Archives for April 2014

With competition fierce, McDonald’s looks to opening longer for breakfast

There’s some good news coming out of the recent fast food breakfast wars; McDonald’s is in the process of deciding whether or not  to offer their breakfast menu later in the day. For people who love their breakfast items, the news couldn’t have come sooner.

While many have groused over the years that they don’t understand why McDonald’s can’t simply offer their Egg McMuffin or Sausage Biscuit (and other breakfast items) after 10:30 AM, the fact is that the typical McDonald’s is actually quite small and, logistically, it’s just not possible to offer both breakfast items and lunch/dinner items at the same time.

Still, as the competition for consumers at breakfast time heats up (pun intended), and with other fast food restaurants including Subway and Taco Bell now offering breakfast items, McDonald’s feels that they might not have a choice. The point is even more pressing when you consider that millennial’s, customers in their 20s and 30s, are changing their habits drastically when it comes to eating.

“We know, as an example, that breakfast on the weekend cut off at 10:30 doesn’t go very well,” Jeff Stratton, head of McDonald’s USA, said in a recent interview.  He added that, when it comes to the switch to offering breakfast items later in the day, they’re not quite sure how it’s going to work just yet. “Well, we’re just beginning. … We’re just taking a look at it,” he said.

McDonald’s has in fact been entertaining the idea of serving breakfast throughout the day for a number of years and has been getting closer to that reality, especially as they face heightened competition and a recent sales slump. In some areas of the country, for example, they’ve been offering their “After Midnight” menu with a limited mix of breakfast and lunch items so that the people in the kitchen don’t become overwhelmed with different food orders.

Just the fact that McDonald’s is considering offering breakfast outside of the normal hours that they have had for quite a few years shows that only how much they’re trying to keep pace with shifting habits but also how much their competition is starting to push back at breakfast time. Executives at McDonald’s have noted that, in the last decade or so, customers increasingly want food that is personalized not only to their taste but also to their schedules.

One obstacle in the way of this time change is the thousands of franchisees that McDonald’s has across the country. In order to make the breakfasts switch they would need the support of these franchisees, including over 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants across the country who would need to retrain employees, accommodate any necessary changes and possibly purchase new equipment.

For that reason, and several others, McDonald’s is treading carefully right now and looking at all possibilities. Whatever the case may be however, it’s a good bet that for customers who would love a McGriddle sandwich at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, their wish may soon be a reality.


Five Ways to Personalize Your Brand (You May Have Overlooked)

Entrepreneurs know the value of branding throughout the lifespan of a business. It attunes the actions done by you and your employees to ensure customers receive a unique and worthwhile experience. It also allows the business to differentiate itself in the sea of competition.

A brand, though, is not just about a logo or some witty quip said to customers as they come through the door. The personalization of the experience is an element which builds memories of a valuable brand and it’s through this experience that customers will return time and time again all-the-while triumphing your brand to all whom will listen.

It’s easy to overlook these moments of personalization in branding because there is simply so much one must do during the growth of the business. However, it’s never too late to personalize …

Have you overlooked these ways to personalize the brand?

Here are five different ways I’ve seen businesses personalize their brand which I believe can be easily replicated (and improved upon) to give your business a charming touch:

Crowdsourced Input. Place control of future product/service endeavors into the hands of your community and customers. Lay’s recently did this by allowing their community to choose a new flavor through the use of a contest. Your company, too, could use user input to determine the look, feel, and marketing elements of your offer which incentivizes their interaction and feeling of value toward the company due to the personalized experience.

Reimagining the Box. An experience can be had when a customer receives their order. There is a moment of joy knowing their order has arrived and this is especially true when the box has a unique design and packaging. PackNBoxNow offers this type of solution for corrugated cardboard boxes which your company could use to create custom, branded packaging which can be personalized for your customers.

Scientifically Timed Follow Ups. Omaha Steaks is a company which sells meats and other food items online. One of the most remarkable things they manage is to conduct a follow-up phone call at nearly the exact time you remember their brand since you’re running low on product. It’s likely use CRM applications and customer data to find the “sweet spot” in their contact. You, too, can do this for personalization by leveraging your data and customer support to deliver timely follow up messages. Customers contacted at the perfect time will feel appreciative that they’re on the mind of the business employees and not another stat in the system.

Get Out of the Chair. There are many instances where companies have gone above-and-beyond with customer service (see examples) which were actions where an associate physically interacted with a customer (or fan) despite having obstacles in the way (such as distance). Don’t become confined to your chair at the business. Be willing to get up and meet face-to-face if people are within a reasonable distance. This commitment to be personal will be worth its weight in gold when the person gets on social media and tells the World of their incredible experience.

Customize the Service Support. Customer support is a recurring theme in this article and should be so due to the fact that it’s during these interactions, with the customer, that you and employees have the best chance to build rapport with the individual. To create a truly unique feedback channel you could consider developing a support system which is tailored to each and every individual. Within a user accessible section of your website could be an entire chat history with the customer along with other items such as video demonstrations how to fix their problems. Having this support documented and personalized per individual will give them a real sense that you’re working to help their specific issue and in doing so your business will earn their trust.

