Tag Archives: Small business

Roll out the Red Carpet for 2017

Have you rolled out the Red Carpet to welcome the New Year and the opportunities it may bring?

Or are you just crossing your fingers and hoping it will be better than last year?

Now the Christmas and New Year festivities are over, the Holywood glitterati are rolling out the red carpet for the Awards season. Accustomed as actors are to being centre stage, it’s not surprising if they see acceptance speeches as an opportunity to draw attention to the current events, political issues and good causes that are personally important to them.

What will be important for you and your business in 2017? Are you prepared for whatever may come your way? Are you ready to grasp the opportunities as they arise?

There’s no denying that we all face the coming months with some uncertainty, so having a business plan in place that enables you to monitor your progress and adapt to meet the challenges ahead will be more important then ever.

Here are five things you can do now (it’s not too late!) to make the most of 2017:

  1. Do your market research. Even if  you think you already know everything there is to know about your market, now is a good time to re-visit your existing market data and see if anything is likely to change in the coming year. Have your customers’ needs changed? What are your competitors doing? Are there any new legal requirements you need to incorporate in your plans?
  2. Complete your SWOT analysis. Use the market research to ensure you are making the most of  your strengths and to highlight any upcoming opportunities. Identify any weaknesses or skill shortages in the business. Ensure you are aware of any external threats, such as new legislation or a competitor product launch.
  3. Use the SWOT analysis to formulate your business plan. Set your business targets for the year, define your objectives, review your financial planning and work on a strategic marketing plan to make sure you achieve them. Don’t forget to allocate sufficient money to your marketing budget to enable you to meet your sales targets!
  4. Create a monthly advertising, promotions and events calendar, making sure you maximise the opportunities from seasonal and local highlights such as Easter, Bank Holidays, Christmas, local events, etc.
  5. Address any skill shortages you identified in the SWOT by learning a new skill, employing new staff or outsourcing to experienced professionals.

Outsourcing skills you don’t already have to a professional is a great way to give your business the edge. If you need some help with your 2017 business plan, or would be interested in attending a business plan clinic or training session, contact us for more information:  http://www.bluejmarketing.co.uk/contact-page/

Jackie Wilson MCIM APM

Get Set For Summer – Holiday Checklist for Small Businesses

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When you’re running your own business, there never seems to be a good time to take a holiday. There’s always another customer to see, an urgent order to fulfill or a meeting you just can’t miss.

But taking a break can…

  • boost creativity
  • reduce stress
  • improve happiness levels
  • increase productivity

…so it’s even more important for small business owners to book that holiday and get away from it all for a few days.

If you’re having trouble deciding how to fit in a holiday…and worrying what will happen to the business whilst your away…we’ve put together a useful checklist to help you get your business ready for that all important break.

Small Business Holiday Checklist:

  1. Give your customers plenty of notice of the dates you will be away.
  2. Manage your time carefully, ensuring any outstanding work is completed before your holiday.
  3. Consider delegating or outsourcing essential jobs that can’t wait till you get back.
  4. Make sure your expenses, invoices and outstanding bills are up to date before you go.
  5. Update your email auto-response and answering machine message so your clients know when to expect a reply.

And finally…

…dig out those flip-flops, book your space under the parasol, sit back and relax!
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Whatever your plans, we hope you have a fun and profitable summer season.

Jackie Wilson – Marketing Consultant & Business Mentor
Catherine Wainwright – Finance & Accounting
Elizabeth Worrall – Corporate Financial Planning
John Wilson – Quality, Environment, Health & safety

Eight Exhibition Essentials

1. Be clear on what you want – set objectives with measurable targets:

• Business leads?

• Database contacts?

• Increased brand awareness?

• Networking opportunities?

• Sales?

• Supplier contacts?

2. First impressions count – so make sure your stand looks professional. Use banners to create impact…but don’t be tempted to fill all the available space with information. Keep the copy short and simple with important details at eye level.

