UTILISING LINKEDIN FOR BUSINESS

January 24, 2012

ARE YOU ON LINKEDIN AND DO YOU UTILISE IT FOR YOUR BUSINESS

LinkedIn is a business related social network site founded in December 2002 and now has 120 million registered users and this is growing at a rate of two new members per second. It is a wealth of knowledge, just ask a question and there are hundreds of experts out there willing to help and answer your question, engage with these people and interact in their discussions to help your business grow.

If you are not on LinkedIn or if you haven’t created a company page on the site here are some of the facts why you should:

  •  120 million registered users
  • Growing at a rate of two users per second
  • Over 200 countries are represented
  • Over half of the users are outside the USA
  • More than 2 million companies have a company page

LinkedIn is a great asset to your business and can save you time and money and be far more effective than advertising here are some reasons why:

  •  Compelling and relevant content will grab the attention of potential customers/business partners and increase brand visibility
  • You can respond almost instantly to industry developments and become heard in your field
  • It can be much cheaper and far more effective than traditional advertising, recruitment and promotional activities
  • LinkedIn content can indirectly boost links to website content by appearing in universal search results, improving search traffic and online sales
  • It gives access to a wealth of experienced professionals when recruiting
  • It can help you gather valuable business and market place intelligence

If you are just starting out on LinkedIn or starting a new company page then the priority has to be completing your profile as fully as possible, networking is all about relationships. The more people and businesses know about you, the closer that relationship. Once you have completed your profile then look for connections start with people you have previously worked with and then once you are connected, search their connections and see who else you know and can connect with. You should also explore the Groups section and join groups that have an affiliation with your area of business expertise, study the daily bulletins for these groups and see where you can add benefit to the dialogue, this allows you to reach like minded professionals, become seen as an expert in your field and also increase your knowledge. This will lead to recommendations and help build new relationships. The more interaction on LinkedIn the more respect you will gain and it will assist your business to grow and direct traffic to your website. In reverse you should ensure that you post the LinkedIn logo on a prominent place on your website and link it to your company or personal LinkedIn page.

With so many minds able to network together, crowd sourcing and open innovation allow people to work together on a massive scale. By involving your online contact network in your company, you can benefit from:

  • The wisdom and creativity of people outside your own workforce
  • The increased likelihood of people picking up on and developing innovative ideas   that might otherwise go unrecognised
  • The outside perspective of customers – and potential customers – who may see issues and opportunities you’re unaware of
  • Increased customer loyalty and brand advocacy that comes from having a say in your company’s offer
  • Lower costs when developing new products or enhancements, and more certain  market success for them

One of the other great things about LinkedIn is its interaction with other social media sites, so if you tweet on Twitter it will simultaneously appear on your LinkedIn profile. This helps to reinforce your name as regular status updates keeps your name at the forefront of people’s minds.

If you need to know more about LinkedIn there are social media experts in your area that can provide you with this information, search them out on the web.

 

                                                                    

 

 


WHY AND HOW TO USE TWITTER IN YOUR BUSINESS

January 16, 2012

Twitter is a social networking service that keeps your followers informed of what’s new in succinct to the point messages of 140 characters maximum. These messages can also be linked to your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles so they appear simultaneously on these networks.

It is a proven fact that news can travel fast around the globe once posted on Twitter. Twitter has been responsible for breaking many news stories. For instance Iran, when public protested about the 2009 elections the BBC and CNN were forced to get their updates from Twitter. It can be utilised for similar affect with regard to your business, you can keep people informed of latest offers, new products, latest recipes and your customers will utilise it to broadcast an excellent or poor experience.

Why should you utilise this media phenomenon, here are some facts:-

  • Twitter has over 300 million registered users
  • Approximately 450,000 new users register each day
  • There are 200 million tweets sent each day
  • 40% of active users utilise their phone to tweet
  • The fastest growing age group of users is 35 – 45 year olds

Twitter can help your business in a number of ways:-

  • It creates awareness of your business
  • It can be utilised to develop customer loyalty
  • It drives traffic to your website
  • It provides the opportunity for marketing campaigns to reach a far wider audience
  • Promotes products and services
  • Networks with customers and potential customers
  • Monitor trends, competitors and new products
  • Promotes events
  • Recruitment

Twitter allows you to maintain regular contact with your customers and interact with them and you have the opportunity to manage your reputation by quickly responding to an adverse comment and turning this round.

