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Kate Hyland Mercer was proud to be voted ICFNE's Business Coach of the Year

Business Concepts, Inc. congratulates President Kate Hyland Mercer on her achievement!

Empowered, which features one of Kate's articles, was named #5 on New York Best Sellers List!

3 Steps to Getting the Best Referrals Possible

How many salespeople do you have?

Some answers may be 2, 10, or “are you crazy? It’s just me!” But if you include your past customers, your answer would be hundreds, maybe even thousands.

PerfectCustomerLifecycle-StageWe’ve reached the end of our Perfect Customer Lifecycle series. Over the past couple months I’ve talked about a strategy for communicating with your customers throughout your relationship with them. Now we’ve reached the stage that makes all of the past ones so important.

The reason you take so much time after the sale is made to deliver great service and continue to follow-up with your customer is to turn them into a loyal customer that wants to refer their friends to you! But, just turning them into a happy customer and waiting for the referrals to roll in won’t work. So, what can you do?

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Do your customers know what kind of referrals you’d like to get?
  • Do your customers even know you’d like to get referrals from them?
  • Are you rewarding customers who refer business to you?

Problems You May Have

  • You aren’t getting the number of referrals you would like.
  • You are getting referrals that aren’t a good fit for your business.
  • Your customers refer business to someone else because they don’t know what services you offer.


1. Ask for referrals

So many businesses rely on referrals to grow and sustain their business, but many of them never actually outright ask their customers for referrals. You can’t just assume your customers know that you want them to refer you business. You have to tell them!

Rather than simply making an effort to ask them more, set up a system to automatically request referrals from past customers. With marketing automation software like Infusionsoft you can create a series of emails that automatically go out after your work with a client is done. This will make sure you are always following up and explicitly asking for business.

2. Tell them how to give them

If your customers aren’t sure what a good person to refer to you is or they aren’t sure how to go about referring them, consider creating referral resources. These can serve two purposes:

  1. Resources to educate your customers on what makes a good customer for you (ebooks, buyer personas, handouts)
  2. Resources for your customers to give to their friends or use in their business to refer people to you (fliers, bring-a-friend coupons, banners to add to their website)

Try to make it as easy and as clear as possible who you are looking for and what someone can do to refer them to you. Sending these resources to your customers, especially those that have sent you referrals in the past, is a great way to improve the number and quality of the referrals you get.

3. Thank your customers for their referrals

Thanking your customers after they’ve given you a referral is a great way to show your appreciation and increase the chances of them sending another referral your way. There are a couple ways you can do this.


Thanking your customers can be as simple as sending them a gift basket or a gift card after a referral.


To further motivate your customers, you can create a formal rewards program. This can include a free month of service for every X number of referrals, a specific gift for every referral that becomes a customer, or a percent of the sale you receive from their referral. Make sure to make your formal rewards program clear.

Clearly, referrals are a huge part of making your business successful. Put some thought and time into how you can improve the way your business asks for referrals, equips your customers to refer, and rewards them for doing so.

How to Follow Up With Your Past Customers to Grow Your Business

What do your customers think of you?

Most small businesses know the clients that really love them and they know the few outspoken clients that have issues. Few businesses know about all of their other customers:

  • The ones that are less outspoken about how much they like you
  • The ones that are less outspoken about an issue they have with you
  • The ones who don’t remember you at all

PerfectCustomerLifecycle-StageThis week I’d like to focus on the sixth stage of the perfect customer lifecycle: Following Up.

Put simply, this stage is about staying in contact with your customers, past and present. This helps you stay on their minds for future work and referrals, helps you identify customers with problems you can solve, and gives you feedback about how you can improve your service.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Does your business track customer satisfaction?
  • Are you staying in contact with customers after the job is done?
  • Unable to get any feedback, testimonials, or referrals?

Problems You May Have

  • You do great work, but then a year goes by and the customer can’t remember what business they worked with.
  • You don’t hear about problems that customers have until it is too late or until you hear it second hand.
  • Only clients that call you get any attention, it’s easy for others to fall through the cracks.