3. Provide more detailed information about your products or services with leaflets, catalogues and handouts.

4. Don’t forget the essentials – take a stationery box with useful items, e.g. pens, notepad, scissors, sticky tape, stapler, business cards.

5. Attract attention – draw people to your stand by offering free gifts, samples or a prize draw.

6. Collect contact details of everyone who expresses an interest in your business.

7. Review – the exhibition is over and the stand is packed away, so now is a good time to review what worked well, what didn’t work so well and how you could do better next time. Make a note and keep for next time.

8. Follow up and deliver – make sure you follow up on all the leads you worked so hard for and deliver on any promises you made.

If you need some help with planning an exhibition stand or event, contact us: jackie@bluejmarketing.co.uk

Three Resolutions You Should Make For Your Business

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Get 2016 off to a sparkling start with these three resolutions.

  1. Do your market research. Even if  you think you already know everything there is to know about your market, the New Year is a good time to re-visit your existing market data and see if anything is likely to change in the coming year. Have your customers’ needs changed? What are your competitors doing? Are there any new legal requirements you need to incorporate in your plans?
  2. Complete your SWOT analysis. Use the market research to ensure you are making the most of  your strengths and to highlight any upcoming opportunities. Identify any weaknesses or skill shortages in the business. Ensure you are aware of any external threats, such as new legislation or a competitor product launch.
  3. Use the SWOT analysis to formulate your business plan. Create a monthly calendar to promote your business strengths. Address any skill shortages by learning a new skill, employing new staff or outsourcing to experienced professionals.

If you need more information on how Blue J Marketing can help with your 2016 business plan contact me: jackie@bluejmarketing.co.uk

 

12 Tips of Christmas Planning

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Are you ready for Christmas?

At this busy time of year, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the day to day running of the business that you forget to plan for the Christmas holiday period .

We’ve come up with a 12 point check list to help make sure you have everything covered, so when the 24th comes around you can go home, relax and enjoy the festivities with your family and friends.

  1. Check staff rotas to ensure all departments are covered over the holiday period.
  2. Ensure Customer Service are ready to deal with any queries that come in over the holiday, especially between Christmas and New Year.
  3. Monitor December sales figures daily and take any necessary action to achieve end of year targets.
  4. Social media and email marketing are both useful last minute marketing strategies to help boost sales.
  5. Set up a social media plan for the holiday period to make sure someone is monitoring your social assets at all times. You will need to have a clear policy in place to enable designated staff to respond to in-coming comments, know how to handle negativity and even manage a crisis situation.
  6. Notify customers of: last order and delivery dates before Christmas; dates that the business will be closed; first order and delivery dates after the holiday.
  7. Contact your accountant in good time to make your final preparations for the year end. Make sure you have all the information you need to complete the finances for the year, including supplier statements and customer payments.
  8. If you’re a sole trader, don’t forget the self-assessment deadline is the 31st January.
  9. The period between Christmas and the New Year is a good time to do a stock take and a bit of spring cleaning….both physically and mentally!
  10. Should Christmas turn out to be white, have a plan in place for getting essential staff into work.
  11. Have a Health & Safety policy in place to clear snow and ice from company car parks and walkways. Advise staff on how to travel safely in icy and snowy conditions.
  12. And finally….don’t be a Scrooge! Make sure your staff feel appreciated, everyone gets some time off (including you!) and comes back to work refreshed and ready for a happy, busy and prosperous New Year.

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Four steps to put the ‘blue-sky’ back in your business plan

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With Christmas only a few weeks away, it’s easy to get swept up in what may be your busiest time of the year and forget all about next year’s business plan until January. But if you can put aside some time now to review you current position and start thinking about how to make next year even better, you will give yourself a head start …and something to celebrate in the New Year.

 

We’ve all been so focused on cutting costs and concentrating on the core business to survive, that the creativity has gone out of the business planning process. Creative ideas can give businesses a competitive edge, so now is the perfect time to follow these four steps and put some blue-sky thinking back into your 2016 business plan.

