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Phone Etiquette

Phone Etiquette

Phone etiquette may seem like a no brainer, but it never hurts to have a refresher. Check out these tips to know the do’s and don’ts of a good phone call.

Etiquette 101

I don’t know about you, but I view phone calls as the best way to get answers. Once you know how to do it right, phone calls are quicker than emails (of course it doesn’t hurt to follow up with an email) and not everything requires a Zoom sync.

When you receive a phone call, try your best to pick up by the first three rings and start by introducing yourself. While you’re speaking, remember to talk slowly and clearly. If you think you’re talking too slow, you’re probably speaking at just the right pace.

If you have to transfer the call, ask permission before you do so. Also, if you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest about and tell them how you plan on helping.

Be present

While you’re on the phone, make sure you’re not doing anything else and have no distractions. By distractions I mean close out of Facebook, and even pull up a Word document to make notes while you’re on the call. Only put yourself on speaker if it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise try to connect a headset or headphones so you can remain hands free throughout the call.

Be sure to sound cheerful throughout the phone call. Try smiling if you’re not in the mood to be on the phone, people can notice the difference. A headset comes in handy here as well if standing up and pacing helps with the tone of your voice.

After the phone call, do your follow up tasks immediately. The longer you wait the more difficult it will be to get them done.


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Developing New Contacts

New contacts

Has your email list remained stagnant? Check out these tips to increase your customer contacts.

Define your market

The first step to increasing your contacts is to define who you’re going after. This will not only save you time while you do outreach, but also help determine what channels you use for messaging, and what sort of content to include in your pitch.

Build your contacts list

The first step to building your contact list is easy; start with who you know! Ask for referrals and offer discounts to new clients.

Networking is also a great way to expand your customer base. Networking is difficult, but you’ll find that when you put yourself out there, people are willing to help. Attend webinars, trade shows, or join a local business organization.

Finally, pick up your website and social media game. This is where defining your market will help your outreach the most. Have a lead? Go to their website and search for emails. Want to find leads? Go to a search engine and see if you can pay for data that will provide those emails for you (and save you time as well).

Follow up

Continuing on with online outreach, follow up once, then follow up again. Include enticing calls to action or create scarcity but letting them know that time or space is running out.

This is where a CRM (customer relationship manager) really comes in handy. A CRM is a software solutions that helps to track your contact activity. Not only will you be able to track who’ve you’ve contacted, but you’ll be able to identify priority leads as well.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Video Statistics Update

Video stats

Curious to how video trends have changed in the past year? Check out these statistics to aid in your content management plan.

General stats

In 2020, 60 percent of videos were user generated or recorded, a 135% jump from 2019. And yes, a big reason for this was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three-fourths of smaller businesses (as defined as 200 employees or less) make their own videos. This compares to companies with over 600 employees, of which less than half of their videos are user-generated. And if you think more companies tried their hand at video this past year, you would be correct in that assumption.

Length of video

If you’re wondering how long your videos should be, check out some of these statistics:

  • 45% of people watch videos all the way through, down from 52% in 2019.
  • The average length of videos in this report was 6 minutes.
  • If the video is 60 seconds or less, 58% of people will watch all the way through.
  • If your video is over 20 minutes, only 24% will watch until completion.

What else to know

If you’re wondering what type of videos businesses posted, the most common were how-tos, product demos, explainers, and webinars. The highest room for growth on video topics include how-tos, but especially one-to-one videos.

And obviously, companies who tracked analytics and catered their content based off their audience saw the highest video engagement.

Want to learn more? Check out Vidyard’s 2021 Video in Business Benchmark Report where you can learn about the above content and dig into it more.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Evaluating Bookkeeping Tools

Small Business Bookkeeping Tools

Automating your bookkeeping processes is one of the smartest moves your business can make. Check out these tips as you begin your research to find the best tool for you.

What are you looking for?

The suite of bookkeeping solutions is lengthy, so before you begin your research, identify your highest priority needs. Some platforms allow you to track inventory, others sales tax, and others receipts.

