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Build Your Business by Building and Leveraging Your Network

Build your business by building and leveraging your network

“Networking” doesn’t have to be hard to do; you just have to be yourself.

Your network has great potential as a business-building tool. If your networking is not working as well as you think it could, maybe you’re trying too hard and not being your genuine self. Here are some steps to make your efforts more successful.

First of all, it’s attitude

You want people to want to help you, not because they feel pressured to or obligated to. If you approach networking opportunities with the overriding, continued hard-sell calculation of, “What’s in it for me?” it’s unlikely to be successful. If you come across too aggressively, if your contacts feel like they’re being used, they’re going to want to run away as quickly as possible.

While of course you are seeking to benefit from networking, the better question that will yield more positive results is, “What can I do to help you?” Make a connection that sets the right tone for how you could work together in the future.

Goals, target, and providing value

To make networking most successful, you need to know your goals. Is it to get a personal introduction to a few key people? Add hundreds of names to your mailing list? What’s your plan? Keep in mind, investing in a few meaningful relationships could be much better for business-building than indiscriminately passing out your business card to hundreds of strangers. Your goal is to connect.

As you network, think of how you can create value for others. How can you be a resource for someone, their go-to when they need help in the future? If you do offer to help them in some way and they accept the offer, keep to your commitment. Your reputation is on the line. Nothing could be much more detrimental to your networking efforts than to build up a contact’s hopes, have them thinking this could be the start of a positive relationship, and then for you not to follow through. Odds are they won’t be interested in connecting with you again, and if they express that sentiment to their network, it could hurt your business-building efforts many times over.

What you should do is periodically keep in touch with contacts by showing them you’re thinking about them and their business. Share a relevant news article, provide an introduction to someone with whom they can connect, or send a holiday card (or cake!). Once you’ve shown a sincere interest in them and their business, you’re more likely to get a positive response when you ask them to help you out in some way.

Leveraging your network

Depending on your type of business, you can leverage your network of existing customers by incenting referrals. These customers already know and like your business, and would probably be happy to act as your sales ambassadors knowing there’s something in it for them such as a discount, an upgrade, or a free good or service.

Follow up and thank you

If someone in your network goes out of their way for you, first thank them for their contact and suggestion, and once you have followed up on their recommendation, thank them again, and let them know the outcome. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and thanked. Unfortunately, these seemingly peripheral pleasantries often go by the wayside. An email or text thank you is okay, but a handwritten snail-mail note is even more impactful. Make your thank-you meaningful, and you’ll stand out as someone who’s appreciative, thoughtful, and someone they’d be more likely to help again in the future.

If something more than a thank you note is in order, make your expression of appreciation unique and memorable. We encourage our customers to do this with cake, and not just because we sell cakes! To us, cake isn’t just a dessert. It’s a symbol of celebration, happiness, friends, and family. So when you say ‘thanks’ with a cake, you’re creating a deeper bond with that recipient. And that’s what networking – and genuine relationships – are ultimately about.

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International Sensations in Food

  2018’s Tastiest International Food Trends

International Taste Sensations Trending in 2018

At We Take The Cake, our specialty is baking and decorating hand-crafted cakes using only the finest all-natural ingredients. Our wholesome homemade recipes have stood the test of time. But as foodies, we’re always open to new taste adventures!

The world is getting smaller due to the digital revolution and social media. The world is now our playground, and the United States is becoming more diverse. Our curiosity is piqued by new people, new places, new sounds and tastes. So, we thought we’d share the latest international food sensations and 2018 trends, coming to a coffee shop, restaurant, or supermarket near you!

1.Coffee and tea with something extra

• Coffee Plus: We don’t mean milk or a flavored syrup. Cinnamon, cardamom, and other herbs and spices are the new coffee mates. Café de olla is a traditional Mexican coffee with cinnamon and panela, an unrefined, nutty flavored sugar. And in Yemen, coffee might have cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, fennel, or anise. “It’s almost like coffee’s chai. Chai uses tea as a base to add different herb and spice blends. Coffee is going to pop in that way, too,” according to Food Business News.