Customer Satisfaction Survey

checklist-154274_640Sending a survey to your clients is a great way to keep in touch with them and get some feedback about how you are doing. Be sure to include areas of the survey for them to add specific feedback.

In order to get participation, it may be a good idea to add an incentive to the survey. You can offer a small gift card for submissions or an entry into a drawing for a bigger prize.

After the survey is complete, be sure to follow up with the participants! If someone rated you poorly, call them immediately to find out what went wrong and see if you can fix it. The added attention could turn an underwhelmed client into a raving fan.

If someone rated you highly, reach out to them for testimonials and referrals! They are the ones most likely to support your business (but only if you ask them).


A company newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with your clients and continue to provide them with value. That’s the key word here; make sure your newsletter is valuable to them. Here are some ideas for things to include:

  • Links to your blog articles
  • Popular posts from your social media
  • Information on upcoming classes or new offers
  • Industry news, helpful hints, or other resources

Upsell Offers

The easiest customer to sign is an existing customer. If you have additional services you can offer your existing customers, be sure to let them know. This can be done through a series of emails that go out over weeks or months after their initial purchase.

The important thing is to make these offers relevant to them. If someone signed up for your advanced training or service package, don’t send them something to promote your beginner’s package.

The key here is to segment your list properly. Make sure you categorize people by what they’ve bought in the past and by other actions they’ve taken.

There are many ways you can follow up with your clients after the sale. As long as you are memorable and provide value to your customers, you will be rewarded with valuable feedback, referrals, and further business.

What the Heartbleed Bug Means for Your Business

If you haven’t heard yet, last week the internet revealed a major security vulnerability called Heartbleed. What does this mean for you and your business?

security-265130_640Simply, Heartbleed is a vulnerability in the software that many websites use to privately send and receive data such as email addresses and passwords. The OpenSSL software is used in about 66% of websites that securely store data. You can tell a site uses this when https:// is at the beginning of their URL instead of http://.

That part only matters if you are a techie person. For the regular person all you need to know is that for years many of the sites you use have been vulnerable. You should take steps to protect your information.

1. Find out if the sites you use were vulnerable and if they have fixed the problem

While there haven’t been confirmed breaches of information, you can tell whether or not a site you use was vulnerable. Most companies have released statements to tell you whether or not they were affected. If a company you use was affected, make sure they have fixed the problem.

Here is a list of some common sites that you might use in your business:

  • Quickbooks Online – Not Vulnerable
  • Infusionsoft – Not Vulnerable
  • Zoho – Vulnerable
  • Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest – Vulnerable
  • Google – Vulnerable
  • LinkedIn – Not vulnerable
  • Outlook – Not vulnerable
  • GoDaddy – Vulnerable
  • Bluehost – Vulnerable
  • Dropbox – Vulnerable

All of the sites above have released statements that they have fixed the bug and are no longer vulnerable. For a full list and for statements from the companies, visit Mashable’s Heartbleed Hit List.

2. Change your passwords immediately

If a site you use says that their information was vulnerable, you should definitely change those passwords. If a site wasn’t vulnerable, it may be a good idea to change it anyway, but it isn’t as necessary. For the sites that were vulnerable, make sure you change your password after they have patched the bug so you know for sure that your new password isn’t vulnerable.

3. Use a password manager

If you use the same password for everything across the web, it is a good idea to change them all. To help keep track of passwords and allow you to use a different password for every site you use, consider a password manager. 1Password and LastPass are both great options for this. They have both released statements that they were not vulnerable to Heartbleed.

For more information on Heartbleed and on what you can do to protect yourself, visit You can also reach out to us through the comments section (But update your password first, Disqus was vulnerable) or by email and we will answer any questions you have.

3 Tips for Delivering Value to Your Customers

Over the past month I’ve talked about the perfect customer lifecycle from first attracting interest from someone to finally closing the sale. Now they are your customer, and you know that means the job has only just begun.

This week I’d like to focus on the fifth stage of the perfect customer lifecycle: Deliver & Satisfy.

