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Couch Sessions: How do I tell my clients to go away?

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In today’s fast-paced world, small business owners are even more hyperconnected and overloaded with information, choices, and distractions. One of the hardest things to determine is whether you’re on the right path or not. Great work requires taking risks. Couch Sessions offers practical information, new perspectives and quick tips to help point you in the right direction.

Are you a struggling, frustrated or just inquisitive small business owner? Got a question you just can’t seem to find the answer for? Please submit your small business questions here. Get Be sure to bookmark and check this page each week, your question and the reply may appear right here in “Couch Sessions” for the Small Business Owner. This week on Couch Sessions…

Q: We are looking to do an email campaign and have concerns that our 
efforts will be all for naught if a large percentage of the email that we 
send out is unable to get through to a recipient's inbox. How can we 
ensure that we don't waste our time and money on an email blast that
 doesn't make it through a recipients spam filters? David Reischer, www.legaladvice.com

A: Permission-based email/opt-in email marketing is most effective. Your subscribers not only give you permission to send them emails, but they request it (opt-in). You can make this as easy as having them subscribe when they come to the office and fill out paperwork, adding a link on your website that offers them a complimentary consultation if they subscribe to your email list or including a link in your email signature bar. You could try all 3 as well as sending an attention grabbing announcement that for your clients to receive updates, specials, etc. they should subscribe to your email list. Whichever one you choose, be creative and give them a good reason for giving you access to their email. Be sure to research and avoid using “spam” words in your emails. Growing your email list organically helps ensure your information is getting to the people who actually interested in it and want it.



Q: Is there proper etiquette for speed networking? Karen Shiffert, www.caregiversaide.com

A: Speed networking is such an entertaining and fun way to meet and engage other small business owners. Simple manners should suffice as well as don’t hog the conversation, have a simple but clear intro, ask questions more than you speak about yourself, have plenty of business cards available, don’t hesitate to connect your existing contacts with your new contacts and be sure to follow up with “connections” afterwards.

Q: 
I am the owner of a small home decor & gift store in New York's Hell's Kitchen with my partner. We have no other employees so there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done, however, because we are friendly with so many of our customers, they treat our store like a visit to a therapist and unburden themselves of their problems/concerns/aggravations/political outrage, etc. The problem is that we care so much about them but they don't seem to realize all the stuff that needs to be done in order to have the store looking the way they expect it (windows need to be done, shelves need to be dusted, merchandise needs to be ordered or checked-in). How can we politely stop them from taking up so much time and not hurt their feelings? We find that we have to work longer hours just to catch-up on what we had not been able to do because we lent an ear to people's troubles…We feel blessed in our customers, but we are frustrated with ourselves for not being able to get everything done, yet we don't want to seem uncaring…
Thank you for any advice you can offer. Luisa Cerutti www.domusnewyork.com

A: Sometimes you just have to tear off the band-aid and be candid. If the interruptions are affecting your work productivity that much, you have to be clear and up front with your clients. That doesn’t mean you have to be rude about it, but you do have to make it plain. Simply let them know, you appreciate them coming by, but you are so behind on your work, you can’t chat. Excuse yourself and step away. You can make light of it and make a sign that says “therapy hours” and let them know they are welcome to come by during those times to “hang out” and “chit-chat,” but outside of those hours you have to tend to your business. You could also alternate which one of you “engages” with clients and who keeps working. One of you could step away and call the other (interrupt the interruption) and politely leave the conversation telling them you have to get back to work. You could tell them you’d love to hear more, but they need to come back later because right now you have to work. You could host a “social hour” and actually control the “social conversations” with your clients. Have them all come at one time on a particular day, once a week, once a month, whatever; serve some wine and light appetizers and make it fun. When they come by outside of the “social hour,” just tell them, “let’s save this conversation for the “social hour.” Whatever your solution, practice it. Use it. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you do have a business to run and your clients should respect that.

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