Becoming a global company is an impressive accomplishment. It is not an easy endeavour, especially for a small business, but is often the essential next step in growing your customer base and increasing revenue. So if your business has expanded globally – is it reaching its full potential internationally?
After the hard work that has been put in to accomplish your business plan to reach global markets, you’ve only achieved the first stage of success. There is still a long way to go to dominate internationally and, as a business owner, you always need to be prepared for any possible challenges yet to be faced. To understand your growing business you’ll need to effectively track the international consumer behaviour towards your brand and measure your marketing performance. How else would you know the areas you need to improve on to reach new customers?
Take a look below to see some easy ways to track your performance internationally:
Online Tracking - Utilising Google Analytics
According to Marketingland, 48 million websites are using Google Analytics, including Small Business Advice Week. That’s no surprise as it’s recognised as the most powerful tool to measure and analyse web performance. If your business has got to the stage where you have taken it global, you will hopefully have some understanding in how to effectively use Google Analytics to measure your online activity. But it’s now time to review your set up to track your business internationally, here’s how.
The image above shows the top locations worldwide calculated by the highest number of views to the site (Google Analytics > Audience > GEO > Location). You are also able to filter by the region/city of each location if you wish to narrow your targeting to a specific city. You can also see how many visits you have had from each location as well as new users to the site. By capturing a more detailed understanding of how your website is performing, you can target your SEO to specific locations.
Your website will include a variety of actions which new and returning visitors can complete to interact with your business. A conversion (interaction with your site) can be defined in many ways such as phone calls, form submissions, clicking downloads (PDFs) and purchases. In Google Analytics you are able to set up ‘goal tracking’ to measure these interactions more accurately.
Above you can see each location’s conversion rate and goal completion. With this data your business can track which marketing campaigns have increased conversions and ultimately revenue. This will allow you to optimise and improve your site to accommodate a specific location and hopefully encourage more traffic to visit the site.
Offline Interactions - International Call Tracking
Your customers’ journey to purchase will include both online and offline interactions with many transactions still taking place over the telephone. Call tracking software will be crucial for international businesses to identify which channels, campaigns or ads are generating the phone call conversions. Ensure you offer a service for customers which enables them to be able to call you; also remember to include your number on landing pages and in search ads.
1) Consumers needs more information - as your brand may not be well known, consumers may feel that your product/service is confusing or complex and your landing pages are not providing enough information.
2) A customer has a question - the call agent can then address the question or concern in real time and use the opportunity to sell or upsell to the customer.
3) Customers who are more comfortable over the phone - where you are opening your business to a new market, you may experience an increase in calls whilst people become more familiar with your brand. Some find it easier to talk to a person when completing a transactions.
By utilising the call recording system, built within your call tracking software, you can understand your international customers more easily, make improvements to your website and help train employees locally and globally.
As you will have the date, details and time of each call you will be able to create detailed reports on the return on investment (ROI) for your individual marketing channels.
By accurately tracking both your online and offline interactions you can measure the performance of your business overseas in real time. This will enable you to invest your marketing budget to grow your business in your strongest areas and improve the customer experience in weaker areas and develop their sales to a higher level.
Small Business Advice Week focuses on small businesses, but with the world becoming smaller and more connected every day, there's no reason why your small business can't go global!
Many different situations can prompt small businesses—even well established ones—to consider applying for a short-term loan. The popularity of this financial product has steadily been on the rise—between 2012 and 2013, the amount of short-term credit loaned by non-bank lenders doubled from nearly £1.1 billion to just over £2.1 billion.
But what exactly does this mean for small businesses? Much like its other financial counterparts, a short-term loan has its own pros and cons and doesn’t suit every scenario. In some cases, it can even be harmful. Small Business Advice Week has a few tips that will help you determine when to go for this option.
1) What is a short-term loan?
A short-term loan is traditionally interpreted as a quick infusion of capital that is repaid over a year or less. While this type of finance can serve a range of purposes, its most common use historically has been to tide businesses over when they’re experiencing a drop in revenue.
However, Philip Hargreaves, Head of Access to Finance, claims that the growth of the alternative lending industry is changing the game. “Fintech and alternative finance is supporting the maturity of the short-term industry,” Philip says. “Short-term lending has grown up from simply being a bridging loan.”
