Small Business Saturday Blog

Establishing a Small Business through Online Branding

Wednesday, August 16 at 15:06Branding | Getting Online | Small Business | Small Business Saturday | Social Media

Beating out the competition in the small business world takes more than just telling others on the street about what you have to offer. You have to create maximum exposure by being accessible on online platforms. By doing so, you better establish your business identity and brand.

Building an online brand is important for a number of reasons. It creates awareness for what your small business stands for. If consumers want to learn about the product you offer, they should be able to access information about it from anywhere. You can also gather a larger following by reaching out to the online community. Lastly, the process of establishing an online presence enables you to gain credibility. If consumers see your business online, they can navigate your site and infer that yours is a legitimate company.

The first step in establishing an online brand for your company is picking a domain name. Many companies underestimate the power of choosing a URL that differentiates them from the competition. A brandable domain name might directly reference aspects of your business, but it doesn’t have to specify what it entails. In the long term, the domain name can build brand value. You will want to check that a name is not already registered before you choose one. Make sure the domain name is user-friendly and short in that it is easy to spell and say. You will also want to make it unique and credible in order to set yourself apart from your competitors.

When establishing your brand online, It is important to have a clear understanding of your target audience. Prior to coming up with content strategies, utilize research tools to identify your audience. Google Analytics will help you figure out the demographic most interested in what you have to offer. Google also offers an acquisition feature which points out how users found your site. You will be able to see if they typed the URL directly into their browser or if they were connected to you through social media or a search engine. Knowing this information will allow you to determine which online marketing channel is most effective.

After identifying your audience, you can work on making your business stand out by creating a brand that consumers will remember. Having an eye-catching logo that can be used on all online platforms and marketing materials will mean customers will attach your small business with a visual. It should give consumers an idea of the product you represent. Also create a business slogan and tagline that stands out. A tagline is a phrase that lets your visitors know who you are right when they click on your site. You will want it to be placed on all your marketing materials. This builds recognition which is key in gaining customers for your small business.

When you build your company website, be personable and accessible by having a home page with an introduction. You’ll want to establish your online brand from the get-go by telling visitors about what you offer and how it will benefit them. Make sure you have a subscriber button on the homepage so users can immediately opt to learn more about your small business.

To directly help sales and marketing efforts, dedicate part of your website to reviews since they can have a significant impact on sales.. Allow customers to share their experience with your product. This content can then be shared on social media where others can see that your small business delivers on what is promised. Enabling customer reviews also positively affects search rankings in search engines. Reviews increase the amount of unique content your site offers giving you a better chance at moving up in ranking.

Social media is an online marketing platform that is free and gives you instant access to consumers. Make sure that you have social icons on each page of your website. All of your social media pages should consistently feature your brand. This will make your business more memorable in potential buyers’ minds. Consumers also like to see and hear about businesses. Posting podcasts or having segments featured on a YouTube channel can build a personal relationship with your target audience. This fosters trust and increases your credibility.

Another online tool you can utilize when trying to spread the word about your small business is blogging. This heightens your visibility. Your search engine rank will improve as you expand to posting content on blogging sites. It also works to help establish a direct relationship with customers in order to gain valuable feedback. Don’t be afraid to share content from experts in your industry. Online consumers will find you more trustworthy if they see you are up to speed on all aspects of your product.

Lastly, stay engaged with your consumers. This is key in building a strong presence online. Use tools such as HootSuite which will notify you when someone mentions your brand. You should respond to comments made about what your small business has to offer. This will show customers you are concerned with their needs and will help spread the word about your business.

Guest blog contributed by Sarah Elizabeth Saker

Get by with a little help from a friend

Thursday, July 27 at 11:07

By Michelle Ovens MBE, Director, Small Business Saturday 


Much as I love running my small businesses, and of course working with small businesses, it cannot be denied – sometimes it is just BLOOMIN HARD WORK! Not to start out this article with a big old moan - do not get me wrong, the ups massively out-weigh the downs - but it is nice when we can make the downs a little less difficult to handle.

It is easy to have your head down in your business for all challenges to feel like they are the whole world, and forget that actually, probably, someone else has had your problems before you. And come out the other side relatively unscathed. What is it about small businesses that we forget to ask the more experienced among us for help? Are we just stubborn? Do we want to make life difficult for ourselves? Is there a British stiff upper lip that tells us we should soldier on and it’s just not cricket to reach out for support? Or a sense that surely someone else would not be interested in my problems….

