text & chat messaging, as well as video calling. And the list for integrations is seemingly endless—Slack syncs with over 2,200 different applications. 

Pricing:

Pricing varies based on your needs, and they offer plans for clinics of any size. What’s even better is that they have an intro plan that’s free to dip your toes into, and it lets you familiarize yourself with what Slack can do. Check out the details here.

Jane

What is it?

Jane is one of the best all-in-one practice management software solutions on the market, especially from a user experience standpoint. 

How it helps:

Jane allows a clinic of any size to schedule, bill and chart their entire client base. Whether you are a solo practitioner or a multidisciplinary clinic with 10 people on staff, there is an option that will help you improve your day-to-day.

Features and integrations:

One of the best features of Jane is the online scheduling option that can be built directly into your website, with the ability to customize different schedules based on practitioner or location. You can also link payment info directly to each client’s profile. Jane also offers automation for appointment reminders and intake forms.

Pricing:

Pricing is easy to understand, and there are three intro plans, with customizations available for each to best fit your needs. Take a look here.

Mailchimp

What is it?

Mailchimp is an email-based, all-in-one marketing platform. It can be used for outbound and inbound email marketing, as well as developing newsletters and special promotion campaigns. It really is a great tool to engage your clients through email.

How it helps: 

With its user-friendly, easy-to-navigate platform, it can help you structure your daily communication workflows with your clients.

Features and integrations:

Mailchimp offers email and social automation, landing page development, and even customized digital ad creation. And in terms of integrations, they provide every option under the sun.

Pricing:

Mailchimp is currently the frontrunner catering to small businesses as that is their niche). So in terms of pricing, they have three very cost-effective options for any new clinic. And if you’re a larger clinic looking to push growth, they have a plan for your clinic, too! Check out the details here.

Sprout Social

What is it?

Sprout Social is social management software that allows you to post, manage and report on all of your social media accounts seamlessly.

How it helps:

Housing your social media management all in one platform is extremely helpful, especially for busy clinic owners. Sprout Social also has the added advantage of giving you the ability to see all performance and engagement metrics, providing the insight you need to be able to prioritize more efficiently.

Features and integrations:

With Sprout Social, you get everything from conversation history to comment moderation, and automation workflows to account analytics and task assignment—and these are just the baseline features. The more premium the plan, the more features you’ll get. 

Pricing:

The pricing model offers fairly standard  SaaS (Service as a Subscription) tiers, and they have 3 entry points for each level of business. You can find out more here.

Smiledog

What is it?

A virtual receptionist (VR) that specializes in customer service and booking appointments over the phone.

How it helps:

A VR appointment setting service will help your clinic provide more consistent customer service via phone. It will also increase new and existing booking opportunities because you’ll always have reliable front desk staff to schedule appointments while you’re with patients.

Features and integrations:

An appointment setting service provides you with a full customer service team that has the ability to help clients with FAQs. Smiledog also features full calendar integration to ensure your schedule is properly managed.

Pricing:

Pricing starts at $129/month with an average monthly cost of around $300-500. (Pricing is dependent on your clinic’s call volume.) Find out more here and book a free consultation.

Wrapping up

These are some of the available tools at your disposal that can help you grow your clinic. The choices are endless, but the main question to ask is: What is the main obstacle my clinic’s office is facing right now? Addressing this question will help you focus your search and prioritize your time.

Once you know the problem, finding the solution is considerably easier. Running your business online with digital tools allows you to better take care of the two things that matter most:  your practice and your patients. Choosing the right platforms for your needs will help you grow your clinic.

If keeping reliable and consistent front desk staff seems to be a continuing struggle for you and your clinic, check out our appointment setting service here and schedule a consultation to see if we can help!

3 Tips For Scaling a Healthcare Practice in 2021

3 Tips For Scaling a Healthcare Practice in 2021

As the owner of a small healthcare practice, scaling your business can be difficult on your own. With so many different responsibilities to handle to successfully run your business, you aren’t left with much time to focus on scaling when you’re distracted with day-to-day operations and admin.

Common tasks like scheduling appointments, answering the phone, responding to emails, and interacting with clients face-to-face are time-consuming and can affect your ability to run an efficient medical office.

There are always ways to be more productive and efficient, and identifying and implementing those strategies is key to business growth.

