Category: Advice Blog

Five Agency Trade Secrets for Building Brilliant Small Business Websites

Picture of the Other Things Agency

If you’re reading this then you’re probably thinking about building a website for your business. That’s a great start, because if you don’t have a website then you could be missing out on a ton of business that might not come your way otherwise.

Having a well-made website can help with the perception of your brand and help to build trust with your potential customers.

But where to begin? The team at my creative agency, Other Things, has built successful websites for some of the world’s biggest brands. We also work with start-ups that want a shortcut to website excellence.

When we did the brilliant AD:VENTURE Northern Max accelerator program last year, we met a lot of start-up founders who were looking for varying degrees of help with building their own websites. Should they make it themselves or get help from the professionals?

There’s no silver bullet to it, and every business is different, but there are a few bits of advice that apply to many if not most small business website builds.

I’m going to list some of them for you:

1) You CAN Build It Yourself

If you’ve got a social media profile and you know your way around the internet, you can build yourself a website. There are some well-established services out there (such as Wix, or Shopify if you’re looking for an online store) that will hold your hand through the process.

That said, it might be awful and do more harm than good for your brand. I mean, you could tailor yourself a cocktail dress if you really wanted to. Doesn’t mean it will be any good.

Still, if you stick to the pre-defined templates, have a decent eye for design and can string a meaningful sentence together then you should be able to create a simple website that meets your business’ needs.

2) You Don’t Have to Figure It All Out From Scratch

Take a look at your competitors and other businesses that you admire. What are they doing on their websites? What are they doing badly, and what are they doing well?

What ideas can you draw inspiration from that would work with your website and brand?

That’s not to say that you should create a carbon copy of a competitor’s website, or plagiarise their copy and messaging, but you will likely identify some things that you think they do well and then you can put your own spin on them.

3) .co.uk Might Not Be the Way

If the .com domain name that you want is not available, but the .co.uk one is, it still might not be the best option.

People searching for your brand will probably find you either way, but you will inevitably and inadvertently be sending traffic to the .com version of the website domain. Not great, especially if it’s a competitor or a brand that could be mistaken for yours.

It’s still worth buying the .co.uk domain if it’s going cheap, and if you only ever plan to trade in the UK, but better to rack your brains for that .com domain name. Common ways around this are to add ‘we are’ or ‘this is’ in front of a brand name e.g. weareyourbrandname.com

We experienced this at Other Things, and we opted to go for otherthingsagency.com (we also grabbed otherthings.xyz to be what’s known as a ‘vanity URL’, but that’s another story…)

4) Cut to the Chase

When people visit your website, what action do you want them to take or what opinion of your brand do you want them to leave with? Make the fulfilment of these things the filter for all of your website-related decisions.

But don’t beat around the bush. Keep your choice of words and messages short and to the point. Challenge yourself to say what you need to say in as few words as possible, right up front on the home page, so that visitors know exactly what your business offers straight away.

This is your website content, and visitors to your site will form an impression of your brand based upon it.

It’s an area where professional help might be worth investing in if you’ve no experience in writing or producing content for the web. But if you want to DIY then keep it simple. Avoid using crappy Word art or DIY sketches. Stock photography can be great, but some of it is very cheesy. If you don’t think you can tell the difference then rope in someone who can.

And make sure you proofread it ad nauseum. If you’re not confident in that area, have somebody who knows how to properly use an apostrophe take a look at it.

5) Don’t Try to Reinvent the Wheel

Usability is essentially how well people can use your product to achieve their goal, and websites more often than not are built to a format that is familiar to the average visitor so that they can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

At Other Things we love to see experimentation in this area, but if you’re looking to DIY build yourself a website for your business and you have little experience of doing such things then sticking to the ‘norms’ is your best bet. No need to reinvent the wheel. It will probably just confuse your visitors.

If you use a website building platform (such as Wix, Gator or Squarespace) there are templates and ‘themes’ that are put together with usability in mind. You won’t be winning awards for website innovation, but visitors to your site will have a better chance of navigating around your website nice and easily and developing a positive impression of your brand.

These platforms can also take care of some of the basic nuts and bolts stuff around hosting your website on the internet, and help you avoid pitfalls with potentially baffling things such as optimising it for mobile, SSL certificates, SEO and other acronyms.

So there you have it. The above is by no means comprehensive or universally true, but it might help set you on the right path if you’re considering how to build your small business website.

