Category Archives: Business

45 ways to build your Facebook following for your business

Have a Facebook page, it’s a great way to promote your business! That can feel like it is easier said than done, however. In this article, Antonia Chitty, co-author of Making Money Online and Blogging: the Essential Guide, outlines 45 steps to make sure that you don’t just create a Facebook page, but you create one that really works for your business.

    • When setting up your page, choose a good username, something memorable that is easy to spell.
    • Start with a clear ‘about’ and links to your business website.
    • Add in your business telephone number and address as appropriate – the easier it is for people to see that you really exist, the easier it is for them to trust your business and click ‘like’.
    • Use the milestones feature to build in your business’s history, awards, etc – this can all build trust and encourage people to like your page.
    • Build trust with good content – and add content regularly. Carol Smith, social media consultant for EyecareFAQ, says, “Create content that engages your fans, the more they like posts and comments the more their friends will see in their feeds.” Social media consultant Liz Weston says, “For The Baby & Toddler Show we have consistently found and curated content that has truly connected with our audience. It sounds so simple, but the “job description” of a parent, was shared more than 180 times and brought us more than 400 new, organic likes in under 24 hours. At that point the page was 4K ish of fans, so this felt like a big number!”
    • Focus on the problems that your potential customers or clients need to solve. Which issues cause them most ‘pain’ – physical, emotional or psychological? How can you help them address these?
    • Ask your friends to like your page. We all do it, but it has its limitations. Are your friends really your target market? And don’t you need your business to extend beyond friends and family? What asking friends for like is good for, however, is getting the page started, finding the first 25 of 100 followers. Having a number followers already can take away one of the barriers to people clicking like: the more people who like your page, the more people want to say ‘me too!’ and follow the crowd.
  • Another way to build your initial ‘likes’ is to invite email subscribers to go and like your Facebook page. People who are on your list already will be warm to your business and more likely to take action. Remember to go back every so often and remind them about the page again as not everyone takes action first time.
  • Use Facebook resources: https://www.facebook.com/business/overview. Facebook wants your page to succeed and their tips will help. Something simple to start with, as suggested by Facebook, is to ask yourself, “What do your ideal customers have in common? How old are they, and where do they live? How can your business help them? Would one group be more interested in specific messages, products or services? A sale or a timely offer?
  • Once your Facebook page is set up, add the link to your email signature block (and that of all staff members if appropriate).
  • Put your Facebook page on all your print media
  • Add the link or a QR Code to business cards.
  • Now, make a plan for promotion. Planning now, rather than simply wandering round Facebook every day, can save you time and effort and make sure you ae getting the results you want.
  • Be clear about the overall aim for your business and how Facebook fits in
  • Set some goals and targets: this makes it much easier to focus your efforts and see if they are working.
  • Be clear about your target audience – and refine this as you see what type of person likes your page, and how this compares to people who buy from you.  Consider where your audience already gathers online? What would incentivise them to like you – what’s in it for them? Who are their leaders, who would be a great ambassador?
  • Allocate time each day where you or your staff will work on your Facebook page. Regular interaction is vital – people expect Facebook to be a place where conversations happen. Try different times too – do people check in first thing, at lunchtime, in the evenings?
  • Advertising does work to help you boost the number of people who like your business page. See the ad create tool at https://www.facebook.com/advertising. It really is simple to use, and also to adjust as you use it. Try different adverts for different target groups. Try something for a week then adjust, and assess your results.
  • Ask questions – open ended questions encourage discussion and give you insights you’re your audience.
  • Include the link to your Facebook page in your own blog posts and in guest posts on other blogs.
  • Hold a ‘chat’. Liz Weston says, “For SnoozeShade, the most successful thing we have done is brought high profile and truly valuable people to their Facebook page, to have a FB chat. We don’t need a giveaway – it’s just the value of the conversation. As well as bringing FB followers, because people want to be part of the conversation, it’s ended up carrying on well after it should finish – like an online lock in, in the pub!”
  • Comment, thoughtfully, on other pages as your own pages. Focus on those with overlapping target audiences.
  • Competitions bring people in to your page, though as I write this regulations are changing about ‘liking’ as a requirement for entry. Check the regulations before running your own competition at https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php. Facebook Business News, https://www.facebook.com/business/news, will keep you up to date with future changes.