For example, if you gain more time to focus on your clients, you will increase client satisfaction, which will get you better reviews, more testimonials, a positive reputation, and in turn, a longer list of clientele. According to Forbes, 84% of companies report an increase in revenue as a result of an improved customer experience. 

How do you start? By implementing the following three tips to help you free up more time to focus your efforts on your clients and scale your practice so you can focus on revenue and business expansion.

Create client-friendly scheduling

It’s important to consider when your potential clients are available during your hours of operation.

Since the typical workday is 9 a.m.-5 p.m., you may want to tweak your practice’s operating hours to make appointments more accessible to your clients’ schedules.

The more you can do to help your clients easily find times to schedule appointments, the more appointments you’ll be able to secure.

Sure, some clients are able to take time off during their workdays to come into your office. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all potential clients have that luxury. 

Implement an appointment reminder system

When a client misses their appointment, not only does it waste your time, but it also leaves revenue on the table.

To help reduce missed appointments and last-minute cancellations, implement a reminder system that reminds your clients of their appointments 48 hours in advance. The reminder, or automatic confirmation system, can be sent via text message or voicemail.

This way, you can decrease the chances of no-shows while increasing appointment confirmations. 

Pro tip: look for software that’s fully customizable and easily integrates with your calendar. If your calendar is working for you, there’s no need to adopt a new system. 

You should consider software that has a reliable customer support team so, if you ever need last-minute support, they can have your back and provide the assistance your clients are looking for.

Try an appointment setting software to help you smoothen out your practice’s scheduling process and efficiently schedule future appointments even while you’re in one.

With an appointment software implemented in your practice, you’ll quickly notice:

  • An increase in efficiency
  • An increase in capacity 
  • Improved quality of service
  • More time to focus on your clients

Additionally, your clients’ trust and experience will improve, and consequently, contribute to your practice’s long-term growth. 

Improve your phone systems

Let’s consider how a client may feel when their calls aren’t answered when they’re attempting to book an appointment.

The best way to do this is by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. It can be very frustrating to try to cross something off of your to-do list quickly (like set an appointment), only to be met by voicemail. In this instance, you’re most likely to try calling a different practice or provider instead so that you can cross this off and get on to your next task. 

According to Harvard Business Review, 85% of patients who don’t reach you on the first call will not call back. Instead, they’ll call your competitors. 

As a business owner, this situation can have a significant negative impact. Not only have you shown poor customer service to a potential client, but you’ve also thrown a revenue opportunity out the window and sent your lead straight to a competitor. 

To help with this problem, invest in a virtual receptionist

A virtual receptionist can help you:

  • Avoid lost revenue by capturing every call the first time and ensuring your practice’s growth isn’t stunted.
  • Boost your return on investment by saving you money compared to a traditional receptionist.
  • Give you back time to focus on what really matters—scaling your business.
  • Improve your clients’ satisfaction by creating a human connection that makes a difference.

Wrapping up

Client retention can be challenging. It doesn’t have to be. 

Investing in an appointment setting software and a virtual reception solution will help eliminate friction within your practice and provide various benefits to your practice and clients. These cost-effective solutions are the perfect ingredients for growth. And they can be easily outsourced.

Here’s a recap of the three tips for scaling your healthcare practice:

  • Create client-friendly scheduling
  • Implement an appointment setting reminder system
  • Improve your phone systems

They will increase your operational efficiency, save you time, allow you to take on more clients, and improve overall client satisfaction. 

It can be difficult to scale your practice on your own. Luckily, with the affordable technology available today, scaling is possible and doable. Stop putting your efforts into tedious, time-consuming tasks. Invest in technology backed by a knowledgeable and supportive team and start growing your business!

Is your healthcare practice ready to grow? Get in touch with us today and find out why Smiledog is a good fit for you, your business, and, most importantly, your customers.

Telephone Answering Service Vs. Telephone Answering Software: It’s All About The Human Connection

Telephone Answering Service Vs. Telephone Answering Software: It’s All About The Human Connection

Did you know that 45% of day-to-day activities could be automated? That is a shockingly high amount of time and money that could be used elsewhere. It doesn’t necessarily point to the ineffectiveness of your team but rather the lack of infrastructure built around your processes to allow your team to deliver more effectively. 

As small business owners, most of your time is spent with your customers. So, where should your first priority be when trying to improve your systems and processes? It should be where your customers are contacting you—the phone. In fact, 60% of clients prefer contacting small businesses by phone over any other form of communication.

