Author: TechOne

22 Business tips for 2022

Slide DONATE NOW phone 0161 804 5747 email Contact

22 Business tips for 2022

Mar 27, 2022     |     4 min read

With New Years’ resolutions long forgotten, 2022 already feels quite a stall. From a Business angle, the bad news keeps on coming – higher energy costs, scarcity of resources, record inflation levels, difficult trading conditions post-Covid – the gloomy list is endless. Yet, a New Year heralds a time for innovation and already the ‘smog’ of Covid seems to be lifting, with the distant dawn of a brighter economic outlook. Ironically, the time to start or invest in a business is often during a financial ‘downturn’ and is the reason why JCommerce are re-doubling their efforts this year to provide business support services for the community. One of the most effective forms of business assistance is mentoring; it allows ‘newbies’ to gain the inside track and vital knowledge from industry veterans. So here are 22 tips from business mentors we work with, to help your business this year.

  1. Be prepared – Take a good look at your business. How well are you handling the different strands? Operationally, are things running as they should? Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that some tasks are best done with professional help.
  2. New Beginnings – If you are starting a new business, your business plan is vital to strategise different aspects of the business and set goals. It’s that old saying about life “if you don’t know where you’re going how will you know when you get there.”
  3. Working from home – Hailed as the new way of working, it can certainly lead to increased productivity, but the biggest upside is that allows you to start almost anything from home, with minimum overheads.
  4. Be curious – If you are developing a new product, do your research, be prepared for plenty of experimentation and try to get hands-on experience. Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor, most notably of the light bulb fame said, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  5. Be present – multi-tasking is so overrated! Practice mindfulness and be in the moment by prioritising tasks that need to be done; others can wait, or be delegated.
  6. Try before you buy – If you are looking at a new version of a current product, think seriously about what improvements you would make and how would you make it better.
  7. Turn uncertainty into a safe bet – Although we are still in unchartered waters in terms of post-Covid economics, on your own ‘macro’ level, know what you are getting into; identify the needs and then the solutions.
  8. Cut costs – spiralling costs are the nemesis of any business and can often catch people unawares. This is especially true against the current backdrop of raw material costs, production AND transportation leading to increasing prices. So be lean in the areas you can without cutting important corners.
  9. Build relationships – Networking is defined as the “Exchange of information and ideas amongst those with a common interest, usually in an informal setting”. Follow up on leads, go to events and speak to people. You never know which connection will get you to the next step.
  10. Know your competitors – Research and be familiar with their business model and what you would do differently. Conversely, you can also build bridges, not walls by collaborating with someone else in the same field. Sometimes your expertise can complement or you will find opportunities to pass on business to each other.
  11. —–As well as your target audience – Trying to be all things to all people means you could spread yourself too thinly and end up not pleasing anyone. Know who your end-user is and engage with them endlessly.
  12. Stand out – find your unique angle that sets your business apart. Think Coke’s secret ingredient or Amazons’ same-day delivery. If you don’t have something unique – let’s face it, you cant always re-invent the wheel – then make a [true] claim before your competitors do and you will ‘own’ it [Tesco: Every little helps].
  13. Listen to the customer – The most fundamental question to any business is, “Is this what customers really want?” Ask customers for their feedback and use this to your benefit. If you are starting out, look for opinions on similar products or organise a focus group or survey.
  14. Ask Questions – And ask again – Pitch yourself to professionals and carry out market research….and use your mentor!
  15. Finance and funding – Probably the toughest part for new businesses, however if you are committed, passionate and have a good business plan, don’t be afraid to approach family, the banks and numerous business loan providers to raise capital.
  16. Create a brand – Clever branding establishing who you are, allows you to create a unique and lasting image that molds customers’ perception to believing in your product.
  17. Marketing – Build awareness through consistent messaging and constant promotion of your service or product to remind people that they need what you have. Use satisfied customer testimonials and recommendations as well as word of mouth to create traction.
  18. People are your best asset – As people re-adjust their priorities for a post-Covid work/life balance, many talented individuals are looking for new opportunities; use their well-honed skills to shore up any gaps in your knowledge and surround themselves with the right people.
  19. Be prepared for growth – Whilst things seem sluggish now, be well-positioned to take advantage so that you don’t miss the boat when the market ticks upwards, which it will eventually.
  20. Go digital – Using technology in the various different business operations, can in the longer term provide better value to your customers and be more economic for you.
  21. Website development – Having an online presence is your calling card and provides credibility. It can also be a sales tool allowing you to ‘boast’ about what you do well, or even have an online selling facility.
  22. Clear financial records – A must for any business start-up or small-medium enterprise; failure to do so can quickly lead to disaster and unravel what otherwise would be a good going conc

Recent Posts

Mind The Gap!

