Small Business Saturday Blog

Strength in numbers

Thursday, July 11 at 00:32

Andrew Goodacre,CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), shares the work the association is doing to support thousands of independent retail businesses.
It isn’t easy being a small business owner. That’s why it is good to know you have someone on your side. Our membership organisation supports thousands of independent retail businesses up and down the UK, representing everyone from pet shops to cafes, from department stores to health food shops. Our collective strength means we get discounts and offers with a number of key business services and suppliers that help save shop owners time and money.
As well as savings, we are also heavily involved in lobbying the Government on a number of issues facing the High Street. Business rates are currently a very hot topic with our members, with many small businesses being unable to afford them, resulting in closures. The Government announced a 30% reduction in the last Budget for those businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 but we need to keep the pressure on to make sure that the Government continues to offer support for small businesses.
Our Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, made up of members, have been working very hard to lobby Government in this area. We’ve been to the Houses of Parliament to debate the issue, we’ve met with the Treasury at Downing Street and we’ve even got the Treasury Committee, who are doing an inquiry into business rates, coming to our offices in Birmingham this month to meet with our members. We are lucky that because we represent so many independent retail businesses it means the Government listen to us and have been exploring our ideas for reform.
Of course, business rates are not the only burden for retailers. Town parking, or the lack of it, ever increasing paperwork and costs (e.g. Making Tax Digital, auto-enrolment pensions, National Living Wage), retail crime, increasing legislation on things like knife sales, as well as decreasing footfall - all mount up to make retailing more difficult. We will continue to work on a number of initiatives to ensure small businesses are considered when new legislation is introduced and that the playing field is levelled between online and bricks and mortar retailing.
Bira would love to hear from independent retail businesses to hear what issues you are facing and how they can continue to support you. They are determined to keep independent retail businesses at the heart of our communities, and are looking forward to this year's Small Business Saturday and highlighting all of the work being done to showcase the amazing retailers we have in the UK.
If you want to know more, you can keep up to date with their policy work here.