Step 1:
Do the essentials first…analyse sales, profit and national economic data to track trends and forecast 2016 sales based on current business.
Step 2:
Complete a SWOT analysis to identify ways to improve current products or services and identify market gaps and opportunities for new ones.

Step 3:
Once you’ve identified the opportunities, set aside some time for a creative ideas session. Include staff members from all departments. Those at the customer facing end of the business can often provide valuable insights into customer needs and expectations. Including them in the planning process will have the additional benefit of improving motivation and job satisfaction.

Encourage everyone to contribute by asking questions:

What? What if? How? Where? When? Why? Why not?

Even the most outlandish ideas can spark something of real value, so don’t dismiss them too quickly.

And most of all….have some fun exploring all the possibilities!

Step 4:
When you’ve completed Step 3, go back to Step 1 and re-assess your sales forecasts including the estimated revenue from the new opportunities. Don’t forget to increase the marketing budget to cover the cost of promoting your new or improved products or services.

If you’re struggling to think beyond the familiar, or running a business on your own and need some help with your creative thinking, bringing in a consultant with a fresh perspective may be just what you need. If you’d like some help with your plans for 2016, send me an email: jackie@bluejmarketing.co.uk

 

 Jackie Wilson Dip.M MCIM Chartered Marketer
Jackie is a Chartered Marketer, Doncaster 100 Mentor and Yorkshire Business Collective Advisor with extensive management experience across a wide range of industry sectors and a passion for delivering effective marketing solutions.

 

Summer Holidays…a welcome break or a business nightmare?

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We all love the holiday season…but If your business has a bad case of summer flu, we have some tips to help improve your immunity system. 

Whether you’re reading this on the beach (shame on you!) or stuck in the office covering for staff on holiday, chances are that the summer season will have had some kind of impact on your business.
Will you be expecting a sharp down turn again in September?
Or are you scratching for sales because all your customers are on holiday?
Do you find your annual sales graph is full of peaks and troughs?

Three tips to avoid the seasonal sales slump

If this year’s summer break isn’t proving to be as relaxing as you’d hoped, start planning now to make the most of the Autumn and pre-Christmas sales. 

  • Analyse: Analyse your annual sales figures to identify seasonal trends. What caused  those peaks and troughs?
  • Research: Research your market. Examine buying patterns. Look for opportunities. Is there a seasonal use for your product or service that you’re not currently exploiting?
  • Plan: Use the quiet holiday period to start planning for the rest of this year. Create a marketing calendar utilising special offers; discounts; competitions; vouchers; PR; advertising; events; social media. Use your planning to encouraging purchase during quiet periods as well as maximising sales during peak times.

If you’d like some help with your marketing plans, send me an email: jackie@bluejmarketing.co.uk

Market Research…a guide for Start-ups and Small Businesses

The Government has just published the 2014 Small Business Survey and it seems that confidence in this sector is improving…so much so that 73% of SMEs are planning for growth. However, only 28% feel confident to enter new markets and 66% are worried about competition.

That’s not too surprising, we can all feel a little hesitant about entering unknown territory. So, we’ve put together a useful guide on market research and how you can use it to explore new market opportunities, or just to make sure you stay one step ahead of the competition.

Market Research…a guide for Start-ups and Small Businesses
Whilst experience, common sense and intuition may tell you a great deal about your chosen market, some more in depth research to establish the viability of your new product or business venture is often necessary. Unfortunately, the market research industry is prone to jargon and can seem incomprehensible to beginners. To help you get to grips with this essential business tool, let’s look at some of the most common methods of research and explain how you can use them to better understand your market.

Desk Research
Often the fastest and cheapest option, this simply means analysing available information on the market you wish to research. This could include:

  • Published research from companies such as TGI, Mintel or Euromonitor
  • Online research from Google and other search engines
  • Trade association research
  • Trade magazine research
  • Government statistics and surveys

If your business is already up and running, you should also look at sales reports, stock records, company accounts, customer records and customer complaints.

Whilst desk research is a quick and easy way to get a broad overview of the market, it can be out of date and lacking in detail. It is best used to identify areas for further research.