Businesses are now turning away from the idea that short-term finance is the option only when sales are low. The new scenario, according to Philip, is when businesses are experiencing rapid growth.
“There’s a conception that if a business has short-term cash needs, it’s in trouble,” he explains. “Of course, while this is true in some cases, a lot of small businesses are looking for capital injections to manage fast growth or to finance a business opportunity.”
2) How can a short-term loan help your business?
Before applying for any kind of finance, it’s important to work out the reason for the loan, as well as how this addresses your business needs in the long term.
“Short-term loans suit growing businesses that need an immediate boost of cash. These businesses may need more working capital to gear up towards a new contract, or to take on additional staff to cope with workload.”
This situation can apply to businesses that need fast capital injections that they know they can repay reasonably quickly, i.e. gearing up for the busy season.
Some experts recommend following the rule ‘don’t finance long-term needs with short-term money’. For example, a short-term loan would be better suited for buying inventory or making a vital repair instead of financing significant equipment purchases.
“Kit or equipment might be better financed over its life cycle, rather than through a short-term loan,” Philip recommends.
3) What are the the pros and cons?
Knowledge is key in reaching the best decision for your business. When comparing long-term and short-term loans, consider factors like these:
The price of the loan: While short-term loans tend to be available more quickly and easily, their interest rates are also generally higher than that of long-term loans
How soon do you need funding: Long-term finance will take considerably longer for assessment and approval
Are you willing to put down collateral: Short-term funding is more likely to be unsecured, with no need for a personal or director’s guarantee
Carefully consider your options and work out what the opportunity cost of not accessing finance straight away would be. For example, a supplier has offered you discounted inventory, but you don’t have the working capital on hand to immediately respond. Calculate the amount of revenue you would lose if you didn’t take this opportunity. If the loss is greater than the total cost of the short-term loan, including interest payments and set-up fees, it could make commercial sense to apply for a loan.
While business financing isn’t an exact science, following some core principles will help you take the most strategic approach. Both short and long-term loans can help your business grow, and investing time in research will give you the best results. As Philip says: “Finance your needs in the right way with the right advice.”
This article was written by Stephen Whelan, Business Relationship Manager at Spotcap UK.
With the arrival of each new year, we all get a fresh start. The same goes for small businesses and their hard-working owners. Regardless of annual turnover or industry, all businesses benefit from implementing time and money saving procedures. This is especially true for small businesses that are run by first-time entrepreneurs, who may be learning as their business progresses. So Small Business Advice Week has five effective hacks that will save you time and money in 2018 and beyond. They may seem simple, you may never have considered them prior to today, but these tips and tricks are sure to make a positive impact on your working life and your business.
There is a very good reason why people tend to describe checking your phone and social media account as addictive – and that’s because it is. The chemical responsible for compelling you to seek out instant gratification is known as dopamine, and dopamine is partially stimulated by anticipation. Therefore, you may feel as if you need to repeatedly check your email even though you may have no new notifications.
When checking social media and emails stop being legitimate work tasks and become more like a vicious time-wasting cycle – you need to get tough on yourself. Check your emails at pre-planned intervals only – at 9:00am, 12:00pm and 3:00pm for fifteen minutes or less, for example. If possible, delegate and assign care of social media to another member of staff or implement the same strict system of checking social only at pre-arranged times.
If you have a business blog, you can write your posts ahead of time and then schedule them to upload at a staggering pace. Automation can potentially save you money as well as time. If you arrange to pay your bills using the ‘set-and-forget’ method, you’ll never encounter a late fee.
It’s completely free to post your task, and once you have done so, you simply assign the work to the most suitable ‘Tasker’. With Airtasker, you can confidently hire flexible staff with verified reviews in a matter of minutes, and their services are insurance covered!
Pocket is an app that links back nicely to our earlier tip on social media usage. How often have you come across an article, video or link that interests you, but you don’t have to time to view it at your leisure? Pocket allows you to save the material all in one place, and it syncs across all your devices. That way, you can catch up on content wherever you may be.
Evernote is the ultimate organisation app. You can take notes, and save them in a variety of formats, use your camera to scan and digitize paper documents and collaborate with others. This app also syncs across devices, so you’ll always have your important material close by.