How to choose the right pricing strategy for your business

Tuesday, June 18 at 11:52

Researching how to price a product might feel like an endless black hole, but, as we’ll explain, the compact size and flexibility of your small business put you in a good position to make it work. To begin with, there’s no one strategy that should be used at any one time, and no demand for you to stick to the one you choose.
Getting started with pricing strategies
Getting your pricing strategy right is important for your business’s sustainability. If your prices are too high, you’ll struggle to sell; too low, you won’t be able to cover your costs. Setting your pricing is one of the first things to do when starting a new business. It forms an important chapter in your business plan, and arms you with the knowledge to sway investors. And when it’s time to scale, your pricing strategy will heavily influence how that happens.
The factors that influence and affect the pricing of your products include:
  • Their value — be that how much it costs to make them or (in the case of services) the time and expertise they demand
  • The fixed and variable business costs you need to cover
  • The spending power of your target market
  • How your competitors price their products and services
Common pricing strategies for small businesses
Pricing strategies can be overlaid, used at strategic points throughout the year, implemented as a reaction and more. It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to use just one strategy, and likely that the strategies you choose today will get tweaked in the future as you grow and develop.
Full cost pricing
With the full cost pricing strategy, the production costs of a product (material, manufacturing and labour costs) are added to the selling & admin costs (accounting, legal, marketing, facilities, sales and corporate costs), before a markup is added to create a profit margin. This number is then divided by the number of units the business expects to sell.
(Total production costs + selling and administration costs + markup) ÷ Number of units expected to sell
Benefits
  • Simplicity: the formula is simple to understand and use.
  • Profit-focused: the formula is designed with profits in mind, so if your predicted costs and sales aren’t too far wrong, a profit isn’t far away.
  • Easy to justify: your prices can easily be explained.
Disadvantages
  • Budgeting basis: the formula is based on predictions, which will probably lead to some inaccuracy.
  • Uncompetitive: the formula doesn’t take into account competitor pricing or consumer spending power, which may lead to under- or over-pricing.
  • Hard to scale: the more products you add to your offering, the more tricky it is to allocate their individual costs.
Price creaming
Creaming (also known as “skimming”) is where a business initially sets a high price for its product, before gradually reducing it over time. Price creaming works best if you’re bringing a new concept to the market where very few or no other competitors are present: your business brings an original and desirable product to market, as there is high demand, customers are happy to pay a premium price. You then gradually reduce prices as both demand decreases and competitors begin to emerge, known as “riding down the demand curve”.
Benefits
  • Captures a surplus: you can capture the majority of the market at a high price point, giving you the monopoly.
  • Recoups startup costs: it quickly captures the market at a high price point, giving you high returns early on in your business’s lifetime.
Disadvantages
  • Demand for absolute originality: this strategy is limited to businesses who are bringing something entirely new to the market.
  • You have to move fast: lower-priced competitors can enter the market and snatch the surplus away from you if your marketing and sales efforts don’t prompt sales quickly enough.
Freemium
Freemium pricing is used a lot by digital companies, like software providers and game developers. It works by drawing customers in with a basic, free product, then charging a premium price for add-ons, like more storage or additional tools.
Benefits
  • Good for growth: by welcoming in customers for free, you can quickly grow your user base.
  • Good for testing: it’s an easy way to get more people to test your product without high marketing costs.
Disadvantages
  • It’s free: it’s harder to break even when you rely solely on people buying add-ons, or making money through other means such as advertising.
  • Except it isn’t really free: “nothing in life is free” goes the saying, and as more companies use the freemium model, customers are getting savvy with what they sign up for.
Loss leader
A loss leader pricing strategy uses a product sold at a low price (often below the cost it took to make it) to encourage profitable sales of other products. The psychology behind this is that if you can draw a customer in to buy “bargain” items, you can then upsell higher-priced items. Businesses with physical stores often place loss leader products far from the entrance, so that customers are exposed to higher-value products en route.
Benefits
  • Increases footfall and loyalty: customers know where to go for a bargain, and they keep coming back.
  • Inventory cleansing: items that are hard to shift can be paired with high-value products when you’re clearing out inventory.
Disadvantages
  • Questionable profitability: because the loss leader itself is at or below cost, you absolutely rely on the appeal of your high-value items.
  • Research is needed: you need to be spot-on when choosing your loss leaders, so that they and the high-value items shift.
Pay what you want
As you’d expect, the pay what you want pricing strategy asks the customer to choose their purchase price, sometimes with a minimum price in place. This strategy is best used only occasionally, for example when you’re testing a new product or running a promotion.
Benefits
  • Promotion: it’s a great way to showcase new products and get customers hooked so they pay in future.
  • A temporary tool: unlike a lot of the other pricing strategies we’ve mentioned, it can be used in short bursts to instantly drive certain customer behaviours.
Disadvantages
  • It takes thought: too many pay what you want incentives will desensitise your customers.
  • Non-returning customers: many customers will try the product and never come back.
Penetration pricing
A penetration pricing strategy sets product prices low to gain market share through customer volume. The price is gradually raised over time as you make that gain. Done right, it can discourage new competitors who simply don’t think it’s worth their time to contend with such good value being offered.
Benefits
  • Great for new businesses: this is a solid strategy for new businesses building their niche and carving out a safe place among their competitors.
  • Long-term impact: the theory is that by creating demand with a bargain product, you create higher demand and higher price potential for the future.
Disadvantages
  • Maintaining quality: if the quality of the product remains unchanged, or if you fail to create a positive brand experience, customers may buy from competitors when you raise prices.
  • Perceived value: if you decrease the price too much, any future increases might be met with resistance from customers.
Premium pricing
A premium pricing strategy keeps the price of a product or service high to encourage sales. It’s a method that uses the psychology of “you get what you pay for” — from the luxurious connotations of certain watch brands, to the perceived ethics of organic food products. New trends, social consciousness and social aspiration are three big drivers of premium pricing.
Benefits
  • Great for many small businesses: many small businesses have built their brand around a social, environmental and welfare-based awareness — perfect for premium pricing.
  • Entry barrier: if you get your branding right, competitors may be put off by the marketing investment required to justify their own version of a product.
Disadvantages
  • Branding cost: a premium pricing strategy is driven by a strong brand and proposition — something that takes time, skill and money to build.
  • Market limitation: the high price point of your products will only attract certain customers, this means your overall market penetration may be limited.
How to price a product
To price your products so that they drive cash flow, you need to be clear on these things:
  • The cost of producing your product, or
  • The value of your services to your clients
  • How much your customers have and want to spend
  • The overall running costs of your business
  • What critical costs need to be covered short-term (e.g. loan repayments)
  • How your competitors price their products
Your pricing should take all of these into consideration with the ultimate goal of making your business profitable. What that looks like is different for everyone, and could require any number of pricing strategies. You may even uncover a need to tweak your business model through the process of setting your pricing strategy. This includes things like cost-cutting, restructuring your team or developing your brand.
Pricing strategies aren’t for life. All businesses test and change over time, and your compact size and management structure make it far easier to make changes quickly. Your sales are a good source of proof when deciding if and when those changes need to be made. So it pays to have an integrated payments system that tells you how much your selling, when and to who.
Square is proud to support Small Business Saturday. This article was first published on Square's blog: read the original here.

