Last month, all talk of business and employment law was dominated by the controversial Beecroft report. With the deficit crisis that has hit Britain over recent years, the report called for businesses to be able to manage their own affairs more effectively – mainly by chopping and changing employees easily. This has been talked about online and offline, leading people to seek more information from online resources and experts. Let us see if we can shine some more light on it...
Ultimately, the idea is that by being able to get rid of underperforming staff easily, small and medium enterprises will grow better. Unemployment is a huge issue and it is important that companies and enterprises can take on more staff without the worry of how to control the workforce. This is particularly true within SMEs, but how will they be affected by the latest ideas?
Less red tape
It is a thought across the board that red tape hampers SMEs far more than it should. This is counter-intuitive too because for the economy to rise again, the impetus is on the smaller businesses to grow. So, with this in mind, the thought of being able to get rid of employees who drain business resources can be met with happiness to start with.
In Britain as a whole, we have seen an increase of toleration, and this isn’t what we need to aid productivity. And when you consider this point, SMEs will be more willing to take someone on if they know that they aren’t lumbered with them indefinitely. The three-month probation period has been the only way of screening until this point but after that a contract is signed. Though employees may see this as increasing the pressure, it relieves a lot of the employer.
So, how would things change?
As things stand, anyone who is made redundant is given notice and has the opportunity to put in a claim to an Employment Tribunal with the hope of recovering damages. In recent years there has been a change that means an employee has to be employed for more than two years to make a claim, and the Beecroft report hopes to take this a step further.
The proposal is for employers to be able to pay a fixed sum to do away with these claims – a radical move, but one many SMEs support. So, with businesses potentially able to deal with the outgoing of employees quickly, the dynamics of the workplace are likely to shift greatly. But, at the same time there is a worry that employees would take a step back before challenging the direction a business is taking with the fear of immediate dismissal.
Overall, it is hard to see why SMEs would not want these ideas in place. It moves on further to suggest that a business with fewer than 10 employees would be able to get out of many other employment laws. Controversial isn’t a strong enough word for these proposals but, in the main, the beneficiaries would be the SMEs and, eventually, the economy as a whole.
Written by Tara West
In many cases, as a small-business owner it’s impossible to have a separate project manager for each project, especially if you’re a start-up, in which case it’s probably just you. However, projects still need to be accomplished on time and within budget and you don’t want to appear super small, because some people will believe this is a liability.
As a start-up or small business, you have many advantages. Firstly, you can complete projects done for less because you have less staff overheads. This can be very stressful, because as the sole business owner you must handle all projects without a project manager. But thankfully, because of cloud-based technology, it can be done.
How can you do it all? How can you be professional, accurate and continue to garner new clients when it’s just you? If you understand the dynamics of project management which are:
Then you can figure out how to control each one of these areas using technology. Today, there are many cloud-based applications that can assist you with running your start-up. The cost of entry into using project management software in the cloud is very low. In many cases, your small business can be up and running using enterprise level software for less than the cost of buying MS Word.
You can afford to use systems such as Basecamp, Central Desktop, Google Apps and others. It used to cost thousands of pounds to equip an office with essential project management software, but with access to systems in the cloud that’s no longer true. In addition, while security used to be a huge issue when it came to the cloud, this is no longer a big issue. Cloud-based application creators are aware of security issues and work diligently to harden the security of their servers. In fact, your data is probably safer in the cloud than it is on your desktop computer.
Elke Schmitt works as a marketing manager for GetApp. Her mission is to help startups select cloud business apps and tools to be more efficient and cost-effective.
There are more than 169,000 independent retail businesses in the UK, equating to 92% of all retail businesses. They form a valuable and treasured part of many communities. They are an integral part of local economies and contribute greatly to local employment.
Often it’s the independent retailers who provide a route to market for up-and-coming designers and producers. Retailers also need the services of many other local businesses – accountants, lawyers, shop fitters, electricians, decorators, printers – so they’re an integral part of the local economic eco-system.