  • Offer coupons and discount codes exclusively on your Facebook page. Regular offers will keep people checking back, so flag up when your offers will occur, whether it is every week or month.
  • Embed the ‘like my page’ widget on your website
  • Build follower involvement. Social media consultant Donna Pinnell says, “For Love Boo Shop it has been all about getting people involved, so we do a Sunday night quiz. There are small prizes involved but the engagement is great and we have fabulous feedback from it.”
  • Business consultant Helen Lindop says, “I’m part of a big, carefully moderated Facebook group, one that is on-topic and spam free, where people know and like each other. Very occasionally the owner allows a thread where we all like each other’s pages, which gave us all lots of relevant page likes. ,
  • Link your Twitter to your Facebook fan page and automatically post your Facebook content to Twitter. This isn’t a rule that you always have to follow, sometimes it can become annoying, so test out the response.
  • Another way to cross pollinate your social media is to share what’s happening on your Facebook page with your Linked in contacts. Make sure you select people who are in your target audience, and approach them with email letters that appear to address their particular interests.
  • Network by making connections with other page admins – business owners or social media consultants – who have a similar demographic to yours and cross-promote each other.
  • Make it personal. Facebook gives people who like your page a chance to get the inside take on your business. Consider what might push their buttons and make them feel part of the family. It could be sharing pics of staff, your customers own cake designs, your pets or theirs? Think about what will appeal to your target audience.
  • Photos are key to Facebook. We’ve already mentioned photos of the behind the scenes part of your business. If you have products, can you ask customers to share pics of them in use, perhaps with incentives to share? If you offer a service, get consent from those using the service to allow you post photos. Tag people in the photos once you have their consent and you may find they share the pics too.
  • Polls can make people feel part of your business. If you are selecting new designs or products or considering offering a different service, ask for views. It gives you a good reason to promote your page and get people involved.
  • Promote your posts. This one is straight from the Facebook guide and it makes perfect sense: “Make successful posts into successful promotions: When you notice that a post is getting a lot of engagement, promote it to reach even more people. When people like, comment on or share your posts, their friends are also eligible to see those posts in News Feed.”
  • Use scheduling apps like Hootsuite to ensure that content is coming up regularly. Nothing beats real-person interaction when running a page, but if your busy times are in t evenings you don’t always want to work then. Scheduling can ensure new material appears when it is needed, whether you are online, working on something else, or on holiday. It is also time-effective to plan content for the week or month ahead.
  • There’s nothing wrong with asking others to share. You could simple add ‘please share’ to a significant post, or build relationships with opinion formers within your target audience and drop them a message to ask them to help spread the word about a particular post or event on your Facebook page.
  • Share other relevant page content via your page. It always helps to gather good information on regular topics and disseminate it to people who like your page – they will know where to come for news on their interests.
  • Create custom tabs to use as landing pages for specific campaigns – this could include a sign up box, a coupon, a video, some of your most popular posts, calls to action or other marketing ideas.
  • Take photos at live events and encourage people to tag themselves in them.
  • Add testimonials, customer letters, comments etc, but always make sure that you have permission to do so. This builds trust and also interaction as it can encourage others to share their views.
  • Respond to complaints promptly. Sometimes customers will complain via Facebook and this isn’t always bad for business. Show that you are addressing the complaint and sorting the problem and it can, in fact, help people trust your business.
  • Video is just as important as photos and written updates. Add in videos of your products, your services, your customers. Upload video direct to Facebook rather than embedding and it will display a like button for everyone … and that even includes people who aren’t fans. You can load video content to your Facebook fan page, then take the source code and embed on your blog/website.
  • Tweak your content and check results. Try posting photo posts and those without photos, try posting at different times of day, compare posts where you share other people’s contents with posts that link to your own site. Count the reach for different types of posts and adjust your mix accordingly.
  • Measure and adjust: Find out what’s working well, so you can maximise the impact of every post and ad. Facebook has a lot of different tools to help you measure how you’re doing. Visit Page Insights regularly and look for trends so you can develop more of the best-performing content. It will help you understand more about the people who respond to your updates. You’ll learn more about their gender, age and location, and who is most engaged.
  • Ask how people heard about you—at the end of a call, in a survey, or at the point of sale—and keep track of what they say. This will help you know if your Facebook page is working for your business.