How taking matters into her own hands led to huge success for Revival Retro

Saturday, June 08 at 23:43

A passion for retro events plus frustration at not being able to find the right clothes and shoes to compliment this look led to Rowena Howie opening Revival Retro boutique in 2011. 
Since its opening as both a gorgeous store in the heart of London and an online boutique, Revival Retro has gone from strength to strength, thanks to its beautiful design, bespoke variety of clothing and shoes, impeccable customer service, and offering a definite point of difference in the market place. Rowena has found her business has also received a great boost from being an ambassador for the Small Business Saturday campaign and being included in the Amex Shop Small offer for a number of years now.
“One of my qualms was how to find a stunning retro outfit that looks great, has a definite 30s/40s style, but won’t fall apart when you wear it or try to clean it?” explains Rowena Howie. “Why was all gorgeous vintage clothing too small for me? How do I avoid yet another unsuccessful foray into moth-balled cupboards, sifting through endless eighties sequined jumpsuits labelled as ‘vintage’? This is why I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
And what hands! Not only has Revival Retro stacked up awards since its incarnation seven years ago, but it has built a huge digital presence and following all around the world, and currently has nearly 33k followers on Instagram.
Rowena herself is prolific in banging the drum for small business owners and is a huge part of the Soho community, supporting fellow business owners and being at the forefront of issues impacting small business owners in the area and nationwide. Before opening her boutique, she did a lot of research about the viability of opening a brick and mortar store in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
“From the very beginning I used workshops at the British Library to further my knowledge about running my own business. Long before I ever opened the bricks and mortar store, I was examining the viability, profitability and likelihood of scale for the venture. I started the business because I was thirty-something and couldn’t envisage ever owning my own home on the salary I was earning. The drive for me to learn and grow was fundamental to commercial success of the business, helping me achieve my personal goals.”
The award-winning team at Revival Retro’s success lies in not only offering a beautiful range of clothing, footwear and accessories but being passionate about helping women feel good, and they do this by offering second-to-none customer service and really listening to and understanding their customers' needs.
“There is nothing worse and soul destroying that being shoehorned into an outfit that you feel hideous in – we’ve all been there! We want our customers to love our clothes as I believe there is the perfect outfit here for every woman, and we pride ourselves on our knowledge and expertise to find it and leave our customers feeling wonderful. Clothes are such a powerful thing used well.”
Rowena continues to be an ambassador for this year’s Small Business Saturday UK campaign, and an AMEX Shop Small Merchant, and will be sharing her success story, insight and experience with fellow business owners in the lead up and inspiring like-minded business owners all over the UK. Watch this space!
Click here to visit the Revival Retro online store, and click here to find out more about the Amex Shop Small campaign.

Why apply to be a #SmallBiz100 2019?

Thursday, June 06 at 00:05

Applications for this year’s SmallBiz100 are now open and we can't wait to celebrate the best of Britain's small businesses in the run up to Small Business Saturday 2019! If you've been wondering whether it's for you, read on to find out more.
First things first – what is the SmallBiz100?
In a nutshell, we choose 100 brilliant small businesses and celebrate one every day in the run up to Small Business Saturday, which takes place in December each year. It’s a great opportunity to showcase your small business and raise awareness both locally and nationally. On your allocated day, your business will be celebrated across Small Business Saturday’s social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, making it a fantastic way to make a big impact.
Outside of your allocated day, there are plenty of PR opportunities within the media. Local press love to get involved and feature local businesses which have been selected to join SmallBiz100, and Small Business Saturday will support you all the way by preparing press releases for your local papers.
When we speak to our previous SmallBiz100 participants, the one benefit which comes up time and time again is the support network which it provides. Running your own small business can be lonely at times, and it can be hard to know where to turn for help and advice from those who really know what you’re experiencing. Taking part in SmallBiz100 provides you with a fantastic community and a ready-made support network of small businesses just like yours, all at different stages of growth. You’ll get access to a private alumni Facebook group for sharing tips, asking for advice, providing support and celebrating your success.
There are also plenty of opportunities to collaborate, with businesses who have been there and done it sharing their experiences. And finally, if you prefer your networking done in person rather than online, the fabulous blue tie ball takes place every year and is open to all SmallBiz100 participants, alumni and newbies alike.
Claire from Addiscott's, who was one of the SmallBiz100 in 2018, says “I was inspired by the dedication and commitment of the Small Biz Sat team and made some fantastic connections and friendships along the way."
She adds: "If you’re thinking about applying just GO FOR IT! Being a Small Biz 100 really does make a difference and is a wonderful celebration of all that is Small but with HUGE support from your fellow 100’s and the team! From Bus Tours to Blue Ball’s there is opportunity to showcase and shine.” Claire has also written a blog about her SmallBiz100 experience - find it here.
All this and taking part is completely free! Sounds good? Applying to take part in SmallBiz100 2019 is quick and easy – just click here to register and start your journey. Already registered? Click here to apply to SmallBiz100.
Even if you feel that your business is not yet ready for SmallBiz100 or you’re not selected as part of the 100, there are still numerous benefits to getting involved.
Simply registering with Small Business Saturday can improve your business’s visibility, making you searchable via the Small Business Saturday app and via the business finder on the Small Business Saturday website, which is regularly promoted across social media. It’s also a great place to promote special offers, and to pick up tips and advice from other small businesses via our blog.
We can’t wait to present the SmallBiz100 2019! Make 2019 the year that you take your small business to the next level and take part in something amazing: apply now for SmallBiz100 2019.