Well I say cobblers to that. I see the small business community, all 5.5 million of them, as one big supportive collaborative community that can only be made stronger and more resilient by helping each other. And I know I am not alone here! We ran a round table with Indeed last December and all the (fantastic, successful, strong, capable) small businesses around the table said what they could really do with is a little help from a friend. There is a strong and un-met desire for mentoring in the small business community that we absolutely need to tackle to be the best we can be as an economy and as local and national communities.

This basic need for a helping hand cuts across all areas of being a business owner: how to grow, financing, staffing, leadership and possibly most importantly, mental health. When working in a big business environment, it is often obvious who you would turn to for advice – HR, finance, your boss – but less so if you are the ultimate boss yourself. So finding more experienced bosses to advise you becomes absolutely critical if you don’t want to flounder or fall.

A good mentor will recognise the spectrum of needs across the business (mostly because they have been there before). More than that – they will recognise the fear and stress you feel when facing these issues, and want to help you minimise these for yourself. They will know the pitfalls and help you avoid them, much like a parent that points to the crossing sign and says, go on green. Mental health in small businesses is getting more and more focus, with the sector recognising the strain that running a business can place on individuals. If we want a strong business community, we need to recognise where we have weaknesses – and bolster them from within.

We need better mentoring in the UK – and we need a LOT more of it. I have not met a single small business that would not offer advice to others if asked. I have not met one that wouldn’t accept it if they knew where to find it. So in response to this we are starting, in a small way, to address this challenge by offering free mentoring on the Small Business Saturday bus tour this year. At each of 25 stops across the UK, mentors will be available to sit down with small businesses and discuss their challenges – and help them find a way to solve them. It might not be solved right away and there and then, but it will be the start of a conversation and a mentoring relationship that will stimulate more conversations over the coming year.

This mentoring challenge needs to be taken up by everyone with a stake in the small business sector. And since there are 16.5 million people running or working in a small business in the UK, the chances are that you or someone you live with or are related to is part of this. So – that is all of us. Whether you are a local council, government, trade organisation, media, customer or friend, think about how you can play a role in sharing your knowledge, or helping others to share theirs.

Because whether we are talking economically or socially, we could all get by a bit better with a little help from a friend.





How Small Businesses Should Deal With Adversity

Monday, July 24 at 10:28Inspiration | Planning | Quick Guide | Small Business | Small Business Saturday

Credit: pexels

My typical approach when faced with adversity is to see every problem as having a solution. This healthy attitude helps me problem solve, and prevents me from wasting any time. These days, you are spoilt for choice with resources and advice that can help you navigate the testing first few years of your new business. This advice is useful regardless of what vertical you are in, so keep reading for some advice on how small businesses should act when faced with challenging situations. 

Don’t panic – find a solution 

As a small business owner, you are important as the leader of the team. A lot of responsibility rests on your shoulders. One of these responsibilities is the need to stay calm under pressure. Panicking will hinder you from staying level-headed and coming up with a problem to your solution, and it will make your employees stressed too.

Problem #1: Insufficient funds to make necessary investment 

Financial problems are common in businesses of all sizes. However, your finances may be a little more unstable if you are just starting up. It’s commonplace for businesses to make a loss until their third year. You need to pull up all of your data and analyse it thoroughly to determine where the leaks are in your ship.

Are any of your accounts or departments operating at a loss? Perhaps your clients aren’t paying you what you truly deserve for your services?

Here are some points for you to consider if you are running into financial hardship:

● If you feel you deserve more money for your products or services, consider showing your clients the great results you have delivered to them. Don’t be afraid to ask for more, within reason.

● Are there any projects or product ranges that just don’t yield enough of a profit margin? Take a look at this article for inspiration on ways you could cut costs, from shopping around for the best deals on your overhead costs, to embracing cloud technology.

● Have you thought about diversifying into different lines of business to supplement your existing revenue? Maybe selling your product offering online will help you generate the revenue that you need to grow? This is so easy to do – there are a lot of online store creators on the market for you to get set up in a matter of hours. Take a look at start up favourite Shopify, popular among SMEs thanks to its premium designs.