July is Independent Retailer Month. ANY Independent business that serves consumers, be they online only, market trader, shop-based or multi-channel, can take advantage of this global “shop local” campaign. Consumer-facing businesses are encouraged to run events, promotions and activities throughout July to celebrate, with their customers, what they offer to their local community.
Independent Retailer Month highlights the important role smaller, local, independent retailers play in the communities they serve, the local economy they contribute to, and in the retail sector as a whole.
Independent Retailer Month was launched to address growing international concerns about the homogenisation of our towns and the drain of customers from our local centres to out-of-town retail parks, shopping centres and online competition. The initiative aims to:
To kick-start Independent Retailer Month there will be a fantastic launch event on Sunday 1 July. This day-long event will take place at Cranmore Park near Solihull and will feature keynotes from award-winning independent retailers and retail experts, as well as 1-2-1 “ask the expert” sessions.
Those who attend will be able to learn and network with other retailers, experts and organisations whose remit it is voice their needs and wants right up to national government level.
At the end of the day it’s over to you. The campaign gives retailers and consumer-facing businesses “permission” to create as much excitement as possible around the month – you are only limited by your own imagination!
Speak to other independent retailers and consumer-facing businesses in your local community. Let them know about the campaign (if they don’t already) and discuss how you can work together to leverage Independent Retailer Month to attract more customers from your local community.
Contact your local newspaper or radio station. With all the focus on town centres and high streets, thanks to the government’s Portas review, your local press should want to report on how local businesses are fighting back.
Focus on re-engaging with the local shopper, drawing them back into their local shop. And by delivering a great shopping experience you can remind them what fantastic smaller retailers there are right on their doorstep.
Clare Rayner's book, The Retail Champion: 10 steps to retail success, will be published on 3rd July.
Whether you're thinking of making the move from a home office to leased office space or you are establishing your business in a commercial environment, renting office space is a big decision – and one that requires careful thought and forward planning.
The good news is finding your first office space is usually a sign that your start-up is beginning to expand and flourish, and means that you're ready to take the plunge and find a more productive environment from which to run your business. But there are both monetary and strategic issues to take into account, and these 10 golden rules will raise important issues for you to consider before leasing your first office space:
Leasing office space means committing to a commercial office lease - and this is a legally binding agreement that will tie you in to a contract for a given period. You must ask yourself whether the move to leased office space will enhance your business and the services you offer, and that it will enable you to be a more profitable and productive business. An office lease is a big responsibility to take on and as a small business you need to make sure you are clear about the commitment and at the right stage to move on to a “real” office.
It goes without saying that a new office will tie you to regular monthly costs that you may not have had to consider until now. These will include rent, service charges, business rates, maintenance costs, insurance and the day-to-day running costs. Make sure you are fully aware of all the costs from the outset and that you don't overstretch yourself financially.
Finding the right office and then negotiating the right terms for your business is a time-consuming and complex process, so you should never attempt to take this on yourself. Use a commercial property agent in your area who knows the market inside out and can “hold your hand” throughout the process to ensure a profitable outcome for your business.
Every office lease is different, yet they are usually drafted in favour of the landlord. Decide what office lease terms are best for you as a tenant; consider issues such as lease length, rental increases, options to renew, break clauses, etc. Clarifying these issues at an early stage will save lots of upheaval at the negotiation stage.
Do your homework on your shortlist of properties; tour the building several times; investigate who the landlord is and other properties they own, traffic patterns, who the previous tenant was (and why they left) and who the neighbouring tenants are.
Evaluate whether the geographical location, space and type of building is a good fit for your business. Your choice of office space says a lot about you as a business and you want to make sure it gives the right first impression. Use our office space checklist as a guide to evaluate each office building.
Make sure that any space you’re considering is big enough for both your current needs and your foreseeable growth. Be realistic and don’t under- or over-estimate your true needs.