Mind The Gap!

Nov 17, 2021     |     1 min read

As you will see if you look closely it’s been a while since the last blog. Of course we have an excuse, or rather excuses in the plural.

It’s been summer holidays then Yom Tov then we had to catch up from Yom Tov then we had stuff going on at home.

Sounds familiar?

In business, gaps like this are every dangerous, because it creates space for competitors to step in and connect with your customers, who might rightly be wondering where you are. It’s a dog eat dog market out there and there is no room for slack.

So what to do about it, after all you need to go away and you can’t cancel Yom Tov?

  • Firstly, let your customers know when you are closed or offering a reduced response time – they’ll understand.
  • Secondly, plan ahead – write your newsletters or blogs in advance so straight after the break they are ready to go.

It’s not easy for everybody, so if you need help with planning or organising your business – why not connect with one of our mentors.

Recent Posts

Are selling or upselling?

Are selling or upselling?

Jul 12, 2021     |     1 min read

Upselling is one of those fancy-sounding terms that refers to persuading your customers to engage on a level beyond simply buying a single product or service from you. It could include bringing in external advisers and services into a professional business and introducing them to areas that have a direct impact on their business. It could involve widening your product range with essential or useful add-ons, exactly like what you come across when shopping.

The important thing to remember is that it has to be meaningful and not simply plonked there with little hope of succeeding but instead diluting the value of what your core service is.

Recent Posts

Honour your commitments and make customers for life

Honour your commitments and make customers for life

Jun 2, 2021     |     1 min read

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

There are few things more frustrating for customers than promising to “call back in a few minutes” and not doing so until the next morning, if at all. In recent years we’ve all become so incredibly busy with so much information passing through our hands that we forget the basics of decent human behaviour and recognition of others.

Such behaviour sends a message to your customer that they are not important enough to warrant your attention. If something crops up in the interim send them a message that you haven’t forgotten. It’s a small gesture but it means a lot to them and in today’s crowded marketplace there’s no better way to keep ahead and build your reputation for reliability.

Recent Posts

Trusting others

Trusting others

Apr 19, 2021     |     1 min read

To accomplish your goals you’ll need to collaborate with others, be they inside your business or externally. Many SME owners have difficulty in trusting others to get on with critical tasks and report back to them appropriately.

 

If you cannot delegate to others you will always end up doing everything yourself, from making appointments to business development to doing the work to sending out invoices to chasing money. You ‘ll certainly be busy but will you be reaching your maximum potential.

 

Sometimes trusting others means withing a collaborative working arrangement, maybe subcontracting certain jobs or a joint venture. These are not without their challenges but can be great ways to grow your business. Just be wary of blind trust and make sure as much as possible is in writing before the event, although there can be scenarios where you may have to establish the trust verbally or on an ad hoc basis prior to confirming it writing, especially no smaller jobs.

Recent Posts

Customer care in the social media age

Slide DONATE NOW phone 0161 804 5747 email Contact

Customer care in the social media age

Mar 14, 2021     |     4 min read

Question:

I have been running a business for quite a few years and it’s fairly obvious to know how to keep customers happy. Some polite words here, a discount or two there. But, business has been a bit quiet recently and people have told me to get with the times and use social media. Of course, I’ve heard of social media, but I don’t understand how it can help me with my customers and, in any event I don’t know where to start.

Answer:

Social media has become a key customer engagement tool between businesses and their clients in the digital media age, so It is important to understand how it can affect – both positively and negatively – your business.We are all aware that the internet has transformed the way businesses operate.Certainly, COVID and multiple lockdowns, have emphasised the necessity for virtual trading and an online presence: even if it is simply ‘click and collect’.It is immaterial whether you feel that you are servicing a particular segment of the community who don’t access the internet, many of your current and new potential customers are certainly engaging online in some form.

Social media is effectively a huge, public community and a conversation people have with anyone, at anytime and anywhere; the key is, that they are all talking about, or have an interest in, the topic under discussion.Their method of communication? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Signal – even plan old texting.