10 tips to help entrepreneurs implement effectively

WB_332-300x212 Ideas mean nothing unless they are made real. Entrepreneurial ideas get turned into products and services and are sold to customers to make a difference. Yet, entrepreneurs are often not implementers, nor project managers. They’re often distracted by the next idea, the next development, and the new opportunity. William Buist, CEO of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club offers 10 tips to implementing effectively as an entrepreneur:

 

  1. Crystal clear clarity of where you’re going.
    Firstly, have really clear goals. If you can’t tell everyone what you are doing, quickly and with passion, why would they care about it? If the picture you paint is of a future that makes the effort worthwhile then people will yearn for it and fight for it, with you.
  2. Slow down to go faster.
    There is the work that directly creates our idea and makes it real, and then there is the planning and administrative work. That indirect work is an ‘overhead’. Many entrepreneurs treat overhead tasks as something to do as you go. However, by doing do them early you’ll save a lot of time later.
  3. Set a realistic timescale.

You’ll need some time to adapt and change on the journey. Work expands to fit the time available too, so be sensibly realistic, when you set the goal.
If there are critical dates you need to hit then those should be clear at this point, so expectations are properly set.

  1. Find the big chunks.
    Look at the work one quarter at a time. Identify what would have had to have been delivered three months before the end date, six months before the end date and so on.  By doing that your team can see what they’ll be building.

 

  1. Identify the building blocks.
    Now create monthly goals for the next two quarters and weekly goals for the first month or so.

    But do not go further. Great teams rely on the ability of everyone to plan their own work within the framework.

  2. Identify “Now Win”s.

It’s now useful to plan forward and look at what could be done this week, this month and this quarter. This can show you where there are opportunities to win now and get ahead of the game.

  1. Don’t be a slave to the plan; the plan is your slave.
    If necessary take a step back, do some work on the project, deliver some elements of it and then look at where that takes you and how to plan further from there.  Project planning should be no more than a few minutes each week once the original plan is put in place.
  2. Remember resources and materials.
    In any project there will be times when you need specific essential materials or resources, so each week and month take a look ahead, check what resources you’re expecting to need and make sure that they’re on track for delivery.
  3. Reward success.
    It’s important to recognise and reward incremental successes within the team; let them know that it’s on track and going well.  It will help ensure that this and every implementation easier.
  4. Document along the way.
    In reality every task in a project has probably been done before in a different context. The mistakes have been forgotten, and so will be easy to repeat, and the shortcuts forgotten too. This step is not for this time; it’s for next time. You’ll get quicker and can move on to the next idea ever faster.

Implementation is the work that brings your ideas to the world, and when it’s done brilliantly it’s because of attention to detail and great planning.  It builds on past experience and creates the foundations for future success too. Brilliant products, and remarkable companies, implement brilliantly.

 

William Buist is owner of Abelard Collaborative Consultancy, and founder of the exclusive xTEN Club– an annual programme of strategic activities for small, exclusive groups of business owners. xTEN helps accelerate growth, harness opportunity, build your business and develop ideas. William is also author of two books: ‘At your fingertips’ and ‘The little book of mentoring’. See: http://Abelard-uk.com  / http://Williambuist.com  / http://Societal-Web.com

 

5 ways to shift your business story from stuck to successful

We are all storytellers, constantly telling ourselves stories about every aspect of our personal and business lives, says Claire Taylor from The Story Mill.

The quality of our lives and our businesses is greatly influenced by the way we tell our stories, how we frame our experiences.

When we tell ourselves empowering stories that support our success then all’s well.  The trouble is when we’re telling ourselves negative stories, we wind-up feeling stuck with a problem.

Claire Taylor co-founder of The Story Mill and author of ‘The Tao of Storytelling’, recommends five steps we need to take to shift any business story from being stuck to being successful:

Recognise that your frustration is coming from a story that you’re telling yourself

It is easy to see our stories as the truth about a situation. However they are not the truth – they’re just our perspective.   What creates frustration is not the ‘facts’ that we see, but the meaning that we’ve give them or they story that we tell.  In businesses, these stories often become a collective perspective and so everyone in the company believes them.

So the first step is to recognise that we’re simply telling a story – we’re framing our experience with meaning.  Next we need to ask if our story is keeping us and others stuck in frustration, fear, stress and other disempowering emotions.

Now is the time to let go of the disempowering story and start creating a new story about our business.

Redefine your difficult problem story into an inspiring challenge story

If you frame problem stories as difficult, impossible or insurmountable you are actually portraying yourself and your business as victims of circumstance.  This is demotivating and depletes people’s energy and enthusiasm.

So what can you do instead?  Start by redefining the problem story into one that is empowering.  That begins with taking responsibility – so if the market or the economy has changed, how are you going to respond to it?  How can you anticipate change and surf the waves of it?  See yourself and your business as the heroes of the piece.  Reframing the problem from this perspective will help people feel more enthusiastic, and even excited, about tackling a challenge as they see themselves as heroic wave surfers.

See your problem story as an opportunity for growth within your business and yourself

Resolving these business challenges calls for innovation, creativity and processes to implement your ideas. Innovation is about creating value from what you have right now.