5 content ideas every small business needs

Wednesday, May 22 at 22:14

Your content strategy is an effective channel for growing your small business. It’s good for SEO, builds your customer community, and keeps customers returning to your business for more than sales.
But a good content strategy is a diverse one. Read on for five content ideas that every small business needs in their strategy in 2019.

Provide product guides that get your business noticed

The research stage of the buyer’s journey is a vital one — this is where they explore their options to find the right product for them. And while the research stage might seem out of your hands, it’s actually the perfect time to get your foot in the door and push ahead of the competition.
By producing product guides that inform potential customers about their options, you can push your product to the fore. Create a guide that provides comprehensive overviews of the various options on offer, while ensuring yours comes out on top as the obvious choice for the customer.
You can achieve this in a variety of ways, but video is perhaps the most popular. As a content form, video is popular and engaging — plus, it’s easy to create and cascade across social too.
Takeaway tip: product guides let you join the research stage of the buyer’s journey on your own terms. Use your guide to identify potential issues your customers might have with your product and head them off early, overcoming objections before they arise.

Be a brand with a heart with a strong charitable commitment

More and more consumers demand that the businesses they shop with have clear, charitable commitments. Brands with dedicated ethical, charitable, or sustainable practices increase customer loyalty by showing themselves as more than just businesses — they are brands with a heart.
Even the smallest of businesses can (and should) implement such an initiative into their strategy. It doesn’t need to be on the scale of big brand charity commitments — just donating a percentage of your profits to a small or local cause is enough to show your customers your charitable side.
Publicise your efforts through your content. Charity Q&A sessions, founder profiles, original videos of the work your chosen cause does — these all make for great content that engages your customers with your business on a deeper level, enhancing your branding as a result.
Takeaway tip: if you are a brick-and-mortar business, choose a local cause as your supported charity. This helps engage local customers, building an offline community as well as your online one. Partner with your charity for a content exchange, promoting each other on your email and social channels for a beneficial relationship that works for each party.

Embrace UGC for customer-focused content

User-generated content (UGC) is a content quick-fix that virtually every business can take advantage of in 2019. With so many social platforms at your fingertips abundant with fresh, unique content, it’s an idea you need in your small business content strategy.
UGC isn’t just a quick, low-cost way of sourcing content to fill your editorial calendar. It’s also a great way of building your customer community by showing them some appreciation, and that’s money in the bank for small businesses.
A strong customer community is a loyal one, with shoppers return to your business time and again. UGC reinforces this by showing them that you value their input, nurturing your community as a result. It also provides you with some powerful social proof into the bargain — very slick.
Takeaway tip: there are a number of UGC content ideas you can use, but competitions are the easiest and most popular. Launch a UGC competition and invite your customers to submit their unique snaps to your small business, using a branded hashtag to collate all the answers. Share the best ones to your own feed (with permission, of course), and celebrate your customers and the value they bring to your small business.

Create comprehensive guides that educate your customers

You know your customers inside-and-out, and you know the issues they care about and the problems they face. Your buyer personas provide an insight into how your customers tick — and inspiration for your own content too.
Create comprehensive guides that directly address these issues. In doing so, you position your small business as more than a commercial entity, but as a resource hub that your customers can turn to time and again.
For example, let’s say you’re a tech brand with a target market interested in gadgets and electronics. Your customers will naturally have concerns about a range of tech-related issues, such as how to hard reset an Android phone or how to sync a smartphone to a tablet.
Address these issues in your content, and create guides that are always relevant and regularly updated. These make for evergreen content that people will turn to when they need it and generate leads as a result.
Takeaway tip: conduct deep customer research to find out their desires and pain points, and create a series of detailed guides that resolve these issues. Update them regularly with new data, and use natural headings and an FAQ section to make it SEO-friendly. Click here for more evergreen pointers.