Unfortunately, a common statement we hear at Smiledog is: “I already have an auto-attendant (AA) or voicemail picking up my calls, and that seems to be working fine for me. Why would I need your service?”

The problem with that mindset is that you’re basing your perspective on an already established client base with whom you’ve built a level of trust and who are more willing to leave you a message.

But in today’s market, choice is king. If you’re not there to help when a client calls for the first time, our internal data shows that there’s a 67-75% chance they will hang up or not leave a message. This simply means that you’ve lost them to the next company that is willing to help right away.

Don’t worry! Improving the initial customer experience can be much easier to implement than you realize. 

Auto Attendants: What They Are and When to Use One

Auto attendants (AAs) are an automated answering and prompt system. They are designed to allow your customers to self-navigate where they want to go within your business by giving them a series of automated messages followed by a number to reach the specific department they need.

Rule #1: 

Keep it simple, simple, simple. 

You want three options max. For example: Thank you for calling Smiledog.

The reason for simplicity is that it stays within a customer’s patience range. With a simple choice selection, a customer is more inclined to take the requested action. 

The most important thing to remember is that a person must be at the other end of each option. Otherwise, it completely defeats the purpose, and it results in a negative first experience with your potential customer. 

Rule # 2: 

There isn’t one. With anything more complex than what we covered above, an auto attendant is not ideal and the conversation is better handled, live, by someone on your team. Otherwise, you run the risk of harming your company’s reputation and the overall client experience, as well as the risk of losing new revenue-generating opportunities.

Voicemail: Is It Still Relevant, and How Can I Use It?

Rule of thumb for small businesses: customers should never hear a voicemail message between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday. This is because those hours are the minimum of when a company should be available to their clients. 

When is voicemail okay? Outside of your business hours. 

We all know how demanding customers can be and how overwhelming that can get. At the end of the day, you need to be able to recharge for tomorrow, so voicemail can be beneficial in helping you better train your clients to learn when you are available and to call within that window.

What are the best practices for successfully setting up your voicemail? 

  1. Use a friendly and upbeat tone for the message prompt.
  2. Be specific in the information you want the caller to leave so you can follow up appropriately.
  3. Have an emergency option available for one-off situations that need a quick response.
    • Be clear in the message that you will only follow up on true emergencies quickly.
    • Highlight your definition of what constitutes an emergency on your website or directly in the message prompt.
  4. Ensure your voicemail has automation features like an auto email sent to you with the recording attached or a transcription-to-email option.

Always being on is unhealthy and not sustainable. This is where a voicemail, when properly executed, can be a good tool to help maintain work-life balance. 

Wrapping Up

Now that you have a better understanding of AAs and VMs and how to use them effectively, the only thing left to cover is how you can effectively and efficiently answer your business’s phone calls. That is where a reception service can be beneficial in improving your overall customer experience and increasing revenue-generating opportunities.

It’s important to look at a virtual receptionist as a tool for creating new business opportunities rather than an expense. Always having a friendly and reliable team taking care of your customers is a huge weight lifted for many small business owners, and the great thing is that our model is pay-per-use, meaning you’re never paying for a service when you aren’t using it. This allows our service to remain as cost-effective for you as possible. As the past year has shown us, everything can change in an instant, but taking care of your clients is the one thing you can’t stop doing.

Smiledog offers one central place where you can get everything you need to improve your business’s initial customer experience. We can set you up with a simple AA, live reception services, and a fully customized voicemail. 

If you’re looking to automate with a human touch and improve your company’s phone experience, we would be happy to find out if we’re a good fit for you!

Book a time to chat with us here.

Spend Less Time On The Phone & More Time Growing Your Business (In 3 Steps)

Spend Less Time On The Phone & More Time Growing Your Business (In 3 Steps)

85% of business owners work nights & weekends. They spend the majority of their time working in their businesses, handling everything from client issues, payment processing, personal deliveries and any other activities they feel will help the business succeed. This entrepreneurial mindset of needing to be involved in every aspect of the business is actually the leading factor that stunts growth. 

Although business owners don’t know it, their phones are actually one of the most distracting factors in their day to day. The idea that “always being available” leads to more opportunities and potential success isn’t actually true. Prioritizing your time in a way that allows you, the business owner, to focus on strategic activities without interruption is where you will generate the greatest chance for success. 