PerfectCustomerLifecycle-StagePut simply, this stage is about providing great value to your clients. This includes communicating with your customer throughout the process so they understand what you are doing for them, what is expected of them, and how you are bringing them value.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Do customers not understand your process?
  • Do they feel out of the loop with the work you are doing for them?
  • Are your customer’s expectations not being met?
  • Do people complain that you are difficult to get in contact with?


Problems You May Have

  • Your team isn’t on the same page with your clients.
  • You do great work, but your customer still doesn’t know what separates you from your competitors.
  • Only clients that call you get any attention, it’s easy for others to fall through the cracks.


Email Resources

Automated emails aren’t just for winning new clients. After someone has become a customer, start sending them helpful resources.

  • Gyms, massage therapists, and other health and wellness services can send their customers tips on how to get ready for their session, diet recommendations, and other advice to make the most of the service.
  • Contractors, Remodelers, Landscapers and others in the home industry can send their clients information on where in the process you are, what to expect in your next visit, and tips for maintaining their home and yard after your work is complete.
  • Consultants, Coaches, and other professional services should update their clients on the work they’ve done for them, the work they expect the customer to complete, and other useful tools the client can use to maximize the effect of their work.

Think about what information your business sends your clients now, what information you wish they had, and what you do for them that they don’t always notice. Then, set that information up as automated emails to save yourself time.

Customer Relationship Management

Zoho vs Infusionsoft Which CRM software is right for your business?

Zoho vs Infusionsoft
Which CRM software is right for your business? Read…

I’ve talked about CRM tools in this series before. They are a great way to keep all of your customers information in one, easy to update and easy to access place.

This can be especially useful if you have a team. You can keep track of all of the emails, phone calls, and other communications each of your employees has with a contact. This prevents you from calling to get information your employee already asked about.

You can also create tasks to remind you and your team about things you need to complete for a customer. Assign them to a specific employee so everyone knows what is expected of them.

Contact Customers Regularly

You can use the tasks in a CRM software or in another task manager to remind you to contact your customers regularly. Rather than letting someone fall through the cracks, make a point to communicate with each of your clients as often as possible. This will keep you top of mind, let them know you are still working hard for them, and make it more likely they will refer you to friends.

You might notice, only a couple of these tips involve improving the way you actually deliver your product or service to your customers. The more important side of this stage is to satisfy.

Satisfying your clients means providing as much perceived value to them as you possibly can. This involves providing them with useful resources and keeping them updated on all the great work you do. It doesn’t matter if you are the best at what you do if your client isn’t provided with enough information to understand that. Deliver great service and satisfy them by making them appreciate it.

3 Tips to Convert More Sales

The key to a successful relationship with your client is communication. You should be contacting them and providing them with value long before you sell them anything and you should be following up and providing them with value long after you sell them.

But, at some point you need to sell them something.


This week we have reached the middle of our series on the Perfect Customer Lifecycle; Converting Sales.

In this phase, your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for your prospects to say yes, purchase your product or service, and become your customer. Having an overly complicated or drawn out buying process can scare away prospects who were ready to buy.

Here are a few tools you can use to make the buying process quick and easy for your new customers:


Depending on what product or service you offer, having e-commerce set up on your website can be a really simple way to generate sales. This is useful for businesses that have a fixed price for their products and services.

There are many programs you can use to set up a storefront on your website that has the ability for your website visitors to add items to their digital shopping cart. You should also find a good merchant account for collecting credit card payments.

Order Forms

Order forms are another way to collect payments online. These are more appropriate for businesses that only have a few products or services. You may not need an entire online store. Setting up an order form that you can link to from your website or emails is simpler and can be more cost effective.

Automatic Quotes

For businesses that have more complicated products or services with prices that vary depending on the client and the job, sending a quote is usually necessary. To simplify things for yourself, you can create a system for automatically creating a quote or proposal to send to your prospect. Some systems even allow the prospect to accept the quote with a click of a button.