As you begin your research, determine your budget. Also determine your highest priority needs. Don’t look at solutions that aren’t within 25 percent of your budget, or solutions that don’t cross off your must-have checklist.

Ask the right questions

If you’re thrown into a sales process to determine the best solution for your needs, don’t be blinded by their bells and whistles. Ask these questions to make sure you’re getting the best solution for your business.

  • How secure is your API?
  • How do you back up your data?
  • Are there any other costs to this platform?
  • How quickly do you respond to questions?
  • What pain points do similar clients experience?

And remember, you want a solution that’s going to grow with your business. Once you go through this process, make sure you do it right.

Inspiration from this post came from Hubspot.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

With more time spent online, cybersecurity practices are more critical than ever. Check out this list to make sure you’ve got your business is safe.

Passwords

Train your employees to use strong passwords and require them to change their passwords every three months. Better yet, implement multi-factor authentification, or check with your bank and other vendors to see if they offer that option.

If employees use a shared laptop, create different accounts for each employee and encourage each employee to protect their account with a strong password.

Finally, make sure your business is using a secure, encrypted, and hidden WiFi network. Set up your wireless router so it does not broadcast the WiFi name and make it password protected too.

Cybersecurity

Installing a firewall on each of your computers is essential, and there are free versions online too. If employees work from home, make sure they have a firewall installed on their home computers as well.

Back up your data as frequently as possible. Per the FCC, critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files.

Lastly, limit employee access to this data. Employees should only be given access to systems they need for their jobs, and shouldn’t be allowed to download additional software.

Hardware

Update your systems regularly and run antivirus software after each update. Also make sure you use a different computer to process payments than you use to browse the internet.

Nobody wants to be in a position where they have to pay someone because of a lack of online security. Start with these practices to protect your business from cyber attacks.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Manage Through 1:1

Manage through one on ones

Trust is one of the most important values, in business, and life. Manage your way to trusting your employees (and gaining their trust too) through one-on-one meetings.

The purpose of the 1:1 is not to be a review; schedule that for another time. Rather, this meeting should be focused on the employee’s challenges, observations, and opportunities.

Frame the meeting

Framing the meeting is especially important for new employees. One-to-one meetings with managers automatically have a negative connotation. To combat this, make sure it is known the agenda of the meeting will be run by them, not you. The longer the meetings happen the less this will be an issue.

Provide your full attention

How often do you have the undivided attention of someone you respect? Be sure to provide this rare opportunity during your scheduled one-on-one. This means turn your phone off, close the door, or find an off site location. Also make sure to compensate them for this meeting, even if it means showing up early or staying late. Their time is just as valuable as yours.

Listen to manage effectively

We all know how to listen. Be prepared for pauses during this meeting, especially if your employee is introverted. They may just need time to gather their thoughts. If the pause is too long, ask an open ended question to keep the meeting focused on the employee.

Follow through

If these meetings require follow up, make sure you get back to them. Nobody likes feeling like a pest (especially to their boss).

Manage through empowerment

Finally, let employees solve problems on their own. People learn by doing, so when your employees come to you with problems or questions, provide guidance and let them take the reins from there.

Inspiration for this post came from “One Person at a Time,” by Gwen Bortner published in the February 2021 issue of American Quilt Retailer. Stay tuned next week for five more tips on how to effectively manage one-on-one meetings.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Modern Day Burn Out

Burn out

Let’s face it, it’s been a tough year. Even though you may have had more time to do what you’ve wanted, this year has also come with it’s own set of unforeseen stressors.

How to cope with burn out

First, it’s okay to feel burnt out. Without being able to take a physical vacation, consider taking a staycation. It will be interesting to see just how easy it is to unplug from social media, to do lists, and even work.

Second, tell yourself it’s okay to feel burnt out. Just because you may have had more time-strapped days (think getting the kids ready for school, getting yourself ready for work, running a business, coming home to cook dinner, and then doing it all over again). If you were able to survive that, then you’re going to survive this. But recognize your feelings of burn out are still valid.

Build a support system

Finally, find a support system that works. Surround yourself with people you can be candid with, as well as people who know healthy ways that will make you feel better. Whether that be meditation, journaling, self help books, or exercise, good friends and family will suggest pastimes they know you will enjoy.

