Positive but Cautious Outlook Shown by Firms in Q1

The latest InterTradeIreland Business Monitor (Quarter one, Jan – Mar 2015) has highlighted a positive but cautious start to the year for businesses across the island. The report, which reflects the views of more than 750 businesses across the island, has revealed that almost nine out of ten firms are either growing or stable, with the number of companies expanding rising from 37 per cent in the final quarter of last year to 43 per cent in Q1 2015.

Investment a key goal
Although a third of firms are more cautious about investment than they were a year ago, it is encouraging to note that more than two thirds plan to invest in their businesses over the next year, particularly in the areas of IT and Marketing, with one in five companies planning to increase employment.
Q1’s report also highlighted the performance of those involved in cross-border trade and found that these businesses were significantly more likely to grow and twice as likely to be taking on staff over the next 12 months, further backed up by the statistics that 11% of firms took on staff in the Q1 period.

Businesses in Ireland continue to perform better than their counterparts in Northern Ireland with 47 per cent growing in the south compared to 34 per cent in NI. Seven per cent more southern firms also reported an increase in sales in Q1 than those in NI.

Construction the exception to the rule
Most sectors experienced stability rather than growth in the first quarter of 2015. Encouragingly though, after a particularly challenging quarter at the end of 2014, the construction sector bucked this trend and picked up significantly with 59 per cent of firms in the industry expanding at the start of 2015. Leisure, hotels and catering businesses struggled most in Q1 with only 33 per cent experiencing growth and more than one in five (22%) businesses in the sector contracting or surviving at all costs.

Decline in sales performance
Although 56% of firms involved in cross-border sales experienced growth compared to 40% of those with no export sales, sales performance on a whole has declined for the second quarter in a row with businesses reporting an increase dropping from 39 per cent in Q4 2014 to 32 per cent in Q1.

Positive outlook
Results in this Business Monitor reinforce the generally positive pictures that have been apparent since the middle of 2013 with 88% of firms saying they are either stable or growing. Of course, the fact that 45% are stable with just 43% growing, explains why the much-vaunted ‘feel good’ factor seems hidden.

Sales performance of exporters continued to outstrip non-exporters and remained very strong. However, it appears in the short-term, that the current environment for those selling across the border has been more challenging. This quarter, the report showed that there were more firms experiencing a decrease in cross-border sales in the last 12 months than those reporting an increase.

Exporting support is available
The volatility and fluctuation of the exchange rate may be having a temporary effect on cross-border trade. While current exchange rates are a significant issue for only a small number of firms, this is an issue which has been growing in importance, rising from two per cent at the start of 2014 to six per cent this quarter.

Despite short-term challenges, markets across the border should not be overlooked. It was worrying to find that more than half (56 per cent) of businesses surveyed don’t export, despite having suitable products and services. The reasons they gave included ‘being too far away’ and a ‘lack of management time and resource’ but we would urge firms to consider investigating their options. The first step would be to contact business advisory bodies, such as InterTradeIreland, where there are a range of programmes which can support firms in their exporting journey.

Overheads challenging
Figures also indicated that the cost of business overheads, including wages, is now the leading challenge for firms. The significance of energy costs has dropped considerably since the start of last year, falling from 30 per cent of firms recognising them as a key challenge in Q1 2014 to eight per cent at the start of this year, perhaps reflecting the reduction in fuel prices and the importance of transport costs to many sectors.

Business Monitor Survey
InterTradeIreland’s quarterly Business Monitor survey is the largest and most comprehensive business survey on the island and is seen to be the ‘voice of local businesses’.

Further information
For more information on InterTradeIreland and the business support programmes available, please visit www.intertradeireland.com . A copy of the 2015 Q1 InterTradeIreland Business Monitor Executive Summary can be viewed at: http://www.intertradeireland.com/researchandpublications/business_monitor/

The post Positive but Cautious Outlook Shown by Firms in Q1 appeared first on Small Business Can.

Influencer Marketing to Spread your Brand’s Identity

Our product is unique, Our service is innovative! Customer’s inboxes are getting flooded with these marketing pitches. But how many of them actually get influenced by these words? May be a few of them… but what about the rest of the customers? As they receive impressive marketing messages from so many different brands, customers become sceptical about which brands to belief and choose and which one to avoid.