If you’re going DIY then keep things simple, utilise the templates and simplifying tools available to you and don’t go too left-field with your creative ideas. You’ll learn something and maybe even enjoy it.

And if it’s terrible, at least you tried. Give a good agency or freelancer a call and they’ll see you right.

Matt Hitchcock is the co-founder and Managing Director of Other Things, an alternative creative agency that specialises in producing disruptive advertising and marketing solutions for the gaming and entertainment industries.

www.otherthingsagency.com

Photo credit: Jodie Beardmore (www.jodiebeardmorephotography.co.uk)

Finance the Key to post-Covid Survival

By Alexis Bradbury, AD:VENTURE Survive & Thrive consultant and marketing agency owner

Recently released figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 1 in 10 businesses feel they are at moderate risk of insolvency as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst 4 out of 10 claim they have less than 6 months cash reserves.

These stark figures highlight just how important finance is to any business’s success, and that is why we have put this topic second only to planning on our list of our Survive & Thrive programme of events.

For many years, advisers have often talked about having 3 months cash in reserve, with any more than that being seen as unnecessarily cautious, and possibly even tying up valuable funds that could be used elsewhere – for purchasing stock, machinery, or investing in new people for instance.

However, the events of 2020 could well cause a rethink of this perceived wisdom, and at least makes us stop and consider what we would personally feel comfortable having as a buffer.

To some extent this could well come down to the type of business you run and the sectors you operate in. For low overhead businesses that can be agile and flexible with their business model and personnel, perhaps those who use sub-contractors or freelance support, and who are not tied to premises on long leases, 3 months might well be sufficient.

However, for organisations with longer leases, repayment plans on equipment, and large numbers of staff on the books, this simply might not give them the comfort blanket they need.

So, what about our own experience and view?

As a result of lessons learned over the 21 years we’ve been in business, which has seen us navigate a few recessions and setbacks, for our marketing and design agency we’ve tried to give ourselves a 12 month cushion, reasoning that this means we don’t have to worry about month to month shortfalls, and should mean that we can survive a typical downturn without having to do more than keep a sharp eye on expenditure and reduce costs where possible.

Obviously this does tie up quite a bit of money that could be used in other ways. We’re quite cautious though, and like to sleep soundly at night.

Perhaps it’s a view that might gain a bit more traction after recent events?

SOME HELPFUL RESOURCE

Alexis and the team will be providing regular blogs and helpful resources as part of Survive and Thrive delivery.

Here are some top tips that will help you with your finance management.

AdVenture Top Tips Finance_Single Sheet

AdVenture Top Tips Finance Booklet

5 Top Tips for Creating a Resilient Business

If the events of the past few months have taught us anything, it is that the world of business has shifted irrevocably.

Whole industries mothballed, household names brought to their knees, and entirely new business models forced on us with either days or even hours notice.

Whether we wanted to or not, we have all become practitioners in managing change, and it is some small comfort that we are very much all in this together.

However, some businesses will ride out the storm better than others and, more often than not, it will be because they have a more resilient business model. Granted, some of them will just be lucky, but there’s nothing wrong with making your own luck, so here’s our 5 top tips for creating a more resilient business.

No. 1 – Have a plan

It sounds obvious, but if you’re going to navigate your way through the numerous challenges we’re all facing right now, you need a plan. Not a 50 page essay that sits in a folder and never sees the light of day, but some clear direction of travel, a few top level metrics of how you can measure your progress, and some financial guidelines that let you know you’re doing the best job you can.

The best plans are re-visited regularly, updated and tweaked, but nevertheless they act as a sanity check on why you’re in business in the first place, and what you want out of it. Don’t be afraid to get a one-page version printed out and display it visibly in the workplace, because the best plans are the ones that the whole business signs up to, and where everyone knows what their role is.

No. 2 – It’s all about the money

Don’t let anyone kid you that money isn’t important because the tougher times get, the more important it becomes. Lenders love giving money to successful businesses, which is usually when you don’t need it, but you just try securing some funding when your numbers aren’t where they should be, as thousands of SMEs have found to their cost over the past few weeks.

From pre-arranged overdrafts to asset-based loans, there are several ways to inject cash into the business. By far the best approach though, is to be self-funding. This means being careful with any spare cash, making sure you build up a decent buffer to protect you from unforeseen circumstances, and if you own the business – don’t be too greedy.