Dropbox is another fantastic time-saving app. Dropbox allows you to smoothly collaborate with others as you sync and share Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. You can comment on files to share real-time feedback with your team members. Dropbox also contains the document scanner feature, which is handy for digitising receipts and meeting notes.
Digital files must be saved under an appropriate name. Saving an image as ‘IMAGE34’ is going to come back to bite you when you can’t locate it later. Always back up digital files onto external hard drives in case your computer system goes down. An organised filing system can ultimately save your business money – because you can’t lodge a tax deduction if you can’t find the receipt!
When we commit to running a small business, we often so badly want it to succeed that we fail to see the forest from the trees. As 2018 progresses, take a step back and assess your business practices, then make changes that will help you make strides to where you want to be.
Virtual Assistants can be a great help to small businesses, keeping you on track, generating new contacts, and making sure your business is running smoothly.
Small Business Advice Week looks at what virtual assistants are, and how they can help you.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
There are quite a few different descriptions and jobs that Virtual Assistants (VAs) do but I’m going to concentrate on the Virtual PA. They generally handles the PA and admin tasks that were traditionally carried out in the office. A VPA works remotely from their home office but is closely connected with the companies they work for. They support a variety of different clients in a diverse range of industries in the UK and overseas. They can be an essential right-hand person for a busy businessman who is often out of the office working on the move between meetings and while travelling.
What can a Virtual Assistant do?
A range of tasks can be outsourced to a VA that free up time for the business owner to concentrate on fee-earning tasks and meetings. Typical tasks include leaving the diary management and appointment scheduling to the VA as the sharing of calendars makes this easily workable. The VA has more time to enter in details of locations and directions and make changes which can happen at short notice. The time-consuming task of liaising between busy business owners to agree meeting times and places is left to a reliable VA.
How Virtual Assistants can help your Business
VAs are usually self-employed and therefore as your business expands you can hire a VA without needing to employ an assistant on a permanent basis. Office space is not required as they work at home and have their own equipment.
Terms of Business can be discussed and agreed with the Virtual Assistant as to how many hours per day or week are required and for which responsibilities. Either an hourly rate or a project-based fee can be agreed. VAs are usually flexible on time and deadlines can be set.
Having a VA to rely on when you are otherwise engaged or travelling is a great advantage. It can mean important phone calls and business opportunities are not missed.
The Virtual Assistant, just like with a traditional Personal Assistant, gets to know the clients of your business and becomes the go-to person for information. He or she can make a positive contribution to your aim of growing and expanding your business and will be valuable asset to your company.
This post was written by Mary Cumberlege at Vector Support.
With the green generation leading the way, consumers are starting to care about the environmental impact of the products they buy. As a result, businesses are following the same eco-friendly path in order to help the environment, whilst capitalising on the growing demand and saving money with reduced energy costs. Specialist Chartered Accountants can help you implement them so everyone wins. Small Business Advice Week takes a look at 5 simple ways your business can save money through green initiatives.
Innovative and Renewable Energy
Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal have been impacting the business world for many years. However, innovative methods of sourcing energy are now more mainstream than ever and will continue to grow throughout 2018 as the technology is refined, becoming ever more cost-effective.
On an everyday basis, lowering an office’s energy consumption can also be achieved through simple changes such as the use of smart thermostats, better insulation and replacement of incandescent light builds with LED bulbs. Businesses can even offset their usage and costs by implementing renewable methods such as solar panelling.
Whether its energy, products/supplies, or food, any waste directly goes against green behaviour, which can damage your reputation, as well as your bottom line. Reports suggest that 70 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year in the US alone, creating more greenhouse gases and global warming potential than carbon dioxide. As a result, many restaurants, supermarkets, and even food producers are cutting back on waste by developing zero-waste stores and donating leftover food to causes such as homeless shelters and food banks.
Advances in Plastic Recycling
2018 is set to be of vital importance when it comes to the issue of recycling plastic. This problem has been a common focal point in green projects in previous years and continues to cause concern. 150 million tons of plastics are produced every year and with only a small fraction being recycled the majority ends up in landfills and the oceans, slowly killing us. Recent developments in new plastics that are easier to recycle along with innovative findings on how to efficiently recycle exciting plastics are all set to play their part in reducing waste.