Marketers often do not understand how they can get their messages heard and absorbed. However, the key is identifying and empowering a brand’s most influential fans and followers to their network. Who are these influencers? They are individuals who have a sway over your audience, who have large followings in certain niches and affect opinions. The process eventually increases the visibility of your products and services. So how do you market them?

Put away the sales pitch. Your aim should be to bring people into your’ Marketing Sphere of Influence’. And once they arrive, it is your responsibility to deliver, engage and build the bond with your customers. The process is comprehensive but not difficult to achieve…

Search your Influencers from your Industry

With social media marketing being the buzz of the world, it is the easiest way to see who is talking about your brand. As you follow the influential, check out what and who they follow. You must recognize that influence is contextual. Your influencers entirely depend on what you’re trying to accomplish.  Participate in regular conversations relevant to your industry. Besides, some of the online tools also help you to see who’s sharing your content and how influential they are.

Do not Confuse Influencers with Reach

Some people assume that to find the influencers, they have to reach as many people as possible. However, influence marketing is all about reaching the right set of people. The motive should be to make the right people identify your brand. Create content that is specifically designed to attract the attention of the influencers. Try to follow the principle of reciprocity that says people are more likely to take interests in your stuff only when you take an interest in their stuff first.

Target and own your Niche

If you want to become the authority in your industry, you need to know your niche well. Do not jump into selling your products first. Read their content, articles, and discussion threads that you may come across. Do not overlook the loyal blog readers who subscribe to your newsletter, give interesting comments on your posts, or retweet your tweet. Focus on the primary influencers who get you traction. Own them by commenting on their blog posts, reply back on Twitter, respond to their Facebook status updates   and send them emails pitching your products and ideas. Do not underestimate the power of communities.

The more you interact with your influencers, the better you’re amplifying your brand message.

Sell through your Content

Look at the influencers as your potential consumers of your products. The product, in this situation is your content. You can probably apply AIDA’s progressive techniques in sales which incorporates four major factors to consider

Attention: Gain your influencer’s attention with a brief intriguing subject line

Interest: Draw their interests through genuine data and exclusive videos

Desire: Elicit a desire with emotional marketing (content) that most closely reaffirms with your products and audiences’ beliefs

Action: Ensure that your pitch includes the required call-to-actions.

Engage your Influencers

Engage people in your marketing space. Some of the best ways to drive engagement are through forums, groups, or communities. Google+, LinkedIn or Facebook will help you have the pipeline straight to the right people.  But how do you choose among the bazillion groups on LinkedIn or Google+? Make sure that your group

  • Are fit for your market
  • Are actively involved in
  • Have active and engaged members

However, be ready to manage the traffic before you start growing your marketing sphere.

Show some Love and not Business

Leveraging your influencers begins with building a strong bond with your customers. Investing in a superior customer experience and checking how frequently your customers speak about your brand on social media should be a top priority. If required interact directly with the customers, provide loyalty programs, promotional discounts, or create customer advisory board. This gives enough opportunities to encourage positive, organic and authentic sharing about your brand.

Attributes that make the Influencers

Echo: An influencer should be able to mobilize opinion and create reactions when they converse about a topic

Exposure: The size of the influencer’s community in a specific area is an important attribute to consider

Share of voice: influencer’s degree of participation on a given subject matter is a significant factor to regard.

You’ve Enough Reasons to Pay More Attention to the Influencers

Influence Marketing for Better Targeting

Word-of-mouth is the best searchlight that goes through every social network to find the most interested consumers.

Advanced SEO with Influence Marketing

By interacting with Facebook users and influencing their networks, marketers are able to reach a new group full of qualified prospective.

Influencers Affect Decision Making Process

Preferences or decisions coming from friends, families and social media networks always have a strong impact on the buyer’s purchase decisions.

Companies who understand the value of influence marketing stand to gain if they plan and execute well.

 

 

The post Influencer Marketing to Spread your Brand’s Identity appeared first on Small Business Can.

