Sales & Marketing

Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) is a multi-billion dollar public/private initiative developed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in 2011 that introduces Michigan companies to opportunities that help them grow and expand. 

PMBC’s mission is to help Michigan businesses grow by:

  • Connecting local, national and global purchasers to Michigan suppliers by offering customized procurement or joint venture matchmaking searches, summits and buyer tours.
  • Partnering with local and national purchasers to organize dedicated buyer-supplier matchmaking events.
  • Delivering full concierge services to businesses to help find the right connections.
  • Offering dedicated international trade services for Michigan businesses who want to start or expand export activities.

More Details on Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC)

pmbc.connect.space

See how PMBC can help you forge partnerships and grow your business by creating an account in the “PMBC Community”.  The PMBC Community is an online and mobile business-to-business platform linking Michigan companies with private sector procurement opportunities and business services available from other Michigan companies.  Michigan businesses may learn more about the platform and register at no cost. 

Here are a just few benefits to joining the PMBC Community:

  • Connect with other businesses in the Community
  • Apply to attend and participate in matchmaking procurement events
  • Add your own company’s procurement needs
  • Schedule 1:1 meetings with other companies

Instructions on Creating an Account:

  1. Go to pmbc.connect.space and click “Sign Up Now”.
     
  2. Complete the registration steps to create your personal and company profiles. Please note that if anyone from your company has created an account before you, your company may already be created. In that case you’ll simply select it from the options that show up when you begin typing your company’s name.
     
  3. Don’t forget to download the mobile PMBC app from the iOS App Store and Google Play stores by searching for “PMBC”, allowing you to access your account from your phone and interact with other businesses during events!

EasyDNNNews

The 3 R’s to Handling Customer Complaints

(By Tom Borg, owner of Tom Borg Consulting)

Every organization receives complaints. The key is turning a complaint into win-win situation. Too often employees and managers take the customer’s complaint personally and get defensive. It would be better if they took the complaint professionally and look at the complaint as an opportunity to fix what went wrong and if possible keep the customer. The second reason is to take an action that would prevent that sort of problem from reoccurring in the future with other customers.

The first R in my formula stands for the word RESPECT. It is critical that you show respect to the customer. You can do this by listening and letting the customer vent their feelings and frustration. The longer you are able to listen, the better. Use cushion statements to ease the frustration level of the customer. A cushion statement is anything you say or do that shows the customer you empathize with their concern. Some examples would be: “You are right to feel concerned” or “That must be frustrating”.

The next R stands for the word RAPPORT. You can develop rapport with the person by sincerely apologizing for any trouble that was caused by the person who experienced the problem. One way you could say this is: “Mr. Jones, I want apologize for any trouble this has caused you”. Then thank them for bringing this concern to their attention.

The third R stands for RESOLVE. Here is where you resolve the situation to the best of your ability. One question you could ask is: “What action would you like us to take?” Many times the complaining person’s idea of a resolution is much less than you would think. The key here is to take action and if possible, resolve the problem. 

By following this three step process you will be able to use your customer’s complaints to strengthen and grow your business.

(How to you handle customer complaints? Tell us below in the discussion section!)

Biggest business trends in 2013 - part two

By Steven Strauss

Last week, I began my annual look at the Top Trends in Small Business. This week we get to the Top 5 and what is interesting about the overall list is that it is dominated by changes to the way we work, mostly due to technology, but additionally, because of shifting attitudes and values.

Which brings us to No. 5:

5. The rise of the solopreneur: I thought I was probably onto something last year when I launched my new venture TheSelfEmployed, but little did I realize that the rise of the self-employed army would turn out to be a trend that is actually altering work itself. Whether it is Fortune Magazine stating “Welcome to the age of the freelancer,” small business expert Barry Moltz stating that “Micro startups are everywhere,” or columnist Jan Norman noting that “almost 17 million Americans are now solopreneurs, 900,000 more than in 2011” there is no mistaking that there is a new class of independent, creative, take-charge small business solo entrepreneurs on the rise.

4. You are headed to the clouds: The next three trends can all be lumped together under the title “The changing nature of work.” Here, what we see is that cloud computing is no longer a stranger to small business. Indeed, a Dell survey not long ago found that 69% of small businesses preferred to purchase software and applications as an Internet service – in the cloud – rather than as an off the shelf product. That same poll stated that those surveyed planned on adding three additional cloud-based services as the year progressed.

Cloud computing, Software as a Service, call it what you will, is proving to be a cheaper and easier way to do business and as such, is the new way that business will continue to get done.

3. Say hello to my little friend: That we are living in the time of mobile work is no surprise, but beyond that, we are quickly leaving even the laptop in the dust. Forrester Research states that 55% of businesses consider smartphone support a “high or critical priority.” And more than half of those same companies indicated they also now need to support tablets.

