Do you have a WOW budget? Impress your customers with these 8 tips

Setting aside a portion of your budget to go above and beyond for customers can really have them saying "WOW!" It can also go a long way toward customer loyalty and the success of your small business.

What if you could create a lasting impression on your customers without breaking the bank?

I believe it’s the little things we do today for our customers that have the opportunity to make the biggest impact. Remember, it’s about creating the entire experience and not just selling your product or services today. 

So, do you have a WOW budget for your clients? What’s a WOW budget? My definition of the word WOW is: random and unexpected. It should make you say or think, “WOW!”

A WOW budget is a portion of your customer experience (or maybe marketing/promotion) budget set aside to empower your staff to “go above and beyond” for a customer. Just think what an impact it could have on your business if you spent a little money from time to time so that your customers will say (to themselves, or others), “WOW! I can’t believe they just did that for me!”

Here are some tips to consider when you’re putting together your WOW budget:

WOW budget tip no. 1: It does not need to cost a lot of money. Most of the time, it’s the heartfelt things you do for them that end up meaning more than something expensive. 

WOW budget tip no. 2: It needs to be personal. This should be something that you found out about them, or something that may have significance to them. 

WOW budget tip no.3: Don't mistake this idea for “delighting” your customers. We should always strive to delight them. But we should "WOW" them on a random and unexpected basis.   

WOW budget tip no. 4: Because it is random, you get to choose the time and place. There is something to be said about the element of surprise. 

WOW budget tip no. 5: Listen to them to find out what is important to them. Ask them, "What is your favorite (fill in the blank)?” The word “favorite” elicits an immediate response when asked. Capture those answers to help craft and create the entire customer experience.

WOW budget tip no. 6: It’s an additional thing you do for them. It’s not something you have promised them, or something that they are already expecting. 

WOW budget tip no. 7: You get to pick who it's used on. Your WOW budget can be for a loyal client, one that you are trying to move to become a loyal client or one that is a brand new client that you would like to develop a stronger relationship with. 

WOW budget tip no. 8: When you WOW a customer, it can have a domino effect. You see, people LOVE to tell others the wonderful things that have just happened to them. Your customers are on the receiving end of this WOW and now have the opportunity to become storytellers for your brand. They will typically share their story with others in many ways, especially on social media.  

For example, I still tell the story (three years later) of the time that I had the knock on the door of the hotel room that I was staying at while I was speaking at a conference in that city. The manager and a member of the hotel staff were there with a beautiful tray that had two homemade cookies, some chocolates and a glass of milk on it. This was around 3 p.m. and they were intentional with that timeframe as well. 

That was a WOW moment for me. But, there was an added WOW that went along with it -- it was the glass of milk. You see, I have a lactose allergy, and the milk was lactose free! How did they know this? The meeting planner, my client, casually asked me one day during a conversation we were having. But here was the key, she remembered it and acted upon it.    

This entire surprise probably cost them $2-3 dollars, but it made a very big impact on me…one that I still talk about three years later.  

What about for your company? As you plan your budget for this year and next, make sure to add some money for a WOW budget and empower your staff to use it. Then you can sit back and wait for the stories to pop up of people shouting your company's praises.

Bob Pacanovsky is a keynote speaker and trainer, and he works with companies and organizations that look to achieve the highest levels of Hospitality and Service Excellence to attract and retain more customers and employees. His programs are customized to meet the needs of his customers and he strives to always look for ways to deliver a Black Tie Experience. He can be reached at

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  • Next up: BBB business tips: Employee appreciation

    BBB business tips: Employee appreciation

    March 4 is National Employee Appreciation Day, but many businesses enjoy celebrating all month. Here are 5 tips to letting your staff know just how much they are valued and appreciated.


    Providing unique employee benefits is a great way to show your staff you appreciate them. Offering substantial benefits can even help build employee loyalty and help to attract and retain the best employees. March is the perfect time to show staff your appreciation. Every year on the first Friday in March companies across the country celebrate and thank their employees for the good work by recognizing Employee Appreciation Day. 
    In a time known for the “Great Resignation” and staffing shortages, reevaluating employee benefits and showing your staff you appreciate them seems more important than ever.