Play with interactive content to nurture a community

Interactive content is perfect for small businesses, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it strengthens your customer community, engaging them with your business. But it also encourages further sharing of content on social and adds diversity to the usual one-way content formats.
There are a number of interactive content ideas you can easily use for your small business’s strategy. Competitions are one of the most common and are simple to set up. The offer of a prize encourages customer participation, and it’s a great way of sourcing customer emails to build your subscriber lists.
Other great interactive content ideas include quizzes, polls, and surveys. Polls in particularly are ideal for sourcing customers’ thoughts on new products, providing quick-fix market research when you need it.
Takeaway tip: Twitter and Instagram both have useful poll features that you can use to serve a specific purpose, such as sourcing customer opinions on product development, or simply as a bit of fun. Take this further by turning your poll responses into blog content in its own right, e.g. “80% Of Our Customers Use Fabric Conditioner — Here’s Why”.
As a small business, your content strategy is vital in generating new leads, driving traffic to your store, and making your brand stand out against your competition. Follow the tips above and create a diverse content strategy that serves your business time and again.
Author bio
Kayleigh Toyra is a content marketer and writer based in Bristol and Finland. Find out more at www.kayleightoyra.com or contact her at kayleigh@kayleightoyra.com or on 07954421522.

The Flour Pot Bakery's secret to success

Wednesday, May 15 at 23:08

It’s been five years since bakery chain The Flour Pot hit Brighton’s high streets for the first time.
Since founder Oli Hyde opened that first Sydney Street premises in the town’s historic North Laine area, the business has grown to now boast seven stores in the Brighton and Hove area.
It’s an East Sussex empire built on foundations of sumptuous sourdough: “Sourdough is the core of everything we do – we actually started as a wholesale provider of the bread, before expanding our offering and opening our first retail stores,” head of marketing and sales, Louise Tamadon-Nejad, explains.
The business works on a vertically integrated supply chain model, still selling wholesale to other bakeries, cafes and restaurants in the region, while also providing the bread, cakes and pastries for its own stores.
The Flour Pot has expanded its product range to enhance its brand, and now has ambition to expand beyond the South East: “We always have ambition to grow, but the most important thing is maintaining the quality of what we do and a consistency between stores in quality of product and of customer service,” Louise says. “This is the key to our success and we would not expand beyond our current offering if we didn’t think we could ensure this.”
The bakery has become renowned in Brighton and Hove for the impressive customer experience its 120 employees provide, with long-serving store managers and sales teams working between the seven sites to ensure the same high-quality experience is provided at each, regardless of the target customer.
“Each of our stores attracts different customers because of the area each is based in,” Louise says. “Some attract tourists, others local figures in the area like the Brighton & Hove Albion football team, but all of them from the smallest to the largest bring in a diverse clientele, from young families to the longest-standing members of our community.”
If strong collaboration between The Flour Pot’s seven stores ensures its reputation, Louise emphasises that collaboration between the town’s independent retailers ensures both they – and the high streets around them – continue to thrive. The Flour Pot’s latest site, on Portland Road in Hove, has taken this co-operation to another level, partnering with a local florist and building adjoining doors between the two shops.
Louise also highlights AMEX’s work through its Shop Small offer and as principal supporter of Small Business Saturday as particularly important in ensuring small businesses like The Flour Pot succeed: “Small businesses are integral to communities, but this is often kept out of the spotlight.
“It’s great that these campaigns exist to encourage community residents to get behind their local businesses, and in turn we give back to our customers with special offers.”
Last year was the third year The Flour Pot took part in Small Business Saturday, and it was a particularly special one. They were joined by a member of Brighton & Hove Albion football team for an interview that featured on Gillette Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports on the day itself.
With just over six months until this year’s campaign, will The Flour Pot be involved for a fourth year? “Of course we will!”
Click here to visit the Flour Pot Bakery, and click here to find out more about the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

How to harness the power of Instagram and drive your business forward - the GB Labels way

