The Secret To Amazing Product Design? Get Your Customers Involved

Designing new products is a stressful process. How do you recreate the success of your last product? What do the customers really want out of this new product? Business owners spend endless hours in meetings with their design team trying to answer these questions when they could just ask the customer. 

The easiest way to make sure that you have a winning product is to include the customers in the design process and listen to their feedback. If you ask them what they want and then deliver it, you’re far more likely to see good sales from day one. But if you keep trying to guess what people want without asking them, there’s a strong chance that you will get it wrong and the product will be a flop. 

These are some of the best ways to include your customers in the design process for new products. 

 

Check Reviews Of Existing Products 

Reviews of your existing products are the best place to start when trying to come up with new ideas. You need to identify what was good about your old products and where you could have improved. So, go through as many reviews as possible and take notes on the things that people bring up often. This should give you a pretty clear idea of what makes your product special, so you can emulate this in new products. If you don’t have that many customer reviews, you should focus on an email campaign to encourage people to leave more feedback before you do anything else.

 

Ask Your Brand Community 

The people that share common ground based on their mutual love for your brand are your brand community, and these are the people you should ask for advice. But before you can benefit from their expertise, you need to focus on fostering a community in the first place. Read a guide to selecting a community platform and set up your own forum where customers can meet and discuss your products. These conversations will be a goldmine of information and you can interact directly with your community to ask them what they want from your next product. Don’t forget to use social media platforms to connect with people as well. 

 

Get People To Test Prototypes 

When you have a product idea and you are in the prototype stage, testing is incredibly important. Input from people that have never used your products is still valuable, but you should also get advice from existing customers. There are a few different ways that you can do this but trade shows are one of the easiest places to find testers. Take some early prototypes along with you and reach out to people that are already familiar with your brand. If you advertise on social media and your community platforms, letting people know that they can try an exclusive new prototype, you should get plenty of interest. 

When you think about it, it seems crazy to design products without involving the customer. These are the best ways to get their insights and create a product that you know they will love.  

 

Home office

How To Kit Out Your Home Office

 

This year we have seen a spike in people working from home, whether you run your own business or working remotely, you need to make sure you have a space to work comfortably and out of the way of distractions. It can be hard juggling family and work life and looking for ways to kit out your home office, so we have taken the load off you and listed below what you need for your new home office.

 

Furniture

So starting on the most obvious thing you will need in your office, which is furniture. A standard desk and chair are fine, however, if you are going to be sitting in the same spot for long hours, then it might be worth investing in some ergonomic furniture. You want to protect your back and neck when sitting for long hours, so choosing the right furniture is a must. For optimal usage, choose a desk that you can raise and lower. It is always beneficial to be able to raise your desk up to a standing desk, as working at a standing desk can be good for your health, improving blood pressure, circulation, reduces back and neck pain and lowers the risk of heart disease. Alternate between sitting and standing throughout your working day. When sitting ensure you have a chair that supports your back and neck.

Technology

When kitting out your office with technology, there are many things you will need to consider. Starting with your computer, whether you are being supplied one from your employer or using your own, ensure it is set up correctly. Positioning is key to avoid creating neck pain and eye strain, ensure your computer is at eye level when sitting or using a standing desk. Also installing a blue light filter on your computer will help you not to strain your eyes. You don’t have to have the newest computer, but you do need to make sure that it is up to date with the latest software and has a sufficient level of anti-virus protection. 

Another piece of technology you will need to think about is your phone system. This can be operated through the internet or through your landline. Do your research to figure out what will work best for you. Choose a phone system that is clear and easy to use, there are many different phone systems the Telecom Industry offer, so try and find which one will work best for your business.

 

Atmosphere

Whether it is just the corner of the room or a whole room, make sure it is separate from the rest of your living areas. You don’t want to feel like you are still at work when you try to relax in the evening. Provide adequate lighting and if possible position it near a window so you can allow in the fresh air and plenty of natural light.

We hope we have helped you in your journey into kitting out your new home office. If you’re a mum looking to start your own business, then check out 10 GREAT BUSINESS IDEAS FOR MUMS.

 

Distracted mum working from home

Distractions when you’re a Mum Working from Home

Being a Mum working from home is great, no commute, no work wardrobe, no office politics and you’re there if the children come home sick and to attend all the school events. The only trouble with being a Mum working from home are the distractions. There are so many things that can distract you when you’re at home, from unexpected visitors to unfinished housework, it’s a wonder we get anything done. We had a chat with some bloggers who work from home and here are ten things that can distract us when we’re supposed to be working.

