Bitcoin, the world’s most famous cryptocurrency, experienced meteoric highs towards the back end of 2017. The worlds media worked themselves into a frenzy whilst stories, tips, and memes flooded the internet. Early investors in Bitcoin were feeling a bit smug as many were made into millionaires practically overnight.
But just what is Bitcoin? There’s a lot of terminology and jargon surrounding the topic that can be hard to follow. It’s not just a flash in the pan either, Bitcoin could change the face of finance as we know it. Fans of Bitcoin will tell you that it’s the next best thing since sliced bread and in many ways, it is.
Others will tell you it’s a stock market bubble just waiting to burst. These people normally stand to lose money if Bitcoin is a huge success, but they’re not wrong either. It does have all the characteristics of stock market bubbles before it and its value has plummeted in recent months. Still confused? Let this infographic from Cartwright King break it down for you.
What is a Bitcoin?
Bitcoin (BTC) is a digital currency, officially classified as a ‘cryptocurrency’. It doesn’t exist in a physical form, but rather virtually, on bits of computer code that have been encrypted and secured. You can buy and sell things for Bitcoin just like dollars, pounds or euros.
Bitcoin relies on something called ‘blockchain’ technology for its existence. A number of Bitcoin transactions are grouped together to form a ‘block’. These get added to a chain of blocks by the users of the Bitcoin network and stored in what is referred to as a ledger. This ledger exists in digital format only and is perpetuated by Bitcoin ‘mining’.
What is Bitcoin Mining?
Mining for Bitcoin is a far cry from mining for gold. There is however one similarity: anyone can do it. Where anyone can get a bowl, or a pickaxe and start digging for gold, anyone can purchase the hardware needed to mine Bitcoin. However, if you have a digger, you’ll find more gold and if you have more computing power, you’ll mine more Bitcoin. But how does this process of ‘mining’ work? Let us explain:
How Do You Buy Bitcoin?
If you don’t have the resources to mine Bitcoin, you can just buy it instead. Bitcoin exchanges allow people to spend their money on acquiring the cryptocurrency, which is stored in a digital ‘wallet’. Coinbase and Bitstamp are the two most popular exchanges. Your wallet is unique to you, but as always, exercise caution with the details of your Bitcoin wallet to avoid cyber-attacks. Bitcoin is incredibly hard to steal, but it has been known to happen.
How Do You Spend Bitcoin?
Just as easily as you spend your money now. You will need to check that the retailer you are buying from accepts Bitcoin, but other than that, you don’t spend it any differently than you would normal currency on your credit/debit card. Big names like Wordpress, Amazon and Etsy accept the currency. Expect more to follow.
The cyptocurrency did experience soaring highs towards the back end of 2017 but has since seen its value plummet. Its still very expensive and has been extremely successful, but its price is now too volatile for some and has been steadily decreasing. At the time of writing, 1 BTC is worth over £5,500. Compare that with highs of nearly £20,000 in late 2017.
Bitcoin has certainly managed to shake off its reputation as the dark web currency of choice. Its encrypted nature meant people could swap Bitcoins for nefarious goods and services on the dark web without fear of it being traced back to you. It’s taken a few years, but authorities are now getting better at tracking Bitcoin transactions, causing many criminals to abandon it.
It does also represent a big challenge to the status quo of finance. Major companies and even countries are experimenting with and developing cryptocurrencies of their own. However, much of the convenience of Bitcoin has now been replicated with online banking and systems like Apple Pay. And the Bitcoin stock price did plummet just like the naysayers forewarned. Whether Bitcoin will see off its competitors and continue to mount a challenge to central banks is yet to be seen but don’t think you’ve heard the last of it just yet.
As it becomes more mainstream and accessible, expect more SMEs to be dealing in Bitcoin.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, the desire to govern your own workday and work hours, and to be your own boss, starting your own small business may be the right path to take. Launching a new business not only requires skill and passion for a particular service or product, but it also requires planning and establishing good habits from the beginning. The “sharing economy” is an ever-growing and popular plan for people who want to start a small business. The idea of the sharing economy is to use technology and the internet to rent to or share things with others, thereby cutting in-person transactional costs.
Establish a Business Blueprint
A good idea can only take you so far. On the days when your motivation is low, you will need a solid business plan to fall back on. In the beginning stages of launching a business, to avoid later burn out and losing sight of the big picture, you will want to establish a business plan that reviews your business from every angle and idea. A business plan should project three to five years ahead and detail how the company intends to reach its yearly goals, including revenue.