Influencer Marketing to Spread your Brand’s Identity

Our product is unique, Our service is innovative! Customer’s inboxes are getting flooded with these marketing pitches. But how many of them actually get influenced by these words? May be a few of them… but what about the rest of the customers? As they receive impressive marketing messages from so many different brands, customers become sceptical about which brands to belief and choose and which one to avoid.

Marketers often do not understand how they can get their messages heard and absorbed. However, the key is identifying and empowering a brand’s most influential fans and followers to their network. Who are these influencers? They are individuals who have a sway over your audience, who have large followings in certain niches and affect opinions. The process eventually increases the visibility of your products and services. So how do you market them?

Put away the sales pitch. Your aim should be to bring people into your’ Marketing Sphere of Influence’. And once they arrive, it is your responsibility to deliver, engage and build the bond with your customers. The process is comprehensive but not difficult to achieve…

Search your Influencers from your Industry

With social media marketing being the buzz of the world, it is the easiest way to see who is talking about your brand. As you follow the influential, check out what and who they follow. You must recognize that influence is contextual. Your influencers entirely depend on what you’re trying to accomplish.  Participate in regular conversations relevant to your industry. Besides, some of the online tools also help you to see who’s sharing your content and how influential they are.

Do not Confuse Influencers with Reach

Some people assume that to find the influencers, they have to reach as many people as possible. However, influence marketing is all about reaching the right set of people. The motive should be to make the right people identify your brand. Create content that is specifically designed to attract the attention of the influencers. Try to follow the principle of reciprocity that says people are more likely to take interests in your stuff only when you take an interest in their stuff first.

Target and own your Niche

If you want to become the authority in your industry, you need to know your niche well. Do not jump into selling your products first. Read their content, articles, and discussion threads that you may come across. Do not overlook the loyal blog readers who subscribe to your newsletter, give interesting comments on your posts, or retweet your tweet. Focus on the primary influencers who get you traction. Own them by commenting on their blog posts, reply back on Twitter, respond to their Facebook status updates   and send them emails pitching your products and ideas. Do not underestimate the power of communities.

The more you interact with your influencers, the better you’re amplifying your brand message.

Sell through your Content

Look at the influencers as your potential consumers of your products. The product, in this situation is your content. You can probably apply AIDA’s progressive techniques in sales which incorporates four major factors to consider

Attention: Gain your influencer’s attention with a brief intriguing subject line

Interest: Draw their interests through genuine data and exclusive videos

Desire: Elicit a desire with emotional marketing (content) that most closely reaffirms with your products and audiences’ beliefs

Action: Ensure that your pitch includes the required call-to-actions.

Engage your Influencers

Engage people in your marketing space. Some of the best ways to drive engagement are through forums, groups, or communities. Google+, LinkedIn or Facebook will help you have the pipeline straight to the right people.  But how do you choose among the bazillion groups on LinkedIn or Google+? Make sure that your group

  • Are fit for your market
  • Are actively involved in
  • Have active and engaged members

However, be ready to manage the traffic before you start growing your marketing sphere.

Show some Love and not Business

Leveraging your influencers begins with building a strong bond with your customers. Investing in a superior customer experience and checking how frequently your customers speak about your brand on social media should be a top priority. If required interact directly with the customers, provide loyalty programs, promotional discounts, or create customer advisory board. This gives enough opportunities to encourage positive, organic and authentic sharing about your brand.

Attributes that make the Influencers

Echo: An influencer should be able to mobilize opinion and create reactions when they converse about a topic

Exposure: The size of the influencer’s community in a specific area is an important attribute to consider

Share of voice: influencer’s degree of participation on a given subject matter is a significant factor to regard.

You’ve Enough Reasons to Pay More Attention to the Influencers

Influence Marketing for Better Targeting

Word-of-mouth is the best searchlight that goes through every social network to find the most interested consumers.

Advanced SEO with Influence Marketing

By interacting with Facebook users and influencing their networks, marketers are able to reach a new group full of qualified prospective.

Influencers Affect Decision Making Process

Preferences or decisions coming from friends, families and social media networks always have a strong impact on the buyer’s purchase decisions.