• Tea: Matcha will continue to make its mark. A special Japanese green tea, it’s a more potent source of nutrients and antioxidants than regular green tea because the whole leaves are ingested.

2. Umami meals for breakfast

Consumers are starting to want a non-sweet start to the day, with savory flavors from China like jianbing becoming more popular. The dish, which is made of a breakfast crepe, hoisin and chili sauce, egg, pickled vegetables, and herbs, can also be accompanied by other Asian favorites like barbecue pork, drunken chicken, Peking duck, and kimchi.

3. More from the Middle East

According to Whole Foods, “things like hummus, pita and falafel were tasty entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional nuances and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese influences rising to the top.”

4. Moringa

There is a lot of hype around moringa as the next superfood. It has a dried spinach flavor and comes from the dried leaves of a plant found in African and Asia. It’s full of protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, and Vitamin A, and you might start seeing it in packaged foods and beverages.

5. Slow dough

Probiotics continue to be a big trend, and in 2018, less-processed, easier-to-digest foods will remain center stage, including the Roman pinsa, which is a flour blend with a long fermentation time. Similarly, sourdough’s popularity will be on the rise.

6. Sweet stuff: ice cream

• Macaron ice cream sandwiches: As if the French macarons weren’t enough, the trend is now to put ice cream between two large macarons, a new iteration of the ever-popular ice cream sandwich.

• Rolled ice cream sandwiches: A Thai treat, rolled ice cream is smashed into a thin layer and then rolled and piled with toppings.

• Matcha ice cream: As with many flavors, once it catches on in one product, innovators quickly introduce it in new products. This year it will be ice cream.

With so many new tastes and flavors to explore in 2018, now’s the time to feed your adventurous side and indulge in some new treats that will expand your taste horizon. Bon appétit!

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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Communication

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Communication

Communication planning can make or break your business.

Birds sing and mock; bees dance and jitter; plants bloom and release pheromones – from cave paintings to moving images and the Internet you’re reading this through, humans, along with all other living species, have evolved wonderful means of communication. In fact, humans have become so adept at expressing themselves, it’s easy for us to overlook its importance.

In business, as with most of our relations, poor communication is at the root of all too many problems. Ironically, the ease and diversity of communications in today’s world has turned its modern benefits back on themselves. Your customers are bombarded with messages – from billboards and SPAM, to text messages and talk-radio blabber-mouths. It’s become more and more difficult to attract and hold people’s attention, yet it’s never been more of an absolute must in any successful business strategy.

Communication planning demystified

So what is a communication plan anyway? It’s not as complicated as it might seem. Communication planning, in a nutshell, includes considering the whos, whats, whys, and hows of your communication needs. With so many tools at your disposal – emails, social media, blogs, direct mail, and more – you’ll need to determine which ones make for the best way to connect with your audience.

The following tips will help you and your team zero in on a plan that’s best for your goals.

Research, research, research. Analyze your customers’ behaviors – who are they? What motivates them to patronize your industry? How do they use your products? What prevents them from enlisting your services? Which methods of contact have worked well in the past? Effective communication depends on your ability to speak to the hearts of your audience, the more you understand them, the better you’ll be able to develop an effective strategy.

Outline your plan. The question of ‘who?’ will inform the ‘hows’ and ‘whens.’ For example, if you discover most of your target audience is active on social media, a Facebook campaign might be the best way to make contact. If you’re instituting a loyalty program, you may want to set up a recurring reward distribution process. At We Take The Cake, we encourge our clients to take advantage of our Cake of the Month Club so that sending rewards and acknowledgement is automatic. Again, the point of the plan is to identify the ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ based on your ‘whos.’

Establish an ‘open door’ policy. This doesn’t necessarily mean offering your customers an open line to your CEO – the point is to make it super easy for them to connect with you. Whether it means making the “contact us” button clear and visible, live chats, or social media links – if you want a relationship with your customers, don’t make them hunt down your contact information, or wait an unprofessional amount of time for a response.