Who Are Your Customers?
Before investing all your time and money into a product or service, a small business owner should evaluate the market and confirm that there are people interested in paying for what you have to offer. Understanding the market you are seeking to attract will not only prevent future blunders, but it will also set your business up for success. You should ask yourself some important questions. Who is our market? How big is our market? What trends affect our market? How do we reach our market? By answering these questions, you can develop marketing strategies to communicate the identity of your business and the value of your goods or services in the most effective manner.
Start Spreading the News
Once you know that you have a good product or service that can stand the test of time and meet your goal, then it’s time to amp up your marketing and advertising. No one can spend their money on something they don’t know exists. No longer are the days when you need to put out a television commercial or run a newspaper ad to advertise your business. The best marketing and advertising tool in the digital age is social networking sites, which are free to use. With such a vast audience at your fingertips, you can post your product, vehicle, home, bed, etc. for rent and watch as people respond. Companies have begun to link small business owners to consumers by launching applications and websites that allow you to post what you are renting while charging a nominal fee.
Avoid the Common Mistakes
The sharing economy is built around trust and reviews. Your small business needs to be built around a product you are proud of and that is pleasing to your consumer. No longer are the days when a company or brand is simply trusted by existing. Before you will see recurring customers or a rise in clientele, you will need to see some good reviews.
Just because someone is renting your room or lawn mower — and you’re not letting go of the asset — it doesn’t mean you’re not making income. Various governmental entities are catching on to the sharing economy and are starting to implement regulations. It’s important to keep yourself informed and continuously educate yourself on rules and regulations that may affect your business. As with any other income driving source, even though you are not receiving an income statement, it’s important to report your earnings and pay your taxes.
Create an At-Home Workspace
While the sharing economy mainly revolves around the asset and/or service you are attempting to rent, you should invest in creating an at-home workspace. Setting aside time to work on finances, marketing and advertising, business goals, and communication will be easier to do if you have a designated place within your home to retreat to, and where everything you need is in one area. Your workspace can consist of one desk in a small area of your home to an entire room. Depending on what you’re renting, you may need space for the objects you’re renting out (i.e. clothes or instruments). You will need space for a computer or computers to facilitate your transactions, communications, and marketing. As your small business grows, your workspace may also grow, and you may need room for one or more employees or independent contractors. Investing in your workspace will save you time and money in the long run and help establish structure and smooth transactions.
While there are many perks to being your own boss, there are several obstacles as well. You will not always be motivated to work and working from home can present many challenges even to the most focused. Setting designated office hours to work on different tasks throughout the day and week will help focus your business and drive your business plan forward. Working from home can also mean more distractions, whether it’s family or friends, pets, or your bed calling your name. Having a workspace that is separate from distractions, where you can isolate yourself and focus on the tasks at hand, will help keep you on track. The perk of working at home is that you have control over your space and environment. It’s important to establish good habits and boundaries early on.
In this day and age, with the right drive and attitude, anyone can be a small business owner and experience various levels of success. Whether your goal is to make some extra side income or to launch a career, the opportunities are endless. Technology has made it easier than ever to communicate to consumers at low to no cost and to make a profit. With a few tricks of the trade and planning, you can enter the small business world and succeed.
Nick Richards and his team at Geeks.co.uk have spent the last 10 years developing a formula that provides unique IT solutions to SMEs. In this article for Small Business Advice Week, they discuss the pros and cons of using an outsourced managed IT services company.
IT has certainly brought about many benefits in the business world. However, IT systems are not infallible and it can be a challenge to keep them working effectively and efficiently.
This challenge is often even harder for SMEs. This is because many of these businesses do not have an in-house IT specialist and have to call someone in to help if they experience any problems. This is not ideal as expertise can take time to find and to bring in.
One of the best solutions to this problem is the use of Managed IT Support which is also often referred to as managed services. This enables business to have 24/7 IT support on hand should they need it.
All of this means that small businesses can focus on their product or service without having to worry about IT issues. If you're not sure your small business could benefit from using IT Managed Services, read on to find out how it can.
1. Keep IT costs under control
Outsourcing your IT services means that you only have to pay for what you use and you do not have to invest in ongoing purchase and maintenance of hardware and software.