● Securing funding might be what you need to do when all else fails. This article has more information on these sources of funding, including loans and grants.

Problem #2: No time to make important changes to your business 

credit: Pexels
 
As a small business owner, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work and responsibility that comes your way. You need to be realistic about your workload and manage your time effectively. Here’s how:

● Delegate the tasks you feel can be handed on to your employees, once they have received proper training. This will allow you to focus on the big picture task of growing your business.

● Getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating well will help you stay focused and productive, reducing the time taken to complete important tasks

● Luckily, there are plenty of time-hacking apps available to help you with your time management. Toggl is great to keep track of how long tasks are taking you, and Rescuetime helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive. Give these apps a try make your days go further.

The most important thing about the problems you face is to see every experience as a valuable lesson.

Make sure that you make a report for every problem you face and document exactly what your solution was. Offering your employees guidance on how to implement solutions is key here, too – communicating effectively with them will save you from encountering the problem again.

Victoria Greene: Brand Marketing Consultant and Freelance Writer. Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing consultant and freelance writer, working with large brands to help them blossom. She loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge with the world and encouraging entrepreneurial dialogue.

Three helpful ways your phone can reduce paperwork

Monday, June 12 at 10:56Digital | Plan | Planning | Small Business | Small Business Saturday


Paperwork is the eternal enemy of the small business, stealing valuable desk, shelf and cupboard space throughout your office and offering little in return. For a business like ours, paperwork can quickly get out of hand, become disorganised and cause havoc when we need to find one particular document.

The good news is that it doesn’t take a company-wide restructuring effort to seriously reduce your paperwork. Taking simple steps can drastically reduce the amount of paperwork you generate. Since we all carry a smartphone around with us, I thought I’d look at three easy ways you can use your phone to reduce your paperwork.


#1 Scan Receipts 

Go back to the mid ‘90s and a lot of small businesses would have had a similar expense filing methodology: Take your receipts, shove them in a drawer and hope you never need to find any specific receipt again. If your expense were ever queried, it was a mad scramble through boxes, cupboards and old storerooms in search of an elusive slip of paper that, in all likelihood, had been eaten by a mouse.

Thankfully, things are a bit easier now.

Filing is super easy in the digital era. If you use any new accounting software, there’s probably an option to snap a picture of your receipt on your phone and upload it to the service’s records. Alternatively, if you don’t have a subscription, you can snap pictures anyway and upload them to a free cloud storage service like Google Drive or Dropbox.

 It doesn’t have to stop at digitising purchase records, either. Get snap happy with your phone and scan invoices, payslips, utility bills and everything else for easy reference and peace of mind.


#2 Electronic signatures

If you’re dealing with someone over a long distance, signing a document can be an absolute nightmare. You print it, sign it and fax it over. They then sign it and re-fax it to you. Suddenly, there’s three pieces of paper in the world when you only needed one.

With electronic signatures, however, you can streamline the whole written agreement process, cutting down on both paperwork and wasted time. And with e-signatures set up on your phone, you can sign documents from anywhere in the world!


#3 Ditch your paper black book

A lot of businesses and business owners still swear by their black books and I’m not going to try and dissuade you if you use one. However, huge paper diaries stuffed with extra notes, letters and messages are a thing of the past and will almost certainly disintegrate or surprisingly disappear if you give it enough time.

Digitising your black book and saving it to your phone provides substantially more flexibility and security, ensuring you have access to all of your contacts, notes and communication wherever in the world you are.

About the Author - Gary Easton cut his teeth working at one of the Big Four auditors KPMG. However, a few years ago, Gary decided that SMEs deserves a better service and left to found Tax IQ, a specialist SME accountant based in Edinburgh.

How to Set Up Your Own Business

Wednesday, May 10 at 13:12

It’s the dream. Every aspiring entrepreneur wants to launch their own business. It’s the reason why shows like Dragons Den still get such amazing viewing figures, despite being on something crazy like series seventy-three. Everyone dreams of running their own business, and if you believe all the literature out there, it’s as easy as one-two-three.

