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Business Development & Marketing General

GDPR one year on – how well is it working?

GDPR and data securityIt is almost a year since the new EU-wide GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) legislation was introduced and so far approaching 60,000 breaches by companies have been reported across Europe.
The UK, the Netherlands and Germany have reported the most, ranging from minor errors such as missent emails to major cyber hacks.
In the UK the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) oversees and takes action on GDPR breaches and has powers to impose massive fines for those found guilty.
In a speech in New Zealand the UK’s ICO commissioner Elizabeth Denham revealed that in the first six months of the new law her office was seeing “More complaints from the public – from 9,000 to 19,000 in a comparable six month period. Complaints about subject access, data portability and data security. All of our front line services have jumped by at least 100%. More breach reports – over 8,000 since the end of May when it became mandatory in some high risk circumstances”.

Where has GDPR had most impact?

GDPR has certainly made the job of marketers and advertisers more difficult, not only in how they go about promoting products and services on behalf of their clients but also in collecting and analysing the results.
Facebook and Google (the two largest digital ad platforms) changed their rules to make themselves GDPR-compliant. They ended support for third-party audience technology and prevented marketers from exporting data. LinkedIn on the other hand still allows data to be downloaded.
In fact, in January in France, Google was hit by a €50m fine by its regulator for “lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding ads personalisation”.
In the UK in March the ICO fined Vote Leave Limited £40,000 for sending out thousands of unsolicited text messages in the run up to the 2016 EU referendum. It also fined a Kent-based pensions advice company £40,000 for being responsible for sending nearly two million direct marketing emails without consent.
From personal experience, the volume of unsolicited marketing calls has diminished noticeably and it is rare nowadays to visit a website that does not immediately advise visitors in a pop up of its cookie policy on information gathering and offer the option to manage or opt out altogether.
Despite the reduction in marketing emails and texts the volume of unsolicited telephone calls seems to continue, but most seem to come from abroad while purporting to be via BT.
While all this clearly means that UK advertisers and marketers may have to come up with more innovative methods it is surely a welcome relief to be pestered less frequently.

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Business Development & Marketing General

The business summer party – a social occasion with a purpose

say thank you to customersBusiness activity can slow down in the run-up to the summer holiday season, which makes it a good time to host a summer party for clients and suppliers or maybe more importantly your staff.
There are some considerations when hosting a business party.
Obviously, the first is the budget.  It is not necessary to break the bank.  For example, are there local small businesses that specialise in catering and would welcome the opportunity and exposure that comes from supplying snacks, finger food, canapes and drinks for the event? Another advantage of this approach is that it frees the hosts to interact with guests.
Are your business premises able to cope with an influx of visitors?  One particularly well-known company with a large office in Suffolk is fortunate to have not only an award-winning building in Ipswich, but a roof garden there for hosting its summer party.  But with a bit of ingenuity smaller businesses may be able to create a welcoming space outdoors for catering around its entrance from which you can take guests on tours around the building or factory.

The business summer party – a chance to say thank you

Hosting a summer party at the business premises can be a great way to say thank you, but a business summer party has other benefits.
A successful event can raise your business profile. For example, the party can also be used as an occasion to raise money for a local charity via raffles, tombolas, or perhaps a chance to win a particular product or service.
If, for example, the business has added new services or products, or has upgraded its equipment, the summer party can be useful for informing guests of new possibilities that may benefit them.  It is an excellent way of marketing the business and demonstrating that it is both agile, innovative and more importantly has confidence in its future.
It is also an opportunity for people to network and make new connections. New clients or suppliers may not have met each other and the relaxed, but focused, setting of a business summer party is a great way for them to make connections and perhaps inspire synergies and collaborations that they might not otherwise have come across.
Despite any reservations about clients meeting other clients or them meeting suppliers, they will see you as key in any relationships they form.
If the business premises cannot accommodate a party, you might be more adventurous than a meal or buffet at a local venue, consider a barbecue in the park, drinks at a local beer or music festival, or perhaps an activity day such as a game of cricket or paintballing.
You are only limited by your imagination and your guests will appreciate the effort you put in.