    BBB has the following ideas and tips for providing benefits that express your staff appreciation. 

    1. Offer employee reward programs

    Employee reward programs are designed to recognize employees for their hard work and dedication. Rewards offered through these programs can include anything from cash bonuses, paid time off, gift cards, and more. A simple handwritten thank you card can go a long way to make your employees feel appreciated. 

    2. Encourage and pay for additional training opportunities 

    Training and professional development are great ways for your workforce to improve their skills so they can thrive in their careers. However, many employees don't have the resources to invest in their professional development. Offering training programs or a professional development fund to your employees is a great way to help them reach their goals and show them you care about their success at your company. 

    >> RELATED: Why employee motivation matters more in a small business

    3. Implement a wellness plan

    Many company employees are looking to improve their health and well-being but find it difficult to balance a healthy lifestyle with work and personal life. You can try stocking your employee break room with free healthy drinks, snacks, and fruit or offer wellness education classes at the office. You can also try offering wellness reimbursement. A wellness reimbursement is a paid benefit that your employees can use to pay for health-related expenses such as gym memberships, personal training sessions, health screenings, medications, and more.

    By showing your employees you appreciate their well-being, you are also helping them lead healthier lives, reduce their health-related expenses, and reduce their overall stress levels.

    >> RELATED: 10 tips to improving work and family life balance

    4. Provide mental health resources

    Adding more mental health resources to your employee benefits package can help staff feel supported during difficult times. Resources may include counseling, meditation apps, office grief support, etc. These benefits show your appreciation to your employees by showing that you care not only about their job duties but their quality of life. 

    5. Invest in your employees’ lives

    Show your appreciation by investing in your employees. Help ease the burden of your employees’ financial debt by paying off their student loans or by covering their tuition. If you have someone who is looking to advance their career, you can help cover the cost of pursuing an advanced degree. 

    >> RELATED: Read more by Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland

    Some employers are trying to find ways to show appreciation and inclusion by helping employees who are looking to build a family by aiding with the cost of adoption and infertility treatments. Adding dependent care to your benefits package can reduce stress and financial burdens for many families. Options can include on-site childcare or even a subsidy for high-quality care. 

    For employees who are not working parents or caregivers, you might consider pet-friendly benefits. Offering benefits like pet insurance, paid time off to care for a pet, supporting a pet-friendly office, or offering leave for new pets are viable options. This can be a great way to make your employees feel appreciated, boost their morale, and improve their overall job satisfaction.

    For additional tips and resources, visit to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation.

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  • Next up: National entrepreneurship month feature: Destiny Burns, CLE Urban Winery

    National entrepreneurship month feature: Destiny Burns, CLE Urban Winery

    After a career in the U.S. Navy, COSE member Destiny Burns fulfilled her dream of opening an urban winery. Hear about her entrepreneurship journey and learn more about her unique business.


    With the right combination of vision and passion, any career path can lead to entrepreneurship. For Destiny Burns, it was after 20 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, followed by 13 years as a business development executive in the defense industry in Washington DC, that she began her entrepreneurial journey.

    More than 30 years after leaving her hometown of Cleveland, Destiny was ready to move back home and fulfill her dream of opening an urban winery. With her passion for wine, advanced degrees in business, and training in the food and wine industry—as well as the expertise of Winemaker and VP of Operations Dave Mazzone—Destiny founded CLE Urban Winery in 2016.

    The business has expanded to provide more than just opportunities to drink wine. Destiny refers to CLE Urban Winery as a community center and is proud to finally offer such a multi-faceted experience in her beloved hometown.

    In honor of November being National Entrepreneurship Month, here are three key takeaways from Destiny’s journey running her own business.

    A philanthropic purpose is priceless. With her entire life dedicated to service—serving her county and her community—Destiny’s advice for entrepreneurs is to not only focus on the bottom line, but to bring something into the model of your business that brings you joy. 