Begin by creating a vision of what your business success looks like and be sure to include how you’ll know that you have arrived.  Tell the story of having arrived – what would you see, hear, feel?  Who would be there?  What would you be doing?

Consider your stakeholders as your allies along the journey.

It is easy to get into blaming others for your business problems. If you find yourself doing this remember that you’re telling yourself a negative story about them and your business.

These people can be demons and devils or warriors, guides and guardians.  The latter is definitely more useful because your stakeholders can be your greatest allies in achieving success.  When you see them as warriors, guides and guardians you’ll look for their strengths, open up to their ideas, ask for their help, trust them and innovate together.

Remember that successful teams comprise ordinary people inspired by great leadership to achieve extraordinary things

If you find yourself believing that your team isn’t up to scratch, it’s time to stop and ask yourself if you’re actually connecting with them or rejecting them.

You may be projecting your own fears and feelings of vulnerability on to them.  If you’re doing that, then don’t be surprised when you get your story mirrored back to you by the way that people behave.

Taking the opportunity to learn how to empower, trust and learn from the people in your team, would enhance your self-image as a leader.  Investing in your people begins with believing in them and telling yourself positive stories about them, even if they’re not like you.

In summary, we tell ourselves stories all the time.  Mostly these stories are kept to ourselves and often we don’t even acknowledge that we’re carrying them.  However we live by our stories and they drive our behaviour.

Stories can be changed once we acknowledge them, recognise them as stories and make the choice to create new and more empowering business narratives.

Your new inspiring stories create shifts in attitude and motivate you and your stakeholders into doing the activity it takes to produce the business success that you desire.

 

Claire Taylor is a Business Consultant, Writer and co-founder of The Story Mill, an innovative organisation that works with business people to create sustainable success through authentic brand stories, personal branding stories, business strategies & collaborative cultures using a variety of business tools and the art of storytelling.  Claire has worked with companies that include manufacturers; Novartis, Abbott/Abbvie, Pharmacia/Pfizer, and retailers The Burton Group (now Arcadia) and The Kingfisher Group.  Claire holds an MA in Marketing from the University of Westminster and is an NLP Master Practitioner and Storyteller.

Claire is author of ‘The Tao of Storytelling – 30 Ways to create empowering stories to live by’: www.thestorymill.co.uk/ and www.the-tao-of-storytelling.com/

 

Using your intuition spiritual and emotional intelligence in business

Do you rely on facts to make your business decisions or do you follow your gut instinct? I’ve noticed a big interest in articles on the Family Friendly Working site about using your spiritual intelligence so I decided to find out more.

According to Wikipedia, Spiritual intelligence is a term used by some philosophers, psychologists, and developmental theorists to indicate spiritual parallels with IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient). Danah Zohar coined the term “spiritual intelligence” and introduced the idea in 1997 in her book ReWiring the Corporate Brain. There are ongoing debates about Emotional Intelligence – does it exist, can we measure it, and how? The same debate is very much starting around spiritual intelligence. I wonder, though, if the need to define and measure is ignoring something fundamental, as well as being promulgated by those who might not rely on their instincts!

There’s a place for scientific investigation, but I think that it is also interesting to look at what people do every day. I had been thinking about doing a masters for a number of years, but I was always too busy, with family and business vying for time. Some problems with my health coincided with closing part of my business, and all at once I had time to spare, and a reason to reorganise my priorities. I started a course with the WEA which gave me the confidence to apply for an MA in Critical and Creative writing. I’ve been on the course since September and it’s great, giving me loads of new fuel for thought as well as opening up whole new areas of writing. If I hadn’t followed my intuition that the time was right for a big change, I might be struggling to grow a business that wasn’t really working for me anymore.

Joe Gregory runs publishing company Bookshaker.com. He says, “I definitely use instinct when deciding who to partner with. I think we humans are amazing at spotting incongruity when we trust our gut. When buying product and services though I usually check the data.” Small business blogger and trainer Helen Lindop says, “Yes, big life decisions I tend to go with my gut (then justify it to myself with the facts), smaller decisions I tend to go with the data.” Joe recommends Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, to understand more about how we make decisions. Lucy Carraher is Managing Editor of Rethink Press. She advises, “Consciously seek out facts then wait for intuition to process and give a definitive response. “Gut” or intuition is not irrational or non-factual. It’s our subconscious linking all information, knowledge and emotion in a broader but less visible way than our conscious thinking processes are able. “Gut” is bigger than but includes “facts”.”