Nobody expects you to work 24 hours a day, and vacation for you (and your employees) should be expected. Remember, stress is different than burnout, so if you don’t feel recharged when you return, examine other areas in your life that may need focusing on.

What has gotten you through the past year? Share your tips so fellow quilt retailers won’t feel so isolated. And remember, American Quilt Retailer is always here too! Feel free to reach out anytime, for resources and more.


Are you attending AQR Academy this Thursday, April 1st from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m.? It’s still not too late to register! Join Christoper Thompson (the Tattooed Quilter) as he explores how to attract, engage, and motivate the customer towards making a purchase .

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Crafting Social Media Posts

Crafting social content

Social media may be time intensive but everyday it’s becoming a more essential piece of business. Check out these tips to make the process easier (and boost your sales along the way).

Writing Social Captions

Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters, but not all text will appear when customers are scrolling. An option to “read more” will appear they can click on, so make sure your most important information is at the beginning.

Also consider adding hashtags to your caption. Hashtags make it easier for new customers to view your post. Hashtags can go at the end of the caption, or in the first comment of your post.

Instagram also allows up to 30 hashtags. You don’t have to use that much, but a combination of specific and general hashtags will optimize your post for the most views.

What to Post

There’s a variety of content you can post. We separated the topics into three categories:

  • Excitement: This post is perfect for promoting events. Make sure your caption stresses why they should come, and what makes the event unique.
  • Engagement: Think of this post as having a conversation with your audience. I’m sure you’ve heard of algorithms, but what you need to know about Instagram’s algorithm is the more engagement your post has, the more your followers will see it in their feeds. You can boost engagement by liking and responding to comments.
  • Selling: Have a new product? Tag the company in your post and write a call to action in your caption such as “click the link in the bio to buy this today.”

What are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to step up your social media game. Put your best social media foot forward with these Instagram tips.

Inspiration for this post came from IG 1, 2, 3 by Kate Colleran, Joanne Hillestad, and Kris Poor published in the February 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Sharing Visual Content

Sharing visual content on Instagram

Quilting is visual. Instagram is the best platform to promote those visuals. Read on to find out how to optimize your business’s Instagram account.

Back to basics

The first step to optimizing your account is to make sure your page is set to business. The good news is you can convert a personal account to a business one.

Second, make sure you keep your branding specific. For instance, your Instagram name should be the shop’s name, your username (or the words that come after the @ symbol) should be the same (or some variation of your business name), and your profile image should be your logo (for ease of recognition).

Cross promoting

Your Instagram profile can have one link, so it’s wise to use your business’s website link, and have a contact page in your website to direct customers to other pages.

You’re also going to want to connect your business Instagram account to your Facebook account so you can save time by publishing two posts with just one click.

Other Visual Tips

Be sure to include a bio at the top of your profile. What do you want your customers to know in 150 characters or less? And of course, include your business contact information so customers can contact you as well.

As for category, choose what’s best for your business. For example, “Shopping & Retail” might hit the nail on the head, but “Fabric Store” might be an even better option.

Last but not least, keep your display on public (not private) so anyone can see your amazing content if they come across your account.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned next week for more information on photos, captions, and what type of content to share.

Inspiration for this post came from IG 1, 2, 3 by Kate Colleran, Joanne Hillestad and Kris Poor published in the February 2021 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Spring AQR Academy

Spring AQR Academy

Need some education and networking in your life? Tune into Spring AQR Academy happening this Thursday, March 4 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. CST. Trust me, you’re not going to want to miss out.

Spring AQR Academy Sessions

Below are just some of the topics you’re going to learn. Sessions include:

Other information

Still not persuaded? Firstly, we should mention that attendees will receive a swag bag stuffed full of goodies. Second, you’ll also receive a recording of the day’s events, as well as a digital recap including handouts and information. Last but not least, the cost is $95 for subscribers and $195 for non-subscribers to attend.

Thanks to our sponsors QT Fabrics, Jaftex Corp, Virtual Quilt Market, and Mettler Thread for helping make this event happen.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.