philipldrazen

Chairman of the Business Exposure Group

Homepage: http://www.business-exposure-group.co.uk

The Challenge of a lifetime.

Now in our 3rd month of Lockdown and our round the table board meetings have been operating every 2 weeks on Zoom.

The following topics have been discussed to pool our joint wisdom to help all our members grapple with the challenge of a lifetime.

April 2020

Connecting with customers in times of crisis.

Business building for the crisis and beyond.

The value of external  help.

May 2020

The next business scenario – from surviving to thriving.

Providing customers and employees with safety guarantees that restore trust.

Demonstrating calm and optimism at this trying time.

Are you energized and inspired by the progress the crisis has forced on you to make.

Is the concept of redundancy right for your business.

June 2020

When should we prepare for business as “new normal”.

How do we start planning the transition back into the office.

Has lockdown helped us rediscover what’s important.

Quick revenue recovery- should we do something different in our businesses.

 

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Reflections-One month since lockdown 23 April 2020.

What we as business owners and leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan, but behavoirs and mindsets that will prevent us from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and help us look ahead.

Our actions need to change constantly, but we must also be decisive. Our teams look to us for direction and stability. Our colleagues, who are remote at the moment must be granted authority to make and implement decisions without having to gain approval. But having talked constantly to many business owners over the last month, many of you are working hard, doing so much more, having furloughed the back office operation, with many more tasks falling to you. As well as trying to motivate yourself, your staff and reposition your business offering both now and more importantly when we emerge from lockdown.

For some businesses, near term survival is the only agenda item, others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position ourselves once the crisis has passed and things move on to the new normal. You will note that I have deliberately not said – return to normal.

A shock of this scale will create a shift in the preferences and expectations of individuals. These shifts and their impact on how we live, how we work and how we use technology will become more clear over the coming weeks and months.

This crisis will reveal not just vulnerabilities but significant opportunities to improve the performance of our businesses. While physical distancing and shutdowns are freezing some businesses, others are seeing spikes in demand particularly if you operate in IT/ Financial services/Food or anything to do with the NHS.

Now more than ever, people need extra information, guidance and support to navigate a novel set of challenges and that is why The Business Exposure Group is fit for purpose.

If necessity is the mother of invention, there could be some positive outcomes from the crisis.

But with a general shortage of optimism at the moment, it may be heartening to consider a few encouraging possibilities.

  • Individuals and businesses can learn and embrace new ways to connect. Zoom shares have gone through the roof.
  • Businesses have learned how to operate remotely, at high level and at speed. These practices could well stick, making for better management and more flexible workforces- something that could be particularly useful for women, the disabled and those who prefer untraditional careers.

Businesses already have a better sense of what can, and cannot be done outside their company’s traditional processes. Many of us are beginning to appreciate the speed with which business can move. We are being forced to do more with less.

Decisions made during this crisis could lead to a burst of innovation and productivity, with more resilient industries and the emergence of a re connected world.

Thankyou for reading the April 2020 blog, stay safe, and lets hope this situation is over sooner rather than later.

 

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Have our websites evolved to maximise visitor engagement

Let’s assume your website has great content.  What tactics can you use to increase visitor engagement?  So, what exactly does engagement mean – when a visitor lands on your website you want them to read your content, interact with your forms, and click through on your call to action.

This was the topic discussed by members of the Business Exposure Group at a recent meeting – does your website work and do you get return visits?

Visitors spend on average 8 seconds before deciding whether or not to remain on the website.