But when it comes down to it, when faced by a decision, what do you actually do? In my own experience, I’d say that at the final point of making a choice, you can only follow your instinct, however many facts you have consumed before that point. You will be able to make an informed choice, the facts may seem to point in one direction, but it is your instinct that tells you whether the time is right, and whether that is the right direction for you and your business.

This article first appeared in Business Rocks magazine.

New Scholarships for Women in Business

ESMT_studentsA leading European business school is offering women in leadership partial scholarships for executive education.

ESMT European School of Management and Technology will pay for almost two-thirds of tuition costs for experienced female leaders on the Executive Transition Program starting in October 2014.
The two scholarships, each valued at €17,500, are designed for women who have demonstrated entrepreneurial initiative in their careers and can display tangible results in their areas of responsibility.
Kirsten Kaup, Executive Transition Program scholar of 2013 said: “The international exchange between participants from different sectors has inspired me. Those who want to grow professionally and personally are the right candidates to apply for the scholarships.”

The Executive Transition Program takes place in Berlin and Schloss Gracht, and is taught in English, in three modules of 10 days each, between October 2014 and June 2015

The first module provides a foundation for function-oriented management skills, while the second module focuses on cross-functional aspects and includes a stay in Brussels to explore the influence of European institutions on corporate governance and investment opportunities. The third session focuses on putting leadership into action.

Candidates must apply via e-mail by June 30, 2014.

For more information please visit the website: http://www.esmt.org/women-leaders

How will the new VAT changes affect your business?

MMM £20 ImageVAT is set to change on 1st Jan 2015. So how will this affect your business?

Carol Cheesman of Cheesmans Accountants explains the changes and offers some advice for business owners;

Business-to-consumer trades will be required to charge VAT, at the applicable rate, in the EU country in which the consumer is located, rather than where the seller is located.

The changes are being introduced in an attempt to avoid the distortion of competition and create a level playing field across the EU.

These rules will apply to Television and Radio broadcasting services or other electronically supplied services such as websites and website hosting,  downloaded software, downloaded texts, information or images, access to electronic databases, downloaded music, games or films as well as the supply of e-books or electronic publications.

Ordinarily the rules would require a (UK) supplier to register for VAT in each EU country in which it makes the affected supplies. To alleviate this burden, the supplier can alternatively register for a ‘’Mini One Stop Shop’’ (MOSS) online service which will enable the UK supplier to account for VAT due in any other EU country by submitting a single MOSS VAT return and the appropriate payment to HM Revenue and Customs in the UK.

Businesses will be able to register to use the MOSS scheme for VAT returns from October 2014 and the online service will be available to use from the 1st of January 2015.

 

The government has stated that it could see an extra £300 million in revenue as a result of the tax changes.

 

Without doubt Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will be the businesses that are the most hit with this new regulation, for example they will be obliged to implement many changes in a relatively short space of time. As a result billing management could become much more complex. In addition their costs may go up in certain countries.

 

Businesses will be forced to think carefully about where they carry out their operations. The current scheme encouraged many firms to be based in countries like Luxembourg as it charges a lower rate of tax than the UK. The new scheme will revoke this advantage. This means that business owners can no longer reap the benefits of their current location, and may choose to move to areas with lower staff costs, for example.

These new rules may also adversely affect costs so SME owners will need to ask themselves if they can realistically pass this on to their customers. One way to deal with this may be to make the increase very gradual. In this way you may reduce your profits temporarily but are less likely to lose customers in the short term.

January 2015 may seem a long way off nevertheless now is the time to evaluate the impact of the VAT changes on your business, make the necessary changes and plan for the potential use of MOSS.

 Carol Cheesman is Principal of Cheesmans Accountants. Always client focused, Carol regularly meets with clients in person and has a hands-on approach. www.cheesman.co.uk / 020 7354 3914  

 

Why businesses are looking in the wrong places when it comes to problem solving + nine tips to help you look in the right places.

WB_332-300x212 If a business has a problem that needs solving, whatever it is, there tends to be a pattern as to where the business owner will look for a solution. Some will almost always look inward i.e. at the internal processes and systems, and other will almost always put their focus externally i.e. at the market and business environment.  While both have merits neither is sufficient on its own.

According to William Buist, CEO of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club, successful businesses can see a problem from both the customer’s perspective (external) and the perspective of the business owner (internal).

We seek to get customers to remember us for all sorts of things but in reality, in any business, customers only remember you for one of two things: the problems you solve – or the problems you create.