The challenge for the small business is that we normally rely on what is known as BYOD – Bring your Own Devise. While a smart choice and certainly a less expensive option than buying everyone a smartphone or tablet, it comes with security risks. When people are tapping into your system from anywhere on any devise, security breaches are far more possible.

This in turn means that your security systems and software must be top-notch. As one online security expert put it, it is not a matter of if you will be hacked, but when and how bad.

2. Virtual is the new physical: According to a piece in Entrepreneur Magazine, if you are looking for the workplace of the future, you are not going to find it. “”Who says there’ll be an office at all?” asks Tom Austin, vice president at Gartner, a Stamford, Conn.-based technology research firm. “Already we work from Starbucks, in the car and at our kids' softball games.””

The article then goes on to profile a company called Floor64. “The media and consulting company maintains a brick-and-mortar space in Sunnyvale, Calif., but also runs a bunch of Skype-powered chat rooms for remote workers--many of which are buzzing for most of the day. “These [chat rooms], more than anything else, represent our 'office,'” says CEO Mike Masnick, “and they don't exist in physical space.””

And what is fueling this radical shift from the physical to the virtual are all of the trends that make up this column: Cloud computing, powerful mobile devices, technology, new places to work, etc.

1. Happy days are here again: For the past few years, the dour economic news permeated my annual trends column. In 2013, happily, the opposite is true. Not only is there scant bad news to be found above, but

Balancing Life and Social Media Usage

By Nipa Shah, president of Online Marketing Simplified. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine.

As if it wasn’t difficult enough to balance work-life and family, now we have to balance work-life, family, and social networking. We are constantly “twitching” to share where we are, what we are doing, what we plan to do, etc. to our network.

But all this sharing is creating havoc in many lives. People are getting fired for posting inappropriate information. We hear of robberies stemming from status updates announcing vacation plans. And although reports about Facebook causing divorces and death announcements made online through Twitter may be laughable to some of us, the reality is that this is the world we live in today.

As business owners, we find ourselves in even more of a quandary. Do we focus on growing the business or do we spend time online, building larger networks to grow our visibility and branding?

Well, ideally, businesses should rely on marketing professionals to manage their social properties so that it can be done right and done in a comprehensive manner to generate the desired results. However, as a business owner, if you are in a chicken or an egg situation of whether to invest the money or the time doing it yourself, here are some baby steps to help you get started:

  • Create your personalized profile on no more than two or three social networks. I recommend two. You can choose from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Youtube.
  • Download Twitter and Facebook on your smart-phone (I assume you have a smart-phone. If not, get one pronto).
  • Until you get into the habit of it, put down a recurring event on your calendar to post at least once or twice a day on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Make your posts count. It’s okay to announce, “I’m at Starbucks” of course. But what’s the value of it? Why not post “Going to Starbucks to meet a prospective client” or “Getting coffee to wake me up before I get to work, anyone else feel like I do” is so much more interactive and enables engagement from others.
  • Create Google alerts for news items that are interesting and relevant to your business. Post those with a comment and you benefit by sharing ready-to-use content with others.
  • If sharing photos and videos, use the many tools that are available to do this sharing across multiple platforms through one single post.
  • Stay connected regularly through smartphones to maintain the momentum.
Out of sight is out of mind when it comes to online marketing. Social networking is here to stay. Sooner or later, you’ll have to get familiar and engaged online. But it doesn’t have to be at the expense of family and business. Leverage smart-phones, apps, and other tools to remain connected without sacrificing too much of your family or business time.

Innovation – Better is Always New; New Isn’t Always Better

New? You bet! Who (except marketing gurus and analytical chemists) would think changing Coke’s hundred-year formula for success would be sound strategy? And then give the new product the flagship brand name? New Coke? Was old Coke bad?

Was New Coke better? The market passed a harsh verdict on that.

Why did this “innovation” happen? Did the Coke brand people forget their product had a very loyal following -- more than caramel colored water with fizz? Certainly they thought Pepsi was just fizz water. Did they never eat in a restaurant that only served Pepsi products?

(Next time you’re in a Pepsi-only restaurant, ask for Coke and check the response: “Is Pepsi OK?” It immediately says we’re second best. Is it OK? IS IT OK?!?)

Any brand with an “is this OK?“ competitor should be working on so many other things than copying that competitor’s formula.

OK, we learn from mistakes and Coke has done a lot of things right – other flavors (cherry, vanilla, diet versions of each), juices and bottled water (natural and with additives). They defined themselves not as a cola company, but a beverage company – a broader mission that encourages product innovation.