Some useful tips to aid visitor engagement are –

  • use plenty of white space so your content is easy on the eye
  • use readable fonts and text sizes
  • pages with 1000-2500 words experience the highest user engagement
  • trend is…. – one message – one video – one click
  • make your website faster to load – Google analytics offer speed suggestions under the heading site-speed
  • visitors need to see your brand 7 times before they will commit
  • ‘heatmaps’ they let you know where visitors are hovering their cursors, clicking on buttons, etc
  • best practice is to get 20% of visitors to return to the website

Once you know your money terms you can focus all your efforts on the right subject matter eg sells safety equipment or safety equipment for operatives or safety equipment Leeds or cheapest safety equipment

  • create custom landing pages
  •  use visitor tracking -retargeting – is a cookie based technology that uses java script code to anonymously follow your audience all over the web once they have visited your site
  • but is it better to concentrate on website strength rather than chase companies who have visited your website?
  • Google Analytics or Lead Forensics are useful tools…. and then pick up phone following research through Linkedin. ‘As a proactive company we have identified that someone in your company visited our website yesterday. I took a guess that it may have been you.  Just for information the visitor seemed to be mainly interested in ….’, then pause, if it’s not them they will pass you through to someone else or supply an email address. Alternatively you could ring within minutes of them visiting the website, or ring out of hours and leave a message on voicemail to be followed up the next day.
  • send an email following up a visitor looking at your website
  • finding out who has visited your website can be a meticulous process, but it can offer great rewards if you are willing to persevere. It’s easy to show that in the past month your website has been visited 1000 times, but it tells you very little about who is visiting your website. Knowing who visited can assist your sales team.Using visitor tracking software enables you to also find out who has been back to your website for another look
  • alerts can be useful to spot cluster visits from the same company, they can also be used to spot if your competition is visiting your website

Today’s marketeers have shifted form asking ‘how many visitors are looking at a website’ to ‘who is looking at my website’.   What this all means for savvy B2B’s is that a company website can go far beyond a glorified brochure.  It can help in the selling process.

 

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What’s occupying British SME’s

Growing revenue is the top challenge for businesses employing less than 30 staff .    Hiring employees is the biggest challenge for 30-50 staff .                                                            Government regulation becomes an issue 50+ staff

But once you get under the skin of Business Owners, there are 10 big challenges facing SME’s on a daily basis as recently discussed at the Business Exposure Group.

Uncertainty – around customer trends makes businesses feel vulnerable.  Uncertainty lead to short term focus.

Financial Management – Cash Flow.  Larger customers are imposing longer payment terms.  Most businesses do not fail due to lack of orders but due to lack of ready cash.  The average wait is 72 days for payment for businesses with turnovers of up to £1.5m.

Monitoring Performance – Are KPI’s as good as they sound?  In many companies there is a lack of execution of ideas and strategies because of juggling minutia as a daily priority.

Competencies and recruiting the right talent – The difficulties of being considered an employer of choice. Making a success of employees working flexibly to retain staff whilst improving the business as a priority.  And recently monitoring stress in the workforce has become a real challenge for business owners

Technology – Should all technologies be outsourced to reduce demand on administration and if not the problems of distinguishing which technology will give the highest return in terms of time and investment is problematic.

Exploding Data – Information overload – Meeting expectations of customer and making sense of big data for your customer experience , which if handled correctly can drive significant additional revenue to the business.

Customer Service – What is the appropriate level these days.  Are people’s expectations too high, they are always challenging and chipping away.

Maintaining Reputation – It takes a lifetime to build and a second to loose.  And now there is a new threat and genuine concern about Cyber Security.

Knowing when to embrace change – Balancing quality with growth.  Businesses are stocking less and relying upon a lean supply chain.  Is this clever or does it open up crippling disruptions?

Regulations and Compliance – Has GDPR had much of an impact? Has the national living wage caused problems? Is there too much red tape when transacting with larger organizations?

What’s occupying British SME’S as a topic created more questions than answers. But it is reassuring to know that many of us are all in the same boat.

A stimulating discussion ensued around the table when members of the Business Exposure Group discussed this topic at a recent meeting.

 

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Disrupt or be disrupted

UK Insolvency state ‘People often find change uncomfortable and many businesses are not willing to change until it’s too late’

So don’t let this be you……  If you want to disrupt your industry or competition you must disrupt your own business first. Easier said than done!