So how can you improve your problem solving? Here are William Buist’s nine tips to help you get clarity and put your focus in the right place:

  1.  Clarify your marketplace. In order to solve your customers’ most meaningful, relevant problems, you need to know what problems they are facing – and see them from their perspective. For example, what motivates your target customer? Are they concerned about high-quality products, spotless customer service, or finding the most budget-friendly solution?
  1. Clarify where your customers want to go. Understand where your customers currently are, followed by where they want to go. This gap is, in essence, your customer’s problem. Now you can tailor a solution that bridges the gap and solves their problem.
  1. Clarify with questions. For example, are they frustrated with ad-hoc account management versus automation? Do they need additional capabilities? Is the software simply too confusing or difficult to learn? Asking the right questions is the key to understanding the problem so you can better sell your customer on the right solution.
  2. Clarify customer problems and proactively prevent them. What are the five most common customer complaints that products or services like yours currently receive across the market place? What are your customers saying about your competitors and about you?Clarity around these concerns – e.g. high cost of service, diminishing returns, faulty or buggy products – allows your business to proactively prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
  1. Don’t make the problem bigger. Sometimes what you think is a customer’s problem is actually quite different from the reality. It is critical to understand the actual problem that your customer is facing – or you risk making the problem bigger. By asking questions and taking the time to get to know your customers, you can help prevent “assumptions” from dictating your problem solving response.
  2. Is Your Product Clear? What Do You Really Sell? Many entrepreneurs misunderstand the most fundamental question of what they do – what are you in business for? (Hint: it’s not “making money”). There are plenty of ways to cut out the middle man if all you want is to make money. Entrepreneurs create a product.
  3. Are you clear about how to deliver the right experience? Many owners design of the business is wrapped around activities that don’t add value, aren’t needed and which customers don’t want. Focussing on the key activities, the ones that matter, and becoming exceptional at them is what drives a great experience.
  1. What are you measuring? Are you measuring the things that matter to your staff, suppliers, customers, distributors, or measuring the things that matter to you? Find ways to measure what the customer wants rather than what you want. That’s how entrepreneurs in competitive markets get ahead.
  1. Everything has a shelf life. Do you know when you will replace your product, when you will next revisit the processes that deliver it, when you will need to make it fresh again? Why not (internally if you wish) have a refresh date in your business plan for that product.

Businesses with clarity make profits when others struggle, they grow whilst others stagnate and they outperform the market consistently.

Clarity gives us certainty and with it it brings success not confusion, and enjoyment not frustration. Successful entrepreneurs know that, and that’s why they stop from time to time to take a hard look at their model, the products, activities, and markets.

William Buist is owner of Abelard Collaborative Consultancy, and founder of the exclusive xTEN Club– an annual programme of strategic activities for small, exclusive groups of business owners. xTEN helps accelerate growth, harness opportunity, build your business and develop ideas. William is also author of two books: ‘At your fingertips’ and ‘The little book of mentoring’. See: http://Abelard-uk.com  / http://Williambuist.com  / http://Societal-Web.com

 

Five telecoms issues you must consider when moving office

If you’re planning to move offices then it is essential you consider your telecoms options early in the process. Far too often they get left to the last minute. At best this can lead to added stress, or at worst long delays and increased costs.

Dave Millett of Equinox has created a useful telecoms checklist for anyone considering moving premises.

1)    Don’t Leave It Until too Late

BT Openreach has a monopoly on all line installs regardless of who they are ordered through. This means there is a minimum wait of at around 10 working days – but it can vary from town to town. For example, in some areas of Surrey the lead time is currently six weeks.

The average time for larger business needing ISDN lines is 6-8 weeks, and larger data connections, such as EFM, can take 40 working days, with some leased lines taking over 60 days.

2)    Property Search

Most companies want fast broadband, and it is relatively easy to find out what is available in terms of speed and providers.   For example, a location that has fibre broadband will enable you to have very fast speeds without the need for expensive dedicated circuits.

However, there are plenty of places where there is a lack of availability. For example, one company moved into premises in September 2012 as the BT website said fibre would be available at the end of the month – they are still waiting.

3)    Your Existing Numbers

Companies often underestimate the costs of changing phone numbers: how many people have your current brochures and business cards; are there websites and blogs you don’t control that have your current number on them; you can tell current customers and suppliers but how do you let potential customers know?

Check to see whether your new offices are on the same BT exchange.  Crossing an exchange boundary can mean different telephone numbers and the loss of fibre broadband.