It’s not easy. It takes trial and error. Success can be fleeting or worse, limited. However, that all being said, it is straightforward. There’s a clear path laid out. Once you reject the commonly spouted ideas of the easily created successful business and the near-prophetic business hero, you can view it for what it is. A difficult path that relies heavily on luck and hard work, as well as insight and intelligence. You can always get by with ambition and hard work; it’s just a little harder.

Coming Up With the Perfect Idea 

Here’s a hint, it doesn’t exist. When it comes to thinking up your business idea, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Humans seem to live their lives waiting for the bolt of inspiration, the passion, the calling that’ll usher them into success. The great unspoken truth is that that just doesn’t happen. Success always looks easy and random to those on the outside. If you sit around waiting for success to find you, you will end up unremarkable and mediocre. No idea is perfect.

So how do you come up with a killer idea then? Here’s two clear ways. Brainstorming, and paying attention. You can brainstorm the industries and businesses you’ve got clear knowledge, experience or interest in, and keep having deeper and more focused brainstorms on elements of those businesses, till you find an existing part of those industries lacking an integral part. A part your business could provide. This could work within product or service based business models.

Paying attention is what it sounds like. It’s the reason people start businesses within industries that they already work. They’ve generated the idea through being intimately aware of the industry. In order to do this yourself you need time, and the ability to keep a sharp eye on opportunities and ideas.

Market and Industry Research

 Now you’ve got an idea, you need to do your research. Endless research. There should be nothing you don’t know – you need to know your industry inside and out. Limitations as well as potential successes. Go all scouting, and be prepared. Getting caught unaware by rival products, limitations in the industry and other problems that are well documented is well and truly rookie league nonsense. Cut it out at this stage.

Facts, Figures and Projections 

As a part of your market and industry research, you should be generating a powerful roster of facts and figures. Only through this kind of precise research can you hope to create a compelling case for investment later on. Projections allow you to both optimistically and realistically predict the future of the business’s earnings and growth and they can only be generated through facts and figures, as well as through the business plan and timeline.

Business Model, Plan and Timeline 

Once you’re secure in your idea and you know everything there is to know about the industries and markets involved, then you need to come up with a business model, plan and timeline. A business model basically outlines the potential structure of how your business is going to run, function and grow. The plan is what it sounds like. A plan of how you’re going to get what you need to get done, done.

A key part of the plan is the timeline. Knowing what needs to be done when and sticking to it is key for maintaining accurate projections for everything related to the business. Without this, you won’t know whether you’re on track or not. It all needs to be quantifiable and the only way to achieve that is through figure and fact based goals.

Getting Investment 

Provided you get all that lot done to a decent standard, there’s no real reason why you’ll struggle to get investment. Investment is absolutely crucial to a new start-up and without it you could find yourself struggling. However, just show off your explicit and thorough business plans, figures, stats and projections to a variety of banks and investment firms and you’ll be on your way in no time.

About the author: Huw Moxon is a marketing manager at Informi. Informi is a free online resource for small businesses and sole-traders. Informi provides guidance and technical support on everything you need to know about starting a business - from finance and legal advice to profit-boosting tips on marketing and technology. Whatever stage you’re at, Informi will help your business grow and flourish.

Give Your Business a Boost with Improved Conversion Rates

Wednesday, April 26 at 10:13

Everyone knows the importance of SEO to their online business. But the real key is to convert those clicks into paying customers. Anyone with a passing interest in the world of search engine optimisation will be quick to assume that it is all about improving search engine rankings and directing more visitors to your small business website. While increased traffic is never a bad thing, it is of limited use if your visitors only stop for a few seconds before flying on elsewhere. Indeed, if more people are clicking “back” than are staying around, then something is evidently going wrong, and you need to know about it or it could do more harm to your business than good. Click through rates are in many ways the prime indicator of just how much your website is helping your business, and improving conversion rates is key to increasing your business’s bottom line. If traffic constitutes the quantity of visitors, then conversion rates equate to the quality. Here, we take a look at some easy ways of improving click through rates for your small business site.

Remember the Basics

It is easy to get caught up in the latest hot topics in SEO and digital marketing, whether it is PPC, video content or social media involvement. However, the biggest factor in getting regular, repeat visitors to your small business site is to have a website that they want to visit. That means fresh, engaging and relevant content, presented in an attractive way. Make sure your content is regularly updated and remains relevant to your visitors. There is no bigger turn-off than to visit a site and find it is discussing a product release or industry event that took place months ago - it is the equivalent of entering a shop in March and seeing mouldy Christmas decorations on the walls.