Never stop evolving. Just because you have a plan in place doesn’t mean your research is over. Monitoring both customer behavior, and the effectiveness of your communication strategy is an ongoing and rewarding process that should continue to shape your plan as your company and customers grow.

The goal is customer loyalty

Solid communication is the basis of most, if not all, lasting relationships. The more you customers feel as if you know them, the stronger your communication with them will be, and that (along with a stellar product) is the recipe for a life-long customer base.

At We Take The Cake, our business is communication – through sites, smells, and joyful deliciousness. Our goal is to help you communicate through our universal love of cake. We understand cakes are more than just a culinary indulgence, they let people know you care. Whether it’s to say thanks, to acknowledge a special day or milestone, to introduce your business to a new audience, or reward your employees, a gift of cake breaks through the clutter of information and makes a real impact.

We take the time to make sure we understand every order to the precise specifications of our clients, because we know our cakes are speaking for you. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help your business, contact us today.

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Cake is For Vegans Too!

Cake is for vegans too

An inside look at vegan cake.

Adhering to a vegan diet is a strict discipline – but it doesn’t mean you can’t eat cake! However, after one bad experience, such as learning a restaurant lied about their vegan dishes, skepticism is understandable. So, before you write-off vegan cake as an impossibility, let’s take a tour through the impossibly deliciousness of vegan baking.

Is it really vegan?

To be sure, vegan means absolutely zero animal products – no honey, eggs, milk, gelatin, or insect derived color dyes (cochineal). Vegan cake is entirely plant-based – bakers make clever use of fruits, nuts, and a variety of spices, including cocoa, to excite the tastebuds.

How’s it work without eggs and butter?

Eggs give cake its fluffy structure, and butter works in concert with its confectionary colleagues to create a rich, velvety texture. Fortunately, you don’t have to journey to a specialty store to find excellent substitutions.

Oil for butter. Vegetable oils such as coconut oil are perfect stand-ins for their dairy-based counterpart. Coconut oil comes in unrefined and refined – as you might have guessed, unrefined still carries a hint of coconut flavor, while refined is essentially flavorless.

Applesauce for eggs. Some vegan cake recipes call for applesauce in place of eggs. Other options include fleg (an artificial egg substitute made from flax meal), chia seeds, silken tofu, and a baking soda-vinegar mixture.

Hey, that’s not vegan! (What to watch out for)

The strictest of vegans trace their food back to its production – that’s where animal products can sneak their way into what we might falsely assume to be vegan. Here’s a few places those little tricksters can be found and how to replace them.

Bleached sugar. White sugar is sometimes bleached via a process that uses animal bones. Stick with unbleached cane sugar and you’ll be in the clear.

Milk and cream. While not so sneaky, these are tricky to replace all the same. Soy milk products are typically recommended. Soy yogurt can be used in place of cream, or dried soy milk can be rehydrated sparingly for a creamier texture.

Honey. Most grocery stores provide ample options to use instead of honey. Agave nectar and maple syrup are healthy and popular options.

What about the frosting?

In some circles, such as 6-year-old’s birthday parties, a cake without icing is grounds for an eruption of tears and disappointment. Fortunately, such catastrophes can be avoided with a little vegan-baking savvy. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention, you already know the solution. The key replacement ingredient in icing is butter, which – as you know – can be swapped out with coconut oil for a frosting that’s actually pretty darn healthy, assuming you limit the sugar.

Indulging your vegan sweet tooth

While many of these substitutes are super delicious, they can affect the baking process. One thing we’ve learned over the year is that vegan baking, if using non-vegan recipes, can require a little trial and error, but we’re proud to offer vegan and gluten-free cakes to our customers because we know everyone still loves sweets!

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Half Baked: Knowing When Not to Grow as a Business

When Not to Grow

Every new business owner dreams of wild growth: overnight fame, fortune, and popularity dropped on your proverbial doorstep.

And it’s only natural that they do; those things are indicators of success and potential longevity, but the very thing you aspire to could also eventually be your undoing.

