Monday Member Spotlight – TrustPoint Insurance

We are back in the office today still recovering from a Thanksgiving food coma!  Getting back into the routine of things today is Monday so that means it is Monday Member Spotlight!  Today we are spotlighting TrustPoint Insurance.  They are a locally owned Independent Agent, which means they can quote your insurance policy with many different insurance companies.  All Trusted Choice® agencies agree to adhere to a Pledge of Performance, designed to assure quality service that enables them to offer you competitive pricing, a broad choice of products and valuable advocacy.

You can call their office at 620-364-8811 for more information, get a quote online at www.trustpointinsurance.net, or stop in at 800 North 4th Street in Burlington Kansas.  Here is what they have to say:

“At TrustPoint Insurance, we have always believed in handling our customers’ needs as if they were our own. Our goal is to give our clients peace of mind by developing efficient, “tailor-made” insurance programs. Since we are truly an independent insurance agency, we have the unique ability to shop the marketplace for the insurance company that provides the best protection at the most competitive price.

Our agents are realists and understand that most people view insurance as a “necessary evil” which costs more than they like and which they expect they will never need. Agents will do their best to help you choose the coverage that best fits your individual situation and never try to “oversell”. However, rest assured that our professionals will work hard to insure that you’re covered for all those risks that most apply to you, your family, or your business.

TrustPoint Insurance is located at 800 North 4th Street in Burlington, Kansas. You can meet with one of our agents there or they will be happy to meet with you at your home or business.

We have made our web site as user-friendly as possible. Please browse through the site to get more familiar with TrustPoint Insurance. If you have any questions, do not hesistate to contact us.”

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How to Cook Up a Great Marketing Plan Part 2-Add the Essentials

This part outlines the key essentials you need to include in your marketing plan. No matter how it’s organized, your marketing plan should be a straightforward and easily understood-to anyone. It should provide you with a clear direction for your marketing efforts for the coming year, and it should give an insightful look into your company for all readers.

Market Situation

The “market situation” section should contain your best and most clear-headed description of the current state of the marketplace (this is no place for hunches).

  •     What are your products/services or product/service lines?
  •     What is the dollar size of your markets?
  •     What is your sales and distribution setup?
  •     What geographic area do you sell to?
  •     Describe your audience in terms of population, demographics, income levels and so on.
  •     What competitors exist in this marketplace?
  •     Historically, how well have your products sold?

 

Your market situation section might read like this:

XYZ and Associates is a bookkeeping and accounting firm started in 1981. We provide tax services to individuals and to businesses under $500,000 in annual sales. We provide bookkeeping and payroll support to those same businesses. Our market area Coffey County, Kansas, and its neighboring counties.

For the personal market, our clients typically are in the $75,000 and higher income range, or they are retired with assets of $200,000 or more. For the business market, most of our work is for restaurants, service stations, independent convenience stores and a large courier service.

With the exception of a slump from 1988 through 1991, XYZ and Associates has grown steadily from its inception. Gross sales in 1997 were $145,000.

Competition for our immediate market is a group of eight firms roughly comparable to our company. Only one of these firms, Acme Bookkeeping, has an interest in marketing itself. We believe we rank second in the group of competitors, behind Acme.

 We have a strong position in the restaurant portion of our business.

 

Much of this information exists in the heads of the management team, the way it is at many companies. But now is when you write it down. For example, how much information do you have in your office–right now–on your competition? A marketing plan gives you a chance to pull all this relevant information together in one place, to spur ideas and justify actions.

Consider each of your products or services up against the matching products or services of your competitors. How well do you stack up? Is there any significant market opportunity for you that neither you nor your competitors are currently exploiting?  You’ll also find that the best thinkers in your company may well have different ideas about elements of the current situation. Your marketing plan will provide a good arena to test different snapshots of the market against each other.

Monday Member Spotlight – Burlington Building Materials

This week’s Member Spotlight is Burlington Building Materials located at 626 Neosho Street Burlington.  Vince carries a wide range of lumber, home improvement supplies, building materials, paint, and much more!  They are a full service home center offering you great customer service, including delivery, installed sales, estimates and design help. For your shopping convenience, they would like to welcome you to their online store (Click Here) where you can purchase 70,000 items available for overnight delivery. If you want to purchase a product that cannot be delivered by UPS, stop in or call the store to purchase the product, 620-364-2212. If they do not stock the item, one of their friendly employees will be happy to special order the item for you.