Make it Snappy

Today, everyone seems to be in more of a hurry than ever, and that is certainly the case when it comes to our online activities. The truth is, with super-fast Internet connections, people no longer have the slightest tolerance for slow-loading pages. Even though your business is small, there’s no excuse for a slow website. If you want to compete with larger corporations then you need to ensure that your webpages are loaded within a matter of a couple of seconds, otherwise your visitors will have gone elsewhere. There are any number of free speed tests around, including Pingdom, which allows you to sign up for free and then runs regular checks to make sure your pages are performing as they should.

Build a Relationship 

When it comes to running a small business website, the importance of building relationships with your customers, both current and potential is key. No matter how hard you try, you are never going to achieve 100% conversions. After all, we all like to shop around before we make a final decision. However, it is worth thinking about what you can do with those who choose not to click through so that they are not lost forever. Make it easy for visitors to get in touch by including telephone and email details in your headers. You could also consider the equivalent of a “maybe” button in your calls to action - where they can leave their contact details while they think about it and you can stay in touch.

Check your Channels 

Resources within Google Analytics can give a wide variety of invaluable information as to just how well your site is performing for you. By looking under the “conversions” tab you can get detailed reports on conversions by search criteria that show you what is working and what isn’t. However, that is only half the story. There can be a tendency to assume that any drop in SERP results is due to a decline in organic search, when this is not necessarily the case. Google’s Channel Grouping report will segment your searches according to organic, paid, referrals and so on, to give you a clear insight as to where you need to focus more attention.

Blog contributed by Jackie Fisher

Protecting Your Business Against Risk

Tuesday, April 04 at 16:06Protect | Small Business

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to unexpected events and fast changing circumstances. The number of risks a small business is exposed to are many and it is often the unexpected that causes a thriving business to suddenly fail. With about half of small businesses failing within the first five years, it is worth doing as much as possible to mitigate the risk factors in your business.

1.Get up to speed with cyber risks

Even stiffly defended large businesses are vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals; small businesses are easy targets in comparison. Take steps to reduce your exposure to cyberattacks: use strong passwords for all systems, employ firewalls for your office network and website and always install software updates on all your equipment. It is also worth monitoring the latest security news and training your staff – the 2016 Government Security Breaches Survey suggests only 22% of small businesses have a staff member that attended cybersecurity training in the 12-month survey period.

2.Take out insurance, and review policies regularly

Many business risks are insurable. You may already have property and equipment insurance, but small businesses often skip on key man insurance for their most important employees, while public liability insurance will prevent an unlikely accident from developing into a costly lawsuit. Regularly review insurance cover – the circumstances of your business will change with time and you need to update your insurance cover to reflect this.

3.Survey the business environment

Changes in the business environment can lead to a successful business experiencing unexpected problems. By looking ahead you can identify future problems before they become a reality and planning for the possibility of adverse circumstances developing can mitigate these risks to your business. This includes potential competitors, changes in the regulatory environment and shifts in customer preferences.

4.Involve an advisor

It is difficult for a small team of employees to comprehensively survey business conditions and accurately identify risks, especially if it is a new business. To avoid any blind spots, think about getting professional risk management advice. A risk management advisor will discuss with you in detail the environment in which your business operates, and help you to identify all potential risks.

5.Diversify

Concentrating the exposure your business has to any single supplier or any single customer increases the risk of your business suffering if a supplier goes out of business, or a customer decides to move on. This is also valid for the markets your business operates in on both a product, and geographic level. Operating in multiple regions and different product markets can make it easier to ride out a contraction in demand in any given area.

Small businesses are vulnerable to risks

It is often the vast sums of money involved in the risks large businesses face that make headlines, but large businesses are also more able to absorb losses in their balance sheets. A smaller enterprise can be fatally wounded by the realisation of a single risk, even if the sum of money involved is relatively small. For this reason managers and owners of small businesses should be at least as vigilant when it comes to risk management as those in charge of large companies.