From a business perspective, they may be letting each other know about your product, and hopefully how good it is and recommending you to their friends and family. On the other hand, they could be dissatisfied with goods ordered or your services and instead of – or as well as – contacting the company, they will post online how bad your company is and alert others not to use you. In this way, social media has blurred the lines between marketing and customer services. The same communication channels to engage customers and send out the messages you want to broadcast, can be used to respond promptly to resolve any damaging comments.

The change this sort of ‘chat’ has brought about is that through engaging on these platforms you can grow your customer base yourself by influencing the narrative in a positive way – posting pictures of products, new ideas, positive comments from customer. Whereas customer service was generally a passive but responsive field, only when a client approached you, now customer communication has to be pro-active and instantaneous. In their “State of Service report 2017”, Salesforce – a leading sales software provider – found that 64% of consumers expect businesses to respond to their queries instantly. This has driven businesses to find new and faster methods of interaction and customer communication.

In answer to your question, It makes sense to be an active participant in these conversations, so that you can address any negative comments to repair any damage or, better still, promote the good news about what you do well, or just to share customer satisfaction stories. By doing this, you will also gain a better understanding of who your customers are and what they expect.

So Where to start?

The most straightforward way is to have your own social media presence on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. You, or a colleague would monitor these for any activity and use it to put out any promotional materials or offers you would like to advertise.

If you aren’t at that stage – or simply don’t want a social media presence – just make it as easy as possible for customers to contact and message you. Have transparent contact options on your website and even regular communication though old-fashioned texts will do.

Tips for effective social media engagement:

  • Respond Quickly – Probably the golden rule of any good customer service. Admit when you are wrong and resolve issues as soon as possible. When using social media, do this publicly at first and then take the conversation to the private arena by emailing the customer directly.
  • Manage customer expectations – You can still run business as usual, but don’t miss opportunities to hear what your customers are really saying about and to you, through their social networks. This shows that you value your customers opinion and use these to build customer relationships.
  • Deliver value – Your customers also expect you to produce quality content. They are interested in looking at news and information related to your product and market, as well as promotions (see below).
  • Delight with the unexpected – Use the conversations to promote bonuses, rewards, contests competitions and any other promotion.
  • Personalise conversations – The tone of conversation with social media is friendly, as people are used to chatting on these platforms informally. Use first names where possible and sign off from an individual member of your team. Let the customer know you are there for them.

As with everything, balance is important. Remember that social media is just ONE new channel for engaging with your clients and has not replaced all others. Don’t ignore traditional channels of communication and become too fixated with social media, but at the same time it is important to be in the same zone as your customers if they are already online. And if you get it right, you can actually boost your brand image at the same time. A clear win-win situation.

Jcommerce is a charitable organisation set up to support businesses in the North West Community to economic self-sufficiency and address business challenges that arisen from COVID-19 and beyond.

For more information about our business support services including, video soundbites from successful entrepreneurs, business advice and mentoring go to www.jcommerce.org

Recent Posts

Mentoring….Been there done that!

Mentoring….Been there done that!

Feb 21, 2021     |     4 min read

I have heard a lot recently about being mentored for my fairly new business, but was wondering how helpful a stranger getting involved with its development would be?
The word ‘mentor’ seems to be the ‘in’ thing at present in a business context, and it is a really good question to ask if it would be helpful for you.

Whether you are starting a business, in the process of building one up, or have come to a cross roads and are in a bit of a ‘rut’; as a business owner you will face challenges at every stage. So, it’s reassuring to know that most entrepreneurs tend to go through the same types of struggles on the whole and, in particular, hit similar problems in relation to specific industries. And whilst research and knowledge learnt on the job is vital, it’s a no brainer that industry insights and guidance from someone who has been there and don’t that, would clearly be a bonus. Step in to the ring mentoring and the role of a mentor.

There has been a growth in popularity of Mentoring schemes in both an organisational setting -where more senior partners or employer’s mentor new recruits – as well as in the business arena. In the business context, a mentor is commonly someone with more experience and understanding of your business journey as they have already travelled this path.

So what can a Mentor do?
There is, strictly speaking, a difference between a business consultant, coach and mentor. Although in reality, the boundaries between these various roles are somewhat blurred, an effective mentor will help you find out so much more about yourself and running a successful business.