Social media

Beth from Twinderelmo  sums this one up. “Facebook stalking. I can quite happily tell you where my school best friends cousins daughter went on holiday last summer and where my neighbours dog goes to get him nails trimmed…”

Babies and Small children

If your trying to work with your children at home then they bring their own host of distractions, as pointed out by Natasha from Mummy and Moose, the sound “Mum mum mum mum mum mum” is pretty much constant.

For Alex from Lamb and Bear, nap refuseniks are the problem “Seriously, if he naps it’s either on me or on the sofa for half an hour. In that time I have to eat, drink, shower, pee, work, get dressed, oh and make sure my eldest is fed, washed, dressed and happy!”

The TV

Tracey from Kids Cruises blames Holly and Phil for distracting her from working but it’s not just daytime TV that’s the problem. For Amy, from Amy and Tots it’s Paw Patrol “I can never turn those dogs off! Its like the children know!” For me, it’s a case of take your pick of TV distractions. The latest show on Netflix, a new box set on demand or the stack of Masterchef on the planner. It all seems far more appealing than working somedays.

Housework

While this is never a problem for me (my husband wishes it was) housework can be a distraction for some. “Like the dryer finishing. I have to empty it, fold, put away or even iron as I hate a big pile. Ends up taking forever” Emily from Babies and Beauty

Other people working from home

Occasionally me husband works from home. I’m thankful it is only occasionally. The first problem is the laptop. While I usually work on my iPad you can guarantee that the day he works from home and needs it, I will too. The other problem is the noise. He needs to make phone calls for work plus he dictates for the secretaries to type up and the noise is sooo distracting.

Interruptions

Research has found that it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to a task following an interruption. So when a mum working from Home opens the door to take a parcel for a neighbour or answers the phone to someone selling double glazing, they don’t just lose the minute that it takes to do the job, but also the 25 minutes it takes to refocus.

Books

As a former librarian I love to read. Unfortunately books can distract me in two ways. If I’m reading a really good novel then the temptation to pick it up during the day when I’m supposed to be working is high. The other problem is that whenever I don’t know something my immediate response it to find a book about it. This inevitably leads to a good hour spent on Amazon reading reviews to choose THE best book, followed by more hours reading the book.

Food

Food is one of my favourite distractions. Bek from Dillydrops says “I seem to have to get cups of tea regularly and snacks.” and I’m just the same. The problem with being a Mum working from home is that when the children are out it’s my chance to eat all the things I don’t want to share with them!

Volunteering (and being volunteered)

One of the great things about being a mum working from home is that you can help out with school events. The trouble is that once people realise you have that flexibility you’re expected to help with everything. It’s difficult to make it clear to people that sometimes, work has to take priority.

Procrastination

And finally, the big one. “Anything and everything – for some reason anything will seem more urgent than work does at the time. Yesterday I felt the need to organise my sons 9-12 month clothes by colour. He’s 7 weeks old I have a hell of a lot of work to do. This is why I can’t work from home.” Kirsty from Life with boys

Want to read more about working from home? Check out what I wish people knew about being a Mum with a business.

Distractions when you’re a work at home mum

Protecting Your Privacy When You Run Your Business from Home

 

Running a business from home has grown increasingly popular over recent years. Sure, a standard nine to five provides relative security and you still get pay when you take time off for sickness or holiday. But running your own business provides so much more freedom. You can wave goodbye to the stressful morning and evening commutes. You can decide what you want to wear each day rather than sporting a uniform or sticking to a strict (and often uncomfortable) dress code. You have much more flexibility with your working hours, which can prove perfect if you have kids to organise your day around. But perhaps the best part? You get to keep the bulk of your profits. You’re making your own money rather than making someone else’s for them! Of course, when you run a business from home, you’re going to want to protect yourself and your privacy. Here are a few steps you can take to achieve this!

 

Rent a Business Address

All businesses have to be registered to an address and this address is usually publicly accessible. If you don’t want people knowing your address, you can rent a business address. This will save you the cost of having to rent or run a commercial premises and allows you to operate from home while being registered to an alternative address. There are a number of companies out there that offer this service, so it’s a good idea to have a scout around and find the best for you.

