Monday, 14 September 2015

£459 million lent out via Peer-to-Peer lending

For this latest blog, I would like to share some information kindly provided to me by FA Simms & Partners.

Peer-to-Peer lending has lent out more than £459 million during the first quarter of 2015. This figure supports the UK SME market’s desire to seek investment from non-bank finance platforms.

When the banks went into decline during the recession, their lending to SMEs diminished which gave way to the non-bank finance industry to rise up and offer competitive investment opportunities to micro, small & medium sized businesses. A recent survey of 1,000 SMEs by Liberis, Business Friendly Finance show figures to support the increase in demand in alternative finance. The Business Monitor research showed that 30% of these small businesses have applied to an alternative funding provider for their finance.

Christine Farnish, Chair of the P2PFA said: “These numbers are excellent and reflect the strong industry growth into 2015. We are continuing to see strong appetite in the consumer market and a significant increase in lending flow to businesses to.”

There are two types of finance lending available; Equity Finance and Debt Finance. Equity finance can be used during any stage of a company’s growth from start-up right through to well-established. Debt finance would be used as a short-term capital solution to a current cash flow issue. Whether you are looking for equity finance or debt finance, there will be a non-bank platform available to fulfil your needs all which provide competitive advantages to a bank’s financial help.

You can read the full article at http://www.fasimms.co.uk/latest-news/the-rise-of-non-bank-lending-to-smes

For further information please contact:
Martha Wood, Marketing Manager
mwood@fasimms.com
01455 555444
Available Mon – Fri 9am – 5.30pm

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Test and Measure your marketing activities

I have an underlying belief that drives my goal planning success. I truly believe that anything you measure usually improves.

Of course the focus on such matters will naturally help you to improve. However again and again I experience the fact that by measuring one activity you tend to find yourself working on the smaller elements that deliver the improvement.

For example, you measure the number of new customers you win each week or month, because you know that increasing your clients by x will deliver your financial goal for the year. However with the focus and desire to achieve this number, you actually increase the number of conversations you are having, thereby improve the number of leads you generate, so have more meetings and therefore win more customers. So in summary it is simple - better activity leads to improvement.

From a marketing perspective, the key is to know which activities to focus on and what numbers to aim for.

Firstly, can I recommend that you test and measure your marketing activities to better understand what works, what needs a tweak and what does not work, so should not be repeated.

I speak with many business owners who simply do not know which part of their marketing is working for them. I find it common that all marketing activities are viewed as one and there is no measure of how a new customer specifically finds you.

It is also common for a business to know that the latest new customers came from a specific campaign, but do not know what it was about that campaign. So for example, the last email marketing communication generated 5 new clients. Great, but why? Was it the headline, the content, the background colour, the image used or the offer? It is recommended to test different versions of what works to learn more about your success and drive further improvement. If you simply do more email marketing without knowing the reason why, then you will miss a trick.

So can I encourage you to measure your marketing activity to the level that you can specifically identify which part of your marketing worked for each new customer and each new sale.

Once you know this, you can then start to test different variations of that activity and then gradually improve this even further until your marketing becomes even more powerful and profitable. So for example, your last batch of new customers came from your Google Adword campaign, but by testing different alternative messages or calls to action, can you gain even more enquiries.

People say to me that measuring is too difficult and therefore unreliable. Well the easiest way to find out is to ask. You could ask verbally or use email or online tools to ask the question. You need to be asking each new customer how they found you and why they brought from you. However please ensure your questions drill down to find the true reason which may not be the first reason they give you. For example, you may ask and the new customer responds "I found your web site on Google". However when you ask the deeper question, you identify that they searched for you because a friend passed on your name.

There are many other ways to identify your true lead source. Can I suggest that you try and use codes or references within your marketing material that you ask the prospect to quote to receive your offer. You should utilise your online analytics from your web site or social media platforms to identify lead paths. Why not try specific landing pages for any campaigns that drive people to your web presence. These such actions will get you much closer to the results you desire from your activity measurement.