Hire a property solicitor who not only specialises in lease negotiations, but who also has dealt with start-ups before. A lease negotiation can cover hundreds of terms, often with confusing jargon, and you want someone who will represent your best interests and clarifies anything you don't understand.
Moving into leased office space provides you with a great opportunity to find the right office suppliers and install the right business communications systems that will enable you to operate efficiently and provide the best service to clients.
Don't be rushed into making a decision if you're not fully comfortable. And if the lease negotiations don't quite come out as you planned – be prepared to walk away. There are always other properties that may better suit your needs.
Most job descriptions are awful. They make the recruiting business sound boring. They make the work sound tedious. And they all sound pretty much the same, citing the need for a “self-starter” who’s a “team player” and whatnot.
This could be a real problem for employers when they try to hire “Generation Y Millennials”. While some managers and recruiters are fed up with the stereotypically whiny Millennials, Generation Y is predicted to comprise nearly 75% of the world’s workforce by 2025, according to the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation. And while some of Gen Y have “failed to launch” amidst the Great Recession, the best of them are in high demand.
Businesses should embrace the unique characteristics of Gen Y workers for the future success of their businesses. Not only are Millennials technically savvy in terms of IT, social media and marketing, but they’re also hard working, team players and focused on acceptance and relationship building within the organisation.
And we can’t forget to mention that according to a 2009 Monster.com survey, 37% of employers reported that "work-life balance and flexibility" are the most motivating factors for Generation Y.
Businesses can start by using job descriptions to court the most-talented Millennials:
1 Tell them why they should want to work for you. This is your opportunity to make job-seekers fall head over heels in love with you and the vacancy. Millennials don’t just want to crank out work and check-off items on a to-do list. They want to love the business they work for, and you can use your job description to get them excited.
2 Tell them why the position matters. Understanding how my job contributes to the organisation is one of the biggest motivators for me and my Gen Y colleagues. Make sure the job descriptions describes where the position falls within your business, how the candidate could make an impact and where it fits in the grand scheme of things.
3 Talk about what the job could do for them. Aside from a salary and benefits, how would they benefit from the position? What skills might they gain; what professional connections can they make; and why would this position make them more desirable candidates when they start looking for their next jobs?
4 Tell them about your creative benefits. Does your business offer any extra, exciting benefits, such as flexible work hours or gym membership? Mention those creative perks (no matter how small) in your job description.
5 Tell them about your vision for the position. While Millennials may not envision working in the same job for decades, it’s important that we work for a business where we could envision ourselves growing and contributing for several years. We want the job description to reflect that same sort of vision for the candidate who ultimately fills the position.
6 Tell your story, quickly. Your business has a story. Tell a brief version of it within your job description to quickly convey your mission and how it came to be.
Jennifer King is an HR Analyst for SoftwareAdvice.com, a company that compares and reviews HR and recruiting software. She blogs about trends, technology and best practices in human resources.
For certain industries, it’s worth considering advertising solely on mobile phones using an AdWords campaign. Examples where we have seen a lot of success for mobile phone advertising include:
However we’ve also seen success for many other services where you wouldn’t traditionally expect mobile phone advertising to be so successful including:
And many others!
The trend looks set to continue and people are traditionally carrying out more and more searches then converting using their mobile phone (either calling directly or filling in a form online), so it makes sense to make the most of this potential market.
On new generation mobile phones such as an iPhone, the AdWords adverts take up over ½ half of the screen for the top 2 ads, so it makes sense to make sure your ads appear in this top spot.
Another advantage is that traditionally clicks are cheaper from mobile phones as there are fewer advertisers – great news!
When creating a campaign in Google AdWords open the settings tab and look for the column marked Devices. Click the word All and the settings screen will open.
Now select Let me Choose and make sure that only Mobile Devices with full Browsers is selected. This will ensure your campaign runs ONLY on mobile phones, not on PCs, Ipads etc.