Did you know just hearing your phone ring  takes your focus completely away from the task you were working on? From the moment you hear the ring it takes, on average, 25 minutes to completely regain your  focus on your original task.

As a business owner, answering the phone yourself is a double-edged sword. If you don’t answer, you run the risk of losing a potential new client or leaving a bad impression on an existing client. If you do answer, your productivity stops in its tracks, and that project you wanted to move forward gets pushed aside, yet again.

Luckily for you, there are many good ways you can better prioritize your time. Here are three of our favorites:

  1. Time Blocking
  2. Delegating
  3. Outsourcing

We believe using at least one (but preferably all 3) of these techniques will improve your day-to-day time management and lead to more growth for your business

Time blocking

The idea of time blocking isn’t new, however, it is a very hard skill to master. It requires a little bit of stubbornness as well as some faith that this dedicated time will push your business forward. 

Time blocking is essentially the practice of designating specific times of the day to focus on certain things you want to accomplish. The way you break this down is up to you, and it varies from person to person. Forbes has a great article listing 20 time management tips that can help spark some ideas on what might work for you. When we reviewed this list, two tips stuck out to us: setting a time limit & using an online scheduler. 

Setting a time limit

This technique is extremely helpful and easy to implement. It almost gamifies your daily task list and helps keep guilt from setting in. For example, let’s say you want to develop a follow-up sequence for anyone who contacts you through your website. You are not sure how long this will take or what obstacles will come into play, but if you set 1 hour every morning for the next two weeks to work on this, you’ll have put in 10-14 hours of dedicated time for this project. By simply setting a time and length for the task you:

  1. Eliminate project fatigue because the task is spread out.
  2. Move an important project forward without interruptions.
  3. Put all guilt aside because sparing 1 hour of focus per day is far more reasonable then taking 2-3 full days out of the office. 

This small shift in how you plan your days can really make a difference for a business owner struggling to find the time to “get it all done”. 

Using an online scheduler

This can really be a game-changer. An online scheduler brings structure to the chaos of the day . 

Personally, I could not manage my day without an online scheduler. The great thing about these systems is that they give your clients the appearance of availability when in reality you have designated times in the day when they can schedule meetings with you. 

There are a few tips to follow in order to get the most out of your booking system: 

  1. Create multiple booking pages; have as many as you need so that you can cater to the specific audience. This may mean, for example, one for new clients, one for existing clients, and one for demo requests.
  2. Ensure that all booking pages sync to a main personal calendar that you have full control over. This way if something unexpected pops up, all you need to do is block time in that main personal calendar, and all your booking pages will automatically update simultaneously.
  3. Give structured choices to your clients: have an option for a short meeting (15 minutes) or a longer one (30 minutes).
  4. Build in a preset buffer. This is so important because it will give you a little leeway to prevent meeting overlap and avoid upsetting a client by having to cut them off.

Delegating

Business owners often find letting things go to someone else on their team is the most difficult thing to do. However, when delegation is done successfully, you will begin to see the true potential of a business. 

The biggest advantage of delegating to your team is that you are building a layer of trust with them. Trust is a great motivator to a team; an ability to trust that they will make the right decision to push the business forward. This doesn’t mean tossing something into their hands and hoping for the best. It is handing it off confidently once the infrastructure and processes have been properly built. This is what allows a business to begin to thrive.

The great part about delegation is that with some time the business owner will be surrounded by a team of experts who are running their own businesses within the business. Leading your people is the purpose of any business owner, and the only way that can be done is by trusting your team and delegating the day to day to them.

Outsourcing

We may be a little biased about this technique of delegating, but it is with good reason! 

Outsourcing is an extremely quick and efficient way to get specific tasks done that you don’t want to handle. 

Answering the phone and booking appointments are great examples of tasks that are better handled by an outsourced team. The cost and time investment necessary to get someone in-house up to speed can be very hindering for a small business owner, especially since they may leave at a moment’s notice and leave you hanging. Hiring an outsourced professional gives you the reliability you need day-in and day-out. 

Another great advantage to outsourcing is increased efficiency and productivity. Having a dedicated team managing a specific part of your business allows you to better prioritize your day. You no longer have the constant interruption of a ringing phone  or the need to frequently  check your email.

Outsourcing is best used when you need a specific task done regularly, but you no longer have the time to do it. Let’s face it, answering the phone all day–everyday–isn’t what you want to be doing. You want to be focused on the strategic steps that will push your company forward. Let us help you do that.