2. Reduction in staffing costs
It's often expensive to find and hire the right IT staff for your business. Outsourcing means that you do not need to worry about this and that your HR team can concentrate their efforts elsewhere.
3. Use of experienced and qualified people
Outsourcing means that you have access to a group of experienced and certified IT professionals whenever you need them.
4. Experience you can trust
IT professionals who work for an outsourced provider tend to have a wider breadth of knowledge and experience. This is because they get to deal with a wide range of situations involving a diverse selection of businesses.
5. Improved efficiency in a competitive environment
If you want your business to be competitive and remain efficient, you need to keep up to date with the latest developments in IT. This can be expensive to do in-house but if you outsource you know that you will benefit from all the latest IT enhancements.
6. Use of technology for new projects
You do not want to have to delay new projects because you do not have the right IT expertise in place. This can happen if you deal with everything in-house, whereas outsourcing means you have a team of experts on hand right away.
7. Stay focused on your core business
IT issues can be a distraction. If your business has limited resources, it makes more sense to outsource your IT and leave you free to concentrate on other issues related to the running of the business. According to Geeks.co.uk, outsourcing IT partnership allows your business to drive this strategic IT investment without losing focus or control on core business plans.
8. Reduce risk
Risk is something that every business faces; the environment changes so quickly. Outsourcing IT companies put their vast industry experience to use monitoring the latest developments in areas such as security, enabling them to effectively manage risks for you.
9. Level the playing field
If you own a small business, you are unlikely to be able to match big companies in the IT stakes if you keep everything in-house. However, if you outsource, you get access to all the same hardware and software that the big companies use without having to make a huge upfront investment.
10. Compliance and Security
It can be difficult to keep on top of compliance regulations when it comes to the handling of sensitive client information such as card details. You need to make sure that regular data audits are carried out and that your firewall is kept up to date.
You also need to think about the software that you use and ensure that it complies with all guidelines. Outsourcing companies can do all of this for you, including the monitoring of software licenses. They know what is required to comply with guidelines and can keep track of when licenses are due to expire.
It's vital that you keep security protocols up to date, in order to keep data safe from cyber attacks and other threats. Outsourcing providers know which is the best form of security to use for your business, they also monitor your systems so that any threats can be detected and dealt with quickly and effectively, making sure your business stays running smoothly.
Fraud-related crimes are still a concern, as the information society has provided a plethora of opportunities for new businesses. Cyber criminals and employees within a business constantly look into exploiting weaknesses within a business as the customer journey and internal operations improve. With the additional insight gained, criminal activity becomes increasingly more sophisticated, leaving it up to businesses to fully educate their current employees, as well as themselves, on the potential fraud cases that could arise.
The concept of fraud prevention is essential to the smooth operating of any business, and should not be seen as a process that is set in stone to completely eradicate fraud risks. Fraud prevention is an on-going, cyclic process involving an unset processes including but not limited to situation monitoring, detection, action planning, case management and decision-making.
Small businesses in particular should aim to build upon and continuously learn from past incidents (or any that could potentially arise) during their lifetime of operation, and devise strategies to strengthen their fraud prevention process.
To give you the best chance in effectively protecting your small business against fraud, it is imperative to identify the different types of fraud that could arise, the areas of business that are most vulnerable and the necessary steps to take in event of a situation arising.
Types of fraud to be aware of:
There are several different types of fraud a small business can be exposed to. This is no different to a large corporation, however smaller businesses are at greater risk, especially newly established ones due to their focus being diverted on to succeeding as opposed to protecting.
We can separate the different types of fraud into 5 main categories:
Also known as asset misappropriation fraud – this kind of fraud occurs when employees are entrusted to manage assets within an organisation but instead exploit it for their own personal gain.
The types of activity that fall under asset misappropriation fraud include:
Payroll and accounting
Fraudulent activity in regards to financial assets through payroll and accounting is essentially theft of cash from a business via a payroll processing system. There are several ways in which an employee can commit payroll fraud, including:
Accessing sensitive data that can be used for another’s personal gain is also a form of fraud. Such fraudulent activity includes:
Intending to influence another party for one’s own gain, or acting upon a bribe, is considered fraudulent activity. This includes:
In a similar fashion to payroll and accounting fraud, by manipulating accounts payable for one’s personal benefit is one of the most common ways a criminal might commit fraud. Such ways include:
Top tips for preventing small business fraud:
Segregate sensitive dutiesA lot of small businesses depend on one person to be in charge of processing payments, invoices, handling petty cash and bank reconciliation. This can create an opportunity for fraud of assets, so it’s advisable to segregate accounting duties so that they’re not limited to one individual.
