Archive for July, 2011

Are you building business relationships using social media?

It’s a myth among web professionals that every organisation is capitalising on the benefits of social media. In fact, 94% of small business owners say they do not use it because their customers do not use it.

The advantages of using social media in business are well-documented but it needs to be done properly if it’s to have a positive effect as half-hearted attempts will achieve little.

To make social media work for your business you need to have a plan. If you do not have a strategy and time to manage social media, it’s a pointless exercise.

As a good starting point, it’s advisable to simply ‘lurk’ and monitor what other people are doing on the social media networks before trying to work out how it can help you.  Spend some time on either Linkedin, Twitter or facebook and get to understand how others are behaving.

This gives you specific marketing intelligence and allows you to understand how to play the different media.

You cannot set up a social media strategy and think customers will just arrive on your doorstep. You need to establish a two-way communication and ask your followers/customers for feedback, as well as respond to their questions.

Businesses need to be personable and build relationships with customers through social media. We need to be perceived as industry experts and when we do comment we need to provide relevant information.

Too many people have just jumped on the social media bandwagon because people are talking about it. It requires considerable work related to engagement and understanding about what you’re trying to achieve and how to send an appropriate message into the market.

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Do you have the confidence to allow your business to flourish?

Business owners commonly find themselves unable to delegate tasks because of the illusion that they are the only ones who can do the job properly. But if SMEs are to succeed in the long-term, entrepreneurs need to occasionally take a back step to allow their employees to drive business forward.

Business owners should prevent themselves from falling into the trap of micro-managing every aspect of their organisation. Staff should be allowed to flourish and get on with it.

Because if you check everything your employees do before long they will be less careful and you have given yourself another job.

Entrepreneurs need to consider how it would feel if every time they did something, it was pulled to bits by the boss.

Dispose of the tasks you don’t want to do by outsourcing non-key resources such as health and safety, administrative roles or accountancy. Also, hiring a good office manager can take away a large part of the burden, you can specialise on strategy and the important issues affecting your business .

The key is managing by exception rather than managing everything.

Build a system whereby you can spot check, but do not interfere with simple processes.

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To be a successful business, you need a business plan


A business plan is a crucial step for any successful business venture but is all too often forgotten or put on the back burner.

Many owners see business plans as merely a way of acquiring funding. They do not recognise the power of the business plan in steering your business forward many months or even years down the line.

What’s the point of a business plan?

A business plan serves a critical purpose in any organisation. It focuses your efforts,
enabling you to spot potential pitfalls. It also allows you to set realistic targets and to trace your growth.

Good business plans enable you to structure and monitor your business, as well as recruit the right level and calibre of staff.

However, even when written, most business plans tend to end up in someone’s drawer. This completely defeats the original purpose and will not serve any benefit to your
company.

Entrepreneurs need to communicate their business plans to their organisation and to their staff so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. The document should
not be reserved for the eyes of management only – all employees should understand the opportunities and the threat to the business.

Businesses which are well-established tend to use a business plan every month to
realistically analyse whether or not they are on track. A business plan allows you to consider detailed market research in relation to your competitors so you can fully understand where your business is going.

The benefit of having it written in black and white is it focuses your mind. It’s also
extremely motivational to write. More importantly in a recessionary period it allows you to say no to certain opportunities which come your way.
If an offer is not exactly in line with your business plan you should say no as you can become sidetracked.

That said, no business plan is good if it’s too static or inflexible.

A business plan is a good way of making people in your business accountable. Business plans can be as simple as a single sheet of paper to focus your mind or as comprehensive as a 70-page report dealing with all strategic issues in a business.

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Techniques to control sales staff and make them accountable

Sales staff are a necessary component to all businesses and can influence whether your
business succeeds or fails.

If you’re considering taking on additional sales staff to help push your products or
services, there are important factors to bear in mind to ensure they bring value to your business.

When looking for sales staff, it’s important not to recruit in your own image. This
basically means employ people who use a different way of doing things and a different approach, so that they can complement your business offering.

It’s a good idea to use a professional recruiter to find sales staff because they can sift
through the good, bad and mediocre candidates more skilfully and effectively than you can and bring quality people to the table.

Many business owners simply think to themselves ‘this person’s in sales, I’ll try them out’ which can be an expensive process if it repeatedly fails. We should never take on people just because they have come to us with a sales background, it’s worth spending time and money on getting the right people in the first place and maximising your chance of success.

In any sales department, there needs to be a strong reporting infrastructure so the managing director fully understands what the sales staff are doing on a daily basis.
Sales should be about going and getting sales and maximising the opportunity, once you have got past the gatekeeper.

Owners of businesses should ask themselves when they last spent a day with their sales
force making calls. It’s impossible to set sales targets if you don’t understand the issues they are up against.

Overall you need to be more hands on and create realistic targets which people can achieve – so they are motivated.

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