No. 3 – Let your fingers do the walking

Those of a certain age will remember this slogan from a Yellow Pages ad (an old style, paper version of Google my Business!), but today it serves as a reminder to harness technology to save you any unnecessary legwork.

From cloud-based project management and accounting platforms, to automated inventory updates and e-commerce transactions, technology allows us to focus our efforts where they are most needed, and not on day to day admin. Plus, a leaner business is a more resilient one, thanks to lower overheads and a more agile business model.

No. 4 – Fail fast and succeed early

One of the key tenets of running an innovative, and therefore more resilient, business is to be open to trying new things, but also ring fencing those experiments so that they don’t bring the company down with them.

Don’t be scared to ask the market what it wants, and then trial your answer to see if you can make it work. Revise and re-iterate your products as you go, but above all else bear in mind that good enough is fine when you’re developing new products or services. And when the going gets tough remember – James Dyson built over 5000 prototypes before his first vacuum cleaner was a hit!

No. 5 – There’s no I in Team

It’s one of the oldest adages around when it comes to building a successful business – surround yourself with people who are better than you.  In these times of constant change and flux, you need to know that your team is on it, so recruit carefully and work hard to make them happy.

From instilling the right culture and values, to developing a world beating staff retention programme, it is your team who will help you pull through when it all goes wrong – your job is to help them to help you!

Free Support!

If you’d like a raft of free support in building a more resilient business to cope with our ever changing world, AD:VENTURE’s Survive & Thrive programme is now available to businesses in the Wakefield District.

If you’re an SME based within the Wakefield District area, predominantly working in the B2B arena or looking to grow that market and have been established less than 3 years, then we’d love to help you.

Find out more here, or watch our explainer video below!

Being Prepared: By Keith Evans

I’m writing this on the day that the UK economy officially went into a pandemic induced recession.

The deepest recession in modern times and unique in many, many ways.

Many major economies are following the UK by experiencing huge drops in GDP, common belief is that a ‘second wave’ of the pandemic is inevitable and our government has put together a support and stimulus package, which while necessary, creates a long term national debt of war time proportions. These are all fact we must now consider when starting and running our businesses.

So, I put it to you that we need embrace two key principles to turn things around, which we will inevitably do. The first is strengthening our business networks and contacts. Conversations create serendipity, which in turn create opportunity. The second, is that our businesses must be run even better than ever before.

Survive and Thrive will blend opportunities for business owners of all kinds to create moments of opportunity, while also sharing insights which can strengthen your business through technology adoption, more efficient working and marketing you to the right customers.

If Wakefield, the City Region and the UK as a whole is to put the COVID hangover behind us, creating and operating lean, responsive, strategic and professional businesses will be of paramount importance.

For me, ‘Being Prepared’ not only means getting our enterprises post COVID ready, but its also a mind-set, a commitment to be prepared to learn and implement change, which, is not easy.

 

By Keith Evans

Creative & Digital Industries Sector Development Manager

Wakefield Council

Northern Max 3 Hits the halfway point on virtual delivery and top marks on results!

The Northern Max 3 programme is now over half-way, having just delivered its 6th workshop, 3rd masterclass and 2nd ‘speed dating’ meeting.  The programme is taking the 15-strong cohort through a very intensive workshop schedule where there has been a lot of self-assessment and analysis resulting in some startling revelations about themselves!

The cohort have been working collectively throughout the programme and have already developed relationships that will continue post the 10-week programme.

Week 3 delivered by Sara Scott focused on route to markets and the core elements that make up, influence and affect a business’ brand.

Alison Bull, Founder of Tandem Agency delivered week 4’s workshop and built on the foundations of Sara’s session looking at profiling the customer.

Lisa Grogan, co-CEO of Overlap Associates addressed the cohort from Canada about user-centred design to develop strategies, plans and a way of solving problems and the principles of how she started and grew her business as well as juggling a family life.

Week 5 featured Paula Finch talking about people and resources, where she led the group through a shared understanding of the principles of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and how this is critical to building work teams.

Week 6 started with Sankar Sivarajah, Head of School of Management at Bradford University talking all things circular economy, partnerships and the importance of inclusive strategies.  Annabelle Beckwith followed the masterclass with her session on Partnerships and Collaborations and the importance of finding the right business partner – along with the horror stories!