    In that light, Destiny has formed key partnerships with local organizations including Dobama Theater, Graffiti HeArt, Greater Cleveland Foodbank, Hunger Network and The Cleveland Vegan Society. For Destiny, these partnerships are what recharge her and keep her going. 

    “That’s what feeds my soul. It’s the reason why I became an entrepreneur in the first place.”

    Small businesses need flexibility with products and services. We saw it all through COVID—businesses pivoting their focuses and coming up with new ways to appeal to their audiences during unpredictable times. While CLE Urban Winery was shut down at the start of the global pandemic, they had to find new ways to connect and sell. They accomplished this through the creation of wine tasting boxes, which include five samples of wine and a small pairing of food—as well as instructions and wine descriptions. It was important to Destiny for the wine tasting experience to continue while her customers were safe at home—and to remain part of the experience by personally delivering the boxes herself.

    Additionally, during COVID, they reinvented themselves by creating an online shopping platform—CLE Urban Winery now ships anywhere in Ohio. 

    A good brand is always looking for new ways to be creative. In a market that has its ups and downs, as well as countless competitors, creativity is key for survival. One way that CLE Urban Winery maintains a competitive edge is through its ability to cross over different consumer segments. In recognition of the steadfast popularity of cocktails, Destiny and Dave developed wine cocktails. A favorite wine cocktail among patrons is called the Cleveland Manhattan and is made with blueberry Merlot. The winery also appeals to craft beer drinkers through its creation of Hopped in the Heights—a dry hopped combination of Sauvignon Blanc and beer.

    Destiny has also created a CLE Urban Winery wine club—currently comprised of approximately 145 members—who she refers to as her VIPs. The red-carpet treatment for these VIPs includes special perks such as access to wines created just for club members, behind the scenes access to festivals, and other unique opportunities for wine exploration and education.

    Other ways that CLE Urban Winery is creatively bridging gaps among consumers and helping people explore and think about wine differently are included in the winery’s strategic plan. Their goal is to create a wine makers club with customers who wish to learn how to make their own wine, as well as more formal educational wine tasting opportunities. 

    You can learn more about CLE Urban Winery and Destiny’s journey as an entrepreneur by listening to episode three of the COSE Small Business After Hours Podcast. You can also check out this short documentary in celebration of CLE Urban Winery’s fifth anniversary

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  • Next up: February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month

    February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month



    Macular degeneration, commonly known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is an eye disease that results in damage to the macula – the part of the eye that controls sharp and central vision. Central vision is vital for seeing clearly and performing everyday tasks like reading, cooking a meal, and driving a car. To see what it can look like to experience macular degeneration, check out our Eye Disease Simulator.

    AMD comes in two forms: dry and wet. Most individuals with AMD have dry AMD, which is a slow, less severe deterioration of the macula. Wet AMD is a less common, but more rapid and severe form that is preceded by dry AMD. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “most dry forms of AMD do not progress to the wet form, but the wet form can lead to severe and permanent loss of central vision.”

    Blurring of central vision, noticing that straight lines look wavy, and difficulty seeing in low light can all be signs of AMD. If you experience a rapid deterioration or loss of central vision, you should visit your VSP network eye doctor immediately, as this may be a sign of wet AMD.

    According to The National Eye Institute, your risk for AMD increases as you get older, especially if you are Caucasian, have a family history of AMD, or smoke. 

    While there is no known cure for AMD, your eye doctor can help identify early warning signs of the eye disease during your annual comprehensive eye exam and determine treatment options to help alleviate the effects. If you are at risk for AMD, schedule your annual eye exam with a VSP network doctor, who can detect macular degeneration potentially before you are even aware of it.

    See Well. Be Well.® If you haven’t already, take advantage of your COSE member benefit and opt in to VSP vision insurance. Contact your COSE sales representative or broker for more information.

    Information received through VSP Vision Care channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your eye doctor, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

    ©2022 Vision Service Plan. VSP and See Well. Be Well. are registered trademarks of Vision Service Plan.  All rights reserved. All other brands or marks are the property of their respective owners.