Friday, April 26 at 10:34

Standing out online as a small business is becoming trickier to do. But by showcasing your unique brand personality (and a little creative flair), it is possible to carve out your own little corner of the internet and fill it with your raving fans.
No one knows this better than Derbyshire-based woven label specialists GB Labels. Just three years ago, GB Labels didn’t have any social accounts. Now their feeds are bustling communities of designers and makers, thousands strong - and sales have soared.
How do I know? Because they’re one of my many small biz clients using social media to successfully tell their story. And rather than keep our findings to ourselves, we’re super-excited to share them so more small businesses can thrive online. Here’s exactly how we made it happen…
Tailoring social media to suit your needs
Three years ago GB Labels was in a bit of a conundrum. As designer manufacturers of niche branding products, they were struggling to make social media work for them.
GB Labels’ director Jason Gregory explains: “We make high-quality branding solutions such as ribbon, swing tickets and garment labels. Because our products are so niche and typically sold to designers and makers, we worried that publishing social posts out to a wider audience would be pointless. And while we’re really proud of what we make, we wondered who’d actually be interested in our content.”
“The funny thing is, we make clothing labels for some of the biggest brands in the world, so there’s a wealth of awesome stories to tell. Unfortunately, when working for exciting household names, there’s always a confidentiality agreement that comes into play. This left us stuck on what to actually talk about on social media.”
But GB Labels didn’t want to give up. They’d noticed that bigger label companies based abroad couldn’t match the quality or personal service they offered, meaning smaller brands, indie businesses and student designers often flocked to GB Labels after having a bad experience elsewhere.
Advertising online would give them a platform to showcase their quality and prevent newbie designers getting it wrong - which is why it’s so important for them to get their social media right.
Why Instagram?
Home to over one billion users worldwide, Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social channels around. Popular with the 18-34 demographic, it’s an effective way to reach out to a range of different types of people - and encourage them to follow your brand’s journey.
Instagram works for small businesses because it’s inherently visual and can act like a catalogue for prospective customers.
But even if your business isn’t visual, there’s always something to show. Authenticity and provenance are the biggest marketing trends around right now - two things small businesses have in bucket loads. With Instagram, these two aspects can be tied together perfectly.
For example, GB Labels can support and nurture new designers with behind-the-scenes and Q&A Instagram Story videos (showing authenticity) and use photos of their products to demonstrate their decades of expertise (sharing their provenance story as a family business).
This made Instagram the natural fit for GB Labels and why it might be perfect for you too.
Instagram photography made simple
The first thing I worked on with GB Labels was their photography. But while Instagram is all about being aesthetically pleasing, there was no need to spend lots on fancy equipment - we kept things simple. Want to know how we got those really good snaps? This is the advice I give to all small businesses:
Get inspired
What colours do you associate with your brand? Pick three or four and stick with them for backgrounds. You’ll also need to consider what your competition is doing (and if you can do it better).
Even if it’s a completely unrelated industry, think of your favourite accounts and bloggers and what you like about their Instagram posts. Perhaps it’s their style of lighting or location that floats your boat? Take some snaps in that style and add your own twist.
Keep standards high
Good lighting in natural daylight is super-important - and make sure your set or background is clean and neat before taking a photo. This is essential to make sure photos look high quality, particularly if you’re working with a small budget.
A crisp, white background always looks great and laying products out flat (known as a ‘flat lay’) is a hugely popular style of post. And don’t forget to look around you - brick walls, quiet streets and rural areas provide stunning backdrops for free!
Customers also love getting a sneak peak at what you do so make close up ‘details’ shots, candid team photos and that gorgeous view from your work space a priority.
Reach out to customers
What’s one of the first things you do when you purchase an awesome product? Share it on social media of course. Why not create a special hashtag and encourage your customers to share snaps of them using your product or service? You’ll be surprised just how many people respond - and there’s nothing like positive feedback to boost team morale!
For GB Labels I created the hashtag #ShareYourLabel which has now been used over 200 times (and counting). It’s been an effective way to create an online ‘portfolio’ of their products. And it’s been lovely for the GB Labels team to see where their labels end up.
Hashtags are your friend
And speaking of hashtags. Don’t forget to use a few under each post. Think of hashtags as a ‘filing system’ that puts your photo in the same category as other similar posts, helping more people to see it.
That means not hashtagging elements of the photo (because no one’s going to search #Chair #Window or #Office) but using hashtags that your target market are using. GB Labels use hashtags such as #MakersMovement, #HandmadeParade and #DesignersOfInstagram, because that’s exactly who they want to reach out to.
Look at what hashtags are used in your industry and start using them to measure which get you the most engagement. Stuck for ideas? Tap a hashtag and Instagram will show you suggestions of other hashtags to use. You could then create a ‘bundle’ of hashtags you like, save it in your phone and pop them under each post. Easy-peasy.
Spark a conversation
Because small businesses are passionate about what they do, they’re often friendlier and up for a natter about their products than their larger counterparts. Again, this is where you can use Instagram to your advantage.
The best way to build a following is to engage with as many accounts as possible. If you like someone’s product - tell them by commenting on their post. Want to know which trade fairs are best for your brand? Message a fellow maker and ask. Think someone might like your product? Tag them in a snap. If you join in enough, you’ll find you become part of the small biz community in no time - and there really is no friendlier, more inspiring group to be a part of.
What GB Labels say
Finding a niche on Instagram has been vital for GB Labels in lots of different ways.
Jason says: “We now have over 2,400 followers on Instagram, nearly all of whom are designers that love the things we make. Not only can we market directly to them, we can support and guide them through their branding journey, which is very rewarding.”
“Deciding to shift our marketing towards championing the smaller maker or designer was important to us, because it’s what we’re all about as a family business ourselves. Instagram is the best place to do that - and we love seeing all the weird and wonderful places our labels end up. I’d recommend Instagram to any small business - it’s easily our most powerful marketing tool.”
This handy guide to Instagram shows being a niche business isn’t a barrier to building an online community. In fact, it’s your superpower. If you’ve been inspired to seize Instagram success, I’d love to hear your stories - over on Instagram, of course.
Author bio
Abi Rose is a marketing consultant from the Peak District. She works with inspiring independent businesses - helping them to tell their story through social media. Follow Abi on Instagram or take a look at her website.
Small biz bio
GB Labels is a family-run business, born and bred in Derbyshire. Known for its signature woven labels, its entire range of branding solutions is made right here in the UK - using only the highest quality materials.To browse the range or order a sample pack, head to the website. And of course, they’d love you to follow them on Instagram.