Click the Save button.
Now make sure you enter a telephone number by clicking the Ad Extensions tab (if you can’t see it click the Drop down arrow next to the tabs and select Ad Extensions)
Now click the Ad Extensions tab, click New Extension and enter the telephone number you wish people to use. Ideally track this number (we use Infinity call Tracking, or there are plenty of other services available) to ensure you can measure ROI.
It’s not unusual to see extremely high Click Through Rates resulting from mobile only campaigns, our locksmith campaign regularly exceeds 20% for example.
So, why not give it a try and come back and let us know how you get on?
Claire Jarrett is Managing Director of Marketing By Web.
As a small-business owner, you are busy and your time is limited. Social media is ubiquitous and may seem like a great way to communicate with hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of people really quickly, but it will only work if you do it right.
1 Know your audience
The first thing you want to do is figure out who you want to reach – new customers; existing customers; past customers or a more targeted group? For new customers, specify as much about your ideal client as you can. Are they male or female? How old are they? What hobbies do they have? What social media do they use regularly? There are, of course, more details you can add, but you must build a picture of your perfect punter.
If you want to talk to existing customers, find out what social networking sites they use the most. You can make free surveys online, hold focus groups, ask questions on relevant forums and more. If they don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter, there’s no point in creating an account. Your target audience should dictate the social network(s) you are on, so once you know where they like to hang out, it’s easier to establish a goal.
2 What’s your goal?
You should know exactly what you want to achieve. Do you just want to provide another channel of communication between your business and your customers? Are you trying to increase awareness of your brand? Are you looking for another way to distribute great content? There are loads of things you can do with social media, but don’t try to do them all. Identify your most important goal and focus on that.
Whatever your goal, it’s a good idea to incorporate your social media activities into everything you do. Web design software makes it easy to integrate social elements on your website, and you can talk about your social media accounts in your newsletter, as well as list the social media links on your marketing materials. It also works the other way. Use your social media channel(s) to deliver relevant, useful information to your customers.
3 Plan your time
How much time can you commit to social media? If you can only spare a few hours a week, you may not see much of a return for your time. In fact, having a poor social presence can be more damaging to your brand than not having any – it will seem like you’re ignoring your customers. You’ll need to work on your account consistently to build momentum and a reputation.
If the responsibility will be shared among two or more people, consider creating some basic guidelines so everyone knows what is expected of them. Among other things, it’s important for everyone to use the same tone of voice to maintain brand consistency.
Much like Rome, nothing awesome is built in a day. If you’re expecting to see positive results in a few weeks, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Allow at least six months before evaluating how well you are doing, then decide whether you want to continue.
4 Monitor your success
You should regularly monitor the impact of all of your marketing – including any social media activities. How you do that will relate directly to the goal you set. If your goal was to offer a fast way for customers to ask you questions (to reduce incoming support emails and calls), find out if it worked. There are a lot of different calculations you can do that involve percentages, comparisons to last period’s figures, and time spent per query, or, you could use the built-in analytics in your social media accounts.
However, you might get a better understanding of how you are serving your customers by simply asking them. Again, you can make use of free survey software, emails, focus groups, etc. If your customers love the new social media support option (and it’s actually being used enough so you can devote less resources to your traditional support methods), it is a good idea to keep it.
The underlying key points are these: while social media is free, it takes a lot of your (or someone else’s) time to research, plan, promote, execute and assess your activities. You’ll want to see a return on investment at some point, so you should only do it if you are going to do it well.
Cheating spouses beware – the number of new private investigators has increased by 26% in the past year, with the total of female detectives rocketing by a whopping 86% rise, according to data published by Simply Business.
The figures, based on more than 250,000 quote requests received by Simply Business, show that private detectives are most prevalent in Northern Ireland, the East Midlands and South East England, with particular hotspots including Salisbury, Coventry, Dorchester, Luton, Oldham, Peterborough, Llandudno, Reading, Hemel Hempstead and Southend on Sea.