The difference between change and disruption is the level of impact.  First find the right problem to solve, so look at the market in ways that long established companies can’t or won’t.  Can you offer a solution that offers customers something they didn’t have before?

In a few years much of what we sell, fix and ship won’t mean much to anyone, as without change you will be out of business.  Robots, artificial intelligence and technology built on top of the internet will continue to threaten the very fabric of what most  businesses and jobs are set up to do today.

No one was an app developer, a drone operator or a social media manager 7 years ago, yet there are now 70,000 in the UK according to the CBI.

Today anyone working in the equivalent of a back bedroom can produce an innovation that can make your business redundant.

Name your industry, name a job or task in that industry and you can be assured that there are companies working on making that job or task irrelevant.

By anticipating the changing needs of your customers, innovation and disruption will occur naturally.

Change happens at speed.  Those who sit back with old and well tested business models are lagging behind.  Think AirBnB.  Founded in 2008 it is now the world’s largest landlord of rooms without owning a single one. Businesses must stay one step ahead and think differently!

Two thirds of the UK’s SME’s are in the danger zone of being disrupted including:  Retail / Finance / IT / Education / Hotels and Restaurants / Food /Health / Oil and Gas / Property / Travel /Business Services.

Charles Darwin – ‘it’s neither the strongest nor intelligent species that survives, but rather the one that is most adaptable to change’.

People are getting older and living longer, can your business look for innovation in this trend.  The way people pay for goods and services has changed forever, how can your business meet this expectation?  Can you tap into the fact that people want to use their mobile phone more?  Companies no longer need offices or employees, can your business take advantage of this trend?

Millennials are fast becoming a significant buying force, can you make your brand more approachable and human, while offering the convenience of technologies?

Disruption is the trendiest term in business today.

Most disrupters aren’t setting out to be disrupters; they just want to innovate their product or service offering.  Think Netflix – who has anticipated viewing habits whereas Blockbuster is bust.

In every type of business there are little things that have a connection to your customer that can change their whole experience – listen to what your customer is saying.  If you want your business to be a Netflix rather than a Blockbuster it means embracing the disruption.

Businesses with turnover in excess of £4m face high levels of industry disruption already. Therefore businesses must reinvest their legacy rather than focussing on preserving it.

Members of the Business Exposure Group discussed this topic at a recent meeting and agreed that disruption was inevitable and they should embrace the opportunity..

 

 

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Are smart Businesses marketing led?

Research by Deloittes states that ‘68% of SME’s say it is difficult to get customers to take action as a result of marketing’

Is this true? Is your marketing budget at the top of your business priorities?  If you’re not spending you are not acquiring customers.

This was the topic discussed by members of the Business Exposure Group at their recent meeting and members welcomed the opportunity to find out about how other members dealt with marketing their companies.

Marketing is important to SME’s but a lack of budget, expertise and time is often a barrier.  Marketing is often seen by some as a cost rather than an investment in the future.  Only 20% of SME’s believe that increased marketing spend will be their pathway to growth.

‘Hooking potential customers early is the strongest path for growth’.  Even loyal customers are considering other offers more often than you realise.

Good businesses are implementing clear and focused marketing strategies that place the customer front and centre.  The Institute Of Directors comment that ‘nurturing customer relationships and optimising customer experience are the two most significant objectives for B2B businesses’.  This is where a marketing led company thrives.  A clear long term focus on the customer, from customer retention and experience, to customer satisfaction and lifetime value.

A marketing led campaign aims for growth by investing in the customer experience as a top- priority.  In contrast, a sales driven approach is typically short term and transactional.  Should your culture be to put the customer at the centre of your business? Its what is known as ‘Customer Centricity’.

SME’s say marketing is crucial for growth, but measuring Return On Investment holds them back. If ROI is difficult to measure for a marketing activity then don’t do it, was a view held by some at the meeting.  Can you afford to risk capital on something that may work?

Businesses that develop and use a marketing plan go on to outperform those that don’t.  Deloittes state that ‘every £1 spent on marketing, benefits an SME eight times as much as it would a larger company’.  The average spend on marketing is the same as a junior member of staff £24K – ‘Marketing Week’.