Review all statements regularlyHave the original or duplicate bank statements sent to your home/preferred address from the bank. By making it a regular habit to review your statements for anomalies such as unfamiliar suppliers or out of order checks you can keep on top of all ingoing’s and outgoings. By informing your employees that you review all statement independently also acts as a fraud deterrent in itself.
Educate employeesGenuine employees will play an integral role in fraud detection. Employees must be educated in knowing that fraud is not tolerated in the business and how it can negatively impact everyone involved.
Implement clear policiesHaving no clear policies on fraud can leave employees unaware of the detrimental effects it will have to themselves and the business collectively if they are discovered.
By introducing a no tolerance policy and procedures manual that is concise and defines fraud and theft, and the consequences of violating these policies then this will also act as a deterrent. Your policies must cover tangible and intangible assets for your employee’s clarity.
Know your employeesEnsure your latest hires are screened and correctly referenced. Your hiring processes should include a thorough check and includes references from past employees. Fraudulent activity is also likely to happen by established employees who are under financial stress.
Ensure you keep a close eye and regular contact with your employees by conducting regular meetings (teams and on-on-one) and regular reviews.
This article was contributed by Alan Blaney. He has over 30 years experience in the law enforcement field and currently runs Focus Training – a company that helps businesses analyse complex data sets and provides private investigators with training and qualifications.
John Armstrong is Director and co-owner of the printwear and branding specialist Custom Planet. Here, he explains what small business owners need to know about the differences between B2C and B2B marketing.
Whether your company sells B2C, B2B, or to both kinds of customers, it can be difficult to know exactly how to get the most from your marketing efforts. This can be particularly challenging for companies that sell a wide range of products that appeal to a whole host of different audiences.
What works for one set of customers is almost certain to fall flat on the other so, to help you succeed, here’s Small Business Advice Week's breakdown of the need-to-know differences between B2C and B2B marketing.
Where you find your customers
You may have an excellent product that solves one of your target audience’s biggest problems but, if they never find out about it, your business is unlikely to succeed. Finding where your ideal customers spend their time (both online and off) is therefore the first step in any successful marketing campaign.
This is the first big difference between B2C and B2B marketing — the two sets of customers spend their time in completely different places. For the highest possible return on your marketing efforts, you must define exactly where and how your ideal customer spends their time.
As an example, while Instagram is the perfect social media platform for a lot of B2C retailers, a B2B business is going to have a lot more success connecting with their customers through one of Rival IQ’s picks of the best social media channels for B2B marketing. While there may not be the quantity of users on these channels, a B2B business is much more likely to establish a relationship with a potential customer here than on a platform mainly populated by teenagers.
For the best results, it pays to not only know where your customers spend their time, but also how. Going back to social media, you should know when your target audience is most likely to engage with your posts so they have the maximum impact.
For example, if you’re selling B2C and your target audience is professionals in their 30s, your posts are likely to have the biggest impact on an evening, when your customers have finished work and are checking their personal social media accounts. Experiment with different times and then schedule your social media posts in advance with an app like Buffer or Hootsuite to see the biggest possible return on investment.
What your customers respond to
Your job isn’t done once you’ve found your target audience — the next step is to know how to engage them. There’s a big difference between B2C and B2B marketing and, if you don’t understand the subtleties, your sales are likely to falter.
As Hubspot explain in an excellent blog post, the main difference between the two audiences is that B2B purchases tend to be driven more by rationality. Impulse buys are extremely rare in B2B markets, as the sales process is often lengthy and complicated. Furthermore, the person making the purchase needs to fully justify the investment to those who hold the purse strings.
With this in mind, seeking to educate your audience through detailed content marketing pieces and a clued-up sales team can be exactly what it takes to send B2B customers through your sales funnel.
B2C customers, on the other hand, are often looking for deals and entertainment. Their purchases are also commonly triggered by their current emotional state (as anyone who’s done their weekly food shop on an empty stomach will know).