A consultant is usually hired for a particular project to provide expert technical advice to address specific aspects of the business, whereas a coach is more performance driven and will focus on challenges and areas of development. However, a mentor can give advice and motivate you to improving your business skills, by sharing knowledge and lessons learnt and, in contrast to a consultant or coach, can end up being a long- term friend who shares your business journey. Indeed, according to the Harvard Business Review (July 2020) five decades of mentoring relationship research shows that people who have strong mentors gain numerous professional benefits.

Benefits of a Mentor
Being a Mentee (sounds like a new brand of sweets!) allows you to confide in someone without fear of judgement or negative repercussions. Owning a business can be stressful and frustrating and being able to vent to someone else provides many bonuses, such as:-

  • The ability to speak to someone you can trust, with confidence in their credibility as they will probably be a successful business person
  • Providing a successful role model for you
  • Fresh insights from an objective outsider of whom you can ask questions and get honest answers, to help problem solve
  • Provide the re-assurance and confidence to make better business decisions
  • Bring a different perspective on something you are struggling with or trying to make a decision over
  • Someone who is ‘with you’ on your business journey, can align with your vision and provide creative options to drive the business forward
  • Experience, which is the best teacher, and may prevent you going through something similar yourself.

In short, you will gain considerably from having a business mentor in terms of knowledge and sage advice, as well as widen opportunities through industry connections and a ‘leg up the ladder’. A recent survey by the UK’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills, found that 94% of SME’s (Small Medium Enterprises) using external support have seen benefits; these firms are more ambitious and have higher relative turnovers.

Benefits to becoming a mentor
Most people see mentoring as a one-way relationship – only the mentee gains. That is simply not true and it is clear that both parties can benefit from the relationship.

 

  • Everyone has skills and experiences to share and becoming a mentor is a volunteering opportunity to give back and share knowledge
  • It can enhance your own understanding of your industry as when you explain things to others, you become better at it yourself
  • It can develop your leadership and management style and improve your communication and personal skills; both vital business tools
  • You may actually find yourself learning from the new generation, especially in relation to tech developments and new industry practices
  • Your own business confidence and motivation will be increased and enriched from the experience.

Lord Young of Graffham, promoting the benefits of mentoring as part of National Mentoring day has said “I had a mentor when I started my business and…..I know as I have acted as a mentor many times, it is very rewarding to both parties.” If you have given it some thought, you may be concerned that it will be too time consuming. Actually, mentoring involves a very brief amount of time and you can control it – be it half an hour weekly or even one hour once a month. The choice is yours.

It would seem that mentoring and being mentored is advantageous for both parties involved and it seems that the questions that should be asked are:

Why don’t you have a mentor and Why haven’t you become one?

For more information about our mentoring services or signing up as a mentor, please go to www.jcommerce.org Jcommerce is a charitable organisation set up to support businesses in the North West Community to economic self-sufficiency and address business challenges that arisen from COVID-19 and beyond.

Recent Posts

Prospecting

Prospecting

Feb 7, 2021     |     1 min read

The term “prospect” refers to potential clients or customers and prospecting means going looking for them and building a relationship until they give you business. Once you change your mindset into a sales and marketing mode you’ll appreciate the importance of how to manage a prospect and the pathway to converting them into clients or customers. Whilst some may “sign up” at the first meeting there are more out there that need to be coaxed gently through a sales process that culminates in a proposal and a request to become a client. It takes time, effort and commitment and it is well worth spending the time to learn how to do it properly. It is within the ability of every businessperson they just need to understand the process and perfect it.

Recent Posts

Local champion

Friends and family have offered to invest in my business – should I accept?

Nov 20, 2020     |     2 min read

Aim to be “a recognised player” in your area. Start in the immediate area and work your way outwards .It’s the natural place to start especially as people in the community know you and you are visible, not just with premises or a liveried vehicle but you yourself are out and about and have the chance to engage with people, whether in the shops or the post office or at the dentist. Most small firms don’t market themselves properly and their existing and prospective clients could be easy and rich pickings for you with a sustained and focused publicity campaign backed up by your physical presence.

Recent Posts

Staff

Staff

Jan 24, 2021     |     1 min read

Choosing, nurturing and retaining staff should not be overlooked. They are your means of production, your support system or both. Think of them as assets and

look after them at least as well as you would care for an expensive machine. But always remember that they are human and treat them with courtesy and deal with them as you would like to be dealt with, irrespective of where

they sit in your organisation. Always!

Recent Posts