Wrapping up

Time blocking, delegating and outsourcing all have their advantages; using all three of them can be very effective. By implementing at least one of these techniques into your day to day you will increase your productivity and move your company forward. 

Our speciality here at Smiledog is outsourcing in virtual reception and appointment scheduling. If you’re not sure how our expertise could impact your business,we would love to discuss more about what you need and how we can help. 

Take a look at our Virtual Reception and Appointment Setting service pages to find out more!

How To Prevent Your Business Phone From Becoming Your Business’ Biggest Crutch

How To Prevent Your Business Phone From Becoming Your Business’ Biggest Crutch

Since Alexander Graham Bell’s conception of the telephone in 1876, it’s been one of the most reliable ways to communicate.

As the technology of phones has advanced, that state of how we use them has advanced, too; we text more than we call, and we Zoom or FaceTime instead of meeting in person.

Although the ways people personally use their phones have changed, the classic phone call is still present for businesses–especially for small businesses.

In fact, the majority of customers still choose to phone a business over other communication methods.

According to a report by BrightLocal, 60% of respondents said that they prefer calling a business on the phone after they’ve found them online.

The explanation for this is simple: phoning a business is the easiest and quickest way to get your questions answered and to create a human connection. However, despite this fact, even the best small business owners know that answering every call promptly isn’t feasible due to reasons like being tied up with other business priorities.

These owners may not realize that not answering every phone call can have a large negative impact on the business.

So, if you’re a small business owner, what can you do to better manage your business phone usage while still running your business? Here are three ideas to help:

Set aside daily time for monitoring your phone and responding to voicemails

Maybe you’re a team of one, and you run your business solo. Or maybe you have a small but mighty team.

Either way, you’re bound to run into situations where you can’t answer the phone because you’re busy dealing with other tasks like servicing a client, counting inventory, or filing taxes.

By dedicating daily time towards monitoring your phone and responding to voicemails, you can focus on creating quality connections with your customers without being distracted by other things going on.

This allows you to better understand your customers and their unique needs, which increases customer loyalty because they understand that their business matters.

The downside here is that allowing calls to go to voicemail can lose you business.

As high as 80% of callers won’t leave a voicemail because they don’t believe they’ll get a callback. For many small businesses, voicemail has become more of a liability than an asset.

Implement a callback system

Since time is precious, you can quickly lose customers if they have to wait in a queue to talk to you.

Call back systems let customers request a call back from a business, either as soon as possible or at a time that suits them, meaning shorter waiting times, happier customers, and more leads.

According to SoftwareAdvice, 63% of customers prefer a callback option over sitting on hold.

The downside here is that customers may view being added to a callback queue as if they’re less important than other callers.

If this is the case, you’re likely to lose these customers since they’ll prefer to choose a business that cares about their time and interest.

Hire a trusted partner to help

The single best solution to optimize the management of your business phone is to hire a receptionist to help.

Yes, we’re biased, but with good reason…

A trusted receptionist can bring massive benefits to your business, from giving you more time to focus on delivering your service to increasing your customers’ satisfaction and loyalty.

The only challenge is deciding whether to hire a full-time receptionist or a virtual receptionist.

Hiring a full-time receptionist can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming.

First, you’ll need to source and interview candidates, which can take loads of time and effort. Second, you’ll need to add your chosen candidate to a full-time payroll, which costs, on average, approximately $43,750 a year when you factor in things like benefits, vacation pay, employee insurance, and so on.

Hiring a virtual receptionist is simple, cost-effective, and efficient.

Smiledog virtual receptionists are set up to learn and perform reception duties for all types of specialized businesses, which means that onboarding can be done easily and promptly. Since Smiledog virtual receptionists are paid per minute rather than through a salary, the average cost per year is $8,748–saving you 80% of the cost of a full-time receptionist.

With Smiledog, you can rest assured that your investment will bring more returns than you even anticipated.

Wrapping Up

Although the way that people use phones continues to change, your business phone holds its value.

Customers will continue to call your business looking for your service, so it’s important to have solutions in place that allow you to optimize the management of your business phone and answer every call the first time.

If this isn’t possible on your own, don’t fret. More advanced solutions are available, like Smiledog’s backup reception services, to help you out without breaking the bank.

Want to learn more about Smiledog’s services? Try Smiledog today.