The most popular channels for SME marketing are emails/social media/online advertising/direct mail and telemarketing.

Perhaps a good thing to have is an ROI formula – ROI investment x 100 as a percentage, so you can work out if one medium generates 15% and another 50%, then you will know where to invest your money!  If you spend £1 on marketing what should you expect in return? – 5/1 is a good return.

When asked if your marketing strategy is working, it could mean, is it generating awareness- big deal. Is it generating website traffic- big deal or is it generating sales…..  It has to be generating sales otherwise you are simply allocating your marketing budget. Each marketing campaign must have a strong business case.

 

 

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Negotiating better Business Deals

Negotiating better business deals is critical to a company’s success. People who don’t know the art of negotiation are 60% less successful that those that do. But up to 42% of the total value of a deal can be lost if there is no strategy, because we negotiate with our gut!

We all understand the importance of reaching a win-win negotiation when both sides are satisfied with the agreement; the odds of a long lasting successful business partnership are much higher.  But concrete strategies for generating a win-win are often elusive.

We all need a strategy and listening is key. Below is a summary of some of the points raised at a recent Business Exposure Group meeting.

  • Help your counterpart sit up and take notice by refusing to meet the initial suggested contract terms.
  • Determine your desired outcome before you start negotiating, you will then know when to push forward and when to stop
  • Know your audience, understand if he/she is a handshake person or a long contract kind of person
  • Understand your worth. Don’t undersell your proposition.
  • If you expect more, you will get more. Open with an extreme position followed by small concessions
  • Don’t become emotionally involved. Most deals only happen if both sides feel they are getting something out of it
  • Never walk away feeling you have pulled one over on someone else, they will refuse to deal with you in future
  • Brainstorming with customers is a way to get close to them
  • Always draft the first version of the agreement, this lets you frame how the deal should be structured
  • Your offer should always include some wriggle room to give a concession
  • Find points of agreement to sound collaborative and end on a positive
  • Break the negotiation into parts
  • Most people are fair and are often willing to reopen a discussion. By presenting evidence of a lopsided deal you can appeal to the other sides sense of decency
  • Try experimenting with a shorter contract period that allows for natural breaks for renewal and regeneration
  • Learn to flinch, the other person will become uncomfortable and rationalise their price or they will offer an immediate concession
  • Impress the other side with your flexibility by putting forward several different proposals at the same time. When you put forward only one offer on the table you will learn very little if the other party turns it down. Ask which offer they prefer
  • Consider unconventional deal structuring to bridge the gap between what you want and what the buyer can afford
  • Ensure the other party is full empowered to do a deal before you start negotiations
  • Always have something to give away eg spare parts, after sales care, discount on next order

However……If you want to close a good deal, you have to act like you don’t need it.

 

 

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Recrutment challenges facing SME’s

SME’s are the lifeblood of the economy but despite producing 60% of all employment we often struggle to recruit the best people.  We’ve all been there, hired someone you thought was perfect, made all the right noises at the interview and then before they have even made it through the first month, you realise you’ve made a huge mistake.

So, how do you find quality applicants who will be the best fit for your business?  Because there is a link between good people and good business and therefore attracting the best talent is a strategic issue.  So, try to develop a relationship with people in your line of business and establish a pipeline of talent.

You need to spend time finding the right candidates. Yet, all the best people are fully employed, but many are concerned about their future prospects with all the economic uncertainty and we need tactics to get them engaged.  They look for careers in many ways, but they don’t look at your website and apply for a job.  Your message needs to be highly visible, and part of your marketing.

Most companies set up their hiring process as ‘you must buy now’, but quality candidates will not want to rush into things.  Most job descriptions are turn offs, written to prevent unqualified people from applying, rather than attracting the best people…..  Stop using job descriptions that attract average people, show the job as a growth opportunity and focus on the softer issues which are attractive about the culture within your business.