The second part is from your measuring, you know what numbers to aim for. This clarity provides you with the information you need to drive the activity you need to get the desired end result. So if you don't know your conversion rates at the different stages of your sales process, then how do you know what target to set. As a very simplistic example, you know that for every meeting you have, you are invited to quote 75% of the time. From those quotes you have given you convert 50% to sales. So if you want 12 new customers this year, you can confidently set a target to ensure you have 32 meetings. By having 32 meetings you know that your measured conversion rates will give you those 12 new customers. So that is target number one, but what other activities do you need to measure to ensure you undertake the activity that generates those 32 meetings? How many networking meetings do you need to attend? How many referral requests do you need to make? How many phone calls? How many social media posts? How many online campaigns?

It's simple. Once you know what marketing really works for you, then you know what to do more of in the future.

I wish you every success with your lead generation and customer acquisition.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The relationship between Bookkeepers and Accountants

What is your views around the relationship between Bookkeepers and Accountants. Here's a few of my own http://m.accountingweb.co.uk/article/bookkeeper-and-accountant-relationship/574943

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Today marks the end of another tax year

Well another tax year ends and another year has flashed by leaving us thinking where did those last twelve months go!

So what do we need to be thinking about now and in the next year ahead to ensure we maximise our personal tax position and not pay too much tax?

Today being the last day of the tax year, means it's the last chance to use up all your current tax allowance. So is there something you were planning to do that you could do right now, such as making a change to a low emission company car or investing with qualifying capital expenditure?! Perhaps you have some surplus cash to maximise your ISA or pension allowances, but it may now be too late to receive the recommended independent financial advice or visit the bank on Easter Sunday!

However on a more serious note, firstly you need to ensure that you update your Payroll software to take into consideration the new tax rates, personal allowances and bands.

If you have employees, then don’t forget to issue those P60’s! Also don’t forget the Employment Allowance is continuing, so the £2000 per year resets tomorrow.

Do you run your own business? Do you pay yourself a minimum monthly wage for Tax and NI purposes, with the majority of your income taken by dividends? If so, you may need to consider slightly increasing your monthly amount due to the new bands.

You may be considering a year-end Dividend, but what would be the impact of declaring the dividend in the new tax year instead? This is a serious consideration for many in or near the high rate tax band or those that are claiming child benefit or tax credits.

If you claim mileage allowance from your business or employer, then tomorrow is the day to reset the accumulative miles you have claimed in the tax year. This is especially important if you claim many miles and have exceeded 10,000 in the tax year.

We all also need to consider what is new for our position going into the new tax year. Perhaps something from the budget will impact upon us, such as the new marriage allowance? Perhaps our business or employment is changing in 2015/16 that will see an impact to our individual income in the next twelve months. So do you need to change anything to maximise your position?

Also what did we learn? What happened in 2014/15 that changed our tax liability? What did we have to complete differently on our tax return? Or what do we wish we had done last year that would have saved the amount of tax we will have to pay for this past tax year?


And finally, I recommend you seek advice of your own business advisers. For example, what does your accountant suggest for you personally? Mine has already suggested many areas for consideration in 2015/16, as I plan to dispose of one business and invest in another. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Converting leads to sales

One of our most popular articles over recent months have been around the subject of finding more customers.
Our discussions with clients and contacts tells us that the level of enquiries remains similar to early 2014, but the conversation is much more difficult with greater competition for the business. 
So here are our 6 areas to help improve your chances of converting your enquiries to the desired sale.
1. Measure and be aware of your conversion rates. Learn from your discussions and feedback to continually improve that conversion rate. Get to know the sales presentation of your business that wins more often than not, then systemise the approach and use it.
2. Track all your enquiries to eventual sale with a lead management system. It can take more than a few contacts to close a sale, so a tracking system ensures you do not miss or forget an opportunity. This should be a habit to update and where possible use automation as a reminder or even to complete a follow up step for you.
3. Truly know your target audience. What is the profile of your ideal customer, what is there current situation, what are their pains and problems and why you can truly help them. Focus on the answers to these points at every touch point with your prospect.
4. Never over promise what you can deliver. Obviously that is the promise of what you or your product can do but also timescales. If you can't write a proposal in the next 24 hours then be honest and advise.
5. Observe and learn from others. This could be your colleagues such as your sales people or your peers. How are they winning new business? Learn from their success and adapt the learn into your business.
6. Don't forget to ASK for the business.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Behavioural styles - how they impact your business

Do you really know your people and how they impact on your business? 