Initial feedback from participants has all been positive, some highlights below:

“It helped me to think about what my audiences are looking for and how to speak to them in a way that will make them take action”

“the presentation skills really made me think about my own development and how I can look to improve how I interact with people”

Northern Max 3, is a specialist business support programme for digital and technology firms in the Leeds/Bradford area.  This fully funded business support programme, running across a period of ten weeks, started on 23 April.  Northern Max 3 is being delivered virtually by Greenborough Business Management’s 10×10 accelerator programme in partnership with Bradford Council and AD:VENTURE, a business support programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It forms part of AD:VENTURE’s pledge to continue to support businesses using online tools despite the pandemic.

For more details on the Northern Max 3 programme, visit https://ad-venture.org.uk/northernmax3

USEFUL DIGITAL PRODUCTS FOR BUSINESS OWNERS AND STARTUPS

UPDATED – 29.4.2020 with new events

I think it’s fair to say all of us are feeling the strain of the changes we’ve had to make recently. The personal and emotional sacrifices made to help our loved ones and NHS staff stay safe, and the phenomenal challenges this outbreak has presented to businesses.

For those just starting out in business (and I talk to a lot of you amazing, passionate and inspirational people on a daily basis), it’s harder than ever.

How do you progress in these circumstances? How can you still work on your business and do something practical.

How do you stay motivated to even do that?

One way to look at this is much like we have all been doing in our personal lives. How many people have you spoken to who’ve learned something new over the past few weeks? As a nation we’ve learned to home school the kids, learnt to bake, learnt to use virtual technology to stay in touch with our families and colleagues, learnt new ways to exercise. I’ve taught my mother to use Whatsapp on facetime to 4 people. She’s delighted!!

So, I guess my point here is that as difficult as all of this is, a challenge presents an opportunity.

In my work as AD:VENTURE marketing and communications manager, I’ve found or been sent some useful digital products for business owners and start ups over the last week or so that you can use to develop yourself and your business.

All of it is free, and it could help you to work on areas of your business or your skills that will put you in a stronger position as we enter the recovery stages.

So, in no particular order, here they are:

  • AD:VENTURE BUSINESS SUPPORT

It would be remiss of me not to mention that our support provision is still available, for anyone starting or scaling a business from 0-3 years trading.

If you want to talk to an advisor and get some hands on advice and support you can register at www.ad-venture.org.uk/register

Our first series of Webinars are now available to book!

AD:VENTURE Webinar Events

May 2020

6 May Reviewing and re-setting your marketing strategy and activity during the COVID-19 outbreak

7 May Business Resilience 

12 May Pitching your Business

14 May Mapping & Maximising your Customer Journey Part 1 

15 May Mapping & Maximising your Customer Journey Part 2 

19 May LinkedIn 

20 May Effective negotiation and closing

22 May Reviewing and re-setting your marketing strategy and activity during the COVID-19 outbreak

27 May Power of the telephone Part 1 

28 May Power of the telephone Part 2

Keep an eye on upcoming events HERE

  • PAPI

The workshop programme consists of 2 days delivery, they are happening on the 5th/13th May, and then conclude during the week of 18th May.

The 2 day events will still be focussed on business innovation and include the following content:

  • Leading business growth advice, support & expertise specific to you & your business, via one-to-one & small group sessions online
  • A small mastermind community of like-minded entrepreneurs & environment of mutual support
  • Focused, practical online sessions – designed for you – on topics such as:
  • Financing your business, cashflow and available support – inc. product & process innovation grants
  • Making decisions that are right for now & the future
  • When & how to pivot
  • and much more…

The programme will be facilitated by Dr Jo North, all delegates will receive tailored support and coaching from Jo throughout the process. The structure of day 2 will be a “pick and mix” approach and consist of a variety of workshops on business innovation topics

Register your interest here:
Register your interest – 5th May
Register your interest – 13th May
If you would like more information, please contact us at papi-innovation@york.ac.uk.

