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Going international - an entrepreneur's guide

April 10, 2014 by Marc Duke

Export stamp{{}}Passport — check; tickets — check; insurance/meerkat toy — check; business lounge card — check. There comes a time when your business is ready to go international. Your idea is great and it’s going global. Revenues will increase and so will your air miles balance. All sounding good so far…

Let’s face it, anything ecommerce-related potentially has a global market as soon as the web pages are loaded, right? Yes, theoretically, but this blog is for those of a B2B persuasion and if you think merely having a website will result in huge global sales, please read on.

Trade delegations

A few years ago I met a trade delegation (a great way to reduce the risk of international expansion) from an Estonian incubator. There were about ten companies and the leader of the incubator and they met with a number of local tech hubs and other useful people, so the entrepreneurs could evaluate if the UK was a place to do business and more importantly if there were people they could trust to do business with.

The problem with expanding into more than one country is cost. As soon as you set up somewhere you are incurring costs before generating revenue. An office, a phone line, a new set of web pages, a sales person and so on... While you might like the idea of global expansion, if you don’t get a firm grip on costs it could kill your company.

You can get stats to show how big a new market is and how much revenue it will generate for your business, but that’s all theory and the reality is you need people on the ground who know how to get things done. The trick is to find the right people for this.

Get networking

As always, use your network and approach any organisations that help entrepreneurs and businesses to trade abroad. Government bodies such as the UKTI and British Chambers of Commerce are a good place to start. Don’t ignore social media to get things rolling. LinkedIn groups can be a good place to start to get some quick wins. Attending international trade shows can also accelerate international expansion by giving you access to new contacts.

Once you have the people in place, you need to provide them with a lot of support, detailed instructions and listen well to exactly what they can deliver. I have some brilliant “door openers” for US businesses looking to expand into the UK/Europe but the companies have got to trust them and let them work their magic.

The risk here is letting go and trusting someone else with your baby — sorry, business. You can’t be in two places at once and you need other people in the team who can help you build the business.

Must dash as my taxi is here to take me to the airport.

Marc Duke is a marketing consultant.

 

Five ways to improve your direct marketing in the social sphere

April 10, 2014 by John Keating

Five ways to improve your direct marketing in the social sphere/Social Networking concept{{}}You may think that that social media and direct marketing are two completely different beasts, but I beg to differ.

Engaging with an individual via social media is about as “direct” as it gets in direct marketing. Direct marketing aims to connect marketers to customers and social media allows us to do this in real time with real conversations.

As we all know, selling is increasingly a two-way process with your potential customers more often than not being the instigator of a relationship. No longer do we have the preacher and congregation scenario whereby sellers preach their wares to a voiceless audience. 

Our customers now have a voice and they are using it. 

The key to success is to harness the power of this voice using social media to help spread positive news and reacting quickly to any negative conversations to convert the naysayers.

So how can small businesses improve direct marketing using social media?

  1. Firstly, do your marketing communications enable easy social sharing? If not, why not? Make sure that you include relevant sharing buttons such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and so on. This is a no-brainer; let your brand champions do some of the hard work by allowing them to share and like your content.
  2. The social sphere offers an almost unlimited potential audience, so make the most of it. If you build an online following, real time interaction will allow you to forge lasting relationships as you can appeal to buyers as a human being and not a faceless business. You can then take them offline (don’t forget to ask permission) and into a lead nurturing programme.
  3. Integrate social into your marketing campaigns by using offer-based incentives via Facebook, Twitter and so on. This will allow you to find out where your audience hangs out online and enable you to engage with them further on the platform of their choice.
  4. Use your social platforms to try out new content approaches and then, when you know what works, you can add the most successful content to your email marketing.
  5. Powerful marketing campaigns using Facebook can be created where offline or purchased marketing data can be matched to Facebook to offer up ads to individuals you already have intelligence on or even to your existing customers. This can work for both B2B and B2C audiences by creating a human to human approach. The possibilities are endless — you could place a thank you advert as a nice gesture, for example.

So there you have it, social media and direct marketing do not have to be quarrelling siblings; they can work together in perfect harmony to increase the influence and effectiveness of your campaigns.

John Keating is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and director at Databroker.

Key ways to motivate and retain your best staff

April 09, 2014 by Andy Preston

Key ways to motivate and retain your best staff/Many mugs with I love my staff. I love my boss{{}}In the current market conditions, businesses rely on their key members of staff more than ever — especially as organisations downsize, cut costs and freeze recruitment plans.

However, what plans do companies have in place to retain, motivate and inspire their key members of staff? Or are you taking those members of staff for granted? What about the staff who seem to have been around forever or the people that have been ultra-reliable, that you count on and put a lot of faith in?

These are the people who have been working harder than most for a long time. They are the people who put in extra hours without question — the people you can leave to handle things when you’re away from the office; the people who you can rely on to give you an honest assessment of what’s going on.

Yet these are also the people who often get overlooked or taken for granted. They get disillusioned, lose motivation and start looking for other opportunities.