Speaking of bottled water (which some call “dead” water because it has no trace nutrients like tap water), how did it become so successful? My grandmother would hoot at the idea of paying $8 a gallon for water ($1 for 16 oz.) when it’s free at any drinking fountain. (Gasoline’s “only” around $4 a gallon.) This IS innovative thinking.

It’s not the product; it’s the convenience. It meets a customer’s needs. Buy a bottle and take it with you. Sip it in class, on a bus, while you drive, in a meeting. Hydration is important to health, right? Bottled water makes hydration convenient.

As a small business person you have a need to define your business in the broadest benefit terms possible, and make sure you look at the non-tangible aspects of your product (package, delivery, timing, everything you can’t touch).

You may not have a separate marketing team and an engineering staff devoted to new product development – and that may be a plus as well as a minus. But you do have customers more than happy to tell you what they’d like to see added to (or subtracted from) your product. The good customers will tell you directly if you ask.

I once presented a pretty solid marketing plan (I thought) to a very honest client and then expectantly asked his reaction. “It’s a pretty good plan, but you didn’t put a bow on it,” took a lot of air out of my balloon. Then I realized he wanted my plan to look like I was proud of the work, that I cared enough to polish the format. The hurt changed to appreciation and a change in the way we presented future plans.

A word of caution in researching customers; don’t just say, “What do you want?” Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Ask them what problems they face in your area of their operation. What takes too much time or materials? What’s unused? What would they like the product to do that it doesn’t? What does it do now that it shouldn’t?

Look especially closely at the intangibles you provide that may not be appreciated – particularly the “everybody does that” feature. If none of your competitors offers or is highlighting it, then promoting that feature first makes you “the inventor.”

Back when beer first began to be delivered in bottles, Schlitz had the foresight to claim their bottles were cleaned with “live steam.” (Is there “dead steam”? Hot water?) The brewers said “everybody does that,” but the marketers recognized it as a “secret” and one that would overcome the public’s fear of getting beer in a dirty bottle. “Live steam” earned Schlitz a market share second only to Budweiser for years, because other brand

Turning Unhappy Customers into Fans

The weatherman has the world’s easiest job. He can over promise and under deliver to his heart’s content and still keep his job. Other than a few unhappy school kids, no one gets upset when the predicted storm doesn’t live up to the hype.
He will live to predict the weather once again.

As small business owners, we don’t often get that second chance.

Making Mistakes


If you have a business it happens. You will over promise and under deliver. Maybe it is a special order that didn’t arrive in a timely fashion. Maybe it is a product or service that wasn’t as advertised. Maybe it was a bad day for one of your employees and the great customer service you advertise wasn’t there.

As the owner of a small business, the burden is on you to take care of that unhappy customer.

How do you handle those moments?

The best thing to do is say, “I’m sorry. We made a mistake.”

No matter whose fault it is, no matter that you did everything right but your vendor failed you, your shipping company goofed, or your employee was totally misunderstood – it is still your mistake. So own it.

The customer doesn’t care about all that other stuff, the excuses. She put her trust in you and you failed her. So say you’re sorry, admit you made a mistake, then go about trying to fix it. That’s all she wants.

An apology — An admission of guilt — A solution.

Making Amends

An apology changes the tone right away. She came in guns a blazing. I’m sorry extinguishes those flames. Most unhappy customers are satisfied with a simple “I’m sorry.” They come in angry, prepared to fight. But the apology stops them in their tracks, softens their demeanor. So say it first and mean it. Without the apology first, it is hard to have a meaningful conversation and find a solution.

An admission of guilt takes away her defensive posture. No matter who is to blame, you screwed up somewhere. At the very least, you didn’t meet her expectations. So admit you made a mistake and move on. Don’t make her have to defend her position. It only belittles the relationship and keeps her guard up.

A solution shows that you truly care. And you often don’t have to give away the world to find that solution. You can start by asking her how she would like the problem solved. Usually her solution is more than reasonable and far less costly than what you were planning to offer. And even when it isn’t, the act of solving the problem is what turns you from goat to hero.

Creating Fans

Customers are reasonable people. When they have a problem what they really want is to be heard and have their problem acknowledged. Do this and you turn an unhappy customer into one of your biggest fans.

In fact, the true difference between a store with good customer service and one with great customer service isn’t in how you deal with the happy customers. It’s how you handle the unhappy ones.

When you under deliver, give your customer an apology, an admission of guilt and a solution, and I promise the sun will come up tomorrow. Heck, I’m certain of it. My weatherman told me it would.

Phil Wrzesinski is president and owner of Toy House and Baby Too, one of the 25 Best Independent Stores in America in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin. In his spare time Phil helps other independent retailers to succeed. Read more about Phil’s thoughts for business at www.PhilsForum.com.
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