It’s also crucial that you think carefully about what your marketing materials say about you. If you are looking to work with businesses, you need to present a clear and concise message as to why they should use you. Above all else, these customers are interested in professionalism and quality, which you should instil across all of your B2B marketing for the best results.
To target B2C customers, focus on the product you’re offering rather than who you are as a company. For example, our customers looking for T-shirts for a stag or hen do aren’t interested in our reliability or our proven track record — their only concern is the price and the turn-around time. If we marketed to them the same way we market to our B2B customers, we wouldn’t still be in business today.
Keep these two major differences between B2C and B2B marketing in mind to ensure you have the biggest return on your marketing efforts. At Custom Planet, we have both B2B and B2C customers and I've found that, by tailoring your marketing to your specific audience and sending it out through all of the right channels, it will have the biggest chance of making an impact and increasing sales throughout your business.
The creation of the internet is perhaps one of the greatest things that has happened in recent history. It’s crazy to think that the first web page created on the World Wide Web was 27 years ago in August, 1991 where most people didn’t even know that the internet existed. Nowadays, life without the internet for most people is unimaginable. So, with over 4 billion internet users globally, where does your small business fit online?
For small entrepreneurs, the web is a great tool to grow your business. If you can leverage the unlimited power of the internet, you can open doors to reach a huge audience and promote your product or service at a minimum cost. In order to give yourself the best chance at online success, Small Business Advice Week has taken a look at some key ingredients to making your business thrive online.
Solve your customers’ problems
Although your main goal for your website may be to achieve sales, this should not be the only focus. In order to stand out from the crowd, and to provide value to your customers, your website should have the purpose of solving your customers’ problems or providing them with the solutions to their needs.
Whatever the products or services that your business offers, many customers may require help when deciding whether to proceed with your brand or go elsewhere. With so much choice available out there, you’ll need to ensure you are providing the best service to your customers. Consider creating a blog on your website to capture their attention. You can use this as a place to include fresh new content regularly regarding your products or services, as well as unique news or updates about your brand. The best business blogs answer the common questions their customers have which is helpful to the reader. This may help the customer finalise their decision to transact with you as well as help them understand more about your brand.
To be even more helpful to your customers consider adding a FAQs (frequently asked questions) page to allow visitors to find answers to all their questions in one place. Not only will it make things easier for your customers but it could also save your company time and resources as only those more unusual questions will need to be answered by a member of the team. FAQs are a valuable way of learning where the content of your website is falling short and thus act as a great way of giving you new ideas for content. If, say, a high volume of customers are looking up a particular question, you could create a blog post around that question to provide useful information.
Ensure a smooth user journey
As a small business competing with multiple other businesses online, it is critical that your website design is built with the user in mind. It should be easy for your customers to navigate through your site, find what they are looking for and, ultimately, to transact with you. Here are a few important things to consider when in ensuring a smooth customer journey online:
Allow your customers to communicate with you
It can be relatively easy to include a free contact form plugin to create a simple form to include on your contact page. A contact form allows the user to directly ask your business any question. You could include additional drop downs regarding the reason for their contact such as: general enquiry, make a change to my order, or leave some feedback to help you understand better the customers’ contact request.
Once a customer has made contact it’s imperative to respond to them promptly. People always make a mental note of how long a company takes to get back to them, so it is vital to respond quickly as you have a huge opportunity here to communicate directly to the client and convert a potential lead.
You can also engage with your audience via your blog by including a comments section. Once again this gives you the opportunity to connect with the user and a chance to increase loyalty and sales.
Use email marketing to turn website visitors into buyers
A survey carried out amongst 1,000 online businesses showed that email marketing consistently delivered the highest return on investment (ROI) of any marketing channel. With so many users active on the internet, it’s never been easier to connect with your target audience through this channel.
When you promote an opt-in list on your website, the customers who have signed up have given you permission to send them emails. This means you are giving those customers something they want and opening the door to engage directly with those customers. Within the emails you can provide your latest offers and promotions as well as including tempting calls to action or even a link straight to checkout. You can provide useful information for the customer and, due to the immediacy of emails, you can quickly start seeing results and sales, especially for those 24 hour flash sales.
Most email marketing software allows you to track open, click-through and conversion rates so you are able to see how your campaign is performing or whether it needs to be improved. You can usually immediately change the content in your emails, whereas with other campaigns, such as print or broadcast advertising, it may be trickier to change the content quickly.