However, businesses are being encouraged to do what they to help the planet by acknowledging the importance of recycling plastics. Companies can drastically reduce their carbon footprint in a low-cost manner by simply adding recycling bins to their offices or offering plastic-free alternatives.
Marketing and advertising departments play an important role in every company, especially when it comes to reducing their environmental impact. Eco-friendly advertising trends and methods are becoming more and more popular with, for example, companies choosing to advertise on billboards that also have an ecological benefit (hosting an urban garden or purifying the air). Departments are also reducing their use of paper products which not only helps the environment but also saves on printing/advertising costs.
The packaging your company uses is a relatively simple, cheap and easy change to show your commitment to eco-friendly causes. Companies can go green by opting for eco-friendly materials and following key principles such as easy disposal, great versatility (for reuse) and avoiding plastics.
Small Business Advice Week has looked at Clean Growth Strategies for SMEs, for more advice on how to save money through green initiatives head to
For many small businesses, late payments from customers and clients are not only problematic, but can feel like a depressing inevitability. A 2016 study by Ormsby Street revealed that only four out of every ten new small businesses are still trading after five years, with poor cash flow resulting from late payments being one of the main causes for businesses failing. Prior to last year’s snap general election, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also highlighted the issue, pledging in a speech at the Federation of Small Businesses to “declare war on late payment”, particularly highlighting the problem of large, well-established firms withholding payments from smaller businesses in their supply chain.
Small Business Advice Week takes a look at just how damaging late payments can be, and how to avoid them.
The Problem of Late Payments
Whatever way you look at it, late payments are a problem. When payment terms have been agreed in advance, both parties have an obligation to stick to those terms – and that applies equally whether the payer is an individual customer or client, or another business. So how can small businesses start saying “no” to late payments? One solution could be to move to collecting payments by Direct Debit.
There are two reasons why big businesses such as energy providers and phone companies prefer payment by Direct Debit: 1) it helps them be in control of their cash flow and 2) it is more convenient for the customer. Yes, there is still scope for payments to be missed due to insufficient funds in the payer’s account, but for the most part it means these businesses know how much money is coming in, and when. This helps ensure healthy cash flow and ultimately that makes every aspect of running a business and forward planning that much easier. And this is no less true for smaller businesses.
How you can Start Saying ‘No’ to Late Payments
But how do you start saying ‘no’? It may be easier said than done, but there are ways around it - in this instance Direct Debit can make the difference.
It can be surprisingly straightforward to set up Direct Debit. While banks usually only provide Direct Debit collection facilities to bigger companies with a high turnover, it’s possible for smaller businesses, anything from nurseries to accountants, to partner with third-party payment processors to take advantage of the Direct Debit system. Fees tend to be fairly low – generally lower than processing debit or credit card payments – and once you’ve signed up Direct Debits are easy to set up and maintain, giving you more control over payment collection.
For small businesses, Direct Debit can provide convenience and peace of mind and – perhaps most importantly – can reduce the amount of time and money spent chasing late payments and arrears, as well as positively impacting cash flow. But what’s in it for the other party?
A ‘win-win’ for all?
The truth is that Direct Debit can be a win-win solution for everyone involved. For your customers, they have the convenience of knowing that once the Direct Debit is authorised, payments will be collected automatically from the designated account without them having to lift a finger. It’s worth remembering that not all late payments are deliberately or wilfully withheld – sometimes the customer might just have forgotten to make the payment, or may have been ill or otherwise unable to meet their commitments. Direct Debit avoids such issues by deducting funds directly on the agreed date.
Some customers may be reluctant to sign up for payment collection by Direct Debit, perhaps due to a misconception that it gives companies a free pass to take whatever they want, whenever they want. In reality, the Direct Debit scheme offers customers substantial protections and transparency compared to some other payment methods. Customers will be notified 3-10 working days in advance of any change to the payment amount, date or frequency; they are also covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee, which promises a no-quibble immediate refund of any amount that is collected in error.
When properly informed, many customers can see the advantages in payment collection by Direct Debit. So, consider whether 2018 should be the year when you start saying “no” to late payments, and switch to a collection method that gives you back control of your cash flow and your business.
This post was written by London and Zurich, who help Small Businesses manage their direct debit payments.
Back in October, amidst much fanfare, the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its Clean Growth Strategy.