Interestingly, women aged 25-34 form the UK’s largest group of new female private investigators (43%), while male detectives tend to fall within the older 45-54 years category (33%).
Jason Stockwood, Simply Business CEO, says: “We have a comprehensive view of the small business and start-up market because we quote thousands of new businesses every week. We were fascinated to see that there’s been a marked increase in people wanting to become private detectives.
“With government figures showing divorces are increasing, it seems more are trying to get the upper hand by hiring a professional to spy on their partner. Our findings suggest people are taking advantage of this trend to set up as private eyes.”
Jo Clarke, co-director of D-Tec UK LTD, “the No1 lady’s detective agency” comments: "I was interested to hear that the number of female private investigators in the UK has increased and I can understand the demand for more. Being the UK’s first female detective agency, we’ve seen an increase in customers looking for a more compassionate and emotional person to support them through their own muddy waters.”
Clarke says she has found that people are using PIs more frequently for investigations to expose cheating partners by producing evidence for divorce cases. “A woman PI can sometimes more easily understand customers’ insecurities about their relationship, while also producing the facts clearly. This allows the client to make an informed decision as to the best path forward.”
With demand increasing, Clarke says women are finding the prospect of a career as a private detective very attractive, and some are choosing to start their own agencies. “It can be quite difficult if we find out information that the client doesn’t want to hear. However, it’s nice to be able to help people draw a line underneath a difficult phase in their life."
Passwords are hugely topical at the moment, of course, after hackers were alleged to have leaked more than six million member passwords from social networking website LinkedIn. You might even have had to change yours as a result.
The truth is, we’re over a decade into the 21st century and people STILL don’t ‘get’ passwords. In the online world we’re increasingly asked to come up with unique strings of letters and numbers in an abstract way: “between 8 and 16 characters in length and containing at least one capital letter and number”. We’ve also got lazy.
Many users reuse their passwords in multiple places, each time dramatically increasing the chances of it being discovered. Not only that, but we also have a terrible habit of trying to use dictionary words with numbers instead of letters. “3lephanT” for example would be considered secure for many services, but in fact it’s all too easy for a computer armed with a dictionary and a list of common substitutions to crack.
The common alternative to allowing users to come up with their code is creating one for them. This solution, while much better than letting people invent their own password, creates its own problems. People underestimate their ability to remember passwords and fearing exclusion, they note them down somewhere. We all know how insecure this is, so how do we introduce a better system?
Try talking to your employees; educate them on the implications for the business of insecure logins. Then together, come up with a workable solution.
You can use security software that includes a password vault in the cloud, or subscribe to one separately, eg LastPass or KeePass. These apps will even offer to generate strong, random passwords for you.
Another option is to encourage the storage of passwords in a physical form, the challenge is to do so securely. This could be as simple as locking a notebook with important passwords in a safe or as complex as creating a system whereby passwords are shown as innocent notations in a dictionary or other book. For example, to keep tabs on my StartUp Donut password I noted down either a reminder, or the password itself in or around “doughnut” in my Oxford English Dictionary. You can take this idea further by introducing ciphers, choosing passwords based on words in the surrounding text or even by choosing a word that’s not directly associated with the subject matter.
Or you could stick with nonsense passwords but encourage your employees to take care in remembering and selecting them. Often phrases can be reduced to initials and thus remembered without too much hassle (or the reverse can be true, a mnemonic can allow users to convert a forgettable mess into a memorable sentence).
Perhaps security might be better served by, instead of insisting on a hybrid string of characters, encouraging longer chains of words. This page from XKCD was intended as a joke but it illustrates the points I’m trying to make clearly.
If you’re really interested in this subject there are a couple of articles you can read. The first is the recent study by Joseph Bonneau on ‘The science of guessing’ where he looks at the passwords of 70 million people and uses their (anonymised) data to draw some interesting conclusions. While Fareez Ahamed has delved into some of the leaked Twitter passwords and provides an insightful statistical analysis of his findings.