Watch Your Expenses
Many small business owners sometimes feel that by throwing money at a problem, it will eventually go away. This can lead to spending far too much money, or wasting money in the wrong area of their business and, as a result, face their expenses creeping up to unsustainable heights.
Any business needs to accurately track their expenses and always be prepared for any unforeseen charges. This might be a sudden surge of business and high demand of your products requiring you to stock up quickly with the inherent expense that this demands. As a small business you cannot afford to miss out on any potential customers due to your product being out of stock. Liberis small business funding can ease any cash flow issues in the short term, however, you should also be prepared for those lower performing months.
If you haven’t already appointed an accountant, or you are not looking to invest in accounting software, managing the expenses yourself is relatively straightforward whilst you are building your business. Begin by creating a simple spreadsheet with a list of your revenue in one column and your expenses in the other: be thorough and ensure that you are including every single cost including salaries, rent, rates and insurance. When your revenue exceeds your expenses column, you are making money. This seems rather simple but it will provide you with a basic visual aid to track your finances.
This is a great conundrum for many business owners – who should I follow on Twitter? Everyone, no-one or a select few, and how do I select these few? Many have mixed feelings towards Twitter as a business platform, you either love it or hate it. But, if you're a small business owner who finds Twitter a waste of time, perhaps it's because you aren't following the right accounts?
Small Business Advice Week has selected ten twitter accounts will provide great tips, insight to the business world and keep you updated on the latest business news.
Before we get into the Twitter accounts all small business owners should follow, there is one very important factor to remember before starting your business Twitter venture. Do NOT follow everyone back. Twitter isn't about getting as many followers as possible, it's about the customer engagement.
If the company is relevant or you're interested in their information and tweets, then give them a follow. Even following your 'competitors' business account has plenty of benefits. Or if you don't want them to know you're following them, you can create a private list in Twitter where you can keep tabs on what they're doing, without following them.
Plenty of useful blogs posts and YouTube videos on how-to-guides on different areas in business.
Forbes has some of the most influential posts and with almost 15 million followers, you can't go wrong with following this account. A trusted source across all areas, it's a great resource to learn about the wider world of business.
If you're a start up business or an experienced one, Entrepreneur is a great source and provides really reliable business news and tips.
No matter your thoughts on the Walt Disney Company, they have a lot to teach all business owners, especially with their near monopolisation of the entertainment industry. This particular account follows Disney news and trends.
This account is for the local business owners. Four Square are also very strategic with their twitter posts which is an example to follow when using Twitter as a business platform.
This account might be for the more techy business owners, as it keeps you in the loop and updated with the latest apps for your business. But this has fantastic crossover opportunities, as technology is always changing how business is done. No matter what your business is, you do rely on technology, and you can always make changes to make your business more efficient.
Ann Handley is considered one of the most influential women in the marketing world. Her company Marketing Profs offers great training and fantastic marketing tips!
One of the towering giants of the business world, the Wall Street Journal contains vital information for any business, big or small.
This twitter account is keen on stimulating small business growth, by tweeting about small business program news, insights, resources, advice and more.
The Small Business Advice Week twitter is a great place to go for info on small business, and to keep up with what we're doing.
This list of twitter accounts to follow is a great start to beginning your twitter journey to seeking out fantastic advice and tips, whilst learning effective ways to use twitter for your own small business.
Over the last few years we have seen a rapid evolution in the mobile industry and development of mobile apps - in fact, the number of mobile phone users globally is now expected to rise to 5 billion by 2019. With this growth brings higher competition with more people wanting the latest device and technology, putting pressure on mobile app marketers or developers to create engaging and worthwhile apps. SMEs can benefit from this as well, growing a dedicated user base, or provide
It’s easy to view high download rates as a form of success when it comes to your mobile app, however, without active users, high downloads alone seem worthless. Until fairly recently acquisition was considered the most important metric. However, a recent survey by mobile app agency, The App Developers, discovered that apps need to shift from acquisition to retention and gaining user loyalty rather than just one-time users.
Mobile app retention is defined as: returning to the app at least once within 30 days
It’s become increasingly more apparent that mobile app marketers will need to define success by maintaining app users rather than measuring app installations. But any business could set up an app if they have a unique enough idea. To begin with, here are a few ways you can maximise user retention for your mobile app:
Don’t Make Users Pay for Everything
According to the survey, 68% of participants do not buy in-app purchases. When you stop to think about in-app purchases and the concept, you can begin to understand why consumers dislike it. If a consumer has gone as far as installing an app, they have decided it fulfils their need. However, to then open the app and discover it will cost more to enjoy all the features can very quickly reduce a user’s engagement.
If you charge for your app to be downloaded, be mindful that 75% of respondents (from a recent UK mobile app survey) said that they only download free apps, meaning you are already missing out on a large number of prospective customers. Instead of pushing added revenue through premium versions or incremental in-app purchases, businesses should focus on providing a streamlined user experience through their apps for mobile users, increasing the lifetime value of mobile customers.
Advertise in the Right Places
When asked which marketing channel has convinced people to download an app, 19% of respondents commented that social media was the most popular choice; this is highly plausible because 31% of respondents said they use social media apps the most. Targeting users in their most natural environment, on mobile devices, seems to be most cost effective as opposed to other forms of advertising.
One way some brands have found success is through developing an Instagram marketing campaign around a hashtag to build brand awareness and reach a large audience. With mobile apps and Instagram sharing the same space on smartphone screens, leveraging the reach and influential power of instagrammers could help you achieve more app downloads from your target market.
Bejeweled, known for its gem-matching puzzle game, used social media to inspire mobile users to download their mobile app. To increase campaign awareness, they engaged with media influencer David Lopez (850k followers) who shared a photo of him playing the game after a tough day, under the branded hashtag #ShinyPlace. With the help of a few top instragammers, Bejeweled rose from the 702nd to the 182nd in Apple’s chart of top-grossing US App Store apps, a phenomenal increase of 520 places in the rankings.
For participants who strictly download free apps, advertisements on branded websites was the most popular at 58%. This indicates that the branding behind an app can play an important part in convincing consumers to download it. Some consumers want reassurance that an app is legitimate and that the company is truly invested in it as a business. The app needs to be prominently featured across the website in a way that entices users to want to find out more. A good example of a brand doing this well is Sweet Green:
You’ll notice the app is clearly presented on their homepage, there is a friendly and inviting tone and it states that their app is compatible with iOS. It’s important to understand who your users are before you begin to advertise or promote your app to ensure you reach those loyal users rather than the one-time user.
Include Push Notifications
The way to look at push notifications is their similarity to text messaging, they both appear on your website on the user’s home screen, which means the stakes are even higher as, like a text, the user is more likely to open the message.
The great thing about push notifications is that the user has complete control. They can choose to opt-in/opt-out of receiving the notifications, so if they are opting in they are interested. The push notification serves the specific function of reminding the user of the app. If implemented correctly, it should also help encourage usage through targeting messaging that is personalised to the user. For example, health/fitness apps may send notifications of the steps that the user has completed that day or create a buzz around the user hitting a record number of steps that week.
Ultimately, a push notification is there to grab the attention of the user at just the right moment to tempt them to download the app.
58% of participants said they will use a company’s app as an alternative to their website, providing the experience is better. Often this is due to the VIP feel apps provide in making the users’ experience unique. The more aligned the experience is with the needs of the user, the more the user will value the app.
By using in-app data, based on the behaviours of the user and their preference or particular functions within the app, you should look to personalise the user experience. Including the user’s name is an easy way to personalise it as well as displaying hyper-relevant content and material that is useful to that specific user. If your business needs help with personalising your mobile app, visiting app developers UK is a great place to start.
Create a Loyalty Scheme
Mobile apps are often seen as a good way to build customer loyalty as they can often provide users with promotional offers and useful information about the company. The quality of your app also gives users an impression of your business: being able to persuade app users to continue returning to your app is vital.
In-app customer loyalty schemes work by encouraging the user to carry out particular actions in which they will receive a reward once that action is completed. Some of the popular rewards could be providing users with access to the latest collection of products, discounts, gift-cards or coupons. One of the most well-known loyalty programmes is the Starbucks app. When you buy something from a participating Starbucks store you earn a star. Once the user has collected a certain number of stars, they are rewarded with a possible free drink, exclusive access to new products to try amongst other rewards.
These loyalty schemes show the customer that the company values them and cares about their loyalty to the brand. In today’s competitive market, returning customers are crucial to any growing business.
One of the great things about apps is they save your customers time. If you want to save time, check out this post on how to save time and money for your business.
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.