Companies who understand the value of influence marketing stand to gain if they plan and execute well.

 

 

The post Influencer Marketing to Spread your Brand’s Identity appeared first on Small Business Can.

Start-up Story: Grant & Leng

Our Business

Grant & Leng is a Chinese business services company. We provide startups and small businesses in the UK & Ireland the services need to do business in China. The services we provide range from translation and localisation of documents, software applications, sourcing and selling products in china, setting up a business in China, investment sourcing, visas, market research, marketing, language and cultural training.

The benefits we bring to customers is an easy, hassle free way of doing business in China and engaging with a 500 million consumer market (same population as the EU). The main barrier we find is the language and culture. So we provide custom training to organisations to help in this area as well as using market research to help our clients on the ground in China find out if their business is viable there. We target startups and SMEs as we provide competitive prices that will not break the bank.

Why did we start it

We started up as within the UK & Ireland the governments in all regions are pushing businesses towards China. China is seen as the next big economy after the US. Most products we use today are made in China and the economy there is moving from a manufacturing to services economy. This may take 10 years but now is a good time for foreign companies to adapt to the Chinese way of doing business.

We also have in our strategy to help adapt markets such as the tourism industry in UK & Ireland towards Chinese tourists. The Chinese government themselves estimate there will be around 500-600 million Chinese tourists globally per year by 2017. We therefore need our hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants to adapt to this market and attract them. Simple things such as website and leaflets translated into Chinese would make tourists more likely to visit. The UK & Irish governments have helped in this manner by agreeing a joint visa scheme to allow Chinese tourists to get one visa and visit each others countries.

Where do we see it going

We see our business developing and expanding through the UK & Ireland. We have setup in Belfast to access the Northern Ireland market but also have obtained clients in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. Our position in Northern Ireland allows for this flexibility. We see ourselves opening offices in the future in Dublin and possibly London.

We are continuously partnering with Chinese companies that help startups and do work in IT and manufcaturing. We hope for this to increase so we have a wide range of contacts in China to help all types of business expand there or source products there.

How to grow

To grow we need to change attitudes. Talking to businesses there is an attitude that China is too far away to do business there and its too corrupt. In today’s global world no where is too far away. Businesses tend to focus more on the EU and US market as they are safe in their view in relation to culture and language in most cases. We want to break this attitude. With the required help from our company we can take the language and cultural elements out of the equation and get the businesses right in and working with China. Being there to support our clients we hope they will change their mindset towards doing business there.

What have we learnt

As we started the business we learned that the new methods always mentioned in the media such as facebook, twitter etc maybe a good way to advertise your business and get clients. But having events and talking face to face with potential clients is still the best way. You need to be seen to get your name known, just sitting putting tweets out and creating facebook profiles will not show the true business.

Tips for other businesspeople starting out

Make sure and have your business planned out. Don’t be starting your business then make up what your doing along the way. As when your talking to potential clients in meetings they will get the feeling you haven’t thought your business through very well. Always have a clear aim and stick to it, read it through in your head everyday to keep that aim a priority. When you reach that aim you will know you have succeeded.

Written by Davy Grant. For more information about this business please visit http://www.grantleng.co.uk. You can share your start-up story too – follow this link.

 

The post Start-up Story: Grant & Leng appeared first on Small Business Can.

Leading Global Ambiton – Women In Business NI Conference

As over 300 business women gathered at the Hilton Hotel Belfast, Ulster Bank were proud to be the key sponsor of the 7th annual Women in Business NI conference. The MC for the day, broadcaster Claire McCollum, introduced WIBNI chair, Kate Marshall who welcomed the attendees and outlined the global ambition and leadership theme to the delegates.

As key sponsor of the conference, Ulster Bank’s Ellvena Graham outlined the ways in which Ulster Bank supports women, both in and out of the bank, including; Women In Touch, Business Women Can and key sponsorships.

The first keynote speaker at the event was Rosaleen Blair, CEO of talent acquisition and management solution company, Alexander Mann. From selling perfume in her garden as a 7 year old, to offering to meet clients at their offices, (not mentioning it was because she had no desk in her own office!), Rosaleen has always possessed an entrepreneurial streak.