After all, as the old saying goes: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Our Key Lime Bundt Cake was featured on “Oprah’s Favorite Things” – the perfect example of an entrepreneur’s dream come true – and We Take The Cake was launched into the public spotlight, becoming the overnight success we had always desired. It’s the sort of story that entrepreneurs think would end with “And we lived happily ever after,” without considering the battles lost, dragons slayed, and villains fought to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

There’s a reason the term “growing pains” is one that people know well. Growth isn’t easy; change is uncomfortable and the future can be hard to predict. Explosive expansion can be overwhelming in a good or bad way, and sometimes it’s best for your business if you pace yourself.

If you lack the following three ingredients, you may need to work on perfecting your recipe for success before falling into the flames:

Expertise

Our expertise was hard-earned; I was not a baker to begin with, just someone who wanted to buy a business. So we found an already established company for sale and thought, “How hard can it be?”

Spoiler alert: it can be really hard.

Before scheming up ways to go viral or to end up as a household name, take the time to know your entire industry inside and out. Don’t just know how to run your business (although you’ll need that too) – have a solid understanding of all of the moving pieces, how they work together to produce your product, and how your product fits in with the competition, your market, and the world. Do research, network with related businesses, go to trade shows, read industry publications, and have a genuine curiosity about what you do and how you can improve.

Experience

You can achieve expert status in an intellectual way without having true experience. We Take The Cake got to a point where we believed we knew what we were doing. We had the public name, we had the big numbers… but we had absolutely no idea what our actual sweet spot was, which led to some failed attempts at franchising and pop-up retail locations.

The good news is that missteps along the way become the experience you need to rise through the ranks. The bad news is that perceived failure hurts pride, and possibly your budget, in the short term. Be humble and honest with yourself so that you can recognize your strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly to grow appropriately.

Assets

A lot of people consider assets to be financially based, but an asset is actually anything that brings value to your business, from staff to equipment to work space. Our biggest complications from our brush with overnight fame were mostly related to the fact that we weren’t prepared for such an onslaught of orders – and that was after our attempt to prepare. Our website went down, our hosting company quit, we couldn’t handle the call volume, and it became readily apparent that our space was insufficient for our new and improved business size.

Consider the “worst” best case scenario and plan for that. It would have been far better to have found ourselves temporarily overstaffed than to realize we had three lines of voicemail filling up every forty minutes.  And, remember, if you mess up on this step, you’ve gained valuable experience, so it all works out in the end anyway.

The truth is that a comfortable pace allows your company to grow into itself as well as its potential. There will always be time for learning through trial and error – and there’s tremendous value in doing so – but getting that education in bite-sized chunks is more palatable, and practical, than plunging face-first into that which you (think you) desire.

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Ingredients of Achievement: How We Ended up on “Oprah’s Favorite Things”

Ingredients of Achievement: How We Ended up on “Oprah’s Favorite Things”

Our first taste of success was the result of an accidental encounter and a mutual gesture of goodwill on an airplane.  

After meeting an employee at Harpo Studios on a flight, a customer of ours was given tickets to a filming of Oprah’s show, and she repaid that kindness by sending her newfound friend one of our key lime Bundt cakes.

The employee then placed her own order and raved about our product when we followed up with a phone call, so we did what any quick-thinking, Oprah-watching, inexperienced new business person would do – we asked about being on the annual “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode.

It took a while and several rounds of elimination to hear back, and we weren’t particularly surprised when we received a call with a quiet, “The Bundt cake is a no,” on the other end of the line.

However, we were very surprised to realize we had misheard, and the Bundt cake was actually a go.

Mixing it up

We tried to prepare, but that’s difficult when you’re not entirely sure what you’re preparing for – would we be able to keep up with the number of orders? Call volume? Web traffic? We took precautions such as getting another oven and checking with our IT consultant, and felt relatively confident about what would come next.

However, the immediate flood of calls and online orders was overwhelming and astounding – our three phone lines rang non-stop, our voicemail box filled up every 45 seconds, and our website crashed after 800 orders in 4 hours.