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Business Development & Marketing Finance General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

App bubble 1 or Dot-com bubble 2 (Remember Dot-com bubble 1)?

headline "bubble burst"In January 2016, approximately 5,000 new apps and games per day were listed for download, according to the most recent research published by Statista. On the App Store alone 50,750 new apps and 19,130 new games were listed during the month.
There are currently over 2,200,000 Apps listed for download from Google’s Play Store and another 2,000,000 on Apple’s App Store and the growth continues to be exponential.
The question is whether it is possible for so many app developers to survive – remember the growth before an explosion of IT/web developers publishing new websites in the period 1997-2000. They were seen as having the potential to make a fortune.  In fact, very few were able to make a living although some raised a lot of money before spectacularly collapsing when the Dot-com bubble burst 1999-2001.
In our view something similar is looming with apps and the reason is also similar with lots of competition and very few apps finding a market.
Most of them will fail due to customers not being aware of them. Those that are found and installed are often only used once before being uninstalled since the trial found them either irrelevant or not capturing the user’s imagination.
Marketing an app requires a huge investment to draw it to people’s attention and get it installed and trialled. Equally important is ensuring it stays installed because it is either really useful or great fun or users simply want it.
Without those two things an app is never going to be commercially viable.

Expert marketing and significant investment

A clear strategy is vital for marketing an app and needs to capture people’s imaginations in the same way that a good movie does – and remember a movie is only a hit if it is seen and that means it has to be marketed expertly.
It is estimated that when budgeting for marketing an app the calculation is to spend £1 for every app install.  It is also important to remember that for every install there are likely to be a percentage of uninstalls.  Of course, that does not mean people have not shared the app with other people so there is always a chance it might go viral but this needs a level of critical mass.
However, to attract attention against a field of thousands of competitors means spending real money. On average it is estimated that people have about 35 apps on their mobile phones and actually use only about 25% of them regularly.
Google has launched a Universal App Campaign that works in the same way as Google Adwords. The advertiser of the app pays per install but there is still the possibility that apps are subsequently uninstalled. However, any other app marketing strategy is difficult to deliver unless the promoter already has critical mass.
Given the difficulties of marketing an app and getting it noticed it is a reasonable prediction that there is a bubble looming and that sooner or later it will burst.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be an app equivalent of Lastminute.com that closed its funding just before the Dot-com bubble burst and used the funds to effectively buy market share.
The alternative is to exploit an existing brand like the strategy pursued by Nintendo and its Pokémon GO app.
Please tell us how you plan to get your app noticed.

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Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Blogging for your business

blogging for businessSmall business owners often ask why they need a blog on their website, especially when their business is in a specific niche and the majority of its customers or clients are long term or come via recommendation.
We would argue that there is no room for complacency in any business. It is unlikely that there is a business anywhere in the world that has absolutely no competition. This means that even when business turnover and profits are performing in line with the business plan, the business should be paying attention to its customers, its marketing and promotion.
A blog can be a useful way of keeping the business website at the top of the search engine rankings, such as Google.  Search engines rate websites on the basis of them being updated regularly and the relevance of content. No longer to they promote business websites that are effectively an online brochure listing products or services which do not change regularly.
A blog/news section can deal with this effectively, provided it is updated regularly. It will also help keep the business focused on its content marketing strategy. Blogging needs a schedule to continuously deliver relevant and meaningful content.
Blogging is a very cost-effective investment since blogs remain on a website and over time become long-term assets.

What is a blog and what is its purpose?

A blog is a short article that can either be used to announce a new development, an award the business has won, to explain more about products or services or to give customers additional and related information that might be of interest.
Blogging for your business helps to build brand awareness, keeping the business name in the public eye.  It can be used to promote your expertise, products and services.
A blog creates a place to talk about new products or services, comment on timely news topics or market trends relevant to the business and to give a business “personality”.

How do I find the time?