  • BT BUSINESS SUPPORT

BT have created a series of webinars to help small business owners and their employees on a wide range of topics including digital marketing, using collaboration tools and how to get a business online. These have been developed by BT alongside partners including Small Business Britain and Google Digital Garage.  List of webinars and registration link below

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/bt-skills-for-tomorrow-26823592931

  • AD:VENTURE DIGITAL LEARNING HUB

AD:VENTURE is working with Leeds Beckett University to provide free online resources to businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

The content has been developed by academics from Leeds Beckett’s Business School and covers business planning, sales, leadership skills, marketing and pricing. Each masterclass contains a 15-minute video tutorial and provides suggested tasks to complete to put the learning into practice. To access just drop us an email and we will send you log in details

  • DIGITAL KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE

The Digital Knowledge Exchange (DKE) has launched a new (fully-funded) webinar series for businesses in the Leeds city region. The webinars will provide expert insights on the use of digital solutions to increase productivity and competitiveness during the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown. The series has been designed to support businesses striving to become best placed when the nation returns to business as usual.

Phase one (April – May) will deliver webinar content based on trending topics within four main categories:

  • Customer Engagement
  • Business Resilience
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital Marketing Strategy

During each webinar, you will be able to communicate with fellow guests via a live chat feed, take away exclusive insights from our expert speakers and have any questions you may have answered.

To view the full webinar series and to book online, please visit www.digitalenterprise.co.uk/digital-knowledge/events/  or call a member of the DKE team on 0113 426 0535.

  • OPEN UNIVERSITY COURSES

Many Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are facing their toughest challenges to date due to Covid-19. Study these free business courses to help improve your skills and knowledge.

All of  courses are FREE and you can start them when you want, studying at your own pace.

Seriously, there are loads on here covering so many different topics that are business essentials, from marketing, strategy, innovation, resilience, finance.

Link HERE

  • BUSINESS AND IP CENTRE

Business & IP Centre Leeds is a one-stop source for all your business and intellectual property needs. They have some really useful events and their IP knowledge is extensive!

They draw on a wide range of resources and have extensive experience in dealing with business and intellectual property enquiries. They are members of the Europe-wide PATLIB network, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre network, and work closely with the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and other partners.

  • Wednesday 6th May 5.30pm – 7pm Social Media for your business (delivered by Liz Cable) Webinar Book your free place:

    www.bipcleeds.eventbrite.co.uk

     

    After booking you will be sent a link to access the webinar

     

    free
    Monday 11th May 4pm – 5pm Finance for new business  (delivered by Gareth Allen, Red Sky Finance) Webinar Book your free place:

    www.bipcleeds.eventbrite.co.uk

     

    After booking you will be sent a link to access the webinar

     

    free
  • FREE BUSINESS COACHING SESSIONS – Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership

Thanks to a team of business professionals that have volunteered their time, we are offering SMEs FREE business coaching sessions to help with contingency planning for this period and beyond. Coaches will work with businesses to diagnose issues affecting them at the moment including people, suppliers and customers, finance and premises.

Interested? Email businesssupport@the-lep.com

  • INVESTOR READINESS FINANCE SEMINARS

The LEP’s Investment Readiness programme is working with our partners to provide additional support during Covid-19 via free of charge webinar sessions. The sessions include topics such as ‘Accessing Business Interruption Loans’ and ‘Tracking and Managing your Cash Flow’.

For more information on how to register for the webinars https://www.the-lep.com/business-support/growth-support/investment-readiness/

  • NORTHERN MAX PROGRAMME

Northern Max 3, will now be delivered online, and technology-oriented companies less than three years old are invited to take part.

The free business support programme will take place over ten weeks, starting on 23 April. It includes one-to-one mentoring alongside workshops and masterclasses led by experienced business coaches. Topics covered will include preparing a business plan, setting targets, profiling target customers and marketing. There will also be a focus on helping companies exploit opportunities when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, as well as an opportunity to pitch for potential investment at the end of the programme.

For more details on the Northern Max 3 programme, visit https://ad-venture.org.uk/northernmax3

There you go!

Hopefully you will find some of this helpful. Do let me know if you have seen anything I’ve missed!

In addition to all of this, I strongly encourage you to look on LinkedIn and see what else is being shared – Lots of businesses are stepping up and offering their services for free to support each other in these difficult times.

A reminder also that there is a range of wider Government support available for businesses, self-employed individuals and charities.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership are acting as a key point of contact for businesses in Leeds City Region.

You can find out latest updates and contact details if you have a question at https://www.the-lep.com/business-support/covid-19-support-for-businesses/

Feel free to contact me at daneile.moore@leeds.gov.uk or our team at AD:VENTURE on at support@ad-venture.org.uk

Stay safe, and try and stay positive,

Daneile Moore / AD:VENTURE

Managing the challenges of working from home!