 

Visit their other locations:

  • Osage Building Materials
    425 Main Street
    Osage City, KS 66523
  • Lyndon Building Materials
    118 W 6th Street
    Lyndon, KS 66451

How to Cook Up a Great Marketing Plan-Part 1

When most small business owners think about a marketing plan they think that it isn’t so much for a small business but for a larger one.  Marketing plans geared toward the big corporate crowd communicate in a language few human beings understand (think the teacher off of Peanuts). However, the words you use are much less important than how seriously you approach the task.  In this series I will help map out how to create a marketing plan that fits you and your business, hopefully with some humor along the way.

Part 1-Gathering the Ingredients

Before you begin to write/scribble/draw, pull together some information you’ll need. Getting the information first avoids interruptions in the thinking and writing process. Have on hand:

  1. Your company’s latest financial reports (profit and loss, operating budgets and so on)
  2. Latest sales figures by product
  3. A listing of each product or service in the current line, along with target markets
  4. Your understanding of your marketplace: your competitors, geographical boundaries, types of customers you sell to, existing distribution channels, latest and most useful demographic data, any information on trends in your markets-this information you should be able to find in your business plan.  What?!  You don’t have one?!  Stop right now and start working on your business plan.
  5. Ask each of your salespeople to list the most crucial points that need to be included in the coming year’s marketing plan. A lot of the time they see things you don’t, so it is important to get their perspective also.
  6. Last but not least, your supplies.  I love to get a huge piece of paper because writing a marketing plan can me messy.  It is also a good idea to let the other people that are involved all have a different color of pen, so when you are reviewing you know who came up with what.

Don’t be scared to scratch your first draft or your second or your third.  Creating a marketing plan can be frustrating, but once you have the essentials in place your goals will be easily met.  Check back often to read part 2 and part 3 here on the Coffey County Chamber Blog.

Tec Update-Cloud computing

Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet). The name comes from the use of a cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user’s data, software and computation. -From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wow that is confusing, huh? Let me make it simple.  Imagine your PC and all of your mobile devices being in sync—all the time. Imagine being able to access all of your personal data at any given moment. Imagine having the ability to organize and access data from any online source. Imagine being able to share that data—photos, movies, contacts, e-mail, documents, etc.—with your friends, family, and coworkers in an instant. This is what personal cloud computing promises to deliver.

In essence, personal cloud computing means having every piece of data you need for every aspect of your life at your fingertips and ready for use. Data must be mobile, transferable, and instantly accessible. The key to enabling the portable and interactive you is the ability to synch up your data among your devices, as well as access to shared data. Shared data is the data we access online in any number of places, such as social networks, banks, blogs, newsrooms, paid communities, etc.

I hope this clears up any confusion about “The Cloud” and ultimately I think this technology is a great advancement and we will all head towards the cloud eventually.

Here is a great video that explains the cloud also:

5 Tips To Get Your Business Ready For The Holiday Season

The holidays are just around the corner and that means that holiday shoppers are already looking for gifts to buy. So don’t wait any longer to start stocking up on inventory and preparing your holiday promotions.

To help you get started, here are 5 tips to get your business ready for the holiday season:

Tip #1: With the holidays just around the corner, think about offering Free Gift Wrapping on your products as an extra incentive to those holiday shoppers!  Pinterest has all kinds of great wrapping ideas, you can be as extravagant or crafty as you want to be.

Tip #2: Send out an email newsletter to your fans, followers and customers letting them know what’s new and sharing any holiday promotions!  Newsletters are a cost effective way to communicated with your current and potential customers, just make sure you are consistent!

Tip #3: Include a Thank You Note or Holiday Promotion with your customer purchases this month, this will help differentiate you and build your brand loyalty so your customers come back again and again.

Tip #4: See if you can combine any individual products into gift sets for a holiday product line…it’s a great way to attract holiday shoppers and increase your average sale at the same time.

Tip #5: With all the preparation for the holiday season, don’t forget to take a little time for yourself so you don’t get burnt out.

What are you doing to get prepared for the holiday shoppers?

Customer Experience, don’t underestimate it!

I believe there are three ways a company can compete: price, product/service quality and customer experience. You could make more groups, but I think in the end it comes down to those three very important categories.