Sharing her leadership thoughts, Rosaleen commented ‘as a leader you cast a long shadow’. You set an example for your staff and fundamentally impact on organisational culture. Rosaleen is a great advocate of supporting others in business; great people will find the time to support you. Coaches and mentors are important and a sponsor is great and makes room for you at the table. Don’t be afraid to find one.

Next up, Pete Boyle founder and CEO of jewellery business, Argento, shared his unique entrepreneurial journey.

It was a random act of kindness, paying a friend’s bill, that gave him his first taste of business, when he was repaid in mirrors and realised he could sell and make a profit. Pete established Argento’s reputation for quality and treating his suppliers well, building up a good name and running a sound business, this includes Pete’s attitude to always paying his suppliers on time, if not early. This approach, he believes, allowed him to become Pandora’s largest supplier in UK.

Imparting some advice to the delegates, pride has no place in business and when realising an error, Argento took action and changed and the business continues to evolve with time, keeping close to their customers.

Following Pete’s session, Joan Ballantine from University Ulster shared ‘where are we with gender equality’, through the findings of a project they are currently undertaking, which looks at barriers, enablers and best practice in the public sector of Northern Ireland.

A panel of leading business women, including Ulster Bank’s Shauna Burns and broadcaster Terry Prone shared their experiences and tips to the audience- how they started out, where they are now and what their ambitions for the future are.

Closing the first session, Finance Minister Arlene Foster recognised the importance of women in Northern Ireland’s economy. The first session of the WIBNI conference was followed with refreshments and break out mentoring markets. Look out for more on the second half of the conference…

IMG_7039 (3)

FullSizeRender (5)

IMG_7030 (2)

The post Leading Global Ambiton – Women In Business NI Conference appeared first on Small Business Can.

This post was originally published here - http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/leading-global-ambiton-wibni-conference/ on
thinkbusiness

Startups! How to Write a Press Release (please!)

For your benefit and ours, here are some tips on how to make it easier to get yourself media coverage.

https://twitter.com/Irish_TechNews/status/600795697529659393/photo/1

We love startups, we’re here to help. Irish Tech News is growing, and growing. We are getting more and more press releases. Some are great, some are, well, here are some notes to help you, and us. Thanks a million!

1. Yes to great images, at high resolution. No to pixellated, pdf embedded images. If you can’t be bothered to promote yourself well, why should any one else.

2. Answer the who, what, why, when, where, how questions. We have had press releases that leave more questions unanswered than a murder mystery book.

3. No caps in title, ITS SHOUTING, if your title and story are compelling enough you will entice people’s interest. Not by shouting at them.

4. No long, boring, quotes from politicians. If your product is good enough, then you tell us why. Politicians are always going to say nice, long, roundabout things about everything, you, your product, everything and the weather too.

5. What problem have you solved? Tell us please. You launching a startup or a product is not actually that interesting to anyone else. Unless you can tell me why you’ve done something interesting / helpful / useful to me, or someone I care about, somewhere in the world.

6. Use simple language. You may want to show how smart you are, but using jargon, and TLA’s (three letter acronyms, or 2 or 4 LA’s) just loses your audience. It’s actually smarter to be able to explain your product in plain English. If you can’t, then …

7. Less is more. 500 – 700 words is plenty. Possibly even too much.

8. Give us a headline. We may not use it, but at least you’ve given us an idea of what your 3 second pitch is, yes our attention span is getting shorter and shorter.

9. We like explainer videos. So do our readers, include links to them. And if you don’t have them, point that smart phone back at yourself, and make even a basic 60 second one. You never know, it might just go viral.

https://twitter.com/Irish_TechNews/status/600795697529659393/photo/1

10. Please give us your social media details, and for accounts that you actually still use and care about. People will read these articles about you, and some will even click on the links. It may sound weird, but we have the data to prove it.