We found ourselves dealing with unexpected logistical problems like being kicked off of our server due to the unending traffic, realizing our cooking space was insufficient, and discovering there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

And we learned a lot. Trial and error was our greatest teacher at this time, and there were a lot of trials and a lot of errors as we found our sweet spot as a business and brand.

Rise to the top

Our newfound success enabled us to buy more equipment and space, and to take chances with placement and products that would have been too big of a risk before. Our appearance on Oprah led to partnerships with companies like Whole Foods, Neiman Marcus, Williams-Sonoma, Dean and Deluca, and FoodyDirect.

We appeared on a CNBC primetime special called “The Oprah Effect” which ran for over a year, and ironically, was also shown where it all started – in-flight on airplanes. We’ve also been on Good Morning America’s Steals and Deals multiple times, several Food Network shows, Oprah Magazine’s “O List” more than once, and InStyle magazine twice.

And aside from that initial serendipitous encounter, it all began by just asking: by taking a chance and putting the idea out there – and hanging on for the ride of whatever came next, while learning from the bumps, breakdowns, and detours along the way. So take it from us: if you’re a business owner with a great idea and a big leap ahead of you, make the jump. It’s so worth it!

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Ship, Ship Hooray: Shipping Advances Mean Just About Anything Goes

Today you can ship almost anything anywhere.

Today you can ship almost anything anywhere. But that wasn’t always the case.

We’ve all heard the famous story of how FedEx once shipped a killer whale. Times sure have changed since the days of stagecoach and even the traditional postal carrier – we’re heading into the era of drones dropping packages at your front door in a matter of hours. In honor of those bygone days, decided to explore a slice of U.S. postal and shipping history.

The Pony Express

One of the first great strides in shipping history in the U.S. was the Pony Express, started in 1860. California became a state in 1850, and mail traveled from New York to the west coast via ship, which took about a month to arrive, or via stagecoach, which could take even longer. The Pony Express Company established more than 150 relay stations between Missouri and California, and mail arrived to the west coast in record time, 12 days or less. Legendary as it is, the Pony Express was short-lived. The transcontinental telegraph put it out of business little more than a year and a half later.

Parcel Post

In the early 1900s, the post office could only handle packages weighing four pounds or less. Heavier packages were handled by private companies. In 1910, more than half of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and they increasingly wanted goods shipped right to them instead having to travel to faraway post offices to pick up packages or paying expensive private carriers for delivery. In response to this need, the post office created Parcel Post, which was a huge success. The service debuted New Year’s Day 1913, and the shipment weight limit was 11 pounds. In the first five days of service in 1913, more than four million packages were sent via Parcel Post. Because of Parcel Post, mail order businesses such as Sears, Roebuck and Company and Montgomery Ward thrived. Over the years, weight limits and sizes increased.

The Sky’s the Limit

Now there is almost no limit to what you can ship and where you can ship it. Planes and the plethora of packaging options available mean that items of even great weight or that need special handling such as sub-zero temperatures, can be shipped long distances and arrive overnight if need be. Whether you’re sending flowers, cakes, whales, or pandas, there’s an option to get your cargo delivered safe and sound.

Anything Ships, Including Cake

Since customers often marvel at our ability to ship something as perishable as cake, we often get asked, “How do you do it?” Our answer? “With great care!”

We use 2-day FedEx and pack our cakes in specially made boxes with dry ice as needed to keep them frozen without impacting flavor, so they’re as fresh when they arrive as when we pulled them out of the oven. Due to the nature of the cake, our Bundts are simply shrink-wrapped and shipped without dry ice or a cooler.

This lets our customers send gifts to anyone and everyone on their list, no matter where they live. No need to figure out what local bakery is nearest to Grandma, or whether they deliver (or are any good). The process we’ve perfected over the years lets us focus on making fresh, high-quality cakes and send them anywhere in the continental U.S. without impacting the quality or the beauty of our creations.

Because everyone deserves cake!

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Onboarding Best Practices

Onboarding Best Practices

Why the onboarding process is so important.