Yes I totally agree that having the right people around you is so important. However in this post I suggest that you should focus on their behavioural style as much as their skill and ability.
In this post I will provide some background, an overview of what different behavioural styles can bring to your organisation and a case study to demonstrate my recommendation to consider behaviours.
A few years ago I was growing my own team and after taking on a new employee found the dynamics of my workplace changed within a few days. Why? Well she was very competent in her role, was liked by others, she was positive and confident. However I could see that the rest of the team were uncomfortable with something.
Then I met Belinda Clapp from Thomas International and got to learn about behavioural assessments. I established that my team of bookkeepers were steady and compliant individuals that were dependable, systematic, thorough and careful, but did not like change or conflict. Whereas my new employee liked to talk and socialise much more than the others found acceptable in the office. This was powerful knowledge about my team, which I was then able to use in my management.
So I was hooked on the thinking around this ......................
You can read the rest of the article on my LinkedIn pulse post at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/do-you-really-know-your-people-how-impact-business-mike-foster

Thursday, 8 January 2015

12 tips from 2014 for entrepreneurial success

During 2014, I continued to enjoy my role supporting entrepreneurs working as professional service providers which last year primarily included the bookkeeping profession and the safety sector. From my experience over the last year, I have selected 12 tips that I feel are key to entrepreneurial success and I hope will be thought provoking for your focus going forward.
  1. Push your comfort zone 
  2. Know who you can trust and understand the personalities around you 
  3. Respond in a timely manner or communicate after a perceived delay 
  4. Have belief and persevere 
  5. Follow your perception or gut feeling 
  6. Build the ability to say no 
  7. People buy from people
  8. Keep the big picture in mind with your daily action steps 
  9. Truly understand your motivation and the value of your work / life balance – 
  10. Utilise your strengths and work on your personal development 
  11. Make the numbers work 
  12. Effective Goal Planning 
You can read the full post and additional comments in my LinkedIn Pulse article by clicking here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/12-tips-from-2014-entrepreneurial-success-mike-foster 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Attract your ideal customer with effective marketing

Over the last decade, I have been delivering support to other business owners as a either a franchisor, via my own businesses or from within a membership organisation.

By far the biggest request for support is with marketing and how to find new clients. So this article shares some of my key thoughts and the areas that I have consistently spoken about at conferences in the past.

To enable you to promote your business most effectively to prospective clients, you have to consider three key areas:

  • What are you offering – having a clear proposition for your clients
  • Strategic marketing – understand who you want as clients and how you will capture their interest to engage with them
  • Tactical marketing – how you will take your message to the market and attract clients
You can read the full article on my LinkedIn Pulse listing at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/attract-your-ideal-customer-effective-marketing-mike-foster 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Why hire a mentor?

I guess the first place to start is to consider what actually is Mentoring?It is described in many ways, but perhaps the best definition that I have seen is that Mentoring is a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the Mentor) assists another (the Mentoree) in developing specific strategies, skills and knowledge by sharing their own experience in a thought provoking manner to enhance the person’s professional and personal growth.

Quite often a mentoring relationship is considered longer than a coaching relationship, but I in fact see many similarities and depends on the support desired.

The term mentor has previously been commonly used in the workplace by companies whereby a senior colleague may mentor a junior person as part of their personal development and growth within the organisation.

In my opinion, a mentor helps you develop with a combination of effective questions and guidance, whereas the role of a coach is more focused on developing the solution from within,

So what is a mentor. I feel the role is very well described by Virgin Startup as 'The role is about guidance and helping your entrepreneur to achieve their goals and realise their potential. You’ll help them understand problems, identify solutions and implement their plans.'


A mentor is likely to save you from many hours of worry and procrastination, help you maximise your time, and save you money, by sharing proven strategies and their experience to help you avoid the common pitfalls or make the mistakes quite often made by others trying to do everything themselves.

Many of my clients come to me because they want to start a business or are now at the stage to grow their business, but perhaps don't know where to start, how to effectively build the right foundation and how best to apply the skills that they have in the most effective way.