Kate Betts runs Capital B Media, a PR and communications agency which is usually based in an office. Here she looks at the challenges of working from home.

 

A lot of us are finding ourselves suddenly flung out into this strange world of home-working. And it is a completely different world.

I have been running a business for over 15 years, but this is all new for me. It will be new for you; it is new for everyone.

It doesn’t matter where your business is on its journey; established or start up, we are all learning as we go along and helping each other along the way.

 

If you are normally in an office with others, before too long you will find yourself at home and it will be different.

In the office we have co-workers to discuss what we are watching on Netflix, now we have the cat, and possibly the partner and kids too, for company.

Where we might have had a cupboard full of stationery and a printer that worked, we now find ourselves scribbling notes on the back of a random scrap of paper.

And realising that your internet connection at home is about as fast as the proverbial yoghurt pot and piece of string is enough to test the patience of anyone.

There are upsides. You don’t have to commute (thus saving money) and you can sit there in a scruffy T-shirt and jeans. Please no pyjamas; especially in these days of video conferencing!

I work in an office now where there are five of us. But in the past I worked from home and at remote offices for years, both while working as a ‘district’ reporter for radio and newspapers, and in the early days of Capital B Media. My colleagues on the other hand are fairly new to this game and already we have had some teething problems.

So, a few pointers:

  • If possible, do a dry-run. It might be that you have been forced already to work from home, or you are planning it within the next few days. If you haven’t already embarked on the adventure, then what about a practice first?

Everyone can work from home to try it out. Then you go back to the office for a day (if you can) and collect all the little things you forgot. So far our list at Capital B Media includes: highlighter pens, paper for the printer, the office mobile, the office calculator, the spare printer, numerous documents and an ethernet cable. It is amazing what you take for granted!

  • Keep the routine as much as you can. We are trying to keep some semblance of normality by continuing to work 9 to 5 and having a catch-up online every morning to discuss what tasks we are working on.

 

  • Remember your internet at home might not be as good as that in the office. So, don’t expect to be downloading, and particularly uploading, big files at any speed. If you do need to work with large files, can you compress them? Video in particular is a bit of a nightmare.

 

If you have an IT support company talk to them about what the system’s limits are – and then factor in that there are several dozen people trying to get on to your server and several million people also working from home. So, patience is a virtue, as is an ethernet cable – at least being wired is quicker than Wi-Fi.

 

  • Think about where you are going to sit. Most of us don’t have the luxury of an office at home, so we end up perched at the kitchen table. But how is that for your back? And are you constantly interrupted by the rest of the family? Or are you stuck in a room with limited natural light? Try out different locations – and chairs.

 

  • Give yourself a break. It is easy to feel guilty about the 20-minute walk with the dog or watching the lunchtime news while eating scrambled egg. But remember you take formal, and informal, breaks in the office too. How many mornings does it actually take a good quarter of an hour for people to start work because of an office conversation about football/ the latest film/ their journey? And then part way through the morning you all get lost in a conversation about some random TV programme and then you spend ten minutes in the afternoon looking at cat videos…. It is ok to take breaks in the office and at home.

 

  • Keep in touch. It is a lonely world, especially if you don’t have anyone else in your home. (And if you do, it might be worth reminding them you are working.) Regular contact with your colleagues can keep up the team spirit. Set up a WhatsApp group, chat on Microsoft Teams, email random thoughts. We are all in this together.

 

Market Your Business Better in 2020

Want to make a commitment to market your business better? Here Daneile Moore, Communications and Marketing Officer for Leeds City Region AD:VENTURE Programme, looks at what you might do differently in 2020.      

The New Year has is now a fading memory and January been and gone (Was it just me or was that the longest month!) but, there is still plenty of time to make a firm resolution to grow your business through marketing.

This time of year is a perfect time to start something new or do things differently. So, how about taking a good look at how you market your business?

Did you draw up a marketing plan way back in the mists of time? Are you still doing what you have always done, wondering why your sales have stagnated? Are your competitors starting to creep ahead of you, even though you know your product or service is better than theirs?

Or maybe you have never actually planned how you market your business. Maybe it has been down to luck so far. Well done if so, but I guarantee with a few select tactics, you can increase your business visibility and growth.