 

Use a Mail Forwarding Service

Of course, if you’re selling goods that could be returned or will be receiving anything by post (such as invoices or business documents), you’ll need an address for people to send these things to. There are plenty of mail forwarding services you can use. These provide you with an address or a PO box for customers, clients or others to send goods or mail to. The mail will then be forwarded to your personal address.

 

Invest in CCTV

If you’re keeping your stock in your home, you may need to protect it with CCTV. This will act as a deterrent to potential thieves and will also ensure you have footage of anyone who does attempt to steal or damage your property. CCTV systems are great for protecting residential and commercial properties. So, have one fitted by a professional as soon as possible.

 

Have a Business Phone

It may be tempting to use your own phone to deal with business enquiries. But this can prevent you from creating a healthy work life balance and can also invade your privacy, as anyone will be able to access your personal number. Instead, invest in a business phone. This should have a separate number to your private phone and will create a healthy and safe divide.

These are just a few different tips and tricks that can help you to protect yourself and your privacy if you do decide to run a business from the comfort of your own home. Hopefully, they can help you out!

Choosing a web designer

What to Look for in your Next Web Designer

No matter the type of business you run, it almost always makes sense to have a website, nowadays. This platform will be your portal to the outside world, providing potential customers with information about you, while also enabling you to reach out and share your products with them. Of course, though, it’s unlikely that you’ll be making this yourself, and this means that you need to look for the right designer to help you out. To help you out with this, this post will be exploring some of the elements which your web designer needs to have.

 

Responsive Design

There are a lot of devices being used to access the web nowadays, and smartphones account for a huge amount of the traffic you’ll be getting. This means that your website needs to look great across each platform, while also maintaining the right features to keep your customers happy. Some designers are better at making responsive websites than others, and there are still those who only design for one platform knocking around on the market.

 

SEO/Marketing

SEO is one of the hardest parts of web design. It can take weeks or even months to get a website into top spots on sites like Google, and this means that you need to choose a web designer who can give you a head start. Companies like ALT Agency can help with this, building websites which are SEO-ready, while also providing a host of marketing services which will enable you to start in the right position. This can save a lot of time and pain in the future, giving you the chance to get more customers from the very beginning.

 

Stability/Security

A website which goes down on a regular basis isn’t going to be very good for your business. You need something stable and secure, and this makes it worth looking for designers using platforms like WordPress. Thanks to the community surrounding this platform, there are loads of guides and handy tools which can make development easier available, and the stability of the whole system is second to none.

 

Aftercare/Support

Finally, as the last area to consider, it’s time to think about the aftercare and support you receive from your designer. You will almost certainly want to make changes down the line, and this will be hard to do by yourself. Having proper aftercare will save you from this trauma, while also making it much easier to deal with emergencies or site outages. There are few things worse than finding yourself without a website, but only the best designers will be there to help you when this happens.

Choosing a good web designer shouldn’t be too hard, but you should always make sure that you use everything you can to make the best choice with this. Their past work and testimonials will go a long way towards helping you with this, but you may need to do some searching to find this information.

Protect your business

4 Ways to Protect Your Home Business

It is every entrepreneur’s goal to start a business that runs successfully. However, every new company faces numerous challenges before it can secure its foothold. Regardless of how well you prepare, multiple dangers can affect your business.

You do not know if your business can hold out for long before you start making profits or if your business can survive in a competitive market. What would you do if your business faces a reputational risk or a legal risk?

Provided you own the business, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is safe and running smoothly. But how do you go about it? Here are several steps you can take to ensure your business is safe from potential danger.

Protect your business reputation

Your business image is vital as it is how clients perceive you. Try to be careful about what you say or do by avoiding questionable actions.

You should also avoid conducting business with people that appear to be devious. If they happen to create a bad reputation in the market, your business will have links to them. Additionally, it would be best if you avoid conflicting with your employees. Your business integrity will be under threat whenever you get into a legal entanglement with your workers.

Get the services of a competent attorney

A competent attorney can provide you with legal advice on how to approach various business matters. They can help you draft contracts, represent you in a lawsuit, and help you protect your intellectual property.

Get a good lawyer that is adept in local laws. When choosing a lawyer, put your business needs first. More importantly, the attorney you select should be trustworthy.

Insure your business

It would be best if you protect your business with a liability insurance cover. You can get a general liability cover that helps to protect your business and employees from any damage to a third party resulting in a legal suit. If anything terrible happens to your business, an insurance cover can help you prevent money loss.