11. If you hadn’t guessed already, humour is great too. Don’t sweat it, better to be clear, but if you can be funny, you might just make our day too. Thanks. And if you haven’t seen this one, then join the 33 million who have.

https://twitter.com/Irish_TechNews/status/600795697529659393/photo/1

By @SimonCocking

The post Startups! How to Write a Press Release (please!) appeared first on Small Business Can.

Creating a Successful Branding Strategy for your Small Business

Small businesses need to devote a lot of time and energy to creating and reinforcing their branding strategies; perhaps more than the ‘big brands’ out there, whose only job is maintenance. This is the age of the small business – in fact; many corporate brands are re-engineering their style to resemble smaller brands in order to appeal to consumers who prefer to promote the up-and-coming brands.

As a small business owner/entrepreneur, you probably know that branding is vital for business success, but do you really know why? There is a direct link between marketing success and strong branding, but until you fully understand exactly where this is, the best you can do is try to copy what’s been done before by successful brands.

Strong and successful branding extends beyond just having a nice logo and improving brand awareness and external perception. Strong branding must permeate every aspect of the business, so much so that the word ‘business’ can be seamlessly substituted for ‘brand’.

What is branding?

Branding is the vehicle through which you define the business not only to external parties, but also to your team and even yourself. It defines the ‘identity’ of the business and is an embodiment of the values, objectives and core competencies of the business.

However, this is different from advertising. Today’s customer can tell when a business is just glossing over or trying to charm their way into higher sales revenues. Branding must be the real deal; reaching out to customers in much the same way a young man trying to woo a lady might do – honest, but impressive.

Having a strategic brand definition will help your potential clients to connect with your brand on an emotive level, since they share the same beliefs and values espoused by your brand. This in turn increases sales, improves loyalty, memorability and advocacy and improves brand differentiation. It can also help you protect your pricing should competitors resort to discount offers to drive sales.

Creating a successful branding strategy

  1. Brand definition

Review products/services offered by the business and identify the niche you serve within the market. Conduct research on the rational and emotive needs of that niche and how your brand character can help you connect with consumers in a distinct way.

  1. Characterization

Imagine the brand you’re building as a person with values, beliefs, purposes and a unique character/personality. This directs behavior, presentation and communication. For human beings, this comes intuitively, but for a brand, all these aspects must be carefully engineered to provide an accurate picture.

  1. Business drivers

You should have this by now, but if not, consider the values and beliefs of your brand, the core objectives for which it exists and who you consider to be your brand heroes. This will establish a brand positioning platform and drive character and identity for improved brand communication.

  1. Consistency

Finally, aim to create a long-term relationship with consumers. This means that you cannot raise expectations beyond what you can offer or embellish your real picture that results in broken promises and broken trust, things you cannot afford when building a brand. Create an honest brand by speaking with a consistent tone of voice and acting consistently with the message you transmit. This will reinforce who you are in the minds of consumers.

Bio: Lalit Sharma is an SEO consultant who runs a SEO house called Ranking By SEO. He is specialized inlink building and other SEO related activities. You can also find him on Twitter, Google+ and his personal site.

The post Creating a Successful Branding Strategy for your Small Business appeared first on Small Business Can.

5 Ways to Save Money in Your Business

Whether you are just starting a new business or have been running a small business for many years, one of the biggest challenges you face is controlling your profit margins. Many good businesses flounder, not because their core service is unviable or due to lack of sales, but because of cash flow problems. In this post we look at key ways you can save money in your business.

There are three ways to resolve cash flow problems: a cash injection from a loan or investment, increasing sales or reducing costs. When planning a small business it makes sense to keep costs to an absolute minimum. Here we run through the easiest ways to save money and boost profits.

5 Ways to Save Money in Your Business:

1. Affordable Office Space

It may be tempting to rent a flashy office in the centre of town, and although this can sometimes impress potential new clients and win business, premium office space will massively reduce your profit margins.

Start your new business with a small, affordable office on the outskirts of town. This can actually benefit your business – you will be able to afford a slightly larger office space that will accommodate new staff when you grow. It will also be more accessible and will likely have free parking.

Starting out in a small out-of-town office can save you in over £12,000 a year, enough to employ an apprentice or office administrator, both of which will do more for your business than a view of the high street.