If you’ve found an effective way of keeping logins safe, then please leave a comment.
I regard myself as a bit of an expert on business planning. I even wrote a few books about it, with “imaginative” titles such as Planning for success, TENbizplan, Business planning for the social economy and the best-seller Start your own business: a workbook.
With regret, I’ve concluded that my books are no longer as relevant. They focus on a lot of preparation, lots of research and a very formulaic approach towards a business plan document. Too slow, too cumbersome, too detailed.
The tension is between the need for preparation, preparation, preparation, the way you communicate your venture and coping with the chaos and speed of change that makes long-term planning impossible.
If a “Twitter” becomes mainstream in a month, there is no point in having two-year planning cycles. 42% of the most successful entrepreneurial businesses in the USA have no plan at all.
Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson is a book that tells about the journey two entrepreneurs made setting up a company that builds project management software with huge success (three million people around the world use their product and they are generating multi-million dollars of profit). I think we can agree that we can regard them as experts.
From Rework we find out that:
The whole message of the book is that it is not about long-term planning, but short-term movement.
A three-year business plan is pointless
I can quote a long list of books that talk about how the business world is getting more and more complex, chaotic and moving at ever increasing pace. (“funky business”, “future files”, “break from the pack”, to name a few). Combine that with information overload and you can see why a three-year business plan document is completely pointless.
Ron Immink is managing director of BookBuzz
And now, the end is near, and so we face the final curtain ... yes folks, it’s the final of The Apprentice.
Perhaps we can judge the success of this series by the way time seems to have passed since it all began. Ve-ry ve-ry slow-ly. This one does seem to have dragged a little, it has to be said.
But Nick, Jade, Tom and Ricky should be congratulated on making it this far. Now they face the ultimate challenge — the interviews. Sweat will pour. Blood will be spilt. Seemingly rock-solid egos will crumble. Bring it on!
The candidates have to present their CVs, personal statements and business plans to the four horsemen of the apocalypse that are Claude Littner, Margaret Mountford, Mike Soutar and Matthew Riley.
If you’re in any doubt about the horror show that is to come, this is what Claude Littner says about Ricky. “I spent a sleepless night with excitement at how I was going to rip him apart”. At which point, the other rottweilers snort their approval.
So let’s get to the juicy bits.
His plan: A recruitment firm specialising in biotec and pharmaceuticals
Matthew Riley takes one look at his application and tells Ricky, “There are so many things in there that basically made me want to be sick”.
Margaret Mountford is more concerned about Ricky’s claims to be a business god — Thor to be precise. And Mike Soutar thinks it’s all show business, not real business. As they discuss Ricky’s wrestling, he asks, “Do people take you less seriously because they imagine you in lycra pants?”
But what does Claude Littner — the Simon Cowell of this process — think? “Your personal statement is the most crass, obnoxious, infantile personal statement that I’ve had the — not really pleasure — the opportunity of reading.”
But wait, Claude hasn’t finished. He adds: “However, I read your business plan and I was quite impressed.”
His plan: An online recipe-based food ordering service
Claude Littner thinks Nick’s plan looks like an academic exercise. He doesn’t even bother to lay into Nick, he just doesn’t care. Nick claims it will be as big as Google and Facebook — Claude says “dream on”.
When Nick tells Matthew Riley about his existing business — a successful venture that looks set to make a few million, Matthew is incredulous. Why is Nick even here? “Are you smoking something?” he asks.
His plan: A fine wine hedge fund that will be started with £25million of investors’ money.
Mike Soutar’s eyes light up when he discovers that this is Tom’s first ever job interview. But how has Tom managed to avoid interviews until now? He works with his father. “Are you a daddy’s boy?” asks Mike.