So now is the time to draw up a plan. For the purposes of this blog I am going to assume that what you sell is good and there is a demand for it. If not, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board with that before you can even think about selling it (Fear not though, help is available if you think that’s where you are at, and I strongly advise you take it before going any further! I’ve included a few links at the end of the blog)

The plan does not need to be a huge strategy. Keep it simple and focus on some key basics initially. You can then build on the areas you see success in.

It needn’t cost money to market your business. Many early stage businesses take the boot strap approach, and if planned well, it can be hugely successful. I want to focus on the ways you can get your name out there without paying over the odds for advertising or loads of leaflets.

Start by working out who you want to sell to. That might be in terms of: business or consumer, geographical reach, age of customer and economic status.

Then work out where those people inhabit. Are they on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIN or Twitter? Are they reading the business press or hanging out at networking or trade events? Then target those areas. It might mean getting up to go to breakfast networking events or putting together a press release to send to business reporters.

The great thing about press releases is that they do still get used by reporters, even if this age of digital news and social media. Journalists like a story that they can just use rather than write, especially as they are usually spread quite thinly and it saves them time. When you write a press release, it needs to be a story. Basically, you are trying to get the reporter to run it like they would run a story they would write. Take a look at the style they write in and copy that.

New products, recruitment, charity work or new contracts are always good stories to share. Remember to always provide a high res image too. Pictures really do say a thousand words, and it’s more likely to get your story featured. Make sure it’s relevant and well shot. A smartphone camera will work just fine.

People work well, but make it interesting (Not just a person on a boring backdrop!) and try and include your products and branding. It can mean you getting a nice big spread in your local paper and getting featured on their website. That has a lot of kudos as it looks like someone else is saying you are good. Far more powerful than paying for an advert.

Lots of people will tell you you must use social media. But which do you use? There is a bit of a myth that you must be out there posting and tweeting on all platforms. So, again, stop and think; where is your audience? Are they on Facebook or are they the sort of people who get involved in debates on LinkedIn? Go where they are, rather than spreading yourself too thin. Following hashtags that are key to your industry are a great way to keep an eye on conversations and topics that you could comment on and add your expert input to.

Time is a huge challenge for a growing business, and it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to think about these things. Give yourself a set amount of time and dedicate that to posting, sharing or creating content. You don’t have to be on it all the time, but do keep an eye for notifications and respond if your customers engage on social. There is nothing worse than being out there and not interacting!

Try mixing selling messages with useful content. If you constantly sell, your users will disengage. Instead share industry relevant content, other user content and also keep an eye on special dates or weeks that you can integrate into your messaging. There is a “day” for everything now (mainly invented by marketing teams / social media!) so what’s the day your business should be shouting about?

There are also lots of useful free or low cost tools you can use to help reduce the time it takes to post messages, allowing you to schedule a number of messages in one go, across multiple platforms keeping your feed active over the upcoming weeks without requiring you being on it every day.

Buffer is great for straightforward social media scheduling. Hootsuite is my recommendation for starting out, is easy to use and has a decent free offer. It works well for all-in-one social media scheduling, monitoring, and analytics. Iconosquare is a favorite for managing Instagram business accounts and Sendible a great tool for lead generation. There are more, and many are free to a certain level of use.

Whichever method you use, just remember: I can’t buy your goods or services if I don’t know you exist. So, get out there and get selling!

If you want any more advice and support over how to market your business, if you are less than 3 years trading, and primarily supply B2B? Get in touch with AD:VENTURE today at www.ad-venture.org.uk If your business has been established longer, don’t worry, there is also a huge amount of support available from the LEP Growth Service, The Skills Service and Digital Enterprise to name a few!

Why Do I Need Terms & Conditions?

To T&C or not to T&C…that is the question ?

When people say the immortal words to me “do I need terms & conditions?”, after I’ve recovered from my initial shock, my reply is ……………………..

well, read on to find out.

Over the years Business owners have said various things to me on the topic of Terms & Conditions, such as:

“my customers are people that I know and have worked with for years, so I don’t need any contracts in place” or

“I’ve not had any problems getting paid in the past, so I don’t need any”

If only things were that simple for business owners. Nobody has a crystal ball and the ability to foresee what will happen in the future. Business relationships can unfortunately turn sour for various reasons. For example, client’s changing their mind on what goods or services they ordered, customers failing to make payments in time as they feel another company’s invoice is more important, or clients disputing the goods that are delivered and fitted, claiming it’s not what they wanted. The list could go on.

