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.
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.