It’s a match! You’ve found the perfect person to fill an open position, and they’ve accepted your offer. Time for celebration and a sigh of relief, but also time to plan to make the onboarding process as positive as possible.

Your new hire is excited about working with you, and a little nervous too. Will the job meet expectations? Will co-workers be welcoming? What’s the day-to-day culture really like?

The onboarding process says a lot about your company. Keep in mind, onboarding isn’t a single day, it’s a months-long process. Done well, it improves productivity, increases engagement, and helps employees become successful contributors. Done poorly, it increases turnover, and like in the movie Groundhog Day, you’ll be onboarding over and over and over for the same position.

Here’s how to get it right, right from the start

  • Keep the fires burning. Your new hire is stoked to begin the job. Don’t go cold between their acceptance and the start date. Send them the necessary paperwork online to read (company manual, info about parking passes, badges, etc.) or fill out (tax forms, benefits enrollment) before they start instead of them having to spend time the first day or week slogging through them. Human Resources or their new supervisor should send a welcome email with a schedule for the first day.
  • Send your new hire a gift welcoming them even before they start. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that you create an “unboxing” experience for them. “Unboxing is a YouTube phenomenon in which enthusiasts unwrap products… We think onboarding can provide a similar opportunity for employers to create excitement around the company and the new hire’s role.” What should you send? We think a fresh-made cake is a perfect way to make the new hire and their family feel instantly at home.
  • Day 1 on the job. Be ready for your new hire. Have their desk set up, email accounts created, ID badge ready, have someone assigned to show them around (where’s coffee, where are the restrooms, where is the supply closet), and have a schedule prepared. Have a peer take them to lunch paid for by the company, and towards the end of the day, have the new hire’s supervisor ask how the day went. You don’t want the new hire to be here today, gone tomorrow. (It happens! According to SHRM, nearly 4 percent of employees quit after a disastrous first day.)
  • Make introductions. In the first week or two, schedule meetings with employees from other departments so the new hire understands the organization better, and how his role fits into the larger picture. An org chart or photo directory can also help your new employee connect the slew of new names with positions and faces.
  • Set realistic short-term goals for the new hire. On average, it takes a new hire eight months to become fully productive, so pace your expectations. And in that time period, check in every couple of months by scheduling a feedback session that goes both ways. A new employee who provides honest feedback might present fresh insights that improve the onboarding process. And when an employee feels heard, they feel engaged. It’s a win/win.

Great onboarding means a bright future for all

Finding the perfect fit for your business is hard work. Don’t ruin all that effort with an onboarding experience that makes your new hire head right back out the door. If you can ensure you’re welcoming that new talent and showing respect from the start, you’ll find you have more engaged employees, a more talented staff, and word will spread so that the next time you’re searching for new team members, they’ll be eager to sign right up.

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4 Ways to Provide Amazing Customer Service

4 Ways to Provide Amazing Customer Service

Good customer service requires focus on your customers and employees.

Times are changing rapidly, but the fundamentals of delivering exemplary customer service have remained the same. The customer is still always right, and customer service is the lifeline of each and every business, regardless of the industry. So what does good customer service look like? It starts with creating a culture that your employees can get behind, and rely on, to deliver a unique experience for each and every customer. The following are a few other factors to focus on in order to deliver the ultimate customer experience.

1. Be accessible

And not just during “hours of operation.” In today’s technology-driven world, customers want to be able to reach a business regardless of the day or time of day. Have a system set up where there is always someone available to answer questions or concerns – whether it’s through email, social media, or over the phone. And above all, if you’re going to have these communication channels available, be sure you have people on staff at all times to respond to customers in a timely manner. If you provide several different contact points but don’t have the staff in place to maintain these channels, you could inadvertently cause your customer service to decline.

2. Ask their opinion

Outside of the ownership and employees, nobody knows your business more than your customers. Request their feedback from time to time to find out how you’re doing, what makes them stay customers, and what they’d like to see improvements on. This creates open lines of communication with your customers, and lets them know you are always looking for ways to improve their customer experience. This extends beyond a “Contact Us” button on your website. Include surveys in your email communications, or reward them with coupons for providing feedback. Even if the responses are negative, you will be strengthening the relationship with the customer and improving your business at the same time.