There is no doubt that the need to produce a regular blog can be relentless.  Having started and begun to build awareness and expectation among readers it has to be kept going.
It can be challenging and many people are not confident about their ability to write effectively and engagingly.
This is easily solved by working in collaboration with a marketing content writer.  The business owner knows about their business but often having the perspective of an outsider can generate more and better ideas.
However, this can only work well if the business owner is committed to regular “brainstorming” meetings or calls and equally to reading through and approving drafts before they are uploaded as a blog.
Regular blogging for your business is like other marketing initiatives; it is a way of demonstrating your commitment to clients which is necessary if you are to retain them.
 

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Business Development & Marketing General Turnaround

Keeping on top of Facebook analytics

facebook insight imageWhile all social media analytics offer helpful insights into the behaviour of customers and the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, they need to be approached with caution.
There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, all platforms are also businesses and therefore want to encourage businesses to use their paid-for promotional products.  This is particularly true of Facebook.
Secondly, they are constantly seeking ways to improve the experience of users.  Recent examples in Facebook have been offering people ways to refine and personalise what they see in their news feeds and changing the “like” button at the bottom of posts to a series of six images that allow people to more accurately reflect their feelings about the content.
Facebook uses all the activity on the platform to monitor and refine the performance of posts. Anyone who frequently checks in to monitor post performance will see that the weekly statistics for post reach and people engaged shown at the top right of pages regularly go up and down throughout the course of a day or a week.
facebook analytics image 2It can also happen that a business page that has been doing well for several weeks will show an unexpected dip in performance.  This may be the result of external circumstances, such as an imminent holiday, when people perhaps are doing other things but it can be difficult to precisely pin down the cause.
While it is important for business owners to look regularly at their business page performance it can be difficult to draw conclusions when the information is so fluid. Nevertheless business owners or managers do at least need to be aware of what the analytics are showing in order to have meaningful discussion with marketers.

Consult your marketers

Monitoring the data and what is driving it constantly changes. This requires the marketers’ expertise to keep an eye on trends and interpret the performance of a particular marketing campaign.
They will be able to advise on whether a campaign is subject to momentary fluctuations that require no intervention or whether the analytics are revealing that a campaign is not performing to produce the goal it was set up to achieve.
They will also be able to suggest ways of adjusting a campaign’s social media activity to better achieve those goals.

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Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Use Twitter data to improve your marketing

Twitter offers valuable insights into your customers and their behaviour which can in turn be used to improve the way you engage with them.
It is important to understand the information available in Twitter analytics and what it is telling you. While there is a lot of data, like financial information, marketing information can be distilled into some key reports that are easy to monitor.
The data can be used to make adjustments to your marketing strategy and then check whether the new initiatives work. While others may implement your marketing strategy, you need to oversee the relationship with your customers.
Your involvement is important because you understand your business from the inside and in depth. Your marketing people may understand how to use Twitter and other social media tools to best advantage but they cannot hope to know your business in the way that you do.
Good communication is therefore essential in order to have a constructive conversation about your social media marketing strategy and in particular the tools like Twitter.

Talk to your marketing experts

screen shot of Twitter dataHaving looked at your Twitter analytics, you will have some idea of what posts have been most successful and those that have been less so. You might check timings and what impact they had on orders or follow up action by checking other reports. What are the factors that may have influenced these results?  Is it to do with the time of posting, the wording, the topic, use of visuals and hashtags? The answers to these questions are something your marketing experts should be able to help with.
Another thing to check is who have been your top Twitter followers each month and investigate further whether any of them are important influencers in your industry.
Another consideration is whether a particular geographic area is important to your business. If so, then it may be useful to adjust your Twitter settings so that you can monitor what is happening in that area that may be relevant to your business.
You can also use http://twitaholic.com/ to identify the most active Twitter users in your chosen geographic area.  If your Twitter activity can help you connect with these people they are potential advocates for your brand.
Refining your activity is going to take time, patience, subtlety and regular monitoring.  It is not something busy managers or CEOs will have the time or perhaps the skill to do for themselves.
However, understanding the basics of the analytics data will help to facilitate a more productive conversation about strategy development with those responsible for carrying out your social media marketing.