It was a much-anticipated document, not least because its publication had been the subject of several delays. But ministers were universal in their insistence that the strategy provided a step-change for the UK: an ambitious set of plans and initiatives to drive clean growth and lower carbon emissions. That latter is of course urgently needed. Business and industry are responsible for around a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions. And let’s not forget that, at least in London, pollution is hitting levels that require public health warnings.
So, the strategy was much needed. But what does it actually mean for businesses, including SMEs?
The short version is that the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was a step in a government drive for ‘clean growth’ that was kicked off in January 2017 with the launch of the Industrial Strategy – with the CGS followed recently by an Industrial Strategy White Paper. Ministers are determined to push the UK down a path that involves decarbonising the economy. And the top-line for businesses is that includes expectations and initiatives to maximise energy efficiency and promote innovation of low carbon technologies.
Fundamentally for SMEs, the CGS included the commitment for a BEIS consultation on improving the energy efficiency of existing and new commercial buildings; raising minimum standards of energy efficiency for rented commercial buildings; and introducing a scheme (details of which are still to be published) that would support at least large companies (and perhaps in time SMEs, as measuring technology becomes more accessible and affordable) to measure and reduce energy use.
This probably won’t mean immediate changes for many SMEs. One of the comments about the CGS was that it was something of an aspirational document, albeit one now subject to public consultation with firmer policies and timescales likely in 2018. But in the longer term, the CGS is good news for small businesses – because it offers opportunities to maximise energy efficiency, cut energy usage, and to consequently reduce utilities costs.
This forms part of a broader government narrative to drive down consumer electricity costs. Indeed, the headline announcement of the CGS was plans for legislation to increase the powers of Ofgem, the energy regulator, and to get rid of ‘Standard Variable Tariffs’ that increase costs for domestic consumers. But, even then, SMEs will benefit from identifying the opportunities to benefit from the government push to reduce electricity bills.
Those opportunities take a number of forms, including greater use of renewable technologies to generate electricity for one’s own use. Some consumers, and indeed some businesses, have already capitalised on falling costs of the likes of solar panels – supported by small-scale battery storage for excess electricity (to be used at times of higher demand or breaks in renewable provision) to take themselves largely or entirely ‘off grid.’ Essentially making themselves their own energy supplier, which drives savings once the costs of installation have been met, while also reducing carbon footprints.
These types of small scale renewable and energy storage deployments are set to become more common. The Government committed more than £500 million, as part of the CGS, for investment in what it calls ‘demand response’ technologies that include battery technology. And this was a follow up to the creation of the ‘Faraday Challenge’ earlier in 2017 by ministers to make the UK a world leader in battery technology. The consequence of these initiatives is that there will be consistent innovation and development for battery technologies that are accessible to SMEs, and which can support their energy efficiency and usage, and can reduce their costs.
The CGS is out for public consultation until the end of 2017. SMEs will be well served by keeping track of what comes from that process. But, be under no illusion – ministers are pushing hard for clean growth. And, in 2018 that is going to involve encouraging more SMEs to think about their energy usage and energy efficiency.
Quentin Scott is a Director of Low Carbon, a privately-owned renewable energy investment company.
Many business owners will tell you that all marketing is becoming increasingly online focused. That's not necessarily true. For SMEs, the most effective way to market yourself might be a combination of both online and offline marketing, blending classic techniques with radical innovation to ensure you stand out from the crowd.
Smart tactics, usable content, and a strong online presence will help boost your profile, but more tangible marketing strategies are still not to be ignored.
Check out the infographic below from Colour Graphics, which shows some surprising trends, and use it to plan how to market your SME in the new year.
More businesses are starting up every day, and it's becoming harder and harder to make yourself known. The internet is a terrific tool for growing your brand awareness, but only if used correctly. Colour Graphics created an infographic on which marketing methods are most effective for start ups.
From creating local employment, personalised customer service, to offering a vast collection of unique merchandise, independent businesses are the heart of our community. Unfortunately, with increasingly crowded marketplaces, these small businesses are having to seek out new ways to compete against these corporate giants, especially with Christmas getting so close. The competition is only going to become more difficult.
Liberis who are providers of alternative business credit cards have created this infographic which demonstrates the many things we can do to support our local communities by shopping locally this Christmas.