3. Say “thank you”

It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. With every “thank you,” you are letting your customer know that you appreciate their business and don’t take it for granted. These thank yous can be conveyed with a follow-up email after a purchase, a handwritten card in the mail, or even on an advertisement. But be sure each “thank you” is genuine and sincere, rather than feeling forced or mandated. This stems from every employee having as much buy-in for growing your business as you do. Which leads us to our next tip –

4. Treat your employees like customers

If you want your employees to treat your customers well, you must treat your employees the same way. Employees are happier when they feel appreciated and part of the team. Of course, not every business is able to reward their employees with competitive salaries and benefits, but they don’t always have to. Genuine interest in your employees and extending small tokens of appreciation can sometimes be more effective than a raise (though a raise never hurts). Decorating their office on a birthday or work anniversary, remembering their child’s birthday, or throwing an office party to celebrate a productive month are all ways to show your employees that you care about them as much as you care about your customers. Delivering an excellent customer experience starts with motivated and engaged employees. You should think about your employees as much (if not more) as you think about improving your customer experience.

We all know customers have more choices than ever before for just about every product or service they want. Spectacular customer service is at the heart of distinguishing your brand from others, so don’t make it an afterthought. You’ll be rewarded by customers who don’t just buy your product, but who are fierce advocates that will help you grow your business.

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Brand Loyalty Demystified

Brand loyaltyHow to make your customers love you as much as you love them.

Apple, Nike, Polo – these brands have accumulated customers so loyal they’ll actually pay them to advertise their brand. Fan-sumers buy t-shirts with logos on them, follow them all over social media, and even put “free” stickers with that same logo onto their cars, laptops, skateboards, and more. So, how do you harness that energy and apply it to your brand?

4 tips on improving brand loyalty

Customer loyalty starts with a great product – that much should be obvious. But beyond that, it’s all about your relationship with your customers. How you treat them has a direct impact on their loyalty, especially when things go wrong. Here’s how to keep them on your team.

1. Knock their socks off. A 2011 survey conducted by American Express reported that 59% of Americans would discontinue doing business with a company in exchange for one offering a superior customer service experience – that’s just the stats. Considering the ease of access your customers have to your competition via the web, if you don’t dazzle them with service beyond the product, you’re probably not going earn their fandom. So, take exceptionally good care of your customers – make sure they know you’re on their side.

2. Keep your finger on the pulse. The Universe is a dynamic place, what drives and attracts your customer base is destine to change. Encourage customer feedback, respond to it, and let your customer base know you hear them. Just like any other relationship, when your customers recognize your listening talents, they’re going to know you care, and that translates directly into loyalty.

3. Be generous. Lagniappe is a Louisiana French expression meaning a little something extra.  Whether it’s via liberal return policies, or promotional campaigns, when businesses overextend themselves to their customers, it makes them feel valued and loyal. We encourage our clients to send branded cakes to new and repeat customers as a token of appreciation and to keep their product top of mind. Birthday, holiday, and ‘thank you’ gifts are a welcome surprise that shows you view your customers as more than just dollar signs.

4. Deploy loyalty programs. In most cases your customers have other options. If all things are equal, offering a reward to repeat customers not only gives them an immediate reason to choose your product, it’s also a great way to show your gratitude for their patronage. Once again, this is the perfect opportunity to set your business apart – a number of our clients use our Cake of the Month Club to send their loyal customers an appreciation gift on a recurring schedule.

Remember the golden rule

Don’t forget: you’re a consumer too. That means you know how you like to be treated when you make a purchase. Therefore, if you’re not handling your customer relations in a way that would garner your own loyalty, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to earn your customers’.

The bottom line is you have to love your customers as much as your product to stay competitive. You can’t expect them to shower you with praise on their social channels or tell all their friends about you if they don’t feel you’re any different from the next guy with the same product. So remember to think like a consumer and treat your customers just as well as if it was you in their shoes.