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Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting General Turnaround

Effective social media strategies need analysis

The use of various social media platforms is becoming established as a part of a business marketing strategy in the 21stCentury.
But how many businesses use data to monitor the results of their efforts, to check it is working and then to use the feedback to modify their activity?
We recently asked delegates at a business conference how many of them had ever seen Twitter or Google Analytics and were staggered when from an audience of around 120 senior executives only one put up their hand.  Yet in a global marketplace the digital world is crucial to successful business.
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the data you can collect from Twitter, Google and Facebook and how you might use it.

First, finding Twitter analytics

an image showing Twitter analyticsIf your business has a Twitter account you can use it to login to https://analytics.twitter.com to find the data collected on your activity, known as Analytics.
You can also access analytics direct from Twitter by clicking on logo picture top right then select Analytics from the drop down menu.
You will find:
Home – a month by month summary and a last 28 day summary.
Tweets – a tweet by tweet summary of engagements, which is how many people have acted (commented/liked or shared your tweets) and reach, which is how many people your tweets have been sent to.  Top tweets help you identify what works and what doesn’t.
Audience – you can review your audiences’ interests and compare to other audiences. Top mentions help you find out who your fans are, who is promoting your business, who to thank.
You can change the date range if you want to look at how a particular set of tweets has worked.
If your business runs its own campaigns in-house rather than using a social media marketing expert this information is essential to assessing how effectively you are communicating.
Once you have collected the information the next step is analysing whether or not what you have been doing has achieved the results you had hoped for and if not deciding how to alter your activity so that it performs better.  That’s the subject for another blog.
For the moment it is worth just looking at the rich data available and considering how it might benefit you and your business. Should any of it become one of your KPIs?

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Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting Finance General Turnaround

Protecting a business in choppy economic waters

At the start of January the Chancellor, George Osborne, warned of a dangerous “cocktail of risks” facing the UK economy arising from the global economy.
The prospect of doom and gloom returned to the business media in January – and the dire outlook was reinforced by comments coming from bodies representing business, such as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
Volatile stock markets, plummeting commodity prices, a “slowdown” in China, a poor Christmas for retailers and uncertainty about the UK’s future in the EU are all contributing to the general unease.
Of greater concern is talk about an impending financial crisis which is introducing fear and uncertainty.
For the moment at least, parts of the UK economy are enjoying some degree of success thanks to low costs resulting from the same low commodity prices, particularly oil, to low interest rates. There is also an easing of consumer credit.
Consumers have been spending a little more, especially on leisure and new cars. While it is unlikely that pay rates will increase, perhaps everyone is fed up after seven years of austerity and they are reassured by the property market. But there isn’t much confidence about.
While the increase in consumer spending may be propping up some businesses, sooner or later commodity prices will rise again and prices will follow.

Steps for protecting a business

protecting a business, financial crisisWhatever the future, businesses need to be prepared. Plans must be made and these rely on predicting what might happen.
We believe that now is not the time to be investing in growth, but by the same token it is not a time to cut expenditure to the bone. Endless cuts end up with having no business to take advantage of the recovery, when it eventually happens .
So what should businesses be doing to “future-proof” themselves as preparation for an uncertain future? Staying calm and consolidating their share of the existing market is the short answer, whether it is focus on existing customers or it is improving operational efficiency.  We will be looking at these issues in more depth over the coming month.