Making Tax Digital is here! What does it mean for your business?

Wednesday, April 24 at 22:59

Making Tax Digital (MTD) came to the UK this April, and it’s set to transform the way taxes are managed and filed through HMRC (the government department responsible for their collection). So now is the time to find out if and how MTD affects your small business, and what you or your accountant need to do to get ready.
What is Making Tax Digital?
MTD is an HMRC initiative designed to make the UK tax system more efficient and effective by replacing the manual process of submitting your tax records with an integrated system that does it for you automatically. Businesses will be asked to store and submit their tax records using MTD-compatible software (which we’ll come to later), and will no longer use Government Gateway for tax filing.
Why is it happening?
It’s easy to make errors when a year or more’s worth of financial data needs to be organised and submitted. The risk increases when businesses go without any of the digital tools designed to consolidate and simplify the process. When UK200, the UK’s leading association of independent chartered accountants and law firms, surveyed its members on their approach to tax, they found that:
  • 65% of those members’ SME clients didn’t use software to keep tax records
  • 50% used manual records or spreadsheets
  • 16% used a shoebox
MTD encourages companies like these to be more digitally-minded, reducing the chance of information being lost and errors being made. The knock-on benefits of this for small businesses are huge. According to Business Advice UK, small businesses lose three working weeks and about £5,000 to tax compliance every year. This is time and money you can’t afford to be without, and with the shift to MTD, the hope is that you can win them back.
The new digital system will also impact the UK in a broader sense. Mistakes cost the government over £9 billion a year, according to HMRC. Add the £15 billion lost to tax fraud, and you start to see a sizeable tax deficit. This has a knock on effect for everyone, as services like education and transport receive less funding. By simplifying the process, and making it harder for fraudsters to abuse the system, the government hopes there will be fewer losses.
What types of business does it affect?
MTD will be limited to VAT filing for the time being. This means that from April 2019, UK businesses with a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold of £85,000 will be obliged to submit their VAT records to HMRC using MTD-compatible software. Companies in HMRC’s deferral group don’t have to enrol until October 2019. You can see what types of company fall into that group here.
Corporation Tax, NI and Income Tax will be added to the MTD initiative from April 2020.
What are businesses required to do?
Now to the part you’ve been waiting for. We’ve broken down everything you need to do if your business is VAT-registered, or if you think you’ll exceed the £85,000 threshold in the next 12 months.
Choose MTD-compatible software
The type of software you should choose is affected by whether you as the business owner, or an agent, manages your business’s tax. If it’s a financial agent or accountant making the selection, get them to involve you in that process — platforms have various different benefits and price points to suit different businesses.
HMRC has created a list of compatible platforms for both businesses and agents. There is also a list of platforms in development, i.e. platforms that HMRC is reviewing and trialling for their compatibility.
Create a Making Tax Digital account
Next, you need to sign up for an MTD account, which will allow you to link your software with HMRC’s systems and receive extra help on going digital.
You can sign up for an MTD business account here. Or if a financial agent manages your records, they can sign up here.
Authorise your software
Once you’ve got your software and MTD accounts set up, simply authorise the software. This connects the two and gets you fully ready to send your VAT returns digitally.
How will businesses manage tax from now on?
MTD will eventually phase out all existing manual and paper-based systems by 2020, replacing them with a process that uses your MTD-compatible software to:
  • File digital records (business information and records of services/products supplied or received, such as online invoices and sales data)
  • Track the tax you owe
  • Send quarterly tax data to HMRC
  • Send an end-of-year statement to HMRC (most software will do this and the quarterly update automatically)
This new process means that business owners will need to stay on top of collecting digital records day-to-day. Integrated payment systems like Square are designed to take care of this in the background by consolidating sales data from all areas of your business. With a bakery for example, Square’s point-of-sale app would collectively save all records for goods sold in-store, large orders paid for via invoice and any payments taken over the phone.
Square is proud to support Small Business Saturday. This article was first published on Square's blog: read the original here.