2. Hire an Accountant

Of all the costs a company incurs, a good accountant is possibly the best investment. Not only will an accountant ensure that you are making the most of all your business tax allowances, they will also keep a close eye on all outgoings and income.

Many businesses lose money because they fail to chase overdue payments. An accountant will also inform you if you start spending spuriously outside of your business plan.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s why hiring a book-keeper or accountant could be the best move you’ve ever made.

3. Offer flexible working

Many businesses are finding that taking on experienced staff on a part-time basis is more beneficial than hiring new starters full-time.

Many working parents look for opportunities to improve their work-life balance and parents who work during school hours will be more focused and motivated during the six hours they are in the office than their full time colleagues.

Providing flexible working also improves staff loyalty; staff turnover is a huge drain on time and resources in a small business. The various different types of flexible working can be found here.

4. Recycle and Freecycle

New office furniture is very expensive and starting your business with a huge furniture bill will hit your first year profits hard. Instead, plan well ahead and purchase second hand furniture.

Many businesses close each year and their furniture is sold off at rock bottom prices. For example, four new office desks will set you back around £1000; second-hand and clearance items can be purchased for less than half the price, instantly saving you £500. Look out for companies like LAM Office who can provide your business with used furniture for a fraction of the cost.

Also keep an eye on your local Freecycle groups for office clearance items. Many people also give furniture away on Gumtree.

5. Outsource small tasks

Small businesses need to learn how to outsource tasks. Web platforms such as eLance, PeoplePerHour and Freelancer are great places to find somebody to complete a one-off task.

Even sites such as Fiverr and FiveSquid are useful when starting out. If you want to quickly have some marketing material and branding done, you can now get business cards, logos and letterheads designed for just £5 apiece on FiveSquid.

When running a business it is vital to always be thinking about your margins. All those seemingly insignificant costs soon add up over the course of a year and some frugal spending could make the difference between operating at a loss and making your first profit.

The post 5 Ways to Save Money in Your Business appeared first on Small Business Can.

What we can learn from young entrepreneurs

Last week I had the pleasure of judging the Foroige National finals. OMG! to use the language of the people we were judging. The quality, attitude, talent, ambition and chutzpah was amazing. The quality of their pitches was better then I have seen from some professional entrepreneurs. Their business plans were superb. And most important, their attitude to sales is something a lot of the start ups I work with can learn from. A lot. No fear, can do, picking up the phone, making sales, negotiation with retailers and securing distribution. Local, national and international. Alex, Craig, Aisling, Erica, Mary, Aimee, Rebecca, Linda, Clare, Tom and Dane were all amazing. These young entrepreneurs will go places. They will go far. And it shows the value of running entrepreneurship programmes in secondary schools.

If you want to support any of these amazing entrepreneurs, drop me a line (ron@smallbusinesscan.com) and I will facilitate the introduction

Alex and Craig

Alex Conroy and Craig Lynch, both students at Chanel College in Coolock, set up their festive log candle holder business in October 2014 as part of the NFTE programme. From their market research the students found that competitors were charging a premium price for similiar products.  They decided that they would produce designed wooden holders that are affordable. Their mission is: “bring the festive feeling home at special times of the year”. The students have decided to give 20% of the profits to charity.

Aisling

Aisling Farrell , from Coláiste Pobal Setanta in Clonee, offers personalised grips for hurls as her business product. The inspiration for her product came while shopping for a hurling grip. She noticed that none of the grips available were unique or colourful. Unique Hold offers customised hurling grips to match club or county colours. She also sells grips that are designed to the customer’s needs. Aisling aspires to eventually sell Unique Hold grips to local GAA clubs and hopes to donate 20% of her profits to the Irish Lung Foundation.

Erica

Erica Masterson completed her her NFTE programme with Foróige in Phibblestown, Blanchardstown. Her product is an organising shelf for school lockers. Suitable for most locker types, the shelf allows you to seperate bigger books from smaller copy books. Each shelf is designed with a range of well known emojis that adds an element of fun to the school day. The idea from this product came from her own personal experience when trying to organise her school locker. Through market research, She found that there was a gap in the market for a product like this.