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Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

January planning – Re:act

React resize 1Now that the business plan has been refreshed, the year’s business goals have been set and the marketing plan to achieve them is ready it is time to put them into practice.
It is crucial that progress is monitored throughout the year, but how this is done will depend not only on the goals but on the nature of the business.
A dash board of key indicators is a useful tool for monitoring progress. It should include financial information such as the bank balance, cash received, amount paid out, outstanding debtors, overdue creditors and stock held.
Other useful information on the dashboard to include might be the value and number of orders and quotes, number of visitors, inquiries or responses by source, whether direct sales, website, email, social media.
For example, those who sell products online might find it helpful to use a dashboard to monitor their weekly sales and cash receipts and check them against those projected in the plan.
Other businesses such as distributors and retailers might monitor their management accounts on a monthly basis but check their stock on a daily basis. Stock sold, new stock and returns.
This is done by having appropriate systems such as bar code scanners which will be covered in a future blog.
The frequency of monitoring will be a matter for each business.
However, if there is a marketing plan it is important to monitor the impact of campaigns and to be open to making adjustments according to their performance and progress towards the goals.
There are two essentials to remember when goals have been set and the actions begun.
First, is to monitor progress regularly.
The second is to be flexible enough to make adjustments if goals are not being met.

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Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting Debt Collection & Credit Management Finance General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Pre-election honeymoon period for businesses?

With an election looming it is unlikely that there will be any controversial legislation between now and May that will upset SME voters.
There may, on the other hand, be promises made in party manifestos, though we’re not commenting on whether they will be kept!
The pre-election honeymoon period is, however, a good time for businesses to get their finances and their operations in order.
Personal tax returns should have already been submitted (by 31 January) and firms ought to be ahead of the curve with their RTI (Real Time Information) systems in place (the deadline for SMEs is 6 March). It is also time for SMEs to make sure they have a planning time frame for pensions auto-enrolment as the various deadlines are looming (depending on the number of employees and whether an application for deferral has been agreed).
So this period provides a small breathing space for businesses to do some housekeeping and make sure their affairs are in order before the next onslaught of initiatives from a new government, which may be one that philosophically doesn’t like businesses.
A close look at the monthly management accounts may identify adjustments that can be made to operations that improve efficiency, cut costs or reduce risk. It may also identify scope for reducing debt or building up a war chest for investment. It may identify finance facilities that are due for renewal in the near future that might better be renewed early.
It could also be a good time to assess how well the marketing has been performing and tweak it if necessary.
How will you use this time to create a sharper, more efficient and more competitive business for the next financial year and be ready for whatever the election brings?

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Business Development & Marketing General Turnaround

SMEs have an opportunity to outshine big business

There is a lot of scepticism and distrust among SMEs and consumers about the values and ethics of big corporations at the moment.
One of its most well known manifestations is the support for the Shop Local initiative that has been growing over the last few years.
This is the perfect time for SMEs to stand out and enhance their reputations by demonstrating what they give back to the community and outshine big business.
Often, people in SMEs just “get on with it”, whether by adopting a charity, improving work conditions in some small way, or even something as simple as giving up a couple of hours to help a young person to plan their route into work, or find out about an industry or profession that they think might appeal to them.
A new, nationwide initiative called Trading for Good has been set up to help them to publicise this. It is a non profit organisation and free to join. It offers SMEs the opportunity to register and document their good deeds. There are annual awards for five such good deeds in a year that can earn companies a badge and a certificate to display on their marketing literature.
For SMEs looking for new ways to promote themselves as more ethical and committed to their communities than some of the bigger businesses this is an initiative to consider adding to the marketing mix.

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Business Development & Marketing General Uncategorized

The marketing value of "thank you" in business

We recently heard of a SME owner who sent out a New Year’s greeting card to their customers and suppliers with a hand-written thank you message for their support during the year.
It was a small thing, but thoughtful, personal and hugely appreciated judging by all the positive comments it generated on social media, which turned the courtesy into a great piece of marketing.
We also know of a very successful cosmetic surgeon who wrote a hand-written note as a follow-up to the contacts he made and as a result built a successful business which he attributed to his personal attention in writing letters.
As the economic recovery continues increasing numbers of small traders and SME start-ups are appearing and not all of them are offering something unique, so the competition is heating up.
Despite the pace of change and the digital revolution they will need a way to differentiate themselves from the rest.
Hand written and personal thank you messages could be an effective way of doing this and therefore still have a place in the marketing mix.
Have you tried it and with what results?