The type of insurance package you choose will depend on the size and nature of your business. If you have employees, you may require a worker’s compensation. You can speak to a Rhino Trade insurance agent to discuss more about the ideal cover for your business.

Secure your important documents

Any business, be it big or small, has crucial documents that it has to secure no matter what. In this digital world, cybercrime is a significant threat to businesses. Malicious people can steal sensitive information from your computer system.

However, there are several steps you can take to secure your digital data. You can choose to password-protect your essential business documents to prevent unauthorized users from accessing them. You may also create digital copies and save them in a cloud-based storage. When your computer crashes or your business faces any disasters such as fires, or break-ins, your normal operations will not be affected.

Additionally, you can create internal policies on how you should share sensitive documents in the office and how to dispose of them.

If you want your business to grow and thrive, you have to protect it from any exterior or interior forces of failure. Everybody wants their business to be successful. Among the things your business needs for success, safety is the most crucial. By implementing the steps highlighted above, your business will thrive.

Typing services

Common Mumpreneur Pitfalls to Avoid at all Costs

The world of business is rife with opportunity. What better place to make your mark on the world in a professional capacity after making your mark on the world in perhaps the most definitive way there is… by having a baby? Parenthood changes you, not just physically but neurologically. Suddenly all the things that used to terrify you and cause you to limit yourself seem trivial. Nothing seems insurmountable. You feel as though you can take on the world and rewrite the world of business as you see fit, addressing the inequities of the world of work and blazing a trail for ambitious would-be entrepreneurs trying to make it behind you.

But even when you’ve dusted off that old business plan from your uni years, managed to secure funding and recruited a dynamic team who’ll help you on the path to greatness, in many ways the struggle has just begun. For a nascent Mumtrepreneur there are some pitfalls for which you’ll need to watch out. Avoid them at all costs.

Because they can not only spell the downfall of your business, they can potentially damage your wellbeing.

Feeling that you have to do everything yourself

We get it. You love feeling in control and you want to do things your way. After all, it’s your brand. And its fate is inextricably tied to your own. Still, that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself. At best it can cause you to become a relentless micromanager. At worst it can cause you to burn out.

You need to trust in your team. After all, you took the time to recruit, onboard and train them and you know first hand just how good they are. Secondly, don’t be afraid to outsource talent like an IT Consultancy for business or HR services. The people who can help you to get the most out of the resources at your disposal or fill in blind spots in your operation.

All the data- No idea

When you run a business in the age of Big Data, you have access to the means to inform your strategy and enhance your operational efficiency. But the trouble with data is that the more you accumulate, the more it can feel as though you’re drowning in it. It’s essential not just to collect data but to be able to transform it into the kind of actionable insights which will drive your strategy. So make sure you invest in the right Business Intelligence tools to make sense of your data.

Neglecting the most important metric… your margin

Finally, when you’re first starting out in business, there are so many metrics and KPIs to keep your eyes on it can be hard to see the woods for the trees. But there’s one metric to rule them all… and that’s your profit margin. Your profitability is tied to your cash flow which dictates the overall health of your business. Not only do you need to watch it like a hawk, you need to understand how all your other KPIs, and the actions of every department, tie in with this metric.

Keep all of the above in mind and you’ll be on track for success and profitability in business for years to come.

Online reviews

Online Reviews Are One Of The Most Valuable Commodities In Business

Starting a successful online business is a substantial challenge. Not only do you need to charge competitive prices, but you also need a brand that differentiates you from your competitors. If you don’t, your enterprise will fall flat. 

Smart entrepreneurs, therefore, should leverage online reviews as something that sets them apart from the competition. 

Reviews are different from regular marketing. For one, you don’t have any control over them. Instead, they’re the product of your audience. And second, they’re perceived in a radically different way to conventional advertising. Customers know that reviews come from their peers which makes them more trustworthy and believable. 

Utilising reviews, however, is a challenge. While they can provide profound insights and the ability to respond to customer feedback, you need to be careful with how you use them, as the following infographic shows.

Ideally, you shouldn’t wade in the moment somebody posts a review, glean data from it and then use that to augment your operations. It is much better to wait for a “critical mass” of surveys before making any decisions. The more data you have, the more reliably and productively you can use feedback.

Big data is a vast opportunity. It gives you a chance to plumb the depths of your reviews and look for issues that continue to arise. You can then feed these data into your ROI modelling to work out whether making changes to your production processes will benefit your business overall. 