If you are not utilising Twitter, take a look because your competitors are and they are taking advantage so seize the opportunity and become part of this. It also provides you the opportunity to see what your competitors are doing.

If you are not on Twitter visit www.twitter.com and sign up. You have 15 characters for your user id, so ensure this reflects your business and allows your customers to find you. Ensure you add a photograph to your profile to personalise your account and your website address to drive traffic. Once you have set up your account then find people to follow and read the bio of those who follow you and decide if to follow them. Use Twitter to share your knowledge, ask questions, promote other businesses and interact. Once you start to tweet set aside time to regularly update your followers, it doesn’t always have to be about business, share all useful information. The best time to grab people’s attention is to tweet in the afternoon and more specifically mid afternoon on a Friday.

A useful tool in Twitter is hash tags #, which is equivalent of the Meta tags utilised on your website, which are picked up by the search engine spiders and push your website to the top of the search lists. If you want your message to be picked up by someone interested in what you are saying add hash tag # prior to the key word, i.e. #special offer.

Once you have signed up add your Twitter ID to email signature, business cards and website, download Twitter application to your phone and email people to tell them you are on Twitter.

If you need to know more about Twitter there are social media experts in your area that can provide you with this information, search them out on the web.


HOW TO IMPLEMENT CHANGE IN YOUR BUSINESS

January 11, 2012

Your business is growing which means that you are going to have to implement changes; this can be a real challenge for your business skills.

 HOW DO WE IMPLEMENT CHANGE

Our last blog looked at planning to move your business to the next stage of development this will mean a number of changes, which will affect everyone in your team and we all know everyone’s reaction to change, it takes people out of their comfort zone and they fear the worst. Therefore the process has to be carefully managed so not to disrupt existing business.

In order for the process to succeed one of the key things is to have total buy in from your management team as they are going to have to focus their team during the restructuring The key processes to follow are:

  • Lead by example, let your whole team know that you are fully behind the changes
  • Ensure that you provide adequate resource to the change, such as sufficient training in any new processes
  • Set goals and targets for the change that are achievable and measurable
  • Incentivise key employees
  • Thoroughly monitor the process and embrace any changes that may need to happen to the initial plans

Dependant on the change that you are proposing you may want to appoint a project team to oversee the process. Appointing a project team can ensure that the process receives the correct level of focus with the appropriate skills applied.

Good project management should:

  • Prevent the project/process failing
  • Ensure a minimum level of quality and that results deliver requirements and expectations
  • Reduce the burden on other team members allowing them to go about their normal work and increase efficiency both on the project and within the business
  • Improve the communication process with a single point of contact running the overall project
  • Ensure consistent of the message to the team, suppliers and customers
  • Ensure focus on  costs, timeframes and resources to budget
  • Ensure smooth and efficient integration into the business

All projects need to have a detailed proposal for achieving all aspects of the objectives and goals of the plan. The project plan will detail the what, when, how and by whom and this template will enable the process to be successfully managed. Also a SWOT analysis is a great strategic tool to evaluate the project.

The project team will need a project manager who will be the focal point of the process and will drive progress and mange the process. A good project manager will be:

  • A confident individual able to communicate with and build relationships both internally and externally
  • Flexible with the ability to balance and prioritise conflicting project constraints such as time, quality and cost
  • Highly organised, self motivated and diligent when it comes to time management and paperwork

I hope that this information has been useful, but if you require assistance in helping your business grow please contact us, we can assist with:

  • Business Strategy
  • Financial and Systems Monitoring
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Industry Trend Analysis
  • Evaluation of Options

DO YOU REGULARLY REVIEW YOUR BUSINESS PERFORMANCE

January 9, 2012

We need to be constantly reflecting on how our business is performing and review our strategy and business plan and measure the success of our marketing. Are we making the most of market opportunities, are we moving in a different direction to we originally planned, is the business under control, all questions we need to be constantly asking of our business as an executive team. We might decide the business is ready to move to the next stage of development, if so what resources do we need to progress:-

 

  • Do we need people with different skills
  • Do we need to invest in more assets
  • Do we have sufficient finances to develop
  • Are the facilities the right ones for developing
  • Do we need to look to professional advisers to assess if we are ready

Let’s evaluate our business and ask ourselves some key questions such as what makes our products/services successful, how could they improve, and should we look at new/complementary products and services.