Mary, Aimee, Rebecca

Mary Kate Carr, Aimée Byrne, Rebecca McShane and Ronan O’Hare students from Coláiste na Carraige’s NFTE programme which is supported by Foróige. Their business “Milseog na Mara” offers healthy and tasty alternatives to jellies, cold remedies and chocolate mousse using carrageen moss as the main ingredient. They got their inspiration for these products when Mary Kate fell ill and was given a cold remedy using carrageen moss. Through market research, the students found that there was a huge gap in the market for a product like this which is afforadable at €3 per jar.  “Milseog na Mara”  currently trades at local country markets.

Linda and Clare

Linda Dolan and Clare Dolan, are Transition Year students at St Clare’s Comprehensive School. Their business “MURE” was born when the students were working on their local farm. While discussing the large amounts of cow manure their family farm produced, the students decided to turn the cow manure into euros by making fuel from the free natural resource. “MURE” produces a fire log consisting of seven briquettes made from cow manure. They currently sell their product at €4 each or €10 for 3 briquettes. The students hope to roll out their product nationwide.

Tom and Dane

Tom Williams and Dane Fogarty are Leaving Cert Applied students from St Joseph’s School in Clonmel. The inspiration for their business Tom and Dane’s Kitchen came from their enjoyment of catering and woodwork classes. Their business produces a range of homemade savoury jams and chutneys including red onion jam, apple and orange chutney. The jams and chutneys are available in a range of sizes. Tom and Dane launched their business at the RDS Arts and Crafts Christmas Fair 2014. Tom and Dane plan to expand their product range further to increase their customer base.

The post What we can learn from young entrepreneurs appeared first on Small Business Can.

Mobilegeddon and Your Current Client Base

For any business owner with an online presence – and we think that is most of them – a major update has taken place within Google that we think you should be aware of. Some are calling it “Mobilegeddon” and it is drastically altering the way that website managers need to think about their sites. If you have not heard of this update, read on to find out how it could impact you, and what you can do to make sure your business keeps up with the competition.

Your Audience has gone Mobile

Up until about a year ago, most internet searches were conducted using a desktop computer or laptop. This meant people were logging into their computers and using their web browser to not only get all of the information that they needed, but also to act on that information. With the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices though, a shift has taken place. Now, more searches are being conducted through these mobile devices, along with the majority of web browsing. Before this shift business owners only needed to worry about how their website interacted with people on a computer. Now, the way a website looks and performs through a mobile device can be the difference between making a sale or losing a customer.

To keep up with this trend, Google has made a major alteration to its algorithm. It now places a larger emphasis on those sites that not only look better on mobile devices, but also have more people interacting with the website through a mobile device. This means that sites that are more compatible for the web, both in design and in functionality, will rank higher than those sites that are behind the trend.

Your Website Should be Mobile Friendly

If your site happens to be one of the ones that is not yet optimized for the web, there are a few things that you can do to correct this. First, you will want to focus on the design. Your website should conform to the screen that it is on, or there should be a separate design for people viewing the site on a mobile device. If you did not design your site yourself, speak to your designer about making sure that your site is viewable across all platforms. After that, you want to make sure that your site works well on mobile devices. Things like having large enough buttons to click on, and making sure they are far enough apart from one another, is just one example of things that Google is going to look for. Another thing that they will look for is if people are interacting with your mobile site.

According to AccuPOS.com, “Mobile payments are part of the overall solution.” You want to make it as easy as possible for people to make a purchase through your website while they are on their mobile device, and in doing so, Google will reward you for it. Google know if your visitors convert or not, and if they don’t like your mobile billing page, they will NOT convert.

The Mobilegeddon is just beginning. As mobile device become even more prominent, they are going to take on a larger importance in the eyes of Google and other search engines. Small business can greatly benefit from new technologies, and going mobile is one of them. Take the time now to see that your website is functioning on every platform possible to set yourself up for long term success. You don’t want to miss out on sales simply because your website doesn’t look great for a customer’s mobile phone.

The post Mobilegeddon and Your Current Client Base appeared first on Small Business Can.