Your turn. How would you create personalization in your business? What are some ways you feel others frequently overlook in this desire to create unique, unforgettable experiences?

Top 3 Challenges of Running a Small Business

Before leaving your day job to start your own small business, you should first understand the many challenges that you may face as an entrepreneur. It is true that being your own boss and creating your own business strategies can result to great success, but the road going there is not exactly that smooth. You will find yourself making hundreds of decisions and the wrong ones can make your business suffer. To lessen your risk, it is best to anticipate the various challenges that you might face in able to prepare yourself in solving them.

Financial Capital

Most budding entrepreneurs fail to realize that they need more money than what is required to start a business. You may have the expenses for your products, office, equipment, and registration covered, but do you have enough money for your day-to-day operations? You have to remember that new businesses take months to reach the breakeven point and the profit that comes after that may not be substantial at all, so you have to expect that your cash flow will be going out for at most a year, depending on how good your business or niche is. Therefore, your capital should be big enough for a year’s operation. The good news is, you can always find investors to help you or take out a loan for additional business capital.

Business Marketing

Being a new player in your chosen industry, you may find the competition extremely tough and without a good marketing strategy, it may take you long before you get the attention of your targeted market. This is why having a plan in place on how you should promote and advertise your business is essential from the very start. You do not just start a business and then think of your marketing campaigns later on. In fact, great entrepreneurs usually work on their advertising campaigns as soon as they start registering their business. Since printed and digital media can be expensive for a budding small business, your best solution would be to turn to online marketing. You can use the social media and start your own website so that people can find information about your business when they search the web. When the sales start to come in, you can slowly move on to more targeted marketing strategies, like renting billboard spaces in areas where your market is located.

Work Force

Small businesses are often a one-man show. This means that the boss, which is you, is also the secretary, the accountant, the purchaser, and the errand boy, all rolled into one. You will definitely save on labor cost with this strategy, but you will soon find yourself overloaded with work and responsibilities, which can have a negative effect on your performance. Taking on roles that are not your expertise may also cause you to make mistakes. If you cannot hire an entire staff for your small business all at once, try to at least pinpoint important key positions and find a qualified person for those jobs. This can improve your productivity and can be a good preparation in your plan to scale up in the future.

Starting a business from scratch takes a lot of hard work, but once everything is in place and once you have good people to rely on to help you run your business, things will be a lot easier and you can start reaping the rewards of all your sacrifices.

What to do to protect yourself from the “Heartbleed bug”

Most consumers have now heard about the “Heartbleed bug” that has exposed literally millions of usernames, passwords and credit card numbers in the last year, but the big question is what to do to protect yourself, and your information.

Unfortunately, experts warn that changing your password may simply not be enough.

Millions of web users were told that they needed to change their passwords following revelations of security program breaches, but in the wake of these revelations experts have said that, due to the fact that the bug is extremely difficult to trace, it’s not the perfect solution.

David Emm, a senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab,  says that “We don’t know to what extent this flaw has been targeted by hackers, we’re in the dark here about the extent of how it is been used. We can’t quantify the scale of the damage.”

The new bug was discovered in OpenSSL software and revealed by Codenomicon, an Internet security firm. Open SSL is an encryption service that protects information sent back and forth from webpages and is used by approximately 75% of all websites.

The bug created a “hole” in the system, allowing cyber criminals to steal personal information. What’s more concerning is that, if the “master key” code is stolen, password changes will be rendered ineffective.

Since the Heartbleed bug made headlines last year, Facebook, Yahoo and Google have all upgraded their software, and Open SSL has also released an update to help fix the problem. Still, it’s unsure whether other companies have done, or are even planning to, meaning that users are still not universally protected.

For example, if a firm hasn’t updated their websites system with the fix, a new password created by the user will be just as vulnerable as it was before. Security experts say that users should only change their passwords after a site has fixed, and that timing is crucial. Downloading a mobile ID app might help as well.

Ernest Hilbert, a former FBI agent who now works for risk consultancy firm Kroll, says that “Passwords are stored in an encrypted format. The latest bug could give hackers access to the skeleton key to open the central file that has all the passwords in it. So you changing the password doesn’t matter because this guy with the key can come in and look at your password anyway.”

What’s even scarier about this damaging new bug is that it’s possible that it’s been around for two years, meaning that we could only be seeing the tip of the iceberg of cyber theft right now. Even more worrying is the fact that users aren’t able to tell if a website that they’re using is affected or not.

Experts warn that anyone using the Internet to make online transactions is prone to the bug and should definitely keep an eye on their bank accounts, credit cards and other financial data to make sure that there is no unauthorized activity taking place. Ultimately however, it’s up to the companies that consumers are using to communicate with them about security lapses on their site.

Jeremy Rosenberg, the head of digital company Allison and Partners, says that “It’s the companies and the service providers that really need to go out there, make sure their services are patched correctly and not vulnerable to this Heartbleed bug.”

Until they do, consumers across the country should remain extremely cautious.