It’s the reality of modern day business, and the difference is that companies in 2019 know far more about their rights than they did in years gone by.

So, let’s delve a bit deeper and explore  some of the many  benefits of Terms & Conditions. From a legal perspective the benefits are huge:

  • They provide certainty in terms of what you are offering;
  • They help cashflow by setting out explicit payment terms;
  • They  specify the consequences of not paying on time and what the penalty can be;
  • They can increase cashflow;
  • They can help minimise disputes;
  • If a dispute should happen to arise, they provide a basis to resolve them swiftly;
  • They set out your client’s obligations and what you require from them in order to provide your service;
  • They provide protection for you when handling client data;
  • And last but not least, they form a legally binding contract between you and your client(s).

Again, I could go on, but these give you an indication of some of the many benefits.

Other business owners I speak to are in a different predicament, and one which they think is more beneficial. They already have Terms & Conditions in place, but they have used a template. Templates can be good but only when they are adapted properly. It is the substance that is added to the template that makes it binding, suitable for your specific requirements and legally binding. A template alone cannot be fit for purpose as, by its very nature, it is a generalised document that needs specific information adding to it.

Another scenario which is  a bit similar to this, is when I’m advised by business owners that they ‘borrowed’ their Terms & Conditions from a friend. Now, this is all well and good if  their friends’ business is in the same industry, providing exactly the same goods and services with the same payment terms etc. As this is very unlikely, the chances are the Terms & Conditions are not fit for purpose, and are therefore not binding.

If you have current Terms & Conditions it is important to keep them up to date to ensure that they cover the Goods and Services you supply, your payment terms and to keep termination clauses up to date with how your company operates. To accompany this, it is essential that any laws and regulations which need to be stated within the Terms & Conditions are accurate and legal. One of the first things I look at when asked to review current Terms & Conditions, is to see how up to date the document is, and I can generally spot this instantly when looking to see if there is a GDPR clause included. If this is not included, then they are at least 1 ½ years out of date and this aspect alone needs updating.

So, in answer to the question at the outset, the answer is a resounding YES!

If you are a company that provides Goods and/or Services, you need Terms and Conditions, and I would always recommend a bespoke set which specifically meet the needs and requirements of your company. That way you can be sure that they are legally binding and will work for your company. To ensure that these are drafted correctly, I would recommend that you seek advice and assistance from a professional who specialises in contracts, such as a Solicitor, as they will have the benefit of the knowledge to draft the document correctly for you.

Thanks to Michael Long at MJL Law for this straightforward and straight talking guide to T&C’s!

Wakefield Launches New Stimulating Strategic Marketing Series

Wakefield Council have been working closely with new businesses across the city and have heard the crucial calling for a comprehensive guide to Strategic Marketing in 2019 and beyond, and so here it is!

Market Me takes you right back to basics where you can either start from a blank slate, or build upon an early developed plan. Wherever your start-up business is in it’s marketing evolution, this 5 day series will educate, challenge and inspire your next steps in marketing your business and identify essential gaps that could expand your business to new levels of success.

Market Me is a strategic marketing series for new business who are serious about scaling.

Delivered by BrownDog Agency for AD:VENTURE, MarketMe will help Wakefield based start-ups and scale-ups who are trading B2B to take their products and services to market more effectively.

Combining interactive and thought-stimulating exercises with real world experience of the marketing mix, the series will take you from a start point of explaining your challenges, to matching your business to changing national and global circumstances,
carving out a point of difference for you to take to market, and equipping you with the most effective tactical skills and content with which to acquire new business.

 13 November Market Me – Session 1 Environment Mapping – Understanding our world

 20 November Market Me – Session 2 Who Are You? – Creating a stand-out Professional Profile

 28 November Market Me – Session 3 CO-STAR – Turning ideas into reality

 4 December Market Me – Session 4 Marketing Planning – Anticipating and Delivering Customer Wants, Profitably

11 December Market Me – Session 5 Content Marketing – The Mainstay of the Thought Leader

 

If you want to contact sector development managers Cara Brundle or Keith Evans directly, just drop them an email.

The AD:VENTURE programme is supported by the 2014 – 2020 European Regional Development Fund.

The AD:VENTURE programme delivers ERDF funded growth support to existing businesses in their first 3 years of trading and for people planning to start a business within the Leeds City Region.