If you’re interested in the ins-and-outs of online reviews, check out the following infographic for more information. 


Infographic by University of Alabama Birmingham

Working from home

Tips to Help When Working from Home

Working at home is something that a lot of us do these days. The culture that used to be in our offices has changed in the last decade and many companies want their employees to be able to work from home in a flexible environment. Working from home is also particularly useful for Mums who often really need that flexibility.

As well as this, you might have decided to break away from your corporate life all together and as a result you may now work for yourself from the comfort of your sofa. 

Working at home can be the most amazing thing in the world, but it can also be a huge challenge. You might not have access to the resources you used to such as a specialist IR35 accountant or a suite of IT technicians, and you will largely need to fend for yourself. To keep yourself on track as well as success working from home we have some helpful tips for you today… 

 

  1. Get started early

The best thing to do when working from home is the start the day as early as you can. Remember the time you used to spend on the commute for the morning and take this time instead to make a cup of coffee, some toast, and sit down to start the day. The earlier you get going the better it will be. 

 

  1. Get ready for the day 

If you struggle to be motivated to work in your pjs, don’t wear them! Get ready for the day in a nice dress and your favourite hairstyle. You don’t need to put makeup on but make yourself feel as if you are heading to the office and it will change the way you think about the day. 

 

  1. Structure your day 

It is so easy to be distracted at home. You might notice a dirty dish here, some dust there, and next thing you know you have spent most of the morning doing nothing. Write yourself a to do list and stick to it. Check emails once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and set tasks for yourself. 

 

  1. Choose a dedicated work space

Although now and again working in bed is amazing, it can also make you feel way too relaxed. Be sure to choose a workspace you can work in effectively and this will allow you to get into the zone. 

 

  1. Don’t stay at home

If you find being at home too hard, go somewhere else! Head to the library, a local cafe, or even to the park and work there instead. 

 

  1. Avoid social media 

Social media is like a procrastination machine. Don’t open social media at all when you are working at home, even at lunch time, because it is too easy to get carried away! 

 

  1. Commit to more

Commit to do more work than you would in the office. Being at home allows you to save the morning commute and this extra time is time for you to get more done. 

 

  1. Work on your own time 

If you know that you work best first thing in the morning and last thing at night, make these your hours. Don’t try to force regular office hours because often these won’t work for you. 

 

Make business more competitive

4 Top Tips to Make Your Business More Competitive

Running a modern brand is something that comes with no small amount of hard work and stress. One of the biggest considerations you are going to need to make as a business owner these days is to look at what you can do to make your company more competitive. There is a lot of competition out there, no matter what industry you choose to work in, and you need to make sure you stand out. 

Understanding what it takes to stand out in a crowded market is the key to becoming more of a success in the modern business world. There are a lot of things you can do to make sure you achieve this, and it is so important to ensure that you are working on making the company more competitive. These are 4 top tips that you are going to need to use to help you with this. 

Assess Your Pricing Strategy

Pricing plays a big role in determining how competitive your business is able to be. This is something you need to think about moving forward because there are a lot of things that play a role in helping you come up with the perfect pricing strategy. You need to look at what the market is like for the products or services you provide, and this means looking at what you can do to improve this. Come up with a strong pricing strategy and you will help to make your business more competitive. 

 

Use Business Consultants

It is also important to make sure you understand what it takes to make your business operate better if you want to be more competitive. Invariably, there are going to be things that you yourself will overlook, and this is something you need to make sure you get right as much as possible. Use business consultants who can help you with things such as organisational development to help improve your business and help your company stand out as much as possible. 

 

Know Thy Enemy!

Another way of helping you to become more competitive is to know and understand your enemy, in this case, your competition! You have to look at the way your rivals are doing business, as well as what they do well, and what they do badly. Use this information to help you stand out and become more of a success. By doing things better than your rivals, you help to enhance the competitive nature of the brand. 

 

Give Customers a Reason to Use Your Business

If you want to improve your small business and work on being more competitive, then one of the best ways of doing this is to give customers a reason to use your business. There are so many benefits to doing this, and you have got to make sure you get this right moving forward. Attract more people to your brand, and you help to improve how competitive you are. 

Making the company more competitive is one of the best things you can do because this is what brings you repeat business, and increases your chances of success. You have to make sure you think carefully about what it takes to be more competitive in the business world and focus on this to help the company grow.