If you are moving to a different exchange there are ways around the potential problems, for example, moving numbers to virtual inbound – though this can be expensive and you bear the cost of incoming calls.  Alternatively you could consider installing SIP instead of, or as well as, ISDNs, which means you can take your numbers anywhere.  However in some parts of the country this can be very expensive, especially if you need to provide additional data connectivity.

4)    Move the System or Replace it?

Moving to cloud based (VOIP) solutions allow you to take a number anywhere.  However, if you have recently invested in a phone system then your accountant might not be happy to write that cost off.

Ask yourself; how old is the existing phone system?  Is there life or money left in it?  What is the cost of removal and reinstallation?

If you are thinking of going to SIP check whether your existing ‘phone system will support it.  You may be able to reuse the handsets, which often account for a third of the cost.

If you are considering VOIP this link highlights the questions you should ask any potential supplier  http://www.equinoxcomms.co.uk/things-to-consider-before-choosing-a-voip-supplier/.

5)    Watch out for Serviced Office Charges

Before you decide on serviced offices check whether you have flexibility to bring in your own phone and data solution, if not at the beginning, then later on.   Also can they add your existing numbers to their system? If they give you new numbers – will you be able to take them with you when you leave? Finally, what are the detailed charges? We often see mark ups of 200%.

In conclusion, it’s essential to start planning early; all too often telecoms and data get left until last and yet they are often the factor that determines the earliest moving date.   Leaving it too late means a lack of time to evaluate all the options and possibly ending up either in premises with no phones or, even worse, where the lack of broadband will have a long-term detrimental impact on the business.

 

Dave Millett has over 35 years’ experience in the Telecoms Industry.  He has worked in European Director roles for several global companies.  He now runs Equinox Communications, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80%.  He also regularly advises telecom suppliers on improving their products and propositions. www.equinoxcomms.co.uk

5 Ways Storytelling Can Empower Your Business

Claire TaylorStorytelling is a powerful communication tool.  The wisdom of the ages has been preserved because it was handed down the generations through myths legends, fables and parables.  If it can survive thousands of years, then imagine what it can, right now, for your business.

Neurologically we’re wired for narratives; it’s how our brains work.  Stories connect people to each other because of the resonance they create – we identify with stories and think ‘yes that sounds like me too’.

According to Claire Taylor, author of ‘The Tao of Storytelling’ there are five key areas where storytelling can work well to enhance the success of your business communications:

1. Every brand needs a lapel-grabbing narrative

There is a hunger for real stories that has been fuelled by a decade of news coverage showing that all is not what it seems.  There is a dearth of trust between consumers and the corporate enterprises that sell to them.   To close that trust gap businesses need to tell the real stories behind their brands.

Authentic brand stories need not only to tell the truth they must also adhere to the spirit of the truth.  Consumers are inspired to hear stories such as the company’s passion for their brands, their concern for consumers’ wellbeing, their sustainability and social responsibility initiatives.

2. Effective teams comprise individuals with integrated stories

Teams are made up of individuals each with their unique set of stories. At the extremes teams can be cacophonous or harmonious and neither is ideal. The art of storytelling can be used to identify sources of discontent and then to create a new empowering team story that aligns people. That in turn builds the energy, motivation and determination that ultimately fuels success.

3. Company culture reflects the harvest of stories on its grapevine

Large scale mergers, de-mergers or other changes to business structures are commonplace.  When these occur it isn’t enough simply to integrate business systems, the people also need to be integrated.  We are storytelling creatures and everyone has a story about every situation that they are in.

People’s stories are windows into their belief systems.  In any organisation there are as many stories about what’s going on as there are people.  When there is an aligned culture within the organisation the stories that people inside the organisation believe and tell are coherent and that creates a powerful synergy to catapult the business forward.

4. Storytelling is the torch that illuminates a leader’s vision

Studies have shown that a well-told story, with a traditional narrative arc, takes people on a journey, stimulates their emotions, causes the release of neurotransmitters in their brain and makes it more likely that they will take action.

The story or stories that are told might be true personal stories, anecdotes from industry or markets, traditional myths or legends that extol the message, or a myth that you craft yourself to engage and stimulate your audience.

5. Personal stories resonate universally

The most powerful use of storytelling by far, is to tell a personal tale with a moral or a learning that communicates your message.  The phenomenal popularity of the brand TED is a testament to the power of personal storytelling to spread ideas.

The more personal a story you tell the more it is likely to resonate universally.  That’s because our personal stories usually tap into fundamental life themes.  So while you might balk at the idea of sharing a story from your personal life it may enable you to connect with your audience and communicate in a deep and memorable way.