Competing on price can be tough on the bottom line especially for small businesses, but for companies that do it well (WalMart), it can lead to great financial success. Competing on the quality of our product is necessary, but it can be difficult for us to educate the marketplace on why ours is superior and why that means they should pay more for it. The customer experience, however, is something that we can make uniquely ours. The first two points we are trying to convince the customer why they should pay more for the product or service, but when it comes to the customer experience all we have to do is our job.  Think about how often you chose to do business – or not do business – with a vendor because of your experience with that company.  For example I love going to our local grocery store because I know all the cashiers, I can request the store stocks an item I would buy frequently, and they always answer my questions.  It is the service I get that keeps me going back because I can buy chips anywhere, I just can’t get that extra service with it.

How does a company deliver excellent, sustainable customer experience? I read about a great example recently, the companies name is MarcParcValet. MarcParcValet was recently named by the Washingtonian as a “2011 Best Wedding Vendor” for Valet and Transportation services. Like all the companies founded by Marc Slavin, MarcParcValet embraces the concept of not leaving the customer experience to chance.

Mike Jasser, the vice president of business development, shared a few of the actions and investments the company takes to create excellent, sustained customer experience:

1) Heavy Supervision. A dedicated supervisor and an event manager oversee the success of each event.

2) Recruiting. Applicants are initially processed by an online service called FastRecruiting. If they pass this initial screening, they are given an on-site interview and a driving test (including a manual transmission). After the interview and test, a background check is conducted (criminal record, driving record, references, etc.). If everything checks out, the candidate is sent an offer letter and is scheduled to attend MarcParc University.

3) Training. MarcParcValet has made a significant investment into the development of MarcParc University. An employee’s first day is spent going through four hours of training with a heavy focus on customer service. At the end of the training, the new employee must complete a written exam before he/she can be a concierge valet. Training doesn’t stop there; employees are trained continuously on MarcParcValet’s “people-first” philosophy and are encouraged to achieve “Silver” valet status.

How has it worked for MarcParcValet so far? Besides winning the Washingtonian award, the company provides service to over 1000 events a year, including such prestigious events as the National Gallery of Art’s 2010 Holiday Party. The Gallery praised MarcParcValet for providing their guests with “perfect” service.

What’s the take away? It’s not enough to just talk about how important the customer experience is for your company. You must invest in it.

Have any great examples of excellent, sustained customer service? How about sharing them as a comment below?

Slow down to get more done.

It is amazing to me how fast time flies, seems like I can blink and another week has come and gone.  With all the activities/events/meetings we are involved in it is no wonder why everyone feels exhausted all the time.  Do you ever feel like you have worked your butt off all day and at the end of it you don’t feel like you accomplished anything?  Have you made an important phone call to only forget to ask that imperative question?   That might be a sign that you are working too fast and not utilizing your valuable time.  Believe it or not, you can get more tasks done by slowing down than speeding through your work.  If you would have spent a little time preparing for that busy day or important phone call you would have used the time you spent more efficiently but instead it cost you more time in the long run.

So how do you effectively slow down so you can speed up? There are two critical steps:

1. Identify what is working. . . and do more of that.
2. Identify what is not working. . . and change it.

So now you are thinking about how you spend your time and you need to know how to identify what is working and what is not.  This might sound a little juvenile but for a week or so write down how you spend your time, when you take breaks and lunches, and even time how long it takes you to complete a single task.  If you cannot determine what is not working in your routine then you can never fix the problem.  This is not about making judgments of what is “right” and what is “wrong.” It’s about seeing what moves me toward where I want to be and what is keeping me stuck. Acknowledgement of this awareness is an excellent first step in moving forward. When you notice the details of how you currently perform various tasks, you can then consciously choose to change those methods, allowing you to “speed up” over time. This results in more opportunities at the end of the day for additional work, planning, or even play.

A great way to get more tasks done during the day is by single tasking.  Gasp. That is right I said to single task.  For so long everyone has put a heavy emphasis on multitasking and I don’t always think this is the best solution.  If you have a to-do list take one task start it and do not move on to another assignment until it is complete.  To help keep you on track put a blank piece of paper next to you and whenever you have a thought pop into your head, take one second to write it down, but then go back to the job at hand.

Objectively look at your habits, your ideas, and your existing and desired skills so you can get better and go faster. Take the time now to slow down. . . to re-dedicate your focus, so you can move in a positive direction and hold your pace. Change is rarely easy but often critical to move us where we want to go.

So commit to yourself to slow down right now, by taking an inventory of what is working and what is holding you back. Once you’ve identified the things you want to change you can start changing those . . . ultimately helping you speed up.