When choosing a mentor, you should consider what you need in a mentor and what skills or areas of the business that you would like to develop with their assistance.

www.entrepreneursmentor.co.uk

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Understand and use your true motivation in business

Why do people start their own business and what motivates them?

There are a number of personal reasons why people start their own business. Some see an opportunity, some suffer a personal situation such as redundancy or unemployment, whilst others have a family history of self employment or consider it as a way of earning their living.

Understanding your true personal motivation can help you think about the goals you may set yourself and provides a measurement for success as defined by you and not as defined by others looking at your business externally. Success means different things to different people. You need to define what success means for you and this will certainly help you to find the ways to achieve it. If you do not know what you are aiming for it is unlikely you will ever achieve it.

Understanding your motivations will help you identify the real purpose of your business and its aims and objectives. So for example, if it is a bigger house for your growing family, then how will the business generate the turnover, profits and ultimately the cash for this?

Motivations such as “I simply do not want to work for someone else any more” in my opinion is not a strong enough motivator on its own. So what does truly motivate you.

One you know your motivators, then you can make decisions based on these. So for example, you are motivated by working for a defined 'ideal' customer. If you are approached by someone who does not meet this profile, you have a choice. You are invited to a business networking event, which would be nice to attend, but is no match to your true motivators. Again you have a more informed choice to make and consider if this is a good use of your time.

You should also consider planning your exit from day one. You need to have a vision of your exit from the business, so that you get the timing right for you. Too often business owners say my business is my retirement nest egg, but in reality when they come to retire it may not be the right time to sell or the value may not be as expected. So consider the need to groom successors and how to exit at your chosen time, not when other pressures may dictate. Then plan your business to build towards that exit plan. So for example, if you want to sell for a price of £250,000 in 15 years time, what do you have to achieve in the meantime to get there? Possible exit options include: your family succession, selling the business in full or in part, flotation of the business, a merger or simply closing down the business.

It is so powerful to know your true motivators. If you link this with effective goal planning, great time management and your strong vision of success, I do believe you will face less obstacles along the way.

www.entrepreneursmentor.co.uk

Monday, 1 December 2014

Our 7 top tips to improve your sales meeting conversation rate

So you have invested in your marketing and created opportunities. These are our 7 top tips to ensure you convert more of those prospects to paying customers.
  1. Test different approaches with your prospects – what you say, wear, handout, offer or even the time you meet may influence your success
  2. Be honest with yourself. Review your discussions & know why you are not converting
  3. Know your market and demonstrate your awareness
  4. Remove the risk to the buyer such as giving a guarantee
  5. Listen to your prospect & match their need with your benefits. Consider the pain for the prospect by not buying from you, or the gain they would experience
  6. How clear is your Unique Selling Point to the buyer. Not just in terms of the message, but how is it important to your propect
  7. Know the influencers of your prospects decision, such as their partner, advisers, employees, existing supplier and online references.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The top three marketing activities for Bookkeepers

This is my answer to the question I get asked all the time when speaking to groups of bookkeepers or working with clients on a one to one basis.

Q.What are the top three marketing activities for Bookkeepers?

A. My research from working with Bookkeepers for many years with ICB, as a franchisor and from my own personal experience of running my own practice shows the top three activities are:

1. Networking - not just attending breakfast meetings, but understanding who is truly your network of key business influencers and what are you then doing to create and maintain a strong trusted relationship, so that people get to know, like and trust you.

2. Referrals - Having a proactive strategy focused on generating referrals of your ideal customers. Much more than just networking, but also taking consideration of what will encourage people to refer new business to you. How are you building credibility and also making it easy to refer you. Knowing the 'what's in it for me' factor for a referrer will make a huge difference to your referral success. 

3. Maximising your online presence led by a web site focused on your ideal customer. Yes social media and online marketing are making an impact, but still without question is the power of a good web site. A web site that tells your ideal client, from their perspective, what you offer to save them time, money and pain. After all your social media activity and other online presence such as a blog or email marketing may drive people to your web site to read more, sign up to a newsletter, download a paper or just then pick up the phone to make contact with you.