How we should champion success for International Women's Day

Saturday, March 02 at 14:54

With International Women’s Day this week (8thMarch 2019), the discrimination or otherwise of women in business is a hot topic.
We are seeing a growing cohort of female-led businesses that is stretching its wings and finding its power. This can only be a good step forward!
Although the increased focus on female entrepreneurs from the British Business Bank and the Treasury is to be applauded, I can’t help but notice that the picture is incomplete. Are we missing the point a little by measuring female businesses by old standards that don’t always apply any more?
Should we instead be celebrating the businesses being successful in different ways, because they have redefined what success is?
At f:Entrepreneur, the 100 businesses being celebrated ahead of International Women’s Day are doing just that – redefining what it means to be an entrepreneur. And a message is ringing out loud and clear – your rules do not apply to me. The view of a successful entrepreneur starting with a business plan, getting funding high growth, investment, scale and eventual exit is alien to many female founders.
The most common answer I get when asking female founders why they started their business is freedom – I started because I wanted freedom: freedom from bosses, from out-dated expectations, to manage my life, to make decisions unimpeded. A big part of this is a sense of control. Without going into a history of women in business, it is not a stretch to point out that women controlling their careers and own companies is a relatively recent phenomenon in the grand scheme of things. So it should be unsurprising that many do not relish the idea of taking on the “burden” of debt or giving away equity as it can translate into less control.
This is not saying that there should not be more investment in female-led businesses – there absolutely should. And investors can expect strong returns off the back of it. But there should be a broader definition of success for a 21st Century entrepreneur – and recognising that success can mean many things.
If a business has decided to grow organically and not take on investment, applaud them for the work they are achieving, don’t berate them for their slower growth rate. If businesses are creating opportunities for other women, a key common driver for women-led businesses, do not mark them down for lower productivity due to a larger workforce, applaud their opportunity creation and that they are lifting up those around them.
And let’s be very careful not to put female-led businesses into a bucket of “lifestyle” business because they are not following a start-up / scale trajectory. This is derogatory and undermines the hard work, long hours and passion put into these businesses.
Let’s instead celebrate the new ways of working we are now seeing and shout about their worth. Let’s celebrate the job creation, the innovation; let’s celebrate the increased social conscience; let’s highlight the benefits of freedom and flexibility; and let’s demonstrate how these businesses are bringing value into the economy.
I am not going to tell phenomenal women I see every day that they are somehow falling short because they don’t succeed on a set of metrics that really do not apply to them.
I am going to tell them they are amazing. They are inspiring. They are role models for both men and women and their value far exceeds their P&L or Balance Sheet. I am going to thank them for their bravery in going it alone and celebrate the freedom and control this now affords them.
What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019?
About the Author: Michelle Ovens MBE is Director of Small Business Saturday

Step aside Mystery Shopper scheme - hello new Public Procurement Review Service!

Thursday, February 21 at 10:53

Have you ever had a concern about a public sector contract? Have you experienced late payment by the public sector? Maybe the Public Procurement Review Service can help.
Public Procurement Review Service is the new name for the successful Mystery Shopper scheme that allows suppliers to raise concerns anonymously about public sector procurement. It has helped hundreds of suppliers in challenging public procurement opportunities.
Since 2011, the team (which is part of the Cabinet Office) has handled over 1550 cases and helped to speed up over £6.2 million in late payments. By working closely on difficult cases with contracting authorities, we help the government improve how it buys goods and services. Cases are summarised and published; only the contracting authorities are named.
So why the new name?
Simply put, the new name reflects what the team does and makes it easier for suppliers to search for the service and find out how it can help them.
Suppliers of all sizes can use the Public Procurement Review Service where they feel that a public sector procurement is not being run in line with the procurement rules and best practice, or have issues obtaining payment for work that has been completed. The service is particularly used by small businesses.
Things you need to know about the service
  • It’s free to use
  • Suppliers can use in complete confidence of anonymity
  • We aim to either broker an effective and satisfactory resolution and / or gain a better understanding to stop problems ‘next time’
  • We can assist in unblocking late payments
Find out more about the Public Procurement Review Service on the gov.uk website. We’ve also prepared a useful guide that explains the work of the service in more detail. (If you’re a small business experiencing payment problems on a private sector contract, you may want to contact the Small Business Commissioner).
We are keen to spread the word about the PPRS; in that way the team will be able to help even more concerned public sector suppliers, and work with contracting authorities to prevent problems arising in the future – improving procurement for all. So please tell colleagues and friends about what we do!
Use the service by sending an email to publicprocurementreview@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

Interested in writing a Blog Post for Small Business Saturday? Here are our guidelines.

Categories:

Latest Posts: