As a Black entrepreneur, you know that there has never been more competition than there is today. Companies of all backgrounds are in fierce competition for Black dollars. You probably also know that the Small Business Association reports that 30% of new businesses fail in their first two years.
The good news is that there are 5 ways that you can stand out from other companies, explode your profits, and do some good all at the same time. By putting these 5 pieces of advice into action, you can build the kind of business our communities so desperately need.
1. Build An Army Of Affiliates
We all know that word-of-mouth referral is the least expensive and most powerful way to grow any business. Potential customers or clients reach out to their Facebook groups, friends, family members, and influencers for recommendations. And more often than not, they tend to take action on those suggestions.
As a Black business owner, you should maintain a system for cultivating relationships with these influencers as part of your ongoing marketing strategy. This system is called an affiliate program, and while it works best with retail companies, any business can benefit from the model. Here is how it works:
Start by reaching out to bloggers, social media personalities, Youtubers, and influencers in your field by asking them to review your product or service. Send them the product or let them use the service for free so that they can give honest feedback to their followers.
If they agree to promote your product, set up a system that gives them a percentage of each sale they make to their audience. To track Affiliate sales, you can give them a special link that they can use to promote the product with. The link might look something like www.yourwebsite.com/youraffiliatesname.
This isn’t something you need to do manually. There are many software products that let you generate links, keep track of how many visitors make a purchase, how much the Affiliate has earned, and when Affiliates can expect their next payment. Some software products include:
- Affiliate Pro Script
- Post Affiliate Pro
- Lead Dyno
You can also join an Affiliate Network. An affiliate network connects your company with thousands of professional marketers who have been vetted. The network takes care of link building, payments, and recruiting new affiliates for you in exchange for a percentage of each sale made. Affiliate networks include:
- Commission Junction
- and Peerfly
Set your Affiliates up for success by creating marketing material for them to use. Material can include banners, pdfs, videos, landing pages, and text. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for your affiliates to promote your product or service.
Companies like Amazon, Shopify, and GoDaddy have built their empires with this strategy, so take this strategy seriously if you want to build a better Black business.
2. Become Obsessed With Superior Customer Service
If there is one part of your business you should be passionate about, it is your customer service. Because of their legendary customer service, companies like Zappos, Southwest Airlines, and Chick-fil-A all have a loyal and dedicated fan base. In fact, fans are willing to pay more for excellent customer service than any other factor.
There are three pillars of customer service that Black business owners should focus on to get the same superior results that other brands enjoy. They are consistency, courtesy, and cultivation.
Last week I was starving and too lazy to cook (dont judge me). So I did a search for a Black owned restaurant near me. The first listing was a Jamaican restaurant, and according to Google the spot was open. I drove a few miles until I arrived at the restaurant only to find the doors locked and a dark and empty lobby.
Have you ever had this happen to you? How did it make you feel? If you are like me then you may have felt disappointed, frustrated, and angry. Worst of all, you may have lost trust in that business and decided never to go back again.
This should go without saying – you can’t serve customers if you are not open. Thus, customer service starts with being consistently open on time and during every second of the hours posted on the front door.
That also means staying open until the last second of the last hour posted on your door or website. Some businesses are notorious for closing early because it is ‘slow’. Dont make that same mistake.
Be consistent with your service, your operations, and your quality and you will win.
Common courtesy is becoming an uncommon virtue, and businesses are losing customers because of it. While you can’t put a price tag on courtesy, the best brands know that small acts of kindness can lead to lasting positive impressions in the minds of customers. We have all had rude customer service experiences that included:
- Employees avoiding eye contact with you
- Representatives not returning phone calls, emails, or text messages in a timely manner
- Employees that stare at you waiting for you to tell them what you want
- Companies that ‘clap back’ at criticism rather than fixing the problem
- Employees that are too busy to come to the counter when you approach
How did those experiences make you feel? Would you want to go back to those establishments or do business with those brands? Probably not.
There are small but powerful ways to practice common courtesy in your business. These include:
- Opening doors for your customers
- Greeting everyone as soon as they walk in the door
- Making eye contact and smiling at every customer
- If you are busy, acknowledging customers and let them know you will be right with them
- Keeping the lobby of the store clean
- Saying ‘Thank you for stopping in’ when clients leave
And if you are an online business, responding to emails quickly, having an easy to use website, and publicly thanking your customers on social media are all good ways to practice common courtesy.
If you treat every customer as a one time transaction, you may not be in business for long. Instead, do what the best brands do – cultivate long term relationships with your customers and clients. Here are a few tips to help you do so.
1. Remember names and birthdays
Every smart business keeps track of customers using a CRM – a client relationship management system. Usually, this includes collecting some basic information about your customers/clients as part of a loyalty program. This lets companies ‘remember’ customers on their birthday by sending them email coupons for a free desert or gift.
2. Have ‘unprofessional’ conversations with your customers and clients
Find out what your customers and clients are into besides your products and services. Are they Lakers fans? Do they attend Comic conventions? What movie genres do they enjoy? This will give you something to talk about with your supporters every time they walk into the store.
3. Solicit feedback from your long term supporters
Before you make any changes in your business, ask some of your best customers what they think. Talk to them about the ‘behind the scenes’ of your operation and ask them how you can improve. This will give your customers an emotional stake in your business and they will feel like they are part of your ‘inner circle’.
By following these tips, you will create a tribe of dedicated, long term supporters who will travel for miles just to come see you.
3. Promote The Fact That You Are Black Owned
Once upon a time, entrepreneurs worked hard to hide the fact that their business was Black owned. They tried to become invisible in a market dominated by millions of other invisible businesses because ‘Black owned’ was perceived to be inferior.
The problem with that approach is that today there are millions of Black men and women looking for Black businesses to support. The companies that were ‘hiding out’ lost market share from the Black audience, and when they tried to rebrand, they lost their existing clients as well.
The bottom line is this: When you are ashamed of who you are, others will be too. When you are proud of what makes you unique, you will find a group that is ready to support you.
4. Find – And Be – A Mentor
If there is one thing that divides the successful from the unsuccessful, it is mentorship. As of 2019, Daymond John’s net worth is estimated to be $300 million dollars. He credits every dollar he has ever made to his mentor, and has said that building your empire starts with finding your mentor.
- Athletes like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson all have mentors
- Real Estate Investors like Max Maxwell and Danielle Pierce all have mentors
- Personalities like John Legend and Paul C. Brunson attribute their success to mentorship
The most powerful books ever written – including Think and Grow Rich and Mastery – repeatedly emphasize the importance of mentorship. So if you want to take your business to the next level, find a mentor.
Of equal importance is passing on the lessons you have learned to a mentee. There has been a lot of talk about how often the Black dollar circulates in our community, but little talk about how often knowledge leaves our community.
Our best and brightest minds are usually drawn away to work in companies or communities for other groups. We can all agree that knowledge is more valuable than money, so by taking on a mentee, you can ensure that knowledge – and ultimately dollars – stay in our community.
5. Give Back
There are so many benefits to giving back that there is no reason why your company should not include philanthropy as part of your ongoing marketing efforts.
For starters, when you choose to support an IRS approved nonprofit organization, your company will qualify for deductions on donations, itemized expenses from volunteer excursions, and more. So, if you choose to have a companywide volunteer day, you can write off the cost of the event and receive a tax deduction. Or you could sell products of which a certain percentage of proceeds go to a cause.
And if your company chooses to sponsor an event or organization, you can expect to see your business logo plastered across T-shirts, social media platforms, and flyers supporting the cause, thus exposing your brand to new audiences.
And finally, your business will have a far more powerful impact on your community than if you just set up shop, conduct transactions, and go home. You will be doing well by doing good.
So I encourage all Black businesses to adopt a local school, community center, or shelter. Host or participate in food drives. Sponsor event. Donate products or your time to those in your community who are in need. Not only will you draw positive press for your philanthropy, you will also cultivate good will in your neighborhood.
The world needs more Black owned businesses. By putting these 5 lessons into action, not only will you improve your chances of survival but you will thrive. Building successful Black businesses is a small part of the overall formula for Black economic development. To learn more about wealth building, personal finance, real estate, check out our articles on Black wealth by clicking here.
About the Author: Asad Malik is the Founder of the Pan-African Alliance, an International community of Activists, Entrepreneurs, Educators, and Learners. He is a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Graduate of the University of Maryland University College Robert H. Smith School of Business. Asad is a serial Entrepreneur who has built and sold multiple companies and teaches other Black entrepreneurs how to do the same.
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