Making things easier for you will improve your ability to convert sales. Instead of your client waiting days or weeks for you to put together a quote or proposal, you can do it almost instantly.

Converting sales is arguably the most important stage of the Perfect Customer Lifecycle. No matter how well you nurture a prospect or follow up with a customer, at some point your business depends on your ability to sell. Improving this process is sure to improve your business.

What issues has your business run into with converting sales?

The First Step to Organizing Your QuickBooks

In order to get your books organized you must first get yourself organized. Bookkeeping is more than just having your QuickBooks in order. You need to create a system for all of the financial information that comes in and out of your business.

This includes:

  • Creating a process for collecting bills, receipts, checks, and other documents
  • Having a system to file all documents and make them easy to find
  • Creating a way to easily see what bills need to be paid and which ones have already been handled
  • An organized way to archive all your old files for taxes and financial records

Most of this involves changing how you and your employees approach your bookkeeping. While your current method may seem to work for you, does it leave you as organized as you could be? Is all of your information as accessible as it could be?

While most of your file organization is on you and your employees, there are a few tools you can use to help you.



Dropbox is a cloud file hosting service that creates a shared folder between you and any other computers you need to use for your bookkeeping. It allows you to access your files securely from any device.

Genius Scan

Genius Scan is a smartphone app that makes it easy to scan files from your phone. For businesses with employees on the road all day this is a great way for them to easily enter checks and receipts.


QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor - QuickBooks CertificationHaving a dedicated bookkeeper in charge of your QuickBooks is a great way to keep yourself organized and make sure your books are completely accurate and up to date. Trying to stay on top of your QuickBooks yourself will often cause problems. If you can’t afford to hire an employee to handle your books or you don’t need full-time help, consider hiring a bookkeeper to handle your QuickBooks.

Putting together a system to organize your files and your bookkeeping may seem like a big change and a large amount of work. Once you and your team are used to it you will save time by being much more efficient and will save money by being much more accurate in your bookkeeping.

If you aren’t sure where to start, Business Concepts can help you put together a system to get you organized. Our QuickBooks ProAdvisors specialize in creating systems to get a business’s bookkeeping on track.

Have any specific QuickBooks questions? Post them in the comments below!

Nurture Prospects to Stop Them From Falling Through the Cracks

80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. But, only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts!

PerfectCustomerLifecycle-StageThis week in part 3 of our Perfect Customer Lifecycle series I’m talking about Nurturing Prospects. The above stat should make it clear that you aren’t contacting your leads enough.

Putting systems in place to follow up with your leads as many times as necessary is an extremely powerful part of your sales process.

Don’t let this stat throw you, those 5-12 contacts don’t need to be all face-to-face meetings or even phone calls. Contacts can be a mix of calls, emails, meetings, LinkedIn messages, and more.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • How many times does your company follow up with leads after they first express interest?
  • What type of follow-up do you do? (Email, phone, direct mail.)
  • What is the goal of the follow-up?
  • What happens to leads who don’t decide to buy right away?

Here are a couple tools you can use to make it easier to nurture your prospects throughout the sales process:

Email Automation

Many companies use email to stay in contact with their prospects. When sending email, make sure it is relevant to them and you aren’t spamming them. Emails are also a good opportunity to educate the prospect during the sales process.

If your prospects don’t understand why you’re more expensive or how you’re different than others you will run into problems during the sale. If you can educate them on your process and what they should be looking for, you will have more success.

Infusionsoft excels at automatically sending out emails to your prospects. You can create 5-10 emails to nurture your prospect throughout the sales process. Or, you can create hundreds of emails and program them to send to different types of prospects in different situations.

Email software like Constant Contact and icontact also have limited ability to schedule out emails to follow-up with prospects.

Customer Relationship Management Software

If you are going to be contacting a lead 5-12 times you will need a software to keep track of it. A CRM can help keep all of your customer and prospect’s information in one place and allow you to make notes on past calls or meetings you have had.

If time goes by between contacts, you can schedule a reminder to get in contact with them again. When you pull up their record you will be able to see all of your past communications so you remember right where you left off.