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  • Next up: Month in review: February 2022

    Month in review: February 2022


    It’s the shortest month of the year, but Mind Your Business wasn’t short on content in February. Check out some of our favorite articles from last month and let us know yours on twitter.

    How to do effective competitive research for your small business on a budget
    As a small business owner, you should regularly check out your competitors. Not to spy on them, but to do competitive research. Competitor analysis reveals your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and helps you learn the industry trends.
    Check out the many ways this research can benefit your business and a step-by-step guide to get you started without breaking the bank.
    >> Read more

    60 breakthrough business hacks in 60 minutes
    In a recent COSE webinar, three of COSE's favorite experts presented their favorite business hacks. From apps and books to mindsets and management tools, these hacks will be sure to improve your day and add firepower to your business.
    >> Read more

    Prepping for global supply chain issues—small business edition
    It's a popular topic right now, for better or for worse. But supply chain issues aren't only impacting large businesses. Here are some tips for addressing these issues as a small business owner.
    >> Read more

    Brand your way to success
    How powerful is your brand? Do you even have a brand? Branding is important for any business, and yours is no exception. Check out this article for six tips to effectively implementing and communicating your brand.
    >> Read more

    BBB business tips: Handling customer reviews
    Whether good or bad, honest reviews should be welcomed as an opportunity to build trust. From not hindering bad news to taking it offline, check out these tips on handling reviews at your small business.
    >> Read more

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  • Next up: GCP Testifies in Support of Key Provisions in House Bill 110, Two-Year State Budget Bill

    GCP Testifies in Support of Key Provisions in House Bill 110, Two-Year State Budget Bill


    Last week, the Greater Cleveland Partnership offered proponent testimony for Ohio House Bill 110, the two-year state budget bill. “GCP greatly appreciates that House Bill 110 currently presents a balanced budget approach without any readily apparent tax increases,” the testimony states. “Predictability and stability are key factors to consider as the business community continues to navigate an uncertain environment.”

    There are several key provisions that GCP supports, many of which align with our 2021 – 2022 Public Policy Agenda, including:

    • Preserve Ohio’s small business tax deduction on the first $250K in business income.
    • Sustain Ohio’s current commercial activity tax (CAT) rate.
    • Support the $460M grant proposals that would aid small businesses, new businesses, bars and restaurants, lodging facilities, and indoor entertainment venues.
    • Approve the proposed funding for broadband affordability issues in urban areas.
    • Advance the $200M proposal to provide up to $2.5 million grants for infrastructure projects.
    • Authorize $100M to expand the Cleveland Innovation District.
    • Fund the H2Ohio program fully with $240M.
    • Support technology-focused credentials through the TechCred Program, including the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program.
    • Approve $15M to support targeted workforce investments in economically distressed rural and urban communities.
    • Devote $16M toward the goal of helping high school students earn 70,000 workforce credentials each year; support the additional $25M proposal to aid schools in offering new and high-demand credentials to students.
    • Support the expansion of Ohio to Work to help Ohioans facing job loss connect with a career coach, supportive services, and rapid re-training to become employed in an in-demand job.
    • Fund the Industry Sector Partnership Grant to support partnerships among business, schools, training providers, and community leaders, strengthening the local workforce; these partnerships develop and enhance career pathways for workers in specific industries.
    • Support and expand programs like the Export Internship, Diversity & Inclusion Internship, and Choose Ohio First.
    • Guarantee every student in Ohio has access to computer science education.

    The Ohio House of Representatives will continue hearing budget testimony from proponents, opponents, and interested parties via various subcommittees. Once complete, the House Finance Committee will formulate a new version of the bills on recommendations from subcommittees. GCP will remain active throughout this process, providing the perspectives of the Northeast Ohio business community and advocating for provisions that will strengthen our regional economic outlook.

    Following an affirmative vote by the House of Representatives, the bill will be considered and amended by the Senate, and ultimately be considered by a conference committee of both House and Senate Finance committee members. The agreed-upon version of the budget must be signed by the governor by June 30 for the appropriations to take effect on July 1, 2021.

    You can read the GCP’s full testimony here.

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