Quantitative Research
Uses surveys, questionnaires or panels to ask large samples* questions like:

  • How many?
  • How often?
  • Where from?

It then measures and analyses the answers to produce objective, numerical data for analysis and interpretation. The research can take place by phone, online or in the street.

It is most commonly used to calculate:

  • Size of a market or segment
  • Brand share
  • Frequency of purchase
  • Customer attitudes
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer loyalty

If you’re just starting out, you could use it to estimate the size of the market, estimate the sales you might achieve or how to target potential customers.

The easiest way to conduct your own Quantitative Research is to email contacts with an online survey using a free provider such as SurveyMonkey. Adding a question to an omnibus survey is also a relatively cost effective way of collecting demographic data, as well as responses to a specific question.
*A representative sample will reflect the group from which it is drawn. The larger the sample, the more precisely it reflects the target group.

Qualitative Research
Provides non-quantifiable, subjective information based on the opinions of a small group of selected individuals. It uses open ended questions to find out why people buy and how products meet their needs.

The two main qualitative methods are depth interviews and focus groups, both of which can be used to:

  • provide more depth to the understanding drawn from quantitative research
  • suggest the reasons for a trend
  • tap into consumer creativity when developing new products, packaging or advertising

However, both these techniques need highly skilled researchers, which puts them out of the price range of most small businesses.

Observational Research
This is carried out by simply observing customers in real life situations, without their being aware. For example, a Mystery Shopper could take notes on:

  • how customers shop
  • which products interest them
  • how your staff relate to them

This type of research can be relatively quick and easy to set up. It doesn’t rely on people giving opinions, being honest, or using their memory. It simply shows how people actually behave, what they buy or how they react to certain conditions. If you can experience it first hand by keeping a log of how customers behave, it may give you a better insight than other research methods. However, it can be time consuming and it is open to misinterpretation.

Which type to choose?
Whichever type of research you choose, make sure that you first define your objectives:

  • What do you want to know?
  • Why do you want this information?
  • How will the information you gather be used in your decision making?

Jackie Wilson Dip.M MCIM Chartered Marketer
Blue J Marketing

Jackie is a Chartered Marketer, Doncaster 100 Mentor and Yorkshire Business Collective Advisor with extensive management experience across a wide range of industry sectors and a passion for delivering effective

A local solution for local business

According to a YouGov survey, 87% of people in Yorkshire and Humber trust ‘local businesses’*
With this in mind, a group of Doncaster based, independent business advisors have joined together to form the Yorkshire Business Collective. Their aim is to provide a comprehensive business advice and consultancy service to help Yorkshire businesses succeed.
Recruiting, hiring and training competent and professionally qualified staff can be expensive and time consuming. Filling the skills gap by outsourcing a professional consultant can provide a quick and effective solution, adding long term value to the business without the long term risks.
Members of the Yorkshire Business Collective have between them a broad mix of skills, experience and professional qualifications. Marketing, finance, credit control, leadership, staff development, quality, environment and health & safety are all available through the Collective.
Marketing expert, Jackie Wilson and a founding member of the Collective said, “We are all really online casino excited to be launching our new venture at the Business Doncaster Showcase on 26th February. With the current focus on developing the north and Yorkshire in particular, and with projects like the High Speed Rail Academy already underway, we want to help local businesses make the most of any and every opportunity.”
Cath Winfield, Organisational Development specialist, added, “Taking the right approach is key when your organisation is going through a period of change, or embarking on a new project. An external consultant can help to tackle barriers, accelerate progress or simply act as a sounding board for new ideas.”
If you would like to know more about the Yorkshire Business Collective and what they can do for your business, you can contact them through their website www.yorksbizcollective.com; or email them at info@yorksbizcollective.com;

How to REACH and retain new customers

If you’ve ever wondered how to reach new customers…and then ensure they keep coming back…take some tips from the owner of a busy taverna on the island of Corfu.