CRM systems like Infusionsoft and Zoho are good for small businesses.

Setting up a formal system for following up with your leads and prospects is a vital part of your lifecycle marketing. If you are simply focusing only on the newest, most promising leads or only returning calls from people reaching out to you, you could be letting more than 80% of your business fall through the cracks!

Look into putting together a system that will save you time and improve how you talk to potential customers. But first, is there a prospect that you’ve talked to 3-4 times that you’re ready to give up on? Give them a call now!

How to Capture Leads for Your Business

Sign up for our newsletter. Download our free report. Enter your number for a free consultation.

This week in our Perfect Customer Lifecycle series I’m talking about the Capture Leads stage.

pcl-capture leadsLook at your website. It may be well designed, have great content, and be getting loads of traffic. But do you have any of the offers listed above?

If you don’t have one, how are you getting the information of all of the leads coming to their website?

Too many businesses expect the customer to contact them when they need help. Instead, set up ways to collect their name, email, phone number, etc. That way you’ll be able to start a relationship with them and help them through the buying process instead of hoping they call you instead of your competitor.

In order to capture leads you need a few things:

1. Something of value to offer them
2. A great Call-to-action
3. A way for them to give you their information

1. Offer them Value

This is your free report, your newsletter (of useful content), your guide, e-book, whitepaper, whatever. This needs to be something that offers them value without selling to them, that you can give away for free.

You can get ideas for what to create from the services you already offer. If you use reports or guides in your business and can afford to give them away, try it out. If you usually educate your customers on a few things, package into a useful resource for your prospects. Some of our free resources are old consulting courses that we aren’t selling anymore but that are still extremely valuable.

2. Call-to-action

This is what your prospect will actually see to inform them of what your offer is and interest them enough to give you more information. A call-to-action can be an icon on your website (check out ours at the bottom of this post), a social media post, a postcard, or anything that you can get in front of your audience.

Calls-to-action shouldn’t have much text and it should be very clear on what their next step should be (Click here, download now, fill out this form).

business concepts fb

3. Web Form

Once you have interested them in the valuable content you are offering, you need a way to actually capture their information. Web forms should be easy to fill out and shouldn’t ask for much information. Most of ours ask for only your first name and email address. Asking for too much information makes it more work than it needs to be and causes people to give up.

Here are some places you can put your webform:

  • Website Sidebar – You can sign up to our newsletter right from the sidebar. This is a quick way to get a lead’s information.
  • Landing Page- For offers that may require a little more information, you can create a landing page that has a web form on it.
  • Facebook Page- You can add a tab to your Facebook page that leads right to a web form to capture your Facebook audience.
  • Twitter Lead Generation Cards- Twitter makes it even easier to include a web form because it automatically fills the form out using your lead’s Twitter name and email.

All of the marketing material you create and the great job you do attracting interest will be useless until you actually capture your reader’s information. Next week we’ll talk about what to do once you get their information.

Have a question about Capturing Leads? Post it in the comments below!

Social media plan template

How are you Attracting Interest in your business?

Last week I showed you the Perfect Customer Lifecycle to help you define how your business communicates with it’s customers. Communicating with your prospects and customers from the start of your relationship to the very end should be your focus, but it won’t be possible if no one knows who you are.

PerfectCustomerLifecycle-StageThis week I’d like to focus on the first stage of the perfect customer lifecycle: Attracting Interest.

Put simply, this stage is all about getting people to hear about you. This could include visiting your website, hearing about you from a friend, or seeing you on Facebook.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • How does your business currently attract interest? (Social media, pay per click, blogging, advertising, referrals.)
  • How much interest do you generate from each source?
  • What happens when a lead visits your website?

Problems You May Have

  • You have a good website, but it isn’t getting any visitors. (If you want to know how many visitors your website is getting, set up google analytics for your site or have your webmaster do it.)
  • You are paying for ad words, yelp, or some other advertising but haven’t seen any results from it.
  • You have social media, but it doesn’t bring you any business.



