Friday, 30 October 2015

Having something of value


You may know that I volunteer as the Commercial Manager at Didcot Town Football Club. The club were this week awarded Live TV coverage of their next FA Cup game due to being the lowest ranked minnows left in the competition. So on the 8th November we play Exeter City, live on BT Sport at midday.

For me it has been an interesting week speaking to people about sponsorship packages in relation to the match and negotiating the packages that suit a win / win situation.

However it has highlighted the fact you will read or hear many times. We all have to ensure we have something of value in our offering from the eyes of our prospective customer.

Selling sponsorship opportunities has been a tough task this season with as you would expect the question "well what's in it for me". You have to have tough skin and be prepared for many slammed doors. All good experience! At times, it has been hard to gain £50 from some business owners who don't really have a brand to promote and can't describe their business quickly enough to display with value on a pitchside banner or in a tannoy announcement.

That in itself is a learn for me. We talk about the one minute elevator pitch, but is that too long? We should perhaps focus more on a short, attention attracting, headline or strapline that grabs the attention and gives us the right to give our one minute pitch.

However the biggest reminder this week came when we were given TV rights with BT Sport, because from that point for many the price was not an issue. We even had one sponsor turn up at the ground with his advertising board and said just charge me what you think is fair to display this board. He had previously declined my approach one month ago as he perceived the club had nothing to offer him with attendences around 100-150. However as soon as we are expecting 2800 for one game with TV coverage then he wanted to be part of it.

When you have something that is truly valued and providing a unique opportunity to receive, then you can command a premium price. We usually charge £300 for a banner on pitch side for the whole season (maybe 35 games). For this one, live televised, game we are charging a minimum £750 and I have not had one objection.

So what are you offering your prospects that they truly value and then enables you to command a premium price?

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

Monday, 31 August 2015

Focus on your ideal customer and resist trying to market to everyone

You may argue that your product and service can be purchased by anyone, but if you want to make the most of your marketing resources in terms of money and time, then can I suggest that you look to focus your activities on attracting your ideal customer. So why?
  • Your ideal customers usually make up most of your profits
  • Working with ideal customers is much more rewarding and enjoyable
  • You can concentrate your marketing efforts more efficiently
  • You can better understand the need and how you match your benefits
  • You will be able to better identify any expectation gap
  • You can easily adapt as you know your environment
So the best ways to identify your 'ideal customer' is:
  1. Customer profiling - review the trends of your top 20% of customers or the think about the customer you want to attract. Age, location, sex, role, attitude, turnover, employee size, aligned with your interest or values, etc
  2. Segmentation - use demographics, classifications, life cycles, psychographics and contextual marketing to focus on your ideal prospect. Personally I like life cycles. What support does someone need when a child, in education, getting married, buying a house, starting a job, running a business, retiring etc
  3. Market research - ask your ideal prospects, not your friends, some key questions such as what they expect, where they are buying now, why, and how often they buy.
In preparation of your approach, look to put yourself in your customers shoes and answer:
  • What is their real pain and problem?
  • What is their motivation to buy from you?
  • How do the benefits of your product or service solve this pain or problem?
  • How will you present these benefits in a sales meeting or an elevator pitch?
  • What are the likely objections you will receive? (so you can prepare for them)
Then the challenge is how do you find them and how do you make contact? Here are a few thoughts:
  • Buy a trusted mailing list and write to them or call them (or pay someone to do it for you)
  • Use LinkedIn to identify and attempt to connect or engage, either directly or via groups
  • Networking events - but research where do they really go and network themselves 
  • Advertise - if you know what they read and why
  • Exhibitions - do they attend trade shows, seminars, events that you can sponsor or have a stand?
  • Referrals - who do you know who touches your ideal client? Can they refer you to them?

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.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Who is a true Key Business Influencer (KBI)

If referrals are a key part of our clients marketing strategy, then we work with them them to build a robust strategy that considers their key business influencers.

These are not contacts in their network that are 'nice to know', but people who are 'advocates' of their business and are willing to influence the success of the business with referrals or recommendations.

Many business owners have a long list of contacts in their network, usually with the hope of obtaining a referral, so one activity we recommend is to rate your contacts from 1 to 5, with the following scale:

1 - Nice to know and have in my network, but unlikely to refer in next 12 months
2 - Nice to know and possibly could refer in the next 12 months
3 - Good to know and may refer
4 - Great to know and is likely to refer with personal attention
5 - A 'KBI' who currently refers business.

If you can't score them, as not even nice to know, then remove them from you network!

This simple exercise gives you focus for your limited resources. Be pro-active and diarise time to speak to and meet with your contacts that you have rated 4 and 5. Consider a contact strategy that keeps you on the agenda of your KBI's.

It should also be your objective to move your contacts up the scale from 'nice to know' rating to a 'referrer'.

How you do this will be different for each individual. However a personal touch, whilst knowing what is important to them and the application of focus will move your contacts closer to the desired 'KBI' status.

This was one of my regular snippets by email, If you would like to receive my bite size snippets on a regular basis, then you can subscribe on my home page www.entrepreneursmentor.co.uk 

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. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Market Research

The most common reply I receive to my question of "How did you complete your market research", is to receive a response that makes reference that the friends and family think it is a good idea. Of course they will, as the majority of friends and family members will want to be seen as supporting you. It will take a true friend to tell you 'don't do it' when supported with good reason.

Market research can save you much heartache in the future and even save you huge sums of money.

Effective market research is commonly broken down to Primary and secondary research. So your own specific research could include:
  • Questionnaires
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Sample distribution 
  • Product tests
  • Test marketing
  • Published information and statistics
  • Observation
  • Mystery shopping
You should also undertake your own competition analysis to see how your competitors approach the market with their product or service. You may have a different approach, but your competitors have started their business, so I suggest you will not have to re-invent the wheel after reviewing your observations.

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 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

SWOT Analysis

So what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your start up idea?

We have included a template on our web site www.startyourownbusinessdvd.co.uk to help you consider your personal SWOT analysis. The tips to consider are:

Strengths:
·         What advantages do you have or what do you do better than anyone else?
·         What do people in your market see as your strengths?
·         What factors mean that you "get the sale"?
Weaknesses:
·         What could you improve?
·         Are there areas you should avoid?
·         What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
·         What factors lose you sales?
Opportunities:
·         Where are good opportunities for you?
·         What are the interesting trends you can maximise?
Threats:
·         What obstacles do you face?
·         What is your competition doing that you should be worried about?
·         Is changing technology threatening your position?
·         Are political or environmental decisions likely to impact your business
·         Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?

Once you have completed the SWOT analysis, then you should consider how this knowledge can be used:
1.    How can we Use each Strength?
2.    How can we Stop each Weakness?
3.    How can we Exploit each Opportunity?
4.    How can we Defend against each Threat?