Written By Michael Watson

Small Business Budgeting Tips

Monday, April 03 at 15:04Budgeting Tips For Small Business | Business | Economy | Plan

With the UK economy predicted to continue to grow over the medium term, it’s easy to reap the benefits from increased demand for your products without thinking too far ahead. But could the future be even better for your business? You can start to find out by developing some form of forecast for your sales and costs. Maintaining a forecast will also help you re-plan your business if economic or new tax pressures suddenly mean your profits start to decline.

However, it’s likely that for the majority of small businesses, no actual budget exists. Well, certainly not written down on paper that can be referred to—we’re always far too busy to be planning for the next few weeks, let alone the next 12 months!

With that in mind, here are five suggestions to make your life a little easier and ensure that you can manage your costs, cash flow and profits.

1)      Make a plan

A proper business plan is ideal, but if you can’t stretch to that, put together a rough outline of your income and expenses together with when you expect to pay and receive monies. Check out some of the free templates online, such as those at the business planning site Teneric and business advice site SmallBusinessPro, to start the process.

At a minimum, a one-page spreadsheet summarising sales volume with all your expenses month by month should suffice. Adding your thoughts to paper not only crystallises ideas and anticipated goals in your mind, but it also helps you understand if you’re going to hit any financial targets.

A plan also assists with ensuring costs don’t go over budget. You can either adjust your financial projections or look at saving costs if you still want to achieve your objectives this year.

2)      Define your marketing tactics

It’s vital you have an idea of how you’re marketing to new and existing customers. Potential customers need to try your services at least once to become loyal users, whilst existing customers need to be brought back time and again.

Free trials, discounts or free upgrades are all tried and tested methods to get someone new to try your services. As it costs between four and 10 times more to acquire a new customer versus keeping an existing one, you also need to find ways to keep people that already know your about brand coming back.

Making sure people are informed and have your brand front of mind (without overdoing it!) is essential. Although email marketing still works well, social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep the communications flowing should be part of your marketing arsenal.

The cost is minimal to maintain a presence and keeps your customers in the loop with any new developments and news from your business.

3)      Over-account for all your costs

Do you ever get a bill in the post that’s higher than anticipated? We all do, and that’s why it’s important to over-forecast the cost side of your plan. If you want to accurately show costs as you believe they should be, then add a 10% compensation line just to play it safe. It’s far better to show (and easier to swallow) constant underspending each month than having large areas of red marked out because expenses appear to be uncontrollable.

4)      Know every cost line by heart and reduce where you can

When budgeting, it can be easy to miss out expense lines because they debit your bank account on an irregular basis such as one per year. To find all costs associated with your business go through your list of direct debits and standing orders whilst also browsing prior bank statements. You should find everything your business spends money on during this exercise.

To keep costs as low as possible, it’s essential you shop around for new deals from other suppliers. This is quite straightforward when it comes to insurance and utility bills. For example, comparing your electricity prices, water rates and business insurance options each year could literally save you thousands of pounds. All of those savings go straight to your bottom line.

5)      Revisit once per month

Now your budget plan is ready, it’s best to review its performance once per month, or every three months as a minimum. By doing this, you can see what costs are higher or lower than expected and adjust future months accordingly. You can also perform the same analysis on your sales numbers if things change in your operating environment.

After you have reforecast for the rest of the year, you’ll see if any changes to short or medium term tactics need changing to ensure you reach your original financial objectives.

Setting and reviewing a budget for a business is a relatively easy but often time-consuming task, especially if you don’t have the experience or handle on the financial aspects of business. However, for a business to survive and prosper, it’s an essential tool that helps achieve your financial objectives, lessons any shocks at year-end and saves money in the long term.

 By Jason Smith 

Jason Smith is a blogger and energy expert who has helped businesses increase their energy efficiency for over 10 years. Jason’s valuable expertise has helped thousands of companies cut their costs each year. He manages the website Business Electricity Prices, which advises small- and medium-sized businesses on reducing their utility bills, and continues to share his knowledge with the corporate world.

Hiring tips for start-ups

Wednesday, March 01 at 15:24HR

A new business is nothing without a talented and skilled workforce that can shape its culture, achieve its short-term goals and build a foundation for future growth. Hiring the right candidates is a top priority for start-ups, but many struggle to source the right employees for respective roles as they lack experience and are constrained by budgetary requirements and other demands.