Tom tells Margaret that his nickname at university was BNOC — Big Name on Campus. By the look on her face, Margaret is definitely thinking of a name — but it’s not a very nice one.
Claude challenges Tom on his ability to raise the £25 million — “Can you raise the money? I say you can’t”. There’s not much Tom can say to that.
Her plan: A call centre specialising in debt solutions, energy suppliers and mobile phones. Classy.
Claude is not mad about Jade’s telemarketing concept. “That’s a pretty grubby little business you’re proposing,” he says.
Matthew grills Jade about her business education. It seems she’s forgotten something — that she got an N in her business A-level. An N, apparently, is a “near-miss” fail — a small detail that didn’t make it onto the CV.
Mike Soutar’s checking that Jade has bought all the domain names she needs for the business. She’s adamant that she owns them all — trouble is Mike has actually bought one of them the day before.
In the boardroom
Jade and Nick are quickly dismissed. So will it be Tom or Ricky?
“Is it necessary to come up with a load of old bullshit?” asks Lord Sugar as they discuss Ricky’s ridiculous bragging. That’s an easy one Lord S. No it’s not necessary in business. But I think you’ll find it’s a contractual requirement on reality TV.
The concerns about Tom include his age, his lack of experience, the fact that he has led a somewhat charmed existence and his very risky business plan.
So what kind of business is Lord Sugar looking to invest in? It turns out he’s after a safe bet. He says, “I’ve never done business with other people’s money” referring to Tom’s investment plan. And, it seems, he’s looking for the quiet life. “I’m a pensioner, I don’t want too much hard work”.
It’s a rather down-beat conclusion to a lack-lustre series.
Ricky — you’re hired.
Highly recommended: Matt Edmondson’s hilarious Funny Bits video review on the Apprentice website.
Mobile commerce – or m-commerce – has been touted as the next big evolution in consumer shopping for many years. It does look like it has finally become a reality, though not necessarily as a standalone technology, but as a further channel for online shopping.
The opportunity exists primarily due to the sheer numbers of smartphone users. Here are some recent findings:
Price comparison activity represents a great opportunity for online retailers to get in front of consumers when they’re actively seeking products in a traditional high street environment. Consumers can check pricing with comparison sites such as Twenga and Price Grabber either via a mobile browser or by using a dedicated app while shopping.
Therefore, online retailers that have a mobile-optimised ecommerce store and list their products on price comparison sites have a real opportunity to capture the interest of shoppers. But it’s important to view mobile as a complementary technology for engaging with customers, rather than the only method retailers and e-tailers should use for attracting sales.
Make sure you choose an ecommerce solution that can create a mobile store easily and integrate your regular ecommerce site with price-comparison sites. The key to success is to ensure all your orders are processed from one central location so that managing orders and stock does not become a logistical burden.
Simon Armstrong of SellerDeck.
"How can I increase my following in Twitter?" or "How can I get more likes on my Facebook page?" are questions that many start-ups ask when they think about joining the social media world. People are obsessed with growing their following so that they can be seen to have tens of thousands of people following them, hoping that one or two percent may just buy when they ask. In my opinion, you should focus on the quality of your social media following rather the size of it.
However you choose to use social media, you must first have a way to measure your success in it. The first question is: Why do you want more followers?
Followers just for numbers' sake is not going to give you any value in social media. Any business should aim to build a list of really engaged followers rather than just looking to increase followers.
If you really want to grow your following in sites such as Twitter and Facebook, think about these four main activities below. Following this strategy will increase your followers organically and build you an audience of people that are interested, who want to engage and maybe even buy from you:
Not just sales messages and 'client wins this month' type of posts, but real insight into what you do and how your knowledge can really make a difference in people's lives and businesses.
If you focus on this and deliver real value, then people will see you as an expert and want to come back for more, tell others about it and you will build huge credibility with your audience for what you do.
Using tools such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck allow you to connect your various social media accounts to desktop or mobile versions of these tools. They are social media management tools - giving you one place to use all your social media accounts at the same time, so that you don't have to log in to all of them, one after another.