Blogging is one of the best ways to attract traffic to your website. People looking for information about plumbing, exercising, or insurance will turn to a helpful article before they turn to your “about us” section. By being the source of information people are searching for you establish yourself as an authority in your field and you generate interest from potential customers.


From a search engine perspective, blogs that are useful and relevant will get your website ranked higher in a google search result.

Social Media

Social Media is extremely useful for finding your audience and starting a conversation with them. If done well, you can generate interest for your company by providing useful information such as blog posts, helpful articles, and interesting quotes and statistics.

Being active on social media makes it easy for people to share your website to their audience. When they start sharing blog articles or special offers, your reach grows exponentially.


For most small businesses, referrals are a huge part of how they attract interest. Despite that, many businesses do not have processes in place to ask their customers for referrals or thank the ones that give them. I’ll talk more about this when we get to the referral stage of the customer lifecycle.

Attracting traffic is one of the most important stages for small business. You could have the greatest product or service in the world but if you aren’t able to tell people about it you won’t be able to bring in much business.

Working on attracting the right kind of interest now will pay off later when you want to capture their information, nurture the relationship and sell to them.

What problems do you feel you have with Attracting Interest? Post them in the comments below and I will try to help.

To get more information about how you can define and improve the stages of your Customer Lifecycle, download our Lifecycle Marketing Planner.

Create A Perfect Customer Lifecycle to Learn Why Your Business Needs “Marketing”

Technology isn’t going to help your marketing if you aren’t willing to change.

Awhile back I wrote a blog about keeping your marketing simple and then building on it. Now I’d like to get even simpler than that.

Before you implement any marketing, whether it is automated marketing software, social media marketing, or blog writing, you should outline specifically how you want to communicate with your customers and prospects.

Marketing is all about communication. First outline exactly how you would like to communicate with your clients through every step of the process, from them finding you, to them buying from you, and all the way to them referring new clients to you.

Here is how we see the process, or The Perfect Customer Lifecycle.


This process has seven steps.

1. Attract Traffic

This is what you do to attract people to your business or your website. This includes google, social media, direct mail, networking, and anything else you specifically do to get found.

2. Capture Leads

The process of getting a prospect’s information so you can follow up with them. This may include sign up pages on your website for free content, newsletters, or other offers. It could also be as simple as asking for their business card.

3. Nurture Prospects

Consistently communicating with prospects and educating them about your value. During the sales process it’s important to stay in communication with your prospects. This includes sending them emails and simply giving them a call.

4. Covert Sales

Closing the deal efficiently and effectively. Whether you have a sales team, automated follow-up, or an online store, you’ve got to close the business.

5. Deliver and Satisfy

Delivering on what you promised during the sale. This includes communicating with your customer throughout the process so they understand what you are doing for them, what is expected of them, and how you are bringing them value.

6. Follow Up

After the job is completed, collecting feedback, asking for testimonials, and staying on your client’s mind. This may include surveys, newsletters, or touching base with them a few months later.

7. Get Referrals

Having a system in place to ask for referrals and reward customers for giving them.

The problem many small businesses have with marketing is they don’t know what it’s doing for them. “I pay some guy for SEO but I’m not really sure what he does.” “I use social media but I don’t know if it’s getting us any clients.” “I think our website gets a lot of visitors but we aren’t getting many calls from it.

  • First, clarify how you’d like to communicate with your clients in a perfect world.
  • Then create a structure for communicating with customers and prospects the best possible way.
  • THEN start thinking about what technology you can use to support that structure, whether it’s a blog, social media, marketing automation, or a customer relationship management software.

As you define your Perfect Customer Lifecycle you’ll start to see where specifically your marketing problems are. This is where you should start. If you are lacking in one or two stages, focus your attention there to make sure you aren’t losing any opportunities.

Over the next couple months I’ll go into more detail about each of these seven steps. I’ll cover what problems you may be having with this step and what solutions you can put into place to fix it.

To get more information about how you can define and improve the stages of your Customer Lifecycle, download our Lifecycle Marketing Planner.

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