Data shows that 10 per cent of new hires do not work out. While large organisations can usually absorb the blow, micro and small businesses are often left reeling as just a single employee can represent a large percentage of the workforce. A strong hiring strategy will mitigate some of the risks associated with new hires and help you to bring in the talent you need to make your start-up a success.

Be proactive

Starting from scratch for each new hire can really limit your ability to source suitable candidates quickly, so be on the lookout all year, even when you don’t have any open spots. According to Bas Kohnke, the co-founder of performance software enterprise Impraise, creating and saving a watch list for talent and keeping in touch with potential candidates can pay dividends. He adds: “Send them an email, invite them to a party. Just keep them in the loop.”

Talent management 

Hiring managers can now use platforms to streamline the applicant tracking and hiring process. Cloud software can be used to aggregate, update and maintain information about candidates and facilitate simple and intuitive communications with the candidate pool. Leveraging the wealth of new technology that is available in the digital age can really level the playing field for start-ups as they can access tools that were previously only available to the largest corporations. Bringing in a CRM Recruitment specialist to oversee this area of hiring is recommended.

Optimise the process 

A Leadership IQ study found that a flawed interview procedure can have a detrimental impact on candidate selection, so it is important to optimise this so you can process prospective new hires efficiently. You could start with a survey and an automated email response to filter candidates, and then use video interviews as a second stage. While technical competence is important, try to ask questions that help determine a candidate’s drive, ambition, temperament, motivation, emotional intelligence and coachability, as these factors are often overlooked.

Diversity and problem solvers 

Hiring people who are experts in specific areas of business and complement other employees is the best way to build a start-up team. AOL co-founder Steve Case believes that new enterprises must “strike the right balance between having a team of people who work well together and having distinct and diverse perspectives.” You might also want to favour problem solvers during the formative stages of business as you will most likely need employees who can overcome adversity and get things done quickly.

The importance of building a strategy that will enable you to hire employees who are technically capable and an ideal fit for your company and culture cannot be overstated. Taking the time to define what you need and implementing a robust procedure can go a long way toward helping you source the right candidates at the right time.

How small businesses can build their online presence

Thursday, February 02 at 15:09

When you’re running a small business and trying to compete with much bigger players, one of the few arenas where you can really do so effectively, is online. Although human resources and marketing budgets still make a difference, smart thinking, innovation and style can make a bigger one. If you really understand your customers, building your online presence can give you the edge.

Get a website that works for today
 
Most of today’s consumers access the web using mobile devices, especially when they’re not at work. This means that your website must look good on many different sized screens, so you need to invest in responsive design. You also need to understand the colour psychology that will work on your target customers, and present them with images that grab their attention. Alongside this, you should have fresh content on a frequent basis to keep them coming back.

Develop a content marketing strategy

 
Why do people visit websites? Sometimes it’s because they’re already looking for a particular product or service. More often, it’s because they want to be informed or entertained, or they’re looking for something immediately useful. An effective content marketing strategy, using professional internet copywriters, can give them that immediate reward at the same time as making sure they notice who you are and what you do. It can make them keen to return for more, and it can prompt them to share links to your site so that they start doing your promotion for you and make your traffic grow.

Focus your social media strategy

 
Whether you have great content or just a good basic site, you’ll need to promote it. Social media makes that easy but it can get overwhelming. You’ll need to go into it with a clear awareness of what your resources are – in terms of time, money and energy – and develop a strategy that targets customers efficiently. It needs to be a strategy you can keep pace with over the long term, so don’t spread yourself too thin.

Make use of video
 
Video can be a really effective way of grabbing people’s attention and communicating a lot in a very short time. It can work well on your landing page and it’s also something you can use for advertising or brand building on YouTube or Vimeo, which, if you fill out the meta data fields properly, are extremely good for generating hits. Recordings of your events and conference speeches can be repurposed to help build your online following.

Get connected
 
Although link farms and the like long ago became a liability as search engines got smarter, it’s still well worth investing time and effort in generating good quality links, which direct both search engine and human attention to your website. Nothing beats getting stories in the local or trade press – as long as they have an online presence – and local or trade forums can also be very useful, so take the time to build up a presence there.

A strong online presence can help your business grow far beyond the potential it would once have had. Today, anybody can operate on a national or even international basis. Building up your online following is where it begins.

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