Within both of these tools you can create columns with search criteria that will show you all the tweets or updates related to the terms you want to find.
For example, if you are a graphic designer you may want to set up search columns around the 10 most frequently asked questions about graphic design. If people ask questions such as "can anyone recommend a logo designer?" you would see this and be able to respond.
Avoid buying likes and followers from sites that offer this. This will just fill your accounts with lots of SPAM and they will be of no use. Instead focus on building a following or community of people that will listen and engage with what you have to say.
Drawing people back to your hub (your website or blog) will get them away from social media. Social media is where conversations happen. People don’t go into social media to be sold to. Encourage people to read more about what you have to offer on your blog around which you can display your products and services that you have to offer. Then they can choose to engage with you after they see you are an expert in what you do.
Ant Hodges is the owner and managing director of HodgeNest, an SEO and Internet marketing company, and also mentors start-up business owners.
Burlington Arcade is the snazzy location for this week’s briefing on The Apprentice.
As ever, Lord Sugar is flanked by his loyal side-kicks, Karren Brady and Nick Hewer. Their brief is to keep schtum and communicate using facial expressions. Karren only has a couple of looks — eyebrows down for disapproval and eyebrows up for a look of gob-smacked wonderment. Nick, of course, is the Marcel Marceau of facial mime and can say almost anything with his flexible face. Mind you, Ricky could give Nick a run for his money with his dancing eyebrows.
This week’s task is simple — come up with a luxury brand that can be sold at affordable prices. Lord Sugar moves Tom over to team Sterling to keep Ricky company. That leaves Adam, Nick and Jade on team Phoenix.
Adam leads his team and they quickly settle on the idea of up-market chocolate. Meanwhile, Tom seems quite happy to let Ricky lead — or perhaps hang himself — and the boys decide to develop a men’s grooming range.
This task covers the full gamut of marketing tasks — product development, branding, packaging, promotion and pricing.
Tom and Ricky’s male grooming range is called Modern Gentleman. They get a lot of things right — the products are suitably luxurious, there’s a clear market for them, the pricing is right and they’ve got a strategy that includes exports and a boutique flagship store.
The only problem is the design and packaging. It’s utterly dull. Nick Hewer calls it “pedestrian”. And the store they create is so minimalist that Lord Sugar says it looks like a “closing down sale”. The expert judges, who include buyers from House of Fraser and Debenhams, call the brand “forgettable”.
On team Phoenix, the ideas are coming in thick and fast — hot chocolate on a stick, boozy jellies, cocktails to serve with the chocs. They’re all great ideas in theory but there’s no cohesion. The brand name Sweet Thing seems to go down well. But they’ve got the numbers wrong and when Lord Sugar picks apart their strategy he finds it would actually be a loss-making venture.
So team Sterling has the better business proposition and it is Adam, Jade and Nick who are in the firing line.
As it is late, Lord Sugar suggests they meet again in the morning for the firing. But on their way home, they pop into the Loser’s Café just so they can be filmed looking like proper losers.
Back in the boardroom, Adam’s sexist ways are highlighted. Karren points out that he has sidelined Jade — telling her “you go off and make us some nice chocolates”— while he and Nick do the important man’s work. And it’s actually Jade who comes up with all the ideas, leaving Adam and Nick looking pretty clueless.
And so it is Adam who has to leave. Mind you, he is fired in a kindly way by Lord S. “Keep in touch”, he says and Adam replies, “If you ever need a salesman you know where I am”. It’s a telling remark — throughout the series, Adam has shown that he is a fantastic salesman — but not necessarily a great businessman.
Next week: It’s the finals and those gruelling interviews. Claude Littner and Margaret Mountford could teach Jeremy Paxman to toughen up.
Highly recommended: Matt Edmondson’s hilarious Funny Bits video review on the Apprentice website.