Is it a good idea to use a recruitment agency?  Only 16% of SME’s feel the value of using a third party recruiter is value for money,  but realistically they do have access to talent you don’t have.  With an agency, many employees feel the company’s culture is often misunderstood and you lose the opportunity to build a relationship with the potential candidates in the marketplace.  Using employee referrals as a means of recruitment is a favourite with many employers.

Research into the subject of recruitment challenges shows:

33% of SME’s believe the most successful recruitment strategy is to place an emphasis on large salaries, but how does this fit with the current team who are often paid less.

68% of employees rate training and development as the most important policy, which is often difficult in a small company.

67% of people employed in 2018 found their role through Facebook.

30% of business owners don’t have the time or resource to find the best candidate for the job and end up with the best of what’s on offer.

The cost of internal recruitment is significantly lower than external recruitment, and is often a preferred route.

SME’s can attract quality candidates even when competing with the big boys because SME’s don’t have layers of bureaucracy which exist in larger companies and so can offer recruitment quickly, and be far more engaging with potential candidates.

Employers often spend so much time on the underperformers that they forget to stretch the top performers.  Managers tend to communicate well with good employees and don’t with poor performers. It’s estimated that 10% of people in business are doing the wrong job.  So, looking at your workforce on a regular basis is definitely a good discipline.

Members of the Business Exposure Group debated this topic at a recent meeting and all agreed the following points were vital when looking to recruit the right candidate.

  • What role does your business need
  • What type of person and experience will benefit your business
  • Keep to an agreed timeframe and allow time for the recruitment process – it takes, on average, 12 weeks to get someone to join the company
  • Provide a complete job description
  • Involve your employees in the process
  • Make the candidate feel comfortable, explain the process of how long it’s going to take to deal with all the candidates so they are not confused
  • Sell the role and the company
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Make your offer clear and concise, get verbal agreement first
  • Continue the recruitment process after the offer has been made
  • Prepare for the candidate start date; get the first day right otherwise you’re always playing catch up.
  • Become a great employer and an employer of choice

After all surrounding yourself with talent is the best way to grow a robust business.

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Recruitment Challenges for SME’s

SME’s are the lifeblood of the economy but despite producing 60% of all employment we often struggle to recruit the best people.  We’ve all been there, hired someone you thought was perfect, made all the right noises at the interview and then before they have even made it through the first month, you realise you’ve made a huge mistake.

So, how do you find quality applicants who will be the best fit for your business?  Because there is a link between good people and good business and therefore attracting the best talent is a strategic issue.  So, try to develop a relationship with people in your line of business and establish a pipeline of talent.

You need to spend time finding the right candidates. Yet, all the best people are fully employed, but many are concerned about their future prospects with all the economic uncertainty and we need tactics to get them engaged.  They look for careers in many ways, but they don’t look at your website and apply for a job.  Your message needs to be highly visible, and part of your marketing.

Most companies set up their hiring process as ‘you must buy now’, but quality candidates will not want to rush into things.  Most job descriptions are turn offs, written to prevent unqualified people from applying, rather than attracting the best people…..  Stop using job descriptions that attract average people, show the job as a growth opportunity and focus on the softer issues which are attractive about the culture within your business.

Is it a good idea to use a recruitment agency?  Only 16% of SME’s feel the value of using a third party recruiter is value for money,  but realistically they do have access to talent you don’t have.  With an agency, many employers feel the company’s culture is often misunderstood and you lose the opportunity to build a relationship with the potential candidates in the marketplace.  Using employee referrals as a means of recruitment is a favourite with many employers.

Research into the subject of recruitment challenges shows:

33% of SME’s believe the most successful recruitment strategy is to place an emphasis on large salaries, but how does this fit with the current team who are often paid less.

68% of employees rate training and development as the most important policy, which is often difficult in a small company.

67% of people employed in 2018 found their role through Facebook.

30% of business owners don’t have the time or resource to find the best candidate for the job and end up with the best of what’s on offer.

