Tag Archives: Business

The social media effect in business

Back in the early to mid 1990’s, business people were being told they needed a website.

In the early 2000’s, business people were being told they needed to have a business website that took online payments.

Now and for the past year or so business people are being told that they need to get to grips with social media.

Some resisted getting a website as they were an off-line business with a traditional bricks and mortar shop front.  Guess what?  They eventually got themselves a website.

Some resisted taking online payments as they didn’t want to manage another transaction channel.  Its true that for some businesses, they may have got that website, but haven’t gone the full hog and made it e-commerce ready.  But many have after resisting early on.

Now we’re seeing the social media age.  Businesses are resisting or putting it off, and its only a matter of time before most bring their businesses up to speed with this phenomenon called social media.

social-media-helpforstartups.biz

Not all businesses listened to the above advice at first, but many did.  It is these companies that listened, learned and adopted this advice that are thriving now.  I would agree with those that say don’t just jump on the latest fad or bandwagon but have the willingness to learn and test something new to see if it is actually a fad or not, or if it is something to be given serious attention.

Doing things the way its always been done can be fine if that’s what your customers prefer (what they ACTUALLY prefer, not what you just THINK they do).  But change in any industry and life in general is inevitable, so learn to keep up with the times or get left behind.

If you are starting up a business, you’d be well advised to at least register your Twitter username and perhaps get a Facebook page set up.  Its not going to cost you anything but a few minutes of your time at the start but it could prove a worthwhile customer engagement channel in the future.

For existing businesses, I would argue its even more relevant.  Providing more channels for your customers to get in touch with you and engage with your brand and business should be seen less as a burden on existing resources, but more as an opportunity to solidify an existing relationship and potentially gain more value from it.

For online businesses, the introduction of Google+ and the +1 button from the same search behemoth has many believing social search is getting more important.  If this comes true, then social media literally becomes a service or business evaluation tool – your customers will be looking for signs from their ‘network’ as to whether they like your product or not and that is something no business can afford to ignore for long.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Focus on being focussed

As a startup business, it is likely that you have a very small team.  In many cases, that team consists of only one person, you.

startup-helpforstartups.biz

This means marketing, accounting, finance, internet marketing, sales, operations, purchasing, HR and web maintenance is all done by just two hands.  I am sure you have heard people saying the following:

  • Spend most of your time working on your business, not in your business

and

  • Focus your energy doing the work that matters, not on doing the work that doesn’t matter, i.e. understand and follow the 80:20 rule or the Pareto principle.

Now the above bullet points are very important to bear in mind, however when you’re the captain, crew-member, chef and sweeper, it can be difficult to adhere to these lofty ideals.  Usually this is because start-ups tend to be underfunded.

You’ll come across people who will arrogantly tell you that you shouldn’t start a business until you are funded well enough to be able to do the right things, but I would argue that is better to get going when your head is in the right place and as long as that remains the case, other things will fall into place.

Starting up a business is a juggling act.  You will focus on different things on different days.  At the end of each day you will assess your day and on one day, you’ll love that you were productive and concentrated on the right things, and on others you’ll hate yourself for wasting time on admin tasks and not giving time to more strategic activities.  This is the life of a fledgling startup entrepreneur.  Accept that it happens to everyone but also accept that continuing like this isn’t an option.  You need to focus more.

If cashflow and funds in the bank mean you cannot outsource the non-critical activities to specialists in those areas, fine.  But list out the activities on a spreadsheet or piece of paper and then start divying up those items by days of the week in which you’ll be doing them.  This creates a focus for each day.  You’ll move things around to suit your working style but in the end, you’ll have a list with most of the stuff that needs to be done, strategic, admin and everything in between.  Look down this list – what can you actually disregard as its a nice-to-have?  Then disregard it or add it to a nice-to-have list for the future.  Each day’s to-do’s should only have a maximum of 4-5 items on it, otherwise you are over-stretching yourself, and things are unlikely to move in the right direction.

Listing items out for each day creates focus and discipline.  Well actually the discipline part comes from actioning that list day to day.  Don’t be hard on yourself if all items on that day’s list are not done – this will happen from time to time.  But measure yourself and your productivity based on how many of those things you get done each day.  If its less than 70%,  you need to take a long, hard look at your list and your motivation and something needs to change.  If you’re doing well above 70% every week, treat yourself.

Once you have been doing this for a few weeks, write back here to comment on how you got on or what bespoke tweaks you introduced to help you.

Choosing your startup bank

Don’t fall for a flashy marketing campaign or make the mistake of choosing your business bank based purely on who you personally bank with.

Business banking is very different from personal banking.  Firstly, expect more charges for things you normally get for free with your own personal bank such as paying in cash or cheques at a branch, getting your first arranged overdraft, etc.

For startup businesses, there are many offers around where the major banks try to woo your business by offering incentives such as free banking services for 12, 18 or even 24 months.  Some even allow ongoing free banking if you meet certain conditions.

The main things you will want to consider will be based on your own business circumstances.  Do you expect a lot of incoming funds per sale of your product or service?  Will you get paid by BACS, CHAPS or in cash or cheques?  Are you expecting to run close to the bread line for the first few months of your business?  Do you have complex requirements for you which you will need the assistance of your bank manager on a more frequent basis?  How important is online banking to you?

These are all questions you need to ask yourself before going out there into marketplace.  The bigger banks typically offer free introductory offers as mentioned above, however the newer banks and international ones also deserve a close look.  Santander, Halifax, Co-op and Metro Bank are alternatives to the normal set of banks such as HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds or Natwest.  Each one will have something to offer you so do speak to each one before deciding.  Changing banks afterwards is possible and is now far simpler than it used to be but it will take you away from your main job – the job of running your business.

Oh and don’t get hung up about where your branch is.  Apart from this address appearing on your cheques, a ‘local’ branch means very little these days.  Its the service, costs and features that should be on your shopping list ensuring the business bank you choose matches what your business needs.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Business that use a free Gmail/Hotmail/AOL/Yahoo/Sky/BT email address

I came across a forum post today which I just had to add some comments to.  It was about how some businesses still use free email addresses to conduct business.  Worse still, they display these email address, e.g. brendra@btconnect.com on their business cards and websites.

In 2011, this just seems lazy to me.  Unlike many, I don’t automatically believe that they’re new to business or not serious about their business.  To me, its more about not caring or not knowing any better.

The reason I think its not necessarily an indication of a new business is because I’ve come across a 20+ year old lettings agency in Scotland who used their ISP’s @aol.com address for their clients.  Most of their clients were local and communicated by phone and post, so email was hardly used.  Even still, for the £5 per year and 5-10 minutes it would take to set up an email forwarding address, it just seems lazy.

They have clearly given at least a little thought to their email address because it was MyCompany@aol.com (obviously I’ve replaced the actual company name with ‘MyCompany’ for the divs out there), just not enough to purchase a domain and doing it properly.  In my opinion, for this family-run firm, it was probably because they don’t know how but had I had another relatively similar lettings agency I could choose to work with that had their own domain-led email address, it may have been the deciding factor – all else being equal of course.

There is a misconception that you need a website to have your own domain-led email address, but this simply isn’t true.  You need a domain yes, but not a website – the distinction is important for old school (read non-Internet age) business people.

Enhanced by Zemanta