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Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting Finance General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery

The power of networking via Social Media

Cash strapped businesses cannot ignore the need to maintain their visibility and risk losing existing customers who may assume they have disappeared, nor can they risk not having a way of finding new ones.
Despite any lack of cash, entrepreneurs should be innovative and find ways to best use their time to promote and grow their business.
Many people use networking as a great way of doing business by going to functions or attending a regular local networking club such as BNI. With effort and discipline networking can grow a business by generating leads and making introductions. It works best where a close-knit team work together to promote each other’s business.
Networking via social media online can be similarly effective and have the benefit of offering you scope for establishing some highly valuable relationships with people anywhere you want to do business. Unlike face to face networking, location is not a barrier.
Like face to face networking, social media networking is not a short-term fix; both require time and effort to build relationships which in turn produce results.
It takes a while to find your feet but a start is to participate in online discussions to find other like minded networkers. Like networking clubs, finding the right online groups takes time but there are plenty to check out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
In addition to finding the right group you need to find the right social media for you and your business. It is no good being on Facebook if the people you most need to connect with tend to be on LinkedIn.
Building the right group is also important. It is no good having lots of followers or members if you aren’t working together to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Having 10 Followers on Twitter who
Follow each other and work together by promoting each other and actively referring leads to each other is far more valuable than having 1,000s of Followers or even worse, Following 1,000s of others.
If you are lucky sometimes your message ‘goes viral’ but it takes practice to find a message that others are genuinely interested in. Like all forms of networking, the hard sell on social medial puts people off, but a Tweet, post or comment that is genuinely interesting or valuable turns its readers on. If inspirational or engaging they may share it, and then you might get lucky.
The challenge is to make it work for you. Perhaps you can respond by sharing an inspirational comment for others!

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Business Development & Marketing General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Quality v quantity in social media marketing for SMEs

 

Part of the job of transforming a company in difficulty is finding a market. While the immediate crisis is often a lack of cash, the more fundamental ones relate to funding, sales and margins that are necessary to drive growth and we regularly see a failure to effectively market the goods or services.

A case in point is the use of social media, where it is easy for a small company to find itself running ever faster to stand still and to no effect whatsoever by trying to keep up with all the latest advice on frequency of posting on every available outlet .

How often, for example, do you ‘follow’ someone on Twitter or read their blogs because their insights impress you, only to eventually ‘unfollow’ them because the quality of their posts has deteriorated as the frequency has risen?

For the time-poor small business owner attempting to produce a high volume of good quality material for the ever growing list of platforms including LinkedIn, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube and more, it is an exercise in fantasy if they don’t have the time, knowledge and writing skills to do it well.

The DIY approach can damage your company’s brand, especially if it isn’t thought through or properly implemented.  

Far better to have a clear understanding of the company’s target customers, which media they use and what sort of information they value. This can then be used to develop a marketing strategy based on clear goals, whether to generate awareness or generate inquiries and a marketing plan for implementing the strategy. Your strategy might include marketing via social media as a very personal means of communication.

While business owners need to be involved in social media, especially in approving the strategy and monitoring its implementation, there are a number of ways to achieve this without doing it all your self or abandoning it to others. There are plenty of social media marketing firms but SMEs might consider outsourcing specific tasks to one or several specialists. This might be someone carrying out research for relevant topics as a source of content, drafting blogs and posts, editing them in consultation with the you, then posting them online to media that you specify. 

Over time the right specialist can help you achieve your social media marketing goals with the minimum of your time and cost.

In our view quality trumps quantity every time and it is better and more cost effective to produce fewer well-researched and presented pieces than to swamp the e-waves every day because that’s what some “guru” has advised.  Developing your brand may take longer but quality content will not damage your brand unlike trivia that may lead others to ‘unfollow’ you.

Please share your own experience of social media and also any techniques that might benefit others.

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General

Don’t Waste Your Money Marketing

When business owners run short of cash they get desperate. They pretend nothing is wrong and often they pick up marketing ideas. These activities would have been helpful at an earlier stage. Applying them indiscriminately without understanding the context of how the concepts work as part of a strategy late in the day is disastrous.