Who are your key members of staff?

For some firms, it’s the head of accounts or credit control who keeps late-payers in check and makes sure the cash flow is where it should be. For others, it’s the top salesperson that outperforms the rest and brings in large amounts of profit to the organisation. It could also be the head of the admin department or office manager that keeps everything running smoothly.

Now, more than ever it’s important to motivate, inspire and retain these key members of staff to ensure business efficiency, productivity and profitability.  So how does your company measure up?

How can you identify the key players?

As conditions change, the key players in your team may well be different than the key players in the past. So how do we identify the key players now as well as the likely key players in the future? As businesses evolve, it can be difficult, but you can accomplish it with a simple exercise.

Exercise: Get out a pen and a sheet of paper. Imagine you’re starting the business again today — one that is designed to succeed in today’s market. Draw up an organisational chart of what the business would look like, with the key positions in it. Now step back and have a look at it. How different is it from the company you have now?

If you were to fill in names for those positions on the chart, who are the key players — the essential people you couldn’t do without? How do they compare to your key players today?

As businesses re-engineer their offering, the key players may change. Are your team on board with the changes? How do they feel about it? Can you rely on them to deliver under a new structure?

Motivating and leading the team

People need leadership now more than ever. As a leader, people will look to you for direction, motivation and inspiration. If you’re implementing changes in the business, you need the buy-in of your staff members, and particularly your key players for the changes to succeed.

Many change management programmes have failed because they didn’t get the key players on board — those who prefer things the way they were — and the longer they have been in the business, the more likely they are to prefer it the old way.

You need to sit down with them and discuss the changes, the reasons why changes have to be made and what you’re trying to achieve and then get their buy in. Failure to do this properly could lead to people sabotaging the project or stiff resistance at the very least.

Setting up and managing the perfect team

If you’re planning on setting up a new team, or re-engineering the business and the people within it, you have a great chance to take a fresh look at the business and set up the perfect teams within it. So what does a perfect team look like?

Right now you need people who are proactive, who will do things without you having to prompt them or stand over them to make sure it happens. You need people who are determined to make things happen and see things through. You need people that are on your side, who you can rely on to perform, no matter what.

Motivating your sales team

Nowhere is this more important than your sales team. Your sales team are always an important part of your business, but now they’re more important than ever. They have a direct influence on your profits and the potential survival of your business.

So right now, who are the members of your sales team that are regularly demonstrating the right traits? They’re going to be facing more objections from clients than ever before — things like "we’ve got no budget", "things are on hold for the moment" and "we need to get a few more quotes" — and these are from clients that would have ordered without a quibble before.

They’re going to be facing more objections from new business prospects. There are going to be more competitors; more projects are going to be cancelled; and more companies are going to be closing their doors. How are your sales team placed to cope? And how are you supporting them now?

You need to work on your sales team and their attitude, skills and abilities — to ensure their sales skills stay sharp and to make sure they have tenacity, determination, resilience, self-motivation, confidence and all the successful traits associated with top sales people.

Andy Preston is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a leading expert on sales. His website is at www.andypreston.com.

Five ways to create a brilliant blog

April 07, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Five ways to create a brilliant blog/Rubber stamp make Blog word{{}}Do you want a hard-working blog that attracts lots of readers in your sector? Read on:

1. Find your niche

Whether you’re setting out to produce an industry blog or a personal one, you need to make sure it’s on a subject you’re passionate about. It sounds obvious but if you don’t know a lot about the subject you’re blogging on then as a resource it has limited value. As I’m in the B2B PR industry I knew what my peers would find valuable and this insight informed the categories on my blog and it has helped to attract guest posts from some high profile people in the industry.

2. Don’t be afraid to be controversial

Don’t be afraid of putting your opinions forward and exploring topics that conventional industry publications would rather avoid — these topics will more often than not prove to be the most popular with your readership. One of the most popular series we’ve produced was a frank assessment of the state of the UK’s PR industry body, the PRCA. We asked whether it offered smaller agencies good value and whether it was principally a lead generation tool for bigger agencies. The blog received a lot of attention and the PRCA ended up engaging with us online and that debate certainly benefitted our readers.

3. Stay calm and carry on blogging

Launching a blog can be soul destroying. You can go for weeks with very little traffic and it can be hard to gain traction as a newbie in an already competitive industry. If you don’t get the 10,000 readers you were hoping for in your first week, keep at it! Your readership will build gradually over time if you keep producing content that appeals. If you abandon your blog at the first sign that it’s not going to be easy, then expect to fail.

4. Spend a little bit of cash

While you may think the quality of your content will attract industry peers from far and wide, they do have to find it in the first place. The beauty of social PPC campaigns is that you can use networks like Facebook and Twitter to advertise to a specific audience at a very low cost. We spent no more than a few hundred pounds promoting our blog and were able to get it in front of the right audience quickly and cheaply.