We should start by asking ourselves some key questions.

  • Are we providing/delivering products and services that match our customer’s  needs
  • Which products/services are successful, delivering  high percentage of sales and high profit margins
  • If products are not delivering, why? Is it price, marketing, service
  • Do you frequently review your key areas of costs, overheads and assets
  • Is there a better way of doing something
  • Have we negotiated the best deal with our suppliers

As a senior team in finding the answers to the above will give you the basis to improve sales and profitability.

When reviewing the finances of the business, consideration should be given to the following:

  • The cashflow, the in and out of money through the business needs to be reviewed regularly and updated.
  • Working capital has the business situation changed, you may need to resource additional funds and for this the business plan need to be up to date.
  • Have you reviewed your cost base recently to ensure that you are selling at the correct price?
  • Have you looked at borrowings and explored cheaper finance offers
  • If you are planning growth for your business do you need to adjust finances to enable this to happen?

Having conducted these business reviews you have a clear understanding where the Company is now. In today’s dynamic age it is essential that you thoroughly revisit and challenge the whole business process and it may be necessary to bring in outside assistance from a consultant, which can prove more economical than developing internal talent, they can help you identify how to change your management structure and an experienced non executive director can provide essential impartial advice.

I hope that this information has been useful, but if you require assistance in helping your business grow please contact us.


WRITING A MARKETING PLAN

January 4, 2012

WRITING A MARKETING PLAN

As we have discussed in a number of previous monthly business tips marketing is a vital part of business and we have identified various methods of marketing, so let’s look at the basis of the marketing plan for your business.

It needs to set out clear objectives and list actions you need to take to achieve them and ensure your plan becomes a reality.

The marketing plan should begin with an executive summary that gives you a quick overview of the main points of the plan, although this is at the beginning of your plan it is completed last and is an aid to ensure your plan makes sense.

The main part of your plan should start with the business strategy and include:-

  • Your business mission
  • Your key objectives
  • Your strategy for achieving objectives.

Understanding the environment your business operates in is a key part of the plan and we have discussed this in the last two monthly business tips, we have looked at completing a SWOT analysis for your business. To help you understand the opportunities and threats in your market place you should complete a PEST analysis:

  • Political and legal changes such as new regulations
  • Economic factors such as interest rates, exchange rates and consumer confidence
  • Social factors such as changing attitudes and lifestyles, and the ageing population
  • Technological factors such as new materials and growing use of the internet

Your marketing objectives should be based around your strengths and weaknesses and linked to your overall business strategy and they should always be SMART:

  • Specific – for example, you might set an objective of getting ten new customers.
  • Measurable – whatever your objective is, you need to be able to check whether you have reached it or not when you review your plan.
  • Achievable – you must have the resources you need to achieve the objective. The key resources are usually people and money.
  • Realistic – targets should stretch you, not demotivate you because they are unreasonable and seem to be out of reach.
  • Time-bound – you should set a deadline for achieving the objective. For example, you might aim to get ten new customers within the next 12 months.

Once you have decided what your marketing objectives are, and your strategy for meeting them, you need to plan how to make the strategy work.

A number of businesses adopt the seven Ps approach:

  • Product – what your product offers that your customers value, and whether/how you should change your product to meet customer needs.
  • Pricing – for example, you might aim simply to match the competition, or charge a premium price for a quality product and service. You might have to choose either to make relatively few high margin sales, or sell more but with lower unit profits. Remember that some customers may seek a low price to meet their budgets, while others may view a low price as an indication of quality levels.
  • Processes – the right processes will ensure that you offer a consistent service that suits your customers.
  • Physical evidence – the appearance of your employees and premises can affect how customers see your business. Even the quality of paperwork, such as invoices, makes a difference.
  • Place – how and where you sell.  This may include using different distribution channels. For example, you might sell over the internet or sell through retailers.
  • Promotion – how you reach your customers and potential customers. For example, you might use advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.
  • People – for example, you need to ensure that your employees have the right training.

The information achieved from all of the above will enable you to write your marketing plan. I hope that this information has been useful, but if you require assistance in writing your marketing plan please contact us.


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