Close your eyes for a moment and let your imagination take you to a dusty, winding track on a hillside thick with olive trees and cypresses. Below, the early evening sun is sparkling on the turquoise-blue waters of a secluded bay. A couple of yachts are moored out in the bay…some smaller fishing boats and motor launches nestle up to the jetty which runs along the shoreline. You arrived in this idyllic spot late the previous evening and have already made one trip down the hill to the pretty village for essential supplies. Now the heat of the sun is waning, hunger and the enticing smell of cooking is drawing you back in search of an evening meal.

At the centre of the small village are two tavernas, nestling side by side right on the waterfront. Naturally, competition between the two is pretty fierce, but the tactics employed to draw in the passing tourists are very different.

The owner of Taverna A (lets call him Stavros) adopts an aggressive approach, blocking your path, thrusting a menu at you and assuring you his taverna is much cheaper than Taverna B. If this doesn’t convince and, finding the space invading tactics off-putting, you manage to neatly side step and continue on your way, Stavros throws uncomplimentary comments on his rival’s business at your hastily retreating backs!

Still unnerved from this brush with Stavros, you take only a few steps more steps before being hailed by a smiling owner of Taverna B (let’s call this one Spiros!) from a more comfortable distance. He draws you into a casual conversation on the weather, where you’ve been (as you’re staying nearby, he will already have seen you passing earlier in the day and made a note of where you were going, perhaps even given you directions or helpful advice on local attractions), or the state of the economy…whatever he feels you might be interested in, having taken a careful note of age, gender, dress code, companions, etc. Once he has engaged your attention and drawn you into a friendly conversation for a few minutes, he will inquire if you would like the table right by the water front that he has been saving especially for you. How can you possibly refuse?

Once seated at your table, he will personally bring you the extensive menu…at first glance you will quickly realise there is enough choice to dine at this taverna every night of your holiday and eat something different every time…explain the intricacies of the various Greek specialities and give you his recommendations for the perfect blend of starter, main course and accompanying wine. All you have to do is sit back, enjoy the view and wait for your freshly cooked and delectably prepared food to arrive.

As the sun starts to set and fully replete from your delicious meal, you request the bill, which promptly arrives with glasses of Mettaxa, ‘on the house’….clearly a special service he reserves only for his most favoured clients. Still glowing from the warmth of this hospitality…not to mention the Greek brandy…you wend you’re way back to your villa, promising yourself a return visit to try out the rest of the menu.

I have both taken part in and watched this scenario play out many times and I promise you it never fails. Customers hooked into this particular style of customer care come back time after time for more. I’m not sure if ‘Spiros’ has ever undergone any formal training in marketing, but his methods can be adapted to a text-book style format and could be applied in many business scenarios. Just remember these five simple steps:

1. Research. Observe your potential customers. Don’t start out with a hard sell…take some time to get to
know them first. Find out where they’re going, what they do, what they’re interested in, which demographic they fit in…age, gender, interests, etc.
2. Engage. Draw them into conversation. Establish a rapport. Find a common interest or a general topic to break the ice.
3. Attend. Add some depth and detail to the information you’ve already collected. Find out and remember their name, their interests, what they’re looking for, the names of partners, children, pets…whatever is relevant to your business. Don’t just rely on your memory. Keep a database or a notebook and log details every time a client visits.
4. Charm. Make them feel special. Offer them something extra…a table, deal, service…you get the idea. Keep a record of what works best with each customer, or type of customer if you can identify trends.
5. Hook. Before they leave, give them a reason to come back. Tell them about a new product, service or promotion that is coming soon. Offer an incentive. Invite them to join a loyalty scheme. Be sure they know about other products or services they might be interested in. Let them know they’re important and just how much you appreciate their business.

And finally…make sure the goods live up to the promise. Spiros not only charms the passing trade into eating at his taverna, but he also delivers in terms of quality, food and service.

If you can deliver a higher standard of goods and/or service, you will find it much easier to REACH and retain loyal customers than the competitor who relies solely on being the cheapest.