Every business problem has at its heart a communication conundrum.  Well used, storytelling is mind-bogglingly powerful at bringing clarity to every area of business communications whether they are customer-facing, such as in branding and corporate communications, or internal such as in leadership, cultural change, team dynamics and innovation.

Tao of Storytelling

Claire Taylor is a Writer, Storyteller, Business Consultant and co-founder of The Story Mill, an innovative organisation that encourages businesses to engage in real conversations using the art of storytelling.  Claire has worked as a Senior Executive for some of the largest brands in healthcare including Novartis, Abbott/Abbvie, Pharmacia/Pfizer, Takeda and Lundbeck.  Claire is author of ‘The Tao of Storytelling – 30 Ways to create empowering stories to live by’. http://www.thestorymill.co.uk/ and http://www.the-tao-of-storytelling.com/

The three types of business video and how to decide what will work best for you

As technology evolves, so do our marketing methods; and right now we’re in the golden age of video.  90% of global consumers now watch videos online and according to Forrester Research, having a video on your site increases your chance of getting a page one listing on Google by 53 times.

However, a good quality promotional video is still a large investment for most companies – so it’s tempting to try to make do with a single ‘one size fits all’ promotional video. But according to Richard Edwards of Quatreus, this approach will actually inhibit your return on investment – not increase it!

There are three keys types of business video, each fulfills a very different role and therefore needs a very different approach. By determining which of these videos your business needs you can be sure to create a video, or series of videos, that will give you a good return on investment.

1)    Online promotional videos

Promotional videos are generally used on your own website, as a YouTube advert, on social media and sometimes within online trade magazines.

So what makes online promotional videos different from other video formats?

Length – Because online promotional videos are disruptive to viewers’ browsing experience they should generally be quite short, around thirty seconds or less. They need to capture the attention of your audience immediately and convey your message quickly and concisely.

Sound – People watching your online video are likely to have their speakers attached and the volume turned up. This provides an opportunity to add music and a voiceover, which can convey far more information than text alone.

Key focus – Since the viewers of online videos are going to be mainly end-users, your key focus should be on them and how they will benefit from your product. As such your messaging should be benefits led and personal..

In the Apple video http://www.youtube.com/embed/Zr1s_B0zqX0  we see lots of shots of people actually using the products while the voiceover tells us the benefits and USPs of the brand. By activating the imagination of your target audience, you can create a desire to buy

2)    Video for presentations

Video can help to transform a boring slideshow into an interesting, engaging and professional presentation.

So what are the unique elements of a presentation video?

Length – As these videos are designed to give more in-depth inforatmtion that are often between three and ten minutes. However, it is still important to keep it concise and avoid waffle, otherwise it will become boring and viewers will switch off.

Sound – This will depend on whether you are using the video to accompany a live presenter or the video is supplementing the presenter.

Key focus – The focus of this type of video is to explain your product or service so as well as detailing the key benefits, you might also want to include technical specification, markup potential, sales so far, design and production process, quality assurance, customer service and history of success. Again, it’s crucial to remember that these always need to be brought back to how the viewer will benefit.

Overall, presentation videos should demonstrate the connection between your business and the end-customer. This connection will help convince investors and other business professionals of the opportunity your company offers them.

3)    Exhibition and trade show promotional videos

 At exhibitions a video can providing a rolling demonstration of the key features and benefits of your product. Exhibition videos also have their own particular requirements:

1)    Length – Your visitors will not stand around for a long period of time staring up at your video screen. As such you will want to keep your videos concise and around one minute in duration.

2)    Sound – At most exhibitions there will be a lot of background noise, so make sure your video does it job without the need for sound.

3)    Key focus – The video needs to convey detailed information of your product features and benefits, as well as giving a good impression of your brand – all through text and graphics.

The video must also be aligned with both your exhibition stand design and your product marketing. This is more important than in other promotional video formats since the video will be using mostly graphics and text to convey information.

So before you go rushing into a large-scale production of just one video, ask yourself: can I really use this video in all necessary settings? Perhaps with some tweaks you can shoot one longer video and then edit it for each required format, or perhaps you could use the same locations, actors and production crew for each video, reducing overall cost.

Whatever approach you decide, a well-planned and executed promotional video will help set you apart from your competition.

About the author

Richard Edwards webRichard Edwards is a Director of Quatreus LtdQuatreus specialises in creating face to face experiences that strengthen relationships and improve communication – for both internal and external audiences. Activities include customer facing events and activities, exhibitions, trade-shows, road-shows and interactive experience centres, as well as conferences, AGMs, and staff and stakeholder engagement programmes. For more information see: www.quatreus.com