The cost of internal recruitment is significantly lower than external recruitment, and is often a preferred route.

SME’s can attract quality candidates even when competing with the big boys because SME’s don’t have layers of bureaucracy which exist in larger companies and so can offer recruitment quickly, and be far more engaging with potential candidates.

Employers often spend so much time on the underperformers that they forget to stretch the top performers.  Managers tend to communicate well with good employees and don’t with poor performers. It’s estimated that 10% of people in business are doing the wrong job.  So, looking at your workforce on a regular basis is definitely a good discipline.

Members of the Business Exposure Group debated this topic at a recent meeting and all agreed the following points were vital when looking to recruit the right candidate.

  • What role does your business need
  • What type of person and experience will benefit your business
  • Keep to an agreed timeframe and allow time for the recruitment process – it takes, on average, 12 weeks to get someone to join the company
  • Provide a complete job description
  • Involve your employees in the process
  • Make the candidate feel comfortable, explain the process of how long it’s going to take to deal with all the candidates so they are not confused
  • Sell the role and the company
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Make your offer clear and concise, get verbal agreement first
  • Continue the recruitment process after the offer has been made
  • Prepare for the candidate start date; get the first day right otherwise you’re always playing catch up.
  • Become a great employer and an employer of choice

After all surrounding yourself with talent is the best way to grow a robust business.

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CRM Systems – Vital or just another bit of business kit?

CRM is a strategy for managing interaction with customers and prospects.  The overall goal is to find, attract and win new customers, nurture existing ones, entice former customers back into the fold and reduce the cost of marketing and customer service.

This was the topic discussed by members at the recent meeting of the Business Exposure Group.

Do we really need a CRM system?  A growing business needs to manage relationships more efficiently, and can no longer rely on the old fashioned notes in the diary system.

There are various systems on the market – outsourced cloud based/off the shelf/bespoke.  Offering include sales force automation which reduces the number of salesmen, marketing measures multi-channel campaigns, customer service support which streamlines enquiries, appointment scheduling, analytics, collaboration between teams within a business, create special offers for clients drifting away, spotting profitability, customers historic trends, quote reminders.

What should you look for when purchasing a CRM system and how important is it for your business?  77% of staff don’t embrace new systems and there can be a lack of commitment to using the new system.  It’s important therefore to only choose the tools that you will use in your business.  Salespeople may reject the new system on the grounds that it is time consuming, difficult to learn, inflexible and doesn’t integrate well into their standard procedures.  If you get the right system, then salespeople don’t waste time trying to prioritise leads and lists, they can focus on selling.  Customer service teams don’t ask customers for their details multiple times and don’t have to manually search for their details.  Reports and statistics tracking of customers are instant.  Everything is stored under each customer name in the CRM system.

CRM system should not be viewed as an IT project because it involves the whole business.  Check your current system, it may need updating or replacing.  Does it have these features:

  • Telephone calls straight from the CRM system
  • Live chat to communicate with customers in real time
  • Interactive dashboards for easier business analytics
  • Cloud connected so you don’t have to wait until you’re back in the office to update
  • Email and scheduling software to search enquiries
  • Accounting software to see at a glance what customers might buy

But many say their staff hate their current system.  Is it user friendly?  Is it too complex?  Is it outdated and fails to provide the information you need?  Is your system GDPR compliant? Maybe it’s time to look at upgrading or even changing your CRM system.

So, what is the future for CRM?  It has everything to do with the customer, so that they become brand advocates.  The future is moving away from interacting with customers in the same way.  Messages and information should be bespoke.

Integrate teams – sales/marketing/customer service so that they all have the same perspective of the customers.  Use brand advocates to recommend – use social listening tools, get an alert the moment someone mentions you on social media – social CRM will grow and allow bespoke communications linked into an ‘all in one’ system which enables you to look at the entire customer journey.

Our members left the meeting with lots of useful ideas regarding CRM, realising that CRM is now a vital business tool.

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