5. Develop a basic understanding of SEO

If you want to build an engaged following then you need to understand what your target audience is searching for online. Get familiar with Google’s keyword tool to make sure that the content you’re producing on a regular basis contains the right search terms. Not only does this attract a relevant industry audience but it can also work as a lead generation tool.    

Heather Baker is the managing director of TopLine Communications and editor of the B2B PR Blog.

Why all your staff should be involved in selling

April 03, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Why all your staff should be involved in selling/Teamwork and corporate profit with red statistical{{}}You may have a fabulous sales team but if you don’t encourage the rest of your people to sell and support the sales process, you’re missing a golden opportunity. It’s not just your sales people who should be selling!

Marketing

A good marketing department should directly influence your sales. They should identify new and fruitful markets for you to approach, helping you to find and convert prospective clients. Marketing can also influence product development, helping you to devise pricing strategies and prepare all creative collateral.

Customer service

By listening to customer feedback, your customer service people are in a prime position to identify customer frustrations and turn negatives into positives. What’s more, they can listen out for suggested improvements to products or services based on customer feedback. In addition to influencing sales, your customer services can encourage clients to return if they’ve had a positive customer experience.

Accounts

Indirectly, other departments in your company can also influence sales. Your accounts team can free up your salespeople’s time by chasing up invoices and purchase orders for them. They can also provide salespeople with information on customer spending patterns as well as keeping costs under control so that prices can be competitive.

IT

You may initially think that your IT team can’t boost sales, but key tasks in that department can play an important role in influencing them. Your IT people can Identify and invest in software to support your sales team, such as CRM. They’ll also be responsible for providing the hardware to support the sales team and may be involved in providing reliable remote access so sales teams can work whilst on the road.

Delivery team

Any delivery department will be able to ensure the quality of your product as well as its availability. They can provide a positive experience when liaising with customers and, like the customer service department, they can listen out for suggested improvements. What’s more, if your delivery team isn’t delivering on the sales team’s promises, then you won’t be getting any repeat sales.

So, whilst your sales department may do a fabulous job, they shouldn’t work in isolation. Make explicit the contributions made by other departments, so all your people can appreciate their involvement in the selling process. Selling is an activity that almost everyone can be involved in, and should be involved in.

In the words of Mark Cuban, American businessman and investor, “I still work hard to know my business … and I'm always selling. Always.”

Heather Foley is a consultant at ETS, a UK-based HR technology specialist.

Posted in Sales | Tagged Sales management, sales | 0 comments

No makeup selfies - a lesson in social networking

April 01, 2014 by Guest Blogger

David Berney{{}}The “no makeup selfie” viral fundraising campaign has taken the social networks by storm and raised an incredible £2 million in 48 hours for Cancer Research UK. It demonstrates the incredible power of social media as a fundraising tool.

Social networks and newsfeeds have been inundated with images of thousands of women, all bare-faced, along with the hashtag “nomakeupselfie” and a text number to donate to the charity. It all started last Tuesday when author Laura Lippman posted a picture of her makeup-free face in support of actress Kim Novak who was recently criticised for her looks.

Instant fundraising

Interestingly, the campaign wasn't started by Cancer Research. But the charity was quick and clever in its support of the campaign, which then helped generate significant amounts of awareness. After Cancer Research UK noticed the “nomakeupselfie” trending on Twitter it sent out a tweet saying: "We're loving your #cancerawareness #nomakeupselfie pics! The campaign isn't ours but every £ helps #beatcancersooner." And on its Google+ page it announced: “Thousands of you are posting #cancerawareness #nomakeupselfie pictures and many have asked if the campaign is ours. It's not but we love that people want to get involved!”

It just shows that when a campaign goes viral via social media, messages reach millions of people in minutes. Prior to social networking it wouldn't have been possible for charities to have this kind of impact, without huge advertising spends.

The Institute of Fundraising and Blackbaud reported recently that online giving and digital fundraising is growing rapidly. It accounted for 30% of the total income charities received between January 2010 and December 2012. Moreover, the average online donation increased to £64.07 in 2012, a rise of £11.20 per donation compared to 2010 (£52.87).

A powerful opportunity

Charities and not-for-profits have a huge opportunity via the internet to generate income — free of charge. Digital fundraising platforms can enable charities to diversify and expand their online fundraising capacity, reaching out to far greater number of supporters and allowing them to communicate their messages and campaigns quickly and free of charge.

Social media is fast, powerful and cost effective and when done correctly, it captures people's imagination and enables messages to be shared across a multitude of channels, to family, friends and beyond.

Although many of the bigger charities are jumping on board with online giving and using social media as a key tool, smaller charities need to follow suit. As the “no makeup selfie” shows, a little imagination and creativity can translate into millions of pounds of funding.

In many ways, the internet is made for small charities, as they can use digital fundraising platforms and social networks to reach millions of people — at virtually no cost. Let's hope this campaign provides food for thought and inspiration.

David Berney (pictured) is the CEO and founder of Wishgenie, offering free social media fundraising tools for charities, businesses and individuals.


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